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

Tips From A Fraud …
July 18, 2011, 6:18 am
Filed under: Comment

I have a fancy job title.

Head of planning.

To be honest, just typing it makes me feel weird.

I’m not saying that to be humble, I mean it.

Part of that is because I still think I’m 25 … which is pathetic given I’m 41, but I really do … the other part is that all the heads of planning I know are super smart, unbelievably wise and pretty much all educated to within an inch of their life.

That doesn’t mean I think I’m thick and shit … I think I have some skills … however, compared to the people I look up to and learn from, I feel a total fraud.

But here’s the thing, I think that has helped me be a better planner … not because I’ve learnt to fake it, but because it’s made me think of ways to get around it.

1/ I don’t feel an inherent need to ‘have the answer’ to every question. I probably will have a point of view or a starting point for consideration, but I’m very happy to say “I don’t know, I’ll look into it and get back to you”.

2/ I choose to hear other people’s views before I give my own. Not because I am considerate, but because it helps me define my viewpoint before making a decision.

3/ I actively forge closer relationships with clients – and colleagues – because it helps me understand who they are, what they want and how best to work with them and get the best out of them.

4/ I love to learn from people with different backgrounds. Not because I want to try and look clever, but because I know it might help me in the future.

5/ I look for breadth of information – as well as depth – because I never take it for granted a client will accept my/our viewpoint just because we’re their agency planners.

6/ I read as many ad award books as I can. Not so I can say “that’s been done before”, but so I can use references to help express feelings or moods to my creative colleagues.

7/ I like to hire people who are smarter than me – or with experience, will be smarter than me – because they will teach me stuff and keep me fresh. Or at least fresher.

8/ I started a company. Not just because I needed a job [which I did] but because it helped me understand how to better understand the issues and concerns clients go through when making a decision.

9/ I talk very openly about my fucked-up feelings and thoughts because I know I can never truly capture what I want to say in the written word.

10/ I like to collaborate because – to sort-of quote Nigel Bogle – I know I’m not as good as all of us.

I have no idea if any of these tips will be of any use to you, probably because you’re one of the millions of planners – let alone heads of planning – who are miles better than I could ever hope to be, however if you’re one of those people who live in fear that you might be ‘found out’ for not being as good as you think you should be, then may I suggest you embrace your fears and weaknesses because it will do more for your career than pretending you don’t have them.

Puppet Or Puppet Master?
July 15, 2011, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

When I was young I wanted to be a Policeman.

I wanted to be a policeman more than anything else in the World.

I knew everything about it … from height requirements to standards of pay.

Nothing was going to make me happy unless I became a copper.

And then I got a guitar.

Despite destroying every song I attempted to play, I wanted to be a rock star.

I wanted to be a rockstar more than anything else in the World.

I joined bands. I recorded in studios. I played hundreds of gigs and I blew an obscene amount of cash on more guitars and amps than the average band take on a World tour

And despite all that, my parents supported my ambitions every step of the way.

That doesn’t mean they agreed with all the choices I made – they still would have preferred me to go into law and were very vocal when they felt I was about to do something utterly stupid – but they had the attitude that it was better to live a life rather than a lifestyle and ultimately, they wanted what made me happy rather than them.

Which is handy, as I went into advertising.

The reason I write this is because a couple of weeks ago, the wonderful Lauren sent me a link to something that kind-of reflects the encouragement I received from my parents.

If you can’t read it properly, go here.

The thing I love about it – apart from being brilliantly written and in the perfect tone of the wonderful Viz – is that it’s not about giving people false belief or ridiculous promises … and it’s certainly not about making individuals think they’re destined for success or better than anyone else … it’s simply about encouraging people to not give up on the things that excite them simply because someone else says “it’s difficult” or “stupid”.

Chasing passions plays a significant role in the evolution of society and humanity.

If all we did were the things that were generally deemed ‘sensible’, we’d never grow or develop or try new things … so while I accept [as NP pointed out on an earlier post I wrote] there’s nothing sadder than “smug idiots living in the future, rather than living in the now” and “twentysomethings who have wasted opportunities in the pursuit of big positions and salaries”, it’s also important that we don’t stop people pursuing their curiosity and passions simply because it doesn’t meet with popular consensus … something way too many people in adland like to curb with their fixed processes and propriety tools.

Is Collaboration A Fairy Tale?
July 14, 2011, 6:05 am
Filed under: Comment

For years I’ve heard people and companies talk about the importance and power of collaboration.

And so they should, because when it’s done right, it can be amazingly beneficial … except in my experience, the amount of people and companies who are doing it right is smaller than Ronnie Corbett’s midget twin brother.

[I know many of you won’t know who Ronnie Corbett is, but you’ll just have to accept he is an appropriate metaphor]

What do I mean?

Well there seems to be this attitude that collaboration simply means having people from 2 or more different companies, in the same meeting, working on the same problem.

Now on first impression, that might sound like the perfect example of collaboration, however unless the companies present have an appreciation of what the others can bring to the table – and openly and willingly invite that to happen – its nothing more than a room crammed with a bunch of people.

Too often I’ve seen what has been deemed as collaboration turn into nothing more than a war of pettiness – with companies either [1] trying to fuck over every other company present in the meeting or [2] waiting for one agency to stop talking so they can say whatever they want to rant about, which more often than not, either has sly digs at the other agencies present or nothing to do with what has just been said.

There are many reasons for this – from financial to ego – which is why true collaboration can only occur when the people in involved appreciate a broader spectrum of disciplines than just their own.

In short, only when they know what they can’t do can the whole process move forward with the potential it can offer which is why agencies have an obligation to their staff to teach them breadth as well as depth and clients need to appreciate in the dog-eat-dog environment they’ve actively created, they’re not going to get the best results until they treat all their partners with the respect, openness and remuneration they deserve.

The Spirit Of Fuckwitism …
July 13, 2011, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment, Crap Campaigns In History

I’ve worked on airline business pretty much all my career.

Actually, I’ve worked on one airline business pretty much all my career, Virgin Atlantic.

Now while I appreciate they’re different to most – if not all – the ‘established’ airline carriers, there are some things that are common across all – and one of those is to never, ever, Ever, EVER talk about safety in your comms.

Safety is a major no go.

Apart from the fact it’s a pre-requisite for all airline travel, the last thing you want to do is put any seed of doubt in the passengers mind.

Hell, I once got my knuckles rapped for jokingly suggesting the following for VA:

“Qantas are the safest airline in the World which means statistically, they are the most likely to have the next big crash”.

OK, so it was [1] statistically incorrect and [2] pretty evil … but even as a joke, it was frowned upon – that is how seriously they take this issue – which makes this new ad from one of the brands I love to hate – yes, Qantas – even more surprising …

Are they fucking mad???

“Because I can always trust them to get me home”.


Do people ever choose an airline because they only ‘sometimes’ trust them to get them home?

They’re stark raving fucking mad.

OK, so their safety record is the best in the World, but …

1/ They are opening the door on the biggest airline taboo there is.

2/ If they have a major incident in the near future, their whole ‘competitive advantage’ disappears forever.

3/ Qantas have quite a track record of accidents, it’s just they pay for all ‘airline damage’ themselves, rather than claiming on insurance, which keeps their record intact.

All that aside, it’s a fucking terrible ad – from idea, visual and everything inbetween.

Now I am sure some guy at Qantas will claim this is not an ad about ‘accidents’ but simply the assurance they’re a stable airline that will always fulfill it’s ticket obligations – especially prevalent given the amount of Australasian airlines that have gone bust leaving thousands of people stranded – but even if that is the case, it’s reads absolutely like a fear mongering ad … designed to appeal to people’s sense of survival rather than their desire for a positive flying experience.

Which is handy, as you don’t get that very often on Qantas either.

Sometimes its much better to leave things unsaid … let them hang in people’s collective consciousness and build additional benefits around them to give your brand an even stronger and more powerful proposition.

Of course this is dependent on a whole host of things, however where safety is concerned, opening the door on that issue could prove to end up being the Pandora’s box you wish you kept shut … especially when there has been so many recent headlines talking about Qantas’ recent run of bad luck and maintenance.

I don’t know who did this – or who approved it – but unless we see competitive airlines running lines like …

“We Have A Bad Safety Standard Record, But We’re Cheap”.


“We Are The Terrorists Airline Of Choice And We Don’t Bomb Our Own”.

… I’m guessing they may live to regret putting out this crass shit.

I certainly hope so.

Guess it proves my point from Circus, when I said …

“If Qantas is the spirit of Australia, then the whole country is fucked.”

The Importance Of Dreaming Bigger.
July 12, 2011, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So a couple of weeks ago I held – what I call – a pizza–dinner party with a bunch of my colleagues.

What that translates to is that I bought some pizza and booze and invited some guys from different departments in the agency to ‘have a chat’.

The things I’ll do to be liked eh!

OK, that’s not why I did it – which is handy, because let’s face it, if I did, we all know it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference – however while we were chatting, I asked them all what the highest job title they would like to attain in their career.

There were 2 things that I found especially interesting.

1/ Quite a few of the guys said “Founder” … which indicates their desire to one day start their own company, something I’d recommend to anyone.

2/ One person gave a title that – in all honesty – would be no stretch for them to achieve within a few years at all.

This second point fascinated me.

Here was a person who is very smart … conscientious … diligent … eager to learn … and yet they were aspiring to a job and title that they could probably achieve in a few years without any additional effort whatsoever.

It didn’t make sense.

However, with a bit of probing, I realised this ‘goal’ wasn’t because I’d completely misread them or they were lacking in ambition and drive, it was because of uber-practicality and a total lack of awareness of just how good they could be.

In some ways it was quite refreshing – especially when I meet so many people who seem to have a ridiculously out of proportion evaluation of their own capabilities and brilliance – however their answer bothered me, because whilst I have no right to dictate what a person should – or shouldn’t – be aspiring to, I didn’t want them to set their goals so low simply because they failed to grasp how good they could be.

I remember a few years ago being in a similar situation with another colleague.

They mentioned to me that they’d be interested in one day working overseas.

When I asked where they’d like to go … rather than giving me a place, they responded with, “You mean I have a choice?”

Sure in both cases they were young and relatively new to both the working life and the advertising industry … but also, in both cases, they were/are fiercely bright and passionate about doing things that interested them and had real meaning which is why I hope they end up in a far more interesting, exciting and challenging place than they originally thought they were capable of reaching.

But here’s the thing, they needed to hear it.

They needed to know they were clever and capable of taking control of their own destiny … not in terms of moving higher up the advertising ladder, but in terms of wherever they ended up wanting to go … even if that ambition keeps evolving or changing.

This isn’t about being Paula Abdul and giving false hope or copious amounts of overpraise to all and sundry … it’s about letting people you feel have something special, understand that with hard work, good guidance and a bit of luck, you believe they could end up wherever they want to be – even places they never thought about.

I’ve written previously how I’d received this sort of support from both my parents and people I genuinely looked [and look] up to, so I can tell you first hand how much of a difference it can make [especially given a careers advice officer once said I should focus on a career in catering management!] so next time you spot someone who you think has that special something – especially if they don’t realise it themselves – make sure you tell them they have the right to dream bigger because you just might just find you can make more of a difference to how their life turns out than you could ever imagine.

Rejoice …
July 6, 2011, 6:30 am
Filed under: Comment

I’m traveling till next Monday.

To people in different continents, beware – I might pop in and pay you a visit.

It’s Not Copy, It’s Motivation …
July 5, 2011, 6:07 am
Filed under: Comment

I’ve talked before about people being too quick to say long copy doesn’t work – when the truth is, it’s bad long copy that doesn’t work.

Just like bad short copy.

Or bad headlines.

When you read words that capture the sprit of the time … the feelings held within … the desires wishing to be released … long copy – or any copy for that matter – ceases to be words on a page, but an emotion that envelops you and takes you to a better place … a place that makes you feel alive.

I wish I had that talent … I wish I could write like that … but I don’t, which is why when I’m writing a brief – on top of looking for as much stimulus as I can possibly find – I like to work and collaborate with copywriters, because in my experience they help me capture and communicate what I’m trying to say in a way that allows the reader to feel the words rather than just read them.

I say this because I’ve just come across a piece of writing that I copied down from a BBC Football pundit a couple of months ago.

It was just before one of the last games of the English Premier League was about to begin – a game between Manchester United and Chelsea – where the winner would basically be crowned the champion.

While I don’t support either team, the way this journalist captured the importance of the upcoming 90 minutes made me feel compelled to be a part of it …

I wanted to be part of the experience.

I wanted to know “I was there”.

I wanted to belong.

“These are the days we live for; the days that come as a gift from above.

Today, kids will fall in love with football for the first time and grown men and women will look upon the action free from the cynicism they encounter in everyday life.

Today, all of us will watch the game through the eyes of a child – with hope in our hearts and the sport we love, coursing through our veins.

After eight months of maneuvering, jostling, cruising clear at the top and lagging off the pace, it comes down to this … a 90-minute shootout at the Theatre of Dreams to decide who will be bestowed with glory and who, after such a sacrifice, will have ultimately fought in vain.”

Maybe you feel different, but every time I read it – and I mean every time – I feel excited and nervous at the same time.

I want to relive the moment … see what happens … experience the ups and downs.

In short, that bit of writing is up there with this …

Or what I believe is the advertising equivalent of Al Pacino’s speech …

Sure, they both are clips that have been delivered with tension, drama and emotion … however if you were to take the soundtrack away and simply read the words on a page, I think you’d still feel the power of what’s being said, which is what we should all be aiming for.

Planning isn’t about writing, but good writing makes planning [and everything that comes from it] better – so next time you have a brief, don’t just think about what you need people to know, think about what you need people to feel.