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

Where Has The Common Sense Gone?
July 17, 2012, 6:20 am
Filed under: Crap Campaigns In History

Imagine you’re a hotel company.

Imagine you’re a hotel company that wants to build a reputation for friendly and helpful service.

Imagine you’re a hotel company that wants to build a reputation for friendly and helpful service to encourage possible franchisees.

What would your ad look like?

Would it feature a photo of happy, smiley people?

Would it have some nice headline that represents ‘good service’?

Or would it look anything like this?


Apart from the fact the politically correct, ethnically diverse faces are bunched together, looking down like they’re some gang about to kick the living shit out of you – they’ve “invented” a phrase that is literally one of the shittest things I’ve ever seen.

‘Feel The Hamptonality’

Give me strength.

Clients love the idea of creating a term or a word that becomes part of the venacular and it’s almost always:

1. Shit.
2. A disaster.
3. A demonstration of corporate ego.

On the rare occasion it does happen, it’s happened organically rather than intentionally and it’s almost never included a made up word or term.

So to the people behind the ad above, you might want me to “feel the Hamptonality” but I’d rather be locked away in a maximum security prison.

Same thing, probably.

There is some irony about me writing a post on hotel standards given I’m about to fly to Mongolia and stay in a hotel that probably has a tagline of ‘feel the horror’ … but hey, I’m from Nottingham which means I’m automatically tough.


What this all means is you get another week off from my rambling shit – though it could be even longer if I find that I’m staying in Mongolia’s very first Hampton Hotel and their staff beat the shit out of me for dissing their employer in this post.

Guess we’ll see within the week.


The Beauty Of Selfless Help …
July 16, 2012, 6:17 am
Filed under: Comment

Yes I’m back.

No it wasn’t a holiday.

And neither will my trip to Mongolia tomorrow – so deal with it.

Before I start, the A[P]SOTW assignment will be up very soon, almost finished it – just need to finalise a couple of things.

OK, so as it’s Monday, what better way to start the week with a story about death.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard about a hospital who granted a terminally ill man his dying wish of seeing his loved one before he died.

That might not sound unusual until I point out that his loved one was his Shire Horse, Ben.

Thomas Thorpe – 74 – had been diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year.

He was a well known figure around Chesterfield, because he was a market stall holder, but on top of that, he was – along with his horse – the ‘unofficial’ greeters of visitors to the city.

Anyway, when Thomas realised the end was near, he enquired whether it would be possible to see his horse so he could say goodbye.

Rita Snowdon – Ward manager at Clay Cross hospital – negotiated with the relevant parties and amazingly made it happen – meaning there was a positive end to a very sad situation for Thomas, his family & his horse.

I think this is beautiful and fantastic.

Putting aside the fact the hospital found a way to make it happen – which is mighty impressive when you consider all the health, safety & economic red tape they have to live by – the real point is that they wanted to make it happen.

Everyone thinks they live busy lives.

We are constantly trying to balance all the things we have to do with all the things we want to do – which often means we view any additional requirement as an obstacle we’d rather avoid.

It’s bad enough when it’s something that relates to our lives, but when it’s for someone you don’t really know, it’s a mine field.

How sad is that?

I think it’s tragic.

The reality is that as busy as our lives are, they’re not that busy.

If you have time to go on Facebook, talk to your friends, write a blog – it’s not filled to bursting point is it.

And yet that is how we act and behave.

As if one more thing is simply impossible.

It seems we have forgotten what life is about.

It appears we have become a society based almost exclusively on selfishness.

Of course not everyone is like this – both my wife and my Mum are, if anything, too generous – but the fact I was genuinely moved by a story of generosity and compassion highlights how it is becoming part of the exception, rather than the rule.

It’s bad enough that companies act this way, but the fact society does is of even greater concern.

We are a better planet when we occasionally put ourselves second.

I don’t mean just for our family, friends and loved ones, but for individuals we might not know well or at all.

I love what Rita Snowden did for Thomas and his family.

By going out of her way, she has ensured there is a sense of peace in relation to Thomas’ passing.

But she’s done more than that …

She’s reminded us – as Barry Schwartz gave a great Ted Talk about – that simple acts of kindness go along way.

Affecting far more than just the recipient, but the family, community and – in this case – a person living in China.

I could end this post by saying this is an opportunity for brands.

I could end this post by highlighting that a brand could use their marketing money & drive good for more than just their shareholders.

I could end this post by suggesting that I believe this approach would actually encourage more people to favor their brand than their traditional approach.

But the sad thing is there’s very few brands who want to lead change, they just want to follow it [which makes a complete mockery out of planning & planners if you think about it] so if we want to encourage corporations to use their massive resources to help the wider community – not just their customers – we have to lead by example of which Rita Snowden is a great role model.

Don’t Encourage The Fool …
July 9, 2012, 6:04 am
Filed under: Comment

Adland is full of fools, chancers and egotists.

I should know because I’m probably all 3 rolled into 1.

Of course it’s not just full of those – there’s also the smart, clever & creative types – but for the purpose of this post, I only want to focus on the former group.

Before I begin, I need you to watch this video – especially from 6″ 18 seconds.

Yes, I know it’s long, but it is worth it, trust me.

How good is that?

OK, so Jeremy Paxman is famous for drilling politicians, but the point is he [1] was fully prepared and [2] kept the conversation focused on the point he needed answering.

Quite frankly, too many people in adland go into meetings with the attitude of ‘I’ll wing it’.

A lot of this happens because there’s too many conversations that are for the sake of conversation – ramblings designed more for timesheet justification than answering specific issues, objectives or points that can powerfully and fundamentally move things forward.

But the point is, you can never have these sorts of meaningful conversation if you don’t have all the facts and a clear understanding of the situation and it’s context – which is why I love Paxman, because he takes his job seriously … he won’t be fobbed off with fancy words or corporate talk and that means [most] people who come up against him don’t approach things sloppily, they raise their game in a bid to ‘beat him’, which creates a tension that can push bigger opportunities or issues to the forefront.

The reason I posted this is because I’m off to be a mentor/judge at Mediaworks … so while I’m no Jeremy Paxman [hell, I’m not even as good as the arcade character, Pacman!] I do want the attendees of the workshop to know they’re going to get properly grilled by me on whatever they present – not because I’m a bastard – but because feeling under pressure to know your stuff is one of the greatest lessons anyone can be taught.

So next time you have a meeting, make sure you invest enough time getting familiar with the situation, because when others start realising you’re not going to subscribe to the bland and the meaningless, ideas start dumbing up, not down.

And yes, this does mean there will be no more blog posts for the week … so the Mediaworks attendees pain is most definitely going to be your gain.

See you next week.

Hahahahahahahahahaha …
July 8, 2012, 12:09 pm
Filed under: Comment, Potential Darwin Awards

So I’ve just found out that Business Insider – an organisation that I previously always assumed was smart and insightful – have put this blog in their article:

‘Meet The 22 Most Influential Advertising Bloggers’.

I know … I know … saying any 42 year old, Birkenstock wearing, Queen fan is anything other than tragic, is utter madness.

That said, as much as I’d like to act all casual about it, I feel ridiculously chuffed about it – mainly because I know I shouldn’t be there and I feel I’ve just bagged a night with a young Angelina Jolie who has mistaken me for some big shot movie producer.

For the record [and her lawyers] I am not saying she slept her way into the movie business. It’s just another in a long line of very, very bad analogies by me.

Fortunately Business Insider [who might now be known as Business Outsider, given their endorsement of this blog] bring me back down to earth by basically saying the reason this rubbish is half decent is because of all the people who come on here and swear at me [ie: everyone] but in true Nottingham low self esteem style … I’ll take any compliment – even if it’s an insult.

To end, I’ll leave you with the tweet the lovely Jason Oke said about it:

“If @Robertc1970 making this list isn’t a sign of the advertising apocalypse, I don’t know what is.”

Never a truer word stated.

So thank you to Business Insider for their momentary alarming lack of taste and thank you to all the people who have come on here and abused me – I’m not going to give you any money for it, but I do appreciate how you’ve given my Mum something to be proud of me for … even if Mr Wieden is probably slapping his head in dismay.

The Only Thing We Have Are Our Standards …
July 6, 2012, 6:02 am
Filed under: Comment

A couple of nights ago, I was putting the finishing touches to a pitch deck we were writing.

Around me were 3 of my planning colleagues, an account director and an account manager.

Having finally put it to bed – which is where we should all have been given it was 1:30am – we were going through it in its entirety.

Maybe it was because it was late …

Maybe it was because I/we had been too close to it for the past few weeks …

Maybe it was because I am a bit of a bastard …

… but I read it and pronounced,

“It bores me”.

Tom – one of my colleagues – asked me to repeat what I said.

“It bores me”, I replied … before adding, “I should be feeling excited – what we want to do is exciting – but I’m bored”.

There was obvious deflation in the room – mainly because of the time – but one by one, everyone acknowledged what we had written hadn’t captured either the heart of what we wanted to say, or the level of provocation we needed to convey.

I should point out this was not their fault – it was all mine.

I’d planned the deck.

I’d written the deck.

I’d reviewed the deck.

But here’s the thing, knowing when to call yourself out is important.

Sure, the deck had all the information in it we wanted to convey … sure, it clearly explained our point of view and the idea we were recommending … sure, it would still [probably] be better than a lot of other agencies proposals … sure, the client would probably love it … but that’s not the point, because it wasn’t good enough.

For us.



Please don’t think I am trying to big myself/ourselves up – far from it – however if you’re not excited by what you’ve put together, why the hell do you think a client will be?

Sure, that isn’t always the case – but if you can look in the mirror and think you did a good job, that’s a damn sight better than having that nagging feeling you didn’t present [or won’t present] your case as well as you could have, even if you end up being successful.

I should point out that what happened next made me feel very, very humble indeed.

Within a few minutes, we had pinpointed the issue and I said to the guys that we could finish it the next morning – but they said no.

They felt we had to nail it while it was still in our head … while our disappointment was still in the air … so we sat down and rewrote the thing.

The whole thing.

And you know what, it flowed.

It flowed but with bite.

And we still felt that way when we read it the next day … so all that leaves us to do is present the bugger and then hear from the client whether we’re been a bunch of delusional fools or a gang whose standards aren’t standard.

Chinese Youth Are Not Robots …
July 5, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

As I’ve written previously, one thing I hate is how many agencies present Chinese society as one, all encompassing group.

Where they all think the same.

Where they all look the same.

Where they all want the same.

Frankly I don’t know whether this is because of laziness or convenience, but it’s wrong on almost every level.

Are there commonalities of opinion and needs across generations and geographies?


That’s the case anywhere – however just like Mum’s love their kids all over the World, how they express that and what they respond to can differ dramatically thanks to cultural, economic and societal conditioning.

However one thing that really bugs me is how people tend to judge Chinese society in relation to the West.

It seems to be either “… they’re strongly influenced by Western culture” or “… they don’t like Western culture”.

They treat is as if it’s that cut and dry and that utterly, utterly wrong.

Sure, there are things that influence culture.

Sure some of those have come from the West … as have some things that have been influenced by China, both old and new.

However in both cases, the initial influence is – contrary to popular belief, especially contrary to popular media belief – rarely executed literally, it is nurtured, mangled, evolved, shoved, shifted, pushed in a whole myriad of ways so that what comes out the other side, might be born from one place, but developed in another.

It’s not a clash of culture … it’s the birth of culture.

A new culture.

Being able to look beyond the surface is the key and yet I am amazed how many agencies fail to do this, preferring instead to say that it’s all about duplication or interpretation rather than appreciating the unique elements that are being created and executed … unique elements that can give great insight into what really is going on in people’s hearts and minds if only they are prepared to look for it.

A perfect example is this:

Sure, you could make some hypothesis based on what he’s saying and how he is saying it – but the really interesting stuff is when you take into account where he comes from – which is a Tier 3 city – a place that many people regard as nothing more than poor, isolated and lacking any sophistication.

Obviously this guy has money behind him – that video is something professionally and expensively pulled together – but even looking past the fact he is a ‘signed’ recording artist [albeit, an underground artist] … if you look at his background, his upbringing, his environment and then his current behaviour [admittedly via a video designed to ‘entertain’], you can start seeing that a lot of what is currently being presented by adland is one dimensional, bland and lacking any understanding of how external factors [ie: China’s unprecedented period of growth] are fundamentally changing what people feel is possible.

Whether that’s a good feeling or – as our BoomTown Stories experiment showed – a stressful feeling, is not the key issue, it’s the fact it’s influencing changes of behaviour, attitude and ambition and there is no standard, one-size-fits all response.

The state of societies mindset is all around us, but if we go about it with the attitude that we know it all or that ‘convenient answers’ are the right answers, then we’re not just going to make communication that is even less effective than it currently is, we’re going to fuck up what’s left of our industries relevance forever.

The Enemy Within …
July 4, 2012, 6:00 am
Filed under: Comment

As I’ve said many times, I’m a big fan of research.

Good research.

Research that helps you understand people’s feelings, choices and decisions … research that helps explains ‘why’, not just ‘what’ … research that liberates opportunities rather than keeping things firmly where they’ve always been or – alternatively – stopping brands from embarking on an ego trip and keeping things real for their audience.

Now obviously there are a bunch of good researchers and companies out there, but in my opinion, we’re seeing the credibility of the whole research industry being undermined by people who either talk complete bollocks or state the fucking obvious.

What is even scarier is that the very people who should be putting a stop to this – the clients and the research industry – are seemingly going along with it all because they either [1] like their ego being pampered or [2] don’t want to draw any unwanted attention to themselves.

Of course, the real reason for this is that the industry – like too much of adland – has become focused on the money rather than doing stuff that earns money as a byproduct of its value, meaning and effectiveness.

The reason for this rant is because when I was in Singapore last week, I came across this …

I don’t know Gerard Tan.

I don’t know if he’s been misquoted or it’s been taken out of context … but saying iTunes would probably be welcomed by the people of Singapore is one of the most bland, state-the-fucking obvious things I think I’ve ever read.

What next?

People would probably like to win millions of dollars on the lottery?

Men would probably like to be very attractive to the opposite sex?

Families would probably like to never be ill?

No. Fucking. Shit.

I even hate how he has said “probably”, even though that is exactly what should be said because owners of music and dvd stores will definitely not be happy about iTunes coming to Singapore.

As I said, I don’t know this guy, I don’t know if he’s been misquoted or taken out of context … but anyone who thinks this is some massive insight needs to be sent back to school or taken out and shot and that includes the paper [Straits Times] who saw this newsworthy enough to print.

The right research in the right hands is a powerful weapon.

The wrong research in the wrong hands is a dangerous weapon.

In both cases, it tends to all come from the same source, hence the ‘enemy within’.

A while back, some people wrongly claimed Google was making us all stupid.

They weren’t wrong purely because they need to take some responsibility for their own ‘short-cut/convenient answer’ attitude to life, but because it appears if anyone is, it’s the research, advertising and/or media industries that are doing the lions share of the job.