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


Reputation Empowerment …
July 31, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

As an industry, we love to claim ‘one mistake’ means your carefully crafted reputation is over.

But is it true?

I don’t know …

What I do know is that it’s an argument that has encouraged an incredible amount of companies to adopt a ‘zero tolerance to risk’, even if in many cases, the risk they are being asked to consider is unbelievably negligible.

The real issue is defining ‘what is a mistake’.

For many, it’s anything that can cause a negative view of their company to occur … even if in reality, very few companies even register in people’s consciousness, let alone are front of mind.

While it’s true a major incident can have long lasting, negative effect … even then it doesn’t mean your reputation will be destroyed forever.

The reality is people make mistakes.

All people.

And companies are made up of people so it’s perfectly natural for it to happen – the issue is [1] why it happened and [2] what you do after it’s happened.

The reason I say this is because Dave Luhr – one of W+K’s ubermen – once said something to me that I think adland needs to remember:

“Every piece of new business lets you redefine who you are”.

He’s right.

As an industry, we like to categorise agencies into buckets of creativity that seemingly never change and yet the opportunity to ‘fuck the system’ is there each and every day.

FCB can – in theory – become the new W+K.

BBH can – in theory – become the new GREY.

It’s all for the taking … or the losing … and that’s why I think, as I wrote ages ago, why BBH & W+K are consistently good, because they know their reputation is built on sand and if they’re to maintain it, they have to keep pushing for greatness.

Sure, the longer you maintain a good – or bad – run, the stronger the opinion people will have of you, but the key thing here is that contrary to popular belief, it’s rarely a state of permanency [unless you’ve done something really, utterly shit/brill – but mainly shit] and so regardless of how good – or bad – you may think you, your agency, your client might be, you have the power to change it or maintain. The rest is down to you.

PS: Despite what you may think, this post was not brought to you by the Oprah self-help book club. Though it bloody well should be.



Architectural Porn Or Dirty, Dirty Mind?
July 30, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Happy Monday!



An Inconvenient Interruption …
July 27, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

Following on from yesterdays post about intelligent – and not so intelligent – conmen, here’s a post about the complete opposite group: Cold Callers.

Some of you might not know this, but many years ago, I was a cold caller.

Sorry.

I’d just moved to Australia, needed a job and – for minimum wage – I became one of those annoying bastards who calls up random people trying to flog them stuff … except in my case, I was calling random businesses and my ‘product’ was a low cost, long distance phone line from APP.

I think I managed to stick it out for about 6 weeks before getting a job back in adland – for another 6 weeks in a media department [talk about from the frying pan into the fire] – however looking back, what I found interesting was there was no ‘script’ to speak to, it was all down to how you chose to interact with the person on the other end of the phone.

It shames me to say that I was quite good at it – though the real reason has far more to do with it actually being a decent offer at a time where the whole concept was new, rather than my gift of the gab – however I did realise that one of the best ways to not get the phone slammed down on you after a torrent of verbal abuse was to not pretend you were their friend, but to say upfront you’re trying to sell them something and that you just would like 3 minutes of their time before they can tell you “to go to hell”.

[I used to literally say “you can tell me to go to hell” and it was amazingly – and weirdly – well recieved, which highlights how people love the idea of being able to give ‘abuse without consequence’]

Anyway, since that experience, I’ve been sort-of intrigued by the whole cold calling methodology – especially when I continue to get such crap calls from call centers despite reading how they all have ‘amazing and tested systems’ for success – so I’ve decided to take the plunge and enroll in a cold calling course so I can find out once and for all if it’s all bollocks [check out the worst David Brent video of possibly all time] or a skill only the true masters can pass on.

So from next month, I’m going to be learning from this man …

I have no idea what will happen … I have no idea what/if I’ll learn … I have no idea how I’ll be able to actually ‘test’ my [alleged] new found skills, but if you start getting random phone calls from me, you’ll now know why.

Here goes absolutely nothing!



Do All Internet Scammers Think People Online Have Low Self Esteem …

I have a lot of respect for the criminal fraternity.

Well, not all of them, but definitely the conmen.

Maybe it’s because I admire their ingenuity.

Maybe it’s because I admire their balls.

Maybe it’s because they remind me of 90% of adland.

Whatever, the intelligent conman is someone to respect and learn from because they know far more about influencing human behaviour than pretty much every planner and researcher out there.

But somethings happened to their profession as of late – at least in regards to the low level internet scammer – because it seems they have decided to go the same way as much of the marketing fraternity and that is to try and appeal to people’s lowest common denominator: flattery.

Couple of points …

1. To be fair, I hear that the amount of revenue they manage to get out of people is still – on a global basis – in the hundreds of millions so their ‘technique’ can’t be all bad.

2. I appreciate most of mankind is flattery operated, so there’s method to the madness.

However what bothers me is that we now are seeing a decided lack of flair, imagination and sheer chutzpah.

Gone are the days where you were randomly contacted by some African General’s cousin who promised you untold millions for simply “helping them get their money out of their countries soon-to-be-frozen bank accounts” and instead, we are faced with the sort of sycophantic ramblings last seen by Oprah.

For example:

“Hello there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog, your topics about female viagra samples are amazing and look forward to new posts. ”

OR

“I accidentally came across your blog and I think it’s really good. If you’re not already a famous writer, you should be. I have a friend in the publishing industry so if you write to me, I will connect you up. Look forward to reading more from you.”

Seriously, even the most low self esteemed of low self esteemed would be able to tell this is a scam which has got me thinking, maybe I should set this as the A[P]SOTW instead?

Get planners to write a strategy on how to get people to part with their cash for something they don’t want.

Mind you, many people would argue that’s what they do anyway. Oh well.

Talking of A[P]SOTW, it’s almost done … finally have the brief sorted out … I just need to talk to 2 more people and then we can get it up and running.

Sorry for the delay, been a bit mad recently and no, it’s not because of free holidays thank you very much Andy, Doddsy and every other bugger out there who takes great delight in slagging me off.

Anyway, while I was joking that adland and the criminal fraternity are related, I was being genuine when I said that the art of the con can teach you a lot about human behaviour so next time you’re thinking of buying a book on strategy or insight or some other term the planning community like to bang on about, buy one of these books instead [1, 2, 3] … just focus on how they did it – and why people went along with it – not what they did, because I don’t want to be blamed when you’re in court charged with theft.



The Emperors Old Clothes …
July 25, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

Remember that preso I did with Chaz from BBH at the Asian Effectiveness awards?

Well it’s been viewed over NINETEEN THOUSAND TIMES.

NINETEEN THOUSAND!!!

Fuck me.

Now as nice as that is, there are a couple of points that are slightly worrying …

1. None of the presentations I’ve written on my own have got anywhere near that amount.

2. None of what we said was really new … it was just a consolidation of a bunch of facts we have all known about as an industry for a long time.

Which begs the question, does adland have the memory of a goldfish?

Seriously, why does a presentation that talks about issues that the industry has been muttering about for literally decades, become so popular.

OK, so I am using the term ‘popular’ in relation to my other presentations which are anything but, but seriously, what’s going on?

Debates regarding television vs internet … pre-testing … social media … the relevancy of US/UK ad models for other markets are hardly new themes, so why it is an issue that has seemingly got so much interest?

I’ll tell you why, because too much advertising is done to appease clients not to drive business.

Sure, a client has to buy into what you’re doing so that it can be executed as powerfully as possible, but sadly it appears too many clients are only interested in doing work that allows them to go into their review and say ‘they’ve executed their goals’ than do something that quantifiably helps their business grow.

I’ve said it before, but what’s more worrying than adland losing their seat at the boardroom table [which is our fault as we decided it was best to not talk about issues the board were actually interested in] is the fact that too many marketing directors have also been kicked out of the top floor room.

Instead of being charged to ‘market’ their company to groups who can fundamentally ‘change their commercial future’, their role seems to be to ‘satisfy the ego of the board’ … which is why our industry seems to have now ended up doing so much work that encapsulates everything we know is wrong, even though it is contributing to our own downfall.

Creativity is an amazing thing. It can change and build things. Amazing things. But it needs to be based on truth and quantifiable goals because if we continue to go down the path of satisfying clients whims – simply because we have sold the value of true creativity down the river and now need to chase every $ we can get – we are not victims of corporate ego, delusion & arrogance … but conspirators.



Do As I Say, Not As I Do …
July 24, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

Adland is notorious for not practicing what they preach.

They talk about the importance of communication but rarely communicate themselves.

They talk about their focus on solving business problems but tend to only deal in ads.

They say their staff are their greatest asset, then work them to within an inch of their life.

But there’s another thing that I find particularly interesting and that is their approach to positioning.

They say – as they should – that every brand should have a clear and concise positioning in the mind of the audience.

Something that differentiates them from the competition and clearly defines their role or benefit or belief to the wider audience.

With every category being more and more cluttered, this is becoming an increasingly hard thing to do – especially as on many occasions, your positioning gets influenced more by what your competitors say than what you want to express – however that still doesn’t excuse the fact that Starcom have summed up their point of view with this:

What the fuck were they thinking?

OK … OK … to be fair, the actual meaning behind this is far more meaningful, purposeful and relevant, but the question is, will anyone ever find that out when they have used a phrase that implies they are a company full of people with no thoughts of their own?

“Hello, is that Starcom?”

“Yes, can I help you?”

“Yes, I’d like some ideas how to communicate my company to the World please.”

“I’m terribly sorry sir, we don’t have ideas, we’re the goldfish of media – but if you have some you’d like to give us, that would be super … we have lots of employee brain space that is available to be filled at very reasonable prices.”

I know I’m being a petty fuck … I know I am … but if a company in the communication industry can’t understand the importance of message clarity, why the hell should any company trust us to do the right thing for them?

But don’t worry Starcom, as I said – at least the meaning behind what you’re [badly] saying has some [potentially generic] value, but at least it’s not as bad as this or this.



A Special Guest …
July 23, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So for the next couple of weeks, we have the pleasure of the very tall Heather LeFevre staying with us.

I say ‘staying with us’ but we’re actually putting her up in a little hotel because she’s allergic to cats and as nice as she is – in a choice between my cat or 99.9% of all humans, the cat will always win.

Sorry Heather.

Anyway, while I’m sure she needs no introduction but just in case you’ve been living under a rock for years, she is the founder of the Global Planner survey and is currently undertaking a project to see how planning is done around the World.

I know … I know … you’re asking why the hell has she has come to see me, well I can only assume it’s for comic relief.

Anyway, over the next 2 weeks we’ll be giving her some exposure to working life in China – and I just hope at the end of it, she doesn’t hate me for inviting her over.

In all seriousness, I think her project is fascinating.

While I know planning is different by territory, it’s only when someone goes from place to place in a relatively short time that you can see what those differences really are once and for all.

However that’s not the real reason I invited Heather over.

You see while 2 weeks isn’t enough to give anyone a real impression of what life in Asia/China is really like, I’m hoping the experience captivates, intrigues, excites and pushes her, so that anyone who reads the book she’s going to write about this whole adventure will see this part of the World is not the creatively desolate place that NYC and London like to present … but a region filled with the sorts of possibilities and challenges that can positively change your life, not to mention your career, forever.

I guess we’ll find out in 2 weeks.