For the fifth episode of the podcast, I met with James Wallis in London. James is a British designer and publisher of tabletop and roleplaying games. He began roleplaying games with the classic Dungeons & Dragons and Traveller in 1981 and worked on many games since. He also wrote for gaming publications and traditional ones like the Sunday Times. Now he has his own consultancy, Spaaace, A triple “A” company.
He also consults with brands to design gaming experiences, leads game design seminars and has successfully completed several crowdfunding projects. Game designer and podcast show host Robin Laws first called him the godfather of indie game design. The most known games he worked on extensively are probably Once Upon a Time and The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He is currently working on bringing Paranoia, a classic tabletop roleplaying game into the 21st century.
I met James at a conference called Playful several years ago and thought of asking to participate in the show. We had a fantastic conversation, James has amazing stories to tell about his career in game design and writing. I hope you have as much fun listening as I did having the conversation.
A few of the links mentioned:
- Follow James on Twitter
- James’ consultancy, Spaaace
- Pelgrane Press
- The Dairy in Clapham, London
- John Tynes
- Violence RPG by Designer X
- The Forge
- Empire of the Petal Throne
- TSR (original publisher of Dungeons & Dragons)
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Call of Chtulhu
- Richard Bartle – multi-user Dungeons – MUD & MUSHes
- JANET & ARPANET
- Dragon riders of Pern, Anne McCaffrey
- White Dwarf
- Hogshead Publishing
- Wizards of the Coast
- Magic the Gathering card game
- Pokemon card game
I haven’t written one of these posts since 2012. Of course at the time it was meant to become a yearly thing. I’m having another go at it now I’m regularly writing here. It’s a post to wrap up the year. There might be a bit of overlap with what I wrote in a recent Sundae newsletter, I’m expanding on some of those ideas here.
It has been an interesting year. A good year on many fronts.
I started the year in the Pyrénées mountains with a lovely walk in snow shoes and a couple days later went to the Mediterranean Sea in Collioure for a walk, to appreciate the beautiful area where most of my family lives.
I had opportunities to do interesting freelance work and do it remotely at least in part, so I thought I’d stay and enjoy the area a little while longer.
I spent a lot of time with my brothers, sister, nieces, nephew and parents throughout the year. I was hesitating on where to live and what to do next. I visited a flat in Perpignan and took it immediately once I’d seen the view of the rooftops and mountains from the roof terrace. That’s where I’m sitting to write this post as well. Two of my oldest friends came to visit from Orléans and Bordeaux. I travelled for work and spent time with some of my best friends in London, and also went on a lovely weekend in Somerset.
A large part of this year was also in the context of a course I’m participating in and completing soon, the Landmark Wisdom Unlimited. The main idea of the course is to explore the qualities of a child at play and applying them to different areas of life with the maturity of adulthood.
The course comprises five weekends throughout the year in different cities in Europe, each weekend has a particular theme. In between weekends, I had weekly calls with a group of other participants in the course who lived in the South of France, we also organised weekend events, social gatherings at each others places. Another important aspect of the course are the various assignments, for example I worked on putting an autobiography together with photos for each year of my life, and displays with all the people I interacted with on a regular basis for each year.
In the course I looked at how I developed and grew as a social being, in the conversations, interactions and circles of people that make up my every day life. It’s a rich course and everything I’ve done this year was supported by the conversations I’ve had with others in the programme. I really enjoyed it and next year I’m participating in another course in the series, Partnership Explorations. If you don’t know much about these kinds of courses I’d be happy to tell you more, or for a good read, a recent article was published in the NY Times about Werner Erhardt who created these types of courses.
I redesigned the Ice Cream for Everyone website, one of my best friends redesigned the logo. I got back into tabletop roleplaying games and started contributing to a friend’s audio podcast about roleplaying games. I really enjoyed it and given I had occasionally toyed with the idea of creating some kind of audio or video show, I started thinking about what I could do. It took me several months between the first episode meant to be research back in August to nail down a format I could produce myself. It started complicated, then I brought it back to something relatively simple I personally enjoy enough that I trust I’ll keep up with it. I interview creators and thinkers in a variety of fields I’m interested in, like advertising, game design, media and strategy.
I spent time working out the kind of writing I want to do more of, as a result I’m writing at least one blog post every week, the weekly Ice Cream Sundae email newsletter, and I’m working on other kinds of articles and posts for other platforms.
I made efforts to meet new people here in Perpignan, and volunteered with the local tabletop roleplaying game club to help with the yearly convention event. I made new friends there which is excellent. I helped my sister with her wine domain, Les Arabesques. I learned a lot of how her business works. I also helped my brother Morgan with his new restaurant.
On other hand there are several things I wanted to get complete this year and failed to, chiefly my driving license. It became an ongoing drama this year. I took many lessons, took the driving test twice and failed it twice. I’m really close and if it didn’t take so long to reschedule another slot I’d probably already have it. I never thought it would be so difficult but there you go.
I intended to have a complete draft of the novel I’m writing by the end of this year and I don’t. I still have the same draft I had a year ago after NaNoWriMo. I spent a little bit more time writing towards the novel but nowhere near enough. I spent more time worrying about developing and promoting my services as a freelance strategist and consultant.
The work side has proven to be tougher than I thought it would be. It’s not working as well as I’d like it to. Spending time going back and forth between London (or other large cities) and the South of France sounded like a fantastic idea but it’s pretty difficult and tiring. Fortunately there has been positive points too: the work I’ve been doing with Framestore was and still is really interesting, I’ve done some work with a few other clients, caught up with many professional contacts and was invited to speak at the European Planning Conference in Prague.
While I’m not really getting bored of my roof terrace here, I miss the opportunities and friends in the big city. I’ve also made a conscious choice to keep writing and working in English (rather than in French).
With that in mind, and after much consideration, I’m moving back to London.
It’s weird to be moving again after just a year, looking around my flat and having to pack everything up again. It would be been even tougher to be able to take the time I did this year to work out my new website, podcast, writing, newsletter, tabletop gaming and learning to drive if I’d been in London or any other expensive large city this year, so I definitely appreciate that.
I’m looking forward to spending another New Year’s Eve in the Pyrénées mountains with friends! Once I’m back I’ll write another post about what I have in mind for 2016. I’m looking forward to whatever is coming next.
An advertising agency account manager friend and ex-colleague recently contacted me to ask for some advice to improve the quality of her creative briefs. She started working with a new agency and it’s a small one with no planning (or strategy) department. In her words, she has no problem writing a passable or boring brief so that’s not the issue.
She was looking for pointers to figure out where best to start and the right kind of questions to ask. I replied and I’ve been thinking about it some more since. I’m organising this in a blog post, it might be useful for more people. I’d also be glad to have some input and thoughts from more people as well to build and expand on the following ideas.
Account managers often need to write briefs that planners don’t have time for, or as in the case above smaller agencies might not have many (or any) planners around. Writing a good creative brief isn’t some kind of strategy or planning department trade secret, yet it takes time and Suits have a lot of things to do.
Heather writes about the unfortunate lack of training and development in agencies in her (highly recommended) book, Brain Surfing. I have seen training sessions to teach account managers and planners how to write creative briefs in agencies, but not everywhere unfortunately.
That said even the training sessions I’ve attended tended to be linear, going through the process of filling the agency’s template rather than helping on the way to think about a brief. I don’t mean it’s bad, because it’s natural to try and systematise processes to be more efficient in an organisation. One of the pitfalls is to end up with repetitive briefs as people go through the motions of filling the blanks, particularly when everyone involved is familiar with a client and their brand. The temptation to recycle last year’s Christmas brief to gain some time is real.
The most important pitfall is to get lazy to think. We have a lot on our minds already: too much work on, not enough time, tired, hungover, compulsively checking social media, emails to reply to, clients needing stuff, too many meetings on to get work done, thinking about non-work related stuff with your partner / kids / house / finances / etc. We don’t want to think about another thing, it takes an effort.
If we consider we’re both going to get distracted soon and that there are plenty of other important things that need our attention, then what could the most important element(s) to think about be? What could produce most of the quality of a creative brief in a minimum amount of time?
Thinking about the Pareto principle, can something along those lines apply to the process of writing a creative brief, that could be used by account managers (and planners) to be faster and more efficient when they need to be?
If we imagine 20% of the time spent on a given creative brief produces 80% of the quality, what would that 20% time represent?
Some might disagree with the premise, arguing for example that we don’t know in advance where the most valuable aspect of a creative will come from. I certainly agree the best creative briefs often aren’t the result of a linear thinking process even though that’s exactly the way most creative brief templates read.
Pareto’s principle isn’t a law, and I don’t think you can completely systematise writing a creative brief. At the same time, we all know most agencies are high pressure environments where almost everything is due yesterday, as such considering more efficient ways of getting work done seems worthy enough to me.
Because everyone likes alliterations, I think there are two core ingredients: Instructions and Inspiration.
Instructions are quite simply given by the definition of the word brief as a noun: a set of instructions given to a person about a job or task.
Creative agency work traditionally flows from the client, to the account manager, to the planner, and then to the creative team – depending on the type of brief and agency, project management, production, technical and other team members are involved in various stages.
The account manager is typically the first agency person to get the brief so they have the most control over improving it, as well as writing it efficiently.
If we take the brief as being a set of instructions as this definition states, the first way to maximise time and value is to ensure the set of instructions is as clear and explicit as possible. I’m sure we can all relate to obscure sets of instructions that accompany a cheap piece of furniture and compare that with LEGO instruction booklets (if you don’t relate, LEGO usually has better instructions than cheap furniture).
Your main avenue to improving instructions is to ask questions, and the main pitfall is in making too many assumptions.
First question is for yourself: are you clear what the instructions are?
If the answer is no, you shouldn’t expect others to understand any more than you do.
Next question: did you get everything you could from the client?
The client may well have views on what the instructions are for their brief but not necessarily. What you should be able to get from the client is to learn more about the situation with their business and brand leading to them giving you this brief. Thinking of what you are missing to make the instructions clear will inform the kind of questions you should ask (usually some flavour of what / why / where / who / when / how). In doubt ask one more question.
There will be typically be gaps between what the client told you and what you need to make the instructions clear. if there weren’t maybe they wouldn’t need you or an agency. Colleagues can sometimes help you fill a gap quickly, it is one of the chances we have of working in very collaborative environments. Someone nearby in the open space has probably worked with that client, brand or on a similar brief in the past. Avoid going to them with a blank sheet of paper though, that’s asking them to do your job, not filling gaps. Making assumptions for any missing information is your last port of call, and can often be discussed with the rest of the team.
Inspiration is defined as the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
Again, the first question is for yourself: are you inspired to answer this brief?
If not, how come you expect a creative team to be mentally stimulated to do that in your place?
In the spirit of efficiency you need at the very least one inspiring something in the brief. Arguably the more inspiring the brief is, the better the response.
An inspiring something can really show up in any section of the briefing template, though the ones “dedicated” for more inspiring elements are usually titled insight, proposition, cultural or human truth, revelation, unique message, etc. You want to give the creative team an opportunity to come up with something that will resonate with the people on the receiving end of the piece of communication.
Your main source of inspiration is the unknown, and the main pitfall is in overused words and buzzwords.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that if a piece of information in the brief was previously unknown or at least not obvious to you and is also interesting, the chances it is inspiring are high(er).
Of course, the something inspiring you’re looking for is related to the instructions. To solve the equation you probably need to define another factor, time is usually a good candidate. Basically research the instructions in a limited amount of time. How you research depends on what the instructions are and how much time (or other resources) you have or give yourself.
Let’s say your instructions are to promote the launch of a new kiwi flavoured toothpaste amongst young people, and you’ve given yourself two hours to find something inspiring about it. Start with what you’re most familiar with or knowledgeable about. If you’re a young person, think about the toothpaste you buy or call a friend to ask them. If you’re into fruits, look up and think about the benefits of kiwis over other fruits. If you’ve worked on other toothpaste or oral care products in the past, look at what interesting information you might already have.
So your two hours could look like this, though they can happen in any time and/or order:
- Review instructions (10 min)
- Consider what you’re familiar with (20 min)
- Research from your desk: online, research reports, etc (30min)
- Go for a walk around the office, or outside to a shop or supermarket, ask someone who knows (30min)
- Write everything you found and/or thought of, make a list (15min)
- Zone out (5min)
- Select the most inspiring / interesting thing(s) you’ve found in relation to your brief (10min)
That’s about it. You’re ready to go and brief the creative team!
(if you’re not ready, carve more time or you’ll do better next time. Practice makes perfect.)
In this fourth episode of the Ice Cream for Everyone podcast I meet my brother Björn van der Horst and his business partner Omar Romero on the site of a new bar and restaurant they are building in collaboration with the Hilton Hotel London Metropole.
The upcoming bar and restaurant will be called Kojawan and has magnificent panorama views of London from the 23rd floor.
Björn and Omar talk about their careers as chefs as well as their new projects, which include Kojawan and Bone Tea broth bar. I mention this in the intro to the episode, at the time we recorded this they were planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign to finance the next steps of Bone Tea, things have changed since then and they gone the route of private investment for the next steps of the project instead of crowdfunding.
I’ve just had excellent news the podcast is now listed with iTunes Podcasts directory, so you can subscribe there. If you enjoy listening I would hugely appreciate if you could leave a rating and a review please!
A few links to the information mentioned:
- Follow Björn on Twitter
- Follow Omar on Twitter and Instagram
- Saint Seiya
- Hyper Japan in London
- Dungeons & Dragons paladin
- Gary Rhodes
- The Greenhouse, London
- Alain Ducasse
- Russian Tea Room, New York
- Picholine, New York
- Marlon Abela
- Gordon Ramsay
- Soneva Fushi
- Rosewood London
- Bone Tea & Facebook Page
- Beso de Angel ice cream with mamey sapote fruit
- “Rôti sans pareil”
- Cadbury’s Gorilla advertising
- Old Spice The Man your Man could Smell like advertising
- World forum of Mexican gastronomy
I’ve already written about the European Planning Conference in the blog a few weeks ago, I mentioned I’d recorded my talk. I just finished editing it so you can listen to it as a special episode of the podcast. I’m adding the slides here for reference, though as I also mention in the episode the slides are mostly a few images and not really necessary to understand the talk.
I get slightly lost in the section talking about chess and abstract strategy games, listening to the recording I realised I’d made the two points I had in mind and that define these types of games:
- All the elements are visible to players, no hidden parts
- They contain no random elements, nothing left to chance.
Slides to follow along the talk:
- Title [00:00 to 03:20]
- Intro [03:20 to 05:03]
- Dessert [05:03 to 06:10]
- MasterChef Australia [06:10 to 06:45]
- Chocolate popsicle [06:45 to 08:00]
- Play [08:00 to 08:42]
- What constitutes of a game [08:42 to 10:22]
- Abstract strategy games [10:22 to 14:35]
- Tabletop hobby games [14:35 to 15:47]
- Crowdfunding and Kickstarter [15:47 to 16:45]
- European / German style board games [16:45 to 17:40]
- Settlers of Catan [17:40 to 19:30]
- Zombicide / collaborative board games [19:30 to 21:24]
- Tabletop roleplaying games / Prague by night [21:24 to 24:45]
- Roleplaying table [24:45 to 24:58]
- RPG variety [24:58 to 25:20]
- Playing with numbers [25:20 to 26:20]
- Speaking with an audience [26:20 to 26:45]
- Creating & improvising solid stories [26:45 to 28:15]
- Stepping in someone else’s shoes [28:15 to 29:06]
- Collaborative problem solving [29:06 to 29:35]
- It’s fun! [29:35 to 29:52]
- To sum things up [29:52 to 30:12]
A few references mentioned in the episode:
- Image header credit: Pure Geekery (Tabletop with Wil Wheaton)
- European Planning Conference
- Kristijan Petkoski
- Fiona Rosario
- Landmark Worldwide
- iris Worldwide
- Saatchi & Saatchi
- Man, Play and Games (Les jeux et les hommes), Roger Caillois
- Spiel Essen
- Board Game Geek
- Ticket to Ride
- Crowdfunding is driving a $196M board game renaissance
- The Man who built Catan, New Yorker
- Monopoly Killer, Wired
- Collaborative Board Games
- Dead of Winter
- Knights of Badassdom
- Live action roleplaying games (LARP)
- Les Voix d’Altaride tabletop RPG podcast (in French)
- Tabletop roleplaying games
- I’ve stolen the model UN analogy from John Wick
For this third episode I caught up with my friend and award winning media professional Hugh Garry in London. I met Hugh on a trip to Tanzania with The Great Football Giveaway a few years ago, and since then he organises a different adventurous and/or purposeful trip every year.
He is a director at Storythings, a studio decidated to helping businesses and organisations find new ways to tell stories. They also organise a yearly event in London called The Story, the next is on the 19th February 2016. I’m going and looking forward to it. Before that he worked at the BBC Radio 1 as a creative producer for a long time, and he was also a DJ for a long time.
It was a great conversation and I hope you enjoy listening!
A few links to some of the information mentioned:
- Hugh Garry
- The Great Football Giveaway & Our trip to Tanzania
- Stefan Sagmeister TED talks
- BBC Shoot the Summer
- Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull
- Royal Historical Society
- Hammer House of Horrors, The Silent Scream
- Information doesn’t want to be free, Cory Doctorow
- Blendle, a radical experiment with micropayments in journalism
- Car Insurance startup charges by the hour
- Brewdog Nanny State
- John Ashdown, Guardian Sports Journalist (1 beer / day challenge for 365 days)
I was at the Dragonmeet tabletop gaming convention in London last weekend. I’ve started mentioning it around my blog, website and podcast that I’ve been interested in tabletop gaming for a long time and I’ve been actively getting into it this year. I’ve also started putting more time into what lessons can be brought from tabletop gaming into other areas, particularly with work in marketing strategy and planning. My talk at the European Planning Conference was about that, I’ve already mentioned I recorded it and I’m going to publish the audio as a podcast episode soon.
I met with several interesting roleplaying game designers, for some reason several of whom were science-fiction themed. I don’t know if it’s my own interest these days leading me towards those, or if there were more science-fiction themed roleplaying games who had stalls.
I attended a few different seminars, including announcements for Pelgrane Press and was particularly interested in finding out about a recently published collection of original story games – that’s a style of games somewhere between a board game and a roleplaying game, where players typically build a story together. It’s called Seven Wonders, an anthology of seven games from different authors. I’m interested because most of the game authors / designers are in large majority women, and because the topics were out of the ordinary fantasy or science-fiction tropes. These games propose questions like what you be ready to sacrifice to protect your family, what happens back at the village when the heroes are gone adventuring, or how dystopian societies come to be. Unfortunately the book was sold out by the afternoon when I thought of buying it, though there will be a new print run soon and I’m looking forward to reading it.
I’ve heard a lot of good feedback and reviews from Sarah Newton’s game called Mindjammer. The game is already published though she is currently running a Kickstarter crowdfunding project to for new adventures to be written within the same science-fiction universe, and there’s also a novel. I just backed the project, for those interested there are several levels of participating where you can save on buying the main book and game at the moment. I talked about the project with Sarah, she has been working on it for several years and hearing the description made me think of Iain M. Banks Culture universe. I’m apparently not the first person to say that, even though Sarah hadn’t read any of those novels when she starting writing Mindjammer. If you enjoy The Culture novels, I’d recommend checking it out.
I also met Carlos of Burning Games who successfully crowdfunded a science-fiction themed roleplaying game called Faith, with the interesting fact that it presents itself like a board game, with a lot of tokens and cards typically not needed in a tabletop roleplaying game. It intends to be a half-way to introduce people to roleplaying games, which is an interesting idea. I also met with Ed of Imagine RPG and talked about his sci-fi game called Era: The Consortium, for which he wrote 500 years of detailed and playable setting history.
There were many people playing and testing all sorts of games. I had the opportunity of trying Microscope, an ‘indie’ game. It’s pretty interesting, though I’d barely call it a game; it is a methodology for narrating periods, events, and scenes in the history of a civilisation (or of whatever you want I guess). There were many interesting ideas I think I can steal for brainstorming sessions and workshops, I bought the pdf and I’m going to study this a little further.
The convention is also an opportunity for game designers to test some game prototypes. I had fun meeting with Henry and trying his wrecking ball game prototype. The principle is simple and a great idea: you have to build a tower with cubes, try to destroy other people’s towers with a wrecking ball or a demolition truck while protecting your own construction. We talked about the best way to balance this kind of game, how much the pieces should weight or what size they should be, etc. I wish Henry luck and success with the next steps, at least it seems like a great idea for a game.
I attended a live recording of the Ken and Robin talk about stuff audio podcast, both of them are quite known and successful writers and game designers, several of the games they worked on were for sale during the event as well.
It was a great day, I was just a little disappointed by the fact that the attendance seemed to be pretty old on and very male skewed. I’m not sure if it’s representative of the event in particular or of hobby gaming in the UK though. Women are typically in minority from what I could see in similar events in France, maybe 25 – 30% women, where in this event there seemed to be like half that many unfortunately. Lastly, it was almost entirely caucasians in attendance. A little too stereotypical, mostly full of aging white dudes… Even though I believe that hobby games are evolving in a good way, generally growing as a category and becoming mainstream in the past few years, there’s probably still more that can be done to encourage new people to play these kinds of games, including women and other ethnicities.
With my friends at the French tabletop roleplaying podcast Les Voix d’Altaride we are preparing for an episode on the topic of women and roleplaying games (in France / French speaking countries) and have already collected over 300 responses from an online survey to ask people about it, I’m looking forward to analysing the results.
I thought I’d add a theme music to this post, Röyksopp’s Happy up Here so you can listen while reading.
I took the train from Prague to Vienna last weekend, I’d never visited and it seemed like a good opportunity to catch up with old friends who live here. It was also a good excuse to take the train for a few hours, I always love a good train ride. It was a chance to see what that little part of the world between the Czech and Austrian capital cities looks like while editing some podcast recordings.
I walked around Vienna in the morning a few days ago, and was glad to stumble upon a Stefan Sagmeister exhibit at the MAK, the Austrian Applied and contemporary arts museum. Knowing the famous designer is Austrian by birth, and having seen some of his work on happiness in TED Talks, it was a perfect opportunity to check it out.
It is called The Happy Show and collects the designers thoughts, research, experiments, and ideas about happiness. He famously closes his studio every seven years to take a year off as a sabbatical and many of the works in the exhibition were produced during that time off, some of it while he lived in Bali for a year, which seemed to have been in 2008 or around that time. He shows some of this work in his TED talks, I recommend checking them out.
It was a fantastic and happy morning for me, I’m always happy to walk around the streets of a new city and it was sunny so just that put a smile on my face. The Christmas markets were open with friends and families of locals and tourists walking around having fun and gathering around small high tables to drinks warm mugs of the Christmassy spiced, slightly boozy, and variously flavoured local pünsch.
I also love checking out the food of course, and was surprised to see stalls serving warm soup in bread bowls. While I loved the idea, it didn’t occur to me as a practical kind of street food to eat on the go. I stopped to watch some people order and see how they ate it, they turned out to stop at some tables I didn’t see were there at first. More reasons to smile while walking around.
I’d been walking around the centre of town for about two hours when I came across the exhibition, a good time to stop and get warm in the museum. The exhibits also put a smile on my face. One of my favourite pieces was the “How happy are you?” yellow banana flavoured bubble-gum dispensers. Ten of them are lined up in a colorful display, numbered 1 to 10 and asking people to self select how happy they were and take a bubble-gum from that machine. It’s playful, and as Stefan wrote in comments about the piece; it might sound silly to ask though research has shown that people stating they were happy actually made them happier. I enjoyed noticing there were a lot less gum in the 8-9-10 dispensers than in the ones numbered 1-2-3, which were almost full. I stayed around a few minutes and it was fun watching people select it, visitors watched each other and smiled. Happiness, or at least smiles, are pretty infectious.
I mentioned playful already, and to me this was a recurring theme throughout the exhibition, playfulness and happiness are intertwined in their crafting.
I came across a brilliant article, a thanksgiving acknowledgement for the advertising industry by Tom Demetriou, it’s an interesting and fun read I could relate to having lived similar situations in my work too.
He shares this award acceptance speech from Jerry Seinfeld, also a lot of fun. Cynical perhaps, though I mention as relevant in the same post it because he talks about the small moments of happiness advertising can provide.
“In advertising, everything is the way you wish it was. […] In between seeing the commercial and owning the thing, I’m happy”
I’m not sure I see it as happiness when I’m in the thick of working on advertising or marketing a product, though typically a common thread with all great and memorable pieces of advertising is that they put a smile on people’s faces regardless of the product or service being advertised.
Beyond the ironic humour, there is definitely something to be said for appreciating happiness moment by moment, and then to be able to laugh at the irony of the often nonsensical things I do in the world of advertising, which I think also holds true for a lot of people in other lines of work.
The quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off comes to mind as a good way to complete this post:
“Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.”
After much consideration and a few delays I am back on track with the Ice Cream for Everyone audio podcast!
New episodes will be published three times per month on the 10th, 20th, and 30th.
For our second episode I interview one of my favourite game designers, John Wick, and I am joined by my friend Julien with whom I participate in his audio podcast about roleplaying games Les Voix d’Altaride.
In this episode we talk about John Wick the movie, John’s inspiration and creative process, roleplaying games, principles of game design, cooperative board games, examples of subversive storytelling, live-action roleplaying games (LARPs), the best movie ever made, and the best book ever written.
I had great pleasure interviewing John and I hope you enjoy listening!
Links and information mentioned, for reference:
I just had a fantastic week attending the 2nd edition of the European Planning Conference in Prague this week. I was able to arrive a couple of days early and enjoy walking around and soaking in the atmosphere of old Prague earlier this week. The morning I arrived was bright blue skies and cold crisp weather, perfect for wandering and appreciating the architecture. As it started clouding over in the afternoon, I settled in a coffee shop to get some work done, particularly to write my conference talk. I had a few notes and generally knew what I wanted to talk about, but hadn’t properly prepared the work and the presentation just yet.
I met Kristijan who organizes the EPC a couple of years ago while we both worked for Saatchi & Saatchi in Asia. He was based in Vietnam, and I was on a business trip to Ho Chi Minh City, talking to wealthy car enthusiasts for market research purposes. A colleagues told me to get in touch with Kris, who was nice enough to take some time to show me around and sit down for dinner and a few beers while we talked shop. We kept in touch after that, he was about to move back to Macedonia where he’s from and told me at the time that he had a few ideas about organizing an event for planners in Europe. It was brilliant to have that perspective, given I often think of the centre of Europe in London or maybe Paris, and forget about the whole of central and eastern Europe that I don’t know well at all.
I was happy Kris invited me to speak at the conference, it was an enriching and fun two day event, I met fantastic people from all over the old continent: France, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Macedonia, etc. Kris told me the event was only one day long last year; he felt it was very rushed so he thought he’d try spreading it over two days this year. It was brilliant to also meet Jane (pronounced Y-a-nee or something I can’t actually write phonetically), Kris’ new business partner, they are in the process of creating a new agency, we talked about their new plans and I wish them the best in their new venture.
Tom Theys of FCB Global opened the conference with a talk he is testing and preparing for the upcoming Eurobest festival. I’m not going to give too many details before Eurobest, but it’s all about providing experiences and thinking ways to creative advertising and promotional pieces that will have an effect on changing people’s behaviours. This Nivea case study that I hadn’t seen is a great example of the kind of things he talked about:
Varia from Sid Lee in Amsterdam talked next, about the kind immersive and meaningful brand experiences they work on in the agency famously (at least partially) funded by Cirque du Soleil, who know a thing or two about creating memorable shows and experiences, like the Absolut Nights series of branded events for the famous vodka.
We ended the first morning with one of the two more academically inclined talks of the conference, Michael is working on a Phd, had recently interviews international diplomats to learn about their jobs, and studied the origins and principles of diplomacy. He told us of the lessons he drew from the world of international diplomacy and strategic planners could learn from it.
We had two energetic and brilliant talks in the afternoon from Achim Shauerte of BBH London and then Boris Nihom of Achtung! Amsterdam, both with interesting approaches and case studies from their respective agencies with slick, smart and fun presentations. Achim is really sharp, and Boris infectiously passionate. Boris shows us several interesting and practical case studies, like this stroller video. Before that Achim had told us of the process they went through at BBH to create this pretty bold (and possibly kind of disturbing) advert for Audi:
I’m adding these videos to illustrate a few case studies and ads, though they don’t do justice to the talks of course, there was more to it than that.
We all went for a nice dinner and beers to a nearby bar and restaurant in the evening to pursue geeky talks about advertising, marketing, branding, and more.
Friday Katharina started the day with a very interesting talk and an academic history lesson, as in the telling us of the principles of studying and learning history and the ways in which the discipline can be applied to develop foresight.
Robert who co-founded the idea crowd sourcing platform Future Bakery followed to tell us about his burgeoning nw business. He used to work for traditional advertising agencies in Prague for a long time before creative this new online platform a year ago. I wasn’t sure I understood what it was at first, and the more he told us about it, the more interested I was. It’s an online community – I guess à la Quora where he poses relatively simple questions to the audience of participants related to client briefs in order to crowdsource ideas and possible solutions to their business problems from a wide variety of locations and experiences. They’re not solutions or any replacement for the work of an agency or a creative professional, but they’re potentially ideas and perspectives you wouldn’t have considered otherwise. I was definitely left wanting to find out more about it.
It was a privilege to have Richard join us for a talk about whether it is more important for planners to be interesting or right. He lighted the room up with his enthusiastic energy and it was brilliant to have his perspective about planning and strategy today, as well as his comments on several pieces of great strategic work out of the APG awards case studies this year.
Tom and Richard both talked about the campaign to encourage women to practice sports in the UK from FCB, and, it’s worth checking out if you haven’t come across it:
Michail then told us of his original methodologies to create a compelling and original brand value proposition, including ways to cooperate with clients to create stronger value. It was very interesting and his models seem rich.
Finally, it was time for my talk closing the conference. I’d prepared a talk about what strategic planners can learn from tabletop games, one of my passions. I’ve actually recorded myself, hopefully I will be able to soon publish this as an episode to my podcast so in the meantime I’ll keep the details quiet.
I learned a lot and got time to meet and talk shop with amazing professionals in their fields. The European Planning Conference is really one of those where I’m not sure if I should just keep a secret because it was great to be with a relatively small committee and spend more time getting to know people properly as well as explore planning & strategy topics in depth, but at the same time it is a brilliant event and definitely deserves to have more European planners join for the conference next year! I hope I can go next year, I loved Prague and would happily go back. Look out for next year, I recommend it!