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


This Post Is Not My Attempt At Being Tom Cruise On Oprah Winfrey.*
August 31, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, I met the woman who is now my wife, for the first time on September 4th, 2004.

It was a Saturday.

That means it’s very nearly 8 years ago.

However on September 1st, 2007 – also a Saturday – I married my wife in Singapore.

That means tomorrow it will be 5 years.

5 years of wonderfulness.

At least it’s been that for me.

Too many people talk bad about marriage.

Everywhere you turn, it seems someone, somewhere is putting it down.

They use words like prison, pain and disappointment … but for me, marriage is amazing.

That’s not just because it’s mind blowing anyone would want to be married to me, especially someone as wonderful, clever, talented and beautiful as my wife, it’s because it literally makes every aspect of life a whole lot better.

Every aspect.

Of course it’s dependent on finding the right person, but to have someone who actually wants to take away your problems … wants to make your good days, great … wants to help move you forward together, is incredible.

Please don’t think I didn’t get this sort of support from my parents – I did, as I did from the odd previous girlfriend – but Jill does it in a way that makes me feel like I can achieve more than I thought possible and in better ways.

In short, she makes me a better me.

I hope she feels I do something positive for her.

While I try and do things that show how much I love her each and every day, the fact is I travel too much, let work interrupt our lives way too often, get grumpy when I’m tired [approx 89.6% of the time] and complain whenever she wants to watch a period drama, visit a castle or asks for a clean glass even if she just wants a refill of water … so in terms of emotional fulfillment, I most definitely get the much better end of the deal.

I know this post is unbelievably indulgent [and most probably very sickening] but on top of wanting to say how much I love and adore her, I also wanted to make sure she knows how much I appreciate who she is and what she does for me.

I’m a very lucky man – so happy, happy anniversary for tomorrow [with a bit of luck, I’ll be there to celebrate it with you, China air traffic control permitting], thank you for being Ms Perfection Personified and here’s hoping that the next five years go a bit more slowly than the last five, so we can treasure them even more.

_______________________________________________________________

* Especially given what ended up happening to him and Ms Holmes. Mind you, I’m not a fan of Oprah or a Scientologist freak so I should be OK. I hope.



Objective Conflict …
August 30, 2012, 6:05 am
Filed under: Comment

I have always been a huge believer in having 2 planners on every piece of business and even now, try to ensure it happens as often as possible.

This is not – as many may believe – because it drives revenue, it’s because, among many things, it drives possibilities.

You see while both planners work for the same company and share the same beliefs – the key is they both have different views of how to achieve their goals.

This makes life interesting.

Not just because of the conversations that take place, but because of the information, insights, territories and ideas that it produces.

It’s a bit like my view on why The Who were so good, but with [hopefully] a lot less aggression and hate.

The fact is, I don’t believe planners working in isolation are that effective, especially when they’re the sort of planner who locks themselves into a room and then emerges 3 days later armed with a powerpoint document and a brief and says, “I’ve solved it”.

Debate is good.

Objectivity is interesting.

Conflict – managed in the right way – is liberating.

Which is why I believe approaching a project with the attitude of ‘what will cost the least amount of money/time’ rather than ‘what could create the best possible outcome’ encourages ‘normality’ before you’ve even started.

Of course this is not always the case … there’s a bunch of stupidly clever bastards who have the ability to generate genius on their own brainpower – but not everyone is like this and even if they were, I’d still argue this ‘objective conflict’ approach could push them to even greater heights if partnered with the right partner.

Anyway, I recently came across a TEDTalk that sort of validates this approach – even though the example they use is about someone who achieved a massive medical breakthrough whereas all I’ve done with it is make some ads … but that’s OK because as you know, adfolk are always looking to big themselves up by association. Why else do you think they hold the Cannes Ad Festival mere weeks after the Film Festival?



A Little Change Can Lead To A Lot Of Change.
August 29, 2012, 6:01 am
Filed under: Comment

On Saturday, September 4th, 2004 – at around 11am – I had my first date with my now wife at Bar Contessa on Darling Street, Balmain, Sydney.

It was also the first time we met thanks to an incident involving her inability to reverse park and my unbridled generosity to come to her aid.

It was a weird day.

As we walked into the coffee shop, I sat down and was surprised to see her sit next to me.

Not opposite – as protocol states – but right next to me.

I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life.

By that simple action, I felt I’d was in the company of someone different … someone interesting … someone special.

I know that makes me sound like I was some kind of loser, and maybe I was/am, but that simple gesture made a massive impression on me, demonstrated by the fact that within weeks of that initial meeting, we were living together in Singapore … having bypassed the issues of not really knowing each other, having to tell our families what we were doing, packing our houses and selling our cars and – in my case – being rushed to hospital for an emergency operation.

But the point of this post isn’t that you shouldn’t rush into things – though that might be what Jill would say – it’s that we tend to follow a set of ‘work protocols’ that ultimately work against us.

What do I mean?

Well when you have a meeting with a client, do you sit next to them or opposite them?

In other words, do you create an atmosphere of opposing sides or togetherness?

What about when you email a client?

Do you always have a reason for contact or do you sometimes write just to say ‘hello?’

I remember when we first started cynic.

With the bear minimum in place, we managed to get our first client – Virgin.

We were incredibly excited right until we saw the contract and read that their terms of business stated payment was in [I think] 90 days.

The reality was we had launched the company on an absolute shoestring so we had just about enough money to last us 30 days.

In other words, we were in this mad situation where we had a client – a prestigious client – but we couldn’t afford to take on their business.

Against all professional company protocol, we approached them and asked if they would agree to 30 day payment terms instead … and guess what, they said yes.

Alright, confession time …

1. We had literally nothing to lose in asking.
2. I’m hardly known for my sense of professionalism.
3. George – most importantly – was [and is] a personal friend of Mr B, so they were hardly going to fuck off their bosses mate.

… but the fact is, because we asked and they said yes, we were able to embark on a wonderful adventurous experiment that lasted 8 glorious years .

But what if we hadn’t asked?

What if we felt ‘the unspoken rules’ of business protocol had to be followed?

Well, let’s be honest, no one will ever know but I’m pretty confident I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, doubt I’d of done what I’d done, doubt I’d of lived where I’d lived and doubt I’d be married to who I married.

In short, I feel that single question changed the course of my professional career, just like Jill’s simple gesture changed – for better or worse – the rest of her life.

The point of this post is that we like to stick with ways of living and working because it’s what we feel is ‘the norm’ and while I’m not advocating a total change of approach and behaviour just to shake things up, it might be worth reviewing the way you do things because by simply changing a few things here or there, it may literally change the way the rest of your career – if not life – turns out.

For the better.

Hopefully.



Living In The Bubble?
August 28, 2012, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment

Watch this:

While the people in the video are all highly esteemed, very successful members of the advertising community … having achieved heights I wouldn’t be able to reach in 1000 lifetimes, I do find the whole thing a big depressing.

I don’t know why.

Maybe it’s when David Droga say’s, at 5 minutes 5 seconds, “We were not asked to judge on the effectiveness, just the idea” when surely the whole point of ‘an idea’ – at least in terms of commercial communication – is to be effective.

OK … OK … that’s the planner in me coming out and I know Mr Droga is very smart and very successful … however I don’t think comments like that do our industry any good.

Sure, there are times – as I know first hand – that an idea fails to reach the level of success you hoped for or expected and without a doubt, if we don’t push for new ideas then we won’t be able to create new ideas, but to celebrate anything that commercially ‘flopped’, regardless of [1] external factors beyond your control and [2] how great and imaginative it is … seems to fly in the face of what our industry claims it does, which is to help business grow.

This post is coming out wrong because if you follow what I’m saying to its natural conclusion, I’m seemingly advocating a risk free creative approach to everything, but that’s obviously not what I mean, I’m just saying that if we are to hand out ‘black pencils’, surely the criteria for the ‘best campaign idea’ category [or whatever it’s called] is to also appreciate the need for it to actually achieve what the client handed over their money for in the first place.

By all means, hand out as many black pencil’s as you want for design, craft, music, film, packaging, animation, product design, technology, art direction or, as in the case for the wonderful Kaiser Chief’s campaign, ‘ingenuity/invention’, etc … but please don’t promote the view that a black pencil ‘campaign idea’ is simply one that has never been done before, because if we do that, what the hell are we promoting to the next generation of folk entering the business, let alone the next generation of client we will be dealing with.

Awards are important. They promote and push ingenious thinking and craftsmanship and we need a hell of a lot more of that, but for an industry that talks about appreciating how everything matters, maybe we need to take a bit more of our own advice.



Inconsequential Annoyance …
August 27, 2012, 6:06 am
Filed under: Comment

Hello, I’m back.

I’d like to go on record and say judging/speaking at Adstars was very hard work and being located opposite a beach in the Korean equivalent of Miami was pure torture.

Was that convincing?

No, it didn’t work with my wife either.

Damn.

Well after a great week meeting lovely people and visiting a wonderful place, the bad news is – for you and my colleagues – that I’m back.

Sorry.

Anyway, a confession.

I am petty.

I am very petty.

I am so petty, that I transcend the pettiness on the TV series, Grumpy Old Men.

I’ve shown how petty I am throughout the years on this blog – with notable low points here and here – however I recently came across something that even shocked me, in terms of the pettiness it stirred up inside.

What was the picture?

This:

I know … I know … it’s for a bloody USB travel “light”.

Seriously, has anyone ever actually needed a travel light?

And if they have, have they needed a travel light that runs from a USB power source?

People must buy them – but why?

Do they think their hotel will suddenly run out of power.

Or maybe they think all bedside lamps will suddenly be banned.

Or possibly it’s a climber who thinks they’ll be a plug socket half way up a mountain so he can plug in his travel lamp and read his map.

It’s mental.

But that’s not what pissed me off, oh no … the issue I have is that the picture on the box shows the travel lamp plugged into an Apple Mac which is completely pointless given they already have a backlit keyboard.

I told you I was petty.

Yes, I know there’s countless reasons why someone might do that, but the story the picture communicates is that the lamp is allowing you to type on your keyboard.

In the dark.

Despite having a backlit keyboard.

And a screen that would be glowing, shining an artificial light on the keyboard.

Basically, that picture has just alienated anyone who has an Apple Mac from buying that product. Well, it has if that owner is petty.

And don’t get me started on their ‘tagline’.

“Why You Busy?”

What the fuck are they going on about???

OK, so it’s a product that has obviously not been developed in an English speaking nation, but with that … a futile picture on the box and a totally pointless product inside the box, I wouldn’t be surprised if it sells the best part of fuck all.

Yes I know this is a pathetic, pointless post [what’s new?] … and I know most people don’t give a damn and will still go out and bunches of products that serve no purpose … but the thing is, these things bother me, especially the packaging element.

Packaging is important. In some ways, it’s even more important than the advertising that attracts people to it.

It’s what creates the ‘ceremony of purchase’ and anyone who doesn’t think it is worth paying attention to, needs a good kicking.

Sure, it can go into total and utter wank, but for me – if you don’t pay attention to the little things [like using a Mac Book with backlit keyboard on the packaging] then why the hell would I believe you when you say this is a good product/brand for me to consider?

Yes, I appreciate this is a long post for something so bloody petty [I did warn you it would be at the start of the post] but the moral of the story [ahem!] is that little things make a much bigger difference than we like to give them credit for, so if you want to improve your odds of success, don’t just focus on the ‘big idea’ and get to know/appreciate and collaborate with people who work in the less glam disciplines of adland – like packaging, sales promotion, retail – because their influence is far greater than you’d imagine.



Double Trouble …
August 23, 2012, 8:34 pm
Filed under: Comment

No, I don’t know what the AdStars committee were thinking either, but on the bright side, it’s just solved my dilemma as regards what to buy Jill as a wedding anniversary present.



I Become The Best Weapon North Korea Never Had …
August 20, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

So today I fly off to South Korea to be a judge and speaker at Adstars.

Yes … another conference, another speech, another “holiday” and another week where you don’t have to put up with my inane ramblings on this blog.

That’s a win:win in my book.

Except for the people going to the conference.

Anyway, this leads me to something that I think not enough planners pay attention to and that’s the art of the presentation.

We touched on this subject ages ago with an A[P]SOTW assignment, but I really cannot stress how important it is to be able to present well.

That doesn’t mean just having a clear, consise, informative and inspiring powerpoint/keynote deck, it means being able to present it in a way that conveys energy, enthusiasm, understanding, confidence and credibility.

Yes, I appreciate those are words you wouldn’t normally associate with me, but that aside, HOW you present is easily as important as WHAT you present.

Should that be the case?

No, it would be much better if people judged purely on the quality of work than the quality of the razzmatazz … but the fact is, we’re human beings and we like being entertained, especially when we’re being sold to.

That doesn’t mean we should all joke around and act like fools … nor does it mean tap-dancing is an excuse for a badly thought out presentation … it just means appreciating that people buy people and so if your approach is to basically read whatever is on the presentation screen verbatum, you’d better hope you’re explaining the secret to life or you might be beaten by someone who has a better ability to connect to an audience.

So how do you do it?

Well that’s the million dollar question.

One thing I am quite vehemently opposed to is standardised presentation training.

Sure, it can help with some of the basics [Don’t “ummm” and “ahhhh” when you talk. Don’t walk backwards and forwards while you’re presenting] but basically they try and homogenize the presenting style which undermines the importance of letting your personality shine through.

For me there’s a couple of ‘tricks’.

1. Self Review.

Get someone to watch how you present and preferably video it.

I know … I know … it’s horrible and hard, but it’s the first step to improvement.

2. Watch Others.

It doesn’t matter who they are or even what industry they work in … go and see as many presenters as possible.

Look how they present, write down things that make a big impact on you/the audience – good or bad.

It might the look of their presentation … the way they articulate their points … the tone they use while they talk … doesn’t matter, write them all down and then start grouping them into ‘good point/bad points’.

If possible, try and see people from a variety of industries present – you’d be amazed how different their approaches can be.

I can honestly say that I got more value watching how barristers and architects structure their arguments than pretty much any planner.

That doesn’t mean planners can’t present, but they all tend to have ‘a particular style’ and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it certainly doesn’t mean it’s the only way to convey your point of view, far from it.

3. Objective Review

So now you’ve seen a bunch of other people present and marked down their good/bad points – it’s time to give yourself some ‘tough love’.

Compare all your notes with the video/comments of your own presentation.

Where are the problems? What can you change? What are you doing well that you can build on?

In a perfect World, you’d of taken someone to all the presentations with you so that you can be sure the things you think are good/bad are genuinely good/bad … but even if you can’t, just comparing yourself to others will help you lift your game – and given so few people do this – it automatically puts you in a better position than most.

4. Go To Improv Class.

Yes, I appreciate this sounds utter wank … but in my mind, the power of presenting lies in your ability to read and react to an audience, rather than blindly going about your business as if they weren’t there.

Improv class is not about changing who you are, it’s about helping you be the best you can be.

It’s about understanding how to use your voice … how to use your body language … how to draw on your personal stories and anecdotes.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve fallen back on a personal experience to convey a particular point.

Doing this makes people feel more at ease … have a connection with you … feel what you’re saying, not just hear it … understand you are giving more than just ‘a presentation’, but talking about something that has a personal resonance – or relevance – with you.

Of course, having a well thought out, well articulated point of view is vital, but if you think that – or just a bunch of pretty slides – is all you need to make a positive and pitch-winning impression, then you’re either kidding yourself or simply presenting to audiences that don’t really matter.

See you next week.