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

He’s No Oil Painting …
May 20, 2010, 4:58 pm
Filed under: Comment

… oh, hang on, he is now …

Marcus Birthday

Better wish him a very, very happy birthday then.

It Would Appear Prime Ministers Are Human Too …
May 20, 2010, 6:00 am
Filed under: Comment

Whatever your political allegence, the Guardian recently ran some photos of Gordon Brown’s last hours in office and I have to say there was one in particular that really touched me.

Photo: Guardian

For me, there’s something quite wonderful that one of the most important people in the country – possibly the World – has his kids ‘paintings’ on his wall.

I know this is fairly common – but for some reason, I never imagined the PM would do that and I like it. I like it a lot.

I appreciate it’s highly unlikely, but I just love the idea that there were occasions where a head of state was sat opposite him and his kids scribblings were staring down on them.

In public, Gordon Brown appeared socially awkward.

I know that appearences are important – especially in this media focused World – but what I always found sad was that some people translated this behaviour into meaning he was incapable of his job.

Of course, some will say the current state of the UK shows that to be true – however I wonder how much people’s attitudes would have been changed if they saw the ‘family’ side of him .., or more specifically, the ‘human’ side of him.

Yes I know that shouldn’t be important but the reality is we are all influenced by things like that – even if amongst friends we play the role of clinical critic – but while this might sound a bit weird, I respect him even more for not really playing that card, when it was something I am sure he was encouraged to do time and time again.

I honestly believe if brands stood up for their values and principles to a greater extent, they’d make a more meaningful impression on the public.

Jumping on whatever bandwagon they think is the current trend might make economic sense, but in the longer term, I genuinely believe it starts to undermine the trust and value their core ‘fans’ put in the brand – and whilst this group of obsessives may not be enough to drive the ever-increasing need for ever-increasing profit, the fact is without them you are having to start from scratch pretty much each year and that sounds like even worse economical sense to me.

Of course it’s not just what you believe, but how you express it … which is why I worry Apple, a brand that was built on some fundamental values and principles, are in danger of sowing the seeds of their own misfortune … especially given they now think it is OK to get the police to [allegedly] raid a journalists house, force a comedian to apologise for a stupid sketch and threaten a little girl with legal action simply for writing a letter to Jobs.

As I said, values and principles are hugely important, but it’s important you remember how you express them is as important as what they are … which is why writing a brief, an ad or a presentation should always be crafted, never just churned out.

If They Could Fly Around The World In Eighty Days, You Should Be Able To Do Your A[P]SOTW Assignment In Only Seven …
May 19, 2010, 5:50 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web, Comment

So I’ve had a few requests asking for a bit more time.

Given this means some people seem to be actually doing the assignment [which is a huge relief as I worried that might not happen] I will extend the submission date by a week … May 28th Midnight GMT.

After this, there will be no more extensions – mainly because I go away from the 4th June and then move to Shanghai so if I don’t get judging started in the week between submission date and my 40th birthday depravity, then who knows when it’ll happen and even then I’m still relying on my fellow judges to be available which may not be the case.

Regardless, you have another week so please get them done and have fun.

If You Dream It, Do You Want It?
May 18, 2010, 6:04 am
Filed under: Comment

Rob & Angelina

So last week Forest played Blackpool in the 2nd leg of the playoffs.

Whilst we’d lost the first leg 2-1, I had high, high hopes of us coming good when they came to our ground – a place where we’d not lost in 20 games.

Even though it was going to be played in the middle of the night, there was no way I was going to miss it, so I went to bed early and set the alarm for 2:30am.

Anyway, a few hours passed and the alarm went off and the first thing that hit me was confusion.

You see I had fallen asleep and in my dream I had dreamt they had won 2-0 … a score that would have secured their progression to the grand playoff final.

However it gets worse, because in my dream, I also dreamt I‘d woken up in a panic realising that I’d only dreamt that score only to be ridiculously happy and relieved when I logged on to and found that 2 goal result had actually turned into reality.

So imagine how weird and fearful it felt when I realised [1] I had only dreamt I was awake [2] they hadn’t won 2-0 and [3] the match hadn’t even started yet.

As we all know – despite a very bright start – we ended up losing 3-4 and our hopes of a return to where we belong were dashed for another year … however the thing I find interesting is that my love for my team/brand is so strong that it not only infiltrated my dreams, but positively affected my emotions and feelings.

There’s plenty of talk about how great brands affect people – and there’s a general acceptance that the greatest brands tend to be the ones that live and play within people’s/societies lives – however when a brand can affect your sleep and mood simply through the anticipation you have of interacting/experiencing/engaging with it again, then I would say the number of truly great brands is far less than many in our business claim.

For me a great brand isn’t about sales or profit [though obviously they are very important components] … it’s about an irrational love …. where it affects what you do and feel beyond rational reason.

There will be many reasons for this behaviour … many developed over many years … but as Steve Henry once said to me, if you can only give one reason why you love something, then you don’t really love it, you’re simply flirting with the idea of it.

Dyslexic Normality …
May 17, 2010, 6:39 am
Filed under: Comment

I’m in Malaysia today running a mental workshop [ie: a weird one, not a workshop for the challenged. Then again …] so I apologise for this post, it was a rush job because SHOCK HORROR PROBE, I didn’t pre-write it.

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit too mnay porbelms.

Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe.

OK … OK … so that’s nothing new, but it’s still pretty interesting … however one of the things we’re working on at the moment is how people gather information on a website.

The thing is, the way many sites are laid out is very much from a Western perspective – where all the information is grouped in little blocks – however there are many other cultures that consume information in a much more ‘scattergun’ approach, where their eyes literally take in a bunch of stuff all at once and then interpret it from there … so what this results in is some companies having a much less effective digital strategy than they could have simply because they assumed there was a universal way to consume information.

Many agencies and planners talk about ‘culture’ but what they tend to mean is knowing incredibly general stuff like what a certain country/culture likes to eat or what their favourite activities are … and whilst knowing that sort of stuff has its uses, knowing why people act/think/feel the way they do is far more powerful, beneficial and bloody cultural, so if you want to jump on the culture bandwagon, at least have the decency to know what is expected of you if you want to stay on it.

The Rise Of The Nonsensical Question.
May 14, 2010, 6:19 am
Filed under: Comment

So as you all know, I’m getting ready to start a new life … a new life as an employee, which will be very strange after 7 years of basically having the right to do whatever the fuck I pleased … however whilst saying bye to cynic was/is bitter sweet, I am genuinely excited about starting at Weiden – though whether they feel the same is open to debate.

Given I’ll be based out of the Shanghai office, my ability to ‘blog’ may be impacted somewhat by the great firewall of China … however whilst I am sure all of you are excited beyond belief that this might signal the end of my rubbish ranting, I am working on some ‘alternative options’ that might allow me to continue being a loud mouthed twat starting with the fact I am going to Cuba to big up my communist credentials.

Communism … hmmmmn, let me tell you, the Chinese Government are more capitalistic than the US.

Not only do they charge you ‘duty’ to bring in your own furniture into the country, they have a cap on how much audio/visual content you can bring.

Any content … not anything that could be deemed inappropriate by Chinese immigration officials.

And guess what that cap is?

Go on.

400 pieces.

FOUR HUNDRED PIECES of audio/visual content made up of either DVD’s, videos, CD’s, albums, games.

Given my collection of these items amounts to approx 10,000 items … I am in a spot of bother and even if they decide I can bring them in, they still will charge me US$1.50 for every CD and US$2.50 for every DVD I bring in over the 400 allowance.

Guess there’s going to be a warehouse in Hong Kong that will have quite a collection of film and music stored in it for a few years.

Anyway enough of my whinging – let’s get on with today’s post shall we.

Have a look at this:


Before we get to the ad, look at the packaging.

Is it just me or does that look more like a pack of cigarette papers or some fancy-pants tampon pack rather than a chewing gum?

Eitherway, this post isn’t about the ridiculous packaging [you just know the words ‘aspirational’ and ‘status’ were banded about in the brief] I want to talk about that headline.


Apart from giving the obvious answer of “NO” … closely followed by “HAS ANYONE?” … what the hell are they actually trying to say?

OK … so I can work out they’re attempting to communicate this gum is both cold and hot, but is that supposed to tempt me to trying it?

Alright, I’m a nearly 40 year old cynical bastard, but I don’t think this ‘strategy’ would even work for kids.

Sure they might be tempted – but given the packaging has been so obviously designed to appeal to BMW driving sales reps who think they’ve made it because they’re driving a 316i at 80mph along a motorway, I don’t think they’re likely to hand over their hard earnt pocket/mugging money to sample it.

Whilst I’m a big believer that communication should demand attention, saying any old shit is pointless especially as I am a firm believer there are no boring brands, there’s just people who haven’t looked or opened their minds enough.

To help with that – and to say it in a way that is way, way, waaaaaaaaay more powerful than I could ever hope to achieve, here’s a paper my first boss – the irrepressible Steve Henry – wrote about ‘how to write a brief that infiltrates brands into culture’.

[You can download it here]

Are GREY The Recruiters For The KKK?
May 13, 2010, 6:04 am
Filed under: Comment

So a while ago, I wrote a rather damming post on an ‘ad’ GREY had put out to promote their “EYE ON ASIA” research report.

In the post, I explained what they were saying was a delightful blend of condescending colonial arrogance, regional cliché and universal-state-the-obvious blandom … which pissed off a certain Pius Thicknesse so much, he/she felt compelled to slag me off but interestingly, not for the flaws I raised in the claimed research findings, but for daring to suggest the ‘ad’ was written by a Westerner.


Anyway, as I said in the post – crap ad aside – GREY has a long heritage in doing good Asian regional research, so I assumed this was simply the result of a bad copywriter or a bad brief rather than the a momentary lapse of intelligence by the people who undertook the study, but it would appear I was being too generous in my excuses because I’ve just received this:


I know it looks almost identical to the last ‘ad’ of theirs I slagged off, but it is different – except it’s almost exactly the same as well.

What do I mean?

Well whilst this ‘ad’ supposedly highlights GREY’s research findings regarding the ‘grey dollar’ … the fact is the majority of the copy doesn’t really talk about any of this, preferring to rehash the flawed and grammatically prejudiced content of the previous advertisement.

The thing is, the topic of the ‘grey dollar’ is a very important one … one that tends to get overlooked by agencies and marketers because it’s not a ‘cool’ demographic … so why they decided to come out with some general questions that could apply to anybody is beyond me.

Oh hang on, I know now … because the opening lines of their ‘ad’ explain this isn’t about targeting an age demographic – it’s about targeting a mindset – but that’s hardly ‘new news’ is it? Fuck me, that approach has been around for donkeys years which then opens up another issue, why have a headline that immediately implies you have information about a particular age group?

This is mental.

So regardless of whether GREY are trying to say they have insights on grey haired folk or people who simply wish to live their life in a positive manner, let’s look at some of the questions they highlight.

• Why Asians are fickle consumers
• Why Asians are smart shoppers
• Why Asians delight in brands that constantly engage them in new ways
• Why Asians expect their brands to embrace change

OK … OK … so we’re not really sure who GREY are talking about in this ad/study [not the best thing for a company who claims to be experts in clear and concise communication] but regardless of that, are these questions even unique to the ‘Asian’ population?

Of course not, it’s generic commentary trumped up to sound like mindblowing research that uncovers major and unique factors about the Asian population … major and unique factors than can help marketers engage and grow within this region. And the irony is, there are absolutely fundamental differences in this regions attitudes and behaviour – and even more so when dealing with the older generation – but given the ads, research and ‘findings’ all seem to be flawed, confused and/or generalistic, I doubt GREY’s insights will either uncover them or explain what you can do with them once you’ve got them.

This sort of thing really, really pisses me off … especially the “ASIANS” label, which implies the population of this region are somewhat alien compared to the nice white folk back home in the West … though given they tar 16 totally different countries – including NZ and Australia – as Asian [ie: all the same], then it goes to show GREY’s EYE ON ASIA is in need of some new prescription glasses.

Come on Pius Thicknesse, give me your worst – though I’d rather have a civil conversation with you on it, if you have the balls.