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


Hurrah, I Don’t Have To iPod Sing The Smiths: A[P]SOTW Feedback. Finally.
July 30, 2010, 6:30 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

So it’s finally here and about time too.

I can only apologise for how slack I’ve been because all other excuses are basically out-the-window or out-of-date.

I feel particularly bad because this challenge required you to make a greater effort than some of my previous assignments – so for me to take so long to get back to you is pretty fucking disrespectful, as I have been told by every one of the fellow judges, especially Mr Mean – also known as Northern Groper.

So here we are, decision time.

First of all I want to thank everyone who had a go … it was in essence, a double assignment, as you had to not only develop an idea that would help Head & Shoulders be the shampoo of choice for men, regardless of dandruff issues, but you had to present it on video, as if you were pitching to judges in the flesh.

The bad news?

No one would have got the business.

Why?

Because you either didn’t present your idea clearly enough or we didn’t buy your idea … especially those pitches that sounded suspiciously more like an execution than a strategy that could encourage a change in behaviour and/or attitude.

Of course we could have ignored the ‘idea’ element of the assignment and just gone with whatever we deemed the best presentation – however that would be wrong because even though in the real World some sad/bad/mad clients [delete as appropriate, but if I were you, I’d leave it exactly as it is] choose style over substance, we absolutely, wholeheartedly and fundamentally believe that is wrong … not just interms of overall professionalism but in terms of doing the right thing for your business, be it agency side or client.

Saying that, each of the entries had good points in them and so what I’ll do now is go through everyone’s submission one-by-one and then announce the ‘winner’ … but only of the assignment, not of the pitch, ha!

Oh, hang on, I should just do some housekeeping before we get to that.

First of all the brief:

“How can ‘Head & Shoulders’ shampoo be seen as the brand men [18-35] should use every day, rather than just on the occasions they think they have a dandruff issue”

[No additional supporting material was allowed to be entered and the video could not exceed 10 minutes in duration]

Now the judging criteria:

Quality of thinking

Quality of strategy/core idea

Clarity of presentation

Infectiousness of idea

Magnetism of presentation

Finally a little note about the videos …

Normally on the A[P]SOTW we put the submissions up for everyone to see however because this assignment was a bit more intimate, we gave people the chance for their ‘pitch’ to be kept private.

Because all this happened mid-move to Shanghai, I have lost the emails that told me who was OK with showing their preso and who wasn’t … so to be on the safe side, I’m not putting any up … however if the people who made their videos are kind enough to say they can be shown, I’ll put the links up at a later date.

Got all that?

Cool … OK, enough of this annoying waffle, let’s get to the good stuff.

Ladies and gentlemen … boys and girls … please welcome, MADISON

Before I get to your evaluation, I have to say your commitment to the cause [doing the assignment mere days after giving birth to your wonderful bundle of cuteness] was universally applauded.

Infact one of the judges was so impressed, that he wondered out loud whether he should use that strategy in his new business pitches – however after it was pointed out that he sounded like a callous bastard, we decided that regardless of the result, we wanted to send you a little pressie to congratulate you on your baby, so if you send me your address, I’ll get something sorted.

OK .. so now to your presentation/submission.

So the approach of your presentation was rather unique given you included your new born in the ‘show’ … however we ignored that brilliant piece of guilt-tripping strategy because we felt it wasn’t exactly feasible to have just born babies attend every presentation.

Interms of the delivery and quality of your strategy …

We all felt your thinking was clear – with good male grooming insights and category clichés – and by putting key messages on boards, you ensured the audience understood your thinking every step of the way … however no one really felt the concept of ‘wingman’ was going to deliver the change the brief required because no one felt it was quite right for shampoo, so whilst we found the whole experience entertaining, you didn’t win the pitch.

ZELICO

We all felt there was some good stuff in your presentation, but your delivery had a lot to be desired.

Overall it felt like a nice chat, rather than clear, well thought-out and structured argument and while there’s something to be said for the informal approach, yours was bordering on feeling like a night spent consuming hashcakes in Amsterdam.

If you want to hold an audience’s attention, it is vital you find a hook –that might be creating an overall theme for your presentation, using props or just delivering it in a more dynamic style.

In terms of strategy, we liked how you framed the competition as tough, but you didn’t really indicate how you were going to turn their strengths into a weakness and we struggled to see what the big strategic idea was within all this..

We did find your thought of ‘owning the shower’ as an interesting objective but you didn’t explain your strategy to achieve that – at least not in our mind.

Overall we’re left not being quite sure what your key strategy is and part of the reason for that is – like this blog – you went off on a bunch of tangents and never really gave an explanation for some of them, at least in the context of your idea.

We’re not sure if you do/did this, but we think it would help if you mapped out the story of your presentation before hand and spent time really evaluating what information will help ‘sell’ your strategy and what are superfluous, regardless how interesting they may appear to be,

JACOB

From a very shaky start – ie: all the judges HATED rap music – you ended up impressing many of the judges,

Bad music aside, your introduction got our attention and whilst your delivery was quite Keanu Reeves [ie: stiff], the use of the TV prop really helped as it allowed you to structure and communicate your presentation into bit sized pieces

We liked that you got to the heart of the problem – make Head & Shoulders about more than just dandruff – and you were very clear about the different kinds of bathroom experience.

There were some statements that the judges felt were ‘obviousness expressed as insight’ and you didn’t clearly articulate who specifically you were talking to and their lifestyle/circumstances, but overall we got a good impression that you were not only genuinely tackling the brands problem, but wanted to address it in a way that changed behaviour.

If this was a pitch, you would certainly get into the 2nd round as your entry raised only positive comment, with a couple of the judges saying the idea – even though it may not increase sustained usage – was definitely very interesting and worth a much closer look.

ROB

It was very interesting – and a bit worrying – that after watching your submission, a number of judges said “there was no way you were in advertising”.

The reason for that was that they felt your presentation and strategy was expressed in a way that didn’t feel like it was leading up to an execution but a clearly defined strategy focused on the business issue [which is worth remembering for all planners out there]

Overall the judges felt your ‘pitch’ was very clear and measured and by addling a number of examples, you ensured what you were trying to say was understood and relevant,

Infact it was all going so well until you got to explaining your ‘big idea’ … because it just seemed pretty flat after such a simmering build up.

It is these occasions that adding some drama to your pitch could make a huge difference.

Whether that is through the use of props or simply voice control is open to debate – but having had all the judges listen intently to what you were saying, it was here where you started to not just lose them, but also their interest.

We felt you uncovered a really good that led to you being able to articulate an interesting problem to focus on, however one of the judges did say Head and Shoulders had done that before with a campaign that said, “I didn’t know you had dandruff? I don’t”

The ‘Sleeper Cell’ idea is interesting but it was around this time you made your 2nd mistake.

Talking through average scripts is a big no-no.

Actually, talking through any script is a big no-no fullstop.

While the idea in your scripts had some merit, most of the judges also said that “there was no way you’re a copywriter”.

From having people in the palm of your hand, the articulation of your core idea and the decidedly average scripts let you down.

People felt you appeared smart and trustworthy and with your thinking and insight, you would definitely get into the 2nd round, but whilst you were very clear about your objective, you were sadly less clear about the solution and it was made worse by trying to sell an ad that was obviously not developed by someone who actually writes ads for a living. [More than one judge said it was basically a bad AXE ad, just for hair]

Know what you’re bad at … and either collaborate on those things or avoid them in your presentation.

Do that and you could be very strong indeed.

JONATHAN

This is one of those things that probably sounded like a good idea at the time, but you’ll wish you hadn’t done it in the future.

The problem lies purely in one element: you tried to pull off the sort of presentation that only the highly accomplished and experienced can embark on. And even then, many fail.

We all felt that if we met you in a bar and you presented to us in your natural manner, we’d like you … but for all the bravery it takes to try and pull off a ‘really there, when you’re not’ video performance, you shouldn’t have done it because we spent more time watching your stilted acting style than listening to what you said.

Interms of the actual content … we liked how you summed it all up as “unbelievable, exaggeration, trying to be something it’s not” … however when you started talking about the solution we got a bit confused [especially Rebecca because she was actually involved in the making of ‘Fight Club’] because we weren’t sure exactly what you were trying to say was the opportunity for Head & Shoulders.

All in all, presentation style aside, you raised some interesting points – but the thinking flow was not as clear as it should/could [think props or key heading boards next time] and the solution left us scratching our heads as much as dandruff would.

HEATHER

One judge said of your submission that it was “more of a filming of a presentation than a filmed presentation” … and whilst the visuals certainly helped make a stronger connection, there was the feeling it was the sort of thing you’d watch late at night on BBC 2 rather than sit there and experience in the flesh.

That sounds harsh – especially as so much of it was at a very high standard, including the overall film quality – but there was this feeling you were holding back from showing your true personality, or as one judge said, “Why is she acting like a politician?”

As for the content, well the thinking was good – we all liked how you looked outside the core category and into the culture of men – which is much more interesting to hear and much more fertile for possible solutions.

We liked that you had obviously done your background (“Head and Shoulders: Above The Rest”) and expressed it in a relevant way for today, we liked your use of slides as a support rather than a crutch and we LOVED that you talked about things like packaging rather than bloody executions, but some of your references to convey your idea felt like they’d you’d just spent the day reading trendwatching and wanted to get in the new stuff you learnt come hell or high water.

Without doubt you showed great analysis of their current communications as well as great thinking/understanding on what it means to be a man today … so overall it was a very, very well received pitch but with your talent, experience and standards we should not expect anything less. [Ha!]

RAFIK

On one side, we loved the way you interrogated the brief and really got under the skin of the audience … but on the other we felt you didn’t actually answer the brief, despite taking us on a journey.

The other issue was the presentation energy. In short, there wasn’t any.

Given I know you, I can only assume you had just got back from a very longwinded flight because the overall feeling was you were a little “sleepy”.

You did identify a behaviour that could unlock new opportunities for the brand and we’d of loved to see that explored and exploded, but you don’t actually suggest an idea, you just seemingly point out opportunities and/or insights.

The general consensus was that you had something to say, you just hadn’t worked out how to do it and so instead, decided to adopt a strategy of throw a bunch of things at us and hope to impress us with variety.

Sadly that didn’t quite work.

_______________________________________________________________________________

So there you go, 7 entries, 7 judgements.

As I said at the start of this looooooooooooooooooong post, if this was a real pitch, no one would get awarded the business though a few would get into the 2nd round and the others would be thought of as having snippets of intrigue, but not enough to lose sleep over it.

The key issues for our view is that :

1/ Very few of you built your case in relation to the brief. Yes we all knew what it was, by highlighting how certain elements address certain aspects of the brief can go a long way.

2/ Even fewer gave any form of evidence to back up your assumptions.

Many clients starting point is – sadly – “we don’t believe you”, so don’t give them any more ammunition in this view.

3/ There was very little personality coming through in the presentations – or it was so over-the-top as to be distracting.

Being engaging isn’t about flash or ceremony, it’s about being charming, interesting, enthusiastic and real. [read: human]

4/ This was a brief about changing behaviour, yet no one really spent any time examining why the behaviour of today exists or what we need to do to change the fundamental behaviour to achieve what we want. Some touched on it, but not as much as they could have or should have.

I know this all sounds quite tough – and maybe it’s come across a bit harsher than we mean – but we approach A[P]SOTW with the view to help you be better and so the comments are hopefully constructive rather than destructive.

[Saying that, I was quite disappointed that the ‘A[P]SOTW lite’ assignment put together by Mr M was so poorly embraced. I know it was the World Cup and all, but it was a great challenge to sink your teeth into]

So after a lot of consideration and quite a lot of debate – especially on those pitches that we felt were very strong bar one or two things – we felt the best overall pitch was Rob.

By an inch.

So well done Rob… but don’t get too cocky because it’s worth remembering the judges didn’t feel it was good enough to actually win the pitch, just to get through to round 2 and even then, they’d tell you to re-do the ads. With a real creative.

Still, you’re a worthy winner and as I am seeing you in a week or 2, I will give you your prize [probably copious amounts of beer] when I see you.

Again, huge apologies for the delay in getting this back to you – I realise that when I set the assignment, I was living in another country and working in another company so it’s really been way too long – however if the lovely Northern [Groper] and Gareth Kay ever allow me to do one of these again, I promise I will not let there be such a long delay between submission date and response.

I’m not sure who is doing the next one – maybe Northern – but I hope you find these assignments useful because, whilst none of us would claim to be the best ‘role models’[hahahaha, I can’t believe I typed that] I think there’s the odd bit of common sense that comes out our mouths. Well Northern, Gareth and the judges.

Whilst the old adage says ‘practice makes perfect’, there are some tricks to aid in the development of your presentation chops.

1/ Go and see other presenters.

This could be at conferences or on things like TED – but look and listen at what they do and see if you can identify the elements that helps hold people’s attention beyond just the content of their pitch. [Which obviously is also vitally important]

2/ Study the great monologue actors.

For me, one of the greatest ever film speeches is delivered by Al Pacino in Oliver Stone’s ‘Any Given Sunday’. It’s not because of the subject matter per se [It’s about American Football – a sport I can’t be bothered to even try and fully understand] it’s because he tells a story that is dramatised through his inflections and pauses.

Sure, he is one of the World’s greats, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up some tips in how to ensure people keep their eyes and ears on you.

If Al Pacino is too much for you to handle, look for any movie with a high court element – mainly because in my mind, barristers are some of the greatest presenters you could ever hope to emulate.

3/ Go to acting class or improv.

As some of my planners are about to find out, acting class/improv can make a huge difference to the quality of your presenting skills.

While many people say you should always ‘be yourself’ I disagree.

Well, let me clarify that … I believe we all have multiple expressions of our personality and the secret is to always choose the one that best matches your audience … or as my Father – one of the great communicators of our time – said… “always make sure your approach matches your audience.”

That doesn’t mean you start talking in an American accent if you’re presenting to an American client … it means you alter your delivery and language to best suit the characteristics of the audience … so if you’re talking to a room full of bankers, you’d probably use more technical expressions and a firm, authorative voice, however if you’re talking to a room full of models [I wish], you’d use monosybalic words and snort coke between sentences.

Maybe.

The thing is, for some people, doing a presentation is one of the scariest things they can imagine doing – so the secret is to pretend you’re someone else.

Maybe you’re a lawyer about to make your final analysis.

Maybe you’re a football manager at half time.

Maybe you’re just your friend who always seems to be confident in what they do.

Don’t laugh, it can help and acting class can not only help you do this, but can give you the confidence to know you’re not making a fool of yourself at a meeting.

However even if you quite enjoy presenting, acting class and improv can make a difference.

It can teach you the skill of voice control … the power of the pause … the warmth of emotion … in short acting class and improv can help turn you from speaker to presenter in the best sense of the word.

I know it might sound weird, but the reality is if you can present well, it not only can make a good bit of thinking come across as an amazing opportunity to grasp [as Steve Jobs does with skill and panache, especially when he describes iPhone features that have been available on competitive products for years, as if they’ve literally been invented by Apple] it can help further your career so whilst the thought of some short-term embarrassment may sound horrendous, it can’t be nearly as bad as a long-term period of disappointment.

Yep, I honestly believe the ramifications have the potential to be that serious …

On that bombshell, I’m going to bow-out disgracefully so have a great weekend and I’ll see you on Monday … though if you have any sense you’ll keep well away.



Is Apple Hoping Tomorrow Never Comes?
July 29, 2010, 6:03 am
Filed under: Comment

So over the last couple of years, I’ve been giving Apple [and Bazza] a bit of a hard time.

Whilst I appreciate they still make great products with great design … I feel their spirit of innovation has been blunted by their quest to squeeze out every last drop of possible profit from the iPod/Touch gravy train.

Yeah … yeah … I know I own pretty much all they churn out but for me, Apple are at their best when they create solutions to problems we didn’t even realise we had till they showed us.

Solutions that are solved through people centric means, rather than tech driven.

So whilst things like the ability to manage/control our digital music is definitely an idea with inherent value, a super-sized iTouch isn’t … mainly because it feels like a product in search of a purpose, which is very un-Apple.

Mind you, I accept I’m a bit strange because a while ago, a guy at Apple asked me what I thought was their best innovation of the last few years and I told him I thought it was the ‘magnetic power cord’ … but even then, I’d say more people can appreciate it’s purpose and value than something like the iPad.

I don’t blame Apple per se … they had years of losing countless millions when they tried to innovate and now, following the Japanese ethos of ‘perfecting’, they are bigger than their nemesis Microsoft however I do feel they need to come out with something genius not iPod/Touch related or they could be seen as becoming a one-trick pony.

Yeah … yeah … I know you think I’m talking shit, but whilst old bastards like me can remember products from the original Mac through to the Newton and pretty much everything inbetween, the younger generation are starting to view them as the iMac/iPhone manufactures and whilst that’s not too bad a position to be in, as tech evolves, they could find themselves being regarded as behind the curve rather than ahead of it and then all of Mr Jobs carefully amassed credits could be spent in an instant.

I can’t help that Apple – like Virgin – owe some of their success not just to their high-quality products/packaging but also to their competitors inability to get their act together … but despite that, I do think they are a very smart brand and one thing I saw at the new Apple Shanghai store demonstrated it. This:

Yep, it’s basically a small table with computers on it so not only can young kids feel ‘part’ of the Apple experience, they can start to play/learn/love them from an early age too.

Of course the other advantage is that any computer illiterate fool who walks in the store can stare at the 6 year old hacking into NASA and think they are so easy to use, they can buy one without looking an illiterate fool, regardless of the fact 6 year olds are more capable at computer stuff than a lot of people I know.

So whilst Apple may seem to be running parallel to the times rather than accelerating away from it, at least they are investing in the next generation of ‘fans’, even if by the time they can afford to buy their tech, there may be a China brand who has left Apple in the dust.



Introducing Andy’s Father …
July 28, 2010, 6:01 am
Filed under: Comment

Over the next few months, you’re going to – if you haven’t already – hear alot about Winnebago Man … but I don’t want to talk about his life, his documentary or his compendium of Winnebago outtakes that has become a massive Youtube hit, I want to talk about the power of unrestrained emotion.

To begin, I need you – even if you’ve seen it before – to watch this:

Winnebago man is a gentleman who goes by the name of Jack Rebney who sells – pretty obviously – Winnebago’s.

The thing I find interesting is that had these outtakes not come out, I’m sure you’d never of heard of our friend and yet whilst the clips are funny, I believe one of the many other reasons we like them [and there will be many] is because we love seeing people show their uncontrollable, unrestrained human side.

Of course that depends on the person and situation … I mean you wouldn’t want to hear a pilot screaming that he/she [I’m not sexist, ha!] can’t believe they’ve “missed the fucking runway again” however in this World where we go through life trying to project a calm – or at the least, in control – persona, seeing individuals break loose from their passive emotion chains is both refreshing and invigorating.

And here’s the thing, I believe charisma and charm are both powerful and valuable economic assets and yet all too often, we see business try and filter out any sign of individuality in favour of a corporate monotone.

Rumour has it that many years ago – when Pete Sampras was King of the court – the ATP sent him to what amounted to ‘personality school’ because they were worried his stilted personality [especially infront of the TV cameras] was actually putting kids and sponsors off the sport rather than attracting them.

Whether this is true or not, the fact is people are attracted by personality – and whilst those personality traits are fluid, dependent on circumstance and situation – I do find it quite amusing that brands spend so much time trying to perfect their “tone & voice” and yet nine times out of ten, it comes out in the same sterile, robotic manner as most other brands out there.

Would Virgin be as popular if Branson sounded like GE?

Would Gazza really of captured England’s hearts if he hadn’t bawled like a big girls blouse at Italia 90?

Would we know Mr Winnebago if he stayed calm when he didn’t get things right?

Of course in all these scenarios, the individuals applied skill and talent helped them stand out from the crowd, but as we all know, ability doesn’t always equate to success so even though I am not saying we should ever undermine the absolute vital importance of doing good shit each and every day, I do believe that not recognising the value and importance of charisma and personality is wrong which is why if I ran a business school, I’d make sure they not only appreciated that fact, but identified ways to apply it without letting all the uncontrollable and excitable energy being boiled away into some contrived bollock “mission statement” – even if in their personal life, they think wearing a pin stripe suit, driving a BMW and talking about their wine collection is the basis for a great and memorable time.



It’s How You Act In Bad Times That Shows Who You Really Are …
July 27, 2010, 6:13 am
Filed under: Comment

pram

So way back before electricity was invented, I wrote an email that made Jerry Maguire’s infamous diatribe look positively tame in comparison.

Whilst it caused a massive stir at the time – resulting in me having to go to a libel lawyer [kindly supplied by a client of mine] – I somehow got away with it.

To be honest, when I read it now, I realise I was a total and utter prick … because even though I did it for the right reasons, the way I approached it was very fucking bad indeed and regardless that it was all true [hence he didn’t take me to court] the fact I still am able to work in this industry is amazing.

To be fair to me – as well as prove my ignorance – I only sent the email to a small group of people … people who I not only regarded as friends, but thought they felt the same way about this person as I did.

But I was wrong.

And whilst it would be easy to blame the individual who passed it outside our small group and into the big bad world, the fact is [1] it was all my fault and [2] it taught me a very valuable lesson that anyone who assumes they know how people will respond, is an idiot.

I know you might think this email shows I’ve gone soft … but you’d be wrong.

I absolutely believe in standing up for what you believe in rather than following a party-line you fundamentally disagree with [as my copious amounts of bollocksing at HHCL will testify] however I believe that when you have an issue, you shouldn’t approach it by throwing all your toys out the pram because not only will that approach generally fail to work, it also means the other party will view you with less respect and before you know it, you’ll end up being seen as a supplier rather than a partner and that is ultimately the worst scenario you could find yourself in because you’ll not only end up frustrated, but you’ll see countless wonderful opportunities just pass on by.

As far as I am concerned, you have a moral obligation to stand up for what you believe in, but if you forget the other party needs to understand your point of view to stand any chance of resolution – you’re going to be forever making enemies.

In reality, my email was weak.

Whilst I’d addressed my concerns to the person in question numerous times, the email was basically pettiness. As I said, it was meant for a small group of people – but like all good viral spots, the exaggerated extreme made it a social commodity and I was unfortunately the currency.

If you want my advice, don’t follow my lead – if you have issues, deal with it at the time with clarity and understanding – because anything else proves we might work in the communication industry, but we don’t know how to communicate.

Anyway, as I know you are all nosy fuckers, I’m guessing you want to see what I actually wrote – but in a rare moment of clarity, I’ve decided it’s probably best if I only give you a sample of random paragraphs [with names and specific information removed for my safety, ha! because not only did it go on for pages, I actually don’t want to rake up old wounds because this isn’t something I’m proud of, quite the opposite actually.
_______________________________________________________________________

“… over the last few months I have seen XXXXX, lie, cheat and manipulate people and situations to maximise his personal wealth at the expense of almost all others around him. He doesn’t care what he does, if it makes him money, he is happy with it.”

“… XXXXX loves being seen as the Advertising Guru … The Business Innovator … The Marketing Warrior … but in reality, he is none of these things. What he actually is, is the most insecure, insincere man I have ever met.”

“… for a man in the communication business, he isn’t very good at communicating. When he was going to make some people redundant, he first told XXXXX who went around telling the office who was for the axe BEFORE even the people concerned were told!!!”

“… rumours are that he takes ‘back-handers’ from some of the people he deals with. Though there is no proof of this, I can say the quality of the freelancers he forces us all to use can’t be because of their quality of work.”

“… a boss has a responsibility to ALL he oversee’s and I know that means hard decisions at times, but everything he did benefited one thing and thing alone … himself, and that is why I am so angry!”
_______________________________________________________________________

Pretty bad isn’t it.

I’ve re-read the whole thing and still can’t work out what the hell I was thinking.

Underneath it all, the intentions were genuine because I was upset about what I had seen him do to people I cared about – but the way I did it, regardless of the supposed ‘private’ audience it was being sent to, comes across as the immature ramblings of a spoilt little prick … which is probably a fair evaluation, bar the ‘spoilt’ bit.

Being strong in your views is very different to childish bullying and name calling and while I’d like to think I won’t ever make that mistake again, there are times when I read this blog and end up putting my head in my hands and going “Oh No …”



Blunt Truth Is Better Than Crafted Lies …
July 26, 2010, 6:05 am
Filed under: Comment

So I’ve been reading the book ‘Shit My Dad Says’… a collection of ‘tough love’ statements a journalists father said to him over the years.

Apart from some of them being very funny and sounding scarily like the Father is the bastard love child of Andy and Simon Cowell …

[On returning from kindergarten]

“You thought it was hard? If kindergarten is busting your ass, I got some bad news for you about the rest of your life”

OR

[On Lego]

“Listen, I don’t want to stifle your creativity, but that thing you built there, it looks like a pile of shit”

… the fact is his ‘to-the-point’ views are refreshing and relevant.

We live in politically correct times.

People often feel they can’t say what they really think, even if they would do it with tact and sensitivity.

I remember a few months ago, I was running a client brainstorm and started by saying:

“I do not subscribe to the belief everyone has good ideas. Everyone might have ideas, but quite often they’re not good so by all means speak up but unless it specifically answers the task at hand against the issues we’ve highlighted, I’m not going to allow our time to be wasted with something that could disrupt the few good ideas from coming to the fore”

Well, there was outrage.

People called me arrogant and unhelpful and basically a terrible human being … however a brainstorm isn’t supposed to be adult playtime, it’s supposed to drive new thinking around old problems and so if you approach the session as some sort of happy hippy party, you’re better off hiring a children’s clown than an ad person.

[Yes, I know this sounds contrary to the view I had when Richard Huntingdon slagged off brainstorms – however, he called into question the whole concept of clashing brains, whereas my view is they are valuable as long as they are managed and controlled correctly]

Anyway, back to the book.

As I said, some of his ‘call-a-spade-a-fucking-shovel’ comments are very funny, however underpinning them is a viewpoint that gets to the heart of the issue … the sort of thing adland and clients should be embracing rather than hiding from.

I wrote about this sort of thing a while back and called it ‘Unplanned Planning’ and I still believe in these highly exaggerated, band-wagon jumping, don’t upset a soul, contrived times, you can deeply connect with people through tough love messages, backed up with a tailored brand experience.

An example is when our hero replies to his son’s complaints about overdraft fees …

“Don’t get mad at the overdraft charge. No … no … see there’s your problem. You think of it as a penalty for taking out money you don’t have, but instead it might help you to think of it as a reminder you’re a dumb shit”

We’ve all been there …

Not just overdrawn, but then complaining about the fees but he’s right … what the fuck do we expect when we use money we haven’t got? Sure there might be the odd exception, but if you’re anything like I was till I finally got my act together, you were using your overdraft as part of your salary rather than in a case of emergencies.

Now imagine if a bank came out and said they wanted to stop you going broke.

Said they wanted to stop your monthly salary being dwindled away before you even got a chance to spend a cent of it.

Said they were going to help you minimise the risk of losing your car, house, life.

Yes … yes … I know it’s all very doom and gloom, but even putting the recent financial crisis aside, these are issues that have been worrying a huge percentage of the adult World for a long time.

I know it sounds mad, especially given Bank of America/IDEO did such a fantastic thing with their ‘change’ campaign, but what if a bank came out and said that in their quest to help people truly take control of their financial lives – and as a result, not pass on the bad habits and burden onto their children – they had put in place the highest overdraft fees of any bank and would charge double if you used the O/D facility 2 months in a row because the only way you’ll learn is if you deal with the problem head on rather than hide behind the illusion of solvency via high interest credit cards and easy-to-obtain overdraft facilities.

They’d be the bank that didn’t do you credit, so to speak.

Sadly I know it wouldn’t work because it’s these very people that supply the banks with the majority of their profits … but the banking industry is ripe for revolution and if the British Government hadn’t stopped Virgin from getting Northern Rock, I might of been able to put it to the test.

So next time you have a client give you a challenge, forget all the processes, brand models and marketing tools and think of the blunt solution – and whilst you might have to doll it up before you present it to the client, you’ll probably have the basis of an idea that will create change rather than just create advertising.



Welcome To The World …
July 23, 2010, 9:42 am
Filed under: Comment

So at 6:30am [Sydney time] my great friend Tony van Oosten witnessed the birth of his first child. I know his lovely wife Bindy did all the hard work [including having to sleep with Tony] but I am just so incredibly proud happy and excited for them.

Can’t wait to be formally introduced but till then, a huge congrats and big kiss to all …

Life restarts from now.

Comments Off on Welcome To The World …


Why Old Spice Is The Best Bit Of Planning This Year [So Far] …
July 23, 2010, 6:04 am
Filed under: Comment

So I – like many of you out there – love the Old Spice work.

I don’t say this because the people behind it pay my monthly salary, but because it is a wonderful idea that can go and grow into a multitude of areas and – most importantly – comes from a product truth [even if on first impressions, it could have appeared a negative] and an insight that without doubt, laid the foundations for this campaign to happen.

In other words, a planner played a major part in the development of this campaign – a campaign, let us not forget, that is for a brand owned by P&G – which I think is bloody fantastic given the ridiculous levels of parity in so much of the advertising these days.

Sure, the work takes this insight and idea to another stratosphere, but interms of laying the foundations for this to happen – and move Old Spice to New Spice, so to speak – a planner played a major role.

As much as some people think its wrong, I am a big fan of seeing the strat in the work …

For me, if you can’t tell what the communication is trying to make you do/say/feel, then you have to question [1] the purpose behind the work and [2] what was the point having a planner on the biz in the first place.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying an ad should be a verbatum expression of the planners brief and proposition … however like with Old Spice, it should contain a message that you know has motivating relevance to both the audience and the client.

The thing I particulary like about the campaign is that it’s basically built on the same principals that allowed/allows W+K to do such great work for NIKE.

The whole ethos of the agency is to find the tension point between category and audience and then create an idea that will exploit that in favour of their clients brand.

To be honest, it’s not a unique philosophy [cynic had something we called ‘anger is an energy’] however they are better at identifying the ‘tension point’ than most.

With NIKE, they realised the conflict was all about people liking the idea of being active versus actually getting off their arses and getting involved, so they created an idea and brand voice that encouraged these very folk to get off the sofa and JUST DO IT. Sure the meaning of the message has evolved over time, but at its heart it still conveys the same tough-love statement that made it stand out all those years ago … the sort of tough love statement you’d be more likely to hear from your parents &/or teachers than a brand.

And here’s the thing, I believe the Old Spice campaign taps into the same thing.

I remember when I was a kid, my Dad caught me in his bedroom trying to style my hair [yes, I had some] with gel and god knows what else.

After watching me in silence for a while, he said …

“Stop poncing yourself up and get out”

… which isn’t that far removed from saying …

“You’re a man so why are you covering yourself in smells more suited to a girl?”

The thing is, like the wonderful guys at BBH did with AXE, W+K found an insight that was in front of everyone’s eyes for years [plus truly linked to the brand] … and that is the sign of a good planner, being able to see the obvious, even if it appears not to be that obvious … so while there’s a few other brands that have adopted a similar stance [Canada Dry’s fucking awesome “Your Dad” campaign comes to mind] the accolades for this campaign should go beyond just its executional brilliance, but also celebrate its creatively inspirational planning heart.