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

Is McDonalds Destroying The Value Of Fuel Efficient Cars?
November 30, 2012, 6:05 am
Filed under: Comment

I was recently watching a show on Toyota and their seemingly never-ending quest to make fuel efficient cars.

Almost immediately afterwards, I watched a show talking about the diet of Americans, and their seemingly never-ending quest to be obese.

And this got me thinking.

If cars are getting more fuel efficient, but people are getting fatter – doesn’t that mean that it takes the same amount of power to move people as it did when people were lighter but cars were less fuel efficient?

In other words, are the benefits of fuel efficient cars being cancelled out by the increasing weight of drivers & passengers?

Maybe I’m wrong – I was shit at school – but if that’s the case, maybe it would be good if Toyota gave a diet plan with every car sold.

Or gave a price discount to anyone who is in the recognised height/weight ratio.

Or encouraged people to walk rather than drive to the post box.


Muddy The Waters Of Comparison …
November 29, 2012, 6:07 am
Filed under: Comment

Have a look at these 2 ads that I recently came across in a magazine.

First the Hyundai.

Now the Volvo.

2 cars.
Both estates/station wagons.
Both using a similar photographic angle.
Both appearing in exactly the same magazine.

Now while I accept that the price point of the vehicles may mean they’re targeting different audiences [& – to be fair – the Volvo is selling efficiency rather than Hyundai’s style] from my personal perspective, the Hyundai car is way better looking than the Volvo and so if I was in the market for a vehicle like that – even a car that had to be fuel efficient – I’d probably pass on checking out the Volvo and explore the possibilities of the Hyundai.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “… but what if the Hyundai ends up having the fuel efficiency of the Space Shuttle?”

Well, then there’s a possibility I might go back and check out the Volvo, but that’s a hell of a risk for a brand.

OK, I accept the reason I like the Hyundai is because I’m a sad bastard who responds to shiny things more than a magpie, but what these ads highlight is that if you execute category convention ad styles, then you run the risk your audience could directly compare you to a competitor and if you’re not good enough – regardless of the reason – you might lose out.

That might be a good strategy if you’re a challenger brand [“We’re the same, but different”] but it’s not if you’re a market leader and that’s why it’s a bit strange that the brands who need to keep things fresh the most are often the ones that keep things the same.

[Yes, I appreciate I am ignoring how ‘distribution ownership’ is often the key to success – especially with FMCG brands – but this is my blog so I’ll ignore it if I want to]

Of course, the bigger issue is that they are still ‘ads’ and maybe they’d be better off developing an idea that makes people experience the product rather than just show it … however I guess the real point I’m trying to make is that it could be argued the real point of having a strong brand is less about forging powerful & emotional bonds with your audience and more to do with ensuring people find it hard to directly compare your offering to a competitors.

That said, in this case it hasn’t worked for Volvo.

I feel I understand what they stand for way more than what Hyundai stands for, but to be quite honest, I’d rather be seen getting out the back of a sheep than one of those beige Swedish tanks.

In other words, a strong brand might help you occasionally overcome weak creative [emphasis on ‘might’] but it won’t help you overcome product laziness or a competitor who wants your audiences affections more.

Every Little, Teensy-Weensy, Bit Helps …
November 28, 2012, 6:04 am
Filed under: Comment

Are you over the shock that I was utterly fawning over the John Lewis Christmas spot yesterday?

Well maybe I’m getting into the festive spirit – or maybe I’m ill – but I’m going to give it another dollop of praise.

OK, so this has nothing to do with the ad, but when I checked out the spot on Youtube, I saw a bunch of links to other John Lewis ‘films’ … except instead of more emotion inducing ads, they were little clips giving useful tips to many of the issues people face at Christmas.

Whether it’s how to wrap presents to errrrm, how to groom a beard, John Lewis want to be there to help you make everything ‘perfect’.

That said, I couldn’t find any tips on how to get over a hangover, stop granny from making racist comments or apologise for telling your boss they were an unmitigated prick at the office Christmas party … but maybe they’re still filming those.

In an industry that likes to celebrate the brands that do the big, statement-making spots … these little films remind us that it’s often the little things that make the biggest difference.

It would have been oh-so-easy for John Lewis to say, “but you can find those tips on line without us having to do it” … but they didn’t, probably because they know that to truly connect to people, it’s about demonstrating you care, rather than just saying it.

Christmas Cheer …
November 27, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

I know everyone will have probably seen this.

I know Mr Mortimer did a wonderful review of Supermarket Christmas ads [including our London offices freshly launched Tesco work] over on his blog recently.

I know you could argue that last years spot was better.

[Which I don’t think it was, despite being utterly great]

I know you could say the ‘character’ could have saved himself a lot of hassle by just ordering online.

But this spot from John Lewis is – in my opinion – just completely and utterly wonderful.

A simple, genuinely universal premise.

A totally fantastic soundtrack.

A story that’s beautifully shot with perfect grace & pace.

Characters that somehow capture, convey & induce emotion.

Fear, vulnerability, isolation, innocence, happiness, love.

Magical. Totally and unconditionally magical.

Apart from capturing the essence of gift giving [give from the heart, not the wallet] it just makes you feel utterly wonderful.

How just changing the twigs on the snowman’s mouth can make you understand the feelings that are supposedly going through his head is amazing.

We talk about storytelling like its some sort of science, but it’s not really – and this ad shows how it can be done so simply, elegantly and emotionally.

No wonder the agency behind it – Adam & Eve – got recently bought by DDB.

And for an alleged SIXTY MILLION QUID, despite having only started in 2008.

To think I thought we did well when we sold cynic. Talk about a reality check. Ha.

Now whether DDB overpaid is not my issue nor my business, the fact is this agency have created a body of work for John Lewis that has not only differentiated the brand from the copious amounts of competitors, but has created a genuine, emotional bond with people.

Maybe not all people.

But some.

And that’s the sort of gift every brand would like to receive this Christmas.

I wish – utterly, utterly wish – I had made this ad.

Show Someone You Hate Them …
November 26, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

… by giving them a wonderfully horrific Christmas jumper from Firebox.

There’s two to choose from, both classified as weapons of optical destruction.

This clip from the classic Spinal Tap should sum up the sort-of horror you’ll be handing out.

A[P]SOTW Update: What The Fuck Is Going On?
November 23, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

So some of you might be wondering what the fuck is going on with the A[P]SOTW judging.

Well the good news is that I should have all the comments back from all the judges by Monday evening.

[Are you hearing that judges???]

What that means is that once they’re all in my grubby little hands, I have to read them and then compile them into some semblance of order – and sense – so I can write a bloody epic post to give you all the feedback you’re waiting on.

Given there were over 20 submissions this time, it might be easier if I do it over a couple of posts for fear of getting an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for ‘longest blog post in the entire universe’.

As we’re near the end of the year and you’ll all soon be going out and getting pissed out your heads under the guise of ‘Christmas spirit’, I will endeavor to do this within 2 weeks.

I know Northern will question that, but I will … if only for the fact I’d like to bloody enjoy the anti-climax that is Santa’s annual visit.

Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to shout.

What I can say is that we had a very broad range of responses – with a couple approaching the challenge in a similar way to the way I would have – which I’ll leave up to you to determine whether that’s a compliment or an insult.

So until then, have a toptastic weekend.

The Delusion And Illusion That Makes Us Buy …
November 22, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

A long time ago – well, 4 months ago – I wrote about how a trip to the local ASDA in Nottingham had demonstrated how supermarkets know more about people than planners.

Well, after my recent trip home for my Mum’s 80th birthday celebrations, they’ve gone and done it again.

While I was running up and down the aisles like a 5 year old who had got away from his Mum, I chanced upon this:

Can you see it?

It’s a book reading light next to the hot chocolates drinks.

In other words, it’s an all in one, ‘cosy for the night’ pack.

Now I know I slagged off book reading lights a while back and so suddenly bigging it up makes me look a hypocrite, but apart from [1] this is not a USB powered light, which was the main issue I had with the previous example and [2] being classed as a hypocrite has never stopped me making hypocritical comments in the past … this product tie-in of hot chocolate and book reading light seems a match made in heaven.

No, not in the sense that people actually do this sort of thing, but because people – or at least some people – like the idea of doing that sort of thing.

It’s called ‘romantic notions’ and it affects everyone in different ways.

I remember when we first moved to Singapore and were buying furniture.

There was a rather glorious chair that Jill wanted.

Really … really … wanted.

But given we had already bought all the furniture we needed, there was no place for it.

Or so I thought.

“But we can put it in the bedroom, by the window”, she declared.

At that very moment, I could see inside her head.

The chair … the bedroom … the window.

No, it wasn’t for some weird sex show for the neighbours, it was so she could sit there – on a Sunday afternoon as the sun was starting to set – legs curled up beneath her, reading some Emily Bronte novel with the cat [which we didn’t have yet] curled up on her lap, gently purring.

THAT is why she wanted the chair.

It was a key piece to live out her romantic notion.

So we bought that chair and you know what she did with it?

Put her fucking clothes on it.

She didn’t sit on it, reading a book, EVER.


And that is why the person at ASDA is such an evil genius.

Because people don’t actually lie in bed, with a hot cup of hot chocolate in one hand, a book – with reading lamp attached to the top – in the other, on a cold, cold wintery night. They only do it in their heads.

Apart from the fact turning the page would be a complete bitch, we all know that within 10 minutes, the person lying next to you will complain that “your light is shining in my eyes so can you please turn it off because I’m trying to sleep.”

Then there’s the fact that according to some, we only use iPads for reading now – which, if it was true [which it isn’t] would have killed the book light reading business by now and yet everywhere I go, I see one of the bastards things for sale.



DIY stores.



So remember, planning [yes, here’s the spurious link] isn’t just about understanding societies reality, it’s also about understanding the reality of their fantasy.