Angry Birds meets Mad Men – in a polymathic nutshell of useful agile responsivness


Angry Birds meets Mad Men – it’s the new me but a lot more useful than I used to be.

After 34 years in brand, direct and digital marketing I am unashamedly addicted to all things digital, demonstrably media-neutral, obsessively customer-centric, passionate about lecturing and ready with a collection of brand agency stories that would make Don Draper feel inadequate.

I started out in brand advertising, creating  TV, press, poster and radio campaigns in the age of mass marketing. The concept was everything and the needs, wants and desires of the target audience were of little consequence.

As CRM became all the rage, I moved into direct marketing and discovered the educational and life-changing impact of customer response: a campaign I worked on cost the client £24k and pulled in £750m of investor funding. Following that ‘Wish I was on commission moment,” working with the client’s product and service developers to find better ways to serve the segmented needs of customers became an obsession.

After more than a decade in the business working for 500 of the world’s biggest brand names and trying, in vain, to get my agencies to be the first to go all-in on the integrated marketing communications front, I thought I had marketing sussed. And then along came digital.

For 20 years, I have been working as a marketing problem resolving polymath trying to help clients, fellow professionals and university students make sense of the most mercurial marketing phenomena yet discovered.  I now pray to the gods of situational optimism, media-neutral-customer-centricity in a world where being the living embodiment of Angry Birds meets Mad Men might just be an advantage.

According to the excellent article on management consultants v creative agencies, by peterjthomson,  “It’s rare, but there are individuals from the fields of design, business and technology that understand just enough of the other disciplines to be dangerous. A polymath is someone who’s speciality is learning other people’s speciality (fast). Polymaths pride themselves on accelerating the time to minimum viable knowledge on a given topic.”

I know this smacks of Jack of all trades master of sweet FA syndrome, but isn’t that desire and ability to constantly extend your knowledge base at the very heart of surviving the looming precambrian-type extinction event for reactionary and self-intrested creative agencies that digital, agile, real-time, semi-automated marketing is about to usher in?

As Sir Martin Sorrell said in a recent thought leadership piece, “The two big discontinuities are in print, where clearly clients and agencies are spending too much, and internet and mobile, where they are investing too little,” – perhaps due to vested interest or a lack of polymathic media skills?

In yet another thought-provoking  research piece by Mark Sneider, president of RSW/US in Adweek magazine, “If you think the prospects for agencies are challenging right now, look ahead five years… the agency world will become very niche, nonexistent or extinct… this [technology] thing is moving so quickly, you can’t at the end of the day expect a single agency to be so on top of it.” So what chance do non-polymath clients, agencies, planners, media buyers and creatives that aren’t polymaths have? Someone with a wide knowledge base has to bridge the knowledge gap and create the strategy.

As many companies struggle, at both the strategic and tactical level, to get a firm and cost-effective grip on how SEO, PPC, Social media engagement, Affiliate, UX, video, viral, interactive POS and mobile et al might work for them in the real world,  marketing pundits are already touting, content marketing, big data, native advertising, systemic testing, cross-channel integration and attribution modelling.

The manufacturing of ideas is way ahead of our capacity to change and adapt our old ways. While it does appear that mobile may become some kind of stemcell-esque factor in the development of a unifying theory for brand, direct and digital marketing, the age of individuated and contextualised data-driven content marketing is as elusive as ever. It may yet require a complete change in supplier-client-agency-customer relationships.

In my lectures about the future of digital marketing, I am always forced to admit that there are tantalising glimpses of what may yet come to pass but absolutely no guarantees.

As we look to develop marketing’s quantum theory of everything, we need to follow Einstein’s example and try standing on the shoulders of giants in order to look that bit further into the future.

For me, the focus is on doing my bit to be useful to my fellow marketers by doing what I’ve always done in polymath land:

  • Finding innovative ways of helping undergraduates and businesses to develop a solid grounding in the essential processes and deliverables of digital marketing

  • Helping experienced marketing professionals to develop new levels of expertise and skills that will help them take the next steps in CPD and their careers through training and mentoring

  • Adding to my extensive experience in brand, direct and digital combined with 14 years of research and training delivery, plus the practical experience of building and running an eCommerce business to ensure my teaching is both academically sound and practically relevant to students and delegates of all ages and experience

  • Using my knowledge, enthusiasm for the subject and engaging presentation skills to help thousands of students and marketing professionals to develop the digital knowhow and personal confidence to tackle any marketing challenge.

I agree with Dave Trott who always said, “You are only as good as your next bit of work,” but being:

  • One of the UK’s most professionally experienced and qualified trainers in digital marketing (14 years of lecturing and tutoring for the IDM and other CPD organisations

  • Personally responsible for the customer-centric re-development of NatWest’s’ pioneering B2B electronic banking product – the first successful product in the market

  • The IDM’s keynote tutor for pre-exam revision workshops across digital courses

  • Instigated the development of the innovative British Gas EnergySmart monitor

  • A keynote lecturer on digital marketing for the IDM, eConsultancy and Utalk Marketing

  • Recent post-graduate qualifications in Higher Education and online eModerating

  • 30 years-plus experience as a marketing consultant on brand, direct and digital strategy

  • Helped The Central Science Laboratory understand how to bring innovative ideas to market

  • Played a pivotal role in helping Omnicom merge four agencies into what would become Rapp

  • Founder of an eCommerce retailing business that includes clients such as Panasonic

  • Over a decade of delivering IDM academic qualification programmes in the UK, Europe and Asia

  • An extensive collection of awards, including: DMA, British TV, Echo, D&AD, Aerial, IPA, Campaign

  • Contributing a section on digital creative in Dr Dave Chaffey and Fiona Ellis-Chadwick’s 5th Edition of Digital Marketing – Strategy, Implementation and Practice, Pearson, 2012…

has to count for something. So too does a background in developing and delivering digital marketing courses for clients located everywhere from London to Singapore. the fact that each market has a unique dynamic makes the challenge all the more interesting. In the past 14 years, I have developed academic and professional development courses in:

  • Profesional Diploma in Digital Marketing
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Marketing
  • Copywriting for Digital
  • Proposition Development
  • Briefing and Evaluating Creative
  • B2B Creative Strategy
  • From Brand to Digital Creative Department
  • Website Development
  • Creative Strategy in Direct and Digital Acqusition
  • Sensory Direct Mail Marketing
  • Creative Director Essentials
  • Copywriting for Direct Marketing
  • Rapid Concept Generation
  • Integrated Creative Strategy and Tactics
  • Integrated Marketing Planning

Now that we live in the  always-on world, where traditional marketing approaches are changing the way clients think about the complete brand experience as a never-ending interpersonal narrative that can only survive in a world where agency silos are a thing of the past. The digital and physical world’s are merging, so too must the  skills of the people serving those markets. I for one, have never been more fortunate to be a digital polymath tendencies. Offering my clients that combination of Angry Birds and Mad Men (not to mention the odd bit of River Dance meets The Comedy channel) seems to be something they find useful. And being useful is what it is all about.