I spent last Friday mentoring at the School of Communication Arts 2.0 and it was one of the best Friday afternoon’s I’ve had in some time (bear in mind my office shuts at lunchtime Friday’s), and for that, I give the school this weeks Brand of the week.
For those that haven’t heard of them (and shame on you!), the School partnered with the University of Arts London Awarding Body to create a new Diploma in Communication Arts, which is written by the advertising industry. Here’s hoping that stops them moaning about the standards of young talent coming through. The curriculum is wiki based, constantly updated & improved by the school’s network of industry mentors. And exceptionally talented students.
If you’re a student, forget sticking your head in a book for three years with no access to industry big wigs. If you’re thinking about trying to break into the industry (and it can be a real slog, particularly in the current climate), students are given the opportunity to work on live (and portfolio) briefs in a real life agency environment. Veritable book making gold. You’re not too late, applications are open for the next intake…
Although it costs more than most other advertising schools, there are several tangible benefits. A guaranteed internship at the end of the course. Structured learning. Real on the job experience. And of course, rubbing shoulders with adlands finest week in week out, chance after chance to wow them with your thinking…
The standard of the work was exceptionally high. More over, the students literally hang on every nuance of every word of feedback you give them. Some of the thinking (both strategically and creatively), was client ready. There were also a couple of campaigns I saw that wouldn’t have been out-of-place at awards ceremonies. Don’t believe me? Go in and spend some time mentoring yourself!
I managed to review a few of the students portfolios. The piece I am sharing with you this fine day appealed to my rather warped sense of humour. The student in question got quite the introduction.
‘Meet Nathan. He draws lots of cocks’.
Poor Nathan tried to explain where he garnered his appendage loving reputation. After a few minutes floundering, he finally relented and showed me his response to the Toblerone portfolio brief.
The chocolate loving Iain G. Morrison would recommend you find a morning, afternoon or full day to mentor at the School of Communication Arts 2.0
I’ve decided to add a new category, ‘Brand of the week’. Now dear reader, this will go one of two ways…
A brand will surpass my expectations to the point of orgasmic joy and I will duly trot on to igmorrison.com and share my experience, waxing lyrical all the way.
Or (as is the case this week), a brand will fail miserably. Falling at every hurdle, limping over the finish line leaving me feeling like Victor Meldrew on a very, very bad day.
So, Malmasion. Prides itself on its standards. It’s cheeky tone of voice, its superior product. My two night stay at the Birmingham Malmaison will see them enter the ‘brand of the week’ with a monumental smile on my face?
BIRMINGHAM MALMAISON ROOM ONE:Suspect stainage on bedding. When housekeeping came to take it away, she asked if I’d called about the broken toilet (that they knew about). It looked like someone forgot to flush after leaving a rather large deposit. Not got round to fixing it clearly. Putting a guest in a room where you know the toilet is broken? Our first Birmingham Malmaison #fail
BIRMINGHAM MALMAISON ROOM TWO: Twin room, beds about 3-4in difference in height. Upon pulling covers back to investigate, I find several hairs. From both upstairs and downstairs. Bathroom could also have been cleaner. I explain to duty manager he needs to check room 3 before I am transported, as I’m now borderline livid at the number of fails they’re racking up.
BIRMINGHAM MALMAISON ROOM THREE: Hard stain on pillow (that scratches off), a not too spotless bath (more hairs), and a huge bit of fluff on the bathroom floor. Not a deal breaker and I’m desperate to shower for my imminent gin fuelled evening with Brum’s finest, so I make do. The duty manager offers a free round of drinks in the bar and adds breakfast to my order.
I’m happy(ish), but disappointed in the poor cleanliness standards across the board. Three rooms that fall below par is unacceptable in a bog standard hotel, let alone a Mal!
BIRMINGHAM MALMAISON BAR: Attentive service, we leave smiling, with an invite to pop back in later if we’re passing.
BAR THREE HOURS LATER: My party arrive back at the Birmingham Malmaison bar. Barman advises us twice to sit down. The second time he tries to hurry us away from the bar, we are offered a lap dance from one of the waitresses (but only if we leave the bar area). He was ‘wasted’ from last night apparently and informed us it’d be a ‘long wait for drinks’, as he was going to ‘take ages doing these ones’.
We turn on our heels and left immediately.
BREAKFAST: I ordered a tray and The Guardian for 11.30am. I chase this via the duty manager at 12.24pm, 12.45pm (it’s just in the lift), 12.55pm (should be with me in just a minute), and at approximately 1.17pm as I’m on the phone demanding a call from the regional manager, breakfast arrives. Almost 2 full hours late. Third call, duty manager denies when we spoke at 12.24pm that he said ‘It’d be right up’. Which he did…
To add insult to injury, no Guardian (not a Malmaison house paper), which the duty manager failed to tell me on the telephone each time I chased), and the apple juice was off. The head office email and telephone details I requested were not forthcoming…
DUTY MANAGER #2: English was not his first language. A serious breakdown in communication during my complaint led me to believe he was offering my two night stay for free given all of the above. This was not the case. He was inviting me to pack my bag and leave the hotel immediately, despite having another night booked.
BIRMINGHAM MALMAISON AREA MANAGER: Calls approx 1.30pm ish. Informs me he’s seen many of my tweets which concern him greatly (yet he chose not to responded to a single one), and is now ‘very concerned’ about my stay. Refuses to believe there is a cleanliness issue at the hotel (despite my having issue with three rooms), and also feels it’s best I leave the hotel ‘as if anything else goes wrong, it’s just going to compound the issue’. He offers to refund my 2nd nights stay to allow me to find accomodation elsewhere (at my own expense).
Not, we’ll make sure we offer kick arse service, I just want you out my hotel to be someone elses problem.
*MARKETING BIRMINGHAM: Upon seeing my barrage of tweets, @sianroberts15 from Marketing Birmingham got in touch to check everything was ok and my stay in Birmingham wasn’t being spoilt. A remarkably nice touch.
As you know, I’m pro-tourism. Whichever intern running @BirminghamMal should have a little chat with Marketing Birmingham regarding the ins and outs of social media…
MAKE GOOD: I was offered a gift card which worked out to a one night free stay based on the rate I’d paid the booking agent (which was obviously well below the rack rate). They cannily ensured any return visit would see me having to pay full price !
Given the high standards Malmaison claim to offer (I’ve stayed in several other Mals and never been this disappointed), I must admit I was a little surprised at the lacklustre response from Birmingham Malmaison. Given the breakdown in communication only compounded my anger, I still cannot believe the whole bill wasn’t refunded.
THE VERDICT: Birmingham Malmaison should be avoided, there are plenty of alternative options in Birmingham of a similar / higher standard (e.g. Radisson Blu). I had an exceptionally poor experience, but don’t just take my word for it, check tripadvisor. S eems there are quite a number of people who’ve had negative experiences during their stay…
One duty manager was on the ball (well done Jamie), and dealt with me sharpish. The other only added to the problem and the area manager sadly did little to placate me.
Iain G. Morrison would like to congratulate Birmingham Malmaison on becoming the first ‘Brand of the week’, providing hotel service that would embarrass even Basil Fawlty himself…
*SPECIAL MENTION FOR MARKETING BIRMINGHAM: For their welcoming manner, their social media savvy and all round Brummy goodness…