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


When You Run Out Of Reasons To Believe …

Reasons To Believe, or RTB for short.

Of course they’re super important, but a few years ago, I realized that clients felt they were important for different reasons than agencies.

For us, it’s about proof. Something tangible we can use to help build our ideas off.

Of course it’s best when it’s something unique, but as long as it’s true, that will do.

But for clients, it’s different.

Sure, they know it helps sell their product to their audience, but it’s also important to them for self-validation reasons.

Imagine you’d spent 3 years of your life making Post-It notes slightly more sticky. You’d want to feel that was worth it wouldn’t you … so when an agency comes back with an idea that doesn’t focus on the importance of ‘stickiness’, you’d feel all your hard work was wasted. So you’d push back.

And back.

And back again.

And even though it leads to fucking awful advertising, you’d be happy because for you, this isn’t about selling the product, it’s about you feeling less shit that a proportion of your life was spent on making a piece of paper slightly more sticky.

I experienced this quite recently – when I was in China.

For weeks we had issues with a client on a particular idea before we discovered he was the person behind the design of a small element of the brand and he felt we were ignoring it … which translated to him feeling we were ignoring him.

Ego can be a great thing.

It can give you the impetus to push you forward. Try new things. Explore new standards.

It can also fuck you up.

Make you lose sight of the bigger picture. Or any picture for that matter.

Which is probably what happened to the guys who had to do the packaging for the brown packing tape.

And why I love the absolutely correct comment from Mike Jennings [courtesy of John Dodds]

If that wasn’t enough, here’s something else to blow your mind.

I am on holiday on Monday for 2 days.

A work holiday and a national holiday.

Bet you thought my days of free holiday blagging were over, didn’t you.

Well you thought wrong, because it is July 4th … a day I will soon grow to love.

And with that, I’ll see you Wednesday y’all.

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America Is Modern History …

So I’ve already written how much I’m enjoying LA.

That doesn’t mean it’s better than China, just different.

I say that because there’s a huge amount of things about China I miss.

People. [Or at least some of them]
Clients. [Or at least some of them]
Culture. [Nearly all of it]

But there’s one thing I miss in its entirety and that’s how China deals with money.

More specifically, how China has embraced technology to enable people to transact their cash.

Of course, part of this is because China LOVES getting people to spend money and so the easier they make it, the easier it will be to get people to do it but then America – a land the Middle Kingdom copied in terms of capitalistic tendencies – is supposed to be a ‘spend society’ so I’m absolutely shocked how backwards they are in terms of embracing technology for finance.

Everywhere I go … everything I buy … can only be obtained with a credit card or a cheque.

A fucking cheque.

Seriously.

Oh yes, there’s the odd ‘Apple Pay’ option, but as we all know, that’s a piece of crap – especially compared to WeChat – so basically I’m in a situation where for the first time in literally 20 years, I am using cheque books.

At first, I thought they were joking, then I opened my bank account and they sent me 6 cheque books “to get me started”.

Six!!! Hahahahaha.

Thank God I was a pre-existing AMEX customer so I could get a local card otherwise – given the way America only offers you credit if you’re wildly in debt – I’d have to buy a bloody newspaper with a cheque.

The World may laugh at QR codes, but China has shown how they can be used to change the way people behave and transact with money forever. If America wants to be great again, modernizing their approach to money might be a good first step.



Brands With Tickets On Themselves …

I’ve written about San Pellegrino before.

I talked about their mental joint promotion with Bvlgari.

And the with Vogue.

I talked about how a brand I previously enjoyed was in danger of alienating me with it’s wanker associations.

To be honest, it’s less about who they partner with and more about how they present that partnership … screaming it out, showing their desperation rather than cool.

Well recently I saw something else …

To be honest it’s something I’ve seen for ages but maybe, because I was in Malibu, it seemed even more ridiculous despite the fact it kind-of fitted-in with all the other ridiculous folks that were there … prancing around in their designer gear despite the fact they were in a little park for little kids.

What am I going on about?

This …

Or more specifically, this …

Lets put aside the fact this is a can of soda wearing a little hat – A. LITTLE. HAT. – and focus on them creating an app that they want you to download before drinking their overpriced flavoured water.

What the hell?

Seriously, how pretentious, egotistical and up-yourself can they be?

Even the millionaire kids on instagram – with their turned up collars and turned down shades can’t pull all that off so successfully at once.

Seriously San Pellegrino, get your shit together.

You seem to have forgotten being classy and sophisticated is different to acting like Kim Kardashian.

I know Italians are capable of some alarming lack of taste, but this might be a step too far.



Don’t Let Our Delusion Be Our Downfall …
June 27, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude

A while back I wrote a post about the positive benefits of growing older.

While I admit I would still rather stay young – if only so I could see my son grow up for longer – the fact is, it’s not all bad wracking up the years … though I must admit, it would be even better if we treated age like levels of a video game so I could say ‘I’m level 47’.

The reason I’m saying this is because I recently read the quote at the top of the page that I think sums up the different stages of life quite nicely. More than that, it’s also awesome advice … because if we keep basing our decisions on what we think others expect of us rather than what we are personally excited by, we may never find what we were meant to do. 



And To Think, Some Agencies Aspire To Being Like This …
June 26, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Creativity

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about making money.

Money changes things.

Creates things.

Makes things possible.

However, if you want to build something that good, talented people also want to be a part of, the key is how you make your cash and what you do with it once you’ve got it.

And that is why I still believe the best creativity comes when money is treated as a byproduct of high standards and craft rather than the core motivation.

But then I like Queen and Birkenstocks so what do I know.



Create Ideas Not Advertising …

Remember when I was about to leave Wieden and I wrote a post about some of the work I had loved being a part of over the past 7 years?

Remember how I said there were some other campaigns I was super excited about but couldn’t talk about them because they hadn’t come out?

No, I didn’t think you would [dicks!] … but the point of this post is one of those campaigns has just launched and I love it.

There’s so many reasons why it warms the cockles of my heart.

It’s fun.

It’s insanely diverse in its execution.

But most of all, an idea rather than an ad idea.

I’ve talked about this for years. For me, the best thing we can do is identify the problem, create a solution and then use comms to tell as many people as possible about this ‘new thing’. Sadly, the majority of advertising still is based on identifying the problem then spending millions of dollars telling everyone about the problem.

But what is ‘this’, I hear you cry. This …

What you’re looking at are plasters [or, now I’m in America, bandaids] for kids.

They were developed by us for NIKE to celebrate Children’s Day.

5 years ago the reason parents didn’t want their kids to play sport is because they wanted them to study their school books. Fortunately that is less of an issue now [but still an issue] but what we discovered is there’s a new barrier and that is that parents worry their kids will get hurt. This is more than just a physical element – it’s tied up to a whole host of complex issues parents are going through, from not wanting to give them the pressure they went through to also wanting to prepare them for the insane competition they will face in life – but what we saw was an opportunity to enable kids to show their parents that sports makes them rather than hurts them.

So we made a product.

A plaster/bandaid.

A plaster/bandaid that actually isn’t about protecting the injuries kids get from playing sport but a badge of honor for playing the sport they love. A badge of honor that lets their parents know they are being awesome for letting their kids compete and that what they get out of it are far more than bumps and bruises.

We made this product.

We developed a whole range – with the cultural context and vernacular of each specific sport embedded into the design.

Then we created advertising with them. About them.

Billboards that you can take the product from.

Films that talk about the beauty of pure play.

Posters that you can collect and use.

Comic books where the images on the plasters form the story. 

And best of all, Nike had them in their stores.

Lots of them.

For kids to have, use and show their parents.

And best of all, it was real. They made tens of thousands of packets of them.

It’s not scam. It’s solving a problem in the most creative of ways.

And even though they waited till I’d left to launch it, I still love it.

Hell, even Forbes loves it. [Though the article is a bit pants]

So to everyone at Wieden Shanghai, especially the guys who were the real instigators of it [I know who you are] not to mention Steve, Andy and PT at NIKE, congratulations, it’s brilliant and I’m so happy and proud of you.

Only took 7 years … hahaha.



Out Of The Times …
June 22, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Culture, Marketing, Marketing Fail, Positioning, Sport

The Times.

One of the icons of newspapers and journalism.

Not just in the UK, but across the whole World.

Sure, there have been scandals along the way – not to mention the Murdoch ownership – but overall, it is still a paper that commands huge respect which is why I found this recent ad of theirs on Facebook rather baffling.

Yes, I know football is a global sport worth billions of pounds a year.

Yes, I know The Times have a football writer, Henry Winter, that is highly revered.

Yes, I know that Facebook audiences may be more likely to react to a football story than a journalism story.

But …. come on.

It’s the fucking Times.

And while having a global perspectives has never been so important as it is today, I’m not sure football – or Jose Mourinho for that matter – is going to drive the subscriptions they crave, especially when there are so many more topical [and important] issues they could push against … whether that’s the politically motivated movement to promote anything that challenges a claim as false news or even the tragic terrorist events that have taken place in London in the last few days.

While I appreciate the need to broaden your audience base is vital, chasing them never leads to long term success because ultimately you are handing over your destiny to people who could change their allegiance in a heartbeat, especially when there are so many other alternatives all vying for your attention.

As I wrote a while back, if you don’t commit to what you were created for, then how can you ever expect your audience to commit to what you stand for.