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


Drum Roll Please …
December 18, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So here it is, my final post of the year.

All in all, it’s been a good year both personally and professionally and in this day and age, you can’t really ask for anything more than that.

I’m not going to write a ‘top 10’ of my favourite moments of 2013 because:

1. My memory is buggered.
2. This year has gone so quick, I swear it’s only February 11th.
3. Those things are utterly, utterly boring as all hell.

However, it has to be said that being with my Mum on her 80th birthday was definitely a major, major, major highlight.

Oh, and so was Forest getting billionaire owners. Ahem.

Without wanting to get all sentimental, I would like to thank everyone who has come on here and insulted me over the last 12 months.

I still find it utterly amusing that anyone pops over here [note I didn’t say ‘read my stuff’] but it feels nice. Honestly.

OK, before I go off on one of my pseudo tear-jerker diatribes, I will officially close this blog for the Christmas period … which I’m sure pleases you as much as it pleases me.

All that leaves me to say is that I hope the best of your 2012’s are the worst of your 2013’s [which is an overly-complicated way of saying here’s to a great new year] and I wish you all a festive period filled with turkey, booze and presents.

That said, I start writing my nonsensical rubbish again on Jan 7th, so that’s one black mark against 2013 already.

Well, I say that, but if those Mayan folk are right and the World ends on Friday, this will be my last post forever.

Talk about an underwhelming way to go out … but I guess it’s at least consistent with every other bit of rubbish I’ve ever written on here.

__________________________________________________________________

PS: Here’s a sweet, little video to remind us that over the festive/drunken season, we can all get along. At least in theory. Ahem.

Ta-ra.




Unwrapping The Judges Presents …
December 17, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

WARNING: THIS IS A VERY LONG POST. DON’T SAY YOU WEREN’T WARNED.

So it’s the week before Christmas and instead of wishing you all a lovely time, I’m going to give you some tough love. What sort of bastard am I!

Now before we get to the reviews, I want to cover off a few housekeeping things.

1. It’s genuinely good you had a go. I know that makes me sound like Paula Abdul, but I mean it. You don’t improve if you don’t put yourself out there and by doing this, you have done that, so good on you.

2. The brief was [purposefully] weird … of which I’ll touch a bit more on that in a moment.

3. The judges evaluated every entry based purely on what the brief asked for and what was submitted.

4. The feedback is a hybrid of all the judges comments.

All the entries can be viewed here and here.

OK, so back to the brief.

Well as I said, it was purposefully weird and it was done like that for two reasons:

+ Because sadly a lot of RFP’s are like that.

+ It was a bit of a test of your character and balls.

You see I was hoping I would get some responses that would highlight how utterly ridiculous the request was.

I’m not saying you should have ‘declined to pitch’ based on the contradictory elements of the brief, but highlighting some of the commercial ambiguities and explaining the fundamental points you were going to base your strategy on [and the bits you were going to leave for debate at a later date] would have been nice to see.

A couple of you did it – and a big well done to you – but the majority didn’t.

I appreciate that might sound like you’re being cocky, but if done the right way, it would show utter professionalism.

Calling the client a stupid dick would obviously not be respectful or responsible, but if you highlighted – or at least enquired – where some of the information/facts in the brief came from, it would show you’re serious about the task and are not someone who bases everything on the superficial or here-say.

Let’s be honest, there were all sorts of issues that needed to be raised – or at the very least – considered.

From the mixed objectives [cool versus shoe sales] to their lack of credibility in the basketball category to the fact they expect a global campaign for 3 million US$ to the reality that 1 million shoes at US$50 each is hardly going to change the perception of their brand when in 2010, they sold US$20 billion of product.

And that’s just for starters.

To be honest, this is why part of the task was to ask the 5 questions, but unfortunately, very few people actually challenged the validity of what was being requested, even though literally none of the “facts” made sense.

Those 5 questions were your chance to really show what you were made of … prove to H&M that you were the agency that wouldn’t let them make stupid mistakes but overall, the questions were weak.

Only a few people asked ‘why’ basketball shoes.

No one requested to see the product.

No one.

That’s not great because to me, they would be the absolute basic starting point … but maybe people felt that was the wrong thing to do because it was too ‘obvious’.

Or thought that because this was a pretend brief, those questions didn’t matter.

NEVER think something is too obvious.

NEVER assume someone has thought it all through.

I’m not saying clients are stupid, but sadly, too many briefs are written with too little time – so ambiguity, contradiction and superficiality can often exist within them.

So while only one person had the courage to actively challenge the validity of the RFP’s objectives, a lot of you had the courage to believe you could design a better sneaker than H&M.

There were a lot of suggestions for new product – or should I say – new design.

Now while I’m fine with that, the 3 things that most of the judges responded with were:

+ Why are people assuming the H&M basketball shoe won’t be good – especially given their long heritage of doing collaborative lines.

+ What credentials did the people have for thinking their design recommendation was going to be more successful than an international fashion brand.

+ Where in the RFP did it say this approach was agreeable?.

Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do that – but you better have a bloody good explanation why you think H&M’s product won’t be good enough [which will be hard given no one asked to see it] not to mention a fantastic – and quantifiable – rationale for why your design will be better.

The submissions that took this route all felt like the person had jumped to the execution and then tried to back-rationalise the strategy and while some were quite good, none were convincing enough to have got through to the next round of the ‘pitch’.

Not only that, hardly anyone thought of using H&M’s existing assets – whether that’s the retail environment or their own apps – they felt it was better to reinvent the wheel which either indicates incredible confidence or that no one really bothered to look at what they already had.

There’s a last couple of general comments.

First of all, never underestimate the importance of a good looking deck.

I know … I know … the quality should stand out but we all know that is not always the case. Besides, a great looking deck makes people pay even more attention and if you’ve put in all this effort, shouldn’t you be doing all you can to make sure you hold their attention and imagination?

The other thing is – and I say this every time – start pitching your idea from the first page.

Come up with a title that puts the audience’s heads into the space you want from the moment they read it.

This might seem a little thing, but it’s important.

You don’t get long to impress and you want to make sure everything is working for you from the moment you begin.

Finally, while many of you said that H&M required a different approach than the well-trodden ground of brands like NIKE and Adidas etc, they all still felt pretty ‘traditional’.

If you’re going to say that – which, for the record, was the right thing to do – then make sure it’s actually different otherwise you’ll be called out on it.

So while all the submissions had good points, there was no standout assignment … and the general lack of business appreciation was the most obvious – and alarming – shortfall.

Sure, some of the judges were classic business people, so they may have looked at the submissions with more of a pure commercial eye … however while advertising is a fantastic, exciting and influential discipline, we’re here to make clients more successful … so if we don’t explore and challenge the fundamental objectives that we’ve been asked to help achieve, then we’re setting everyone up to fail at some level.

Two things I was taught that I still hold dear are:

+ Creativity and commerciality are never mutually exclusive.

+ Popularity is vanity. Profit is sanity.

That obviously doesn’t mean I’m advocating rational and uninspiring advertising, I’m simply saying you have to be aware of what the real business objectives are, especially as in my experience, once you know that, it actually liberates creativity rather than restricts it.

OK, now the lecture is all over, let’s get on with the feedback shall we?

For your information, the judging criteria was simply to evaluate the 4 key objectives laid out in the RFP …

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

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 the strategy, a clear articulation of what the strategy is and examples of how it could be ‘brought to life’, outside of traditional advertising]

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

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

So with that, let’s get on with things and the first person to be evaluated, in no particular order, is …

1. ED WATTS

Take note of the points I mentioned earlier regarding ‘presentation style’ and ‘selling from the first page’.

As a flow, your presentation was a logical progression – however the content within each page felt like you were trying to impress rather than giving information and viewpoints that impressed.

The key challenge seemed to be longer than War & Peace and the objective didn’t seem to actually reflect what the heart of the brief was.

Yes, they want an additional $50 million in sales but they have been quite clear how they want to achieve it – and why – so only focusin on their desire to “re-claim and overhaul their brand position as the leading global retailer within the fast fashion market” it all feels quite put many of the judges off from page 2. Not great.

The other thing is your view that the brand is a barrier.

Is that true? It doesn’t sound like that’s a juicy problem to solve compared to – for example – stopping Uniqlo being the default destination for fast fashion.

You touch on this, but you don’t commit and that’s a shame because it would have potentially made your ‘People’s Fashion’ idea even more powerful.

People generally liked that idea, but everyone felt you didn’t push it far enough – the blog is not really going to drive the concept plus you ignored many of the apps that are already in the public arena that could have helped your goal.

That said, we could all tell what you were trying to do and while it didn’t come out as compelling as we would have liked, the idea was one that every judge talked about – so well done, because they’re all a bunch of cynical bastards.

2. PHILIP DM

A crisp and direct presentation but we would have liked to have seen a bit more investigation into the business issue.

Rather than make H&M ‘a stronger fashion brand’, they wanted to be cool … and while it could be argued your expression has more validity, it still doesn’t capture the heart of what they wanted to achieve.

We liked the tension you found between stuffy fashion culture and the youthful energy of the audience – especially as that creates a real role for basketball – and your observation about shoes was interesting [Fashionistas liking stilettos because they’re ridiculous] but you didn’t really take it anywhere and that’s a shame because it could have been really great.

To be honest, that was the general feeling of all the judges … you had identified a number of very thought provoking considerations but when it came to pulling it all together, it didn’t seem to have any connection to what you’d set up and what was there felt flat and contrived.

Apart from making sure that what you set up flows like a story – rather than separate chapters – remember that being short and creative in your pitches should not be at the expense of commercial understanding and strategic sense.

Tighten this up and the difference will be significant.

3. MATT LEADER

This was a real mixed bag.

There were some very good things … like articulating what you thought the heart of the objective was as well as listing what will – and won’t – work, but there were some bad elements such as not explaining why ‘making H&M more interesting’ was the right thing to do or why ‘style leadership’ was the strategic answer they were looking for.

That said, you identified – albeit via a Pope question – that the budget was small so you a radical approach was needed, but everyone felt you just were throwing out ideas rather than explaining why that would actually generate the sort of response the client wanted.

As I said, it was a real mixed bag – some lovely things and some that definitely need working on – so maybe next time, you need to run your presentation by someone as they might identify some of the questions we had before you submit.

Talking of questions, some of yours were really good, especially number 1. Good work.

4. HM V2

While a lot of what was said in this submission was right, it was expressed in quite a flat manner – leaving people nodding but not excited.

For example, defining the problem as basically ‘we’re not as cool as everyone else’ doesn’t really give people a challenge they can get their teeth into, unless you’re a designer.

Talking of design, you were one of the people who suggested you knew more about design than H&M.

You said it was based on research but we didn’t really see any. That said, we liked the idea of the ‘city specific’ shoes, but as one of the judges stated – the cost and distribution hell that it would cause means the price would definitely have to be increased.

A couple of your executional ideas were interesting because they were based on what the audience do and where they go, but it also made us question your voting idea because quite frankly, it pales in comparison next to the other two.

At the end of the day, your idea was entirely based on associating with designers and if H&M said they weren’t going to do that, you would be out of the running immediately. It’s because of this that we think your proposal was more executional than strategic and so you need to think a bit more higher level before you get to the ideas, even though some of those were very nice.

5. NIC POON

There were some good elements to this … you clearly framed the task and you talked about a real link between basketball and fashion … but overall, it felt quite generic as a ‘youth’ strategy and overall, very risky given it sounded like you were advocating going head-to-head with NIKE, Adidas, Converse and countless others who have been in Basketball for decades, have untold levels of credibility and a much bigger ad budget.

Which leads to the ‘Be Baller’ idea.

Quite frankly it’s not a strategic idea, it’s a creative expression.

Because of this, it starts to feel very preachy, which doesn’t seem a good idea given you identified self expression as key driver against the target audience.

In essence, you set things up quite nicely – albeit without much evidence of how you got there – but when it came to what the client really was looking for, you left them scratching their head both in terms of the contradictions you seem to be amplifying and the strategy you are recommending.

6. HM WEINFELD

We really liked that you identified that one of the core problems that H&M face is that they have made their fortune copying and now it’s time to lead.

That’s a great point and one that made all the judges nod in agreement … but then the rest of the presentation seems to jump around without any real flow or insights, meaning we had to keep going back and forth to see if we had missed something.

You were also someone who suggested collaboration was the key – but you didn’t really explain how that would benefit H&M other than ‘cool by association’ which seemed to be completely counter to what you said they had to do to move forward.

We all feel that if you had structured the submission better – and grounded it on facts and insight – this would have been much better but while you had some good elements, like the comms strat and the suggested measurement criteria [even though they felt quite superficial], we were left feeling that you didn’t really appreciate the objective or the culture.

7. DUNCAN

One of the judges said, “This is the first person who actually understands the fundamentals of business management” … which is a wonderful compliment.

He then added, “… but he doesn’t understand the communication industry” … which just about sums up what everyone thought of this submission.

Slides 1 to 8 were fantastic, albeit ugly.

You challenged the brief … the thinking behind the brief and the issues relating to cool.

You also provided a very clear and concise answer to what was necessary – be interesting not cool – but after that, it all seemed to go a bit awry … hell, you didn’t even bother doing the 5 questions.

The strategy for moving forward felt weak and wasn’t based on insights. In addition, it seemed like you were advocating doing what H&M are doing already, only more often.

It’s almost like you felt telling the client their RFP was wrong was enough.

It’s not, but great work on the set up – for what it’s worth – I would be proud of that.

8. NIKLAS & BJORN

There was a lot to like about this presentation.

First, it was nicely laid out.

Then you clearly articulated the problem H&M face as well as highlighted a simple – yet effective – role for the soon-to-be-launched basketball shoe … ‘get H&M talked about’.

We really liked the ‘narrow and wide’ audience segmentation and we loved the way you explored what used to make them great – this is never done enough in strategic thinking and it really stood out.

Pulling it altogether with the observation “a shoe can’t do it, but the idea can” was wonderful.

To be honest, the whole thing flowed and the only criticism was that numbering shoes 1 to 1,000,000 wouldn’t really make them sound as unique as you are trying to imply [not to mention it sounds like you don’t have faith in what they would design] plus the ‘find your sole mate’ idea was nothing more than a PR stunt.

That doesn’t mean it was wrong, but it took away something from the rest of your hard work.

But this was good. Really good.

9. ADAM

First of all it was 26 pages long, which immediately means it would be thrown out.

If you think we’re being petty, you haven’t done enough RFP’s. Or worked with German clients!

That aside, you have covered a lot of stuff here – but it all feels like you’re trying to show how much work you’ve done rather than convey information that a client would find interesting in relation to their business challenge.

One thing that would help is to drop the planner language bullshit.

I fucking hate all that … if your mother wouldn’t understand it, then it’s complicated for the sake of being complicated and unless your mother is a planner at FutureBrand, then I would say she wouldn’t understand it.

While you have a lot of information, the flow doesn’t always connect up.

We still aren’t sure how you got to the Maverick/Hunter stuff and while it all seem like fun, it’s a territory that many bigger – and higher spending – clients operate in plus we still don’t know what it has to do with basketball.

Good stuff, but it would be even better if you didn’t complicate it with poncy language and a bit of brain ego.

By all means be clever, but let others make that judgement rather than feel that’s what you’re trying to make them think.

10. THE ONE AFTER ADAM’S, WITH THE NICKI MINAJ REFERENCE

From a personal point of view, this submission made me smile and angry.

It made me smile because you cheekily said ‘See handout for methodology & results’.

It’s utter bullshit, but I admire the fact you know we would want to see you actually did some work to make your views rather than just make your views.

That said, you made me HATE you when you came up with your own terminology.

Yes, you apologised in advance but ‘microllaborations’ is complete bollocks both in terms of the expression and the fact you are openly questioning H&M’s ability to design credible fashion items.

You were saved from my wrath because you clearly reframed the goal as ‘gain cred with influencers’ and had a clear- if arguable – point of view that ‘H&M is nothing without collaborations’.

The last page is great, but it doesn’t make up for the fact you didn’t include the 5 questions.

11. ALEXANDRA BUNDA & VLAD IONITA

Another presentation that has been designed – good work.

So you lay out the challenge clearly but your ‘strategy’ – steal from Adidas Originals [etc] by connecting to them better – doesn’t feel like it’s a strategy, more of a tactic.

Don’t get us wrong, that might drive sales, but it doesn’t feel the sort of thing that will create a clear positioning for the brand in its own right.

To be honest, it felt like you wanted to get to the executional thoughts and the set-up pages were simply to justify your submission.

Without doubt, some of your ideas are lovely, but we’re just not sure that your ‘strategy’ or the ‘insight’ you use to justify them are believable. Sorry.

12. MIKI SIM

So this started off really well.

You framed the the challenge and the target really well.

You identified the tension in the audience that would automatically give your idea some genuine energy and provocation – which is a great thing.

We even liked the ‘restrictor’ to ‘enabler’ but some of the judges felt this strategy was already in existence in some markets – with brands like Uniqlo and Zara.

Some of the executional ideas were nice but the overall impression was that while the thinking and presentation flowed and – to a large degree – made sense, it all felt a bit ‘been there, done that’.

Now the reality is there are a lot of brands that would buy this thinking, but the judges – while positively acknowledging what you did – wouldn’t.

You need to find ways to inject some more inventiveness into your ideas – or should I say, execution thoughts – because ultimately, they were the things people felt they’d seen before which did your upfront thinking a disservice.

13. GABRIELLE

So again, there was some great set up points in this presentation.

You clearly framed the problem and highlighted that they are losing their traction with young, high spenders and we LOVED the way you defined H&M as ‘The World’s Clothing Warehouse’ … that set up the issue and the challenge really, really well.

You also get extra points for using ‘quotes’ to make your point, it really helped get your view across and added an air of credibility. Nice work.

There was a bit of debate as regards your ‘trend hunter’ idea.

Some really liked it because it was credible and interesting. Others didn’t because they felt it was already occupied by brands like Zara and potentially positioned H&M as the World’s biggest imitator.

At the end of the day, your presentation made sense and it flowed – which is worthy of praise – but the end result didn’t quite meet the expectations you had set us up to expect.

Which is quite a compliment really.

14. KAY TO

Another presentation that exceeded the allowed number of pages.

Watch out for this, it’s a serious thing – even if you think what you’re saying is the answer to the Universe.

The overall judges viewpoint of this presentation was that while you directly challenged the meaning of ‘cool’, it ended up recommended a position that H&M already occupy – the democratiser of fashion.

As a presentation, it felt more like a written proposal.

We could see you were telling a story but it was difficult to ascertain what the specific points you were trying to make for H&M.

Talking about other brands is all well and good, but using a brand that plays in a very niche territory [Benetton] is probably not the best choice to prove your point. You also seemed to take an incredibly long time to get make the points you wanted to make.

At the end of the day, your idea sounded something many brands could claim and there was basically no commentary about the basketball shoes which means you either missed the point of the brief or got to wrapped up in your own idea.

Even though the RFP was full of contradictions, ignoring ket parts of it without explaining why you’re doing it, not only undermines your position but creates immediate animosity between you and the client.

15. JACOB: REGROWING THE ROOTS

Great design – it made us want to like your presentation from the start.

We really liked that you identified relevance as a key issue and the fact H&M just aren’t special anymore and you did it in a clear and flowing way.

While it was smart to not go head to head with brands that have basketball in their DNA … going into the fashion angle of basketball through athletes is, by default, going head to head with the brands that have basketball in their DNA as well as high fashion brands.

Players like Kevin Durant definitely try to flaunt their fashion chops, but what this does is play to a World of niche designers and/or established high end fashion houses who create products to reflect the unique personalities of the players.

At it’s heart, baller fashion labels are all about credibility and exclusivity – both a long way from the fast fashion offering H&M is all about.

So great work on the set up, but the strategy doesn’t seem to have been thought through enough – at least from a genuine baller lifestyle association perspective.

16. THOMAS

Using Northern’s comms strategy chart to get on his good side was both smart and toady.

You made some great observations about HM and had some lovely analysis of the real role of basketball shoes have in people’s lives.

[Though why do you seem to be only targeting men?]

In some respects, you were the only person who properly considered what 1,000,000 shoes sales would look like – especially compared to the dominant competitor of NIKE.

To be honest, there was little we could disagree with – it was all clear and insightful – but we don’t know whether it actually would answer the ‘make us cool’ objective.

It was certainly the most solid strategy we read and you had some lovely stuff in there [From the strategically rich “It’s Where They Take You” territory to the Kickstarter/donation idea to the role of the retail store] … but despite that, we were all left with the impression that while we liked what you said, you hadn’t actually said what we asked you to respond to.

That said, having seen you do these assignments over the years, the growth – without wishing to sound patronising – is great which is why I am sure that if this was a real RFP, we’d invite you back for more talks, but ask you to be more specific in answering our objective.

17. BASHFUL

THis was clear, concise and pacey. Nice.

You had some lovely observations about how culture encourages people to be creative but it’s actually quite hard to be self expressive.

You also acknowledged you were going to target men and women. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people create barriers that aren’t actually there.

You also get extra points for considering KPI’s, something most clients want and all agencies should give but – and I appreciate this is quite a personal comment – the colour idea, while campaignable, interesting and fun – has been done to death for everyone from Converse, and Adidas to Uniqlo and recently, Beats.

While no one should allow competitors to decide your strategy, when it comes to execution – steering clear from what has gone on before, especially if it’s in a similar category or targeting a similar audience – is a must.

Unless the client is a parity peddling prat.

18. BLACK DENDLE

First of all, another presentation with design. Good on you.

This is a really punchy presentation with the clarity that people who send out RFP’s want.

Seriously, imagine getting 40 presentations back … you’d definitely remember – or notice – the one’s that look good and/or get straight to the point.

Though quite frankly, if you send an RFP out to 40 agencies, you get what you deserve. But I digress.

There were some lovely things in this – we especially liked the ‘agile fashion’ angle however, and this is a major issue, we don’t know how you got to that.

One of the judges – who admittedly is a hard bastard – said, “Stating H&M lacks relevance with the influencer set does not make it true.” He then added, “… how is making H&M cool, creating relevance?”

It appears that in your haste to get to the point, you forgot to take the readers along for the journey – which is a shame, because this had the possibility of being something great when what it ended up being, was a presentation that made the judges want to ask you a lot of questions.

And not in a good way.

Oh, and you forgot the 5 questions.

Lot of potential with this, but sadly, you probably wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to turn it into a reality.

19. SID WHEELER

The overriding impression the judges felt about this submission was that you were trying awfully hard to sound intellectual.

That doesn’t mean they didn’t think you were clever, but it just felt a bit forced at times.

‘Thoughtfully hip leadership’ – however right that may be – sounds more like a dinner party conversation than a strategy.

When we managed to get past that, what we read was interesting.

We loved that you highlighted the contradictions in the brief and were going to focus on the element you believe was the most important.

Your analysis on ‘cool’ – as defined by the older sibling [methodology aside] – got the judges talking, though we all wanted this to be played into the strategy, which we didn’t feel it did.

There were a lot of commentary about the use of, for want of a better expression, CSR in the strategy.

Ten out of ten for fighting for something important, but without validation that the target audience would indeed regard this as ‘cool’, it came across as idealist rather than commercialist.

That might sound cold, but your job is to prove it’s validity not say it is.

There were plenty of good ideas here, but your overuse of buzz/intelligencia language put a lot of the judges off. As did the lack of clearly articulating how this strategy would shift product.

One very senior and experienced judge said, “When he starts to include commercial realism into his thinking, he will be fantastic.”

This is both a compliment and a very good piece of advice.

Please don’t mistake us as saying you shouldn’t be trying to find ways to help society while helping companies – far from it, after all, I was talking about social capaitalism 10 years ago – it’s just that the only way you’re going to achieve it is if you embrace the commercial requirements of the client, rather than only pay lip service to it.

20. TOMAS RAULICKIS

First of all, congratulations on using the first page to get things moving straight away.

Sure, it could have been done in a more creatively interesting way – pushing your strategy rather than the way you’ve approached the RFP – but good on you for doing it.

So this was a very interesting submission because quite frankly, the answer was a bit mad.

Now there is good and bad in that sort of response because while you didn’t take the judges on the journey that helped them understand why this was the right thing to do – or even what you were actually suggesting – we all wondered what we had missed because as crazy as it sounded, it certainly stood out from pretty much every other submission.

Now I have the advantage of knowing what you were thinking because you wrote to me after you submitted your assignment to explain it.

The disappointing thing is you didn’t do that in the actual submission.

Without doubt you would need to work very, very hard to both explain and justify this route, but it certainly was a unique approach and far more powerful than the Benetton strategy which is basically go for shock value with no follow through.

The best advice we can give is that you need to take people on a better journey to your idea.

We got very confused and while we accept there may be a language/translation issue, we still spent more time scratching our head than we should.

That said – and it’s important you remember this Tomas – pushing boundaries is a great thing, so you must not take this feedback as anything other than finding a better way to explain your strategy.

Not writing it as a paper would help because word documents encourage you to waffle on.

The best compliment I can give is that you remind me a bit of a guy that used to come on this blog a lot – Niko – because he had all these mad, crazy ideas … except the difference was he was better at explaining them and articulating them.

He’s now running his own company and discovering just what he’s capable of doing and being.

That’s something everyone should aspire to do and I believe this is within your reach.

What you need to do is practice.

Keep pushing things and aiming higher – but practice articulating your idea so that it is easily understood and then practice how to get the evidence needed so that people don’t see it as crazy, but as commercially wonderful.

_________________________________________________________________________

So there you go, that’s the feedback.

We normally have a winner but no one submission really ticked all the boxes however, as it’s nearly Christmas and we’re feeling generous, we’ve decided to award a prize to the entries we felt best achieved one of the following:

1. Challenging the brief.
2. Articulating the strategy [even if we didn’t completely agree with it]
3. Clarity of argument [even if we didn’t completely agree with it]

… and so if Duncan, Thomas Wagner and Niklas & Bjorn email me with their addresses, I’ll send you all a little something in the new year.

To everyone who took part, I hope you found the challenge interesting and the feedback constructive … I’d certainly be very interested to hear what you think and, if you accept the advice, how it has [hopefully] improved what you do.

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to write to me but as it’s Christmas very soon, I might take a little longer to get back to you, so I apologise in advance.

I could write more but this is already the longest post in the World, so I’d like to thank the judges for sparing their valuable time to go through every entry and then their generosity in passing on their experience and wisdom, I’d like to thank WARC for all their help and contribution to this assignment and I’d like to thank everyone who took part … I hope it was fun and you feel you got something out of it.

Right, I’m off so until the next A[P]SOTW assignment, sometime in the new year …

Ta-ra and thanks again.

_________________________________________________________________________

PS: For the record, this post is 5,885 words long. And doesn’t it feel like it, ha!



Herding Cats …
December 14, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

So after what probably seems like an age, I’ve finally managed to collect all the judges feedback for the A[P]SOTW assignment.

The delay in achieving this was all down to two judges:

1. Steve at Virgin Atlantic – who was distracted by something rather important.

2. Northern – who was just a slackarse.

Anyway, all the feedback is in so now my job is to compile it into some sort of collective and coherent view.

Now as there were 20 entries, that means there’s quite a lot to do, but as I asked you guys to do a lot of work for me, I’m going to do a lot of work for you and get everything done over the weekend so I can present the feedback on Monday’s post.

[For the record, my wife is away in Australia so I would have nothing else to do anyway]

Given I write ridiculously long posts over the most trivial of subjects, there is a very good chance that Monday’s post may be longest I’ve ever written.

My rationale/justification is that I assume the people who took part in the assignment will want clear and constructive feedback rather than just a couple of superficial, pithy lines that tell them nothing at all.

If I’m wrong, tough. Besides, it’s not like the rest of you actually read my rubbish anyway.

So all that leaves me to say is have a great weekend, especially for the people waiting on feedback. [Cue: Evil Laugh]



How To Build A Great Brand …
December 13, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

There are companies out there that say to build a great brand, you have to follow an amazingly complex process.

Then to make it worse, they equate ‘great’ to simply a brand that is profitable. Or big.

Sure, those are factors – especially the profitable bit – but I’m not sure if that’s what makes a truly great brand.

For me, great is when you have an irrational connection with your audiences hearts, minds & wallets.

Where people will go out of their way to choose you over another … regardless of price, distribution or heritage.

In these highly competitive times, it is arguable that ‘brand’ is more important than ever.

Which goes back to how you build a great one.

Well, according to Richard Branson it’s not all that hard to do.

Sure, to make it come alive is full of complexities, demands and pitfalls, but at its heart, ingenuityinventivenessballs & a relentless hunger to make your brand the best in terms of experience & reputation are all that matters.



To Be A Good Leader, You Have To Be A Good Listener …
December 12, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

I have worked with a lot of bosses in my career so far.

Good bosses.

Average bosses.

Terrible bosses.

And in almost every case, the difference between the worst and the best was their openness to hearing opinion before making their decision.

The best guys didn’t do it because they wanted to be liked … they did it because they wanted to make the right decision and they knew this could only happen if they welcomed the voicing of opinion upfront.

Of course, by adopting this approach, it also meant they would disappoint some and please others … but to them, that was acceptable because it was a byproduct of them being able to make more informed, more effective decisions.

Real decisions.

Decisions with bite, purpose and vision

Decisions they believe in rather than abdicating their responsibility to consensus.

The worst bosses were almost entirely opposite in their approach.

These people would do all they could to ensure breadth of opinions were never given a chance to be heard. And for the record, I mean opinions from other senior, experienced colleagues … not every Tom, Dick & Harry, which can be equally as dangerous if not handled correctly.

That would mean they’d have lots of private meetings with only their most trusted of aids in the room or they’d simply hold back on announcing their decision until the last possible moment so no meaningful change could ever take place.

If those bosses were geniuses, it might have been easier to take, but almost universally, the people who adopted that stance were scared, incompetent and racked with self-doubt.

Great bosses understand letting people be heard is a vital component to job satisfaction.

People are more accepting of disappointment if they feel their counsel has been courted or their opinion heard.

Of course, this is not always possible, but funnily enough … the best bosses I’ve ever worked with, have always found a way to make it happen.

I hope you’re working with people like that because they make you feel involved, connected and alive.

And that helps you become better than you thought you were or could be.



RobTalks …
December 11, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

https://i2.wp.com/www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/movies/ted.jpg

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought someone was really smart and then they did something that made you think,

“Hmmmmn, maybe they’re utterly stupid?”

The last time it happened to me was when the very lovely Steve Harrison wanted to send me a copy of his book on the wonderful Howard Gossage.

Anyway, it’s happened again, but this time its an organization rather than a person.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls … please give a big hand to the latest example of professional suicide … TED.

TED?

Yes TED … as in TEDTalks.

An organization that has a rich and enviable history of amazing presentations [including 2 of my all time favorites, which are here and here] have committed credibility suicide by asking me to take part in their ads worth spreading program by answering 3 questions:

1. What stands in the way of brave work.
2. Who – or what – inspires us to overcome these obstacles.
3. What is the bravest thing you’ve seen a brand do this year.

Three questions.

Three little questions.

And yet when I saw them, my first response was ‘what is brave work’?

Is it someone that does something outside of their comfort zone?

Is it someone that does something that challenges the category convention?

Is it someone that does something that questions society?

Is it someone that simply does something no one has ever seen or done before?

You can tell where I’m going with this can’t you!

Within 10 minutes, I had responded to TED’s request with a massive diatribe that – to be honest – wasn’t what they wanted to hear, mainly because it did it’s level best to ignore answering any of those 3 little questions.

That said, there was one bit I liked which was how I said I thought ‘brave’ could be evaluated as successful … which was when an idea or action infiltrates and changes the perspective, context and mindset of societies opinion and behavior on a massive, measurable scale.

I like that.

Sadly – or fortunately – TED didn’t, but not because they’re bastards, but because [1] I was blathering on like a lunatic [I wrote 10 lines about issues I felt were stopping brand bravery!!!] and [2] this is part of a series addressing this issue and so want everyone to approach the task based around the same 3 key questions.

The only other thing they asked is that the example of ‘brave’ I used was specifically associated with communication, hence my initial example of Microsoft and Windows 8 was wrong.

[And yes, I really do think what Microsoft did with Windows 8 was brave, even though when you look at the bigger situation, it was the only option really available to them]

With all that in mind, I went back to the drawing board and ended up actually answering the brief, which you can see below.

You might agree. You might disagree. That’s cool … but I would love to hear your answers if you can be arsed.

I have absolutely no idea why TED asked me to take part – probably for light relief – but it was very nice to take part, so thank you, I hope you don’t live to regret it for too long.

https://i1.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8489/8243203412_9c44576608.jpg

The film associated with the Bodyform ‘Truth’ campaign can be seen here.

The backstory to the campaign can be viewed here.

The other views of those 3 little questions can be viewed here.



Who Needs To Fear Nigerian Email Scammers, When You Have Banks?
December 10, 2012, 6:12 am
Filed under: Comment

https://i1.wp.com/www.thinmartian.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/HSBC.jpg

Maybe it’s because I travel a lot.

Maybe it’s because I buy a lot of shit.

Maybe it’s because I am just unlucky.

Whatever the case, I get credit card scammed a lot.

From trips to France and on the Orient Express through to new sets of luggage and computers … you name it, I have inadvertently funded it.

Just my luck I have scammers who have expensive – and sophisticated – tastes.

Now the good [?] news is that because this sort of thing is so rife, the credit card companies are relatively quick to sort it out … or so I thought … because last week I discovered someone had spent almost US$10,000 on my Visa card [at the NYC Apple Store no less] and HSBC couldn’t have been more unhelpful.

Apart from taking TWENTY MINUTES to answer the phone, they then told me they couldn’t do anything until I wrote in to officially tell them there was a problem.

I asked why ringing them up and telling them there was a problem, wasn’t enough … but they said “it was the rules”.

This is also the bank that told me they couldn’t act on my requests as I was in China [and the money & branch I was calling was located in Hong Kong] and that to ‘authorize any action’, I’d have to come into that specific branch.

OK, I appreciate taking instructions over the phone is open to exploitation but I’m supposedly one of their Global Premier customers – which is supposedly for people in my exact sort of ‘live-in-lots-of-countries’ situation – but no one at the Shanghai HSBC offices say they can help me.

And they call themselves the World’s local bank.

Hahahahahahahaha!

Access to my money aside, I am now in the situation where I have to wait over 2 months until HSBC tell me whether they accept they have authorized a fraudulent transaction.

TWO MONTHS!

Can someone tell me what exactly I am paying an annual fee for?

What makes it even more frustrating is that normally, when I’m overseas, they call me every time I try and use my card to ‘check’ it’s a valid transaction – so how they allowed this to happen is beyond me.

And to think I used to believe it was just their ads that were bollocks.