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


2010: Sort Of Holiday #1
January 22, 2010, 6:33 am
Filed under: Comment

Yes I know it’s still the first month of 2010 but by the time you read this, I will have gone away for just over a week.

Even though it involves a stupid travel itinerary including a couple of interesting/ridiculous/scary business meetings and an attempt to be a bit of a humanitarian [or should I say, a bit of a human] … the bit I’m excited about is that I’m going to be the best man at my dear, dear, dear friend – Tony van Oosten’s wedding.

You might remember Tony as the man who defied ‘Earth Hour’ in favour of watching ‘The Bill’ … but despite that social slip-up, he is a wonderful man who is making a woman in Sydney a very lucky lady indeed.

With this in mind, I’d like to talk a bit about friendship.

The thing is I don’t have many friends.

Now I know you would already have guessed that, but interms of what I call a ‘friend’ – and excluding wife/family – I would say I have about 5.

Five.

Five people in 39 years … and what’s more, I think that’s a pretty good return.

Now of course, whether those 5 individuals would call me a friend, is open to debate – but I think they would – because over the years we have continually proved how important we regard each other through our actions and responses to all manner of scenarios and situations, be they good or bad.

The thing is – I believe the word ‘friend’ is about as overused as ‘love’ …

I know my definition of friendship is rather ‘strange’ [basically a 7 years apprenticeship!], but I find it hard when people regard someone as a friend when they’ve had limited interaction and zero face-to-face time.

Of course, one of the factors behind this change is technology.

When I was a kid, you basically had to make friends with whoever you met because if you didn’t you’d end up as a Billy-No-Mates.

What this meant was that even if you had differences of opinion, you had to find a way around them – however today, thanks to technology, that element of ‘working around differences’ is no longer as necessary because you can align with people who only share your perspective, views and ideals.

While this might lead to a less confrontational life, it also leads – in my mind – to a more potentially dangerous one, because we are developing into a culture that has an inability to accept differences and/or talk about them.

I always love seeing how mental people get on blogs when someone expresses a different point of view. Even if the comment is calm, well articulated and entrenched in fact – most of the time the response is like a rabid pack of dogs.

To be honest, it’s pathetic … but then as I wrote here, too few people look at issues from any other side other than their own.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this and as I said, I know I have a weird view of what real friendship is – especially with the changes technology has made in our lives – but I guess I am saying that I think too many people mistake constant contact as friendship when for me it is something much deeper and multi-dimensional dimensional.

Put it this way, if I don’t class George and Andy as friends … then there’s no fucking way I’m going to call someone I only communicate with via Twitter or the new uber-shit Four Square that.

Talking of Four Square – why the fuck do they have those badge things you can ‘attain’?

Who the fuck cares … and if they do, they should kill themselves.

To me they’re like people who have personalised number plates, sad little fucks whose only achievement in life is the pointless.

I was once asked by a journalist what my personalised number plate would say if I had one. I don’t think they were happy when I replied “… it would say I was a fucking wanker.”

God I’m getting myself in a right ol’ muddle here aren’t I.

OK … OK … let’s wrap this up before I sound even more of a nutter … however as the last point in this post of tangent ranting … I would like to say that I don’t class the lovely/mad people who write comments/insults on this blog as casual aquaintences.

For reasons I still don’t understand, you have been very kind to me and I really treasure your opinions and consideration which is why I genuinely hope we will get to meet in the ‘flesh’ [so to speak] because completely being a hypocrite to my earlier point, I have a better relationship with you than I do with some people I’ve known for absolute years.

Cool?

Well even if it isn’t, I think it’s time I/we move on …

DSC01972

My friend Tony is getting married.

I have known him since June 11th 1996 – a date I remember because it was when I started my uber-short stint in the media department of JWT in Sydney.

Even though his parents are English [Liverpudlian infact] he regards himself as an Aussie – and yet, despite this social faux pas – I think the bloody world of him.

We have gone through a hell of a lot together … good, bad, mischievous, dodgy happy and sad …

We have shared an office … a house … a honeymoon [he came to Barcelona when I was there with Jill, though it wasn’t intentional – however I was bloody glad he was there given my wife spent most of the time ill in bed] … and even though we now live in different countries and see each other only a couple of times a year, the fact he still talks to me after all the shit I have put him through [and believe me, I have been a bastard to him including ruining at least 2 of his relationships, setting him up with a certified psychopath and encouraging him to do acts of total financial stupidity] makes him a very special guy indeed and I am proud to be able to call him a friend.

Tony: all the very best, you’re going to be a fantastic husband and father and I am very grateful you have asked me to share it with you, though I still say it’s like George Clooney getting married, ha!

Right that’s all done and dusted then … so see you all back in Feb 1 and in the meantime, enjoy being more productive and reading blogs that actually have some value to them. And Doddsy’s. Boom Tish.

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Robert 1 IKEA 0
January 21, 2010, 6:28 am
Filed under: Comment

So a while back we bought a lumping great leather couch from IKEA.

Even though it’s the size of a small country and totally ridiculous – we liked it and could afford it – so we coughed up the cash and took it home.

Anyway a few weeks later – while bending down to reach a toy my stupid cat wanted but couldn’t be arsed to get – I noticed the cloth under the sofa was hanging down.

I was just about to kick her for using it as a claw-sharpening device, when I thought I should take a closer look … so I tipped the beast up [such strength eh!] and realised that on this occasion Rosie was innocent because the issue was caused by a spring that had come loose and was pushing against the fabric.

Now I know I’m a hefty lump but there’s no way that should happen, so I called IKEA to tell them about it and get it fixed.

Imagine my surprise when they told me that despite having my order details, credit card info AND house address [because they delivered it] they were unable to help unless I was able to produce a receipt.

Look, I appreciate ‘the receipt is King’ … but given the sofa was only a matter of weeks old and they had all the information to prove who, when and where I bought it, I couldn’t work out why they were being so difficult especially when I had recently received such fantastic customer service for a product that had cost a fraction of the bloody sofa!

Now I know I might look a slob, but there’s some things I’m very anal about – and receipts/finances are one of those things that are top of that list – however for some reason I didn’t know where the hell the details of the sofa purchase/delivery was so when I rang IKEA pleading for some understanding, I was left feeling rather fucking angry when they wiped their hands of all responsibility.

The thing is, even though the sofa was perfectly fine to use, I was pissed off with IKEA’s attitude …

I know that I couldn’t physically show them the documents they needed … but the proof of purchase was at their fingertips [they even admitted they had all my details on file] and all they were doing was basically using a technicality to get out of their responsibility and if there’s one thing I absolutely detest, it’s people who don’t take responsibility.

So what could I do to teach the Swedish flat-pack fuckers a lesson?

Well writing to head office was out the question because not only was everything on their website in Swedish [hence I couldn’t find who/where to complain to] their HK store is a franchise operation so they could/would claim it’s a local issue and wouldn’t want to get involved.

What about writing to the local franchise boss?

Yeah I could … but given his/her ‘head office’ people had already told me on the phone they were unable and unwilling to help … I knew it was going to be a pretty pointless and fruitless exercise.

Finally there was the ‘sue the bastards’ option, but to be honest, after all the pain with SONY Ericsson [which I won – thanks spirit-of-Dad!] I just couldn’t be arsed to go through all that again.

So did that mean I was going to let them get away with it?

Was it hell.

What I did was call up the store and ask to speak to the manager as he was the one who had been [mis]handling my case.

Before he could say a word, I jumped straight in …

“You know how you say I have to produce a receipt or you won’t help …”

“Yes” he replied, sounding bored and uninterested.

“… well I don’t think you guys ever gave me one. I think you just dropped off the sofa and walked away.”

Shocked, he responds, “But that’s impossible sir”.

“It is possible because I’m sure you didn’t give me one.” I counter.

“But we never leave unless we have the customers signature”. he retorts.

“Prove it” I scream, trying to hide the excitement my evil plan just might come off.

“OK sir …” the increasingly pissed off IKEA robot spits, “… I’ll email it to you”.

And you know what?

He did.

And you know what I did?

Yep, I walked straight over to Mr Store Managers IKEA and – with the biggest, smuggest fucking smile you’ve ever seen – handed over the receipt AND delivery note he’d just emailed me and demanded he FIX MY FUCKING SOFA!!!

Hence Robert 1. IKEA 0.



The First 4 Wheel Drive On 3 Wheels …
January 20, 2010, 11:05 am
Filed under: Comment

Three years in the making …

Piaggio 4WD

This is the poncy European version – but now it’s out, the more practical Vietnamese edition will be [fingers crossed] coming up fast.

I’d write more, but I’m actually not allowed to – not at least till the ‘proper’ version sees the light – but be glad about that, because when/if I’m finally allowed to open my gob, I’m going to bore you even more than you thought possible!

If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, either click here or go to a blog that has less egocentric wank about it – if that’s not an oxymoron. Thank you.

Comments Off on The First 4 Wheel Drive On 3 Wheels …


What Are You Made Of?
January 20, 2010, 6:25 am
Filed under: Comment

So dear ol’ Tiger Woods life is in the rough at the moment.

Look the guy is an idiot and I would never condone what he’s done – but I must admit I find the response from the media, public and corporate sponsors almost as baffling.

The reality is good men sometimes do bad things … and you know what, good women sometimes do bad things as well … and whilst I admit he was rather prolific in his extra-marital activities, he’s not killed anyone, he experienced unprecedented levels of female attention [that’s not an excuse – and he should have ensured he was never in environments/positions that allowed anything to happen – it’s just a situation he found himself in] and he comes from a society that already has a 50% divorce rate.

Now this might sound weird, but I have a feeling his actions were less motivated by sex than escape.

OK … OK … sex probably had something to do with it, especially given all the women were of a certain ‘type’ [which is the bit that disappointed me the most because I thought he had more taste than that] … however because this guy has had almost every aspect of his life closely controlled and planned from a young age, I can’t help but feel the element of ‘danger, recklessness and selfishness’ made it almost as attractive and addictive as the act itself.

Maybe I should ask Freud.

The other thing that pisses me off is the reaction of some of the brands that have supported him.

I would love to know how many board members of the brands that have spent shitloads of cash on hum have had affairs or been divorced.

Yes I know they are not being paid huge sums to publically represent ‘honesty, integrity and performance’, but if they got caught shagging behind their partners back … or fiddling expenses … or selling products and services that people can’t afford/want … I bet they wouldn’t be dropped by their company in the time it takes to pull their trousers up.

And that’s another thing, men and women who have had affairs might be stupid, irresponsible twats but they’re not monsters.

There’s this attitude in society that if you’ve cheated you’re sub-human, but I know some people who are horrible blights on society and their marriage is great.

Good on NIKE for sticking with their guy.

Of course given NIKE have always been a brand that has embraced flawed/maverick geniuses, Tiger’s indiscretions makes him even more appropriate than ever before … but it would have been so easy for them to have dropped him and yet they didn’t and they can only prosper when he comes back and has a point to prove.

I know this sounds like I’m letting Tiger – and people who cheat – off the hook, however whilst I think they are total twats who [in many cases] needlessly let people who love them down … I don’t feel the vilification they receive, especially Tiger, is entirely justified.

But that isn’t the point of this post … oh no, that’s just Campbell ranting … it’s that in every crisis, there’s opportunity and personally I am quite disappointed that Tag Heuer didn’t seize the initiative and use Mr Woods high exposure to feather their own nest.

Pepsi would have. 🙂

TAG



Shaking Up Brand Coke …
January 19, 2010, 6:09 am
Filed under: Comment

As many people know, I’ve had an interesting relationship with Coca-Cola over the years – based mainly on the fact I’ve always believed they could/should make their ‘optimism’ positioning live waaaaay beyond their print and television advertising obsession.

Whilst I’m proud of some of the work I’ve done with them, I can’t tell you the number of ‘discussions’ I’ve had ‘suggesting’ they stop/reduce their mainstream advertising* and use the cash to develop programs/ideas that can positively affect the lives of youth [rather than just the ad industry] however for a bunch of reasons, I’ve tended to be met with:

“Yes Robert, that’s very interesting, but what about our ad?”

I’ve also banged on how I believe experiential advertising shouldn’t be approached interms of wanting to make people ‘feel good’ about the brand [though obviously it has to do that too] but in finding ways that continually proves the brand is sincere in what it says, believes and does.

Note the word ’CONTINUALLY’ … because doing something positive once, doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it again till you feel the brand is on the wane.

That’s why I like Tesco’s so much, because they continually fight for their customers loyalty – not just through pricing – but through innovation, reinvention and a constant desire to find ways to be relevant in current social/cultural/political and economic circumstances.

[See their 1990’s ‘Computers For School’ promotion as an example of how they infiltrated culture [not just shoppers] and stated to position themselves as a community champion, not just a food retailer]

Anyway it’s for this reason that I prefer to call/approach experiential communication as Brand Truth ideas … and the reason I bring this all up is that whilst it is not exactly fighting for youth optimism on a grand scale, Coke have just done an experiential activity/experiment that not only brings the brands position to life, but makes people probably look a bit differently at Coke vending machines for quite a few months to come.

Wish I’d done it … but then if I had, I’d of encouraged it to be executed in a shitload of places rather than just one so no one could accuse me of doing it just so I could make a viral film out of it.

Ooooooh I am such a cynic.

But well done Coke, it’s a step in the right direction – a bit more and a bit quicker please.

* Lets face it, in many markets their distribution and market share is so strong, the role of their advertising is open to debate, or at the very least, open to spending reduction.



Now I Understand Why The Taffy’s Shag Sheep …
January 18, 2010, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Don’t know if it’s true … if it is I just think the guys a total thick bastard … but if it isn’t and this is what the Welsh call ‘humour’, then I guess it’s explains why they live in caves, sleep with their sisters and talk with a bloody ridiculous accent*.

Jesus, I think I’ve just joined the BNP!

*Catherine Zeta Jones, Mrs Lee Hill and Jenny are exempt from that statement – though CZJ is looking a bit ropey these day’s so she should consider herself very fortunate indeed.



Days Of Significance …
January 15, 2010, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment

So given I’m a sentimental old fart, this weekend is quite interesting for me …

You see tomorrow is the 11th anniversary since my Dad died and on Sunday, it’s a year since I moved to Hong Kong.

I find it amazing how quick time flies [and not just when you’re having fun!] and I also find it amazing how much detail you can remember when you really think about it.

OK … so a parent dying is pretty bloody significant and we all know the brain loves to play ‘director’ with your memories … however there are certain things from both events that I can remember like it’s happening in real time.

Anyway, whilst the HK experience has been great fun … I still find my Dad’s anniversary pretty hard to handle … however instead of doing the usual and writing a post about that horrible time, I’m going to write something happy … something that will flood my mind with good thoughts … something that will give you get a glimpse of my life with my Dad.

Saying that, I should warn you this is going to be very indulgent, exceedingly sentimental and saccharine infused, so if you don’t want to go any further I totally understand.

It was a Sunday evening.

I’m not exactly sure what time – hell, I’m not even sure what year – but I do know it was evening, he was sitting in the brown rocking chair in the lounge and I was sitting on his knee in my pyjamas. Infact, if memory serves me, I think it was during the school holidays – or more precisely – towards the end of the school holidays and I was probably giving him a kiss goodnight before I went to bed.

Anyway, as was the norm, we would have a chat before I went upstairs.

We’d talk about our day … what we’d done, what we liked, what we wanted to do and there’d always be lots of laughter, hugs and kisses.

Now while that might not sound like the sort of ‘Father and son’ time you see in ads or Hollywood movies … these moments were always a magical time of bonding and love and I would go to bed feeling warm and happy.

I can’t quite remember how the subject came up, but I do remember that at some point I showed my dad a picture of a mail order digital clock radio that was being advertised in one of the Sunday Newspaper magazines we got delivered.

It was small and white with rounded edges and had a couple of miniature dials and switches on the top that controlled the frequency, volume and whether you woke up to the radio or the alarm in the morning.

It even had a button called ‘SLEEP’ that turned the radio off all by itself.

ALL BY ITSELF!!! If that’s not technology from the 3rd dimension, I don’t know what is!

Now what you have to understand – apart from this being many, many, many years ago – is that because of my tender years and the fact my family didn’t have much cash, my only exposure to this sort of next generation technology came from scouring the Argos/Kay’s catalogue [which were like bibles to me] or when I went to Paul’s house, because his parents were loaded and even had 2 [TWO!!!!] cars.

[I’ll quickly ignore the fact one was a Brown Volvo estate and the other an Orange VW Beetle!]

Anyway, this clock radio captured my imagination.

I must have looked at that ad in the magazine a thousand times … reading and re-reading every word like it was the secret to life … and so when my Dad and I were having our nightly ‘chat’, I brought up the subject of this amazing thing I’d seen – an amazing thing from thousands of years in future that somehow was available in the Sunday Telegraph magazine!

Believe it or not, this wasn’t some strategy to get him to buy it for me – that wasn’t how my parents worked and besides, it cost SEVEN POUNDS 95 PENCE [+ two pounds packing and package] – I did it because I was genuinely captivated by it all and happily rabbited on about every feature and detail for ages, confident he would be as astounded by it all, as I had been.

Now of course this product wasn’t new to him – he might not of had much cash, but he was very aware of what was going on in consumerland – and yet despite all this, he looked at me like every word being spoken was the most interesting and exciting thing he’d ever heard.

I can see his eyes now.

His big, kind, lovely blue eyes …

Beautiful.

Anyway, so I went on about this radio, telling him about the ‘SLEEP’ feature when out of the blue, he said, “Would you like it?”

I couldn’t even comprehend the question. I didn’t get things like this … not unless it was my birthday or Christmas and even then, seven pounds 95 pence [+ two pounds packing and package] was a fortune, you could buy houses or cars for that couldn’t you???

So there was a very long pause as I considered everything and then, plucking up the courage to be so bold, started to nod my head vigorously.

After a couple of seconds I looked at my Dad and realised he was staring intently at my face … staring at me like I was the most precious and beautiful thing in his World … and then I felt his hand by the side of my face, gently caressing my cheek before saying, “OK my sweet boy, we’ll see what we can do”.

And it was at that point I didn’t care whether I got this magical clock radio or not – I just loved being with my Dad … my Dad who listened, communicated, cared and loved.

And that is why I miss him so much.