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FEATURE1 May 2010

60 Second Soapbox – Eleanor Thornton-Firkin

Eleanor Thornton-Firkin, head of the technology group at Synovate, wants to see more long-term commitment between client and agency and a lot less of the Go Compare man.

The product I’m excited about at the moment is…
The iPad. I know that it is entirely flawed, it can only do one thing at a time and the lack of Flash will mean I can’t access half the internet, but it’s a thing of beauty and I want one. Proof, if proof is needed, that even purchases of high-ticket items are often emotionally rather than rationally driven.

A client I would like to get my hands on is…
Nintendo, along with Apple – they are this century’s game-changers. It’s their ability to demystify and make accessible the world of technology that I really admire. Gaming used to be the preserve of teenage boys locked away in their bedrooms whiling away the hours battling the latest creature from the deep. Now it isn’t unusual to find Granny bowling on the Wii at Christmas with the whole family.

A campaign that grabbed me recently is…
The Virgin Media ad that shows a girl wandering down the street surrounded by police cars chasing taxis, cavalry and spaceships. For me this pushes all the right engagement buttons – the joy and wonder of being transported into another world and being detached from the realities of life for a little while. Shame about the branding though – I always think it’s an ad for Sky.

A campaign that needed more research is…
Go Compare. Yes, I know that annoying ads are all about salience, and I do remember the name. The problem is that now I am deeply irritated by it and would under no circumstances consider the brand. Perhaps some greater understanding of viewers’ pain threshold was required. Compare this with the dreadful Michael Winner ad for Esure with the likeable Churchill and Compare the Market ads which make a sector that is somewhat challenging on the entertainment front rather more human and certainly more fun.

An idea I wish I’d had is…
The dishwasher. Saviour of relationships, emancipator from post meal drudgery, it might ruin my best glasses but all in all it’s a miracle machine.

One thing this industry could use more of is…
Retainers. Most relationships between clients and agencies are costed and bought on a per-project basis, even when clients appoint one agency to a stream of business. If we changed this dynamic so that a client bought a team of people then that enigmatic concept of added value would be much more likely to emerge. This doesn’t mean that clients would end up paying for the downtime between projects; rather they would be investing in people who would live and breathe their brand, actively dig deeper into the already available data, step back and produce connections across the research and ultimately give better value for money.

One thing this industry could use less of is…
Email. It’s OK for confirmation of points covered but real human contact nearly always gives better context and therefore better solutions to clients’ problems.

In five years’ time we’ll all be talking about…
How odd it was that we were all so hung up about our personal privacy. Now that all information pushed to us is targeted and information-based we will wonder what all the fuss was about. Although there will be some of us that regret our youthful indiscretions being logged for eternity on the web.

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