I had the bizarre experience yesterday of a) having my work validated by an eight-year-old, and b) really appreciating it.

It was a beautiful day, and all the neighbourhood kids were popping in and out of each other’s houses. One tousle-headed visitor with a fist-full of lego noticed a sample direct mail piece on our kitchen table.

 “Oh, cool!” he said. “We got that at our house, too.” And then, speaking to my son, he said, “Here, I’ll show you how to open it, it’s really neat – when you open the doors there’s stuff behind them.”

 So. Got a kid inside an envelope. Got that warm glow of success. Yes, it’s a (very) small sample. But it’s Thanksgiving, so I’m going to take what I can get, and be thankful!

AuthorJinnean Barnard

I spend most of my workday sitting on my derriere, pressing keys. I’m one of those get-up-often-and-move people, but still I mostly sit. We all do. So I was pretty excited last week when I had an opportunity to go on a press check with our senior production guy and the senior art director whose work was being printed.

It’s easy to forget the behind-the-scenes stuff. We come up with concepts and write, design, and present. Then a little later we get the tangible proofs of our work, mark it up a bit, and send it away again. With the exception of the production team and a few astute art directors, most of us don’t think about how the end product actually gets made. It’s like the grocery store. We buy a piece of meat, remove it from its Styrofoam tray and plastic wrapping, and cook and eat it without contemplating how it got to the grocery store in the first place.

What’s interesting in print advertising is that despite how high-tech the front-end of the process has become, the back-end is basic manufacturing. The manufacturing process may also be high-tech, but it’s other things, too. It’s logistics. It’s partly manual. It can’t easily be interrupted or changed. It relies on teams of people doing the right things at the right time, and complicated machinery running smoothly. There’s no room for error and timing is everything.

I’ve become blasé about technology, and I suspect you have too. We may not know exactly how things are done, but we’re sure that they can be. And probably at the push of a button. But it doesn’t work that way. Behind the gloss of intuitive GUIs and wireless access to everything is the old-fashioned reality of trucks and machines and paper and inks. And behind that is the expertise and experience of the people who do the work. And that’s pretty cool.



AuthorJinnean Barnard
3 CommentsPost a comment


I don’t know what to make of (some) Americans’ reaction to Tony Hayward’s accent. I know a combination of xenophobia and a tradition of a sense of cultural inferiority to Brits may play into it. But I’m surprised at how it’s being held up as being emblematic.

Hayward, as the physical embodiment of BP and of the Gulf disaster, is being parsed down to a fundamental aspect of his being. What intrigues me is that it’s not just what he’s saying that’s in question, it’s how he’s enunciating it.

Hayward’s accent has become both a personal and corporate liability.

Here’s the HeraldScotland on June 20:

 Hayward has been a punching bag for anti-corporate rage ever since he planted his Oxford brogues in his mouth once too often. Thanks to the Home Counties lilt to his accent, this has sometimes crossed over into outright xenophobia. New York Congressman Anthony Weiner summed it up for NBC television: “Whenever you hear someone with a British accent talking on behalf of British Petroleum they are not telling you the truth. That’s the bottom line."

And blogger Jane Genova, a Connecticut speechwriter and ghostwriter whose blog I stumbled on while searching the subject, writes on June 6, 2010:

BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward has been so horrific in his public statements that the British accent has become downright cartoonish.  Expect it to be lampooned everywhere from "SNL" to the monologue on "Letterman."

While Genova’s suggestion that the British accent has become “downright cartoonish” seems exaggerated, the accent did become the subject (along with Hayward) of a cartoon. Political satirist Garry Trudeau takes on the issue in two recent Doonesbury cartoons with typical wry humour.

Duke says, “You need to play down the Brit connection, Tony. And I’d start by losing the fancy accent.” When the Tony character turns down the advice – “Mr. Duke, changing my accent is a bit of a non-starter” – Duke perseveres: “Can you do Ringo? Everyone loves Ringo.”

I’m not surprised that the public’s reaction to Hayward has been visceral. But I am (perhaps naively) surprised at how negative a value it has ascribed to the CEO’s accent, which is seen both as a personal marker and as symbolic of the BP brand. Does this underline the precariousness of a “brand voice,” and the power of shifting perceptions? Had Hayward been a transparent and better communicator, would his accent be such an issue? 

AuthorJinnean Barnard