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

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.

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.