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

Sometimes You Don’t Need To Read Between The Lines To Know What’s Being Said Is Bollocks …
January 21, 2011, 6:22 am
Filed under: Comment

So last week I was in a café and saw this:

Yep, yummy extra fresh Brittany oysters.

Well it would be yummy if it wasn’t for the fact:

1/ I’m allergic to all seafood.
2/ I was in Shanghai at the time … so I’m not exactly sure how they can be classed as extra fresh in the first place.

Actually what the hell does extra fresh even mean?

If getting oysters straight from the sea is generally classed as ‘fresh’, does ‘extra fresh’ mean you get them in your mouth before they’re even created?

Seriously, this is the sort of nonsensical descriptor that does my head in, but at least it came from some dodgy restaurant in Shanghai rather than a mega-brand that pays lots of people lots and lots of money to be drive sales and loyalty.

Groupon Is Coupon Spelt Badly …
January 20, 2011, 6:24 am
Filed under: Comment

So if you read the ad press, you’ll see the industry is going mental about the phenomenon that is groupon.

Seriously, some of them are treating it like it’s the second coming of Jesus [though it feels like they think it’s the second coming of the bloke with the beard every bloody week] and yet, in a sickeningly familiar pattern, adland is ultimately hundreds of years out-of-date even though they are trying their best to look like they’re on the cutting edge of everything.

The concept of groupon is not new.

In fact it’s one of the founding principals of trade – and while I appreciate technology [and the groupon company] have enabled more people to benefit from it in easier and more convenient ways, to claim it is a completely new approach just shows how out-of-touch adland [especially the digital fraternity] are.

I suppose what saddens me more is that for all the talk of being ‘media neutral’ and ‘business centric’, adland didn’t leverage this idea years ago.

Mind you, maybe they did and they had the rug pulled from underneath them by a client who views any concept requiring them to offer a financial incentive as the ultimate insult, even if you could give them sales that would dramatically raise their share [and profit].

I can say this from personal experience because way back in 1997, I developed a concept for WPP and Unilever called Sampleshop.

We’re not walking with dinosaurs, we’re working with them.

Without going into all the details, it was a program that was designed to drive shoppers to disproportionately purchase Unilever products over competitor brands and give Unilever the ability to create/change offers in real time so they could maximise efficiencies with stock and distribution.

And do you know what they said?

Yep, they said no.


Not – I should point out – because they thought it wouldn’t work … oh no … but because they thought it would work too well.

Yep, some analyst had determined/decided that the amount of short-term profit would cost them was detrimental to their market value, even though we had done [well, we had got someone to do it for us] analytics to demonstrate the benefits of offering an additional few % discount in our particular channel was enormous based on how many more people we would be driving to purchase.

I shouldn’t complain because I got paid for the idea – but it still bugs me that adland gets slammed for not developing business focused ideas when often they do and the reason they don’t happen is because the clients ego gets in the way.

Hang on, I’ve gone from slagging off agencies to blaming it all on clients …

How did that happen?

Oh I know, because I wrote this post and I can go off at angles even a protractor would be jealous of.

Anyway, groupon is a nice idea, but like social media, it’s not new so the sooner the ad industry stops trying to be at the cutting edge of things that aren’t actually at the cutting edge of anything – and gets back to what they’re brilliant at [apart from long lunches and delusion] – the sooner we might start reminding business about our real skill and value.

The Results Are In …
January 19, 2011, 8:16 am
Filed under: Comment

… and the answer to last nights major news item is:

The legend [admittedly a legend no one actually wants or care about, except maybe Birkenstock and even they’re probably happy I’ve temporarily stopped ruining their reputation … which is especially tough to take given they’re the preferred choice of footwear for German tourists. Who wear them in socks] is over.

My feet feel cramped and strangely cold … despite the fact I am also wearing socks to work for the first time in 15 years – socks I should point out – that I had to steal from my wife’s cupboard because I haven’t got any.

Yes that’s right, I’m wearing women’s clothing.


China has broken me … but at least I lasted longer than Google. [Sorry George and Jonathan]

On the brightside, I can walk through the streets of Shanghai without fear of puddles. Or dog shit.

Always a silver lining with me eh …

God, how I hope a warm spell breaks out tomorrow, so I can get out of prison. Foot prison.

The Biggest Question In Adland, Or At Least W+K. Shanghai. Maybe.
January 18, 2011, 7:22 pm
Filed under: Comment

It’s snowing in Shanghai.


Sure, that might help hide the shit on the street and give the whole place a more scenic appearance, but the real question is:


I know … I know … if I was a real tough, Northern bastard it wouldn’t matter – but I’m half Italian and have spent the last 15 years living in anti-snow climates – so whilst I’m OK at walking in the cold and the rain [and in public] in my Birkenstocks, there’s a limit to how far my loyalty will stretch and that limit is walking around in fucking snow.

So find out tomorrow if I break almost 15 years of habit by wearing shoes to work – and more interestingly – find out if I actually have any bloody shoes to wear in the first place.

Thank God NIKE and Converse are my clients.

The More Things Change, The More They Are Depressingly The Same …
January 18, 2011, 6:18 am
Filed under: Comment

So I fancied a bit of nostalgia and decided to check out the cynic original ‘reason for being’ paper I wrote on June 11th 2003.

This is what it said.

We’re angry that many companies treat the public like morons.

We’re angry advertising agencies inflict painful commercials on the world justified by a few people at a research group who have been deemed an ‘accurate segmentation of the general population’.

We’re angry companies talk ‘loyalty’ but most don’t know what it even means.

We’re angry companies are blatantly attempting to turn the World into frightened-consumers where if they don’t own-this, try-that, smell-like-this or look-like-that they are branded 2nd class citizens.

We’re angry products are upgraded in the blink of an eye.

We’re angry the brand experience rarely meets the brand promise.

We’re angry ‘customer service’ is something you read about in history books.

We’re angry brands are more about ‘blending in’ than ‘standing out’.

We’re angry most ads are boring, stupid or have absolutely no idea in them.

We’re angry most “solutions” are ads and when they’re not, in the majority of cases, they have about as much commercial understanding and reality as a 4 year old.

We’re angry ‘average’ is becoming a defined business direction.

We’re angry adland talks about innovation but most of the time, it’s just the same old wrong said a new way.

We’re angry the poor person in the street is regarded simply as a ‘walking wallet’ for a company’s balance sheet.

We’re angry communication companies don’t seem to care about people … the men and women of the World who spend 8 hours a day working in a job they can’t stand just to pay for a bloody air freshener they’ve been told they have to own.

And you know what, I’m still angry about those things.

Very angry.

Not just because these things still exist – which means in the big scheme of things, cynic failed – but because it is still pretty much the norm almost 8 years later.

But if I was starting cynic today, there’d be some more things I’d be adding to this list and that would include the following …

I’m sick of adlands celebration of digital campaigns that are really just a TV ad that’s been placed online.

I’m sick of adland acting like storytelling is a new pheneomenon that can change the world of business and creativity.

I’m sick adland and its associated publications, conferences and god-knows-what, choose to ignore this or talk big and then – in the majority of cases – do exactly what they’ve always done.

I’m sick of adland treating ‘content’ like it’s nothing like an ad when in the majority of cases, it’s just a longer, more convoluted and – sadly – more mindnumbingly boring version of the ‘classic’ 30 second spot, which at least had the decency to be over in the blink of an eye so we could get on with the stuff we really were interested in.

The thing is, I love this industry.

It’s been very good to me and I know – thanks to the many very clever people in it and a few special agencies/companies – that it can make a massive difference, not just to companies, but to the wider community as well … however with its obsession to achieve quarterly targets at any price, that potential is not just being pushed to one side but being forgotten.

Of course money is important, hell, I’m a big fan of money – and hopefully making as much of it as I possibly can – but if the powers-that-be carry on ignoring the fundamental elements that can prove and celebrate our value and just choose to either [1] get their end-of-year bonus &/or [2] focus on things that make us feel better or more important … then we’re in danger of not having a business that is worth being part of in the next 20 or 30 years.

I know I’ve said all this before.

I know some will think I am being overly dramatic.

I know some will say I only do this because I’m too thick to come up with something original and exciting.

Maybe that’s all true … maybe I’m just in a pissy mood after reading another industry mag that is basically a PR outlet for agencies egos … but I’m over these fundamental issues being ignored by the wider industry, so if you guys can tell me any things that you think adland are happily ignoring – even though they are actually fundamental to what we’re supposed to do – let me know and I promise you I will use them as the basis of any presentation I am asked to do, starting with this one.

Of course action is more important than words … but like alcoholics and drug addicts … if we can get them to admit they have a problem, we’ve achieved the first step in helping everyone getting a bigger, better, brighter future, not just the lucky bastards who work with/for the few agencies or bosses who are already making this happen.

Just How Thick Is Adland?
January 17, 2011, 6:25 am
Filed under: Comment

I am amazed at how stupid adland is becoming.

Yes, I know after a litany of madness I should know better, but they still can do things that makes me look on in amazement.

And despair.

In public, they talk an amazing game – professional, business focused, open to new ideas – and yet when you see the majority of their actions, you realise they are intent on fucking everything up, including their – and the industries – credibility and relevance.

There is a television show in Australia [and I believe it’s in other countries now as well] called ‘The Gruen Transfer’.

It’s basically a show about adland where a smug host and his panelists [featuring someone who I am not a very big fan of at all. Clue: It’s not Russell Howcroft] talk about ad campaigns – either criticising them, analysing them or celebrating them.

Now that bit is OK … the bit that shows how fucked adland is, is the bit where they ask agencies to come up with ideas to address a particular subject matter or issue.

And after watching them, the key out takes appear to be …

1/ Adland has about as much understanding of real life as the Queen.

2/ Pretty much anything can be developed and delivered in about 60 minutes.

3/ They can ‘magic up’ a solution to anything. As long as it’s an ad.

4/ Funny is more important than effective.

Or said another way, in their quest to appear – or encourage – a sense of self importance … or fame … or intelligence … or any other chip-on-the-shoulder attribute commonly found in the industry of the ego … they will publicly piss on all their talk of being commercially minded by showing how they believe the answer to almost any problem – regardless of audience, situation or circumstance – is an ad and that it can be churned out in less time than it takes the Australian cricket team to be beaten by the Poms.

Oh hang on, there’s something else they say to.

Yep, adland will do all this for you, for free.


[Which is handy, because the way they/we present themselves, no one would actually want to pay for it]

Now I know they say all publicity is good publicity but try telling that to Gary Glitter.

I know adland is in a bit of a state, but it’s not due to lack of awareness, it’s due to lack of relevance and responsibility [at least to business] and if I was a client watching this show, I wouldn’t come away thinking …

“Those adfolks are a clever bunch, I should talk to them because that would make a difference to my company”

… I’d be looking at their approach, attitude and ideas – ideas the ad industry likes to celebrate and pat themselves on the back for – and be asking …

“Why the fuck would I hire that bunch of one dimensional, deluded pricks?”

But hey, who the hell cares about the industries issues and situation when there’s fame and publicity to gain – even if its the sort of fame and publicity that ensures the masses [and the corporate world] think you’re a car salesmen who deserves a good kicking, rather than a slap on the back.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating adland should talk and act like they are bland business people, but for fucks sake, if we want to get back at the boardroom table, a demonstration that we can walk the fine line between corporate need and audience need & desire would help, but then the best way to do that would be to not appear on a show that has been set up to ridicule, rather than inform.

Note to people in adland.

The public – and the corporate world – aren’t laughing with us.

Talking About Death Can Be A Sign Of Love …
January 16, 2011, 7:00 am
Filed under: Comment

So today at 10:34am it will be 12 years since my Dad died.

While I’ve written about how my feelings about this horrible time have changed, I found an old post that I think he would like you to read … mainly because it might help people feel stronger in bad times and closer in good.

It’s about death.

I know … that doesn’t sound very nice … but it’s not meant to be depressing, it’s meant to be liberating, albeit in a weird-sort-of-way.

Without doubt death is a very uncomfortable subject to talk about but while I feel in a better place now, I wouldn’t wish the pain I went through for so many years on anyone – pain I played a major part inflicting upon myself – so in honour of my dad, please call your parents today and tell them that you love them and then – at some point in the future, when you feel the time is right – think about discussing the most dark of subjects because at some point in the future, you may find it helps let some light back into your life a little bit sooner than it otherwise would and trust me, that’s a much better and healthier place to be.

This is the post.

Miss you Dad.

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