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


Rejoice …
March 29, 2011, 12:01 am
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… I’m away so go and do something useful instead.

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Revenge Never Tasted So Sweet …
March 28, 2011, 7:00 pm
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Created by my wife so I can give them to someone who really, really deserved them.

Pretty succinct and to the point.

Real turd-look icing.

[But fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on your outlook – it doesn’t taste like it]

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I’m trying to convince Jill to turn these into a regular ‘Andy Collection’ but she’s not so sure they’d be a huge market for them in China. Pah!

Still, the essence of the story is don’t mess with me or you’ll get errrrrm, some tasty but purposefully offensive looking cupcakes.

That’s not so tough is it! Damn my Italian heritage!



Why Some Planners Need To Remember We Deal In Humans, Not Robots.
March 28, 2011, 6:16 am
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So tomorrow I head off to Seattle for my date with Microsoft.

Because of that, I don’t think I’ll be doing any posting for the next few days – which means regardless of what you think of Windows, VISTA or Windows 7, you have something to thank Bill Gates for.

To stop you feeling too pleased with yourself, I’m going to leave you with one of my overlong, over-rambly posts.

So I recently got asked to name the single most important thing I think a planner needs, to be able to do their job properly.

The sad thing is, when I told them, they looked at me with surprise … you see it wasn’t things like ‘curiosity’, ‘intelligence’ or ‘creativity’ [though they are all obviously quite important] it was empathy.

I must admit, I am getting a bit fed up how many planners diss human insight.

They act like it’s old hat, irrelevant or serves no purpose whatsoever when it’s anything but.

While I am a big believer that insights can – and should – come from many different places and perspectives, I still firmly believe that understanding what’s truly going on in your audiences heads and hearts is still the best way to drive the biggest change.

Before I go on, I should clarify something …

Understanding society doesn’t mean you simply do things that addresses what they want or think … god no … great brands have a point of view and a set of values that they stick to, that defines what they do and how they do it and if they gave those up, then they’re basically chasing success rather than attracting it.

That said, if you truly understand what is happening in people’s lives – not just in terms of how they interact with a particular brand or category, but in the wider aspects of their life – then new opportunities to be truly creative and meaningful will present themselves and suddenly you move from creating ads to creating fate.

And this is where empathy comes in.

I am aghast at how few planners get people beyond the sort of commentary you’d expect from a robot.

The questions they ask, the views they feedback … cold, one dimensional and lacking in any understanding of the issues, views and situations that are driving it.

Sure, on one level human beings are very similar … we all tend to have 2 arms, legs and eyes and have emotions that cover everything from eating to shitting … but to think that is all you need to know, or that all people’s thoughts and frames or reference are the same is both despicable and offensive.

Too many people are only focused on hearing what people say rather than feeling it – and yet the ability to genuinely understand the situations, issues and complexities that forge many of societies decisions is what turns communication from being a moment of attention into something that has much deeper meaning and value and that is why a planner who can ‘connect’ to people on a deeper level is far more valuable to me than a planner who can simply tell me what the latest trend is with a particular group of people.

Don’t get me wrong, that sort of stuff is important to … but I genuinely believe the greatest way to make a powerful and interesting difference – to brands & society – is to understand WHY things happen, not just WHAT and the only way you can really get that is to have empathy not just curiosity.
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Don’t forget to enter Northern’s awesome A[P]SOTW assignment!



A[P]SOTW Assignment …
March 26, 2011, 6:00 am
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The ridiculously clever Northern Planner/Groper [delete as appropriate] has just put up a fantastic challenge for the next A[P]SOTW.

It all revolves around developing a cultural strategy for King Of Shaves … which is not only a brilliant task, but ensures you’ll end up knowing what one of the most over-used terms in adland really means, not to mention what it can really achieve.

His pre-assignment notes are an education in themselves, so take it a step further and have a go. Have fun and good luck.

PS: If you don’t know what A[P]SOTW is, there’s a bunch of links here.

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When You Are Stuck In A Corner …
March 25, 2011, 6:26 am
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So on Saturday it’s Earth Hour.

In a very short period of time, it’s become an established ‘event’ and given the tragic situation going on in Japan at the moment, it’s possibly going to be even more relevant this year than before.

But is it actually doing anything?

I don’t want to piss on it because any positive effect is a good effect, but my issue is that awareness isn’t the problem, it’s sustained behavioural change that’s needed and getting people to switch stuff off for a single hour a year just isn’t creating the cultural shift that’s needed on a long-term level.

What’s the answer?

Well that’s where I’m a fucking ass because I haven’t got one, but with no significant slow down of environmental change and an ever-increasing demand for various forms of energy, something drastic is going to have to happen because if people think they are making a major difference by turning their lights off for 60 minutes – out of a possible 525,000 plus minutes per year – then they are seriously deluded.

As I said, I don’t want to totally piss on it because [1] it’s made a statement and [2] it was allegedly created by an ad agency however as I’ve always contended, awareness doesn’t count for much if it doesn’t motivate the change in behaviour that’s called on which is why in an effectiveness award, I’d be more inclined to say it failed than passed.

Am I harsh?

Maybe … but the issue I’ve had with adland is that they are far too happy just ‘advertising the problem’ when what we should be doing – if only to justify our fees’ – is to try and ‘change the outcome’.

Now of course that is much harder to do, but I know there are a bunch of awesome brains in this industry who could/do come up with stuff that can genuinely create change rather than just create ads however until we stop going for the path of least resistance [or should I say easier fee justification, even though my approach is actually more profitable because you can charge a royalty for the idea as well as the usual fees to make the communication that promotes the idea] we will continue to be viewed as the cockroaches of commerce, and that bothers me a lot because done correctly, we can make a much bigger difference to people and society than many other industries.

But back to the point.

I think the people at Earth Hour have come to the same conclusion as me that to make a major difference, they need to make people change their attitudes longterm, not just their house lighting for one hour.

And why do I think that, because this is their new ‘logo’ …

Yep, they’ve added a fucking ‘+’ sign.

A FUCKING PLUS SIGN!

Oh yes, that’ll do it … global attitudinal change all by adding a simple symbol.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that completely and utterly undermines their cred.

It’s lazy, cheap and fails to credit the global population with any sense of intelligence.

The thing is, they could have done it differently.

They’re called EARTH HOUR, not ANNUAL EARTH HOUR so they could simply have created more events throughout the year to encourage a longer-term change in attitude and behaviour.

OK, so the cost of promoting that might be high, but there are other ways from consecutive Earth Hour’s – say 8pm, 9pm, 10pm – to simply making 8pm every Saturday a ‘lights out’ period, but to be honest there are a whole bunch of other methods that are way more likely to instigate change than putting a ‘+ sign’ on a fucking ad.

While any change is positive, we should always be focused on trying to achieve the ultimate goal and if we’re satisfied by simply raising awareness [though there are occasions when that is all that is needed, but certainly not as often as that ‘rationale’ is used by certain agencies and companies] or a momentary change of behaviour, then I think we’re selling ourselves short and not showing how brilliant – and collaborative – we can be.



Music To Say Goodbye To …
March 24, 2011, 6:11 am
Filed under: Comment

WARNING:

If you are on prozac, you might want to pop another pill before you read this post.

If you’re not, you might want to hide all the knives before you read any more.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

I don’t know why, but the thought of dying is never far away from my consciousness.

That sounds very depressing but for me it’s actually quite good because the older I get, the more new things I discover that I want to learn, try and accomplish and the specter of time keeps me on my toes and makes me get on with stuff.

I know … I know … it all sounds weird, maybe it’s because of this or maybe it’s just because I’m a depressing fart – who knows – however I’m going to take things even lower a notch by talking about my funeral.

Feeling miserable yet?

Tough!

So, a while back – when I was in Sydney – I made a presentation about generalists versus specialists.

The basic premise of my argument was that we are continually told by society and business to be known – or defined – by one single thing, however the people who seemingly make the biggest impression on society are often impossible to be defined in such a way.

Take Richard Branson.

Is he a …

Genius?
Dictator?
Inventor?
Visionary?
Businessman?
Entrepreneur?

… the reality he is probably all those things and more, and so to only define him singularly is not only wrong, but disrespectful.

I’ve told this story before, but my first boss once asked me to say what I loved the most about my Mum and then – just before I opened my gob – he added that if I could, she’d probably be upset because she’d hope she would be impacting me in many ways.

He was right and she has.

Which leads to my uber-depressing bit.

Music.

Or more precisely, the music I want played at my funeral.

I am not a religious person so when I die, I doubt it’s going to be some classic ‘church’ thing – and that’s good, because I don’t want hymns, I want music I like. The thing is – following on from the generalist/specialist theme – if I was told I could only have one song to represent me, I think I’d have a meltdown because while some people can pull it off [an old colleague of mine had ‘Wild Thing’ at his funeral and it was the most apt song for him ever made, RIP Paul] I honestly don’t think I could.

That is not because I’m saying I’m anything special, I’m just complicated I guess.

Which leads to the question, if I had to choose 3 or 4 songs at my funeral … 3 or 4 songs that meant a lot to me … 3 or 4 songs that allowed people to get a final glimpse of who I am and what I loved … what would they be?

As I said, this is not meant to be sad, I’m just interested – and if it bothers you a lot, think of it as if you’re reading what I’d choose if I was on ‘Desert Island Discs’.

The thing is I LOVE music … and yes, Queen is definitely music … however there’s so many pieces that mean something to me that the thought of getting it down to 3 or 4 tracks is incredibly difficult.

Then there’s the issue of whether I’d want people to feel happy or sad.

As much as I like the idea of the 3 people at my funeral having a positive experience [putting aside the fact that me being dead might be the happiest news they’ve had in decades] I have to say there is a part of me that wants every fucker in the place to be as depressed as can be and basically make them feel sadder than sad that I’ve gone.

The only song I definitely know I want played is Queen’s ‘Melancholy Blues‘.

Yes it’s depressing – but it’s not why I want that song, it’s because I love it – I love it’s simple, late-night, smoky little bar feel and without doubt, that makes the final cut.

The other song that is a distinct possibility is Whitesnake’s ‘We Wish You Well‘.

Again, it’s a bit depressing – but that’s not why I want it either.

On one hand I like the fact the lyrics are basically what I would like to say to everyone who is left behind, however the main reason is because it has the most naff 80’s rocktastic chorus you’ve ever heard and I know it would make people smile because it would remind them I liked some pap in my time.

Still not sure about the other song.

At the moment Jet’s ‘Lazy Gun‘, Prince’s ‘Purple Rain‘, Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown‘ and Van Halen’s ‘Jump‘ are all in consideration.

Jet – simply because it will make you nod your head whether you like it or not, Prince because I absolutely adore that song and Europe/Van Halen just because they’re both completely and utterly ridiculous and even though I’m not exactly the biggest fan of either of those songs – and they certainly don’t have any major significance in my life – I do find the idea of them played at a funeral very, very funny.

There is another option which is Opera singer Tebaldi’s version of ‘O Mio Babbino Caro‘ – simply because that’s something that we had played at my Dad’s funeral – however it’s all a bit of a minefield at the moment so in reality, I have no idea what will fill those other 1 or 2 places by the time the time comes.

Which I do hope is a bloody long way away I should add.

So to wrap up – and basically spread the misery – if you had to choose 3 or 4 songs for your funeral that you would like to be defined by … what would they be and what message would you hope the people at your service would get from them?

Go on, humour me and I promise after this I’ll try and be a bit more positive for tomorrow.
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PS: This post was not paid for by the manufacturers of Prozac, but I might try and hit them for a kickback because their sales are definitely going to be going up after this.



Eyes Wide Open …
March 23, 2011, 6:13 am
Filed under: Comment

One of the things that always surprises me is how often people go into a meeting without any background information on the person they’re seeing.

I’m not just talking about their professional history, but also their personal beliefs, interests and views.

At cynic, prior to meeting any new client/colleague, we used to send a “getting to know you” questionaire that asked such things as:

Favourite film?
Most overrated film?

Favourite book?
What was the last book you read?

Favourite comedian?

Favourite music?
Favourite sport/team?

Favourite television show?
Program you feel sick about as soon as you hear the theme song?

Best meal you’ve ever had?
What food makes you ill?

Favourite memory?
What is your guilty passion?

Favourite gadget?
Your kids favourite toy?

Favourite brand?
Favourite ad?

Note nothing about their work or professional life, all about them.

What’s amazing is how open people were to answering this stuff.

Sure, some obviously gave responses that were designed to make them look clever/witty/sophisticated, but in the main, they were pretty honest with their answers and what that allowed us to do was not only get a better take on who they were, but also what made them tick.

You see while the questions were fairly broad, they had been designed [the ones above are only meant as a taste of what we did, they’re not the actual, final list] to give us a better idea of how to approach working with them.

Depending on their answers, we would know whether they were more functional or a more emotional kind of person.

We’d get an idea if they were favoured more image based, fact orientated or storyline focused communication.

We’d understand if they were a follower of more traditional values or had a more liberal view of the World.

We’d find out if they were egotists or open to learning.

In short, we would have a bunch of information that allowed us know what buttons of theirs we had to press to increase the odds of us getting the ideas/work we believed in most, to get through – even if on first impression, they flied in the face of what they normally went for – and whilst it didn’t always work, it definitely helped us forge better relations with our clients and so the next time you go in to a meeting, don’t think you’re going to be able to dazzle them with your wit, charm, intelligence and good looks … put in a bit of homework and before you know it, you might find you’re being given opportunities – or getting things approved – that you thought would never happen.

This isn’t about being sycophantic or only doing what the client wants, it’s about building trust … and while that ultimately takes time to achieve properly [not to mention a continuous run of positive interactions] … knowing how to understand, respond and communicate to your client [to get the best possible outcome] ultimately collapses the time it takes for that to happen and speeds up the process to do the things – or get the opportunities – you are the most excited by.