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


Action Is Better Than Copy …
May 31, 2010, 5:50 am
Filed under: Comment

So last week I spoke at a youth conference in Singapore.

When I was there, a member of the Singapore Health Department asked me how I thought I could encourage Singapore’s young to care more about their health to which I replied,

“You can’t be healthy when you are made to feel you have to work 20 hours a day – so stop that attitude, and then you might start getting somewhere”

At this point, the room – rather surprisingly – broke out into spontaneous applause.

The reason I bring this up is not because I want to prove I can occasionally say something semi-smart [but hey, look at me saying something semi-smart] it’s the fact that unless governments and companies start actively taking a stand against this ever-increasing number of hours being worked, their future could be in jeapordy.

Yes I know that sounds very dramatic, but I genuinely believe it to be true.

As I wrote a while back, too many organisations act like they own their employees lock, stock and fucking barrel.

There’s this attitude that’s seemingly becoming more and more prevalent that they’re being generous allowing their staff a lunch hour … which is probably why they don’t feel any guilt, remorse or shame when they demand they poor sods come in at the weekend or change their holidays.

Of course they get away with it because in cohoots with the Government, they’ve allowed this air of fear to permeate the everyday employees environment … where they are made to believe that it’s not just good enough to do a full 8 hours a day of work to the best of your ability, you have to start earlier and work later or you’re not showing commitment.

Now I appreciate you probably are thinking, “What the hell do you know Rob, all you do is write blogs all day” … and maybe that’s true … but if people are not allowed time to relax, unwind and unthink, their levels of productivity are going to be impacted, let alone all the other issues that stem from it … be it family disharmony through to lack of innovation and desire to explore something new.

Conspiracy theorists out there will claim that is exactly why Governments and companies don’t want to do it … but with a rise in health issues covering almost all ailments from mental to physical … the loss of productivity on a corporate and national level, let alone the costs associated with sorting those ailments out [be it medicine to company medical insurance] means that ignoring this issue is commercial suicide.

Singapore is a wonderful place … a place I hold dear and am proud to be a PR of … however for all the campaigns the Government put out encouraging health or family harmony, they’d be much better off mandating companies to give their employees 4 weeks holiday a year and a maximum limit for hours worked.

Naturally it won’t happen … this is a country that has painted themselves into a corner where they must continue to keep the foreign investment coming as well as happy … however as they are pretty good at recognising issues that could impact their continued success, then I hope they realise this wouldn’t be a case of mollycoddling their people, but protecting one of the key assets that attracts foreign investment in the first place.



The Clock Is A Ticking …
May 28, 2010, 5:53 am
Filed under: Comment

So at midnight tonight GMT, anyone who is doing the A[P]SOTW assignment should have sent in their submission.

[To email your submission, click here]

At this moment, we have 2 entries – and whilst I am very appreciative of that – I am hoping I get some more by the time I check this tomorrow.

I know it was a painful one – but life, contrary to what Forrest Gump say’s – is not a box of chocolates and if it was, it would be the sort that you discover down the side of the sofa that’s been there for at least 4 months and you only saw it because you were looking for the remote control for the telly.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it, and I can assure you the judges are really looking forward to checking them out, so I just want to say a big thank you to all who had a go … and regardless of the ‘result’, I hope you found some use from doing it as well as get some benefit from the feedback.

Not exactly sure when we will be announcing the result – mainly as I go off on my birthday denial holiday and then move to China – but I would like to try and get things done on the last full week of June because after that, fuck knows when I’ll have blog access, let alone get round to writing my rubbish again.

Have a top one.



Blinkered DNA …
May 27, 2010, 5:42 am
Filed under: Comment

So last week I met a friend who reminded me how important and powerful ‘frames of reference’ are in understanding how people/cultures deal with certain circumstances.

This friend is a very smart and successful business woman who, despite being Malay, spent most of her formative years growing up in Singapore during the late 70’s, 80’s and early 90’.

As she went through school and university, her exposure to Westerners was primarily through the ‘controlled’ media … however she did come across the odd Westerner in her daily life and almost universally they held positions of power – often managing or consulting important companies located within the City State.

So far so boring …

Anyway, a few years ago she went to the UK for the first time on holiday … and despite the huge growth in technology and information access … she was dumbfounded when she saw some Western labourers fixing a hole in the road.

This image just did not compute with her … Westerners didn’t do this sort of thing, they had others do that thing [read: Asian locals] … and so after staring at them in shock for a good 10 minutes, she started laughing hysterically because at that exact moment she realised she could knock the Westerners off the pedestal she had been influenced to place them all on, because she wasn’t ‘lower’ than them – she was just as good as them.

Now whilst you may think this is an isolated case … it’s not … and it’s not even unique to the people of Singapore/Asia.

One thing that absolutely drives me nuts is the arrogant, condescending and down-right ignorant view so many Westerners have of other cultures.

We like to pretend we’re all ‘culturally accepting’ and that racism/prejudice isn’t as prevalent anymore but I still hear far too many Brits telling me the country is being ‘overrun’ by immigrant Poles.

Apart from the fact it just isn’t … this insinuation that Polish people are thieving scum is a fucking disgrace but what can you expect when people believe they are entitled to glory just because of things done years in the past.

Hey, it’s not just people … brands are at it too.

There’s so many who think that because they did some good things back in 1973, they are entitled to continued customer loyalty, despite doing little to generate it in the last 20 years.

As I’ve said many times, brands cannot sit on their laurels and think the people will continue to come, regardless what they do – those days are over, if they were ever really there in the first place.

If you’re not prepared to fight for loyalty each and every day of your life – you might just find that one day the people and brands you thought were strictly 4th division have used their hunger, ambition and talent to leave you in the dust.

It’s time to stop looking at competition – be it cultures or brands – simply as the enemy, but to regard them as the people who can help you keep your standards high and your hunger to keep learning, fed – because without those 2 traits, you don’t deserve to be in a position of power in the first place.



If Planners Are Curious, Then Don’t Be Afraid Of Exploring Another Country …
May 26, 2010, 6:33 am
Filed under: Comment

I’ve spent almost 20 years living overseas [or “on the run” as Andy likes to put it] and I’ve enjoyed every bloody second of it.

The thing is, if you asked my friends who they thought was the least likely to ever move away from Nottingham, let alone England they’d of unanimously said me.

The reason for that is because I love/loved Nottingham.

I didn’t just love it because my parents and friends were there … but because it offered everything I thought I’d ever want or need in my life.

And you know what, it probably does … however for a bunch of reasons I’ve ended up hopping around the World and it has been – and continues to be – the most amazing experience I could ever hope to have.

There is absolutely nothing wrong if you want to stay in your home city – or England – but without doubt, meeting, living, working and playing with other cultures gives you experiences and learning you’d never get at home which, with a bit of luck, can translate to you doing things you never even dreamed about.

I know for a fact that living overseas has made me a much better planner.

Much, much, much better …

Given the standard of bollocks I spout on a daily basis, that means I must have been bloody terrible at my previous agencies … but by living overseas, I not only appreciate how different cultures think/behave/observe, but have actually started to understand why … and what that has done for me is ensure I never take things for granted – or worse – allow myself to go on ‘autopilot’ because I assume I know what’s going on.

For me, variety isn’t the spice of life, it’s the liberation of life … which is why if anyone would be ever so stupid to ask me for advice on planning, I’d tell them to ignore anyone in adland and follow the best advice I’ve heard from the incomparable Mae West:

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

You might think it’s a big scary World out there, but really it’s offering you the chance to live a life, not [just] a lifestyle … so if you’re interested, don’t let the fear paralyze you, have a go … the worst that will happen is an expanded mind.



Youth Gone Mild …
May 25, 2010, 5:55 am
Filed under: Comment

So I’m in Singapore …

On top of being able to catch up with a bunch of mates, I’m also speaking at an Asian youth marketing conference.

Now maybe many of you will disagree, but in many ways, I don’t think there’s that much difference between generations in their feelings/desires/aspirations/fears.

OK, let me rephrase that …

Underneath it all, the feelings/desires/aspirations/fears that each generation [specifically in developed nations] go through, aren’t all that different from the generation before.

Sure technology, education and economics can/have influenced some changes in attitude and approach – but at their heart, the fundamental issues teens face are very similar regardless of generation.

Well put it this way, I hope they are because that’s what I’m basing my preso on.

To be honest it’s a bit of a cheat …

The thing is, as most of the other speakers are media representatives, I’m pretty sure they’ll spend a lot of their allotted time trying to flog their particular channel as the ‘key to youth success’, which is why I felt the best way to stand out was to talk about what’s going on in some of their minds and lives [at least for this week] rather than just their media consumption habits.

What always amazes me is how many media guys don’t acknowledge the value and benefits of their competitors channels. They talk like they – and they alone – are the only ones that matter and whilst it’s fair to say that a lot of their life is now spent online, to claim they don’t interact with other channels is both wrong and stupid.

The other thing I find interesting is that in Asia, the general marketing consensus is – youth brands exempt – that the youth audience is not important.

Seriously.

The general attitude is they don’t have as much disposable income as the status obsessed 20 and 30 something’s, so they’re not as important to focus on because in this part of the World, business is valued on what happens today – not what might happen tomorrow.

Given culturally there are so many things that are done [by individuals, communities and governments] to secure a better future – often with an eye on it positively affecting many, many generations into the future – I find it so interesting that in terms of marketing, the focus is purely on the immediate.

Hell, even the worst cold calling sales organisations appreciates they have to keep the ‘pipeline’ filled … but not here, not in marketing anyway.

As usual I’ve basically rehashed a bunch of old slides [but changed a few words in a desperate bid to make it look ‘new’] … plus there’s no commentary on there to explain the flow and view … but if you’re in the least bit interested, or simply just want to take the piss, enjoy:

PS: I don’t know what happened with slide 4 [& #14 is a bit dodgy too]. Maybe Slideshare has some sort of built in anti-ugly feature, but as you probably guessed, it was a pic of me except it was back when I was a teen and in a band and quite frankly, looked a bit of a cock … but as I know you sick bastards would like to see it, you can view it here.



The Chance For Adland …
May 24, 2010, 5:47 am
Filed under: Comment

So I finally got round to watching ‘Art & Copy’ at the weekend and all in all, I enjoyed it.

To be honest I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to.

For me, it felt too much like it was preaching to the converted – I would have preferred to hear some more clients talking about the impact adland had on their business – but it was still enjoyable and I was very happy to see my 2 new bosses coming across as toptastic gents, but then even Pol Pot would look quite nice compared to the heads of the big 4 agency networks.

Saying that, one thing I did find incredibly interesting was being reminded just how brilliant some of the work from way back when, was.

Let’s face it, when people talk about the ‘old days of adland’ they tend to only talk about DDB’s “Beetle” ads or some terrible P&G soap spot that basically said if women weren’t married by 25, it’s probably their body odour.

Well you know what, there was a shitload of good work back then … work that would put many of today’s so-called hot agencies to shame,

One of the great protagonists was Mary Wells.

Not only was she the first female CEO to be listed on the NY Stock Exchange – quite a feat back in the uber-sexist 50’s – but she was also instrumental in the development of some breathtakingly creative campaigns.

She was the person who helped convince Braniff airlines they should paint their planes a multitude of colours to help differentiate from the competition [The End Of The Plain Plane] and she was also the person who helped create the iconic I Heart NY expression/logo to name but two.

Think about it … an ad person created possibly the most identifiable ‘tourism’ logo in the World … a logo that means more than all of Arnell’s ‘gravitational pull’ designs put together.

Now with the upmost respect to the Juan’s and Droga’s of the World … what have they done that is anywhere as big as that?

Don’t get me wrong, they’re great guys and have done some interesting and exciting stuff … but Mary Wells was living and selling ‘big ideas’ before either of these guys could even hold a pen, let alone log onto Youtube and find something weird/abstract that they could then be ‘inspired by’.

And this leads to the point of this post.

[Yes, there is one]

One of the guys in the doco said that whilst advertising had a role in business, it was still only advertising … it wasn’t art, it wasn’t literature, it wasn’t re-writing the future.

His exact words were – and I love this – that advertising reflects the future, it doesn’t affect the future … and you know what, he was right.

However I genuinely believe the opportunity to change that perspective is now.

Advertising does have the power to affect change rather than just reflect it … it does have the ability to create ideas that can positively affect the lives and environment of the wider community whilst still making our clients rich [ala my ‘Socialistic Capitalism’ paper] … it can be something that is seen as having intrinsic value to business and society but to do that, I believe more agencies have got to adopt the attitude of Mary Wells rather than David Ogilvy, because whilst he was a brilliant man, he made – for all intents and purposes – relatively traditional communication whereas she went out and created change rather than hoped to fuck her ads would make it happen.

As an industry we sit here, craving acceptance and applause from our peers, the business community and society as a whole … but if we are to stand any chance of achieving any of that, it requires us to do a number of things.

1/ Get back to selling, not telling.
2/ Get back to creating, not executing.
3/ Get back to really understanding society, not casually noticing it.

It’s not going to be easy … it might end in failure … but if we don’t try, then the things we can be sure of is our industry might never recover from its current downward spiral and that we’ll always have to live in the shadow of our brilliant elders and whilst I’m big on respecting them, I’d love to be part of people who re-write history and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way – both interms of ego and approach.



It’s A Holiday Here Today …
May 21, 2010, 6:00 am
Filed under: Comment

… so while everyone else in HK will be spending it lying in bed, watching telly and/or eating themselves stupid … I’ll be spent packing fucking boxes that the Chinese Government probably won’t let in on grounds of moral corruption.

And that’s just my collection of VIZ comics, what the hell are they going to say about my Arnie DVD’s?