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


Strange Combinations …

Maybe it’s because I only have one working eye.

Maybe it’s because I’m an complete and utter idiot.

Maybe it’s because they’re both basically in black and white.

But when I saw the above ad at a local tube station, I thought it was all for the same product and couldn’t work out why the fonts were all different.

On the plus side, it made me take a closer look which means it’s immediately more effective than most of the ads I see underground.

As I said recently, tube ads are terrible.

Boring and rational as hell … with some occasional loose ‘riding the tube’ reference.

Boring while pretending to be wild and wacky … with some occasional loose ‘riding the tube’ reference.

Boring because they think they can get away with writing the longest, long copy ads in history, regardless that they make it feel like watching paint dry.

For such a captive audience, you’d think agencies and brands could find a way to enhance the passengers journey rather than letting their ego get the better of them and make them think they’re sitting their patiently waiting to read about another app launch that does exactly the same as the other 10 apps rationally explaining their role with some ‘crazy’ visual attached. Seriously, when the only reason I notice an ad is because I thought a whisky brand had made a milk product, you know it’s time we look at what ‘engagement’ means in our industry.

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Like Walking Across A Minefield In Clowns Shoes …

I have written a lot about scam in the past.

How it is destroying the credibility of our industry.

How the main culprits are the agencies behind the bland wallpaper we see each day.

How these scam places are devaluing the agencies who make amazing work for real clients.

Recently John Hegarty suggested that agencies found doing scam should be banned from award shows like athletes are banned from competing.

I absolutely love this idea.

I don’t think it will stop it happening, but it will severely reduce it.

But I’d go one step further.

Years ago Andy told me the judges of the awards are complicit in scam happening.

He said that they were so focused on being associated with great work, they didn’t care if it was real work.

I think he has a point which is why rather than just banning the agencies who do it, I’d ban the judges who award it.

Of course, the judges could say they acted in good faith and assumed the people behind the competition had evaluated it’s appropriateness.

And that’s fair, but the award competitions need entries and the horrid reality is that scam has paid the bills for many of them for too long so to expect them to rigorous in their validity might be a bit too much to hope.

But here’s the thing, scam isn’t even hard to spot.

Part of the reason for it is – as I mentioned – because it comes from agencies who are more known for their blandom than their pragmatsism.

The other reason is that in their quest to be provocative, the agencies often overstep the mark because they know judges love this sort of thing.

Have a look at this …

It’s about as perfect an example of scam you can get.

A visually driven idea [because unless the copy is in English, it will stop judges liking it]

A clear point of view.

Embracing topical events to make their point.

On face value, it all makes perfect sense – but apart from the fact that idea is as old as the hills – the use of a Muslim woman highlights the desperate attempt of the agency and creative team to be ‘award worthy’.

Sure, all the pictures reflect people following some sort of ‘ideology’ … but a skinhead walking away from other skinheads in a riot and a soldier walking away from other soldiers on their way to unleash war on some nation is very different to a Muslim woman walking away from a group of other Muslim women who simply appear to be Muslim women.

Talk about making a massive and insulting comment to women of the Muslim faith.

The implication that they are all blindly following an ideology designed to cause destruction to others – as seems the theme given the other executions – is both wrong and frankly irresponsible.

But who cares about that when there’s an award to win.

But then, those who enter the dark world of scam don’t care about anything.

Including thinking if their ‘idea’ actually is consistent or makes sense.

Name them.

Ridicule them.

Ban them.



When A Company Confuses Condescending Twaddle As Help …

I saw this at Fulham tube station.

What were they thinking?

Oh I know what they were thinking … they thought this made Aviva look like a company who wanted to help ‘the little people’ be like the successful pin-stripe suit brigade.

But the fact is, when it comes from a company run by the pin-stripe suit brigade, not only does it lose any sense of authenticity, it feels patronising, condescending and as judgmental as hell.

And if you think I’m being a dick, the fact the last line is a cold, hard and harsh ‘capital at risk’ … you know the real goal of this ad is to get more commission than to spread the wealth.

Or maybe that’s just me.



Statements That Stick …

One of the things I love is building a planning team who is like a gang.

A bunch of intelligent misfits who all have unique ways of looking at the World but share a common philosophy in terms of what we want to do, change and impact.

I don’t care how people approach their challenges, I don’t mind if people aren’t the best of friends … but it’s important we have each others back and are open to offering opinion, advice and help if needed, even if individually, there is a healthy level of competition to do the best work of the team.

Of course, this is easier to achieve the longer you stay in a company as you can truly stamp your personality on the department but it’s not totally necessary … you just have to be clear in your beliefs, consistent in your actions and lead by example.

Now whether I’ve achieved any of this is something you’d ultimately have to ask the brilliant people who have worked with me at my previous agencies, but as I’ve started a new job at R/GA, I wanted to rally the team around a set of beliefs and language that can start unifying us more closely so I decided to make us all a set of stickers.

Yes, stickers.

I know … R/GA is an agency that wants to make the future … but apart from the fact we’re about creating stuff that comes from culture rather than ignores them, I have a new laptop that needs ‘customising’ so I thought stickers would be a perfect way to kill 2 birds with one stone.

With that in mind, each member of the team has received a set of the stickers above.

17 stickers that convey our philosophy on such matters as what we believe, how we work and what we want to do.

Some are obvious, some are maybe a bit more esoteric … but even if people absolutely hate them, at least I can say I’ve made something that truly has stuck – even if that is literal rather than philosophical – which, I’m sure you’ll agree, makes a pleasant change.



Love Bores You To Death …

So now my life is spent on the tube, I get to look an endless stream of terrible ads.

In the main, the vast majority are basically brochures shoved into a small space.

No thought about the audience.

No interest in capturing the imagination.

Just blatantly taking the piss by ramming down what they want to say regardless of who will be exposed to it.

While the example above for eHarmony.com is not one of the worst, it’s not great.

Putting aside the vast amount of copy on there, I don’t like the idea that their version of love is finding someone who is basically a duplicate of you.

Is that love?

Sure, having things in common is important, but isn’t it the differences that makes things magical?

I know for a fact that Jill has made me a better person simply because she is not me.

Her view of the World.

Her experiences.

Her hopes, dreams and ambitions.

The last person I can think I’d want to be with is another version of me.

OK, so they then end their ad by saying ‘meet that one person you never thought you’d meet’, but even though that gives a nod to your ideal partner having as many differences as commonalities, they’re still selling the idea that there’s only one person in the World right for you … which is not only bollocks, but emotionally manipulative.

But if that’s not bad enough, it’s the fact they say they ask 150 questions for each member.

ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY!

Look, I get love is complex, complicated and deeply personal but 150 questions?

Jesus …

I wouldn’t mind, but according to some, you can make anyone fall in love with you if you just ask them 36 questions.

I know there have been a bunch of relationships that have formed because of eHarmony, but I wonder how many of those occurred simply because 2 people were in the right mindset for a relationship rather than because of the answers of their 150 questions.



Something To Think About On Your Monday …

Don’t let Monday kill you. Let it make you feel alive and then go after what the hell you actually want to do …

I promise I’ll try to sound less like Oprah tomorrow.



Transformer Tech …

When we moved to the US, we bought a new television.

We hadn’t had a new one for 9 years so when we got a ‘smart TV’, it was a revelation.

Sadly, when we were moving to the UK, we had to get rid of it because it wouldn’t work with the UK power grid.

Anyway, we went out and bought the new version of it – and while it is 65″ of OLED, 4K brilliance – the bit I love the most is that it has a feature that disguises itself as a painting.

I know it’s not the first television to do this, but it’s the first one I’ve had that does – and given it’s amazing picture quality – it’s ability to really give the impression it’s art, not tech is amazing.

It also reminds me of the brilliant work the brilliant Red Associates in NYC did for Samsung years ago.

Years ago, Samsung approached them for help on how to sell more televisions.

Rather than respond with solutions relating to branding or distribution, they came back with a more human focused response.

What they had discovered was that men love to show off their tech.

When they buy it – especially if it is for the home – they want to show it off … make it a focus of their World.

But women are different.

They don’t like things that change the focus and flow of the home.

They love technology but don’t want it to overshadow the people and the interactions that go on between the 4 walls. In essence, they want the technology to enhance the family dynamic, not overshadow it.

And so Red Associates told Samsung that they should be looking at changing the frames the TV’s were held in.

Less black and more shades that suit the colour palette of home decor.

Sure the screen would remain dark, but by changing the frame, it would blend in more with the home than stand out.

And you know what … it worked.

Samsung saw a dramatic increase in brand affinity with women.

Which meant when a family wanted to buy a new TV, Samsung increased their odds of being the one chosen because it understood that purchase decisions were based on more than just the tech, but the way it works when it’s off.