First day as marketing controller of newly merged Chunky Norris Foods. Surely those merchant bankers had thought ahead to the consequences of merging Chunky Foods with Norris Foods. Oh well, I guess we are well placed when it comes to promotional action figures – with karate action arms.
I’ve never really understood what logistics did – except that Bob always had a cool little lorry on his desk – but the bastard has got fully seven more ceiling tiles of office space than me.
Still, the bird sitting outside his office looks like the little lorry’s big brother hit her. I tell Bob that I don’t think she’ll be counting his ceiling tiles. We agree she’s definitely a carpettile counter.
Yesterday afternoon was a bit of a retsina haze.
Feel bloody awful today. Still, am on parade and that’s what counts. Fell asleep at lunchtime on my desk and woke up with an imprint of my mobile phone on my cheek.
Top brass coming round for a look-see this afternoon – including the old man. Must take my chance to lobby for a new PA, given that Gwen took redundancy and didn’t move across town with us. There must be some benefit to having your dad as chairman after all.
Glam new PA definitely a priority as skirt count already worryingly low and Ann Widdecombe’s uglier twin sister appears to be working in the office next to mine. So must have stimulating front-of-house arrangement.
Ludmila the Gross next door appears to be some sort of finance person. My god, they’ve put us next to finance – the inhumanity of it.
This is a disaster. In fact, it’s worse than a disaster, they are the new marketing finance department. What the bloody hell is that then? Now there are two reasons to feel nauseous when I look at Ludmila.
Some comfort arrives in the shape of Gloria, my temp PA. Gloria would give Halle Berry a run for her money. I end up 10 minutes late for a meeting; the effect of thinking of Gloria and Halle Berry running together had to wear off before I was able to leave the office.
Great meeting. Turns out Ludmila is only here for two months to set up the department.
I wonder how many conferences and external training courses I can get on between now and the end of April. For the sake of my sanity, I’m going to have to be spending as much time away from the office as possible for a few weeks. No alternative but to review some of our agencies.
Things are going badly with Ludmila already.
I make one playful crack and she lectures me about dignity in the work place. If she had any dignity she’d be agoraphobic.
Agency review a must. Called MediaShape MD Dan Roberts and Sally Bing of MediaBrand and broke the bad news about the forthcoming review. Told them we were now under the shadow of marketing finance and had to do something about it. Told them not to worry, that it was a process thing. Shadow? Dark side of the bloody moon more like.
Gloria, my new temporary PA, is great. She turned up today in a crochet dress. Had to really concentrate on hanging my coat in the right place. Called Bob round immediately for an emergency meeting and told Gloria I needed her to take notes. Couldn’t actually think of anything then to have a meeting about; so we discussed how I should approach the agency review.
Gloria mentions that her twin sister works as a receptionist at Stack and Wobble – the sales promotion agency. Bob and I agree that we probably need to explore options in the sales promotion area.
Media owner golf days are a splendid thing – can’t remember whose this one actually is, but we’re being jolly-well looked after. One of the chaps I’m playing with is Dave Hobbs, MD of MediaMedia, and he seems a lively fellow. Dave tells me that this year they are planning to take some of their clients over to watch the Ryder Cup in the US and because they’ve had quite a good run of late they are determined to go five star all the way.
I confess to Dave that I’m in the early stages of a review and that perhaps he might like to think about pitching for our business.
Ludmila catches me on the way out and says she needs to talk to me about marketing KPIs.
I act all indignant and ask her loudly why she can’t be honest about the real reason she has been sent amongst us. Bob, who was following us out, said things had started to get frosty around Ludmila’s office.
Gloria, who was my temporary PA, starts today as marketing assistant. Apparently, I offered her the job late on Friday. I only know this because I received a call from her when I was halfway down the third fairway at Wentworth asking where she should be sitting.
Meantime, the group finance director is looking for me – I think I can guess what that’s about.
Meeting first thing with Mike Ball, the group FD. Mike tells me to stop mucking Ludmila about and reminds me that a lot of promises have been made to the City about synergies and savings and that everyone’s arse is on the line to deliver them. I point out that it must be a very wide line if fatty’s arse is on it.
Have told Gloria she’ll have to carry on being my PA, until I can get the paperwork through HR. She pouts. I tell her it may take a week or so and ask for a coffee. She says OK, but then that it might take a week or so.
Dave Hobbs from MediaMedia calls to set up a meeting after we met at the golf last week.
Suggests we could go to the Arsenal Champions’ League game next week. Dave adds that he would understand if I felt that might be inappropriate. I said it might be a bit, because I was a Spurs fan. I ask Gloria to check my diary for next week; says she can’t because her nails are drying.
Have put Tim in charge of producing a brief for the media agency review. Tim’s a good bloke and hates MediaShape – after one of their TV buyers tried to grope his girlfriend, then threatened to punch him. Tim’s brother works for Media Answers, so he suggests including them. Whatever.
I have also put Rachel in charge of drafting a set of KPIs to propose to the Marketing Finance Stasi. Have told her that she is Han Solo and Jabba the Hut is not to be trusted.
Had a word with Tim and Rachel this morning after a troubling night. Told them that we didn’t get into marketing to live in a world of numbers, worrying about price and efficiency.
We were about creating value for the business and if we are put under some sort of finance microscope then bang goes hob-nobbing with B-list celebrities, shoots in exotic locations and long agency lunches. Rachel visibly shaken.
Jabba the Hut informs me that, if I am conducting a review of any supplier, I must inform her and she is under a directive to engage an external procurement specialist to work on the review. I ask her who is reviewing the appointment of the procurement specialist and ensuring we get the lowest cost provider.
Breakfast with Dan Roberts of MediaShape.
Dan is not a good advert for his business and is obviously worried. He looks like he was out all night on some sort of epic bender – where was my invite Dan? Says that they feel they’ve done really good work for us: they’ve improved their prices in the last three audits, completed a new audience segmentation approach for the launch of Whambos and, only a month ago, won an award for long-term strategy on Captain Crispy Fingers.
I sympathised, but, in fact, I don’t believe the audit numbers, I don’t understand the audience segmentation and don’t care about the award – because nobody invited me to the ceremony.
Meeting with Sally Bing at MediaBrand.
About 12 people turn up to the meeting to impress me with how committed to keeping the business they are. I daydream during their presentation, while Tim asks questions. We’re due at Berry Bros for lunch with those frightfullyfriendly satellite sales boys – last time I fell asleep in the sports bar over the road at 7pm and missed the water pistols at Metropolis.
Bumped into Dave Hobbs from MediaMedia last night in Metropolis. He didn’t seem that surprised to see me – I think the sales boys told him they would be out with me. Great fun was had by all, particularly as Chelsea’s defeat was on the telly.
At one point, I put a tenner in a dancer’s garter; Tim put another tenner in the one on her other leg; and then Dave leans across us both with his credit card and tries to swipe it week 4 between her legs. Hilarious! Now this is starting to look like a company I could see myself working with.
Rachel is a little star – she has returned from the den of Jabba the Hut, having left her with a set of KPIs which she says will take a week to decipher and would, anyway, require a new research programme to establish all the base criteria for. Rachel says she’s not giving up her days at the sanctuary with Marie Claire without a fight. Good girl – it’s all in the training.
Good news, I’ve managed to wangle Gloria’s appointment through HR – so she has stopped sulking. Bob calls round and suggests Zorba’s - in celebration of Newcastle’s Uefa dumping last night. I agree it’s worth celebrating and off we go.
Need to behave myself, though. I’m supposed to be taking the old trout out to the theatre tonight and I haven’t even told her I’m going to the rugby tomorrow, so must try to behave. Why are anniversaries every year?
It was ’Quins on Saturday, against the Frenchies for further Euro glory. The boys clearly understood that losing to the cheesechomping surrender monkeys was not an option to be tolerated and gave us much to celebrate.
However, not getting home until lunchtime on Sunday was not a good move.
Have promised the wife I will behave in a more considerate way and not like some “teenage twat”. Old man thinks more of her than he does of me – can’t risk getting binned.
Had to grit teeth and meet with Ludmila today on both Marketing KPIs and requirements for agency review process. Rachel has clearly done an excellent job in mystifying her with our draft proposals and we pretend not to understand most of her questions.
She is harder to shake on the issue of agency review and insists on some third-party involvement from an audit and/or procurement perspective. Tim suggests a media auditing company and agrees to fix up a meeting for her to meet a suitable candidate (the one where his brother works perhaps?!). She falls for this schoolboy-level dummy.
Went to see Dave Hobbs and the guys at MediaMedia this afternoon to brief them on the forthcoming review. Tim did most of the donkey work on that, I just clock-watched until the Arsenal game and gawped at Michelle who would be our account director.
Every time I looked she had her pen in her mouth – alarming. MediaMedia are a smaller operation than we’re used to. Dave says it’s still a people business and they pride themselves on their servicing. I try not to look at Michelle.
The Marketing massive has a group hangover after last night’s pre, during and post-match entertainment. The hospitality in the hired room at Soho House was lavish, to say the least. No doubt MediaMedia now have their noses firmly in front, largely because the incumbents are hardly out of the stocks. I did receive a note from Sally Bing with a copy of a report into FMCG branding (yawn) and have been invited by poor old Dan Roberts to a conference (interesting), but it’s in Docklands (consternation).
Gloria is back in the office after a few days off sick – although Bob reckons she’s had a boob job. Have to try to get through today without the now-traditional Friday lunchtime trip to Zorbas in an attempt to shore up domestic relations. Discover that few people actually do any work on a Friday afternoon so can’t see what the problem with popping out is. Still, I stoically stay in the office and try to amuse myself by typing the word Ludmila into Google and seeing what comes out.
Agency review process goes on hold this week as we prepare for next week’s European sales and marketing conference in Dubai.
On the plus side, that means sun, golf and some general misbehaviour, assuming my information on the liberal leanings of that particular Gulf state is reliable (ie, lots of pubs and Russian hookers – a bit like Soho really, but without the beggars). Only downside is I will have to write a bloody speech on engaging the modern consumer.
When Rachel decides to pull out, I manage to sneak Gloria in as her replacement. I could be about to do something very wrong – after all, pork is frowned upon out there.
I ask Tim to set the competing agencies a quick turnaround test on engaging the modern consumer. I should be able to cut and paste something from what comes back – after all, the audience reaction is pre-programmed.
They will all say it’s interesting but doesn’t apply in their market, the French will be snotty, the Italians won’t show up and the Eastern Europeans will be drunk and sleep through it.
I spend most of this afternoon trying to get hold of José-Maria from the Spanish operation to organise a game of golf for next week – I need to avenge my defeat from last year. Siesta is obviously a fabulous thing and I’m hoping that, in the spirit of Euro integration, we will be adopting it as policy in the UK – for Fridays anyway. The fact that I choose to spend my siesta semi- vertical will surely be my choice.
Oh bugger, speech material coming back from agencies is rather lame – you’d have thought someone from MediaBrand would have actually read that bloody report they sent me.
Bluffing and blagging is what I expect from a good agency; it’s part of a media bloke’s job.
Thankfully, Dan Roberts has sent me over a reel of funny ads from around the world and that always goes down well. All this overintellectualised crap about understanding the modern consumer is all very well, but you can’t beat a funny ad.
Give me a good ad and a crap strategy any day over the reverse – anyone who would pick differently is definitely an arse.
Tim reports that the meeting between Squeeeze and Ludmila went well, in as much as she bought into them as robust and objective arbiters of competitive value. Tim’s brother there says they’ll happily make up the pools and targets, dependent on how much we want to screw the agencies. That’s one more definition of value in the media dictionary then!
Last day in the office before we’re off to Dubai.
I ask Ludmila whether she’d like me to get her one of those big black tents I’ve seen the locals wear on the telly – assuming it doesn’t put me over my baggage allowance of course.
Small dark cloud appears in the shape of the monthly sales reports which show falling market share – a good time to be out of the office.
Tim shares some of the Arabic he has learned for the trip while we down a couple of settlers in the airport bar. My favourite is: “If you will do me the kindness of not harming my genital appendages, I will gladly reciprocate by betraying my country in public.”
The flight on Air Arabia is OK, despite my fears about goats wandering up and down the aisle. We touch down to find 41? heat – which makes me wonder whether I should have had that third bottle of claret. My bed beckons and with a notable absence of businessmen’s recreational channels on the telly, I’m soon asleep.
Conference doesn’t start until late this afternoon, so the morning is spent mooching around the hotel – too hot to venture anywhere. I find Tim and Gloria by the pool. Tim is sweating off his hangover and sporting a fat lip as a result of an incident with a French bloke in the bar last night. Tim apparently told him he was glad the French were on the Iraqi side during the recent war – so they could teach them how to surrender.
It went pretty much downhill from there.
The opening session goes well, with the boss giving a speech about the agenda for the new company. The evening’s entertainment is a Bedouin-type feast and lots of Italians seem to want to audition to be Gloria’s uncle. Tim tries to start another fight with the French bloke – offering him a cigarette with the words: “I bet you’d like to suck on a camel.”
He’s a game boy.
My speech goes well, which means I can happily doze through the rest of the afternoon in my room, while watching “Afghanistan’s Wackiest Public Execution Bloopers” on the local cable TV station.
Gloria looks stunning for the gala dinner.
She certainly leaves the table speechless during a relatively serious early-dinner discussion about the role of US oil interests in the Iraq conflict when she says she doesn’t really understand how the US oil got under the Iraqi sand to start with.
It’s a long trip home and Gloria doesn’t appear to be talking to me. I do remember being in her room late last night and then it all gets fuzzy about the time I insisted on trying on her nightie and suggest we have a shower.
Cripes. Board meeting tomorrow morning to discuss last week’s rubbish monthly sales figures.
I ask Gloria to pull out all my monthly board reports from two years ago – that way I can safely recycle the excuses and nobody should notice.
Gloria complies, but tells me she is waiting for an apology from last Thursday evening after the gala dinner in Dubai. I tell her I don’t actually know what I’m supposed to be apologising for. Tim says he will have the pictures back from Boots tomorrow!
Anxious board meeting. Must make £2m in savings to get back on plan for the year, assuming we can hold market share. All eyes are looking at me for the easy saving. I say that further cuts in the top-line marketing budget will simply ensure we’re having the same conweek versation again in three months.
Group FD Mike Ball says that the share price won’t survive another three months like this and we need to stabilise now. His options won’t survive more like.
I have to come up with £1.5m of savings by the end of the week... bastards. Mike has also told me that the boss, Old Man, has offered to step down. He left me in no doubt that I am fully in the cross-hairs. Shit.
Call Tim in for a crisis meeting. I’m very forceful with him – what exactly are in these bloody photos he’s got! The last thing I need right now is gifting them with an excuse to sack me. Ten minutes and a ten-grand pay rise for Tim later, I am in possession of said photos and negatives. Lets just say that Gloria’s nightie didn’t protect very much of my dignity by the time I’d passed out on her bathroom floor.
Tim starts earning his pay rise by getting his brother at auditing firm Squeeeze to tell all the pitching agencies they need to deliver a saving against current plan of at least £2m.
Dave Hobbs calls me to say that, as long as we were committed to the large outdooronly launch of Mr Bungle’s Jungle Burgers as planned, then he could probably deliver evengreater savings – although these would come through as a rebate rather than in cutting the top-line budget. Dave suggested I just give him the business so he could get on with it and also reminded me to keep Ryder Cup week free in my diary.
Have guaranteed to make efficiency savings of £1.5m on the current advertising plan, rather than cut any of the activity itself. The rest of the board were very impressed. Gone are the days, I said, when marketing was unaccountable and detached from our real business pressures and managed over an expensive lunch.
Called Dan to tell him I was a yes for the Ryder Cup and swaggered to Zorbas.
Met with our media auditor Squeeeze to discuss the pitch presentations this week. Can’t help feeling they’re failed media people with big chips on their shoulders, which is why they relish giving the agencies – that probably once fired them – such a hard time. I leave the detail to Tim as they seem to talk in a strange subdialect of media. I only care about the money I’ve now promised the board I can save.
First up is sad old Dan Roberts and the guys from MediaShape. They do an OK job, if not exactly inspired, which I guess is a bit tricky when you’ve been working on the account for so long and are looking down the barrel of major redundancies if you lose it. They went for the consistency approach of the current team and tried to play the “we really understand your business” card. I ask them how many have visited the Northampton distribution centre or the new factory in Cardiff – no hands. I ask them if they knew the sales target Tesco had set Mr Bungle’s Jungle Burgers for the first six weeks to guarantee continued dis-tribution. Knowing my business and knowing about my advertising, I remind them, are rather different things. Still, they set a good standard in nice biscuits although seem vague about guaranteeing the required savings.
We meet Dave Hobbs in the reception of MediaMedia and are quickly whisked to his local Tesco, where they conduct the pitch while walking round the relevant aisles. They stop and involve both shop staff and shoppers.
They then take us to Claridge’s for dinner, where Gordon Ramsay has cooked us a special Chunky Norris Foods menu and somehow made it quite tasty. Dave tells me that the MD of Tesco is also coming on the Ryder Cup trip and Gordon Ramsay – an old schoolmate – has agreed to talk about a special range for us.
My head is in a spin even before we enter Spearmint Rhino.
We don’t feel our best for the presentation from Sally Bing’s team at Media Brand, which is a bit unfair on them. Not as unfair, I guess, as the thought that we’re watching an after-the-Lord-Mayor’s-Show performance. Sally went for the newteamand-a-consequent-new-enthusiasmfor-the-challenges-ahead approach, which worked quite well but left me wondering whether I’d been with her second team for the past year or so. Her trump card was the announcement that WPD – the global giant that owns the agency – is launching a megabuying operation called Concerto which will guarantee us marketleading pricing and, hence, our required savings. I remember they always told me I was getting marketleading pricing anyhow – so I’m a bit puzzled.
Day off today for the Test match with those nice chaps at the Telegraph, who ask me how I feel about sharing Concerto’s services with arch-rival First Foods.
Called Dave Delaney (brother of the more famous Ronnie Delaney) from Delaney, Delaney and Dave – our creative agency – to ask if he’s available to attend a discussion about the media pitches from last week. He says he’s on a shoot in LA for a footcream for 10 days, so can’t make it. He says he always thought Sally Bing a bit of a bunny boiler.
Squeeeze have suggested we ask all the agencies for their bottom line on cost guarantees to flush out what might be on offer from Concerto. I guess I should do that but the longer I spend with Squeeeze the more faintly nauseous they make me.
Dan Roberts of MediaShare calls me and asks for feedback and about timing on the big decision.
When I tell him about Squeeeze’s suggestion about a bottom-line cost exercise, he launches into an epic whinge about the negative role auditors are playing in the business.
I don’t quite understand how me saving lots of money is negative and tell Dan that, given his staff lunch at The Ivy and mine in the cafeteria, perhaps his perspective isn’t all it could be. I warm to my task by reminding him that if he wants to know what margin pressure is like he should try negotiating with Tesco. It’s game over for poor old Dan.
I spend most of the day with Mike Ball, the group FD, after the MD of our French subsidiary lodged a formal complaint over Tim’s behaviour at the European Sales and Marketing Conference. It turns out that the guy Tim kept picking a fight with was the son of some leading politician over there... Merde.
I have to protect Tim, because I can’t be sure he hasn’t kept copies of the photos of my “lapse” from the gala-dinner night. So, am forced to call said cheese-muncher and make humble apology. Claim Tim’s brother was on the Rainbow Warrior and, therefore, is a bit sensitive.
We meet to make the final decision and confirm that we are going to centralise everything into MediaMedia. I accept that Concerto could possibly get us better pricing, but all their much-vaunted claims about access don’t seem to include access to Ryder Cup tickets for me so its easy to get emotional about a clash with First Foods. Tim says his brother needs to get out of Squeeeze and wonders whether Dave Hobbs could find him a job – I think I probably know the answer to that one.
I call round the offices of MediaMedia with Tim and Rachel and a few bottles of champagne to bring them the good news personally.
Much merriment ensues and in the revelry I forget to call Sally Bing. This wouldn’t have been a problem had we not bumped into some of the account team from MediaBrand on our celebratory pub crawl. Ooops