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

In The Mind Of A Billionaire …
November 19, 2009, 6:29 am
Filed under: Comment

So it’s that time again where I ask you guys to do my work for me.

And no, you won’t get paid.

As usual.

Anyway, I’m doing something for my friends at Virgin – or should I say I’m trying to prove a point to my friends at Virgin – so without saying anything else for fear of being accused of manipulating the jury, I was hoping if you could answer these 4 questions for me:

1/ Of all Virgin brands, which is your favourite?

[Don’t care why – don’t care if’s it’s perceptual – want to know which Virgin brand resonates/excites you the most]

2/ Of all Virgin brands, which do you think is the companies ‘King’ & ‘Jester’?

[Don’t care why – don’t care if’s it’s perceptual – want to know which brand you feel represents the companies philosophy the most and the least]

3/ Yes or no, when you see all Virgin brands, are you surprised there’s that many?

4/ If you were Mr Branson, is there a category of business you feel is ripe to go into?

[You can suggest anything, the only caveat is that there’s a real commercial benefit to the company. You may suggest a subset of a category they already operate in or something completely new, but if you could give a very basic/general rationale for your thought, that would be great]

Should you want to do it confidentially [which is maybe what I should have done, ha!] you can email me here – however this is no trick question, it’s simply you articulating what your immediate response is to the questions I’ve just detailed.

Seriously, thank you so much … though hopefully it’ll be Mr B who is the most grateful.

Emphasis on the word “hopefully”. 🙂

Have P&G Got Into The Movie Biz?
November 18, 2009, 6:41 am
Filed under: Comment

So I sat through the latest Hollywood blockbuster extravaganza – 2012 – and whilst it was always going to contain the classic traits of that sort of movie, namely … all CGI no substance, actors who have followed the Keanu Reeves school of method acting and more plot holes than a A-Team strategy … even I was surprised how utterly and completely pants it was.

To be honest, I spent more time laughing at the movie than anything else … it really is something to be [dis]believed … however after it finished, I realised that whilst the film company is claiming it is another flick from Roland Emmerich’s ‘Disaster Production Line’ [Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow] I am of the belief it was actually written and produced by P&G.

Now you might think I’m talking pants, but remember product creation, sponsorship and placement is nothing new for organisations like this … afterall the term ‘soap opera’ came about after P&G’s arch-enemy, Unilever, started paying/sponsoring/making television and radio dramas [in the early days of programming] to help promote their washing powder products!

Anyway back to the ‘proof points’ of P&G’s Hollywood credentials …

1/ There Is No Subtlety At All – I Mean NONE!

Storyline … acting … product placement… are all executed with extreme levels of obviousness. Either the film crew were made up of Liberace’s children or they think the human race is made up of total retards*

Some of my favourite bits?

[i] To make sure people know one of the characters is supposed to be the Queen of England, they make her appear on screen with a load of corgi dogs!

[ii] To try and make people think this is ‘real life’, they have Danny Glover playing the US President and some bad actor with a bad Austrian accent playing Arnie.

[iii] One of the characters is on the phone, listening to his friend as a tsunami approaches [despite the fact they showed the other guy ring off 2 seconds before].

You know when the friend has died because you hear some splashing of water before silence.

Now maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think a 1500 foot wave would make the sound of some gentle splashing do you?

[iv] There are SONY Vaio computers at every turn and surprise, surprise … SONY Pictures were behind the making of this movie.

2/ Contrived Emotion/Humour

Someone dies = actors cry.
Someone does something brave = actors smile.
Someone does something bad = actors grimace.

All backed up with an orchestral soundtrack that comes straight off the CD entitled ‘Cliché movie moments’. [ie: Dark minor chords = bad stuff. Swirling major chords = good stuff]

Seriously, if people interacted like that in real life, we would either all kill ourselves or kill eachother – especially when your loved one can go from adoration to hatred [or vice–versa] simply because you forgot to put some sweetener in their fucking cup of coffee!

3/ Unbelievable Claims

The movie is supposedly based on some ancient prophecies.

Let’s look at those last 2 words again: ANCIENT PROPHECIES.

That’s very much like using some non-descript “Doctor” to explain why P&G’s ‘Product X’is better for you than any of the other leading products on the market.

Mind you, if some Hollywood company is going to spend a shitload of cash on some claims from hundreds/thousands/millions of years ago … then I am more than happy to get my share with some declarations of my own. How about “Banks will make the World implode with the weight of debt they place upon us” or “Cats will fly”? Send money direct to my Paypal account please …

4/ Developed Through Bad Research Groups

You get the distinct impression this movie was written as it was being filmed – with each section quickly tested against a research group consisting of people even Jerry Springer would turn down.

For example no animal is allowed to be shown to be hurt… they can show the slow and painful death of kids, parents and/or elderly folk but if a fluffy animal is hurt, you’re dead!

However the bit that really bugs me is that throughout the movie, pointless and/or unrealistic elements are seemingly dropped in for no real reason other than to help rationalise the ridiculous story with the conspiracy theorists / fantasists / thickos who demand their delusions are nicely wrapped up with a great big pink bow on it.


Well the worst one is described in ‘point 6’, however it is rather amusing that we are asked to believe that a ship designed to withstand the force of a 1500 foot Tsunami wave fails because some ‘rope’ has got caught up in one of their 100 ton, water tight doors.

See what I mean? This is straight out of a Pantene ad …

5/ Family

It doesn’t matter what life throws at you … it doesn’t matter what state your marriage is in … it doesn’t matter how self centred you are … it doesn’t matter how pissed off your kids are with you … when something happens that could affect the livelihood of your family, you come together and love each other with the energy and passion that could be used to power Chicago.

Oh and it is also important that at a time of total crisis, the family are able to perform feats even Superman would find out of his reach.

Hold your breath underwater for 19 minutes and 33 seconds? Pah … easy.

Fly a plane through a collapsing World even though you’ve only ever had 3 lessons? No problem.

Navigate a Winnebago at speed around falling balls of fire and lava from an erupting volcano? Do it with your eyes closed.

6/ He Who Owns The Distribution, Owns The Market

Sorry George! Ha.

Quality doesn’t count, just own the distribution … or in this case … ensure your movie is shown at the majority of the World’s cinemas so that people are disproportionately likely to buy a ticket to it.

7/ Product Placement

I’ve already talked about the SONY Vaio thing … but that’s nothing … apart from a Bentley plug that singlehandedly would stop me buying one of the bastards even if I could afford it, they plug a brand I never thought could [let alone would] appear in a Hollywood movie.

Are you ready for what it is?

OK, it’s GOODNITES nappies.

I am not kidding you.

According to the story the little girl of the lead characters still wets the bed – despite being 7 years old, which they make sure they articulate clearly – which is why the mother packs her off with some ‘GOODNITES Nappies’ for when she goes camping with her Dad.

Oh but it gets better – or worse as the case may be.

At the end of the movie … infact the VERY LAST LINE … the little girl announces proudly that she no longer wets the bed, in short, she’s claiming that using these Kimberly Clarke products helped her stop pissing the sheets and is now able to go on sleepovers without leaving an embarrassing mark.

Who the fuck comes up with this shit????

Just think … someone got paid to write that storyline. I hope to fuck they got paid a shitload because their career and credibility is never going to recover after that.

Seriously what was everyone thinking?

I know movies cost a lot of money but surely they could of said ‘no’ to this bollocks? I just hope to god this didn’t come from the brain [hahaha] of someone in adland – but I have a horrible feeling it might have – which means I’ll be reading about this “inspirational use of product placement” in AdAge sometime in the near future.

Sure I’ve remembered the name of the brand and what they do – but even if I had 1000 bed wetting kids at home – I’d never buy their products, not unless I was going to use them as firelighters to burn down the offices of Kimberly Clarke, SONY Pictures and anyone else related to this monstrosity.

So there you go, seven reasons why I think P&G wrote and directed the god awful [unless it’s really a comedy, in which case, it’s bloody brilliant] 2012.

You think I’m wrong don’t you?

Why? Is it because you think there’s no way they’d advertise a competitor’s product if they really were behind it?

Let me tell you, when you see how clunckilly they’ve made the placement, you’ll realise it has more to do with brand espionage than anything else.

Seriously, if I was at Saatchi’s I’d start to get a bit worried because it seems one of their biggest clients has decided they don’t need them anymore and can do it all by themselves.

Hell, how ungrateful can they get when Saatchi’s have spent years and billions of dollars infusing that faceless, clinical, advertising-by-numbers organisation with their philosophy [and proprietary tool] ‘Lovemarks’.


Good Commercial Design Is Never Just About Asthetics …
November 17, 2009, 6:41 am
Filed under: Comment

As many of you know, my wife is a designer.

However, unlike many people who have this title – her skills go way beyond sitting in front of an Apple Mac.

Over the years she’s done [and still does] all manner of projects/inventions – from corporate, product, digital and packaging design through to the creation of kids wallpaper that changes colour dependent on the pressure applied to it [ie: kids can ‘vandalise their room’ with hand crafted graffiti and yet still appear little angels to their parents because it all returns to normal within a few minutes] and her current area of interest, cakes.

Yes, each one of those roses was hand created by Jill and all are edible!

The thing is, Jill has always banged on that good commercial design solves problems and given she’s created a whole host of tangible stuff – I would say she is more successful at this than many in adland who despite all the claims, can generally think only 30” film segments and/or double page spreads are necessary.

Anyway the reason I bring this up is that I recently got sent something I think is brilliant for a whole bunch of reasons.

Not only is it a great bit of industrial design but it came about because someone recognised that something we all take for granted had business implications on a whole host of industries so not only have they been able to develop a practical solution that could save companies money in a whole host of areas, but it also has the potential to make the ‘design inventor’ a bloody fortune.

Ladies and gentlemen … boys and girls … see how sometimes, reinventing the wheel is not indulgent, but can be powerful, profitable and game changing.

How good is that eh?

The thing is, whilst an industrial designer found a solution, the identification of the problem was there for us all to see – so if adland [and planners] really want to live up to the intelligence we bestow upon ourselves, maybe it’s time we started opening our eyes to problems beyond the marketing and solutions beyond the advertising.

Billy Elliott Has A Lot To Answer For …
November 16, 2009, 6:38 am
Filed under: Comment

It’s Monday … I’ve been working all weekend … it feels like months since I had a holiday so forgive me my indulgent little post.

Apart from loving documentaries, I love trashy television.

I’m not talking about my beloved Jerry Springer … I’m talking about a whole host of shows including ‘reality television’, especially the ones where we get to watch human ego have a car crash.

Anyway, one of the things that always bring a smile to my face is when I get to watch a [no] talent show.

On they come … these talentless fools, full of the bravado that can only comes from years of praise from over-eager, gold digging, deaf, dumb and/or blind parents … only for them to leave 13 seconds later, knocked off their self-imposed perch into the sea of anonymity.

To be honest I feel for some of them – especially the ones who you can tell actually love what they are attempting to do rather than the bastards who simply want a short-cut to fame and semi-fortune … however that aside, the bit I love most is the moment just after the initial negative feedback.

Whereas many of us would sit back and listen to the criticism/advice of people who we accept have more knowledge of the industry than us, many of these talent tv fools simply launch into another car crash routine oblivious to the fact that it’s making the situation ten times worse rather than better.

As the title of this post suggests … I blame Billy Elliott.

You see in the movie [I’m not talking about the horrendous musical that Elton John singlehandedly destroyed with his Mardi-Grasesque soundtrack] he was having his interview with the Royal Ballet or something and preceded to fuck it up.

He was just about to be kicked back ‘oop North’ when – if memory serves me – he made some innocuous comment that somehow turned a bunch of sceptical judges into fawning groupies.

In other words, he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat … and because Americans [and the sort of Brits who think Jeremy Clarkson should be Prime Minister] think Hollywood makes documentaries rather than fantasies, they think this is an ‘insight’ into how to always guarantee a positive result so without fail, they adopt the practice, regardless of the history of broken hearts pumped into millions of households around the World each and every night.


Anyway this is just a preamble for the real purpose of the post – which is my chance to show a clip of quite possibly the worst musical duo since Pepsi & Shirley [look them up] though to be fair, as a comedy act they’d be up there with Laurel & Hardy .. especially the yellow shirt wearing Welsh tool who thinks he’s some rapping/beatboxing genius when in reality he’s just a rhythmless idiot with a crap accent.

Enjoy … and be glad these people exist because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to deny our own shortcomings as easily.

The Relentless Pursuit Of Nothing …
November 13, 2009, 6:42 am
Filed under: Comment

The older I get, the more I feel disconnected to the advertising industry.

Actually let’s be more specific …

The older I get, the more I feel disconnected to the planning industry.

Before I begin, I need you to watch this …

That clip is the first part in a series the great guys at PSFK have pulled together and whilst there are a whole heap of very clever guys on it – all making interesting comment – I can’t help but feel Piers words right at the very beginning, are the most accurate and appropriate.

“I don’t know what planning is or really does”

He’s so bloody right.

A while back I made a comment on some blog about why I thought Daddy NP was a brilliant planner and in short, it was because he was working outside of London in an agency that didn’t have the most glam of clients.

My main point was that all the odds were against him, but with tenacity, passion, intelligence and sheer bloody action, he made them not only value it, but care.

Now here’s the thing … whilst I am in awe at many of the planners out there, I can’t help but feel there’s too many who are basically just lazy.

They don’t leave their desk … they don’t ever try stuff … they don’t explore or interact with the real side of life … they just sit there, talking about the latest theory they read in someone’s book/ blog/magazine then either complain that they are not getting the acclaim they feel they deserve and/or bitch about how the creatives are not doing what they were told.

A while back, as part of a project I/we were doing, I asked people to answer some questions about their personal employment situation.

We did this mini-survey across a multitude of industries and yet the answers were the same.

Regardless of whether people liked or disliked their bosses, in the main, they didn’t want their bosses job as it currently stood –because they felt it involved things they didn’t want to do.


What a bunch of entitled little Prince and Princesses we have in the World.

Of course everyone wants glory but there’s way too many out there who want to achieve it with minimum effort.

The irony of this attitude is that I truly believe you cannot truly feel achievement if you haven’t gone through some pain to get it … so in my theory, it means we have a generation of planners who will either never achieve the acclaim they seek and/or believe they are justified to have … or they will get, it but never truly appreciate it because they’ve just had it easy.

Fuck me, I’m ranting like a 90 year old aren’t I!

One of the best things about living/working in Asia is that there is no real ‘planning culture’.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some truly great planners out here, but because the Asian business dynamic is ‘do’ rather than ‘say’ – we have to, like NP – prove our worth on a daily basis as opposed to just getting together and ‘naval gazing’ and/or ‘back slapping’ like so many in Western markets do.

Of course not every planner in the West is like this … just like not every planner or client in Asia is how I’ve described either … however as much as I pray at the feet of the wonderful and clever Gareth, I have to say I don’t quite agree with his comment that clients don’t know how to use planners correctly because ultimately we – as a discipline and an industry – have allowed this to happen and unless we take action so they – and people like Piers – see/hear/feel what we do [and as a byproduct LEARN how to get the best out of us], then it’s going to get a whole lot worse before it gets worse.

Too many planners have the ego and pretention of Bono, but at least the Irish fuck does stuff rather than just talks about it – I hope more in adland takes note.

News Update, Brought To You By Mr Snail …
November 12, 2009, 8:10 pm
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

I forgot to point out that the toptastic Gareth [who might not be talking to me after he see’s tomorrows post] had done the feedback to his toptastic A[P]SOTW assignment … so if you want to know how you did, or simply want to compare what you thought you’d do with the efforts of thepeople who weren’t too lazy/busy/drunk to do it: GO HERE.

The next assignment will be in a few months. It’s supposed to be NP’s turn, but with his new role as Chief Daddy, I’m not sure – but one way or the other, they’ll be another one soon and I’ll make sure I mention it at the time, not 500 years later.

Now can anyone confirm the rumour Elvis has died …

Comments Off on News Update, Brought To You By Mr Snail …

Where have all the weirdos gone?
November 12, 2009, 6:26 am
Filed under: Comment

When I started in adland, I was surrounded by freaks.

OK … that’s a bit of a harsh word … but I couldn’t walk down a corridor without bumping into someone who had – or was continuing to have – an interesting and varied life.

Some of these people had spent decades travelling … some had a nice sideline in building weird & wonderful furniture … some were ex-pig feed salesmen … some were reformed lawyers/bankers/herbalists and you know what, together they made amazing things happen because they had interesting, varied and yet informed opinions & ideas on a whole host of things – not just things linked to advertising or people’s lives as described and defined by cliche ‘marketing babble’ or misguided, misconstrued research ‘findings’.

Now I am in no way saying there are not great things happening in adland today … nor am I suggesting that it is an industry devoid of ‘characters’ and intelligence … however in a World where adland feels only ‘graduates’ are worthy of having a job in this industry, it doesn’t seem that much of a coincidence that we have become more passive, pale and bland than we ever were.

Of course hiring a couple of one armed, goth, ex-magicians won’t make everything better [but that would be quite interesting wouldn’t it] … but I do think adlands attitude that to be taken seriously by industry requires people who think/look/act like those in industry is wrong and shortsighted, because what they actually need are folk who know how to understand & infiltrate life, not just talk & dramatise business.