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

Clarity Amongst The Confusion: A[P]SOTW Assignment.
September 21, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

So after waaaaaaaaay too long, we finally have a new A[P]SOTW assignment.

Huge apologies for the delay, this has nothing to do with Gareth and Northern and everything to do with my slackness.

As I mentioned a while back, this assignment is about simplification.

Now, while that might sound easy, there’s a few things to remember:

+ Simplification is not the same as simple.

+ It takes a lot of hard work to simplify something while maintaining the ideas heart & energy.

+ Simplification is not an excuse to be bland, boring or generic.

So what is the actual challenge?

Well it’s something that many of us are exposed to, the RFP – short for Request For Proposal.

An RFP is a document many companies send out to agencies as part of their pitch process and are normally an absolute bloody nightmare.

The reason for this is because they’re often 70+ page documents that go into the minutest of details without ever saying anything at all.

In essence, they’ve been designed to appear informative while actually encouraging more questions than answers.

The good news is the RFP you will be using for this assignment is not 70+ pages long, mainly because I couldn’t be arsed to type up that many pages.

The bad news is it’s as contradictory and confusing as it’s longer-form versions.

So what do we want you to do?

Well, having read the RFP, we want you to:


1. Give a clear articulation of what you believe is the core objective of the RFP.

[Yes we know the RFP is full of contradictions, dead ends and goals – we’ve done it on purpose because sadly, that’s what so many of them are like which is why you have to decide what you believe is the real objective and – to a certain degree – explain why]

2. Create a strategy that achieves the objective you have identified.

[That means we need to see a definition of the audience, the insight/s driving your strategy, a clear articulation of what your strategy is and 3 examples of how it could be ‘brought to life’, outside of traditional advertising]

3. Write down the 5 key questions you wish you could ask the client.

4. Present your findings via a 10-25 page presentation OR an 10 minutes video pitch.


That’s it.

Easy eh!?


Well, to stop you freaking out [or – if you’re one of those super-confident types – help you look even more brilliant], we’ve created this assignment in partnership with those wonderful and knowledgable folk at Warc.

Warc – for those who don’t know – is a company that provides independent and authoritative global information on marketing, trends and new thinking. They’ve been around since 1985 so have shitloads of award winning, global case studies – all with in-depth analysis – so you can make decisions with greater confidence than crossing your fingers or using some random ‘factual’ charts you found on Pinterest.

Yes, I know this all sounds like some massive product placement – but it’s not – they just want to help the industry be better and perform better which is why they asked for absolutely nothing in return. The fools!

Anyway, to help with this particular assignment, Warc have kindly provided some free links to a bunch of their inspirational case studies so that you can understand and consider some of the market dynamics to enable you to forge a more informed, culturally provocative point of view.

What you use – if anything – is up to you, but it’s there to help.

However, before we get to all that, here are some things to note.

+ While in the real World, clients would answer specific questions you may have with the brief, we will not.

The purpose of this assignment is to simplify the RFP to what you believe is the key issue that needs to be addressed – and then justify your decision via your strategic response.

+ Make sure you answer the fundamentals of the RFP.

If you want to do more – or go further – that’s fine, but make sure you’ve answered the 4 key elements.

+ You should approach this as a competitive pitch, which means paying attention to how you say things as well as what you say.

+ Remember strategy is, at it’s heart, simply about getting from point A to point B.

With that in mind, any recommendation should be clearly defined and articulated. If it doesn’t make sense or is hard to understand, then you’re probably going to fail, regardless how brilliant you think your idea is.

When IBM took the unprecedented decision to sell off their hugely profitable PC business – a decision that had unbelievable implications for the business both in the present and the future – they articulated their strategy as simply ‘moving from computers to consulting’.

Obviously there was a ridiculous lot more to it than just coming up with a pithy line, but in terms of comprehension of the overall strategy … it was clear, concise and actionable.

In short, if a massive technology company can do it, then you should definitely be able to do the same.

+ You will be judged by seasoned veterans so make sure your response is interesting, exciting and challenging.

This isn’t just about coming up with something effective, it’s about being seen as the partner who can help them grow and go to places few could see, let alone deliver on.

So who are these judges?

Well there’s a few.

There’s me.

There’s Northern and Gareth.

There’s Rodi, one of my wonderful colleagues.

There’s David, International Editor at Warc.

There’s Raj, regional head of strategy at MEC.

There’s Steve, a very, very senior executive at Virgin Atlantic.

There’s Simon, a very important and experienced marketer at NIKE.

And finally, one more Steve – who is one of the senior designers at Apple.

The closing date is October 28th, so there’s plenty of time to get on with things and as usual, the submission voted ‘the best’ by the judges will receive a prize.

Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me and I hope that people beyond just strategy have a go. There are no wrong answers, just different ways to approach everything – and while the ultimate decision will be made by people who have lots of experience in developing great ideas for great brands – that doesn’t mean they have the monopoly on everything that works.

Most of all, just have fun – as much as RFP’s can be unbelievably painful – if you rule them rather than they rule you, great things can happen.

Good luck and here’s the mad RFP and – as mentioned previously – some links, kindly supplied by Warc, that might help you be even more brilliant.

Warc Case Study Knowledge & Inspiration

1. Paper on how Uniqlo used digital marketing to build a global brand.

2. Focus on Puma’s after-hours athlete campaign.

3. Best practice paper on brand extensions.

4. Admap column challenging received wisdom about WOM/influencers.

Think Of It Like Christmas Eve …
September 20, 2012, 6:08 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

… the fire is crackling, the tree is up, the presents are all nicely wrapped under the tree – begging to be opened – there is festive cheer all around.

What am I going on about?

Yes, the A[P]SOTW assignment is finally here tomorrow.


Let’s just hope you don’t unwrap your present and find it’s another out-of-date, totally inappropriate, piece of crap from Auntie Mabel that you’ll be putting straight into the Salvation Army’s collection bag.

Guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

Coming Back To My Second, Second Home …
September 19, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So as some of you know, I’m in Singapore.

While many criticise it for a bunch of reasons – from its insular outlook to it’s over paternal approach to life – it has a special place in my heart.

Maybe it’s because I spent 4 years living here.

Maybe it’s because I still have many friends here.

Maybe it’s because I got married here.

Maybe it’s because I am still a permanent resident here.

Maybe it’s all those things and some more, who knows …

But despite being a country that contrives to make sure you experience more than a few frustrations living there, whenever I come back, it feels weirdly like home.

It took me a long time to try and figure out why … afterall, I’ve lived in a lot of places where I still have a lot of friends and, much to the annoyance of everyone except the taxation department, I am still ‘classed’ as a permanent resident … and then I worked it out, it’s because Singapore is so bloody small.

You see moving around a lot has it’s disadvantages.

Don’t get me wrong, it has an amazing amount of wonderful benefits and I have never regretted doing it for a second and would passionately advise anyone to do the same – but still, constantly moving countries means you sacrifice the ability to build deeper friendships and deeper roots.

Yes … yes … I know in this ‘digital age’ that is not supposed to be the case, but I think there is a massive difference between a friendship built on continuous interactions within certain physical environments and one where it is mainly through your digital exchanges.

But I digress.

The thing with Singapore – versus every other country I’ve lived in – is that it’s basically just a city. Sure, it would be classed as a relatively big city, but it’s still just a city.

And as with most cities, there is a central business district – even though in Singapore, this also doubles as the central shopping district – which means that whenever I visit and walk around the place [getting my fill of gadgets from Funan Mall or Sim Lim] I inevitably bump into someone I know.

And I like it.

A lot.

Sure, they might feel quite differently, but for me, casually bumping into someone I know feels nice.

It makes me feel like I belong to something … something bigger than just my family or work colleagues.

Please don’t think I’m saying I’m not happy with my family, of course I am.

The fact of the matter is “home” is ultimately wherever my wife [and cat] are.

All I am saying is that even though it’s entirely my own fault I move countries so much, the result is that I permanently feel I’m always one degree off being part of a genuine, fully-functional community which is why whenever I am in Singapore – due to its small physical dimensions – I get to experience what I’ve not had since I left Nottingham almost 20 years ago and it feels nice … very, very nice.

Whether that means we would ever move back here is another thing altogether, but despite that – and the fact it can also make me feel like a stranger in my own town, so to speak – it’s wonderful to be back and wonderful to see people who had/have an amazing impact on how I view, think and experience life … which, contrary to what many believe, is not the sort of thing you can do nearly as well hidden behind a computer screen.

Bad Insight Might Be A Damage To Your Health …
September 18, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So I’m in Singapore today, judging the effectiveness category at The Spikes.

Let’s hope the submissions I see are as insightful as this …

… and don’t have 700 pages of ‘evidence’ to prove they’ve been effective.


Because if you have to go to unbelievable lengths – exploring the minutest of details – to prove your work was successful, then I might start questioning whether your overall strategy was the right thing to go forward with.

And no, Facebook and Youtube likes and views, don’t count as ‘effective’ … nor do they represent a ‘return on investment’.

Seriously, the way some folks claim ROI is more imaginative than Harry Potter.

Maybe I’m being purist or petty or downright stupid … but in my mind, R.O.I. is not about the ‘added value’ a campaign achieves in terms of reach, frequency or exposure, it’s about the commercial value of what the brand gets back from the campaign – that’s why it’s called a RETURN!

Finally, let’s hope none of the agencies try and take all the credit for any campaign success they achieve because the reality is, there are a whole host of other factors that contribute to effectiveness and to not acknowledge them is bordering on ego-mania.

As you can tell, I’m in the perfect mood for judging, so let’s hope no one tries to pull a D&AD Pencils comment or Singapore’s nice and calm persona might be changed forever.

Happy Birthday Dad …
September 17, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Today would have been your 74th birthday.

Seventy four.


You’d of said you didn’t want any fuss but secretly, we’d know you want some.

Not necessarily from friends and family, but from us – Mum and me – and you’d of got it because you were our everything.

But we can’t spoil you today, at least not in terms of cards and presents and hugs.

So we will bathe you in our thoughts and love, because even though you’re no longer here, you’ll always be here.

In our hearts and minds.

Feelings and thoughts.

Happy birthday my dear Dad, I wish you were here to spoil.