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


How Chinese Business Is Ruining China’s Reputation …

Next week there will be a post about scam advertising.

For those who don’t know what it means, it basically refers to bullshit certain agencies put out in a bid to look creative despite the fact it only runs once [often in some regional market where the cost – and audience – is minute] and the ‘idea’ is done for a client with no money and no chance of ever being able to bring it to market at scale.

But that’s next week, because today I’m going to talk about business scam.

The bullshit certain opportunists do in a bid to ride a commercial opportunity despite bringing nothing new to the table.

And I mean nothing new.

Because they basically steal from those who have done it well before them.

Have a look at this …

You might think that logo looks familiar – and it does – except it isn’t for Under Armour, oh no, it’s for China’s newest sports brand, Uncle Martian.

I kid you fucking not.

But it gets worse than just ‘borrowing’ from UA, they borrow from everyone – NIKE, New Balance, NYC and even Captain bloody America – which you can check out for yourself by clicking here to see images from their launch event.

I hoped China had got past this sort of behaviour.

It seemed like it.

Sure, many were still being ‘inspired’ by other, more successful brands … but whereas once they stopped at duplication, now we were seeing many develop their own innovations, things that moved them from copycats to creators to, arguably, pioneers.

But Uncle Martian have just shown the bad old ways still exist.

The ones who look for shortcuts.

The ones who don’t care about authenticity or quality or individuality.

The ones who do it just because they think they can get away with it.

But what makes it even worse is that this sort of behaviour doesn’t just affect Uncle Martian, but all of China.

What the people behind this copycat brand have done, is give everyone and anyone who mistrusts China, even more ammunition … from Donald Trump to, sadly, a shitload of people from China.

I know the Government have a policy of wanting to keep revenue in the country rather than see it flow out to international brands, but letting this sort of thing happen is hurting them far more than they may imagine.

But worse, it adds another obstacle for young Chinese entrepreneurs to try and overcome, because they will either be prejudiced against by venture capitalists, or told they should be copying rather than creating to drive the quickest return on investment possible.

I know I am not from here, but the launch of Uncle Martian has utterly disappointed me, because frankly China deserves better than this and is way, way, way better than this.



What The Hell Is Going On With Women’s Advertising?

So this is going to be an interesting post because I run the risk of being called sexist, old-fashioned, out-of-touch and basically a grumpy old bastard.

However, given I’ve been called waaaaaaay worse over the years – and mainly on this blog – I’m going to keep going regardless.

So a few weeks ago I wrote about a Dior advertising campaign that makes their new lipstick, resemble a cigarette.

Some – basically, John Dodds – argued that I was ‘seeing’ what I wanted to see, but in one of George’s comments, he linked to two photographs that seem to have been inspiration for the style of shot and both of them featured a cigarette as it’s main ‘prop’.

I know that’s not undeniable evidence, but I feel the circumstantial evidence – not to mention the product name, ‘addict’ – makes it seem likely this was the intention behind the imagery. Or should I say, that specific imagery.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is a whole host of shit spouted in mens advertising.

Puerile. Sexist. stupid.

I’m in no way defending that, it’s basically what I write about every single week.

However, I am kind of shocked at how much advertising aimed at women seems to project an image that seems totally at odds with what I’ve been led to believe women like.

Of course, this is nothing new.

Worse, this is something that men helped push.

But while I am a 45 year old man with all the taste and sensitivity of an otter, the fact is I am amazed at some of the stuff I’m seeing out on the streets these days and without doubt, the worst offenders are the beauty category.

Again, this should not be a surprise given the unrealistic body imagery they have been peddling for years – admittedly created by men – but it seem beauty brands have decided their female empowerment messaging [if that is what it was] is not getting enough attention and so to counter this, they’ve adopted the strategy of recreating some of the most sexist advertising of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and simply replaced the man with a woman.

What am I talking about?

This:

Look at it.

Seriously, have a really good look.

Tell me that is not just a crass attempt at recreating a crass ad from the past 20 years.

First there’s the language … “stays on even when you get off”.

Wow, that’s clever isn’t it.

Now let’s look at the imagery … from the young mans dishevelled appearance and unbuttoned jeans to the totally unsubtle shot of the woman’s heels rammed into the walls of the lift to convey she has fucked the poor guy senseless.

It’s all so blatant.

No subtlety, no grace … it’s just tragic.

I don’t even know if they’re trying to target young women or old … it’s just bizarre.

And before anyone accuses me of being sexist, I just want to be clear that the male ads that depicted this sort of thing, were equally as pathetic.

Now some may say this is the ultimate demonstration of ‘female empowerment’ … where a woman can act exactly in the way men have and still do.

Maybe this ad taps into the desire women have to be able to get away with the shit men have gotten away with for centuries.

Maybe, by me finding this demeaning to women rather than empowering, I’m showing I’m old and insecure.

But the thing is I think women are worth more than this.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re also worth more than the superficial ’empowerment’ messages brands have been pushing for years – messages designed to sound good but ultimately constructed to sell their products – but they’re absolutely, definitely, comprehensively worth more than this.

I’d love to know who did it.

I’d love to know the rationale behind it.

I’d love to know who they were trying to target.

I’d love to know if this is the sort of thing intelligent women want to rally around.

But most of all, I’d love to know why all these brands are only focused on female equality.

Why go for just equal.

The thing is, as I talked about in a post about Brian Clough a while back, I have absolute faith that if women were in charge, they wouldn’t aspire to do what men do, but to do things better, which reminds me of the Marilyn Monroe quote:

“Women who want to be like men lack ambition”.

Maybe it’s time brands and advertising embraced that viewpoint as well.



Humpday Rockday …
April 27, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration

This has been out for ages, but I love it.

And not just because Queen feature at least 5 times.

[Though that helps]

Anyway, if you want a 15 minute journey through rock n’ roll, listen to this … it’s worth it, even though I accept the only thing worse than my advice on music is my advice regarding fashion.



Luxury Is Now A Price Point …
April 26, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Corporate Evil, Marketing

The picture above was spotted in Shanghai a few weeks ago.

The fact it is trying to convey a sense of luxury despite wonky lettering, sums up what is wrong with the whole ‘prestige’ category … despite the fact it is doing better and better every year.

When I was a kid, anything described as luxurious basically meant ‘rare’ and only for the ‘super wealthy’.

It could be anything from precious gems to 5 star hotels to even a colour television.

But for that rarity, you could expect to be in the company of perfection.

No flaws.

No mass production.

No new edition in 12 months.

Nowadays it’s all so different.

Luxury food.

Luxury toilet paper.

Luxury holidays.

The ‘luxury’ word has been hijacked by marketers and ad agencies to elevate the importance of their product – a product, that most of the time is only luxurious because of one thing.

Price.

But that price isn’t down to the craftsmanship behind the product or even the rarity [though I appreciate in some cases, it still is] it’s the price we are asked to pay to not feel like we’ve not been left behind.

At school we were told we would do well.

If you passed your exams and worked hard, you could make something of your life.

But sadly, while those traits are still super important, they’re no guarantee to success and now we have millions upon millions of people who were sold the dream of hope who are looking around asking themselves why the hell they haven’t succeeded … at least based on the expectations they were led to believe they could look forward too.

They studied hard.

They passed their exams.

They are committed to doing the best they can do.

But nothing. Nothing at all.

And this is what marketers have jumped on.

They’re selling these people the chance to feel successful … the chance to be given the momentary illusion they’re doing well, despite the fact the purchase of some of these items can lead to a lifetime of debt and even more despondency.

It’s like anti-prozac.

And what’s worse, modern luxury isn’t that luxurious at all.

There’s flaws.

There’s mass production.

There’s new versions superseding old versions every 12 months.

And we all buy into it. All of us.

I was having this discussion with a friend of mine recently – he’s a very senior, super successful marketer for a very desired luxury brand. I told him that the fact I was part of this trade made me ill and the only way I got my father to not be disgusted with my choice of career was because he could see I was committed to trying to do things the right way, not the dirtiest.

My friend looked at me and said,

“But Robert, what do you think people would feel if they weren’t given the chance to see they were achieving things in life?”

And some say marketers aren’t smart …



When Doing Good Ends Up Being Bad …
April 25, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Awards, Corporate Evil, Culture, Only In Adland

So recently I judged a massive amount of effectiveness papers.

A massive amount.

And while there were some excellent submissions – and, sadly, a fair amount of terrible ones – the thing that struck me overall was that it appears Indian marketing is stuck in a ‘do good’ inflation race with itself.

As I’ve always been someone who has advocated the potential for brands to make a difference to their community, you’d think I’d be very happy about this, however when so much of it comes across as contrived, forced, exploitive – or worse – desperately trying to ‘one-up’ the competition without any real thought to what the audience needs – just what they want them to have – you end up feeling disillusioned by the end of it.

Not only that, but I have to question how effective these sorts of campaigns can be when it seems every brand in every category is basically doing the same thing.

As I said, left me feeling disillusioned and I appreciate that’s amazing given it came from reading countless papers about doing good, but I guess that’s another thing advertising is brilliant at doing.



Where Will The Next Assignment Take You?
April 22, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

Later today, the wonderfully smart and talented Northern Planner [also known as Andrew Hovells] puts up the latest in the Advertising Planning School on the Web assignment.

It’s a corker.

We’ve been a bit slack with APSOTW assignments lately.

It’s not due to a lack of interest, it’s just the past 6 months have been full of good and bad surprises for Andrew, Gareth and myself … however it is something we all enjoy doing because we think/hope it makes a difference. In fact, we know it does because there’s at least 3 people that we know of, who are in their jobs because of one of these assignments.

Jobs that have given them the chance to travel and/or live in totally new countries.

OK, so they didn’t get this just because of the assignments – I concede their talent and attitude probably had something to do with it too [bugger]- however they all have said their career in planning started because they had tried one of the assignments, enjoyed it, learnt from the feedback and realised it was something they were interested in and wanted to continue doing.

I cannot tell you how happy that makes us feel.

However this is not just for people who want to become planners.

I’ve said it before, but I don’t think anyone should aspire to be a planner, they should aspire to be able to get away with the things a planner can get away with and trust me, if I can still be employed after some of the shit I’ve pulled, you most certainly can.

So regardless of your job, level, role or experience – whether you aspire to work in advertising or do something totally different – if you fancy learning or sharpening some valuable skills and then get some constructive feedback from people who are incredibly smart and well respected [and me], I urge you to have a go.

I have evidence of at least 3 people who did just that and now live a life they didn’t see coming.

In a good way. [I hope]

For more information, go here for details … though it might not be up till UK time.



Dear Adfolk. Please Remember Sex And The City Was A Television Show, Not A Documentary.

As I have written about many times previously, I read masses of magazines.

I always try and find a new title to check out every month – if only so it forces my old brain to look at new things.

Anyway, I was recently flipping through a US women’s magazine, when I came across this ad.

Now I could use this ad as the foundation for a post about how unfair and unkind it is that women are forced into a position where they have to choose between either having a family or building their career.

Or I could talk about the need for society to have an open and honest conversation about the unfair and prejudiced pressures, expectations and limitations they are placing on women.

Or I could talk about how we need to refresh the way ‘safe sex’ is taught in schools.

Or I could write about the issues I have with the way pharmaceutical companies are allowed to sell their products in the US.

Or I could just criticise the lazy and patronising way this ad speaks to the very people it is attempting to communicate with.

I could do any of those because they’re all worthy topics of ranting … but I won’t … because quite frankly, I can’t drag my eyes away from that ad.

You can see the brief can’t you …

“We’re talking to young, urban, white-collar women. They’re at a stage in their life where everything feels new and exciting and they want to experience it all. They don’t see limitations, they just see possibilities and are always looking for the next thing to stimulate their passions.

New Nexplanon ensures women can continue to plan on what’s next in their life by ensuring sex doesn’t give their plans any unexpected detours”.

Yep … some generalistic, contrived, cliched bullshit that – if anything – is patronising rather than reflecting the beliefs and opinions of millions of young women in the US.

And if you think I’m wrong, just look at that ad again.

Told you I was right. No wonder so many creatives hate planners.

So to the people at Nexplanon … 10 points for talking about an issue that needs talking about. But minus 200 points for doing it in the worst way possible.