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Courtesy of another of my wife’s handmade masterpieces, here’s to the happy couple.
And here’s to all the envious jolly foreigners. Especially the frogs.
Enjoy, especially as it will all end in bitter tears within 3 years, Possibly.
[Obviously I mean the royal marriage, not the cake or the tango ad … we all know they definitely have a much earlier ‘best before’ date]
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A long time ago, in a land far away, I was given a reference that stated:
“Robert is driven by hate, but in a good way”.
Now on first impressions, it may appear that the person who said this was an idiot – but he wasn’t, he was a genius.
You see in one single line, he proved he ‘got me’.
While I don’t deny that I can be – and have pretty much always been – a cynical, opinionated and gutter-mouthed shit … the reality is that I am only like that because I hate it when people/companies get treated – or represented – unfairly and so when someone starts taking the piss, I start getting all piss and vinegar.
Now I appreciate this implies I think my judgement is the be-all and end-all … and whilst I’d love to think that’s the case, I know that couldn’t be further from the truth … however when you get companies like GREY treating Asia like this, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out they need a good kicking.
Anyway, the reason for his comment was because he knew my “issues” would ensure I’d do all I could to help our clients be the better than they thought they could be … which meant he got happier clients, more money and better platforms for his creative guys to weave their magic on.
However, despite this person having an incredible influence on my career, the person who probably had the most was a guy I’ll refer to as BS.
Basically I hated BS.
Sure he was smart and clever, but his self-serving attitude and eagerness to put others down [in a bid to make him look good in client and bosses eyes] made me sick.
He genuinely thought he was a rockstar – which he expressed by doing all he could to act, sound & look like the lead singer of a rather well known, full of their own self fucking importance rock band.
He thought he was better than everyone at everything.
Planning? Everyone is beneath him.
Creative? He is on par with the best of the best.
Management? He could do it with his eyes closed.
And while he was genuinely a good planner, his creative and management ability was an embarrassment – though he neither saw it or acknowledged it, mainly because he preferred to spend his time getting pissed with whichever creative was the current ‘superstar’ of the day and belittling anyone who dared do anything good that he had nothing to do with.
I remember he once asked for my comments on a paper he’d written for one of our clients.
I say ‘he asked for my comments’ but what he actually wanted was my fawning.
Well I didn’t play to the script because whilst it was genuinely well written [he was/is a fantastic writer] what he said was basically exactly the same as they were already doing and I told him so.
Next thing I know, he’s telling management ‘I don’t get it’ and I would probably be better being let go.
Seriously, he wanted to get me sacked just because I said something he’d written wasn’t as good as he thought it was.
Anyway, it all sorted itself out because within weeks he left – taking a massive gig at an agency that fell for his big talking, best mate drinking act … and I have to say, without him, we blossomed.
No longer were we being kept out of meetings … belittled … ignored …
No longer were our bosses being fobbed off with half truths or excuses …
No longer were our clients being presented with stuff that they’d either seen before or just felt was plain wrong …
As I said, the tragedy was he was a great brain … someone who could have made amazing things happen … but instead, his ego and arrogance took over and so all he left behind was mess and mayhem.
But like most things, there was a silver lining.
You see, I hated the way he treated me and my colleagues.
I hated how he had tried to get me sacked over nothing.
I hated how he achieved his success by being booze buddies with influential people.
I hated how anyone who didn’t agree with him was labelled an ‘idiot’ or ‘old school’.
I hated how he was constantly moving higher and higher despite doing having no work associated with his name.
And I took all that hate and worked my ass off.
I took on more work, more responsibility and more chances because I needed to show him I was worthy of his respect.
I know … I know … I shouldn’t have cared, but I did … not because I regarded him as someone I looked up to, but because he was someone I wanted to make eat his words.
Yes it was pathetic … yes it was pure and utter pettiness and revenge … but you know what, it did a lot for me because as I followed his career and saw he was getting ‘found out’ by more and more companies, it made me work harder because I wanted to get to that point where our careers would pass … and whilst I’d never actually say something to him [if only for the fact he’d then say I owed whatever I’d achieved to him. And mean it] the fact is my anger towards him probably drove me more in my career than any desire to be half decent at what I do.
I know it all sounds like some bad 1980’s Hollywood sports movie – and underneath it all, I am sad a person with more talent than I’d ever have has pissed it all away literally and metaphorically – but I guess what I’m saying is that as much as we all need people to encourage us and believe in, don’t underestimate the importance of also having someone you want to beat.
Filed under: Comment
I get a bit pissed off at how snobby so many in adland are.
There’s a big group of people who regard anything other than double page spreads and television ads as beneath them.
They tend to be the same people who regard point-of-sale as a bunch of starbursts and promotions as the sort of work only suitable for village idiots.
Let’s get to the point … mainstream communication can only do so much.
Sure, there are times it can get someone to react and buy … but that is the exception rather than the rule.
Things like point of sale and promotions might seem painful, but they play an important and integral part of the sales process and to ignore them – or worse, disregard them – basically demonstrates to the client that our interest in their business goals are not nearly as high a priority as we claim they are.
The thing is, if done well, point of sale and promotions can be the foundation for the most interesting and effective part of the creative process as we’ve seen with such things as Tesco’s ‘Computers For School’ and Queensland’s ‘Best Job In The World’ promotions.
Then there’s sampling.
If there’s one thing that drives me nuts, it’s how agencies – and brands – approach their ‘sampling’ campaigns.
I remember once being handed a loaf of bread by some Australian company at 11 o’clock in the morning on a weekday.
A loaf of bread.
What the fuck did they think I was going to do with it, stop right there and then and start eating it?
All they had to do was turn the bread into some sandwiches and I might have walked away feeling more positive about the experience … but instead, by handing me a whole loaf, I went away thinking they were a bunch of twats who had no appreciation of the people they were trying to target.
Then there was the time a bank representative stopped me in the street and told me that if I agreed to have one of their mortgage advisors come to my house and give me a quote, they’d – I kid you not – give me a balloon.
A fucking balloon.
They seemed genuinely perplexed when I pointed out that any bank who thinks a balloon will  give people a positive impression of their financial organisation and  attract the right sort of customer … were fucking idiots.
While handing out free stuff may be be an easy way to get people to ‘try’ your product, it’s very important to remember how you offer it them plays a very significant part in both magnifying the experience and creating a positive frame of reference … and that’s why everyone in adland shouldn’t view ‘below-the-line’ campaigns or agencies as beneath them, because often they provide us with the information that tells us most about what will change consumers behaviour – at least in certain environments or situations – which is possibly why the best agency that ever existed – HHCL – included this discipline in their creative approach rather than turning their back on it.
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I am astounded at how many planners, agencies and clients think their competitors are only the ones who operate within their category – and then regard one above all others.
Coke vs Pepsi.
Microsoft vs Apple.
McDonalds vs Burger King.
Now of course I can understand why they would do this, hell, I can even understand the benefits of creating a war – both from a creative and a ‘get the masses attention like a Blur vs Oasis’ standpoint – however in my experience, the best thing to do is not look at who you view as a competitor, but identify who looks at you as a competitor.
Now on first impression you might think they’re one and the same … but they’re not … you see, if you categorise a competitor as anyone who wishes to either take away your revenue or replace your purpose it opens up the options to a whole new level.
A real life example.
Listerine – the mouthwash specialists – were the gods of mouthwash.
For years they regarded other mouthwash brands as the key ones to watch … however they were also conscious that the major oral care brands [ie: Colgate, Macleans, Oral B etc] could easily go into their space so they always ensured they knew what was going on, just in case.
Then one day – out of nowhere – Wrigley’s repositioned their chewing gum from ‘taste/fresh breath’ to ‘dental hygiene’ and almost overnight, the Listerine brand suffered sales decline.
Now I appreciate that back then, a chewing gum brand might have been viewed as an unlikely competitor, however Wrigley’s obviously didn’t think that way and so whilst it might be easy to disregard certain categories from your competitive focus, if you understand the deeper motivations and needs of your clients audience, you might understand that a used car could be as big a competitor to Lonely Planet and their desire to get young guys to go backpacking as a cheap airline or a competitive travel guide and the latest edition of Call Of Duty could be more of a threat to Macca’s quarterly revenue as Burger King and Subway combined.
So next time you are asked to do a competitive review, don’t look at who your client views as a competitor, turn it on it’s head.
Filed under: Comment
First of all ‘happy birthday’ to Mr Vulgar who turns 427 today.
He’s currently doing his best Keith Richards attempt somewhere in Mauritius so feel free to take the piss.
Right, now that’s over with, let’s get to the point shall we?
So if you’re a planner who has at least 5 years experience in Asia and are interested in trying something new, interesting and mentally exciting at W+K Shanghai, please do the following:
1/ Compile your resume including some examples of your work that includes the following:
[ii] Insight/Tension Point
[iv] What did you contribute to the actual work
2/ Write a brief [based on whatever format you want as long as it’s no more than 2 pages long, uses size 12 font and does what you think a brief should do] based on the following scenario …
“Canon China are synonymous with top quality camera and lenses and while the brand has high awareness and had continual growth – especially in the DSLR range – their business is under increasing pressure from competitive brands and camera phones.
One of the areas Canon feel can drive their brand and profit is their range of professional camera lenses – however they have identified very few people purchase additional lenses once they’ve bought their main camera equipment.
Despite this, Canon want to encourage camera enthusiasts to purchase at least one additional lens post-main camera purchase and have a budget of approx US$500,000 to do this.”
Please note, this brief has been left purposefully ambiguous for a reason … so use it, embrace it, evolve it as you feel fit.
[PS: Canon has been used purely for indulgent reasons, don’t read into it too much]
3/ Answer this question:
“If you could spend US$1000 on your Mum, what would you buy and why?”
Just so you know, the brief I’ve put out to some of the headhunters is the following:
I want someone who can work without masses of supervision, has experience working with high level clients across a bunch of disciplines & categories, can negotiate their way around various client protocols and processes and still get to and inspire great ideas. They should be creative, industrious, interesting, energetic and empathetic [that is especially important] can drive work/presentations/meetings and have colleagues, clients & the tea lady think, “fuck me they were good, we’ve got to always have them in the meeting”.
If you’re still interested, you can email me here …
Final thing, as much as I am very open to considering people who have not worked in adland before, it’s vital you have worked in Asia for at least 5 years so if you haven’t, please don’t waste your time – unlike Hollywood, there won’t be a change of mind. Sorry.
If that’s not put you off, get in touch.
Filed under: Comment
So I was at dinner last week and while I was waiting for the table, I looked across the room and saw this:
Yep, 3 kids, all playing games on various Apple products … iTouch, iPhone and iPad or as I prefer to call them, the electronic babysitters.
Now whilst I appreciate anything that keeps a kid quiet could be viewed as a good thing, when I saw the family act in exactly the same way when they were sitting at the table and eating, I ended up feeling pretty sad.
The thing is, meal time is a very important time … and in Asia, it’s always been a pivotal family moment where literally people get together, talk and connect … however it seems to be shifting and people now classify being in the same vicinity as family time rather than literally interacting and sharing stuff.
Now it’s all very easy to criticise, especially as I don’t have kids – but this attitude of convenience is prevailing everywhere which is why I think the photo is a great metaphor for what is currently wrong with planning.
As I’ve said countless times, planning is an outdoor job, not an indoor.
It’s about going out and meeting people rather than sitting behind your desk and reading reports off the internet.
Even if you are in the office, it’s about interacting with colleagues or – as every planner should have – a range of ‘informants’ from a range of industries and categories that can bridge the gap between passive and active engagement.
As I said earlier in the week, I have just been judging a shitload of effectiveness papers and the level of ‘insight’ that I saw was tragic.
Without doubt, I would say 99% of them came from a report rather than an experience … a client document rather than a conversation … a google search rather than exploration …
Planning is a wonderful job with an important role, but if you just sit there looking for convenient answers to complicated problems, you’re part of the problem not the solution and whilst we all have shitloads of work to do [yes, even me] not exposing yourself to ‘real life influence and learning’ is mental so with that in mind – and assuming you have no legs and are chained to your desk – here are 5 tips to get a broader understanding of what is going on out there in the real World … things that, if used right, could help you get to a better place than simply rehashing cliched statements based on a report from your client, peers or desk research.
1/ Magazine Promiscuity.
From trash to high-brow … read a different magazine a week.
In a perfect World, you’d read lots … but at the very least, reading a completely different magazine each week will expose you to a range of stuff from interesting to downright weird.
Oh, and make sure you include the trashy shit … because as much as it might offend you, a fuckload of people read it and our job is to understand the masses, not judge them.
2/ Develop And Nurture Informants.
I am a huge believer in informants. The more the merrier.
They should absolutely NOT come from the industry, they should be people who have a connection to ‘real life’ and be in a position to be able to voice an opinion because of their position.
My current range of informants includes teachers, police officers [fraud squad], journalists, taxi drivers, depression councilors, OAP’s, casino managers, Mums and Dad’s, retail assistants, talkback hosts, magazine editors and my beloved [from a research perspective only] prostitutes, to name but a few.
It may seem difficult to get, but it really isn’t … it just requires a pleasant tone, a genuine interest to hear what they have to say and maybe the odd lunch every now and then.
3/ Use Your Mouth & Ears.
Talk to people.
Lots of people.
It doesn’t matter what they do or where they do it … asking how they are going, how business is, best/worst moments, their family life can give you hints of what might be going on underneath the illusionary wall we all put up around ourselves.
This is why talking to friends and family can be good – or at least observing what they do & say. I’m not suggesting these people will be a representation of the rest of the World, but if they’re not associated with adland [bar being connected to you] you might find they see more about what is going on than you’d imagine.
4/ Watch The News. Read The News.
Sure the news is often focused on depressing issues – but they’re issues that infiltrate society and affect how many people think, act and behave.
If you don’t know what is going on in your community, country and World, you’re basically disconnecting yourself from a major influencer of your audience and if you’re willing to do that, you’re either a genius or an idiot.
Read local rags to national newspapers … and read them all, not just the sports pages or the front cover … read every part of them. And yes, that includes the classifieds … you can learn a lot from the volume of classifieds to the services they’re offering.
Are there lots of job ads and house sales or not many? Are you seeing the same thing promoted week in, week out or is it a one off.
Are you seeing more feel good stories or more views against a particular segment.
Don’t just look at the news, read it and understand it.
AND DON’T DO IT ON YOUR COMPUTER!
5/ Go For Regular Walks.
OK, so I said this was if you were attached to your desk, but the simple act of going for a walk and taking a few turns down streets and paths you don’t normally go down is amazingly valuable.
Look in the shop windows … look how people are dressed … check out the ads that surround them …
Are the streets clean or dirty … who do you see walking around: young, old, mothers … are there lots of pets and if so, what sort and size …
Again, I’m not suggesting you will get the answers to life by doing this, but if you open your eyes to what is around you, you’d be surprised – over a bit of time – the number of hints and hunches you could find that may, just may, give you a view into your audience that no brand is speaking to or has even seen.
Now I am not saying these 5 tips are going to suddenly make your planning – and the work that comes from your planning – astounding, at the end of the day, it still relies on your ability to ‘see and read’ what’s going on, however if your currently methodology in how you approach your job is basically to rely on your computer, then it will make a World of difference, if only for the fact that you’ll understand what’s really going on in life rather than the instant, convenient response that technology has a habit of fooling you into believing.
Filed under: Comment
So after taking the piss out of the arrogance and delusion many Western brands/countries have towards Asian counterparts, it’s nice to see one Western brand that is getting it right and it’s no other than Queenie.
No, I don’t mean the group Freddie Mercury sang for, I mean Lizzie, the real Royal highness.
Back in June I took Jill to Windsor Castle.
There’s a bunch of reasons for it, all that prove I’m a bloody saint, but in the interests of time [and boredom] I’ll skip past them.
Anyway, after going through the medieval equivalent of IKEA, I finally [and thankfully] got to the end where I saw this …
Yes, it’s lots and lots of Windsor Castle books but in a variety of languages.
Now you may think this is obvious given the amount of foreigners that visit the castle each and every day – and it is – which makes it even more mental that so many brands around the World turn their back on making their foreign audience welcome by doing all the can to say ‘we’ve got your money, now stay away’.
She might not have the Empire she once had [and Australia and Canada are hardly worth being happy about having] but in terms of maximising her brand appreciation, relevance and profit, she’s still a great ruler.