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


Craft Shows You Care …
May 27, 2015, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment, Craft, Standards, Stubborness

From my perspective, agencies have only one meaningful thing that sets them apart.

Their standards.

By that I mean the ambitions they have for every project and the way they go about realising it.

Of course sometimes it doesn’t work out as everyone hoped, but I am still firmly of the opinion that if you are doing it for the right reasons and have approached it with the care and commitment it deserves, that is still more beneficial than dropping your price and chucking any old rubbish out.

Of course some agencies – and clients – prefer the quick and easy approach.

That’s fine.

But they will never have the influence high standards affords you.

Where you attract rather than continually chase.

Where you can influence culture rather than just continuously mirror it.

Where you can pioneer rather than be an almost ran.

Where you have the most interesting people in your building rather than the ‘good enough’.

Where you can charge more for your work than what the procurement department say you can charge.

The reason I say this is because I recently read an interesting article about the difference between Apple and other mainstream technology brands.

Yes, I know it’s been written about a million times, but this article captured something that I think lays the difference between the 2 brands bare.

It is not saying everyone else is a bad company.

It is not saying they are makers of bad products.

It’s simply saying that there is an emotional value, whether overtly realised or not, of handling a product that you feel – or know – has been sweated over.

Where little things you may never notice have been given the same love and attention as the big, obvious stuff.

Whether you agree that Apple have it and other brands don’t isn’t the point I am trying to convey.

What I’m trying – badly – to say is that a lot of people think ‘craft’ is justification for being a creative prima-dona.

Sometimes – in the hands of those who want to live up to an image rather than live up to a standard – it can.

But in the right hands, fighting for the craft isn’t about indulgence, it’s about caring. It’s about wanting to do the absolute best thing because you know that makes a difference … not just for the people who will eventually buy your product or service, but for the pride you have in your brand and yourself.

It’s something worth remembering, especially in these days where we are offered short-cuts at almost every junction.

Unfortunately for me, after that heartfelt plea, I am now going to look like a lazy bastard by announcing that by the time you read this, I will be on a plane because I am going away for a few days.

It’s not for work. It’s not because it’s a national holiday. It’s for me.

Yes, I know you all think I am permanently doing stuff ‘for me’, but this time it’s true and maybe at the end of it, there will be a bunch of new things for me to consider, talk about, rant over.

So in some ways, I’m kind-of making an investment in the continued content of this blog.

Yes, I really did type that.

And yes, I feel a bit sick too.

I – and this blog – will be back on Tuesday. That should just about give us enough time to recover from that ‘investment in content’ statement.

Maybe.



Why Innocence Is A Welcome Change From Fear …
May 26, 2015, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment, Entertainment, Innocence

We live in a World of experience inflation.

Everything and everyone is trying to make things bigger.

Better.

Louder.

Scarier.

More exciting.

Thrilling.

Dangerous.

Extreme.

Of course there are 2 main reasons for this.

1. New quickly becomes the new normal, so to keep business going, you have to keep evolving.

2. In such a demanding and stimulating society, people need greater extremes to make an impression on their feelings and emotions.

3. Companies can charge more money for what they’re doing.

Which is why, when I was in the UK recently, I was charmed by this:

Funny thing is, it was simply a guinea pig enclosure.

About 4 or 5 guinea pigs running [well, running in the guinea pig definition of the word] around.

And you know what? I loved it.

OK, I didn’t spend long there and yes, it was inside a garden centre rather than a theme park [and I’m still trying to get over the fact I went to a garden centre] but there was something magical about its simplicity.

We all rush along at 100mph looking for things to grab our attention but often it’s either right in front of our eyes or located in places we have pre-determined we wouldn’t want to visit.

Sure, I’m not going to go back anytime soon, but I can honestly say it made more of an impression on me than most theme parks.

Talking of theme parks.

I was once told this story by ‘virtual reality guru’ Jaron Lanier, that he had been hired by a rollercoaster owner to create the ultimate ride.

Months passed until he finally was satisfied and showed the owner what he had done.

The owner looked on before asking, “How many times will people throw up on one of these rides?”

Jaron responded by saying, “We’re working on ensuring that doesn’t happen”.

To which the looked on and said,

“Son, you may know a lot about technology but you know nothing about the entertainment business. Vomit sells seats. Make it worse, not better”

And right there, you see why rollercoasters will always have more visitors than the Guinea Pig World in Nottingham.



Back In The Days Where PC Stood For Police Constable, Not Political Correctness …

… you used to get ads like this.

Amazing eh?

I honestly don’t know if it’s genius or utterly horrific?

Whether it contributed to selling more Atari 2600 game machines or led to – like their infamous ET game disaster – their glorious destruction is open to debate.

That said, I still have a soft spot for Atari.

Not only did they ignite my gaming and tech obsession … not only did they allow me to play PacMan at home rather than at the dodgy arcade in town … not only did they give Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs one of their early breaks … but they acted more like Rock Stars than Oasis, Motley Crue and Black Sabbath put together.

Mind you, they weren’t just about indulgence and play, they were also smart … above ad and ET game aside.

For example they copyrighted the ‘scrolling game’ platform which meant years later – when they were almost on their knees – they could sue companies like Nintendo, Sega for tens upon tens of millions of dollars.

What a shame they blew all this windfall making their terrible Jaguar Game system which sold about one product around the World.

And you can guess who bought it can’t you.

Bloody Atari.



You Can Have Any Colour As Long As It Is Blue …
May 22, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Walmart

Evil in more ways than one.

Mind you, Walmart’s definition of ‘freedom’ is pretty similar to American’s definition of freedom … where you are free to say whatever you want as long as it falls in line with what the majority say or believe or are told to believe.

Just ask the Dixie Chicks.

Seriously, the media talk about China’s lack of freedoms but they should look in their own neighbourhood. Especially given the whole Edward Snowden thing.

I’m sure I’ve written about it before, but years ago I was invited to speak at a Walmart conference in front of a bunch of their employees.

I listened to them self-congratulate themselves for about an hour before I was invited on stage.

Like an idiot, my opening line went something like:

“Has anyone considered that China actually owns Walmart given you are so reliant on them to make the products that you can sell so cheaply?”

OK, it was a stupid thing to say, but being dragged off stage – literally within minutes – wasn’t that smart either.

And it was at that point I realised that Walmart is as much of a cult as Scientology. And just as dangerous to society.

Talking of dangerous to society [how about that for a segue] …

Given it’s Friday and we all know no one in advertising works on a Friday [or arguably any day], you might want to watch this documentary on what Walmart are really like, versus what they try and pretend they’re like.

It’s a scarier horror story than The Poltergeist.



If You Want To Be A CEO, Make Sure You’re Called John. If You Don’t, Make Sure You’re A Woman.
May 21, 2015, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment, Names, Sexism

And before anyone starts questioning me on this chart, just know I would agree with you.

I hate this sort of infographic because it’s been designed purely to gain PR headlines and drive dinner party conversation rather than shine a light on hard facts.

Why do I say that?

Well because I don’t believe their methodology would have been robust enough to make a claim like this.

For example, did they really look at the names of every major corporations CEO?

In every country?

And what does a ‘major corporation’ even mean?

By staff? By revenue? By profit?

But even if I ignore that, the fact that proves their data is flawed is the simple reality that there’s no way any shareholder would allow anyone called Robert to be CEO of a big company – let alone 3.4% of all major corporations.

That said, I believe the female statistic.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so utterly disgusting and tragic.

The percentages are even worse in Hollywood as this video so beautifully highlights:

For the record, while I found the way they delivered the horrendous percentages very funny, I do feel the men vs woman message is not going to achieve anything for them. Especially in the ego-filled movie industry.

Personally, I’d suggest that with so many famous and wealthy actresses in the biz – and some in the video – they should think about setting up a female run studio and show the men what they’re missing out on.

Apart from the fact ‘success is the greatest revenge’, the fact is all they need are 2 hits in a row and the rest of the business will shift because Hollywood is a copycat industry, preferring to swallow its pride rather than miss out on making an extra $1.

But that’s just me.

Oh … and while I’m at it, I probably do believe that John is the most popular CEO name.

It’s not because they are naturally gifted individuals … but because the name is safe, solid, conservative that might influence the board of directors at big companies to think they would make a more stable CEO. Someone who won’t rock the boat … someone who will keep the shareholders quiet … someone who won’t get rid of their perks.

Maybe.

Anyway, this has become a very long post for something I think is bollocks, so I’ll leave it there, even though I know most of you stopped reading after the picture.



England Is Becoming America …
May 20, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Food, Health

When I was in the UK recently, we found ourselves in a cheap and cheerful hotel.

While it was clean and quiet, it had no food service and so if you wanted to eat, you went to the cheap and cheerful pub next door.

In-keeping with these sorts of ‘restaurants’, the menu consisted of food that was cooked by being placed in a deep fat fryer … but what really got me was the portion sizes.

Frankly they were huge.

I mean absolutely massive.

And this is coming from a man that loves his [bad] food.

What the hell is going on?

What’s worse is they are trying to make it even bigger.

Seriously, look at this:

Yes … despite offering basically a whole set of farm yard animals on a plate, they offer you the opportunity to ‘Go Large’.

Are they mad?

They used to say that anyone who visited the US for 2 weeks would put on about 7 pounds over that time, but I bet it’s the same – if not more – when you now visit the UK.

Of course part of the reason – and there are many – is that the food companies have made us think quantity represents value.

Our minds now look at the portion size and compare that with the price to evaluate whether we are getting a good deal.

Doesn’t matter it’s full of fat, salt and sugar.

Doesn’t matter that it contains way more than anyone needs in a single meal.

Doesn’t matter that there are more calories than Elvis could munch down.

Value is now often viewed as quantity not quality – especially when we’re talking about prices of between 5 and 10 pounds – so it’s no surprise many lower income families view this sort of food as their average dinner.

Years ago Jamie Oliver took this issue on with his school dinners program.

Regardless what you think of him, I thought this was a great idea but sadly, it’s still easier to obtain food like this – at least in the UK – than something approaching anything with some health value.

With so much pressure on NHS funding, surely it’s time the Government start taxing companies who make this junk and cause future health problems?

I know ultimate responsibility lies with the parent/consumer but by the same token, when people are literally surrounded by opportunities to choose the wrong thing – driven by big corporations who do all they can to push their low-quality food drug [as seen in the brilliant W+K WeightWatchers ad below] into the hearts, minds & mouths of society – surely a Government whose job is to protect it’s citizens should step in?



What Pollution Looks Like …
May 19, 2015, 6:25 am
Filed under: Comment, Pollution

The words China and pollution are often unintentional bedfellows.

Especially in Western media.

That said, without doubt the level of pollution here is much, much higher than many other countries, however I would also say that the level of pollution is more limited to cities rather than the country as a whole.

To be honest, I found the situation far worse when I lived in Hong Kong than I do living in Shanghai – though I appreciate that was driven by industry in Guangzhou, which was re-affirmed by the fact that when there was a national holiday in China, the weather in HK was amazing – but the fact is, now I’m the proud father of an awesome little boy, my awareness of air quality is even higher than it was before.

[If you’re in China and are interested in the air quality, you should download Airpocalypse … an app designed by my old planning colleague, Tom]

Anyway, the reason I say this is because a photo came out that showed the differing weather conditions over a period of a year.

Some caveats.

1. Not all of the ‘dark skies’ are pollution, some of it is just shitty, rainy skies.

2. This was done in Beijing, which has much, much, much worse pollution than Shanghai.

3. There is no additional caveat, I just like writing things in groups of 3.

I’m not trying to defend China/Beijing’s pollution … it’s bad and needs dealing with.

Even the government realise this. In the old days, pollution was just viewed as a negative byproduct of economic growth but now, they’re seeing the implications of this attitude and are responding by spending enormous amounts of money [they’re already the biggest investor in green tech] to try and change it. Not – I should add – just because they recognise the negative effects it’s having on their people’s health and their countries reputation … but because they still need to keep the engine of their economy burning and they have to find a new way to do it that won’t ultimately undermine their progress and development.

So yes, it’s because of self interest, but then, what isn’t where governments are concerned.

But there’s a bigger reason for writing this.

The fact is much of what the West write about China is skewed with prejudice and ignorance and so this picture – while bad – is to serve as a reminder that rather than blindly believe what is written in the newspapers or the internet, look into the facts and the context because then you’ll end up with a much clearer picture of what’s really happening.

Even clearer than a Beijing skyline.




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,778 other followers