I’d get online and look up and 40 minutes would have gone by, and my reading time for the night would have been pissed away, and all I would have learned was that, you know, a certain celebrity had lived in her car awhile, or that a cat had dialled 911.
It’s hard to believe three weeks have passed that I’ve been working from a client’s office – and not just any office, but one of the busiest I’ve seen in a long while: ASOS.
(To me) there’s something curiously fascinating about how other people go to work, arrange their desk, hang around places. I have a fetish for Selby-style books and posts about people in their places. But because there are only seven of us in LSU, we’ve covered most of everyone’s personal whims and curiosities as far as work goes.
So enter a place with at least one thousand people working on four floors and it becomes a real challenge to get to your desk for 9 AM, find any biscuits anywhere, keep personal belongings locked away or to even find your desk at times. To survive here, you have to be military trained and organised to some extent. For instance, there are probably amazing employee discounts, but little did we know what it looks like when the big drop comes in and you have to wait your turn to collect the parcel:
You know when people say they like ‘fast-paced’ environments on their CVs and it’s a load of crap – they haven’t seen fast-paced until they’ve been at ASOS. They haven’t seen their own desk disappear overnight to make room for a massive – and I mean massive – internal sample sale:
And although I haven’t got pictures of it, the same amount of clothes goes to a custom clothes-recycling scheme they have going with Oxfam.
It’s changed a lot about how I think of my own clothes and experimenting with things – in the words of their head of marketing, “wear some red lipstick. No one dies!” And it’s easy to do that when everyone just thumbs up everyone else’s outfit:
Despite the good crazy, the people I met are some of the nicest and most competent professionals in their industry, so it’s been a real pleasure to chat to anyone who deals with any moving part of the world’s 2nd largest shopping website. The amount of data is dizzying and exciting (to me) and even though there’s lots of work to do, their work ethic redefines ‘fast’. Whenever I think they are slow to get something done because we’ve done it in a snap before, I remember that the same process that takes them three weeks takes 9-12 months anywhere else.
It’s been weird and wonderful at the same time and frankly, we’d have been none the wiser if we had taken the role of consultants working from our desks somewhere far away. If you can get away with it, work in someone else’s office. Meet them, queue with them for the cafeteria – it says a lot about their culture.
ASOS, I am in awe of you.
So work have asked me to go through The Economist’s annual publication called ‘World in 2013‘. They do two versions here in the UK, one is about the world and the other is ‘Britain in 2013′ specifically.
Seeing as they’re not client work and a piece of thinking, I’m going to publish some bits here if they’re interesting enough. Most are posts that have been in drafts for ages but needed a kick from behind to write.
Before that, two things to know about The Economist:
1. Is the Economist left or right?
The Economist is not inherently left-wing or right-wing; its political philosophy is rooted in 19th-century Classical Liberalism of the John Stuart Mill variety. Essentially we are fans of Free Markets (The Economist was founded to oppose the Corn Laws) and individual choice. So we favour, for example, a small state and the abolition of agricultural subsidies (right-wing fiscally liberal positions); but we also support gay marriage and the legalisation of drugs (left-wing socially liberal positions).
2. Is The Economist a biased news source?
Short response: … Yes, if only because it insists on sprinkling “opinion” into what are supposed to be factual accounts of “news.
Post 1: A big talent and skills gap
Post 2: A new way of looking at cars
Ages ago, I was stuck with another one of those ‘original answers to difficult questions’ brief that never found itself an answer when an avalanche of work came in. It was about getting people to use landlines more.
Truth is , I don’t really know – and I don’t know because (in this country):
…landlines come in a bundle and most have lots of free minutes already; it’d be a challenge to use those to begin with, nevermind using up beyond the allowance.
…most companies are either selling their lines or renting them out to internet providers who make a loss on them to sell their broadband.
…4G is coming, and if/when that gets better, it will make people question having a broadband connection in their home in the first place. Even BT is now gearing up to offer 4G, which hints at where they think growth will come from.
…people still use landlines, it’s just that those under 30 don’t. The habit isn’t there, but it’s also because no one is at home during the day – and the question may or may not be about using landlines at work. It raises the interesting issue of ‘who would you actually like to speak to late at night or at the weekend?’ (if not your close circle of friends). And who would you sit on the phone with for hours or for short, often bursts? Hmm.
…even though you could invent reasons to use the landline more – late night sex chat, QVC, TV selling, live voting for talent shows, dial in to skype from your landline and get older people using it, battery life sucks on mobiles, your mobile gives you cancer (doubtful it’ll fly in any parts of the world these days) – and create a compelling one, the issue in my mind lies in the now limpless product itself. It’s not that we don’t speak to our friends, the medium and format have changed. My landline sadly doesn’t let me ‘forward’ all my unanswered emails and calls to it so I can pick them up in the evening, and the fact that no one’s come up with product innovation may suggest no one sees a good enough reason to (or maybe I’m too pessimistic).
…that and we’re not prone to emergencies like earthquakes, floods, all the natural disasters that make landlines far more reliable than mobiles
Anwyay, I found this and it got me thinking about the problem again:
But sadly no answer.
A few pounds later and a LoveFilm trial yielded value in the form of the wonderful Diana Vreeland: The Eye Must Travel documentary. Reaffirms my beliefs that anyone worth remembering has probably been called too extravagant, too annoying, too opinionated and many other things in pursuit of their art. No matter. For someone who spent her time championing fashion and imagination when other magazines were telling you about how to bake the perfect pie and prepare yourself for your husband, I’m pretty sure this quote will stick:
“You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female’.”
Back from my holiday and filling up 20 minutes of time with gifs on the internet over lunch I found this gem of all the possible cliches you could be living if you work in ‘advertising’ – sorry, 38 signs you’ve been in advertising too long. I could think of a number of people who fit the bill and probably don’t know it but I was most intrigued by the airport mayorship.
On one hand because foursquare is funny just like that, with some cool trivia for the moment (5120 miles since last check in – Will I remember this in 3 months? No.) while others fade into my crap memory and it’s no bad thing.
On the other hand, because I caught up with Graham Furlong – now CSO at Made Movement, who would have been my boss at JWT had he not left before I joined – and asked him what the strangest thing about doing business in the US is. Maybe not the strangest, but he said you have to get your head round the fact that any business meeting equals a flight somewhere. Europeans maybe don’t get that as much, which is no bad thing if you hate flying.
Anyway, all this reminded me of a photo of a flyer done by a ‘creative’ studio moving in next door to someone I know, just letting people know they’ve got all the cool shit in their office. More books than vinyl, for balance, letting you know exactly how much money we spend on framing pictures and how many pieces of expensive kit we crammed in.
Sure, sometimes you need to remind the world that creative people work in environments that aren’t the boring, stark corporate hellholes most people go to every day (in dress code), but really, frankly, it’s like advertising has much bigger issues in staying relevant to clients these days. Telling everyone you’re still young, cool, relevant and somewhat dysfunctional is a cute distraction to make yourself feel better and delay thinking about why you’re in the business or maybe wonder why resentment has kicked in. Maybe.
I’ve reached this stage where I think it’s a nice little stat to think about last visits to places given my last one was apparently 2 years ago but…the joy and excitement of being in the first airport terminal in 5 weeks! It’s almost palpable! I didn’t need to know that.