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


And So It Begins …
January 29, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

So as I said on Monday, today is my last day at work before the Chinese New Year holiday.

Yes, within 30 days of 2014, I am already getting a national holiday.

China rocks.

Because you are going to be free from my rubbish till Valentines Day, I thought I’d leave you with a post so mind numbingly awful, you will truly appreciate every single day you don’t have to come along here and read my rubbish simply because you have some sadomasochistic instincts that stem from a dark chapter in your life you have erased from your conscious memory.

Or something.

I know what you’re thinking, how on earth could I write something even more mind numbingly awful than the usual mind numbingly awful stuff I write. Well the answer is this:

To most people, the above image would mean little to you other than the fact there are a packet of chips that have a stupid name and have been made to resemble the ghosts in Pacman.

Actually who am I kidding, to most people, the words ‘Pacman’ would mean nothing because you’re all so bloody young.

However to the 5 fools who regularly come on here to abuse me, this image would be an outrage.

Yes, an outrage.

Because Monster Munch aren’t ‘cute characters’ … they’re ugly claws of explosive and – to some – disgustingly strong flavours.

This is what Monster Munch should be:

That’s right … crisps you can’t ignore … packaging you can’t ignore … flavours you can’t ignore and E-numbers your heart wishes it could ignore.

Forget all this cute impostor nonsense, Monster Munch are a taste sensation for the culinary insane and any attempt to persuade people otherwise should be treated as an act of war.

WAR.

What next, Halloween starts being about fancy-dress rather than ghosts and Listerine starts coming in flavours that actually don’t taste like your mouth is having an acid bath?

Oh shit, I’m too late … no wonder the World’s gone mad and society is piss weak.

With that, I’m going to attempt to ‘reset’ the World – or at least the World of Monster Munch – by leaving you with an ad from 1978 … which should not only highlight how wonderfully horrific these original Monster Munch are, but how grateful you should be that you don’t have to read any more of this blog for almost 2 weeks.

Ta-ra.


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Why Being A Bit Mental Could Be The Most Sensible Thing For Your Career …
January 28, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Dr Seuss.

An American institution.

Creator of the ugliest cartoon character in the history of cartoon characters.

Author of books that inspired and inspire millions of kids all around the World.

Creator of the movie that gave Mike Myers another pay day, despite the fact the last time he was funny was in Wayne’s World.

And I mean the first Wayne’s World … not the sequel.

While I read his books as a kid, it was never my favourite. As far as I was concerned, the Mr Men characters pissed all over The Cat In The Hat … and not just because my Mum went on to inspire Roger Hargreaves to write the ‘Little Ms’ series.

That’s true by the way and we have the original drawing from Roger Hargreaves to prove it.

But recently I saw something Dr Seuss wrote that I thought was fantastic.

Yes, it could have come straight from one of his books.

Yes, it’s got the potential to be utterly twee.

Yes, it’s obvious as hell.

But all that aside, I just like his articulation of why it makes sense to have a sense of humour.

I like it.

I like “if you can see things out of whack, you can see how things can be in whack” .

I think that has implications for we should look at politics, business and life itself.

Of course recognising what is/isn’t ‘in whack’ is only part of the deal … doing something about it when something needs doing is the other essential ingredient … but I like the idea that humour is more than just a moment of enjoyment, but the recognition of individuals who see the possibility to make things better by recognising – and laughing at – what is wrong.



After 3 weeks Of Work, I Need A Holiday …
January 27, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

I know you might look at the title of this blog post and think I’m joking and to be honest, I am [kinda] joking … but you guessed it, by the end of this week, I am going to be on holiday.

No, it is not April Fools, it’s the start of the Chinese New Year holiday.

God I love this country and culture.

Anyway, what this means is that after Wednesday, there will be no more blog posts until around Valentine’s day … not because the holiday is that long, but because I might have to go go straight from my holiday in Oz to Russia. Don’t ask, just don’t ask.

But as I said, I’ll be back and it will be on Valentine’s Day where I will make sure that even though you won’t get any valentines messages from anyone, you’ll get one from me. Ahem.

And if you think that is bad, watch this – though I’m slightly concerned that some of the lines the lady explains may have come from a couple of people who come on here. Mentioning no names Billy or John.

Oops.

If you want to hear some of the lamest, you should check out this.

Which – ironically – I also think could have been used by a couple of people who comment on here. Mentioning no names Billy or John.

Double Oops.




Tips Are A Four Letter Word …
January 24, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

One of the things I hate most about America is the tipping culture.

Actually, who am I kidding, it’s not a culture, it’s an expectation … and the worst place to be exposed to it is in restaurants.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to give additional money to someone who I believe has genuinely enhanced my eating experience – whether that is by their advice, attentiveness or all round demeanour – but I detest the expectation that I should pay even more for something I’ve already [over]paid for, simply because someone dropped a plate of slop in front of my face.

Yes, I know this is a British thing and I know how poorly paid many waiters/waitresses are [I was one once and I was terribly paid, mainly because I was terrible] but it gets on my nerves.

Of course, when a restaurant owner automatically adds the tip to the bill, then I nearly explode.

How dare they!

Apart from the fact that a tip should be a discretionary payment, how the hell do I know the person I may want to get the cash, will get the cash?

But what’s blowing my mind these days is the % people are now expecting as a ‘tip’.

Yes, I can be a tight fucker, but in the US, 20% is the minimum expected amount.

TWENTY PERCENT … for taking an order, dropping some food in front of your face and handing your the bill at the end of the night.

TWENTY PERCENT.

And adland feels lucky when they make 10% and for that, there clients basically expect them to be their 24/7 slaves!

I remember once being in the US with a friend and the bill came to about $65.

My friend handed over a $100 bill and the waiter said, “Do you want change?”

Cheeky bastard.

Fortunately my friend – a Brit – put the smug waiter in his place by announcing he wanted every cent owed to him.

What’s fascinating is that in China, tipping is frowned upon.

Yes you can say the country is rich – and it is – but for many millions of people, their life is very poor and yet despite that, tipping is seen as something you shouldn’t actually do and something actively discouraged.

I cannot tell you the amount of bollockings I’ve been given by colleagues for tipping taxi drivers, delivery men or restaurant staff … but the reason is always because [1] they have given me good service and [2] they never expect it.

OK, there’s also the fact I feel guilty earning a proportionately much higher salary as a guest of this wonderful country than the average person born here so that always encourages me to hand over more than I should [which in many cases, has already been bumped up by the owner for being exactly that sort of person] but the fact is, customer service people here still don’t expect gratuity [at least in the form of customer tips, they do expect ‘annual bonuses’ from their company] and when you compare that to the US service industry, that’s astonishing.

The role of a tip – or bonus – is to act as an incentive to be at your best. Do the best work you can. Push your boundaries. When you expect it, then the point of a tip is nullified and everything goes downhill.

Of course the biggest issue is whether people are being paid fairly in the first place and that’s a whole different discussion point, but where [expected] tipping is concerned, it drives me nuts.

Oh, I feel so much better for letting that out. Thank you, even though 99% of you won’t have got to this point in the post.



Never Underestimate The Power Of Charm. Or Humour. Or – At Least In This Case – A Cheeky Pun.
January 23, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Planners love to go on about the importance of innovation.

Of pushing boundaries.

Of finding that killer insight that can tap into societies heart and mind in ways that literally transform culture.

We go on about consumers journeys.

Transmedia thinking.

Cultural tension points.

I’m not saying it’s all bollocks … but I do think that sometimes we forget that for a lot of people, something that gives them a moment of laughter is more appealing than the best brand proposition in the entire Universe.

Imagine you are a company selling cheese graters.

Yes, cheese graters.

Do you hire an agency to help you position your product in a way that is better than the competition?

Do you ask the planner to uncover an insight that can engage – or influence – the broader culture?

Do you engage media experts to identify the ultimate touch points to reach your idea consumer?

Or do you simply do this?

Yes it’s cheesy [pun fully intended] … yes it is reliant on someone walking down a particular aisle of a supermarket … yes it loses all its charm the moment you have removed it from the packaging … but sometimes the biggest insight is there is no insight, or should I say no insight that will fundamentally grow/differentiate your brand from the countless others and if you want to stand out, it’s better to let go of all the rules and just make someone smile.

And yes, I do know that’s a sort-of insight, but not so much of an insight as the fact that going shopping with children is supposedly the 5th most stressful experience after death, divorce, marriage & child-birth … so anything that can inject a moment of joviality will be disproportionately appealing.

Which is almost as good an insight as planners are simply post-rationalisers .



The Longest 5 Seconds On Earth Are The 5 Seconds Before You Can Skip A YouTube Ad …
January 22, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

See that picture above?

See it?

That’s a screenshot of a pre-roll ad on a Youtube video I was trying to watch in December.

Now see that number on the far left hand side … the one that says 2 minutes 16 seconds … that’s how long the fuckers who made that ad expected me to wait until I could see the video I wanted to actually watch.

How egotistical can you get?

How utterly bloody insane can you be?

Do they really think I’m going to spend longer watching a crap video about a brand/product I have no interest in, than the actual thing I want to watch?

Christ, the opening scene features a pair of slippers.

SLIPPERS!!!

That hardly constitutes the sort of thing that would grab the attention of the average person.

Even grandma’s would not want to see that and I swear to god they keep the slipper industry alive.

Who made this?

Who sold this?

Who told the client it was a good use of time?

WHEN DID AGENCIES FORGET HOW HUMAN BEINGS ACTUALLY ACT AND RESPOND TO STUFF???

Before anyone on here was born, I worked for an amazing agency called HHCL.

They were true pioneers, but more than that, they were brilliant at understanding what was really going on in cultures and individuals hearts and minds … which is why the stuff we made that people initially thought was mental, was exceedingly successful.

The reason I say this is because years before the internet was invented [well, it was invented, but it was classified to the military or something] there was this thing called the ‘video recorder’.

This machine would play big tapes [another thing you will have to look up] that – among other things – featured movies on them.

You would rent these things from something called a ‘video store’ and it was basically be a massive library, but instead of books, it was full of video tapes.

Anyway, at the beginning of these films would be ads … a bit like the pre-roll on youtube ads.

In the old days, rather than a ‘skip after 5 seconds’ button, you had this thing that allowed you to fast forward past the ads and get to the movie.

People used to do this all the time and yet – like on Youtube pre-roll ads – clients and agencies kept shoving on their products at the beginning of the film.

And this approach carried on for years until the brilliant folk at HHCL – when asked to do something prior to the main feature starting – decided to do something that was devious and effective.

Knowing full well people fast forwarded past the ads, they created a commercial – just featuring words – that was so slow that when the person sped past the ads, they could read what was being said clearly across the screen.

Yes I know you could argue that’s invasive, but it’s also bloody brilliant – but then that’s what HHCL were, bloody brilliant.

They took this approach even further in 1994 by making an ad so deliberately fast that only those who videoed it, could read it:

Sure, it’s sort-of playing on reverse psychology but it’s also mental brilliance.

Yes I know some agencies and clients are trying to do similar stuff these days, but they are still in the minority, which begs the question … with so many people banging on about how innovative the creative industry is and how informed the media agencies are, how come so many seem to operate without any appreciation of what the audience do/want and look for?

Of course, there is a bigger issue as regards making products people want rather than what companies want them to want – but every time I see a pre-roll ad on Youtube, I genuinely want to ring the client up and ask them whether they are insane or just an egomaniac.

I’m not saying pre-roll can’t work, but I am saying if you base your execution on the premise that ‘your brand/ad is so interesting that people will delay what they want to see, just to watch it’, then all I will say is that it must be utterly brilliant on their planet.



Insight Should Be About The Culture, Not [Just] The Category …
January 21, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Remember yesterday’s blogpost about cycling in China?

The one with the ridiculous GoPro video of that guy doing a back flip on his bike?

No?

Jesus, it was only yesterday, maybe you should go to the Doctor to get that looked at.

Anyway, ever since GoPro became a billion dollar company, there have been countless competitors trying to get a slice of the market.

Many are very, very good … however there’s a reason why people are still buying more of the original than the lower cost alternative and that is the fact GoPro speak to your inner daredevil whereas the competition speak blandly about ‘capturing life’ – which sounds awfully like z-grade Kodak to me.

Of course there’s other reasons – from the level of accessories that you can get for GoPro [including a remote controlled drone!!!] right through to the community they have built through their site – but let’s park that for the sake of this post.

Please? Thanks.

Anyway, to prove the point that you might not agree/care about, here’s a GoPro ad:

Look at it …

Even if you’re not a skier, that photo makes you feel ‘in the action’.

Literally in it.

You can feel the snow, the cold, the speed of the World rushing past you.

Then there’s that line, ‘Be A Hero’.

Brilliant.

Even if the most extreme thing you do is make a cup of tea during the interval of your favourite TV show [even though media people tell me no one watches telly any more. Ever] it makes you feel you are – or could be – doing something of untold bravery … something others would watch in awe as they view it from your perspective.

It’s a great line, a great, great, great line.

Now compare that to the competition …

Look at those photos.

Not one of them makes you feel ‘you’re in the moment’. Hell, they all look like they were photographed by someone on their iPhone standing at the side.

There’s no drama, emotion, sense of exhilaration or – dare I say it – danger.

It’s what a company who doesn’t really ‘understand’ their audience – or even the role of their product – makes for an ad.

Then there’s their line.

‘Life. Camera. Action.’

Jesus Christ, how bad is that.

I know it’s a play on ‘lights, camera, action’, but it’s shit.

It’s another one of those ads that talks at you, not too you.

I get they’re trying to make it sound like you can be the ‘star of your own movie’ … but the problem is they are telling you what to feel rather than just making you feel it.

And that’s one of the reasons why GoPro so good.

Sure, they have the product, the infrastructure, the distribution and the community … but you feel GoPro was created by people who live and love this life rather than just be another faceless corporation who produced a product because they wanted to get a slice of the ‘live action’ video market.

So while I appreciate no company wants to be inauthentic, an important thing to remember is that sometimes the biggest advantage you can have over the competition is not what you do, but why you do it.

The culture, not the category.

The emotion, not the technical.

The feeling, not the reasoning.

Which basically is a massive justification for why I bought a GoPro, even though the most extreme video I’ve made so far is this: