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


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

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 …

Provocative?

Challenging?

Interesting?

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.

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Today Is The Day …
April 20, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

So by 11:59pm [and 59 seconds] Shanghai time, all submissions for the latest APSOTW assignment must be sent to this address.

What happens after this is that all the submissions are sent to the judges to be critiqued and then I compile the feedback and publish it in a few weeks.

We have 6 judges, of which 3 are Gareth Kay – founding partner of Chapter SF, Andrew Hovells – planning guru and proud Northerner and myself – the less said about, the better.

In addition, we have Ian Woods, senior counsel at Virgin, Daniel Stevens, one of the early employees at ATTIK whose design genius touched Playstation, Nintendo and MTV and Sue Burgess, who in the late 80’s/early 90’s was the head of tourism for Skegness … so her view will be utterly fascinating.

As I said when I launched the assignment, I totally understand how daunting this may feel, but the purpose of the APSOTW – as well as involving some of the best in the biz – is because we want to help you be better and the fact you took part means you want to be better too.

I hope you enjoyed it, in many ways that’s the most important thing.

And trust me, while this was just an assignment, this is something Skegness really needs.



Don’t Forget To Do The APSOTW Assignment …
April 14, 2017, 8:00 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

… the entry submission is April 20th.

Good news, that’s almost a week and the whole of this weekend.

More info on the assignment is here and some news that’s rather big [for me] is here.

My advice is you should stick to the former and ignore the latter.

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Don’t Forget To Do The APSOTW Assignment …
April 5, 2017, 6:21 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

… the entry submission is April 20th.

More info on the assignment is here.

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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.



Help Tim Cook Become Richer …

So today we are launching an APSOTW assignment in association with WARC.

It is predominantly for planners based in Asia, but if you want to go for it, then go for it.

The reason we are focusing on Asia is that the challenge involves APPLE PAY and the competitive environment there is far more innovative and accepted.

That said, it would be good practice for anyone so if you’re ready for it, it’s ready for you.

Like all APSOTW assignments, your submission will be evaluated by a team of highly regarded and wildly experienced planners so feedback will be constructive and super useful for you moving forward.

Information – and the specifics of the brief – is here.

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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.