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

Happy At Home …

So it’s 2 months since we’ve been back in England and I have to say it’s been great.

Sure, the weather isn’t like LA.

Sure, finding a home and unpacking was a pain-in-the arse.

Sure, catching the tube is not like driving my beloved Audi to work.

Sure, I’m shocked at how bad the service is in restaurants and how many people smoke.

But all that aside, things are great.

There’s a bunch of reasons for that …

The first is my family are all together and well. Even Rosie, the moaning cat.

Seeing how brilliant Otis has adapted to his new environment [again] is inspiring, even though it has highlighted how much of an American twang he picked up in our time in the US.

To move home is a traumatic experience for anyone.

To move countries is often too much for people to even contemplate.

So to have moved home and country, 3 times when you’re only 3 years of age – and still be happy, positive and curious – is an incredible achievement and one that makes me even prouder of my wonderful little boy.

That said, we’re very mindful he is still trying to find where he belongs … find other kids he can form a connection with … so our job in these early months is to help him feel as settled and secure as we can, but so far, he’s handling it far better than we could ever hope, even though he did exactly the same when we landed in LA after Shanghai.

What a kid.

Another reason we’re enjoying things in England is that there’s an incredible familiarity to how things work.

Sure I’ve not lived here for 24 years and Jill is Australian … but we both have spent a huge amount of time here over the years so there’s a comfort in knowing how to make things happen. It’s allowed us to acclimatise to the new environment far quicker than we have in other nations while still feeling the buzz of excitement of being somewhere new.

Sure, there’s nervousness about some things we’ve never/rarely had to deal with before.

The school system and how insane that is here.

The inability to be confident a tradesman will turn up as promised.

The high price of public transport [which is still low, but comparatively high to say, China]

But all that is offset with the incredible culture that surrounds us, the friendliness of the people we’ve met and just being in a place where we can see ourselves for a good length of time.

Oh, and chips, mushy peas and gravy.

God, that’s magic right there.

But one other thing that has made things so great is work.

I’m really enjoying myself.

I have an incredible team full of smarts and opinions.

I have a huge array of colleagues full of creativity and provocation.

I have a bunch of clients full of fascinating challenges and ambitions.

I’m learning.

I’m being challenged.

I’m [hopefully] contributing.

There were a bunch of reasons why we moved countries – both personal and professional – and while no place will ever be perfect, I’m pretty shocked at how much I am enjoying being back in England given I never thought I’d ever move back.

I still wish I could nip up to Nottingham to see Mum and Dad.

I still wish Paul and Shelly lived down the street not 2 hours away.

But as much as I’ll always be a cynical bastard, I’m pretty happy right now and I’m sure that is as shocking to you as it is to me.

So on this bombshell of positivity, I wish you a good weekend and let you know that the APSOTW results will finally be out next week.



The Advertising Planning School On The Web Assignment Is Now Closed ….
September 30, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

Thank you for entering the Advertising Planning School on the Web assignment.

We hope you had fun and we are looking forward to judging your entry.

Because I’ve just moved from the US to the UK annnnnnnnd I start my new job tomorrow, I’ll need a few weeks to get the judges to review all the entries and get their feedback, so it will probably be a few weeks before you hear what we think of what you’ve done.

Regardless of what happens, I think it’s awesome you took part.

Career growth is built on learning from the challenges you expose yourself to. Given we live in a World where increasingly, the fear of failure is stopping people reaching their full potential, the fact you had a go is worthy of praise.

If we’re to get back where we belong, it’s about pushing to be better rather than settling with what we’ve got.

Thank you for wanting to make that happen.

Speak soon.

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The Last Week Of The Advertising Planning School On The Web Assignment …
September 21, 2018, 6:30 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

… the entry submission is September 30th.

Good news, that’s over a week away and you still have the whole of this weekend.

Even better, all you have to do is submit a single sentence.


How easy is that?

More info on the assignment is here.

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There’s Still Plenty Of Time For You To Take Part In The Advertising Planning School On The Web Assignment …
September 14, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

… the entry submission is September 30th.

Good news, that’s over 2 weeks away and the whole of this weekend.

More info on the assignment is here.

Comments Off on There’s Still Plenty Of Time For You To Take Part In The Advertising Planning School On The Web Assignment …

See The World From Another Persons Eyes … [APSOTW Assignment]

I know I said there’d be no blog posts till October because I’m busy moving countries [again]. but I thought I could use this ‘empty’ time to set a new APSOTW assignment.

Over the years we have covered all manner of subjects … from validating flag design to pitching new business to developing comms strategy to creating solutions to difficult problems.

But this time we’re going to do something different.

To be honest, it’s less about being evaluated on how you present your thinking and more an exercise on thinking.

Now the thing with thinking – especially thinking where advertising and creativity is concerned – is it rarely can be wrong.

Sure, people can have all manner of opinions on what you think… but it generally can’t be viewed as being fundamentally right or fundamentally wrong.

This is liberating – or should be – which is why I’m hoping as many people as possible will have a go at this assignment.

The actual deliverable is easy.

All you have to do is watch the below clip and tell me– based on what people are saying in the clip – what you think the brand could have said to make their audience care about shaving.

That’s right, all you have to do to take part in this assignment is watch a short film and then send me a single sentence.

That’s it. Easy eh?

OK, I’m not going to deny this is harder than it may first seem.

Part of that is because the clip is about African American men … so to succeed, you have to appreciate the context how African American men live in America.

The other challenge is you need to get your point of view into a single sentence.

That might sound super easy until you remember that single sentence has to also capture the context that makes your point of view so powerful.

[For a clue on how this could be done, click here … even though this example isn’t quite right as it’s based on having lots of additional information, which this challenge does not allow]

The reason for this challenge is 3 fold.

1. It will help your skills in reading subtext.
2. It will help you ability to write a provocative point of view.
3. It will help you make audiences want, or imagine, more from themselves.

As I said at the beginning, there’s probably no wrong answer to this assignment, but to win [and there will be a prize] you’ll need to see something in the conversations within the clip that you feel opens the door to a bigger, more intriguing, more exciting, more resonant point of view for the brand.

This is not about inventing something that isn’t there … this is about seeing something that is, but hidden in plain sight.

While the ultimate deliverable for this assignment is easy, your submission will be judged by some of the toughest, most experienced, most culturally authentic experts in their field, including – if I can convince him to publicly associate with me again – Jason White, the Global CMO of Beats.

So have a go, it will be fun and all you need to do is send me a SINGLE SENTENCE by September 30th to this address.

As I’ve said before, I believe the future of our industry will be built on developing ideas that are resonant with culture rather than trying to be relevant to them and hopefully this will help make that happen.

If you have any questions, please place them in the comments. Thank you.

Weigel And Me …

As some of you know, I trained to be a teacher.

Admittedly it took me 5 years to qualify instead of 2, but my plan was that I would eventually leave this industry and become a teacher in the areas of creativity and innovation.

Then I started, and ran, The Kennedy’s, Wieden’s creative talent incubator and it all changed.

Not because I discovered I didn’t love teaching – quite the opposite – but that I love doing it through chaos, not order.

Now given most teaching jobs prefer the latter more than the former, that put me in a bit of a predicament … carry on with my plan and risk not enjoying myself or find another outlet.

Well, the reality is I’m a long way off leaving this industry, but if I am going to teach, I need to do it on my terms, not an education boards … especially as more and more teachers are being graded by their students which has to be one of the most stupid things I’ve ever heard.

So why am I writing this?

Well I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while and thanks to the experience I’ve had with the Advertising Planning School on the Web [APSOTW] and HOALA, I realized one area I like helping people learn, is advertising strategy.

Now I know what some of you are thinking, “the last thing Campbell needs to teach is ad strategy” and you’re right, that’s why I’ve somehow managed to convince the best advertising strategist in the World to do it with me.

Yes, that’s right … the majestical Professor, Mr Martin Weigel.

Now Mr Weigel’s brilliance is well documented – hell, I even wrote a love letter post about him not that long ago – which is why even if you ignore everything I say [which, let’s face it, we all know you will] you’ll still learn really valuable stuff from it.

I should point out, we’re not leaving our jobs* – this is a little side hustle business, where a couple of times a year, we’ll turn up in a country to see who is interested in doing a couple of days planning workshop – but it is something we both are very passionate about doing because we both feel there is not enough training going on in the industry these days.

Yes, there are schools of planning and yes, there might be the odd training workshop at an agency, but at a time where more and more brands seem to favour efficiencies and process over creativity and possibilities, we believe strategic radicalism is needed more than ever which is why we want to offer something that will help planners reveal, release and exercise their most dangerous mind.

We’re still finalising our first session, but if you want to know more [if only to start pre-seeding it with your bosses, hahaha] then visit here and put your name down so we can send you information when things are finalized or if you want to talk about your organisation’s training needs [whether you’re on the agency or client side] drop us a note at

I’m super excited to be doing this, especially with a man who I bloody love to death, so I hope people/agencies will see the worth in it or our egos are about to get deflated quicker more than one of Jordan’s implants.

All this leaves me to say is a big thanks to the wonderful Mercedes – Martin’s much, much better half – who ordered us to do this because she thought we’d be good at it, though I have a feeling she talked to Jill and decided this was their way to get us out of their homes.

Now that’s the sort of strategy we could all learn from.

Can You Polish A Turd? The Results Of The APSOTW …
May 31, 2017, 9:38 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web, Comment

So first of all a major apology for the delay in getting back to all of you.

As you know, I have recently moved to the US so my time has been a bit mad over the last few weeks organising things.

I also have to apologise that not all the judges we mentioned when we set this assignment have been able to review the assignments.

They deeply regret that, but it’s been a super-busy time for some of them and they just weren’t able to give it the attention your work deserves.

Oh … last thing.

It’s always useful for anyone reading this to see the work the feedback relates to.

If you are not OK with us putting it up on slideshare in the next week or so, please let us know. Totally cool if you’d prefer not to, but absolutely great if you are good with it.

So with that, let’s get on with the feedback.

This was a much tougher assignment than many may have thought so as usual, if you want to discuss the feedback more specifically – just reach out – but we all think it’s great you took part and hope it helps you move forward with whatever plans and goals you may have.

Ed Watts

First things first, good on you for questioning the brief. There’s not enough of that going on and it’s important – though, of course, how you do it is the key.

It was also good that you highlighted the fact that the issue is the perception against those who have never been versus those who have.

But when you got to the positioning, it felt flat. It’s not that it was wrong, it just didn’t have an edge that we feel would provoke someone who has not been to Skegness to rethink their position.

That said, we all felt there was something more provocative and interesting in the ‘built for hours not days’ [which your live traffic report idea reinforces] … and we would have loved to have seen you push that idea more.
A basic rule of thumb is if your idea doesn’t make someone smile, think or feel a bit uncomfortable … then you’re probably too much in the slow lane.

Sometimes this is simply a matter of rearticulating the language of your idea, sometimes it’s a matter of a better idea … but as it stood, your idea made sense but wouldn’t make people care.

Rob Martyn-Wilde

We all liked the insight and tension you identified. I especially related because many years ago, I was working with Lonely Planet and one of the things I kept hearing was how backpackers hated the fact they kept meeting other backpackers because they were all using the same book.

Only issue we had was that the idea sounded like it suited a longer duration of holiday than 24 hours … but we all liked it, even though it the idea worked [which we all imagined it would] then you are probably likely to not be on your own for very much longer.

Nice idea, simply and engagingly expressed and executed.

Charlie Palmer

So you have covered a lot of information … but there is little distillation which means it feels like you copied a bunch of facts you’d found off the internet.

You also said Leeds was part of the East Midlands … which managed to upset a judge who is from Yorkshire and a judge who is from the East Midlands, but we will ignore that because the other judges found it so amusing.

That said, the ‘breath of fresh air’ is an interesting territory but you haven’t really shown how this will specifically appeal to the audience nor how it specifically answers the brief of driving short-term visitation.

Maybe you think that is implicit, but with so much information in your presentation, it comes across as less of a story a reader will happily follow and more a bunch of facts that the reader has to distill for themselves.

There is something in what you’ve identified, but overall it feels more about what you want to sell rather than what a client would want to buy.

The best advice we can give is that when you’re writing a presentation, remember something Ronald Reagan said, “if you have to explain your idea after you’ve presented your idea, you’ve lost”.

Lukas Quittan

We had read the article ‘Skegness is similar to North Korea and Syria’ in a lot of the submissions, but yours was the only one that built something off it.

“How do you get someone to visit a war zone?” is a lovely ‘attention-grabbing’ headline.

We also like how you highlighted this was more of a perception issue as overall visitation was up which opened up 2 strategic opportunities … which you also covered in terms of which should have focus.

So far so good.

Then you got to your positioning: “So Boring You Have To Visit Twice”.

Hmmmmmmn …




Yep … it’s all those things, it’s just not very good.

The judges comments fell into 2 camps:

It’s just not very true.

It wouldn’t attract people – even those who have been to Skegness already – to visit again.

And there lies the problem.

You see you had us from the beginning … you led us along a journey we found ourselves nodding and smiling at … and then, like discovering Dolly Parton is simply wearing a Wonderbra [or, to avoid sexist claims, George Clooney sports a wig] you left us massively disappointed.

Where Ed didn’t take a creative leap from his strategy to get to an interesting territory, you seem to have just taken a leap to try and be provocative for the sake of provocation.

Maybe with ads it would have been better [and yes, we know we didn’t ask you for that], but while you argue Skegness has less of the distractions that stop people from being able to just ‘relax and recharge’, “so boring” doesn’t capture any of that, it just smacks attempted shock value.

Overall we feel that if you had explored a bit more of the tension of the audience, you may have got to an expression that conveyed what you want to say in a way that would appeal rather than alienate.

Matthew Rose

So while we will always be advocates of authenticity, your idea “For Those Who Already Know What They Want Out Of Life” feels more like it is cementing the perception of Skegness rather than challenging/changing it.

Using ‘the UK population is getting older’ as your main justification is weak, not just because you don’t really explain why being older mean being less interested in life, but because there are countless interesting ways you could have tried to explain why this choice of idea was right.

All in all, top marks for not claiming Skegness is the eye of the cultural storm, black mark for not really solving the brief.

Prof Duncan

Well we liked the fact you decided to look into why people take day-trips in the first place but then you didn’t really go anywhere with it except to decide Blackpool was the enemy and Skegness was less bother than it’s Northern cousin, without really explaining how or why. We all felt there could be something interesting in the “… without the bother” idea, but as you didn’t really expand on it, we will never know if you recognised that as well or you just wrote it without realising it was better than you realised.

If the former that was lazy. If the latter, it’s worth thinking about … though Viz kind-of got there before you.

Jay Caplan

Like some of the other submissions, you have decided the best way to answer the brief is to reinforce the stereotype rather than try and change the perception.

That may be OK, but you never really explain why the OAP/Daily Mail reader wants a day out, preferring to state they want to go back to 1950’s England and Skegness is going to do it for them. We know the UK voted for BREXIT, but this doesn’t justify your idea and arguably, by reinforcing the stereotype [while ignoring there are plenty of other old seaside towns that could do a similar job] would make the situation for Skegness even more bleak moving forward.

John Woods

As an attempt to be the modern day John Betjeman, nice work.

As an attempt to answer the brief, more like William McGonagall [Look it up]

Iona Mihai

So on first impression, this reminded me a little of the campaign we did for Taj about 10 years ago … except when we developed our mobile signal blocking device, it specifically answered a tension that resided within our audience in relation to family dynamics and holidays whereas in your case, it seems like you have decided what is wrong with Millenials and what will fix it, whether they like it or not.

Maybe we’re wrong, but the way it came across was very patronising and/or judgemental and that ‘joy of missing out’ [JOYO] was pretty bad … especially as you had absolutely nothing to back it up.

We think that underpinning your idea is something built around ‘escapism’ but where we get confused is that if that’s the case, then it contradicts your ‘insight’ about this audience revelling in missing out what others crave … so we are a bit confused.

That said, we suspect we are missing something in your thought process so we would genuinely love to hear from you so we could be set right on how you came up with this idea and how you see it working.


So there you go … some interesting responses and some that could do with a bit more work.

A couple of watch outs.

First: Presentation matters.

It’s all very well to think that quality shines through but apart from the fact that’s not always the case, it shouldn’t ever be a case of high quality thinking or high quality presentation.

Second: Clarity is everything.

Remember you are trying to solve a clients business problem. When you’re writing your story, make sure the client will understand what you’re saying and why it is right.

If your focus is more on what you want to do rather than what they need to do, then you are in for a tough time.

With that in mind, a lot of the work we went through came across as very self-serving. We are not suggesting you need to have incredible amounts of data or research to explain/justify your idea – but only a couple of you even explored why a ‘day-trip’ is something people may like. Most jumped straight into why having a day trip at Skegness would be best without linking it to anything that might have either opened up the audience or the role of the seaside town.

Thirdly: Don’t follow the common path.

So many of the presentations ended up in a similar area. While we appreciate the APSOTW is a bit of fun, it was obvious many of you did a cursory google search … picked up on the same article that you found interesting and tried to build an idea around that. Of course that can work, but if you don’t spend much time to really explore where those perceptions come from or how a fresh idea could be pulled out from it, you are in danger of not just losing the pitch, but looking like you lack the creativity to take a client and their business to places they didn’t even imagine.

These are not meant as a ‘slapped wrist’, more a desire to see you improve because by entering the assignment, you are showing you have a desire to be better and that can only ever be applauded.

With that, we have decided Rob is the winner.

While there were some submissions that certainly captivated the judging panel, Rob’s presentation was simple, well expressed and communicated and with a cheeky idea to drive a change in audiences attitude.

Well done Rob, if you could give me your details, we will send a book on Skegness in your direction.

Again, a massive thank you to everyone who took part – we certainly hope you enjoyed it and will do it again – and a final ‘thank you’ to all the judges who find the time to do this, even if on this occasion, they didn’t. Ha.