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


When You Can Tell A Company Has Lost It …

I’ve written a lot about GoPro.

I’ve bathed them in adoration … highlighting how they were born from their community, which enabled them to create communication that literally inspired the growth of their community, not to mention a whole new multi-billion dollar industry.

I’ve also written a bunch about how other brands simply don’t get it … like Kodak and Nikon.

So it absolutely breaks my heart that GoPro are fucking up.

I’m not just talking about their product issues – or their reluctance to innovate – but the one thing they used to do flawlessly.

Their ads.

Look at this …

OK, they’ve kept their ‘in the middle of the action’ imagery.

And yes, they’ve kept the message mercilessly short.

But look at it … that visual hardly screams ‘live action’ and that message is a perfect example of corporate blandom and passiveness.

However there is an even bigger question.

Why – just why – did GoPro walk away from their absolutely brilliant ‘Be A Hero’?

I honestly think that is one of the best lines since Just Do It and yet, within a few years, they’ve seemingly walked away from it and for what?

To keep things new and fresh?

If that’s what they think then they have utterly failed.

It might be new but it’s certainly not fresh.

‘Be A Hero’ was brilliant because it perfectly encapsulated the spirit of the brand and the people who use their products.

It was a line that could last a lifetime. I genuinely believe that.

This obsession with an annual ‘relaunch’ is ridiculous.

That isn’t how you build something … but it is certainly how you destroy it.

Look, I know end-lines don’t make a brand, but they do effect how culture views them.

I know some people don’t agree with that – thinking end lines are old hat – but my response is if NIKE walked away from Just Do It and replaced it with something like ‘Feel Amazing’, I’m pretty sure everyone would think they’ve lost their spirit and edge.

A bit like going from ‘Be A Hero’ to ‘Capture Different’.



Let Them Learn, Don’t Teach …

As many of you know, I spent 5 years trying to pass a bunch of teacher qualification so I could one day be a lecturer at MIT.

It should have taken 2.

And while I [eventually] passed and have done the odd lesson here and there, the reality is I find the whole thing very difficult.

Part of that is because I’m a bit thick, part of that is because the students I’ve worked with are ridiculously smart [one is 21 and re-engineering the pace maker for fucks sake] … but the other part is that so much of the ‘higher education industry’ seems to be focused on teaching, rather than on helping students learn.

Of course, both of those are interconnected, but for me, it’s about the core motivation.

If it’s about ‘teaching’ … then your focus is communicating the curriculum within the time allowed.

If it’s about ‘learning’ … then your focus is on enabling the students to grasp concepts that they can then use with their own free will.

I am absolutely in the latter camp, which is why I’ve found MIT a bit of a struggle and why I’ve found The Kennedys such a joy.

Of course it doesn’t help there are systems in place where the students ‘grade’ the teacher.

Seriously, how stupid is that?

I appreciate there’s some bad teachers out there, but to give students the authority to pass judgement based on their experience is ridiculous.

Of course, in a perfect world they would be able to do this objectively, but as we all know, so much commentary these days is from a subjective point of view so you could be a great teacher who is given a bad grade by students simply because you didn’t give them the grades they desired because they didn’t warrant them.

Now I’ve made a distinction between higher education and more junior – but that’s not to say they don’t suffer the same issues – but the reason I write this is because of that article at the top of this post.

Despite the author inferring they found it educational and inspirational, I’m not sure that approach would be allowed today.

I appreciate it is fairly radical, but handled correctly, it not only helps students learn, but it opens a debate that would help them truly understand.

To me, that is what education is about …

Giving students the tools to challenge, destroy and liberate stuff … because if we don’t give them that, what hope has society to move forward, let alone stand up against those who wish to do us harm?



When We Put Our Heads Up Our Asses …

So this is hard for me because it not only involves an agency I like very much – Droga5 – but it also involves a number of personal friends.

So over the past few months, there’s been a campaign for Email marketing platform, MailChimp.

Not that you’d know it, because the campaign has been about creating seemingly random ads for things with names that kind-of sound like MailChimp but never actually say it.

Hence we’ve had all sorts of things like FailChips and SnailPrimps placed all around NYC.

And why?

Because when the brand sponsored the hit podcast ‘Serial’, someone in the promo mispronounced the brand as “MailKimp” and Droga5 thought that could be a fun way to advertise the brand.

That’s right, spend a shitload of cash doing a bunch of things that never actually mentions the brand name or relates to what the brand does.

This is how a Mailchimp exec explains it …

“We used mispronunciation as a creative device to inspire all kinds of different executions, knowing that people would be curious about what they were seeing and search for more information”.

What?

WHAT?

Now I accept there is a good chance I might be wrong, but are people that curious?

Do people give a flying fuck about this sort of thing?

Maybe they do, which means I can’t help but wonder how they felt when they discovered what it was really all about.

Were they pissed off they’ve just been part of a marketing scam?

Or maybe they ended up being massively disappointed by what they discovered it all to be about.

Or did they go, “Wow, that’s amazing” and immediately sign up for their service, even if they didn’t need it.

I have a feeling it’s not that likely to be the last option.

Don’t get me wrong, I know people love to ‘discover’ stuff, but I’m not so sure that means they love discovering they’ve just been had.

All of this feels like the people behind the campaign either watched one too many bad spy movies or took Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘tipping point’ a tad too literally.

But it gets worse.

Much worse … because this ‘strategy’ of mispronouncing the brand name – according to the credits released with the campaign – required 7 strategists.

SEVEN.

What did they do?

What is the bloody strategy in any of this?

I appreciate that sometimes the biggest insight is there isn’t one … but even then, you don’t need 7 strategists. Hell, even if you were doing a campaign to solve world hunger, you wouldn’t need seven strategists.

WHAT IS GOING ON!?

I love Droga5 and I massively respect my friends who were involved in this campaign, but this all smacks of early dotcom advertising and we know what happened to the majority of those brands.

Actually I’m wrong, because at least those ads focused on people remembering the name.

This isn’t advertising, it’s anti-advertising and while the industry might think that’s something cool and worthy of aspiring too, in the real World – or at least The Guardian – they know it’s a great advertisement for saying our industry has its head up it’s own ass.



Among The Bullshit, There Are Nuggets …

OK, I openly admit that is the worst post title ever.

But hang in there.

The reason I said it is because – let’s be honest – our industry can talk a lot of shite.

Not only that, we can – and often do – spend an inordinate amount of time ‘discussing’ stuff that should be pretty simple and obvious to solve/decide.

I have a friend who found himself spending 2 years of his life – TWO YEARS – sitting in various meeting rooms around the World, listening to his clients discuss whether the word “refreshing” should be included in their brand onion.

For a water brand.

No, seriously.

Even after doing this job for almost 30 years, I still haven’t been able to work out if the mind-numbingly relentless monotone of discussion is due to internal politics or individuals who realise that stopping decisions actually generates greater revenue.

However, while the way many go about this stuff can be rightfully ridiculed, the reality is the issues being discussed are often important – at least from a brand perspective – which is why the next time someone say’s brand hierarchy is a load of bollocks, show them this …

Just make sure you then don’t spend 2 years discussing what the right bloody answer is.



Sometimes Technology Scares Me …

… no, I’m not talking about the fact a t-shirt company was able to use my data from Facebook and serve me an ad of a product featuring my hometown and my favourite band …

… I’m talking about the fact they think I would want to be seen in that t-shirt.

Yes, I know I have the taste of a 1980’s Australian pub singer, but even I wouldn’t wear that.

Big data might help companies get an idea of what their audience do, but it fails to understand what they like.

For all it’s cleverness, the way the data is interpreted – and used – by so many companies is embarrassingly simplistic.

Not simple. Simplistic.

A strategy of simply mashing random interests together is not a strategy, it’s an embarrassment.

Jesus …



APSOTW Assignment: Turning Shit, Into Gold …

So it’s been ages since we did a planning school on the web assignment and it’s all my fault.

Well, not totally mine – Andrew and Gareth can take some of the blame too [I’m nice like that] – but still, I feel bad about it.

In a desperate attempt to make amends, I officially launch the first APSOTW project of 2017.

As usual, it’s open to anyone … people in advertising, people who want to be in advertising and people who were in advertising and never want to think about it ever again.

Seriously, everyone is invited – from any background or discipline – because the goal of the program isn’t just to help make people be better, but to help people ‘have a go’.

As usual, we will have a bunch of top professionals reviewing all the work.

We totally understand how intimidating this could be for you, but the purpose of involving some of the best in the biz is because we want to help you be better and what better way of doing that than to give you direct commentary from folks who are widely regarded as being some of the most successful or interesting.

So what’s the assignment?

Well we wanted to go back to basics with this.

There’s a lot of talk about planning … what it is and how you do it … so we decided it would be good if we put the fun and imagination back into the assignment. Get the discussion about planning to be about opening creative opportunities rather than closing them.

With that, here it is:

___________________________________________________________________________________

The tourism industry is incredibly competitive. With low-cost flights, it has become even harder for England’s seaside towns to be attractive, especially to families and especially out of the typical ‘summer season’ months.

The Skegness Tourism Authority – the local government department responsible for boosting tourism in the seaside town on the outskirts of Lincolnshire – feel this pressure more than most. For years the small town has suffered from a negative reputation.

Bad beach. Bad weather. No real reason to visit other than accessibility to a beach for people located in the middle of the UK.

With no money to dramatically improve facilities, the Skegness Tourism Authority have approached you with one simple challenge:

How can we position Skegness to appeal to short-stay* tourism, especially over winter?

* Short-stay tourism is any visit with a duration of between 4-24 hour.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Yes, I know if this was a real brief, there’d be plenty of reasons to push back on the client, but let’s ignore that for now.

Right … there’s a few ‘rules’ …

You can provide your response in any format you choose, but to guide you …

If a presentation, it should not be more than 12 slides.
If a video, it should not be more than 6 minutes in duration.

Whatever you do, your presentation must cover the rationale for your positioning idea.

Please remember this is a positioning exercise so you don’t have to provide any creative or media and all submissions should be based on Skegness’ reality, so no suggestions of ‘importing’ events into Skegness to make it topical.

In essence, if Paris is the city of love.

And New York is the city that never sleeps.

Skegness is _________________?

All submissions should be sent to this address by April 20th.

Have fun … not just because this is something where any answer has the potential to be the best answer, but because it’s a tourism assignment and going somewhere for no other reason than you want to do something different should feel enjoyable.



Sometimes, You Just Can’t Work Out What They Were Thinking …
March 16, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

So recently I was walking through a high-end mall in Shanghai, when I saw this …

Now I know what you’re thinking …

Is it …

A. A poster for a jewellery store?

B. A poster for a weird lingerie/80’s gym-wear store?

C. A poster for the World’s first hybrid jewellery, lingerie/80’s gym-wear store?

The answer is A which can only mean the people behind this poster are either mental or delusional … there’s simply no other alternative answer.

That said, I can imagine how the creatives came up with it …

__________________________________________________________________________________

We walk into a cubicle at some nondescript marketing agency.

An art director, copywriter, suit and planner are all sat together reading the brief the client has just given them.

No one is making a sound.

All that can be heard are the pages of the brief being turned over and over again.

Finally, after 10 minutes, the silence is broken by the Art Director.

“So they’re saying that want something disruptive?”

“Yeah …” agrees the copywriter, “… but it needs to be done in a way that makes their tacky jewellery look appealing”.

“But no woman with a brain would buy that shit” spouts the planner.

“Sure …” say’s the art director, “… but stupid men who watch too much Pornhub would”.

“You’re right …” say’s the planner, getting excited, “… the stupid tossers will imagine coming home from work and finding their wife waiting to shag them in nothing more than lingerie, heels and shitty jewellery”.

“Yep, but we still have to make it look classy” say’s the account director.

“Easy …” laughs the art director, “… we’ll just rip off the iPod Silhouette campaign”.

And with that, the era of high-end, low class advertising was born.

The end.