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

A Work Of Fiction Fiction …
March 31, 2010, 6:14 am
Filed under: Comment

I know this is not new, but I find it quite amazing how the entertainment industry can breathe new life into certain ‘brands’ when the creator has died.

Actually let me rephrase that … I find it quite amazing how the entertainment industry leverages the name of certain ‘brands’ creators, even when they are long gone.

A perfect case in point is the new[ish] Jason Bourne book …


Yep … despite Robert Ludlum dying in 2001, we have a book that isn’t just based on the character developed by the author, but is supposedly written in the style of him as well.

What next?

William Shakespeare to release “Romeo & Juliet 2: This Time It’s Personal”?

The issue I have with this approach is that ultimately it is dependent on a serious amount of post rationalisation … and in my experience, when someone tries to understand the reasoning and rationale of another person’s actions and decisions, they often fail to recognise the little details that either drove much of its development or gave it its uniqueness or – worse still – is a rationale for something that had no rationale for it.

“Our most beloved products were developed by hunch, guesswork, and fanaticism, by creators who were eccentric – or even stark raving mad”
Jack Mingo, How the Cadillac Got its Fins

There’s many examples however there’s two I’d like to talk about … AXE/Lynx and Singapore.

I am a massive fan of the AXE/Lynx work.

It’s not just because it’s one of – in my opinion – BBH’s best campaigns, it’s because it literally revolutionised the category.

Previously to AXE/Lynx, it was all about 24 hour protection … and whilst at HHCL we did try and do something similarish with SURE … their campaign just clicked.

Now whilst many people may think it was all about ‘Spray On Sex’ it was much more subtle than that – it was about seduction and the ability to turn good girls naughty – however over the years thanks to different agencies getting involved in different territories, the subtlety that made the campaign so good has slowly but surely been wittered down to the point that it’s now seen as ‘SHAG SPRAY’ … and whilst many will say that change is a reflection of the different time and the different cultural cues, the reality is the people who developed this unsubtle version either failed to spot the little details that made that campaign so good or wanted to be indulgent with an idea that basically writes itself.

The other brand that I feel has suffered because of simplistic rationalisation is my beloved Singapore.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I believe LKY had a dream for Singapore that was driven by vision, passion and pragmatism … but if you were to ask people today, they’d credit him with the ability to attract business – and whilst that was part of the strategy – it was a means to an end, his goal was never for Singapore to be the bitch of Western business and yet now, if you look at the things that the Government is spending it’s time and efforts on, they often fail to have the depth, sophistication and down-right ingenuity that their founding psychological genius utilised to kick start the country to where they currently enjoy.

Post rationalisation exists in most industries – especially adland – but if you only look at the output of the work created and ignore the backgrounds and circumstances of the people who developed it, you may find you have failed to include the secret herbs and spices that enabled good to be awesome.

Sinsights …
March 30, 2010, 5:58 am
Filed under: Comment

Sinsight: All businessmen wear suits & ties

So in what I can only assume is some sick joke, I have been asked to speak at an upcoming conference for CEO’s.

Big company CEO’s … not just Bill’s Fish & Chips.

They want me to talk about ‘insights’ … both interms of what they are, where you get them and why they’re useful for business … however because I’m sure the audience will be pretty disengaged listening to some bloke from adland, I thought I’d hire a comedian and get him/her to express my views and thoughts through a stand up performance.

Yep … I’m basically following the principals of Lego, but for boring adults rather than creative kids, haha!

To be honest I haven’t really thought this through – however what I do know is that I want to explain how insights should never be a bland general observation because if that is allowed to happen, we are basically placing an unreasonable over-reliance on the other aspects of business to get the results needed and the chance of failure increases dramatically.

With that in mind, I’d like you to contribute genuine bullshit insights you’ve heard as well as the brand [or category] they were for.

If you want to provide the link to the ads as well, that’s cool … but it’s not necessary … I’m sure they’ll be scary enough without a visual to drive the point home.

To get the ball rolling, here’s one I heard a while back:

“Mum’s love their kids”.

No … that’s not a joke … that was the insight that was supposed to drive both action and differentiation.

I don’t know what’s worse … the fact an agency/planner wrote it or a client accepted it … however that’s nothing compared to this one – where a reason to NOT buy was used as the driving force of a campaign.

Sadly this sort of twatdom is not that uncommon, which is why I want the real powers-that-be to know what’s going on because even though there’s the risk of them wanting to get involved in the whole process, it would at least mean we’re talking/dealing with the person at the top rather than some underling whose main decisions are based on keeping their boss happy rather than moving the business forward.

So ladies and gentlemen – let’s start the insight amnesty [even if you had nothing to do with them] – over to you.

And The Gold Medal For Bandwagon Jumping Goes To …
March 29, 2010, 5:16 am
Filed under: Comment, Crap Marketing Ideas From History!

… Zuji!


Because they recently sent out an email that makes the bandwagon jumping I talked about on Friday, look amateur to the extreme.

Zuji Bandwagon

As you can see, they feature Earth Hour heavilly, however the bit you need to take a closer look at is the bit that explains Zuji’s involvement.

Are you sitting down? Trust me, you’ll need too.

OK … cop a load of this:

Zuji Bandwagon 2.jpg

WOW Zuji, that’s brilliant …

You could have said you’d pay to offset the carbon used for every holiday you sell over the Earth Hour period … or you could have put the prices UP over Earth Hour and given the difference to various environmental charities or you could simply have not sent your email out in the first place and saved everyone both energy and time – but no – instead you decided it was a smart move to send out your unwanted, unwarranted and untailored ‘newsletter’ to anyone and everyone who has ever booked something through your website [which you believe automatically gives you the authorisation to bombard them with all manner of shit anytime of the day] and explain that because you’ve used “darker colours so it reduces the bright portions of your screen and consumes less energy” you are in some way an Earth Hour ambassaor.







Seriously Zuji, do you honestly believe people will look at this and think …

“Zuji are so considerate and environmentally conscious. They’re helping the planet and my cheap holiday needs in one swoop. What an innovative and caring company they are, I’m going to book an overpriced and clause-ridden holiday immediately”.

Look I know there’s a load of fools who think Jeremy Clarkson is the voice of the people, but surely there aren’t that many who think a company cares simply because they’ve used darker fucking colours on their ambulance-chasing promotional activity.

Please tell me there aren’t.

Saying that, a huuuuuuge congratulations to whoever was behind this – it’s Olympic Gold bullshit rationalisation – so if things don’t work out with the holiday flogging, there’s always a career at GREY’s research department.

[PS: This post supports Earth Hour by ensuring people don’t need any brain power to read it, think about it or do something with it. Musings Of An Opinionated Sod cares]

Wanking For Good …
March 26, 2010, 6:29 am
Filed under: Comment

OK, so I’m being facetious … but I’m getting a bit sick of all these brands jumping on the ‘social cause’ bandwagon.

Don’t get me wrong, anything that helps those less fortunate is a good thing … but when the intent feels purely for marketing purposes, it makes me feel a little bit queasy.

At least the companies who donate masses of cash to charities so they can write it off against tax don’t run ads saying how compassionate they are … however I’m seeing more and more brands doing campaigns that basically state the same thing:


[* Where ‘X’ is a word linked to their specific category]

However it doesn’t take Stephen Hawking to realise the underlying message is actually:

Of course Bono’s Project Red was/is probably the poster boy for this sort of approach – and as much as I think there’s some major flaws with the approach – at least Mr Irish realised the opportunity to develop an umbrella scheme to basically attract money from the champagne socialists / label whores out there.

However I’ve come across possibly one of the worst examples of this approach and it’s from my favourite brand extension developers, Mont Blanc.



Are they fucking kidding???

But hang on, there’s more …

Mont Blanc believe the ability to read and write is a fundamental human right and they’re deeply committed to the culture writing.

On one hand that’s pretty obvious given the fuckers make pens … however if they really gave a shit, why the hell would they make their stuff so bloody expensive rather than bring out a ‘BIC’ which could be given to school kids around the World?

Oh I know why, because they don’t really give a fuck … because let’s face it, as much as a million bucks may sound a lot, when one of their pens costs SEVEN HUNDRED AND THRITY THOUSAND DOLLARS, it’s not really that much to give at all.

As I said, I accept that any help is good help, but as I wrote here a while back, it doesn’t take much scratching to realise many of the words and platitudes being spouted by these socially conscience brands are closer to the work of a conman, than a carer.

Branded Bush …
March 25, 2010, 6:02 am
Filed under: Comment

No, I don’t mean this one:

And I don’t mean this one:

[Though he did allegedly take cash to lend his name to certain corporations goals. Ahem]

I mean this one:

The thing is, I kinda like it … certainly waaaaaay more than the Gucci “shock and bore” above.

Maybe it’s because it’s just a bit charming … maybe it’s because water and vegetation are underpinned by ‘nature’ or maybe it’s because it was outside a French restaurant … but it got my attention, made me smile and made me think of drinking Perrier which is more than they can normally manage.

Ambient garden media … appearing on a media plan near you soon.

Divine Intervention Planning …
March 24, 2010, 6:28 am
Filed under: Comment

I am not a religious person – and yet, when I passed a Church in Singapore, I was stopped in my tracks when I saw this:

I’ll get to the point as to why in a second … however I believe this is a brilliant example of grade-A planning, something that would put most agency planners to shame.

OK, so when you are a religion, you’re not frightened of making big statements … however in the scheme of things, this isn’t too pragmatic, infact its positively gentle compared to some of the thunder and brimstone stuff they could of used.

The reason I like it is because – post rationalised by me – it comes from a deep insight about Singaporeans and their view/attitude to life.

It would be very easy to assume the only things Singaporeans really care about are shopping, status and food.

And you know what … for many that would be a pretty fair assessment.

But here’s the thing, rather than the church putting out a banner featuring a quote that goes along the lines of:

“And Jesus said if you follow the path of the Lord, you will be rewarded with an abundance of riches” *

… they realised that in this fast paced, high pressured, social judging, material acquiring land, the thing many people want even more than high priced goods or just plain ol’ cash … is peace.

That’s right, peace.

A place of quiet and calm.

A place where the pressures of the World are kept behind the door.

A place where their mind can be filled with positive thoughts rather than the worry of keeping up with expectation and ambition.

A place where the body, mind and soul can find equilibrium again … where it can rejuvenate … where they can feel human again.

And the really clever bit – again post rationalised by me – is that for some Singaporeans, their mentality is that only the uber-rich could ever be in a situation where they choose to literally turn their back on the busy and demanding World … so not only does it position the Church as a place where you can get an antidote [or at least a temporary antidote] to the high-speed rat race … but it’s also relevant to the money-hungry culture because they’ll read it as saying by following God, you can get to a point where you have such a collection of riches, you’ll be able to ‘buy’ personal peace and tranquillity.

In short, by NOT using a statement that blatantly links with the Singaporean acquisition mentality, they’ve not only found a way to differentiate themselves from the cataclysmic noises being screamed out by every brand/company on the island … but they’ve come out with something that resonates deeply with anyone who feels they are running a thousand miles an hour just to stand still … which is why as a non-religious man, this ‘ad’ really got to me, however sadly for the Church, rather than rely on God to help me find a place on inner-peace, I’ve got my mild-life crisis to get me there instead.

Still, for coming up with a statement that reflected a deeper insight that simply “SINGAPOREANS WANT IT ALL” [which let’s face it, is not exactly the sort of claim a religious organisation should be putting out, even though I would bet 90% of planners would claim that’s exactly the direction they should be taking] they get a donation to the Church roof repair fund and 3 hail Mary’s.


* This ‘quote’ is completely made up, however I am assuming there’s something like that somewhere in the bible given it contains the most ambiguous/contrary/paradoxical content this side of a Piers Morgan book

One Rule For One, Should Be One Rule For Everyone …
March 23, 2010, 6:05 am
Filed under: Comment

So last week I was asked to present to a Singapore Government ‘youth’ conference about creativity.

The guys were very kind and accommodating given I am a bald, foul-mouthed and opinionated British yob who doesn’t exactly do ‘subtle’ when he has a microphone in his hand.

As I mentioned in the post last week, the title – “Nothing Great Happens If You Follow The Rules” – was kinda ironic given I was doing this in Singapore … a place where rules are treated like Gods … however the purpose of the presentation was to ultimately highlight that Singapore owes much of their success to their iconic and psychological visionary leader, Lee Kuan Yew – a man who broke all the rules of democracy and Asian values to create the dramatic change he felt necessary to enable Singapore to get where it needed to be for long term sustained growth [economic] and stability [cultural].

I guess what I was trying to communicate was if young guys in the conference were fearful of trying something they were passionate about [because certain Asian values dictate failure and/or anti-consensus views/activities are met with mass social distain] they should take comfort from the fact their great leader once went totally against the grain and so when it is done for the right reasons, rules can be – and should be – bent.

[Slides 14-16 are pisstakes on why I think Singapore can claim to be one of the best examples of creative planning in the World … slide 17 is the person who I think can claim to be one of the best creative planners in the World and from slide 18 – I detail what I think were some of the guiding principals LKY used to help him not only shape his vision for Singapore but kept him going even when everything seemed against him]

Anyway, even though you won’t really be able to tell what the preso was given my usual big picture, few words style … I thought I’d put it up anyway … and in the interests of both Andy, Pete and George, I’d like to bring it to their attention that whilst there is a fair amount of CNP [cut ‘n’ paste] there is also quite a few ‘new slides’ too.

Yes, I’m as shocked as the rest of you.

Finally, I should mention that when I was at the conference I met Singaporean designer, Kelley Cheng – who is not only brilliantly talented, charming and funny – but unbelievably versatile, entrepeureal and plain ol’ inspirational.

If you have the chance to check her or any one of her different businesses out [she has some cool cafes, including one dedicated to giving anyone who wants a go, their ’15 minutes of fame’] I encourage you to do so … because if she can do it, then there’s absolutely no fucking excuse why the rest of us can’t.