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


The Best News You Could Have On A Monday …
April 29, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

And if you’re wondering why that photo shows my feet in something other than Birkies, it’s because that photo is old and was taken at a time where it was snowing in Shanghai. Yes, I know, I’m a wimp and a sell out … but now Spring is here, normal bad footwear service has resumed. Poor China. See you Thursday you [un]lucky people.

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As you’re here, could you please visit this post and help spread the important news about the situation in Sichuan. Too may people either don’t know about it, don’t realise how bad it is or simply don’t know who to trust. Thank you. It means a lot.



Help Me, Help The People Of Sichuan.
April 26, 2013, 8:28 pm
Filed under: Comment

I know … I know … one blog post a day is bad enough, but two!

Well yes, but this is for a good cause. A very good and important cause.

On Monday I wrote about the terrible situation in Sichuan, thanks to yet another horrendous earthquake.

Over the past 5 days, a few of us have been doing all we can to identify what we can do to help.

Having spoken to some people on the ground – as well as some friends at charities – we discovered there were 5 fundamental issues.

1. Not many people outside of China even know of the situation in Sichuan.

2. Many people feel that because less people have suffered than in 2008, somehow the seriousness of the situation is not as bad.

3. The fear of corruption means many are holding back from offering help or donations.

4. The charities and government are focusing all their attention on the situation today – and tend to not look at the medium/long
term needs of the region.

5. People in Sichuan are finding it very hard to find all the information they need to help them get on with their lives.

On top of talking to some of our clients to ask them to help get urgent supplies to the area, we have ended up focusing on 2 things …

+ Drive global awareness of this situation.

+ Help local society get back on their feet.,/em>

With this in mind, we’re currently working on a number of initiatives, from developing a range of iconography designed to get spread around the World to highlight the plight of Sichuan to clothing and toy collections that will get delivered in approximately 2 months time – when we’ve been told many of the donations tend to dry up – to developing a website [& links to WeChat] has will provide links for all the key groups/government departments and charities that the people in Sichuan will need to get back on their feet..

However to get things happening, we have created a Facebook page and a blog that is pulling together uncensored stories and photographs about the situation in Sichuan so we can hopefully get the World to start to understand what is going on there … how they can help and, more importantly, that regardless of the scale of the disaster, it’s still a disaster and humanity needs to pull together.

Our Facebook link is here

Our blog is here

I appreciate these are small things but at this point, anything and everything helps, so can I please ask a huge favor and ask you to link to these 2 destinations in all your social media channels because we want to try and get as many people as possible to see, visit and read the information, because the more people know, the more we believe they will want to help our friends in Sichuan.

Other stuff is on-going – and I’ll hassle you when that is up – but all our information says that the World isn’t paying enough attention, either because they don’t know, don’t think it’s as bad as 2008 or don’t know who to trust … so helping get this out, is a small – but important – stage in hopefully helping.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Comments Off on Help Me, Help The People Of Sichuan.


Another Day, Another Holiday …
April 26, 2013, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

Yes, you read that right, I’m on another holiday.

Worse, I’m on another national holiday.

Seriously, how does China actually make any money?

But just when you thought you couldn’t be more flabbergasted/angry, I should inform you that this holiday lasts until next Wednesday.

Yes, Wednesday.

The only good news is that means there’s no blog posts till Thursday, but still, even I am starting to get embarrassed with all this, but not embarrassed enough to actually turn them down, I note.

Anyway, what this means is that I’m giving distant ‘friends’ a little advanced warning to start packing their bags and selling their house because there’s more than a good chance that I’ll be turning up on one of your doorsteps in the next day or so.

Right, now that’s out the way, I want to talk about this:

That print ad – as you can see – is for Parker Pens.

Putting aside that in this day and age, it seems utterly mental that a pen manufacturer would do a big ad campaign, the fact is this ad was run in Singapore in the [I think] late 70’s/early 80’s.

But that’s not what I find interesting, it’s the fact they’re promoting their ‘pen-pal’ community.

Now given there are people on here who probably are so young, they don’t even know what a pen is – let alone a pen-pal – what you should know is that pen-pals were basically a bit like Facebook – or Twitter – except on a much, much smaller scale and with the swapping of information that was actually interesting and valuable.

The reason I am saying this is because:

1. It is a great strategy … designed to drive sales [be it pen or cartridge refill] brand differentiation and emotional value.

2. It highlights the ‘social’ approach to marketing that certain digital types like to think they invented, has been around longer than many of them have been alive.

This is not meant as a slur against digital practitioners – after all, I consider myself to be one of them – it’s simply a reminder that in many cases, technology doesn’t create cultural change, it’s simply empowers efficiency of [inter]action.



The World Would Never Benefit From Einstein’s Genius If He Was Born Today …
April 25, 2013, 6:08 am
Filed under: Comment

So recently I was talking about education policy with a number of parents.

As I’ve said numerous times, while I am a massive advocate of learning, I have a lot of issues with the way certain bodies approach it – from treating it as a profit centre to creating an environment of qualification inflation.

That said, one thing I particularly loathe is how more and more schools are segregating their students into groups from a very early age.

While putting people in the right learning set is obviously important to aid their development, my issue is that it seems to be less about the students ‘pace’ of learning and more about where the school thinks that individuals ‘place’ in the society will be.

Asia is particularly bad at this.

Singapore actively filters students from a young age.

Through a series of exams and tests, they determine who they believe will be the most successful in life and split them off from the others.

In essence, it’s a two-tier – highly competitive – learning system, where those deemed with the most potential are treated – and taught – differently from those regarded as ‘average’.

As I said, I have no issue with people being placed into groups that have been designed to aid their abilities, but I certainly don’t agree with the subliminal – and not so subliminal – attitude and belief that this reflects the level of success a student can – or will – achieve in their life.

I’ve written previously how my [bad] careers officer almost destroyed all my passion, hopes and beliefs because he decided my expected school grades meant I had no hope of ever getting somewhere in life even though my general school grades were good … but I can’t help but feel it’s getting even worse these days.

I was incredibly fortunate that I had amazing parents who instilled in me the belief that if I wanted something enough – and was willing to work very hard for it – I could achieve it, but we now live in a World where people aren’t just judging a book by its cover, but pre-filtering the books so that anyone who ‘doesn’t fit in’, gets placed on a shelf where their chances of success are as impacted as if they had been in prison.

What’s worse is we are accepting it.

We are accepting a system that prejudices from the earliest age.

We are spending ever-more outrageous amounts on schools under the guise of wanting our children to get the best opportunity for life and while I totally understand and appreciate that, the reality is it’s not about having the ‘best opportunity’, it’s actually about having ‘a chance’ to have a semi-decent life which is why for me, the attitude being perpetuated by schools that ‘pace’ equates to ‘place’ is the most terrible things that has happened in society.

Not just for the children – or adults – it affects in schools or jobs, but for all of us, because we are limiting the potential of what the World can be from the very start.



Campaign For Real Advertising …
April 24, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

By now, everyone will have seen the recent Dove campaign and I’m guessing that you – like me – think it’s utterly, utterly brilliant.

But why is that?

Well, without doubt it’s a fantastic premise.

Intriguing, interesting and thought provoking.

It’s absolutely beautifully and brilliantly told, a perfect blend of grace and pace.

It gets back – after some fairly wrong turns – to the heart of the brands point of view.

But for me, the really brilliance of it, is because it’s real.

It’s based on a genuine truth and it’s delivered without being contrived or ‘addy’.

That said, there was one moment at the very beginning that made me a bit nervous.

It’s where the very first woman talks about how her friends have “rosy cheeks” whereas hers were “pretty ___________ plain”.

That pause between the words “pretty” and “plain” seemed very convenient, but it was expressed in such a genuine way, it didn’t distract you.

But all in all, I loved it.

Me.

A bloke.

A bloke from Nottingham, who has no hair and no sophistication.

Hell, even Ryan – one of my creative colleagues who aspires to be Chuck Norris’ lovechild – even adored it, and he only appreciates women who work at Hooters.

Trust me, when you get dodgy blokes AND the female target audience all feeling it’s power, then you know you’re on to something good.

No camera tricks.

No ‘cool sound track’.

No ‘shock tactic headlines’.

No ‘advertising twist that reveals the brand as the hero at the very end’.

Just a great truth expressed cleanly and clearly but with genuine warmth, compassion and meaning.

This is what great advertising is and what great advertising does.

It changes how you feel, behave and believe.

It disrupts your autopilot.

It affects you from the inside, out.

If shifts how you see things and how you approach things.

It stops you in your 100mph tracks – even if just for a few seconds – and makes you think.

It affects more than just the ‘target audience’, but anyone with a heart and emotions.

Not because it’s a ‘global human truth’, but because it’s global human understanding.

Understanding of our deeply held emotional flaws, secrets and insecurities … which highlights why anyone who says insights no longer matter is a fucking fool.

As soon as I saw it, I rang my wife and said, “you have to watch this.”

It made me want to pass it on and there wasn’t a hashtag – or associated social media hypefest – anywhere in sight.

In short, it let the work do the talking. And the spreading.

Of course some people don’t like it.

Some have accused it of reinforcing stereotypes [be white and stick thin] whereas others have said the methodology was wrong and so undermined the whole concept.

And while some of that is definitely true, in my mind they’re missing a fundamental point.

This is not about rational reality, it’s about emotional positivity.

Women are so surrounded by negative imagery that I find it amazing that people would criticise a brand that tries, even in a small way, to counter it.

Yes, Dove could, and should, have used more women from different cultural backgrounds … yes, Dove could, and should, have used women with more diverse ages and body shapes … yes, Dove still talk more about looks than character … and yes, Dove still have much more they can do [especially when they still make hypocritical products like this] however the issues they so brilliantly raise in this campaign are things that are deeply and emotionally affecting most women – regardless of age, culture or size [which is a major difference to some of Dove’s previous campaigns] – which is why I’m pretty certain the masses will be embracing the positives of the message rather than focusing on any potential negatives. At least initially.

And that’s why I find the issue that is raised regarding the methodology baffling.

Sure from a scientific experiment perspective it has issues, but this isn’t a scientific experiment, it’s a simple demonstration – around a very true insight – that many women often only see their flaws and so by highlighting how others see them in totally different and positive ways, it might help them to stop being so hard on themselves.

Seriously, it’s not a hard concept to grasp … and the use of the Forensic guy, however potentially flawed, is a twist that both intrigues and reinforces the point.

The very, very important point.

For me, the guy criticising the methodology is forgetting this is not about the process, but the result.

By his reckoning, maybe we should stop making films about Superman, Harry Potter, Winnie The Poo and Santa because they all embrace flawed logic.

Superman can’t fly, Harry Potter can’t cast spells, Winnie can’t talk and Santa doesn’t exist.

Maybe he would say yes, but maybe he is forgetting this is about motivating and engaging human beings, not robots or test subjects.

There are many things that can be thrown at this spot, but all in all, I can’t agree with most of them. At least not now.

If in the future, they fail to address some of the negative commentary – especially the lack of cultural, age and body diversity from an executional perspective – then people might have more of a point, but this is great work based on truth, not ‘advertising truth’ and it’s 1,000 times better than the usual shit put out by this industry. And, to a large degree, most of Dove’s previous campaigns promoting ‘real beauty’.

I don’t even think you can claim this is just an ‘ad’ because in my mind, it’s much, much more than that.

This is something that can genuinely affect people – and sales – in a positive way.

Something that will last longer than the few minutes it takes to watch.

For all the work done around Dove’s ‘campaign for real beauty’, this might be the one that embodies it most and best.

I love it and I’m insanely jealous of it.

Congratulations Ogilvy, you have set the standard you will now be judged by.

That might sound scary, but it’s not meant to be, it’s brilliant – especially coming from me, supposedly the most cynical and insecure man in the World.

What with this and the Marmite ad [which was definitely just an ad – but a bloody good one – despite what Mr Dodds might say], it’s been a pretty good month for showcasing the best of adland. Here’s to keeping it up, for all our sakes, especially our Bank Managers.

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UPDATE

If you think I am waxing lyrical about the DOVE ad now, you should read what I said when Campaign magazine stupidly/kindly asked me what I thought about it, the day it came out.

Jesus, I don’t know if I’d be that enthusiastic if Forest made it into the Premiership – which I know they won’t so you can shut up about it – though I am rather happy they quoted me saying “It’s worth 10,000 episodes of Oprah”, if only for the fact three of my friends are such Oprah groupies, they will go fucking bananas when they read it.



Headlines With Character …
April 23, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Over the years, long copy ads have given way to much shorter, straight-to-the-point, advertising.

The reasoning people like to claim for this change is that society doesn’t like to read long copy anymore, however the popularity of Harry Potter sort-of flies in the face of that view.

In my mind – and it’s something I’ve said many times – it’s not about the length and more about the quality … though maybe I’m confusing that with what I tell my wife.

Ahem.

But writing from ‘be interesting to the audience’ perspectives aside, one other element of copywriting that has, in my mind, sadly declined, is the quality of the headline.

These days it’s either a very bad pun … a blatant cry for attention or some utterly beige bollocks.

Maybe this is more a sign of my age, but I recently came across a headline [via someone’s instagram feed] that not only grabbed my attention, but charmed me enough into wanting to know more.

No, I’m not joking, I’m serious.

This was it …

Yes … yes … I know all you can see is the headline so you can’t tell what it’s referring to, but that’s not the fault of the castle but the person who took the photo of it, however given I have an inherent loathing of castle visiting thanks to countless days as a child being dragged to all manner of them by my parents, the fact I would actually consider seeing whatever rundown piece of history they’re talking about is utterly amazing.

What I love about that headline isn’t just that it’s the antithesis of the shouty, meaningless and soulless rubbish you see in all manner of ads, from cars to clothes … nor is it that it’s got charm and a genuine human-touch to it … no, what I love about it is more than that, it’s the fact it’s intriguing and interesting – not in a contrived kinda-way, but in a genuine relevance to the product/brand kinda-way – and in these days where advertising either seems to talk a lot but says very little or spouts off a stream of ‘rational benefits’ that no one other than the marketing team gives a fuck about, it’s refreshing to see and, I would imagine, effective to encounter.



China’s Been Helping The World Economy, Now It’s Time For The World’s Economy To Help China. Please.
April 21, 2013, 5:10 am
Filed under: Comment

By now, you will have likely heard about the tragic earthquake in Sichuan Province, China.

While China is a powerful and rich country, help is needed.

What help?

Well the authorities are still working that out but if it’s anything like the tragic situation in 2008, it’s less to do with sending clothes and food and more to do with getting medicines and items that can help ensure hygiene to the people … however the best places to learn what is needed and what you can do to help is either …

The Red Cross

or

UNICEF

… though scarily, as I write this, a few hours after the earthquake happened, there is nothing up on either website – though I know that will change very soon.

[Please note you may be better off contacting the International Red Cross rather than the China ‘branch’ as sadly they were previously implicated – though vehemently denied – in some shady practices. That said, they are already there helping, so hopefully their alleged issues of the past are just that … past]

Any help is good help, so please – however small, even if it’s just making sure people know about this situation – help.

Thank you.