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


Lowe Principals And High Confusion …
December 11, 2006, 11:28 am
Filed under: Comment

So alot of you were right, royally peeved at the way my mate was informed of her impending retrenchment – and quite rightly so – however there were ‘developments’ on Friday, and they were that when she went in to her office to agree her leaving package, they went and offered her original job back [albeit with a slight difference to the role]

What the hell is going on? Would you trust these people to manage your career? Are they really that inept?

OK …OK … so full marks to them for realising how good she is, but …

1 Why didn’t they think that PRIOR to retrenching her

2 Why have they let some other people go who my friend say’s are bloody brilliant

3 How can a company behave this way?

Personally I’d sue them for emotional distress … but that’s just me … but I just don’t believe companies can behave this way – these are people’s lives they are dealing with and they want / need / deserve clarity and communication from their management.

The way some companies act is in direct contrast to the bile they spout in their meetings / mission statements / pitches … and maybe as an industry, we should start the equivalent of Bono’s RED – but for fair treatment to advertising employees.  First thing would be to start a union … because Christ Almighty … if any industry needs one, it’s adland.

Anyway, before I go … I had the misfortune to meet a SENIOR planner who as far as I am concerned, has absolutely no idea about what his job is or how people think.

Now I know that is harsh and to save him shame, I’m not going to name him … but to prove my point, please have a look at the chart at the top of this entry … a chart he ‘created’ to demonstrate what he does and how he does it.

Surely it is one of the most ridiculous, complicated, anti-design pieces of bollocks you’ve ever seen!  Isn’t it?  ISN’T IT???

These people don’t just exist in our industry – they thrive – and that’s because too many clients don’t know what we do, what they do or what their customers really think. 

I love planning … I love creativity … I love advertising [to a degree, ha!] but if the majority of this industry continues in their relentless quest to make money – then I am scared for where we’re all going to end up.

I want to know humans … [too many] clients want to know process … and while they can [and should] work together, I will never, never, never condone a system where we put the consumer attitudes / needs and wants a distant second to a regimented, out-of-context process protocol.

Last week I met a client [unsurprisingly, ex-P&G] who had a mathematical equation for EVERYTHING [and I mean, everything] and maybe that’s why he is about as out of touch of reality as almost any single person I’ve ever met before.

Planners, Creatives, Suits and Management stand up … relate to reality, understand humanity and don’t get bogged down in the clichés of our industry and then maybe we can show industry just what we’re capable of.

I’m angry … but then it’s Monday so what do you expect eh? 



Designers Do Have A Sense Of Humour …
December 11, 2006, 11:25 am
Filed under: Comment

So I went to a Christmas party at the weekend and there was one of those ‘Pick A Random Present From Under The Tree’.

Even though it was one of those ‘Marketing Parties’, most of the presents were pretty good – infact some people picked gifts they really, really liked [this was before anyone had chosen my ‘donation’ which was ‘Michael Bolton Sings His Favourite Christmas Carols’ CD]

Anyway, when it came to my turn, instead of simply grabbing the biggest pressie under the tree, I acted all mature [yes, it can happen] and picked a medium sized package.

With all eyes on me, I ripped open the wrapping to find that I’d chosen an iPOD protective cover as my ‘gift’.

Not bad … not bad …

Sure, I already had a cover, but with Apple launching iPODs like George Bush launches wars [and me having a medical problem that means I always have to purchase their latest model], I thought it could come in useful at some time in the very near future.

Mind you, as the box stated it held an elegant and practical accessory, I considered just chucking away my current cover and using this one instead  – afterall, I like elegant and practical!

Except there was one problem …

That’s right, rather than finding a cover of style and sophistication, I found a case that best resembled the sort of suit Simon Le Bon would wear in the 80’s. 

What sick and depraved designer would create such a monstrosity?

What sick and depraved idiot would buy such a monstrosity?

What sick and depraved tosser would use such a monstrosity?

… but most of all, what sick and depraved copywriter, would use the words “ELEGANT and PRACTICAL” in their description of this Tiger-striped bit of rubber?

Holy fuck, even Stevie Wonder would stay away from something this ugly – and while I could use it as an ironic statement against societies desperation to always ‘associate themselves’ with aspirational fashion brands [however ridiculous it may look to the outside World] I decided to put it back and give it as a gift to someone I hate – of which I have plenty to pick from.

I suppose it’s no different to agencies like JWT, Grey and Y&R who all say they are creative and then produce complete and utter tat – but at least that is something that I could argue the client ‘deserves’ – this is just a crime against societies eyes!

So to whoever is behind it – 10 points for cheekiness, 0 points for desirability.



Lowe Principals …
December 8, 2006, 10:08 am
Filed under: Comment

Elbow

So a friend of mine works at an agency in London [can you tell who it is by the title of this entry? Ha] and yesterday she went to an all office meeting where management were updating staff on the many things they’ve been upto over the last couple of months.

In-between comments about how hard everyone has been working and the pitches they’ve been involved with … they casually dropped in that 12-15 people were going to be made redundant from the Account Service department.

Now obviously people were shaken up by this as …

1 They weren’t expecting it.

2 The Management treated it so casually.

3 They were worried as to who was staying and who was going.

4 It’s a few weeks from Christmas and it couldn’t come at a worse time.

… however by the time my mate got back to her desks, she knew exactly where she stood because her pathetic, wimpy, spineless boss [who sits 20 feet from her] had sent her an EMAIL telling her that she was to be one of the people made redundant. [Given the ol’ Spanish Archer – better known as ‘El Bow’ – hence the piccie above!]

Good on my friend for storming up to her boss and telling her she was a cowardly and inconsiderate person … but yet again, we have an example of a company behaving badly – a company who doesn’t know how to communicate despite being a so called communication ‘expert’.

This sort of thing makes me sick to the stomach. 

Sure I understand redundancies happen – and sure the agency in question are having a particularly hard time [which is sad, given the London office has been behind some of the truly great global brand ideas of modern times] but you just can’t treat people this way, it’s immoral.  

I appreciate no one likes to deliver bad news and that technology can make it easier because we can ‘hide’ behind it … but these sort of issues need to be handled with care, consideration and empathy – not a 2 line fucking email! 

The thing is, of all the industries out there, communication is one of the most reliant on the people who work within it.

Sure there are processes, philosophies and structures that can help shape the ‘output’ of the agency but ultimately, it’s the people within the organisation that have a disproportionate influence on how a company moves forward – and everyone in the industry knows this. So with this in mind, you could almost be fooled into believing they mean it when they say in their bollock mission statements that “Our staff are our number 1 asset” – except too often, their actions prove these are nothing but corporate ego words.

Look, my friend will be fine … she’s very good and will be picked up by countless other agencies … but whether her boss or the agency she represents stand as much chance of moving forward is in question – especially if this is how they think people like to be treated.

We are in the people industry … we are about motivation … we are about understanding … maybe some senior management should be reminded of that – because it seems a higher and higher proportion of them are subscribing to the Donald Trump school of management – where “It’s Just Business” is regarded as a legitimate excuse for any act of wrong-doing.



A Leopard Can’t Change It’s Spots …
December 8, 2006, 10:07 am
Filed under: Comment

Remember how a couple of days ago I wrote about my Singaporean bank putting a ‘Welcome Santa‘ mat outside their branch door and that I was wondering whether it was a nice or ultimately evil gesture on their behalf?

Well, unsurprisingly, they have revealed it was all part of the normal ‘evil bank service’ we’ve come to expect from 99.27% of financial organisations.

Why?

Because yesterday, when I popped in to get some cash, there was a sticker on the door [above the ‘Santa’ mat], saying that ‘DBS Credit Cards Are All You Need To Be ‘Santa’.

So apart from the fact DBS are encouraging consumers to increase their spending … latching onto a festive season to maximise their potential to earn even greater high-interest payments annnnnnnd making kids pester their parents for bigger, better pressies because they know their Mum and Dad’s can simply put it on ‘credit’ – the fucking banking shits have also ruined the myth of Santa for all the little tykes who still believe in the Coca-Cola sponsored St Nick … and that is about as low as any bank can go!

Hey DBS … why not go the whole hog and steal the pressies on Christmas Eve and then demand a ‘ransom’?

For just one moment, I thought I was seeing a bank trying to truly improve its image and morals – I should have known better!



Why Video Pirating Happens …
December 7, 2006, 9:22 am
Filed under: Comment

Nicole Kidman

From Reuters News Agency: Nicole Kidman was Hollywood’s highest-paid actress in 2006, nudging Julia Roberts from the top spot for the first time in five years. Kidman, an Oscar winner for her 2002 portrait of Virginia Woolf in “The Hours,” commands an estimated $16 million to $17 million (8.2 million to 8.7 million pounds) per movie, entertainment trade paper The Hollywood Reporter said on Wednesday.

In everyday business, you seem to get paid the really big cash for doing one of 3 things …

1. Founder [the originator of the idea]

2. Expertise [a specialist in a particular area]

3. Responsibility [the key decision maker or sharing the ‘risk’]

… however, if you fail in the area you have been charged with – you tend to end up being sacked, sued or ridiculed. 

Not in Hollywood however … oh no … there it seems that regardless of how a movie ‘performs’, there is always someone else to blame [script writers / marketing / director] … so with stars salaries continually escalating to ever-obscene levels and Hollywood believing in a policy of quantity rather than quality, is it really any surprise that Mr and Mrs Public are buying more and more pirate DVD’s?

If the industry really wants to get a grip on this issue, they need to take a long, hard look at the factors driving it because lets face it, their current ‘guilt trip’ strategy just isn’t working – especially as people are [rightly or wrongly] able to justify their ‘theft’ by comparing their level of income to the outrageous salaries paid to these ‘stars’.

Of course it’s a crappy excuse … but that’s not the point … it is how we can do something we know is wrong and not feel too bad about it. Infact, in some cases, we almost feel like we’re clever – as if we’re beating ‘The System’.

Hmmmmmn, anyone else notice a distinct similarity to the issues faced in the Ad industry?

Sure people in Adland aren’t as well paid as film stars … but in a lot of cases, they are paid more than the clients they deal with and how do you think that makes the client feel? 

Many clients [especially the junior ones] think all people in Advertising do, is sit in a room laughing and joking while ripping off scenes from famous movies which we then shove their logo on – all the time while they are working and toiling under immense pressures to achieve the business goals of their ‘real job’. 

Is it any surprise that they treat creativity with such distain?  Are we shocked that they are becoming more and more dictatorial as to what we do for them?

Sure, money isn’t the only issue here … but it is a big factor … because if people believe someone else is getting paid dramatically more money than them for a role they believe is far less demanding, then their level of loyalty and moral conscience will surely be open to compromise.

So what do we do? 

Well if I knew that, I’d be rich too … however I do feel that if movie stars and ad people were seen to share some of the upfront risk [either interms of upfront salary / costs] then people are less inclined to begrudge them if they then go on to reap massive rewards.  Infact, doing this may even earn respect and value from ‘outsiders’ because they’ll be able to truly recognise what the other party has ‘brought to the venture’. 

Will it work?

Probably not … because apart from people being massively risk-adverse, the film and advertising businesses are – as much as we pretend otherwise – ridiculous ventures where success is never possible to be guaranteed and where reasons-for-failure can always be attributed to someone else but this issue is going to grow and grow … not because the public are demanding the Wealth of the World to be spread [like Bono is claiming with his RED venture – see my ‘Champagne Socialism’ blog entry], but because the thing many people want most, is access to the lifestyle only afforded by the ‘rich and richest’.

Which leads me to my next point … The Rise Of The ‘FUCK YOU MONEY‘ Culture.



Fuck You Money …
December 7, 2006, 9:20 am
Filed under: Comment

In advertising today, tons and tons of brands try and sell ‘status’ … ‘Buy This And You Will Be Part Of An Elite Group Of People’.

The only problem with this is that often the brands are so frightened of alienating potential customers, they end up using crappy ideas like ‘Only Those In The Know, Know’ … because it helps them feel like they’re conveying status but in reality, they’re still being ‘accessible to the masses’. [Yes, I know this sort of defeats the objective, but I never said marketing people are the sharpest knives in the drawer]

We now live in a society where so many brands offer ‘status’ [even toilet paper for Christsakes!] that it’s ability to appeal to the ‘social climber’ is being diluted. Maybe these wannabe brands should take a leaf out of the ones who really get what ‘status’ is all about … the brands who unashamedly celebrate and ooze cash, arrogance and exclusivity!

Have a look at the ad below for the YELLOWSTONE CLUB – the World’s ‘ONLY Ski and Golf Community’.

OK, so that already conveys unbelievable pompousness [you should check out the ‘Owners & Management’ section on their site, it’s amazing], but the best bit is when you read the small print at the bottom of the ad …

“CLUB MEMBERSHIP REQUIRES REAL ESTATE. APPOINTMENTS FOR ENTRY MUST ME MADE IN ADVANCE.”

Hell, when even a postman needs to make an appointment to deliver a letter, you know you’re talking ‘seriously posh’ – and then there’s the fact YELLOWSTONE offers both skiing and golf facilities – 2 of the most opposite [and expensive] outdoor activities that you can get!!  I wouldn’t be surprised if their golf course was underground heated or their snow was flown in specially each day!

Everything about this place exudes an air of keeping the ‘riff-raff’ out … or keeping the ‘super rich together’ … and whilst that is splendidly revolting, I do have to applaud their arrogance to quite happily and openly turn their noses up at the masses.  Infact you get the distinct impression that unless your family name has been celebrated for at least 5 generations, you won’t get within 100kms of the place – even if you have untold riches and are arriving by private Lear Jet!  [Still sounds like that place Yogi Bear lived though!]

I call this the ‘FUCK YOU’ effect … where the ‘status’ being offered is the most exclusive of them all, the status of not having to care what others think of you as you’ve made it, and don’t need anyone’s help ever again.

Like the words, ‘Revolution’, ‘Fun’ and ‘Exciting’ … Advertising has changed the meaning of ‘status’.

It’s no longer about exclusivity – it’s about belonging to a group of people who want to feel they are moving up the ‘ladder-of-success’ … even though in reality, many of them are getting into massive debts in a desperate attempt to fill the hole of work/life boredom and under-valued emptiness. 

OK, I’m being especially harsh … but when you look at who is/was driving the sales of plasma televisions, cable and even BMW’s [in the UK, they outsell the Ford Mondeo!] – you have to admit, alot of people are subscribing to ‘living a lifestyle’ rather than a ‘life’.

Anyway, if brands really want to make ‘status’ valuable again in their advertising [ignoring the financial ramifications they are having on people/cultures] they should embrace the tried and tested concept of the ‘super-elite’ – the concept of alienation, because nothing demonstrates ‘status’ like an ad showing arrogance – best demonstrated by the ‘finger’ one from Bentley. Genius!



We Want Our Throne Back …
December 6, 2006, 7:01 pm
Filed under: Comment

Napoleon's Throne

Very, very soon I’m going to write about the background to the Walkman campaign we’re about to launch – but in the meantime, you can click here.

[Actually there’s little point checking the site as there’s hardly anything there – but if you can ignore the blatant product push, it might tempt you to find out more in a week or so]