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NABS Tuesday Club Talk with Sir Martin Sorrell

On Tuesday night we played host to a very special guest at our regular Tuesday Club Talk, with legendary ad-man Martin Sorrell taking to the stage at JWT. In what was his third Tuesday Club Talk, making him our most frequent speaker, Sir Martin ensured it was another memorable talk.

Sorrell at NABS

In front of a packed out audience, Sir Martin, spoke candidly about all aspects of the advertising and media industry. Sir Martin was his usual confident, outspoken self, covering issues as far reaching as industry rivalry, international diplomacy and global trade. But for NABS, the most important points were the ones which touched on happiness, wellbeing and people:

Enjoy what you do

From starting out in a basement office with one staff member, to a global business spanning 111 countries and a 178,000 person workforce, Sir Martin said that it wouldn’t have been possible to achieve this if he didn’t enjoy his career. “You shouldn’t force yourself to do things you don’t enjoy.” Sorrell enthused, “What you do in your career should be first nature to you.”

On doubting yourself

When asked by Mark whether he ever experiences self doubt, Sorrell, perhaps surprisingly, admitted he has from time to time, and he still does have concerns about whether something is going to turn out right. “Every day we make mistakes, but the important thing is that we learn from them,” Sorrell said, highlighting how normal it is for even the most self-confident of people to have doubts.

On the importance of people

 People and good working cultures are something that NABS feels is really important, and it was great to hear that Sir Martin thought so too. “Most businesses are differentiated by the people who work there. In an era of 3D printing and maths men that may sound like an odd thing, but the critical element in success is the people.”  As Sir Martin pointed out, all good teams whether it be in sports or business are successful due to the people that are in them.

Work life blend

 It’s important, Sir Martin said, to balance the three circles of family, work and society. Something he readily admits has escaped him in the past. There are very few people who can do this successfully he stressed, but it is important to get that balance right so that it fits in with your own plan. “I support Flexible working laws whole heartedly. The laws are fine, but flexibility must mean total responsibility in handling your work” Sir Martin added.  Being judged on your output, rather than time spent in the office is something NABS supporters will be familiar with, Karen Blackett recently highlighted it at our Working Parent panel last month.

On women in business

It is parents, in particular mothers, who Sorrell believes are able to balance these three circles most effectively. Sorrell also stated that there should be greater responsibility in WPP, where it’s a 50/50 split between male and females outside of board level, and the wider industry to boost the opportunities for women. “Women do better in many aspects in this industry than men. At board level, it’s not acceptable for men to outnumber women.” Equality is something that the industry is moving towards – but there’s still a way to go.

All in all, Sir Martin put on a wonderful talk, answering questions openly and honestly, ensuring it was another fascinating Tuesday Club Talk for all. To watch a few key moments from the event check out our YouTube channel.

Our next Tuesday Club Talk will be with Richard Eyre chairman of the Internet Advertising Bureau on Thursday November 6th from 6.30 at The Telegraph. Tickets are still available to Partner Card holders.

Fast Forward 2014 – Storytelling

As our teams run into the last week of the NABS Fast Forward course, the pressure is on. They have all been working tirelessly doing their research, finding insights and coming up with strategies, creative ideas and media activation. But, if they fail to wow the judges on the day and bring these ideas to life in the room they could find themselves losing the business, a scary prospect that these delegates are going to face in their careers.

Stephanie Marks_Tish MousellSo who could NABS call upon to help share their years of experience and top tips on Storytelling? John Steel of course.

Who doesn’t love John Steel?

He is the master, the perfector of the ultimate Pitch!

We were very privileged at NABS Fast Forward to hear the maestro speak, not only was he massive inspiration for our delegates it’s fair to say the mentors were busy scirbbling a few of his top tips down too.

We could see him in a little box via video conference from New York, and you could hear a pin drop as the whole audience (especially us Mentors) sat in awed, mesmerised silence to hear his words of wisdom.

It was his 30th Anniversary of coming into our business, he started at BMP (now DDB) in Paddington, and is now the Strategy right arm for Martin Sorrell’s WPP Group.

So, what were his top 10 tips?

1. Have small teams and make sure you’ve got a leader that is making the final decision – dithering wastes time!

2. First impressions are very important, particularly at the chemistry stage.  Don’t tell the client a load of stuff they already know about their own business and category, go prepared but find a way to get the client talking about what they want to talk about.

3. Be brave and push back, don’t just take a brief at face value. If you think it is the wrong, say so and have the debate.

4. Get the entire agency involved in some way, create that wonderful sense of anticipation and team spirit for everyone.

5. Don’t present more than one idea.

6. Plan your time carefully – it’s all in the preparation.  Divide the preparation time into 3 equal parts; Spend the first third coming up with an idea, spend the second third pulling that idea apart and stress test it works and then spend the final third bringing the idea to life – and trust your instincts.

7. Show them you want it more than the next agency to come through the door. Confidence, enthusiasm and hunger will be infectious. Remove yourself from the bubble of the pitch and take it back to the day to day – what would it be like to meet your Agency at 8am on a dreary Monday morning in January. Would it be enjoyable? Would you be the sort of people they want to spend time with?

8. Make your message personal. Try and talk to everyone in the room.

9. Facts are not enough. John cited the example of the OJ Simpson trial – scientific data presented in such a dry way bored the jury and they felt talked down to.  Counter this with a well-crafted story from the defence that planted a small seed of doubt in the mind of jurors and the outcome was somewhat different to what everyone expected.

10. Finally, one size doesn’t fit all. You don’t always need to use slides, try to tell the story, they are there as a prompt, the focus should be on the presenter.  Top tip – use visual aids and always remember the most powerful slide of all; the blank one (If we don’t see a blank slide in every presentation next week I will be very disappointed).

His final tips were about speaking and a lesson for us all is to just write the way you talk, just be yourself and be natural.  People want to hear who you are and will see through jargon and fancy language.  To quote David Ogilvy ‘Never use jargon words, they are the hallmark of a pretentious ass’.

Needless to say John so eloquently peppered his talk with anecdotes from his years in the industry, emotional clips from the hey-days of advertising using Mad Men to make his points, sharing pictures of his dog and inappropriate stories left, right and centre; taking on board all of his own top tips.  If we’re honest we fell in love with him a little bit and would love to be able to pitch alongside him one day – we can but dream.

So good luck to all the teams this week; massive plug for Team Freud who of course have it in the bag, let battle commence.

By Stephanie Marks, head of client services at Maxus and Tish Mousell , training consultant at Tish Mousell Training

Fast Forward 2014 – Ideas

And so the 5th session in this year’s Fast Forward programme:  IDEAS. MediaCom hosted the event superbly – good space plus everyone was well fed and watered.  This was week 5, with the pitch zooming ever closer in week 7.  The teams have been working on their strategy and are now trying to crack their creative idea.  Tonight’s talk could not come at a better time.  The quality of presentation at this year’s course has been brilliant and has left the delegates (and mentors) feeling completely inspired and ready to tackle the brief at hand – tonight it was taken up another notch again.  Dave Henderson, Joint ECD from DLKW Lowe, oozed confidence and passion about advertising – the kind of passion and confidence that you want to be around with great briefs to crack…

Susan Poole_Clive Baker

Dave took the delegates through a number of approaches to briefs to inspire the teams to find a powerful idea… Firstly to look at the situation in ‘reverse’, so instead of talking of the dangers of speed, we saw a campaign that extolled the virtues of what you experienced when you took your time.  ‘Activation’ then followed with a great campaign for giving blood in Brazil – a team which played in black and red hoops started the season in black and white hoops and as people gave blood, their shirts filled to become red and black hoops again.  An amazing increase in donors of 46% in the first 3 months.

‘Experiential’ followed with Hope Soap; a seemingly boring brief to get kids to wash their hands regularly to prevent disease turned out a bar of soap with a toy in!  On to ‘instructional’ with the British Heart Foundation and the brilliant TV ad featuring Vinnie Jones.  This demonstrates how ‘instructional’ campaigns can be engaging and entertaining.  The approaches just kept coming with great examples of work – ‘Emotional’ (organ donation in S.Africa) / ‘Comedy’ (The Great Schlep for Obama) / ’Shock’ (you will cover food when you examine what a fly does when it lands on some) / ‘Disguise’ (the brilliant ‘Dumb ways to die’ campaign for Train Safety in Melbourne.

The teams were all frantically scribbling down these approaches they could all use in their team.  Whilst the guidance on approaches alone was inspirational to help the teams crack the brief, Dave then gave the room some practical tips for how to go about doing this.  These were quick tips that any one of us could do with following when trying to crack a problem: turn everything off – yes that includes email / play word association to take you to some very different places very quickly / when you think you have a good idea quickly share it & seek criticism not praise / when you think you have something then go again.

A great combination of inspirational and practical advice from Dave.  Another great night for the people on Fast Forward.

By Clive Baker, MD of Movement Digital and Susan Poole, planning director of Havas Worldwide London


NABS presents: The different perspectives of working parents

It’s tough for working parents. Our NABS research on this topic tells us that a resounding number of parents (85%) feel guilty because they have to balance work and parental commitments, one in ten (11%) have had to leave a job because of the additional pressures of parenthood – and more than half (57%) know of someone who’s had to leave a job for that reason. But juggling demanding clients and the demands of children mean parents may develop multifaceted talents that can bring immeasurable value to the workplace.

L-R: Phillips, Blackett, Janaway, Samways, Hatch

L-R: Phillips, Blackett, Janaway, Samways, Hatch

The complex nature of balancing parenthood with work was a key reason behind a NABS-hosted panel session at Engine HQ with working parents from across the industry – all at different stages in their career and parenthood journey – to debate, discuss and answer questions on how they’ve survived and thrived.

Pete Edwards, chief strategy officer at Engine introduced a panel that included: Karen Blackett, CEO at Media Com, Steve Hatch, MD at Facebook UK & Ireland, Vicky Janaway, account director at WCRS, Sam Phillips, chief new business and marketing officer at Omnicom media group and Emily Samways, business director at Karmarama. All of the panel spoke candidly about the trials and tribulations working parents face on a day to day basis.

How working parents manage the transition back to work can be very important. Emily Samways, who balances her career with being a mum to two sons, had this to say: “In times of change it’s very easy to lose the focus you may have had before you had children, with much of your time spent feeling guilty about balancing your home and work life. But you need to stop feeling guilty. It helps to put your life into levels of priorities and work to that as your goal.”

Vicky Janaway, who recently returned to work after giving birth to her son concurred “If you’re feeling guilty about not being at home, there are ways around it. Flexible working and an understanding boss – as I have at WCRS – means that I’m able to negotiate compromises.” Vicky’s compromise was to return to work for three days a week, which has now expanded into four. “Don’t be afraid to ask those difficult questions,” she advised.

Hatch, a parent of two, offered his perspective as a father: “Because I’ve not physically had the child, returning from paternity leave felt a bit like I’d just been on holiday. Everything was the same and bar the passing congratulatory comments, no one really asks how you’re feeling. Which I think is a big problem for working fathers. A lot of the time we don’t realise that fathers have gone through changes too, and perhaps there needs to be bigger support for them.”

For mothers, who tend to have longer maternity leave, coming back to work can mean there have been changes within the business in the meantime. When Blackett returned to work she had been promoted in her absence, to EMEA CEO: “When I returned it was important that I spoke with my boss about how I could make being a parent and work fit. If I had to fly to Italy for business, I would want an early flight and returning flight the same day, minimising my time spent away from my son.”

“It did mean that I had time away from my family, but I made sure if I did it then I’d do the same hours working from home. I was judged on my output, not hours in office.”

One of the most important lessons Blackett learned was of being true to yourself “Working parents need to be honest and authentic. Do bring your home life to work, don’t be ashamed to talk about your kids, and most importantly ask for help – build a support network of neighbours, friends and colleagues who can step in and help if needs be.”

Phillips, mum to three kids, pointed out that juggling work and family comes down to managing your own time: “When I started back at work I was honest with myself. I knew I couldn’t fit my workload into fewer working days, but I made sure that I set my own rules to allow maximum time with my kids. This meant, for example, that I went into work later, so I could do the school run.”

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How can learning help beyond the classroom?

EmmaPrattSchool, studying, university, exams, isn’t that one great benefit of being in paid employment, you no longer need to have your head in the books morning, noon and night?  You have qualifications and you’ve got a job so your days of lectures, reading and learning new stuff should be well and truly behind you.  Or should they?

Do we, or should we ever stop learning?

Both modern day life and the business world are changing at an ever increasing pace.  The skills and know-how that got us to one stage of our careers can therefore soon become obsolete, so how do we get to where we want to go next?  Continuing our learning allows us to keep up with the technological, digital, process and trend changes happening both in the world around us and in our organisations, whilst also helping us to develop new skills and attributes that will enable us to advance our careers.

Continual learning can similarly help us to achieve our career goals.  It can help us to develop the skills we need to get to the next level, or indeed to identify a skills gap that’s preventing us from getting there.  Such learnings also increase our satisfaction levels, with our jobs and in turn our personal lives, leading to better results and increased fulfilment in both.

Hand-in-hand with increased satisfaction from learning comes higher levels of confidence and self-esteem as we feel more knowledgeable, credible, positive and have an awareness of the additional value we add.  Feeling more confident also makes us less risk adverse, more positive in the face of change or challenge and more motivated.  After all, what’s better than being excited, curious and energised by what you do, feeling that you’re good at it and discovering new knowledge and skills you didn’t know you had? 

It can even lead to an increase in salary.  Showing you are keen to learn and develop is attractive to employers so showcasing your learned achievements, particularly at appraisal time, could lead to a promotion or a salary increase.  The more skills you have also keeps you ahead of the competition which reinforces your value and expertise.  So, if your company offers you training and learning opportunities, grab them with both hands and make time to attend.

I want to continue my learning, but I’m in-between jobs and can’t afford it…

If you want to continue your learning, train or re-train to increase your opportunities but you’re in between jobs, struggling to find work or think you might have a skills gap then financing such training without an organisation to help you can be a significant obstacle.  However, with our industry developing at such a rapid pace, particularly in terms of the online and digital arena, additional training is likely a must if you want to enhance your chances of finding a new role.  If this is true for you then you may be pleased to learn (see, more learning) that this is something NABS can help you with, thanks to our NABS Upskilling Grants.

NABS Upskilling Grants

NABS Upskilling Grants are aimed at retraining, refreshing and retaining our industry’s workforce.  If you have spent the majority of your career in advertising and media, have identified a skills gap or are a parent looking to get back into the industry and you’ve had at least one session with a NABS Career Coach then a NABS Upskilling Grant could be for you.  With courses available from coding to copywriting and web design to a one-day MBA you can increase not only your skills base but also your confidence, self-belief in your abilities and your chances of becoming an even more suitable candidate for your next role.

To find out more about NABS Upskilling Grants call 0207 290 7070 or email now to book in for your initial career coaching session.

NABS Tuesday Club Talk series with Rory Sutherland

On 16th September, we had the pleasure of welcoming Rory Sutherland, ECD and vice-chairman at OgilvyOne and vice-chairman at Ogilvy and Mather UK, to host the latest in our Tuesday Club Talk series at the Museum of London.

Titled ‘Clouds and Clocks’, Rory’s talk delivered a detailed understanding of how marketers should have a better understanding of the human mind and how it processes the world around us. Using Daniel Kahneman’s theory of ‘System One’ and ‘System Two’, Rory explained the importance of the subconscious when it came to decision making. In essence, Rory felt that we focus on the rational side of the brain too much, ignoring the fact that the instinctive part of the brain effects our decisions too.

You can watch all of Rory’s talk by clicking the image below, which sees the Ogilvy man highlight his points with some brilliantly colourful anecdotes. If you’re short for time, we have also selected a few of Rory’s most interesting points, check them out just under the image.
Rory Talk

Some of the best bits:

The power of choice – 0:00:17 – 0:08:14

The options we are given effect the choices that we make more than we realise. Rory stated that we should ‘start with the transaction and then move out’. A bad call to action results in a bad advertisement, regardless of how brilliant it is in its own right.

Test counterintuitive things – 0:09:35 – 0:13:12

Often we can be driven by our own fear of failure, and so we will go along with the norm in order to avoid responsibility for bad outcomes. However, for us to stand out and make a difference, Rory implored us to go against the grain and test counterintuitive things; options that are dismissed as stupid by those content with the norm. In a vintage anecdote, Rory drew on the rise of cider sales in recent years and linked this to the use of ice within the drink. In theory, this may seem like too simple an idea to work and therefore be dismissed out of hand, however the power of the ‘lighthouse effect’ made this simple addition way more effective than first thought.

The ‘elephant’ and the ‘rider’ – 0:32:21 – 0:35:44

In this segment, Rory explains the idea behind Daniel Kahneman’s theory of ‘System One’ and ‘System Two’ brains, taken from Thinking Fast & Slow. Using Johnathan Haidt’s ‘elephant’ and ‘rider’ metaphor to explain the two differing sides of the brain, Rory stated that marketers make the mistake of focusing on the conscious and rational side, rather than the instinctive part of consumers’ brains, which is the true obstacle to purchase. This particular point frames Rory’s talk perfectly, delivering the core idea of what he believes needs to change within the industry as well as the world around us.

Dear Lorraine #2

If there’s a question you’d like Lorraine to answer regarding anything to do with your working life, send an email to

Q: I’m recently a new mum and my partner and I are considering all our options as we look to organise child-care. One option is that I may reduce the number of days I work each week. Does my company have to agree to this? 

LorraineLJ: There is no automatic right to return from maternity leave and work part-time (or on terms that are more preferable to you) but as long as you have worked for the same employer for the last 26 weeks, you can submit a flexible working request asking to reduce the number of days you work each week (known as a statutory application).

Once your request has been submitted, you may have to attend a meeting to talk about it in more detail and so it can be ascertained how the proposed changes can be accommodated. There are several business reasons your employer can turn your request down and they only need one business reason to do so, these might include if the business won’t be able to meet customer demand or the work can’t be reorganised among other staff. Take a look at your company’s policy on flexible working so you are aware of what is expected from you and your employer during this process.

Finally, give us a call so we can run through the practicalities of flexible working with you, give you tailored advice on what needs to go in your request and if relevant, offer you advice on the other options you’re mulling over with your partner. We also run a Working Parents Programme which is a series of workshops and initiatives to help working parents better manage their work demands and their parenting responsibilities in order to help make that transition back to work as smooth as possible.

For more information on our services visit the NABS website, or call the NABS Advice Line for confidential, unbiased advice and support on 0800 707 6607.

Fast Forward 2014 – Week Two

Polly Jones_Andrews AldrigeIt was the second session of NABS Fast Forward 2014 and everyone was buzzing because it was briefing night. The teams were all guessing what the brief could be, given that the client is Wendy Proctor from the Cabinet Office and the team names (Jung, Maslow, Pavlov etc) are usually a clue.

But first, it was time for our leader and Chairman, Mark Lund, to pass on his wisdom. The title of the talk was ‘What Clients Want’. The answer turns out to be a mixture of imagination and empathy, with a healthy dose of honesty and respect.

Mark, having had a stint as a client at the COI, was well-placed to remind us that it’s tough being a client: expectations are coming from all directions, marketing departments are smaller than ever, and data means that success and failure are constantly known, and there’s nowhere to hide.

He told us that agencies need to value and respect their clients and show awareness of stakeholders, especially important people like the Finance Director! We need bags of energy and enthusiasm, and we need to support and respect our internal teams. He also said it’s important to get into the audiences’ heads and even love them a bit.

We were advised to tell the truth at all times, and be in the moment. Never look like you want to be somewhere else he told us, and I immediately felt guilty about the surreptitious text I’d sent under the table in the meeting I’d just come from!

He also urged us to understand that money is important to clients and that they’re running a business. Mark gave us the pretty excellent tip that our clients’ share prices are available at the touch of a button on a pre-programmed iphone app, and that it’s easy to look knowledgeable and Lund-like by dropping in a comment about the latest FTSE results.

After our dose of inspiration, it was time for the main event, with Wendy Proctor standing up to give us the brief. Wendy was brilliant – concise and clear and passionate – so of course we all immediately wanted to impress her with our response.

She told us that the brief is an excellent example of a typical government brief – with all the issues, challenges and complexities that they entail.

The brief is incredibly topical. Wendy kicked off by saying that Dame Sally Davies the Chief Medical Officer had been on the radio and in the press only two days ago, talking about the problems this country has with mental health, and the huge hit to the economy that this entails.

Put simply, we’re not paying as much attention to mental health as physical health. And that ultimately there’s no health without mental health. And the fact is, many mental health problems could have been prevented.

The job of the teams will be to crack a national campaign to drive awareness and take up of the five ways to wellbeing (connecting; being active; taking notice; learning; giving) to a target audience of 15-19 year olds.

Wendy stressed that she and the judges don’t want to see a conventional campaign. They want to see something that will drive long-term, sustainable behaviour change.

We then broke off into our teams for a session to come up with some (hopefully) insightful questions for Wendy next week. I was happy to see that our team, Team Maslow, were truly excited about what is an incredibly relevant, important and interesting brief. There was a lot of discussion around who the campaign should come from (not the government), the tone of voice that would be appropriate (sensitive) and where we’re going to get our insights from (skateparks!).

Here’s to the next 6 weeks and what will hopefully be a Team Maslow win!

Fast Forward 2014 – Week One

It’s hard to believe that a year has gone since the last NABS Fast Forward - but it must have because here we are, fresh faced and ready for a new challenge. Joining us on that challenge is a new group of the most talented, ambitious and motivated young people in our business – which is in equal parts terrifying and exciting as a mentor. As usual they are drawn from across our industry, preserving Jeremy Bullmore’s original intent to unite media and creativity. But this year we also have media owners and clients in our midst. A brave joining of hands indeed.

Jo Arden_23redIn a very smart revamp of the first night format, Mark Lund and Jeremy Bullmore are joined after their initial welcomes and musings by Claire Valoti, James Murphy and Mark Creighton to discuss what Communications means to them. We hear opinions ranging from the need to cut through Big Data and find the human insight, to the idea that measurement is broken, and on the power of collaboration. We also hear that on NABS Fast Forward you may meet people you never wish to set eyes on again – which I for one do not believe.

Hearing some of our industries most successful and erudite speakers on these topics is fascinating and inspiring, but what struck me most was the smart and insightful questions from our delegates. It’s always difficult to get people started on questions but no such fear with this year’s bunch. Some of their questions challenged even the well versed and expert thinkers on our panel and responses were honest and occasionally contradictory.

Next week is the brief and my team have all laid bets (it’s good to harness their competition early on I feel!) on what the topic might be, and if they are right, we are in for one hell of an Autumn. Welcome back NABS Fast Forward.

Jo Arden
Head of Strategy, 23red & Fast Forward Mentor

Dear Lorraine #1

Welcome to our new regular feature ‘Dear Lorraine’. Lorraine Jennings, head of support at NABS, tackles your career queries and concerns.

If there’s a question you’d like Lorraine to answer regarding anything to do with your working life, send an email to

Q: Business hasn’t been doing too well lately and I’ve heard rumours that changes are happening. My company hasn’t yet said anything and I don’t know whether I can ask management outright and I don’t know who to ask. I’m worried I might end up being let go, should I start looking for a new job now?

LorraineLJ: I can appreciate this must be a concerning time for you, particularly when there is so much uncertainty. Companies constantly need to evolve and adapt in order to get ahead, or if business isn’t doing too well, to simply stay afloat and fears can arise during times of change, particularly when there is limited communication.

I would suggest that if you are concerned then your line manager is a good starting point for a friendly chat. They may be aware of the rumours so won’t necessarily be surprised with you asking them directly for some clarity on what’s going on, but in order for them to prepare, you may want to let them know in advance what you wish to discuss. Be aware that they may not have the exact answers you’re looking for yet, particularly if many of the business decisions haven’t yet been finalised.

Having a chat first with someone in management will give them an opportunity to clarify matters and will be an indicator that more may need to be done to ease staff concerns. Whilst NABS is not here to tell you whether you should start looking for a new job, getting more information or knowing that things are yet to be finalised may help to guide you on your next steps and at least make you feel a bit better for taking some action. If you would like to run through what you want to say before having that chat, the Advice Line is a great sounding board or you’re very welcome to speak to us following that chat to talk through your options in more detail.

For more information on our services visit the NABS website, or call the NABS Advice Line for confidential, unbiased advice and support on 0800 707 6607.

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