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Biking Boris & the new city of London

May 10, 2012

Image by: Lego.comI guess when the Mayor rides a bicycle in to work; he gets to see, pretty close up, what needs fixing. I was truly amazed at how one of the world’s greatest cities has effectively pressed the refresh button and emerged, “good and clean and fresh tra la la”…haven’t seen that pay-off since me youth.

I recently visited London for our bi-annual M&C SAATCHI Worldwide Meeting. Every morning we headed out from The Ministry of Defence, now known as the Corinthia Hotel, which is truly a superb spot. For breakfast we grabbed a R40 bowl of porridge from Pret A Manger that was generous enough in helping to even keep Oliver Twist from requesting more – the hotel breakfast option was over R400 pp. A brisk walk past the Column of the lesser known of the two Nelson’s led us to our meeting venue.

London has 3 great events this year (in no particular order):

1. The Diamond Jubilee:

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary gets to celebrate her 60 year reign as ERII with “Her people”. And what an amazing job she’s done. If great brands are meant to be single-minded and consistent, the Queen has done this in a way truly unmatched by anyone in living memory.

As we drove down the Mall in our Black Carriage (aka London Taxi) you could see that even the trees dared not shed a leaf in this currently pristine city. British Pageantry is designed to remind us of the power of the throne and there was little doubt that the Jubilee event itself will be another exceptional, experiential marketing event from Britain – with no flash mob but rather, millions of adoring fans expectedly lining the streets waving the Union Jack.

2. The Olympics:

Needless to say, it only starts in July, so we didn’t actually see anything but you can definitely hear and feel the buzz. It helped that one of our meeting days was held within spitting distance (not that one would do that in Great Britain) of the new Olympic Stadium, which is really impressive in scale but I feel lacks the architectural originality of our Cape Town World Cup Soccer Stadium. Although, I’m sure very strict Olympic rules govern the design of these things dating back to the days of the Coliseum.

We were housed for the day across the stream at H.Forman & Son, the oldest and most revered name in quality Scottish Smoked Salmon. They supply amongst others, Fortnum & Mason, who is also by appointment to HRH. No doubt the Jubilee will be a salmon-eating occasion.

It is made to the age-old recipe perfected by the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe that old man Forman brought to the UK and is far superior to anything masquerading locally as smoked salmon.

3. M&C SAATCHI Worldwide Meeting:

We had numerous presentations from the best of the breed in global thinking in retail, new ideas and practices happening in the DM space, leading thinking out of M&C SAATCHI MOBILE as well as the Sport & Entertainment division. We look forward to sharing all of this with our local Clients. We also looked at some wonderful creative work from our 26 offices around the world and some of it was truly inspiring.

Our fun “lesson” on the British class system taught us that it’s not just the accent that says which side of the track you’re from, but also the simple choice of words you use. For example, saying “sofa” tells someone that you are posher than someone who says, “couch”. This may seem obvious but how about “supper” versus “dinner”? Well “supper” is the fancier word, as is “loo” as opposed to “toilet” or “lavatory”. And so it goes on.

Naturally, I mostly use words that would not have allowed me to take a seat next to Maurice, Lord Saatchi, at “supper” (would have ordinarily said, “dinner”). It is indeed a thrill to spend an evening chatting to the most famous adman – ever. The name Saatchi is Persian for “watchmaker” and as always, Maurice arrived spot on time.

He gave the most incisive overview of our Worldwide offices and then spoke to us for quite a while about his vision and our culture. You can easily see how the man behind Brutal Simplicity of Thought is in every way, the “threshing machine that separates the wheat from the chaff”. He clearly has no time for “waffle or flim-flam”.

One forgets how young Maurice was when he originally hit the big time, for although he holds the most iconic surname in advertising and has personally powered the campaigns of many respected brands and individuals such as Margaret Thatcher, he is only in his mid-sixties and is at the very top of his game.

And so we returned. Full of interesting new ideas that we’ll put into practice and terrific proven tools that we’ll bring to market.

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