The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

You Only Get One Chance To Impress. And If You Do It Right, That’s All You Should Need.
August 27, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Reagan Insight

So for reasons I still don’t quite grasp, many American’s believe Ronald Reagan was their best ever president.

Yes … better than Lincoln, Washington, Kennedy or Roosevelt.

Of course, this is also a nation that thinks Fox News offers ‘fair and balanced’ reporting, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

To be fair to the C-grade, cigarette peddling actor, there were some things he did/said/believed that were pretty good.

He didn’t believe in knee-jerk reactions for one.

He once said “vengeance isn’t the name of the game, we have got to protect against over–reaction” … which compared to a few presidents who followed him, shows a level of maturity you’d never expect from a man who once made a living riding horses in terrible, terrible movies.

Anyway, I recently saw a quote of his that I thought was a good lesson for adland.

To be honest, I have no idea of the context he said it, but I have to say I’ve seen way too many planners and creatives finish their presentation and then have to go back right to the beginning to explain why their idea is right.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there’s a bunch of people out there than couldn’t open a packet of cornflakes without a video guide, but there’s also a hell of a lot who are smart, sharp and commercially savvy and if they don’t get why your idea or strategy is right, then maybe you have to look at what you’ve done or how you’ve done it.

For me, it all comes down to knowing what the real problem is you’re trying to solve and preparing your argument clearly and concisely.

That doesn’t mean you have to be uber-rational nor does it mean you have to bore them to death with a 10,000 page powerpoint … you just have to appreciate that just because you think something is right doesn’t mean others will so you have to make sure you construct an argument that gives people the confidence to buy rather than something that purely tries to sell someone into acceptance.

That’s why I hate when adland uses the word ‘brave’ to describe work.

Or at least when the agency behind the work defines it that way.

No work should be brave. Behind everything provocative or innovative should be an argument that shows it to be a wise commercial decision … even if to the outsider, the logic is more twisted than a M. Night Shyamala plot.

Being questioned about your strategy/work doesn’t mean it’s wrong or you’ve failed – it can also mean they’re interested and want to know more – but for me, the best way to judge how well you’ve done your job is if the questions you’re asked post presentation are less about ‘why’ you’re doing it and more about ‘how to make it happen’ … because to paraphrase Reagan, if you find yourself having to justify, you’ve not made the most of your chance.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same …
August 26, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

… though I still don’t think my parents ever let me take a comic to a restaurant, let alone an iPad. Mind you, we rarely went to restaurants in the first place. Cue: Violins.

Nothing In Life Is Simple, So Deal With It …
August 25, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

One thing I hear a lot of, is people saying “why do things have to be so complicated?”

What this tends to translate into, is “why won’t people just do what I want them to do?”

Well, there’s a bunch of reasons for it … from personal agendas [yours and theirs] to personal stupidity [yours and theirs] to egomania [yours and theirs] to commercial requirements and realities and pretty much anything and everything in-between.

The reality is that while you can definitely influence how people around you behave, collaborate and align, the raw reality is somethings going to happen, the issue is how much are you going to let it screw everything up.

In my experience, there’s a bunch of ways you can try to manage this:

The Dictator:

It doesn’t matter what the feedback or situation is … you act like a child full of caffeine and e-numbers the moment there is the slightest change of plan. This might work once, but even if it does, you have started a reputation where people won’t want to work/help you in the future.

The Pleaser:

It doesn’t matter what the feedback or situation is … you agree with whatever the client says or wants before you have even aligned with your broader team. This might make some clients like you, but it starts the a chain reaction where by the end of it, the relationship between client and agency is doomed to failure. [Either creatively, commercially, culturally or all 3]

The Professional:

It doesn’t matter what the feedback or situation is … you assess and discuss the implications and impact of any feedback against the bigger goal and then make the most appropriate decision – even if it means pushing back or pulling together. This approach not only keeps people focused on the real/bigger prize [rather than let meaningless details throw you off course] it creates better work, results and relationships. Honest.

Anyway, the reason I say all this is because I recently saw this timezone map …

Now I am sure there are a bunch of reasons for it, but how complicated is it!!!

Almost every line has some kink along the way.

I know I am probably wildly wrong, but something tells me there was a large amount of lobbying along the way.

Maybe farmers wanted to have more light during harvest?

Or fisherman wanted the ability to be out in the seas for longer?

Or maybe airlines just preferred to land at a more reasonable time?

Or maybe the people behind it were just pissed out their heads and actually thought they were drawing straight lines all the way through it?

Who knows what the real reasons behind it are … but I wonder if it had anything to do with the person in charge being a dictator, a pleaser or – god forbid – a professional. Anyway, have another look at it and be grateful that you don’t have to deal with that much [potentially pointless] political bullshit in your job.

See, your Monday suddenly got miles better.

You can thank me later … though if this sort of thing does resemble your average 9am-5pm, then I apologise and suggest you either visit here or here.

PS: Dear NSA … or CIA … or HR … please don’t fire me for promoting that 2nd link in the last line of the above post. It was just done for humours sake and in no way am I advocating murder. Nor am I guaranteeing success in getting away with it. Thank you. Ahem.

Life After Death …
August 22, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Maybe it’s because I’m going to be a Dad soon.

Maybe it’s because I’m a sentimental fool.

Maybe it’s just because it’s a sad – yet beautiful – story.

Whatever it is, I read this and it utterly got to me.

Especially the last line.

Even more so, the last 5 words.

Those beautiful, heart wrenchingly sad yet utterly loving and longing, last 5 words.

Without wanting to come over all Oprahesque or to dismiss any of the hassles and pains we all have in our lives … reading this serves as a great reminder to be grateful for what you have and – more importantly – who you have in your life.

It also serves as a great reminder of why organ donation is such a wonderful thing to do.

I promise I’ll be back to my cynical, vindictive self on Monday, but till then … have a great weekend and hug someone important to you.

Mischief Marketing …
August 21, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

When I was in Nottingham a while back, I found myself in a big industrial estate where out-of-town megashops are located.

To be honest, I found this highly offensive until I saw this:

Yes, that really is a home furnishing store that used their outdoor signage to tell passers-by that they will beat the quote of any competitor, including their next-door neighbour, who also is a home furnishing store.

The fact there are two companies – selling pretty much the same stuff – are located next door to each other may seem strange to many of you. After all, in the West, we talk about the importance of ‘differentiation’ so locating your store right next door to a competitor is probably the antithesis of that, but in Asia, that is not unusual.

In fact, in Asia, the opposite tends to be the case.

Here, companies actively associate with competitors. Not because they like to get up to the sort of mischief furniture shops in Nottingham like to get away with, but because the cultural value system actively encourages ‘group acceptance’ so by being with others, it sort of implies they are OK and not ‘out-the-loop’.

And that’s why you can walk into malls that literally contain hundreds of shops all selling the same thing.

From camera equipment to – I kid you not – fish accessories.

Anyway, I digress.

I was going to leave you with an ad that encapsulated mischief marketing … because quite frankly, I love that sort of stuff.

Not – as you may initially assume – because I’m a little sod, but because in these days of brands spending millions to say absolutely nothing, a brand that is prepared to ‘have a go’ at a competitor with a twinkle in the eye is incredibly attractive and engaging.

So as I said, I was going to leave you with an ad that had a bit more punch than the Nottingham furniture store … but I can’t find the one I wanted to show [Pizza Hut attacking McDonald's when they started selling pizzas by running a spot that said 'Would buy a pizza from this clown?'] so instead, I’ll leave you with another fast-food spot. It’s not targeting a competitor with their mischief, instead they are using another category all together to justify their point of view.

It’s an oldie, but a goodie.


When Radical Is Sensible …
August 20, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

So you may have noticed there’s this thing called the ice-bucket challenge going all over the internet at the moment.

Bill Gates has done it.

Mr Amazon has done it.

Even Oprah has done it.

Underpinning all this mayhem is a very simple goal, to raise awareness – and funds – for ALS [Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis], which is often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Some people have quite rightly pointed out that throwing a bucket of ice cold water over yourself won’t cure the disease and the reason for it’s appeal is that we live in a narcissistic society and people enjoy being able to be the centre of attention.

And you know what, they’re absolutely right – but for me, they’re missing the bigger point.

You see ALS is a disease with little awareness and almost zero funding.

In fact, if you read this article, you’ll see that even some doctors aren’t aware of what ALS stands for.

The reality is the people at knew they had to do something that would force their way into the public’s consciousness because for years, nothing has changed.

This is a major achievement in itself because very few people or companies can look at themselves with blunt honesty and clarity. The temptation to ‘soften’ or ‘reframe’ is always very seductive but in the cold light of day, the people at ALS knew things weren’t moving in the right direction as quickly as desired. Or needed.

As the old quote goes, the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result … so even though the people at ALS knew they would be opening themselves up to ridicule and judgement, they felt they had nothing to lose so created a radical – yet fun – idea that would [hopefully] tap into societies narcissistic desires while being directly linked to their specific cause.

Could it have failed?

Oh definitely … but for me, this wasn’t a brave strategy, it was the most sensible thing they could do and the result is they’ve already had more success than most social media campaigns that have been carefully planned, managed and executed by highly paid, social media gurus could ever hope to achieve.

Plus they’ve raised an estimated 10 million dollars in a matter of weeks.

Yes, 10 million.

Which means they’ve achieved more than just awareness, they’ve actually made a massive economic difference to their ‘business’ … a level of effectiveness that arguably sweeps most communication case studies aside because going from zero funding and awareness to something of global significance – in just a matter of weeks – is something you can’t ignore.

Now of course adland – especially social media agencies – will use this as an example of what social campaigns can achieve, but yet again, they’ll be missing the point.

Apart from the fact little they’ve done has ever achieved this level of engagement and effectiveness – the reality is the ice bucket challenges’ success is because of the idea, not because it was something that ran on social channels.

Don’t get me wrong, the medium has definitely contributed to its success but it’s success is not purely down to the fact this idea was executed in that particular medium and I am fed up of this bullshit myth being perpetuated that social is the most effective way for a brand to communicate when the harsh reality is the majority of ‘campaigns’ put out by companies and agencies are actively ignored rather than consciously embraced.

As I – and my Mum – have banged on for years, if you want to make a difference, be meaningful, not social.

People don’t engage or pass things on because a brand wants them to, they engage and pass things on when an idea or subject or story interests and intrigues them which is why the best social campaigns are social as a byproduct of an idea, not a commercial ambition.

Anyway, the reason for all this is that I was recently ‘tagged’ by a colleague of mins and so I took part and I donated some money.

It would be good if you joined in too.

A Little Message To My Mum From Me & The Internet …
August 19, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

Without going into details, this is a big week for my Mum.

Not as big as it will be when she sees her Grandson for the first time.

Nor when she finally gets to give him his first hug.

And something next year will be even bigger for her.

But it’s a big week all the same.

And I want her to know I’m thinking of her. And love her. And will see her very soon.

So regardless if you know her or have just heard of her on this blog … it you could spare her a little thought this week, I’d be grateful.

She’ll hate that I’m making a fuss, but that’s what I do.

Because she’s ace.

And deserves nothing but peace and happiness in everything.

That’s it.



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