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


Newton’s Law Of Motion 2.0
March 18, 2013, 6:13 am
Filed under: Comment

As I wrote a couple of years ago, every good thing has the potential of a dark side.

That doesn’t mean it should be stopped or banned, just viewed with the acknowledgement that those who speak loudest don’t necessarily represent either the majority or the truth.

Social media should be regarded as a starting point for exploration, not an end point for judgement … but sadly, in this fast-moving, instant gratification, convenience based society [encouraged by an ad industry that almost universally favours speed over quality, hype over substance and money over value] my views might be totally outdated.

Let’s face it, I am old, I am cynical and I am overly sentimental.



Planners Are Pathetic, Pointless & Other Words That Begin With The Letter ‘P’ …
March 15, 2013, 6:18 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Campaign Magazine

So there’s an age old debate whether planners are of any value to adland.

Despite being one for almost all my working life, I agree that there are a lot of things wrong with what modern day planning has become.

To be fair, this is less about the discipline and more about how some companies – and planners – work.

Sadly, too many view planning [and planners] as either a tool to charge clients incredible amounts for creating over–complicated, ultimately meaningless, powerpoint documents [mainly because they’ve sold the value of creativity down the river] or a license to act like they’re a cross between the second coming of Christ and Einstein.

And to those companies and planners, I say fuck you … because planning can contribute a lot to [commercial] creativity and all you’re doing with your actions is destroying its validity and credibility.

In my mind, our job is to perform 3 things:

+ Understand what’s really going on in the minds and heads of society. [Not the things they say, if anything, the things they’re not saying]

+ Identify the fundamental problem that we need to solve to liberate our clients potential. [Both now and in the future]

+ Stimulate, encourage & inspire our broader creative colleagues to be braver, bolder and more exciting in their response to the problem at hand.

That’s it.

Our job certainly doesn’t stop once the brief has been written … in fact, in some respects, that’s where it starts … and ‘planner’ certainly isn’t code for writing countless, pointless powerpoint documents.

Sure, writing and presenting is part of the job … but it’s purpose is to help drive better work, not encourage clients to be more closed-minded which is why I have this [admittedly stupid] view that if you write a presentation and people never refer back to it, you’ve contributed to the confusion, not clarity.

Anyway, a few months ago, someone wrote in to Campaign magazine slagging off planners.

Not just slagging them off, but character assassinating them.

OK, so some of the things they said were fair – at least in the context of the sort of planners who I think need a kicking [who in my book, should be called ‘Pretenders’ rather than ‘Planners’] – but I still was upset this sort of attitude was being expressed in such a condescending and generalistic tone.

Are some planners crap?

Yes.

Do some planners add nothing except more obstacles?

Yes.

Do some planners think they’re geniuses despite having never made anything other than a creative brief?

Yes.

Do some planners confuse being interesting with saying [other people’s] interesting things?

Yes.

Do some planners forget the creative teams are friends, not enemies?

Yes.

Do some planners forget we are judged on the output, not the input?

Yes.

But let me tell you, planners don’t hold the monopoly in that shit … there’s plenty of creatives, suits, MD’s and almost everyone in-between that have those same misguided, deluded, myopic opinions.

As do people in almost every industry from banking to policing.

So I decided I couldn’t let it pass.

Yes, I know it serves no purpose.

Yes, I know it won’t convince the doubters to change their opinion.

Yes, I know I am basically ‘biting’ to an idiots proclamations but, unlike research companies who seem to never stand up against idiots making a mockery of their industry, I think it’s important to fight for what you believe in when it is being openly challenged – even if you’re being challenged by a myopic fool who, for all I know, has only ever worked in a company that employs wannabe-geniuses who end up just writing complicated powerpoint documents no one reads to [1] justify their job [2] keep their delusions alive – which is why I wrote this:

Is it immature?

Errrrrm, of course it is – this is me we’re talking about – but daft views deserve equally daft responses so regardless of what happens, I feel I can look at myself in the mirror because I’ve stood up for what I believe … and as the old maxim goes, if you don’t stand for something, you might fall for anything.

Don’t mistake this post as my attempt to stoke the fires of Planners vs Creatives – it’s not and never will be because I respect, love & need my broader creative colleagues – if anything, it’s simply a rant against prejudice [& shit planners] which is why one of the best bits of advice I ever got was before you start questioning others, take a long hard look at yourself first.

Oooooh, I feel so much better after that, have a top weekend.



The Importance Of Stubborness …
March 14, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude

In some respects, we’ve turned into an entitlement society.

In terms of business – especially the service industry – it seems to have moved from ‘the customer is always right’ to the customer can be as demanding and descriptive as they want’.

In other words, the service industry has become the subserviency industry.

Earlier this week I wrote about what business can learn from Claridge’s hotel.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t talking about their incredible ability to satisfy their clientele’s needs and wants, I was talking about their stubbornness to maintain their standards, values and approach.

You see while their objective is to always give their guests the experience of their life, they believe it should be done to their standards, not necessarily what everyone else thinks it should be.

What this means is they have rules.

Yes, rules.

Loads of them … from only serving tea when they believe it is at the correct temperature to be consumed to insisting every diner must wear a jacket in their restaurant and countless in-between.

Now I appreciate to some, this sounds counter to ‘customer service’ … but here’s the thing, it’s their stubborness that sets them apart.

This doesn’t mean they want clients to leave unsatisfied.

Nor does this mean they’re closed off to new things or new possibilities.

What this means is that Claridge’s know who they are and what they stand for … not in terms of quoting some mission statement that sounds awfully similar to every other mission statement, but in terms of how they think and behave on an ongoing basis.

Now to some, that might sound like a stupid thing to do because the ramifications of that attitude could be that you alienate potential guests. However there is a counter point of view to this and that’s their willingness to sacrifice those customers who don’t appreciate what they do and how they do it, means it could attract others that do.

In other words they don’t ‘chase’ their audience, they attract.

They create feelings and experiences that not only create a powerful bond with the recipient, but become very hard for others to duplicate.

For me, stubborness and sacrifice are attributes that set great brands apart from all the others … and while many can talk about it, the truth – and value – is in the actions and behavior.

So why am I saying this?

Because I think adland is one of the industries that needs to remember it most.

We bitch and moan about how brands need to behave and then 9 times out of 10, do the absolute opposite.

We talk rather than do.

We chase rather than attract.

We bend rather than staying true.

And yet we have the audacity to talk about differentiation when in many cases, agencies are all the same, just with a different name above the door.

It’s too easy to say the agencies who do the best creative are the agencies who stand out the most, because whilst there is obviously a degree of truth to that, the reason they’re in that position is not just because they’ve been able to attract the best talent and the best clients … but because they’ve stubbornly refused to relinquish the values and standards they believe contributes to creating work of commercial & cultural significance, even if that means sacrificing the opportunity to work with rich clients who might not like what they do or how they do it.

When done in the right way and for the right reasons [not to mention, with the right proof], stubbornness and sacrifice aren’t signs of petulance, but awesomeness.



If You Ever Wanted To Know How Little Your Bank Thinks Of You …
March 13, 2013, 6:13 am
Filed under: Comment

I have a problem with a lot of banks.

Either it’s their advertising makes me ill, or it’s their service, thought process or rules.

That said, there is one bank that I save most of my anger for, and that is HSBC.

Originally, it was because their advertising made me angry, their service [or lack of] made me furious and their ethics made me laugh … however despite seemingly handing out my credit card information to every internet scammer in internetville, they have gone and done something recently, that has literally trumped all their previous misdeeds and made me stare in amazement.

A couple of days ago, I received an SMS from them that said this:

OK, so if we put aside the fact they invaded my life with an SMS … pushing a referral scheme is not that bad an idea.

When we had cynic, we did a similar thing and it worked a treat, however the reason it worked a treat was:

1. We were good.
2. Clients liked us.
3. We offered them a better incentive that a 10RMB Amazon voucher.

TEN FUCKING RENMINBI.

FOR AMAZON CHINA.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Apart from the fact 10RMB is £1.02, which means you could buy approximately nothing unless you referred about 8000 people to HSBC bank, the fact is Amazon China has less range than a Status Quo album.

Seriously, do they really think we’re that fucking cheap and nasty to sell a totally incompetent financial organization to our friends and family for a voucher we couldn’t possibly use.

Maybe if they upped it to $1000, I’d be sending them my entire Facebook friends list, but for 10RMB … I wouldn’t even bother sending them Kevin Robert’s information.

OK, so it could be argued this referral scheme has more ‘honour’ to the one we used at cynic, because our scheme offered overly generous benefits to clients who introduced us to other companies [depending on whether a referral resulted in a meeting or business, we would reduce their monthly retainer fee by a set amount for a set duration] … but that’s by-the-by, because the real news is there’s a bank that spends shitloads of money telling the World they’re experts in understanding their customers needs, then ‘demonstrates’ this understanding by sending unsolicited SMS to their customers in the belief they’ll happily volunteer the names & contact details of their friends and family for a 10RMB Amazon voucher that, in all interests, they’ll never be able to use.

Seriously, HSBC are incredibly out-of-touch, arrogant or utterly, utterly stupid.

The only reason I don’t change banks is because I’m literally intrigued to know what they’ll do next because at this rate, they’ll soon be rivaling NOKIA for the title of ‘mainstream brand who imploded in the shortest period of time’.



In These Days Where Almost Anyone Can Get A Million ‘Likes’ …
March 12, 2013, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

… such as these kids, who needed a million likes to get their Dad to get them a puppy

… or this perv, who needed a million likes to sleep with his girlfriend [that is if her Dad doesn’t get to him first] …

… spare a thought for those poor folk at Smarties Australia, who have to come to terms with the fact that while society will happily come to the aid of some stranger with a self-indulgent request, only 23 people were willing to show their allegiance to them, despite feeding millions of Aussies, millions of yummy chocolates for years and years and years.

Despite Smarties being one of my old clients [and a bloody good one given they let me make Smartie calculators for them] in some ways, this restores my faith in humanity.

I just hope it restores marketing directors brains and we can all get back to doing what interests people, not what brands want people to be interested in.



Actions Speak Louder Than Mission Statements …
March 11, 2013, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment

Hello!

How are you?

As you can tell, your period of peace is now officially over as I’m back.

Sorry.

It goes without saying I had an amazing time with my Mum in Polar Bear territory … an amazing, special, wonderful time … but don’t worry, I won’t be boring you with it – instead I’ll be boring you with this:

In the last month, I’ve been exposed to the whole gamut of human emotions.

Happiness.

Sadness.

Pain.

Hope.

Love.

Worry.

Adulation.

Peace.

To be honest, it’s been quite amazing for both good and bad reasons … but through it all, I have seen how family and friendship helps you embrace, celebrate and overcome almost every situation in a way, nothing else can match.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “what’s new with that Rob?” and you’d be right, there’s nothing new to it at all – and yet life continually conspires to let us forget the value and importance of being surrounded by people who care … who share the same beliefs and values … who want the best for the common good, not just personal success.

While I was away, I watched a wonderfully amazing program on the famous London hotel, Claridge’s.

For all the talk of corporate culture and team building, this show demonstrated the difference between brands that spout ‘mission statements’ and brands that lead and live by example. It also served as a good reminder that to create strong and powerful brands, you have to maintain and execute your standards, values and beliefs rather than simply viewing your goal as ‘making cash’.

There were so many brilliant things in this show, but for me, there were 10 lessons all business could do with remembering and following:

1. Make sure everyone knows the role, goal and purpose of your company..

2. Hold yourself to the highest standards possible. Not the ‘best practice’ standards … but the standards others aspire to.

3. Train. Not in a lip-service kind-of-way, but done properly and with purpose.

4. Hire the right people.

5. Empower those people to do their job.

6. Keep your staff. In the case of Claridge’s, they had a huge amount of people who’d been there 20+ years.

7. Treat everyone with respect.

8. Be stubborn in your desire to maintain standards and traditions.

9. Embrace the new and the uncomfortable … it will be tomorrow’s standard & tradition. It will also keep you relevant and interesting.

10. Never underestimate the importance of strong – yet inclusive – management.

I know all of that sounds utterly obvious – and it is – but having watched the show, you realise how often companies fail to do these things … preferring to either execute a diluted version of these lessons or ignoring them altogether.

Now I appreciate some will claim there are valid reasons for avoidance – and maybe there are – however what I can say is that if more agencies and brands operated in the way Claridge’s acts, I’m pretty sure we would not only have an industry that was better positioned to grasp the future, but we’d have offices full of colleagues who were happier, more productive, more collaborative and imaginative than anything we have today.

Yes, the show was that good. Well, at least for me.

Anyway, have a look at the show and let me know what you think.