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

Advertising Is Full Of Wankers. Official.
July 20, 2006, 11:36 am
Filed under: Comment

My other half generally dislikes people in advertising … she thinks most of them are arrogant wankers who speak in corporate, buzz-words. 

I wouldn’t mind, but she’s a bloody designer – the World Champions of talking utter toss.

Anyway, while ‘debating’ the merits of our respective industries, she decided to give an impression of an advertising person at a meeting. Oh dear!

To hear it, click on the pic above and apologies for the quality … and the content!

How Confident Are You With Your Sexuality?
July 19, 2006, 1:39 pm
Filed under: Comment

As seen in a Singaporean office tower!!!  What on earth were they thinking??? 

I hate to say it, but this is reflective of a ‘Singaporean trait’ to do EXACTLY what they are told to do – regardless of whether common sense is screaming it might not be the best solution. [ie: 2 toilets had to be fitted … so 2 toilets were fitted, despite the fact they would never be able to be used at the same time!] 

This attitude is unfortunately a by-product of a patriarchal society – where people have been ‘educated’ to simply ‘do as the authority says’.  Don’t get me wrong, Singapore is an amazing place that has had a lot of crap thrown at it by countries who haven’t got half as much to shout about – however it’s controlling attitude has had certain negative implications on society, gender integration and creativity. 

So why do the people follow the ‘rules’? 

Well, if your Government had changed your country from a breeding bed of crime, corruption and sin to one of global economic power, cleanliness, integration and calm – you’d believe they knew best too!

However the net is having a major impact on society … especially with the younger generation … because for the first time, they can see the hopes and dreams they held quietly inside, are not only legitimate – but can be made into a real, live, career.

Many parents are now claiming their children are becoming uncontrollable – because they are publicly acknowledging that a fulfilling future for them, is not dependent on having a white-collar job for 40 years.  This is so far removed from what their parents were brought up to believe that they [and to a certain extent, the Government] are totally freaking out, insinuating it’s the collapse of family respect and values!

And yet the truth is there’s no revolution … no rebellion … Singapore [like the rest of Asia] still operates on a value system based around filial responsibility … it’s just the youth believe they have more options for how they live their life and would like to ‘investigate them’ whilst still fulfilling their cultural duties.

I personally believe the Government needs to educate the country that creativity is the foundation for continued cultural, individual and nationalistic growth and prosperity.

At the moment, when you say ‘creativity’, people think you are talking about art or something – and yet, if truth be told, Singapore is one of the finest examples of creativity, because in just 40 years, it has come from absolutely nowhere to become one of the World’s true global financial centres, despite being the size of a currant on a map. 

In all seriousness, if things don’t change … not only will there be more awkward questions asked in every home throughout the country, but people will start to leave in their droves – seeking cultures where their hopes and dreams won’t be treated with distain. 

A perfect example was when I met a bunch of ad-students. I asked how many of them had parents who were disappointed with their choice of industry and one-by-one, most of them raised their hands.  I then asked how many had purposefully chosen Account Management or Planning as their favoured discipline [because it was more ‘business acceptable’ to their families] and again, most of them raised their hands.

Apart from the fact this is disappointing – especially if these individuals really wanted to be a copywriter/art directors – it will potentially damage the Asian ad industry, because the ones who don’t end up going overseas to work will probably end up more ‘business focused’ than ‘people focused’ and if that happens, communication in Asia will have more to do with McKinsey business models than engaging, creative communication. 

Of course I am being very generalistic – for example, Professor Mark Chong at SMU is a wonderful teacher who is encouraging his students to understand and appreciate all aspects of creativity – but he is definitely in the minority, which is amazing given Singapore has more ad-agencies [per capita] than anywhere else on Earth.

The success of this country has been down to many factors – but creative thinking and vision are two of the main ones – so if people with these skills feel there is no future or respect for them and end up moving abroad, then I wonder what Singapore will look like in another 40 years? 

[Wow, all this from a photo of 2 toilets shoved close together!]

Truth In Advertising. Sort Of.
July 18, 2006, 6:46 pm
Filed under: Comment

“Always A Pleasant Surprise” … the strapline to Pizzahut Singapore’s advertising campaign. 

Ignoring the fact ‘pleasant’ hardly inspires confidence that you’re going to have a great time at their restaurant … what the hell are they doing using the word, ‘SURPRISE?!!’

You don’t use that word where food is concerned – though in Pizzahut’s case, I applaud they’re basically saying ‘It’s Not As Shit As You Thought’. [Even though it is!]

I look forward to other campaigns in a similar vein like … Garuda Airlines: ‘We Haven’t Crashed For Ages’ or McDonalds: ‘As Eaten By Chubbies’ – any other suggestions?

You’re Looking Beautiful Today.
July 18, 2006, 2:59 pm
Filed under: Comment

Yesterday I pitched for a piece of business against a mate of mine who is a planner at a Multinational agency.

He is a wonderful bloke …  and as an ex-planner from Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam, incredibly smart.

So after the pitch we caught up and talked about what we presented and interestingly, they were completely different approaches. [‘Which proves that there is no such thing as only ‘one solution’]

However – and this is without doubt going to sound like sour grapes – his idea [which to be fair to him, he admitted] was formulated to appeal to the ego of the client whereas stupidly, our idea was about nurturing a cultural movement.  [Yes, I know that sounds wank, but it was – and the insight was a corker!]

Hence we won’t win the business and they most definitely will.

So would I have done anything differently? 

Sure, there’s a few superficial things – but nothing fundamental – except maybe present to a bunch of marketing people who actually wanted to engage consumers rather than simply smack them over the head with self-indulgent bollocks that makes them feel good.

Hmmmmn, that really does sound like sour grapes doesn’t it.

I know a while back I wrote about how the highs and lows of advertising make you feel ‘alive’ … and that when you lose a pitch – you don’t see your mistakes, just their stupidity … and I know that advertising is a business with no prize for 2nd place … but something still sticks in my throat when a company shouts out about wanting an idea that can work in any medium that really engages consumers in a different, imaginative way and then chooses an agency who gives them ‘ego-rant’ wrapped up in a pretty, little TVC.

Do I blame my mate? 

Of course not, his idea makes sense [both from answering the brief and keeping the clients ego, ‘puffed up’] … it’s just that the concept is so bloody dated, self-indulgent and TV orientated and that sort of thing drives me nuts, especially as the insights showed that something fresh, involving and demonstrative would work more powerfully.

I guess this is another example of why we must educate people on the value of creativity … because as much as many marketing managers believe they are ‘protecting their brand’, they are actually stopping it from growing.

I do appreciate I am being incredibly negative – especially as we have had no client feedback yet – but in the unlikely event I am proved wrong, the fact of the matter is that this situation is happening far too often … and if companies really want to realise their potential, they’ll one day have to accept we’re the experts in connecting with people, not them.

I leave you with this gem from Billy Connolly.

The Queen thinks the World smells of fresh paint because wherever she goes, 40 feet infront of her are a bunch of people desperately painting the walls to ensure she see’s everything in the best possible light.

It would seem many Marketing Managers work on this philosophy for their board of directors.

If people really, really, really love working with sycophants, may I suggest they go here, and download ‘Al Morale’ – he should keep them happy!

We’re Not Robots. Yet.
July 17, 2006, 11:31 am
Filed under: Comment

One of the things I love more than anything about my job is that I get to meet and talk to, the weird and wonderful of society.

There is something incredibly refreshing talking and listening to individuals who have a life about as far removed from ‘normality’ as you can get – especially because often, their view of life, is so interesting and refreshing, that it opens up a whole new perspective on what you are trying to achieve.

I remember once taking an ‘acknowledged car radio thief’ into a pitch for Alpine Car Radios.  After I’d made the introductions and the client had calmed down … I explained how this guy had helped us develop a campaign that would keep their customers happy.

The original brief was to ‘sell’ the amazing looks of their new car radio … however our friend, Mr X, told us that if we did that, there would be people who would seek his ‘services’ to steal as many as he could get – and then, before you know it, Alpine’s reputation for producing great car stereos would ‘evolve’ into producing great car stereos that will be stolen from out your car.

Instead we did a whole campaign around ‘the journey is shorter with sound’ … never once showing the product … and you know what, we not only won the pitch but we exceeded sales targets by about 200% – all because on top of the ‘usual suspects’, we decided to meet some left field people.

I say all this because a while back I spoke to one of America’s most expensive ‘escorts’ to get her perspective on the characteristics men found attractive in women [she was amazingly frank and insightful] and this morning, she rang me up [try explaining that to your other half, ha!] to say her view had changed and what she thought were the circumstances for it.

Now I know she is only one woman with a somewhat, different perspective to many other women … but if her viewpoint proves to be correct, it will allow our clients to talk to men with far more engaging communication than their competitors which inturn, helps us produce the results they ask us to get.

So what am I saying?

It’s simple.  Go chat to a stranger today … you never know what you could learn from it.

Work Is A Four Letter Word …
July 14, 2006, 9:38 am
Filed under: Comment

This is a genuine story as detailed by Scamp on his blog.

It is bloody scary and whilst I don’t know what the Account Director said to upset the client so much, it does show how many companies treat their staff as a commodity rather than as a human.

No wonder so many employees feel zero loyalty to the place they work – and with CEO’s and Clients like this, who can blame them.  Disgraceful.

J****, an account director at our agency, was in a meeting last week when the client nipped out and called our agency’s chairman to say: “I want this guy off my business. Today.” The chairman sent his PA into the meeting and pulled the account director out, and then fired him.

Within 10 minutes of the client’s call, J**** had left the building.

To think I joined this business ‘cos I heard it was fun …

What The F**k Is Planning Again?
July 12, 2006, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Comment

There is a real trend in planning to be described as either a ‘Business’ Planner or a ‘Creative Planner’. These descriptions drive me nuts because it insinuates that a Business Planner only cares about business goals whereas a Creative Planner only cares about ads!

Lets get this straight … if planning doesn’t help clients achieve their business goals, you won’t stay in business – it’s as simple as that.

I am lucky to have worked at some of the most recognised creative companies in the World and I never came across a client who said, “You know what … do what you want, I just want some cool ads”. 

The issue I have with planning is that many agencies are turning it into pseudo-management consultancy because they’ve sold the value of creativity so far down the river, it’s the only way they can make any decent revenue.  This is a travesty … and maybe that is why so many creatives are complaining about what a planner actually adds to the equation. [Especially as many creatives are actually, bloody great planners!]

Creativity is about a ‘mindset’, not just an ‘output’ … so if you approach a task with a ’set end-product’, you are not just letting the client down but also yourself.  From my perspective, things like emotional insight, tonality, engagement and culture and real pillars for finding the right solution – and then, still as part of a team, we find the best way to use that information to develop an idea and a channel/s to ‘execute it’. 

It’s about solving the clients business needs in a way that motivates [and benefits] consumers to do it, not just brainwashes them into it.  It’s about leaving a long-lasting, positive impression of the brand on the consumer, not just getting the money out of their wallets.  It’s about moving the brand forward, not just achieving the next sales quarter.

Of course I am proud of the work I’ve been involved with for Virgin, Apple, Jack In The Box, Tango etc etc … they were effective, entertaining and brilliant fun to do … but being honest, I feel greater pride knowing we created a pack of Top Trump playing cards when a massive organisation asked us to educate their staff about their multitude of products they produced … or that we built brick walls for people to drive through [on test drives] when a car company asked us to demonstrate ‘toughness’ … or that we created non-harmful military hardware for an international military of defence … or that we installed mobile signal blockers at luxury hotels so ‘blackberry devices’ wouldn’t work and wives of busy executives could ensure a proper family holiday again … or that … alright, I am sure you get the point.

For me, planning is about solving business issues through understanding, thinking, collaborating, experimenting, questioning, engaging, arguing, exploring, laughing – because if that stops, we’ll never have a NIKE or an Innocent or a Virgin brand again. 

If we carry on down the road so many agencies and clients are advocating, we could end up in a place like in the movie ‘Pleasantville’ … except, instead of being devoid of colour, it’ll be devoid of emotion, charm and soul.