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


Natures Billboard …
February 28, 2011, 6:42 am
Filed under: Comment

So the pic above is of a sunset I experienced in Sydney last week.

Beautiful isn’t it.

Sure the skyline adds to it – plus I was back in my old town and eating a nice dinner with some dear friends when I saw it – however the overall impact is conversation stopping.

The reason I mention this is that when I was judging the awards last week, I was quite disappointed at how many of the submitted “ideas” were nothing more than exercises in un-natural excessiveness.

Seriously, Michael Bay and KISS couldn’t have gone more over-the-top than some of the entries.

The thing that bothered me was that if you stripped back some of the executions, there were some glorious ideas just screaming to be let out … but no … in an attempt to be seen as “creative”, some agency folk had felt compelled to smother them in layers of sponsored jokes and/or overly complex story lines to probably justify their creative creds to their peers or to themselves.

Depressing huh?

I’ve often said adland needs to stop looking at other agencies as their competitors and look at companies like Apple and Google, but despite those 2 organisations consistently producing more widely adopted – and arguably more creative – ideas than the whole of adland combined, too many agency folk feel a 30″ piece of contrived storyline is the pinnacle of creativity.

Thank god not everyone is like that.

The best idea of the whole awards – one that I was very proud and happy to learn came from my mentor’s agency, Happy Soldiers – was for a pillow company.

Yes, a pillow company.

Let’s be honest, pillows aren’t exactly top-of-mindand because of that, people don’t change them nearly as often as they should or as they could.

There’s a bunch of reasons for this, but one of the main ones is that once a pillow case goes on, any concerns about how old it might be, goes off.

This is where Happy Soldiers come in.

Instead of doing ads that feature scare tactics, they came up with the idea of getting their client to print a “Best Change By Date” on each and every pillow.

That’s it.

How fucking brilliant is that?!

Suddenly people would know exactly when they have to change their pillow because it’s in their face.

Not only that, but because this pillow company is – for now – the only one that offers this service, customers are more likely to buy another one from them than any other competitor.

In short – and as I banged on about last week – instead of going straight to an ad, Happy Soldiers came up with an idea that actually solved the problem and then did advertising to amplify it to the masses.

Advertising that truly works.

The thing is, this idea – from a client perspective – had major implications.

Not only did it mean they had to change the manufacturing process to enable them to print dates on each pillow, they also had to re-look at how they manage their inventory … however because the idea was built on creating genuine and decisive action [ie: a real insight] the client happily took on all the challenges and is now sitting back, watching their business enjoy double-digit growth.

And here’s the ‘moral’ to the story.

A great idea is a bit like a sunset: effortless, simple, beautiful and captivating …

It is something that will make people stop in amazement … it will make clients take on internal challenges … it will get people spreading the word … which is why if you are coming up with stuff that takes 10 minutes or more to explain – or worse, just talks about a storyline rather than addresses the real issue – then ultimately all you’re dealing in is confusion and you have no one else to blame other than yourself.

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Kevin Roberts Better Come And Kiss My Birkenstock Clad Feet …
February 25, 2011, 12:35 pm
Filed under: Comment

So as you know, I’ve been ranting like a loon in Sydney this week.

The ‘feedback’ has started to come through … and while in print it makes me sound like some nutcase Trade Unionist Worker [whereas the video, when it comes out, will show me as a fucking clown] I am glad the point I was trying to make is seemingly starting to have an effect.

On the first day, I finished my presentation with 3 requests:

1/ Could clients give their agencies problems and an open mind, rather than an all encompassing ‘solution self-diagnosis’.

2/ Could agencies ensure they get back to finding a solution rather than going straight to writing an ad. As I keep saying, the process should be [i] identify the problem [ii] identify the solution [iii] advertise/amplify the solution … whereas way too often it appears to be [i] identify the problem [ii] do an ad, often an ad that promotes the problem rather than changes attitude and/or behaviour.

3/ Could anyone in the room who has views they believe in just have a go – even if their bosses/colleagues think they’re wrong – because 7 years ago, no one in Aussie adland would give me a job and yet here I am on stage, as part of W+K, saying exactly the same things I believed in 7 years ago. The best advice is to ignore everyone’s advice.

Anyway, I know from the feedback of the day that points 2 and 3 hit a [positive] nerve, however this afternoon I’ve received an email from a client of Saatchi’s – who was in the audience during my rant – saying the agency should thank me in a few weeks because they are literally going to brief them a problem and will be open to any solution as long as it addresses it.

That is awesome.

Not just because that is all adland should ever want from a client, but because you have let my Mum feel her son isn’t a total swearing idiot.

So to Mr Kevin Roberts … let the folk in your company be brilliant rather than do the sort of stuff that too many do on the challenge section of the Gruen Transfer … or we’ll veto NZ lamb and ensure your super-super-super platinum hotel card is made null and void.

[For those who care, here’s the post on meeting Lauren!]



I Ran Away To The Circus But Didn’t Become The Clown …
February 24, 2011, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Comment

So it’s over … and it’s been great.

I had a thoroughly good time and despite being pretty blunt about what adland – and adland in Australia – needs to look at, I’ve not been slagged off too much. Hell, I even won – rather embarrassingly so, as Justin @ Google was fucking awesome – the Big Thinking Of Business.

Have these people got no shame. Or brains?

Ahem.

Anyway, as I wrote yesterday, I saw some fantastic speakers and got to meet some old friends as well as some lovely new ones, but I just want to quickly talk about two things that happened that took this conference to another level.

[New Dad Scott & BBH Asia CEO, Chaz. Those crazzzzzzy ad types.]

After my ‘Specialisation Is Leading To Limitation’ preso, I had a few people come up to me and very kindly say they liked what I’d said.

That felt brilliant by itself, but when the singer from the seriously fucking brilliant house band came up to me and said how much he liked it – a guy who had nothing to do with adland and wants nothing to do with adland – that made my day.

Apparently he liked that I said schools should never be run as a profit centre – which is absolutely true – however I wonder whether he’d of been so impressed with my passion if he’d heard my speech from the previous day where, according to Matt from BWM, I said about Qantas:

“If Qantas are the spirit of Australia, then we’re fucked”.

Who knows, but that genuinely meant a huge amount to me.

[I’m talking about the guys compliment, not my anti-Qantas jibe]

As for the second best thing that happened to me at the conference?

Well, I met Lauren.

Yes, THE Lauren.

After 4 or 5 years, we finally met up and – at least for me – it was awesome.

After getting over the initial shock that a woman I’ve spoken to almost every weekday for years and years on end [even though we had a disagreement on when/who/how we first ‘made contact’] was right in front of me, it was like a couple of old friends catching up, except it meant more to me than just that, it meant the absolute world.

This is not because she got me a Queen 45” record [“I Want It All”] but because she is one of the most wonderful, clever, inspiring, kind, rude, opinionated, passionate people I know.

What I especially love is that at a conference full of planners, this tattoo’d artist – a woman who has never worked a day in adland in her life – is smarter, more aware and more focused on issues and opportunities than many of the people plying their trade with that title on their business card.

To say I was wrapped to meet Lauren is a vast understatement and for some mad reason, when it was time to say goodbye, I started feeling I might cry.

How fucking weird is that?

Almost as weird as when the very, very lovely Katrina Wong @ Droga5 announced …

“I follow you on your blog”.

Lucky for me [and for Katrina] we both pulled ourselves together before we embarrassed ourselves once and for all, however I can honestly say it felt a real and genuine privilege to meet such an amazing and sickeningly talented person and I want to say right now how grateful and happy I am I saw her and I look forward to the time we can do it again and for much longer.

Final point, the people in Australian adland are very fucking gorgeous … way to fucking gorgeous … 4 in particular, but a gentlemen would never reveal their names, mainly because I don’t know them and I’d rather not be greeted off the plane by my wife with a divorce petition in her hand.

Thank you Sydney and to the Comms Council who invited me, it was wonderful and you did a top job.



A Lamb Amongst Lions …
February 24, 2011, 4:05 am
Filed under: Comment

So yesterday was brilliant.

Not only did I get to see some old friends [as well as some even older enemies] I got to listen to a bunch of bloody brilliant, interesting and inspiring speakers. What I particularly liked was that there was a lot of contrasting views, which meant the audience got breadth, as well as depth, and I always think that is hugely valuable because then you are forced to make your own mind up, not just rely on what you’re repeatedly hearing.

I have to say I especially loved Jess from Contagious, Chaz from BBH, Jeffery Cole and Agnello from Taproot.

In Agnello’s case, he is the humble father of the wonderful ‘Times Of India’ campaign – an idea that is genuinely impacting the culture of an entire country. He also told us why the client ran it, despite knowing it would never sell them another paper.

“News is competitive. By doing this work, they knew it would give them the credibility to ensure they always would be the first media group invited into the room”.

Brilliant and a perfect demonstration that if the client feels you are addressing their business objective, they’ll be less hands on in terms of the work produced. Though he did also deal with the CEO rather than the Marketing Director which flows with Andy’s view the Marketing Director is dead, long live the CEO.

[See Andy, I credited you with something other than insulting me]

I enjoyed doing my preso.

I think it went down well, even if I slagged off some work in front of the people who created it … oops!

But hey, I didn’t do it to be nasty, I had issues with it and explained why. Besides, I wouldn’t waste my pettiness on something like that, I’ve got people who really deserve it and hopefully tomorrow, I’ll be able to hand deliver it via another preso.

Now are you sitting down?

Are you?

Well the thing is, I’ve written a new preso.

I know … I know … but it’s true and get this, it has 95% new pictures AND new words.

What the hell has got into me eh!

Anyway, it’s for the Big Thinking competition – like the one the APG run in the UK – however the only reason I agreed to do it is because being a Brit, I have no chance of any Aussie ever voting for me so I can have a bit of fun with zero pressure. To be honest, I’m very glad about that, because if I was taking it seriously, I’d be shitting myself because not only have I been placed in the business category, but I’m up against the fucking awesome Justin Baird from Google who could beat Einstein in his sleep.

In classic planner wankdom, my preso is called ‘Specialisation Leads To Limitation’ [take a deep breath Andy. Breathe!] and if you really are interested to see it [mainly so you can laugh at how bad and simplistic it is … even though in typical ‘Campbell’ fashion, there’s hardly any words on the slides to guide you through it so it’ll probably make even less sense than the poor buggers who have to hear me blathering through it, though I’ve added some words just to ease the pain a teensy bit] you just have to scroll down.

S
C
R
O
L
L

D
O
W
N

[If it’s too small to read, you can see it better here]

Told you it was new.

Impressive eh! No, I didn’t think so either.

Anyway, as much as I am loving the conference, the big, Big, BIG news for me is that I’m going to be [hopefully] meeting Lauren for the first time today.

Lauren.

Swear-a-lot and tat lady.

I don’t know how long I’ve known her, but I am incredibly excited … though as I said to her, she’ll probably break her leg on the way and the whole thing will end up not happening.

Anyway we’ll see how we go, but with hopefully Lauren today and Rob M and Northern in a few weeks, 2011 is shaping up to be the year my virtual reality because reality.

You poor, poor bastards.



So Today Is The First Day Of My ‘Losing Friends And Alienating People’ Program …
February 23, 2011, 3:06 am
Filed under: Comment

So here we go again, eh!

Yep … off to spout my nonsense and basically try and pick a few fights.

The thing is, given Aussies are not the best at taking constructive criticism [ahem] I know they’re going to put up a much better fight than most … but hey, I’m married to one of their peeps, so they’ve already got their own back because they know she’ll give me more misery than I could ever give them.

[That is a joke Jill. Honest]

I’d put the preso on here, but as I’m the cut & paste master, you know you’ve already seen pretty much all of it before.

Saying that, here is a massively cut down version of it*

… plus the few ‘Aussie teasing’ slides …

In typical style, the preso is more for me to talk around than to let people understand what I’m trying to say, but rest assured, it’s all going to go down like a bucket of sick … though I’m not sure if that’s because they might not have a sense of humour or because I’ll be naming and shaming Tourism Australia’s approach to marketing, the Gruen Transfer television show and the recently launched National Australia Bank campaign which bangs on about how they really give a shit about their customers but that’s all they do, talk. Idiots.

In all seriousness, as much as I give Australia shit, I love pretty much everything about the place and the reality is the majority of my mischievous little rants could be aimed at pretty much any country in the World … so I do hope the audience take my presentation in the spirit it’s meant, but if they don’t, we won the ashes again so I won’t really care. Ha.

If you read this blog and are at the conference, please say hi. But if you’re carrying a knife, please don’t.

[Showing my Italian roots there eh? Sorry Mum]

* I have no idea what’s wrong with slide #12 , but it should have said this:

Not really worth the wait was it? Like most things I end up doing eh!



Are We In Danger Of Doing Integration For The Sake Of Integrations Sake?
February 22, 2011, 3:17 am
Filed under: Comment

So yesterday I judged the integration panel of an Australian ad award show and basically the submissions fell into 4 distinct categories:

1/ Great idea badly integrated.
2/ Bad idea brilliantly integrated.
3/ Great idea brilliantly integrated.
4/ Bad idea badly integrated.

To be honest, there were a couple of absolute grade-A, fucking awesome ideas … ideas that I am unbelievably jealous of … but there were a whole heap of submissions that seemed to think that just because they were integrated into a bunch of different channels, it was enough to win an award.

Now I don’t know if this attitude was because of the agency or the client [or both] but just like too many people are focusing on the process rather than what the process delivers, too many clients/agencies are seemingly focusing on being integrated rather than understanding what’s right for the brand and audience to get the results they all need.

Putting aside the whole issue of whether there should even be an integrated category in award shows [my view is “no”, because we should always be doing the right thing by our clients, not making it out like it’s something special], I have to say that I think Ogilvy has to share a lot of the blame for this attitude.

Years ago, when they launched their 360 degree approach, they basically said [or that’s how it’s been interpreted] that an idea – any idea – has to work in every channel or it’s not right.

Now while I buy the thinking in principal, the problem is too many people took it verbatim and suddenly ideas were being executed in weird channels because they could, rather than because it was right and that’s my whole issue with the current integration approach … because judging on some of the submissions made today, a lot of agencies [or their clients] are advocating a “shove the idea anywhere” strategy when the reality is if they know their audience well enough, they should know how and where to develop an idea that allows them to be efficient with their approach, rather than plaster it all and bloody sundry. [Which is hardly a comms ‘strategy’ is it!?]

I am a massive advocate of integrated campaigns – though I’m still shocked how many people think taking a still from a TVC and banging it out everywhere makes it integrated when in reality, all that approach actually is, is duplication.

If people need to latch on to any phrase, it should be an integrated idea, not an integrated campaign … but sadly this is an industry that likes to talk without always appreciating the consequences.

All in all It was a good day … but what it also highlighted to me is that my speech on Wednesday is going to go down like a big bucket of slightly tepid sick.

Excellent.



The Illusion Of Stability …
February 20, 2011, 7:58 pm
Filed under: Comment

So I’m back in Sydney. Home. Well, kind-of.

What’s funny is that within about 10 seconds of landing here, I sort of automatically reverted to the life I led when I used to live here, 7 years ago.

Maybe it’s because I’m on my own … or maybe it’s because that while many aspects of my life have changed, certain elements are exactly the same … but I did catch myself in quite a few deja vu moments, especially when I was loading myself up with bad documentaries, ha!

To be honest, it felt good.

Normally when I re-visit a place I once lived, I feel a stranger … weirdly disconnected from everything around me, even though it’s pretty much the same as how I left it … but this time, it felt better and for a sentimental fart like me, that’s a wonderful feeling.

Then I had dinner with my friend.

This is a very important person to me – a person who I’ve gone through thick and thin with and who has continually offered support and friendship beyond the call of duty.

To be fair, I think I’ve done the same for them which is why I was devastated to hear the unbelievable dramas they’ve had going on in their life for the past 12 months.

Because we’re in regular contact, I knew quite a bit of what had been going on – and had naturally offered my support as best I could – but seeing their eyes as they recounted terrible situation after terrible situation broke my heart, not just because no one should go through the shit they’re going through, but because I was devastated they hadn’t felt able to tell me everything they had been going through.

That sounds incredibly selfish – but I’m not saying it because I didn’t feel important – I’m saying it because they’re an amazing person and all I want for them is happiness, health and success and the fact they were being slowly pushed down by situations not of their own making – and doing it alone – upset me massively.

Of course I understand why they kept these details to themselves – they’re personal and tragic – however friendship is about being there in bad times, not just good so I’m just glad I now know before it’s too late … which leads to the point of this post.

Life is never going to be all sweetness and light.

We’re all going to have ups and down, good times and bad … which is why I hate how society has been sort-of brainwashed into thinking the airing of any concerns or worries makes you weak or a failure because not doing so is actually more likely to make that outcome a reality.

Of course my industry doesn’t help.

Not just because they use fear to drive materialism which, in some circumstances, contributes to some people’s problems, but because they rarely ever acknowledge life is good and bad and has ups and downs so there’s this message put out that life should be like Disneyland and if you’re not feeling that way, then there’s something wrong with you.

I’m a big believer things can start to change with conversation.

I’m not talking about the superficial or simply spouting words out and not really hearing the reply, I’m talking about having a real conversation … where one person talks and the other listens and then they respond directly to what has been said rather than simply take things off on a tangent that is either about them or away from a subject they feel uncomfortable with.

As I wrote here, good things can happen when you talk about bad … and we should try to remove the stigma of that and whilst I genuinely believe adland can contribute to it, it is nothing compared to what we can do on our own with our friends.

I’ve said it many times, we all have 3 sides … personal, professional and private … and if you think you can really know someone without knowing bits of every side, then the person you’re kidding the most is yourself.

It’s a great pleasure to be back in Sydney and I’m genuinely excited about the Communication Circus, but all that takes second place to the fact this trip has reminded me that friendship needs more than just interaction, but connection.