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I love Japan.
I love everything about it.
For me, it is the closest to feeling like you’re on another planet and I happen to like that.
One of the things I regret is that I have spent too much time living in countries where English is the native language.
UK, Singapore, US Australia … even HK, though it’s less so than it used to be …
Now I know that if I really wanted to, I could have changed that – but opportunities arose where they arose and whilst it ultimately made acclimatising to a new country much easier, I always felt like I was still pretty ‘close to home’.
To be honest, technology had a big hand in that … because suddenly I was able to read the Evening Post whether I was in Nottingham or Shanghai and thanks to SKYPE, I could see my Mum’s lovely face each and every day.
Of course this is all brilliant and something I probably take way too much for granted, however there’s something wonderful in feeling a stranger – surrounded by people and cultures that are about as opposite to your own as you can get.
Suddenly you have to think about the smallest thing. You see the most inane details in a new light. You feel frightened, challenged and exhilarated all at the same time.
And whilst it can quite quickly wear thin – it’s also exhilarating and makes you feel alive again.
Which leads me back to Tokyo.
I’ve always wanted to live there. Always.
Infact last year it almost happened but because of a bunch of factors [Google anyone?] it didn’t … and whilst it all worked out for the best, it still disappointed me … which is why I’m so happy Sunshine/M&C is going to be opening an office there in a few months.
Sadly [but happily for them] I won’t be moving there … but the fact I will get to spend a hell of a lot more time in one of my favourite places in the World is a good thing, except for that bloke who came on here a while back and basically called me Satan’s spawn for flying too much.
However that isn’t the purpose of this post. As usual.
Whilst I’ve complained in the past that the typical Asian ad campaign is basically a celebratory endorsing some product or other … in Japan, they take it to a whole new level.
Celebratory endorsement is in so much demand, that the buy-out rates for a campaign in Japan can exceed the cost of the rest of the World put together.
So its little surprise every 2 bit, A-to-Z grade ‘star’ heads over to the land of the Rising Sun to make a quick couple of mill endorsing everything from chocolate to bloody fags.
Now in the past they used to be able to get away with selling their soul because no one on this side of the planet would ever see it.
To be honest, that was a good thing for them and their fans.
Good for them, because it meant they could pocket a tidy bunch without losing their cred. Good for the fans because there’s nothing more upsetting than seeing an actor you rate perform the sort of shit you’d expect to see at a cabaret guest house.
However that’s all over now thanks to the internet …
Well, I say all over … what I actually mean is that given actors are bigger whores than adfolk or, errrrm prostitutes … we’ll still see a steady procession of them heading over there to happily look twats for cash, however this time, the World won’t be left in the dark, we can all get together and share their humiliation.
And what humiliation it is.
A while back I was in Tokyo and I came across one of the shittest ads I have ever seen featuring none other than Woody Allen’s muse, Scarlett Johansson.
Yep, the woman who has cultivated an image of beauty, sophistication and elegance thanks to her movies and ambassador role for uber-chic brands like D&G, showed she’s not above dropping her [credibility] pants by lending her exquisite face to, errrrm coffee.
Oh but it gets worse. Oh yes it does.
Obviously the Starbucks rip off brand identified a new segment to tap into … which I can only assume is the sexual deviant … because after offering to blow another wad all over Scarlett’s face, she came back and did this …
Isn’t it amazing how they’ve managed to marry purity and sophistication with celebratory blowjob all in one piece of beautiful film. Seriously, I can’t wait for when she endorses the Japanese Horse Sausage company.
However as I said, it’s not just Scarlett who is at it – they all are – and who can blame them because they’re getting paid shitloads, so if you want to see souls literally being destroyed right in front of your eyes, you’d better head over to here where you can see the whole sorry lot of them in all their Japanese celebratory endorsement errrrrm, glory.
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Not her, obviously.
So last week – as you all have been bored half to death by – I was away attending research groups.
Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of sitting behind a one-way piece of glass knows how painful this can be – however because of a certain incident with the key researcher, it was even more painful than usual.
Well, I say painful – but it was actually laughable and achieved a new low in the value of the focus group.
But I digress.
For reasons I still don’t know, I found myself in a nightclub in some godforsaken Chinese town at 2am.
There’s so many things wrong with that sentence …
NIGHTCLUB … GODFORSAKEN CHINESE TOWN … 2AM
… and yet that is what happened.
To be honest – if I put aside the fact that I’ve NEVER liked those sorts of places – I did find the whole thing quite interesting.
As I walked in and surveyed the scene, it became obvious the owners had seen a video of a Miami nightclub circa 1985 because the whole place felt like it had just been lifted from some Hollywood movie scene. Believe it or not, that’s actually meant as a compliment.
However, whilst they had put in all the physical elements to ensure a good night … including the loudest fucking sound system I’ve heard since AC/DC at the Monsters Of Rock … the reality was it seemed the people didn’t know how to interact. Seriously, it was like a school disco with all the guys on one side and all the ladies on the other …
Infact I saw more blokes dancing with each other [and before you say it, it wasn’t that kind of bar] than I did couples … you could almost sense the frustration and confusion from both parties in how to mingle with the opposite sex.
Even when every 30 mins, they interrupted the music to get some of their hot female staff [and the odd dodgy gay looking man] to strip down to their bikini’s in a very sexually suggestive manner, it did no good.
It was weird.
You could feel the tension but still no one acted on it.
Infact, apart from the dodgy Westerners in there [which I’ll come to in a moment] the only person I saw getting lucky was a guy who was pretending to be P. Diddy by buying a bottle of sparkling wine and getting surrounded by a gaggle of Chinese beauties who all thought he was the height of sophistication.
I don’t want people thinking China is sexually repressed … it isn’t … just ask Frith, ha!
However the ol’ cliché of ‘face’ is alive and well and to put yourself in a position where people could laugh at you or step out of accepted cultural ‘norms’ of behviour is very unlikely to happen.
Saying that it’s not just China that does this.
One of the things I do when I’m in Malaysia – a Muslim country let’s not forget – is going into a shopping centre and turning the Bluetooth on my phone.
Because I’ve given my phone quite an ambiguous name, within seconds I am inundated by Bluetooth messages from horny guys who are hoping to get lucky/quickie without  risking ridicule  openly disregarding their religious values.
Of course if they ever found out they’d sent a message to a 39 year old, bald, rough looking bloke from Nottingham, they’d kill themselves … or me … but it helps prove that for all the talk of ‘cultural and religious rule’ some things are all conquering.
[It’s not just men either. Much to the horror of certain groups, women’s sexuality is going through a period [not the best choice of word there] of liberatation and whilst they are utilising similar ‘face saving tactics’ to attract attention, their ultimate goal of a ‘shag’ is the same – which is contributing to a surge in STD’s and unwanted pregnancies throughout the region.]
But back to the dodgy Westerners.
No, I’m not talking about me … nor the Germans … I’m talking about the new cockroaches of International travel, the Russians.
OK they’re not cockroaches really – infact, the ones I’ve met are top [if slightly scary] individuals … however there are 2 things that amazes me about these folk …
1/ They’re bloody everywhere.
2/ They’re always MASSIVE.
3/ They can’t dance for shit.
[Turn your head to the left for evidence]
Yep, this whole bloody post was just an excuse to show a video I took of some Russian bloke doing the epileptic dance. Thank god he didn’t see me or I might be feeding the fishes – unless Niko could negotiate me out.
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Remember the puppies?
They all found homes.
Social media saved their lives!
[except it didn’t, but let’s not let truth stand in the way of digital dominance]
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Normally I pre-write my blog posts days – even weeks – in advance.
Of course that proves what you’ve always known – people in advertising do nothing but sit on their arses, shout “yeah, yeah … but we need Ridley” down the phone and go for the odd expensive lunch – however as there is a recession going on, I’ve found myself actually having to WORK.
Naturally what that actually means is I delegate all my work to my at wonderful – and far more efficient teams – but it’s jolly hard work being on top of everything they/I should be doing I can tell you.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that after my recent trips to hell, I’ve fallen behind and so because I have a lot of hard delegation to do [especially over the next week or so] the posts on this blog are going to make The Sun look like the home for the intellectual.
To prove my point, today’s post is actually a link to one of my other blogs – Jillyism.
Yes … she’s back and this time she means business.
For those of you who don’t know what Jillyism’s are, it’s all explained on the site … however after a relatively quiet period, she’s come back with all guns blazing and so while I write something slightly less pathetic for tomorrow, I encourage you to see why the day I married my wife, I became a Saint.
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Hello. How are you all? Well?
I had a shit birthday thank you very much for asking … and now I’m on the slippery slope to the big/dreaded 40, it’s only going to get worse, so before we [read: me] get all depressed, let’s get on with things shall we?
No, I’m not talking about me … or Andy … I’m talking about Americans.
Lots and lots of Americans.
But not exclusively them.
Oh no. Australia is right up there too.
Yes, the bronze, chiselled, outdoorsy folk are fast turning into a nation of wobbly jellies … which is bad news for them, but good news for the Brits, who can now feel a little less insecure about their criminal relations..
Anyway, as usual I digress.
Now there’s many reasons why the West is becoming a society of chubbies – not least the fact we are eating so much food that is bad for us.
No, I’m not talking about Macca’s and Pizzahut … I’m talking about the brands that put words like ‘LIGHT’ or ‘No Added Sugar’ all over their packaging.
As a nutritionist said to me recently, the unhealthiest foods are the ones that are claiming to be healthy – not just because proportionally they’re still packed with excessive sugars, chemicals and god knows what else … but because they make us believe we’re being [a bit] careful, so end up eating more of the stuff.
Sure we have to take some responsibility for being so thick however the fact is the food and health industries – like the medical industries – don’t want us to be healthy, they just want us to THINK we’re healthy and they spend billions of dollars per year to help keep perpetuating this myth.
Now I’ve written about this sort of thing before …
Like how Macca’s talk big about encouraging healthy eating then spend a fortune advertising their menu where all the ‘bad stuff’ only costs a dollar.
But it’s not just them, oh no … so much of this ‘fat food’ culture is driven by Government subsidies.
For example, the US Government encourages farmers to grow corn. Actually, “encourage” isn’t the right word. Bribe might be better.
Sure there are subsidies for a range of food groups, but proportionately, corn is the most profitable food a US farmer can grow and it’s been that way for a very long time.
And why is that bad?
Because corn is the ingredient most food companies use to make the majority of their products.
Seriously, next time you pick something up – and I mean ANYTHING, including none-food products – see how much of it is formulated around corn. I promise you, it’ll scare the pants off you.
Now imagine if the Government said enough was enough and that now on, they’d only give subsidies if farmers grew healthy food.
What would happen then?
Well you could argue we’d have stock piles of spoiled fruit – however I think what it would [also] do is drive down the price of the products, making its use [both by individuals and companies] more appealing and as such, help change the eating habits of a whole generation.
Yes … yes … I know someone out there is saying ‘but corn is healthy’ … and it is … however many/most of the food companies don’t use it for that purpose, preferring instead to incorporate/re-engineer into their manufacturing process as a cheap, efficient and effective alternative to a whole host of ingrediants.
But this isn’t about the hypocrisy of the food companies, health companies and governments … this is about congratulating one of them.
Putting aside the fact Burger King are as bad as Macca’s in claiming ‘health’ but promoting bad-food gluttony, I think they’ve done something that is smart and more effective in changing habits than a hell of a lot of the advertising out there.
In short, it’s this …
Yep, they are pieces of apple cut up like chips and placed in a packet that resembles their french fries.
The reason I love it so much is because they’ve taken into account the psychological element of eating, not just the ‘health’ element … and my belief is the group that will benefit most from this approach [albeit subconsciously] is children.
Let’s face it, eating at fast food places is fun.
Lots of noise, colour and bloody tasty grub. Not only that, but the whole way of eating is enjoyable.
You unwrap the food. You use your hands. It’s much more relaxed than lunch/dinner times at home with the family … especially if you’re a youngster … so it goes without saying that if ‘healthy food’ is presented in a way that eliminates the subconscious ‘fun’ elements of the ‘process’, it’s appeal is going to be reduced.
However by making the whole thing look/feel/sound like one of the normal ‘menu’ items, the resistance to consumption can be reduced because the ‘eater’ will feel like they’re the same as everyone else – which is especially important as a kid – which can only be a good thing, especially in markets where the consumption of fast food is disproportionately high either because of  poverty or  it represents the only location where children can play in a safe environment.
So well done to BK … because by doing this, you are demonstrating you genuinely give-a-little-bit-of-a-shit about healthy/healthier eating and that’s a damn sight more than many in your category.
For me, this is brilliant planning and creativity …
Don’t get me wrong, I love the work Crispin’s have done for the brand, but interms of changing behaviour, I would argue this is more powerful than many ads … especially those from companies who spout how seriously they regard good health and then do the absolute bare minimum neccessary to ‘prove it’.
Maybe Crispin’s were behind it … I hope so … because as little a thing as it may seem, it represents real understanding of people, business and creativity, which is more than can be said for a lot of the multi-million dollar campaigns we’re subjected to on a daily basis.
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Photo: The Age
… because this blog is closed till next Wednesday.
[And if you know - or are - a pet-lover in HK, please check this out and act now]
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So on Friday, at 22:10 hours [GMT time] I turn thirty nine.
That means I will be 365 days from turning 40.
I’ve written many times how I don’t feel my age … hell, this blog certainly shows I don’t act it … but the fact of the matter is that by the end of the week, I’ll be in my last year of another decade.
Now people say ’40 is the new 30’ … but the reality is the only people who actually say that are in their forties because anyone aged 30 to 39 know they’d rather die than be of an age where it starts with the number 4.
I remember the first time I went to someone’s 40th birthday and it freaked me out that I knew someone that old – and yet here I am, making plans for some stupidly immature bash with my gay best mate Paul, in [very] little over 12 months time.
Your 30’s are supposedly the decade you ‘make it’ … and whilst a hell of a lot of good things have happened to me in the last 9 years … the next 12 months is either going to be the most significant year of my life, or my slow and painful decent into the ‘where are they now’ bin.
But enough of all this despondency – I’m turning not 39, not 40 – and so whilst I’ll be spending it in a far and distant land, sitting through a production line of research groups featuring a multitude of people, all lying to a moderator using a variety of languages – none of which I have a hope in hell of ever understanding – it’s still something that should be looked forward to, at least compared to what I will be feeling this time next year.
Being on the cusp on a new decade is weird.
It seems to hold so much significance and yet in reality, it doesn’t really change much except your attitude.
Remember how excited you were when you turned 10?
How suddenly you felt all important … grown up … mature even?
Of course it was all bollocks because you still judged masculinity on how far someone could pull a wheelie on a Raleigh Grifter and you all continued to think pouring a Sherbet Fountain in your mouth till you looked like a rabid dog was the funniest thing you’d ever seen/done … but regardless of that, moving on from one decade to another felt it was a big thing and even if your actions didn’t change much, your attitude to how you looked at time, did.
This isn’t a new concept – many people feel the same sort of thing when Jan 1st comes around – and while there’s been all sorts of rationales presented for this attitude, my personal favourite was a Bishop I once met who said it was all linked to the bible. I can’t quite remember why, but it had ‘Da Vinci Code’ written all over it.
[I’ve just realised that if the Bishop explanation is supposedly my favourite, it’s pretty bloody pathetic I can’t actually remember the specifics of what he said. Oh well … ]
Anyway enough of all this bollocks – the reality of this post [as if you didn’t know] is that this is a not-so-subtle attempt to remind you it’s my birthday on Friday and whilst from tomorrow, I won’t be in a place that has any sort of internet connection till the 17th June [so no blog posts till then, you lucky, lucky buggers], I am hoping when I do finally get to log on to this pile of shite, I will be inundated with messages/comments of love. Hell, I’ll even take your messages of abuse – though it won’t make me feel special as you give me that everyday.
Jesus … can you imagine how horrid my post next year is going to be?
If I were you, I’d run for the hills before it’s too late because given I’ve already started to think what significant things have happened to me between 2000 and 2010, you just know it’s not going to be a positive experience.
[PS: Happy Birthday to Jill & Paul as well [15th/16th June] How I wish you were going to have as bad a birthday experience as me, but given the circumstances I’ll be in from Friday, I know that’s not possible so have a good time – just don’t tell me about it!]