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


Who Needs Nostradamus When You Have Trevor Horn …
July 31, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Adland is full of ego-maniacs.

Sure, some are more blatant than others – ie: me – but there’s a hell of a lot of closet Bono’s in this industry.

It used to mainly be members of the creative department that thought they were gods gift, but over the past 10 years, the planning community has decided to get in on the act and now you can’t move for people trying to appear like they’re a cross between Steve Jobs and Stephen Fry.

From my observations, it appears the holy grail seems to be to come up with a phrase or definition that the industry as a whole embraces.

In the main, everyone has failed.

Sure, a couple of guys have managed to achieve some short-lived burst of ‘terminology popularity’, but no one has managed to say something that has infiltrated popular culture.

Of course a lot of that is because we either:

1. Talk utter shit.

2. Say stuff that is only of interest to other planners.

3. Take other people’s genius, move the words around and try and claim it as our own.

The reason I say this is because I was recently [name dropping alert] talking to a gentleman who has achieved everything a planners ego dreams of.

More than that, he was able to do this while making not one – but two – social commentary statements that, with hindsight, proved to be scarily accurate.

Far more accurate than the average futurist, planner or researcher could ever hope to achieve.

Who am I talking about?

Trevor Horn.

Who the hell is Trevor Horn?

This man:

Yes, THAT Trevor Horn.

Founder of The Buggles.

Writer of one of the 80’s most epic songs.

The genius behind ‘Frankie Goes To Hollywood’.

The founder of ZTT Records.

The producer behind the Yes mega-album, 90125.

But on top of all that, his work contained two statements that ultimately, captured the essence of the 80’s decade …

1. Video Killed The Radio Star.

2. The Age Of Plastic.

Think about that for a second.

In 1978 – when the song was originally written – Trevor Horn wrote about an impending – and fundamental – change to the music industry.

Sure the signs had been coming [Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is regarded as being the first ‘purpose made’ music video back in ’75] but only Trevor Horn truly understood the implications that was about to hit.

But more than that, he then called his album – which he recorded between 1977-1979 – The Age of Plastic.

That might not mean much to you guys because you’re all so bloody young, but the 80’s and plastic were the most perfect partnership ever seen.

Before the 80’s, products were made of metal and wood – they were heavy, expensive and ultimately limited in their physical and metaphorical flexibility – but suddenly the 80’s came along, and plastic allowed manufacturers [especially those in Asia] to make all sorts of products … products that previously, never stood a chance of seeing the light of day.

Now compare that sort of commentary to the stuff we see today.

“We are in the age of customisation”.

“Social media will change the face of communication”.

“Digital is destroying the publishing industry”.

You could argue that what is being said is correct – or has some element of truth to it – but regardless, much of is said – especially from the planning community – comes way after the signs have been universally accepted or at least talked about.

Basically we seem to have adopted the philosophy that if we say it louder or more often, we invented it.

We’re not fooling anyone.

Except maybe ourselves.

Then there’s the issue that if someone does say something new, the industries first reaction is to rubbish it, though I would say in my defense, the amount of truly new things being said – versus a new way of saying an old thing – is very small.

For all the talk about our genius, we might have to accept we’re just smart.

There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s something to celebrate and be grateful for – but from now on, if I want a viewpoint on what the future holds, I’m going to turn my back on the planners, researchers, economists and futurists and give a call to Mr Horn.

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Marketing Gone Mad …
July 30, 2013, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

Maybe there is such a thing as a Barista standard cup.

Maybe it’s to do with volume or heat proficiency.

Maybe it’s about using materials that don’t taint the flavour of the coffee.

Maybe it’s for reasons people with my limited knowledge of coffee could never understand.

Maybe it’s because they have research that shows travelers don’t want to be taken for a ride when visiting a cafe in a new country and the easiest way to say ‘Don’t Mess With Me’ is walking in with a Barista-approved mug.

Maybe they read in a business magazine that mid-level execs who can’t afford a Halliburton Zero suitcase are desperately looking for other ways to show their international colleagues they have status and discernment.

Maybe they discovered there’s an enormous amount of passengers who like adding bulky, high-end, coffee cups in their carry-on luggage just before they take-off.

Maybe it’s because 90% of Barista’s are pretentious pricks who want to delude themselves they’re of a higher status than other waiters and servers that work in cafes and restaurants around the World.

Whatever it is, it might be more valuable or believable if the cafe selling this had some sort of credibility in the art of coffee making as opposed to being an airport coffee shop that sells overpriced Danish buns and burnt Nescafe.



Never Let A Drunk Design A Lift …
July 29, 2013, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

So a few weeks ago, when I was in Australia, I stayed at the Hilton Hotel.

Apart from the fact they like “borrowing” money from guests credit cards without asking [though they pay it back in the end] they also fuck with their customers minds in other ways … like creating the most screwed up lift button format in history.

Seriously, what the hell were they thinking????

I don’t drink and I took about an hour to find the button to my floor … so god knows how Aussie pissheads managed when they rolled in after 300 pints of VB.

If ever there was an ad for the value of quality industrial design, this was it.



It Only Matters When It Matters …
July 26, 2013, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

This post will mean nothing to many of you.

Or should I say, it will mean even less than usual to many of you.

But there is one person who – I hope – will ‘get it’.

And to that person, they need to know I am behind you and proud of you.

You’re a class act. This is your moment.

Remember: Be strong and give both barrels.

Comments Off on It Only Matters When It Matters …


Who Do They Think They’re Fooling?
July 25, 2013, 6:13 am
Filed under: Comment

So I recently was in a supermarket when I spotted this:

Now I appreciate that size of packet doesn’t always reflect the volume of its contents and I also accept that in this globalised World, identical products in a store may actually originate from different countries, but people – especially when they’re in the retail environment – don’t think or care about this sort of thing and all this behaviour does is alienate people from your brands.

OK, so the chances of this appearing in the same store are potentially quite low, but still, it’s hardly great brand management.

Maybe they would have been better simply saying, ‘New Size’ … so it implies it’s bigger, but legally, they can claim it was smaller.

Yes, I know that’s a shady, bullshit way to do it and I’m not really advocating it – especially as they’d cop even more shit if people found out – but pointing this out gives me the chance to quote one of my favourite football stories.

Many years ago, there was a football manager called Tommy Docherty.

He had a fairly good reputation and joined Rotherham United, who were residing in division 2. [This was when division 2 was really division 2 … not division 3 as it is in today’s mad marketed football league]

Sadly the team didn’t perform very well that year and by got relegated, which led to this wonderful quote by Docherty when interviewed by the media:

“I promised the Chairman I’d get us out of Division 2 & I did.”

Ambigious truth genius.



Mental Happens …
July 24, 2013, 6:18 am
Filed under: Comment

Look at that photo.

Isn’t it amazing!

A ship from the 1600’s.

A giant, silver US Navy airship hanging in the air.

A flotilla of small, relatively modern boats giving chase.

And a modern, urban city emerging in the distance from the sea.

It’s even more amazing when you find out it’s genuine.

No photoshop.

No computer graphics.

No nothing.

It was taken in 1957 and captures the moment the Mayflower II heads into NYC after completing it’s transatlantic voyage.

The story of the boat is amazing enough, but that photo is just magnificent.

I am utterly transfixed by it, mainly because it’s so mental and yet it’s absolutely true.

I love that.

I love that those things happen, maybe not every day, but some days.

When you consider I work in an industry that is constantly trying to capture societies attention … using more and more outlandish approaches to interrupt our busy lives … the opportunity to make or do something that literally affects people for decades to come is there for the taking and yet so often, we choose to shun reality and create a momentary distraction that rarely ends up distracting.

And that’s why I love the vault of lost photographs that National Geographic has just launched.

Page after page of stunning moments from past and present, earth and solar system.

NatGeo have always been masters of capturing humanities most wonderful moments [as well as some of our most terrible and destructive] and this tumblr account reminds us that so many of these things are all around us if we just look at our a bit World differently.

We should all try it some time.



Who Are Planners Kidding?
July 23, 2013, 6:08 am
Filed under: Comment

I’ve written in the past how much it annoys me when planners say “they’re curious” as if they’re the only people in society who are possessors of that trait.

Seriously, police officers, lawyers, doctors, scientists – and probably my Mum – embrace curiosity more in their lives than the average planner.

That’s not meant to piss on the discipline that has given me – and hopefully continues to give me – such an interesting life, but just to highlight that for all the talk we make about ‘being intellectually curious’, we don’t tend to find things that fundamentally changes or challenges the way we work or the things we achieve through our work.

Sure, there’s some people that achieve it … sure, there’s a bunch of reasons why things don’t happen as much as they could or should … but for the amount of planners out there in the World, the amount of things we fundamentally change through our ‘curiosity’ is small.

Maybe the ugly, unspoken truth is that unlike people in say, Silicon Valley, planners tend to be only curious about the things that are already out there, not the things we could discover or create off our own efforts.

As the quote above says, anyone can run towards the light, it’s the people that actively turn towards the dark that can be deemed the truly curious.

As I said, this is not meant to piss on the planning discipline – we do a lot of really good, important and valuable things – but maybe we wouldn’t be so discounted by so many if we didn’t keep banging on about things that we – as a discipline – so rarely demonstrate in our work, at least in a way that is fundamentally different to everyone else.

Another reason why I value planners who have empathy rather than those who say they’re curious and can only demonstrate it through a brief or a powerpoint presentation.

God, I’m in a shitty mood today aren’t I. Sorry.