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


Donn. Rohn. Is. Gone …

When you start a new adventure – be it a new country or company – it can be daunting.

Of course no one starts a new adventure without there being a reason for it, but that still doesn’t mean you don’t find yourself being pulled into looking at what you are losing rather than what you could gain.

But good things can – and do – happen, of which one of them is meeting new people who make your new adventure more fulfilling and exciting.

One of those people is a guy called Donn Rohn.

I never knew Donn before I started at Deutsch. In fact on my first day at work, when I saw him, I thought he looked a bit of a dick, despite the fact a guy who used to work with him told me he was good.

But once I got talking to him, I realised almost immediately that it was only his walk that made him look an asshole [I’m serious, his walk is a cross between Dirty Harry and John Wayne] because the truth is, he’s as honourable a man as I have ever met in my life.

Smart.
Defender of his team.
A leader not a manager.
Committed to doing the right thing.
Empathetic, passionate, a dry sense of humour that drives brilliantly evil turns of phrase … he’s just a great human being and that’s before I mention how great a colleague, friend, husband and father he is.

I say all this because he leaves us today.

As sad as that is – and it really is – he’s off to do something that will change the path of his life so I’m genuinely happy and excited for him and his family because they deserve nothing but good things.

While I would have loved our time together to be longer, I’m grateful I met him and even more that I get to call him a mate so while he leaves a huge hole behind – especially in his ability to rock ‘grandpa sweaters’ that take no prisoners [his leaving present is the picture accompanying this post] – he also leaves a legacy of how to be a good human in a business that often tries its best to destroy that in all of us.

Thank you for everything Donn, never change.

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Who The Hell Am I?
February 15, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Culture, Differentiation

So at Christmas I did that ancestory.com thing.

After spitting what seemed like half a bucket of saliva into a test tube, I sent off my results and waited.

A few weeks later, I received this …

Now either I’m the most Worldly man that ever lived [bottom image, where I apparently have roots in 150 nationalities] or there has been a mistake with my results because according to them, I’m 27% Italian but don’t register significantly as British at all [1%].

In fact I’m more Syrian than British.

And Polish.

And Ukrainian.

And German.

In fact I’m apparently mainly European Jewish.

Now I know I have a nose for it but my Dad’s family was longterm English and my surname is that well known European Jewish name, Campbell so I’m really not sure what’s going on.

What’s weirder is my wife – who, let’s not forget, is a bloody Australian/Canadian – took the test and she is 60% British.

SIXTY PERCENT.

Now I know England owns Australia and Canada, but how the hell can she be more British than me … someone who has a British father, British grandparents, British great grandparents and spent the first 25 of his life there?

The only positive is that I can now pretend I’m an International Man Of Mystery … or I can until I take the test again [because I’m convinced I ate some peanuts that somehow screwed with the results] and find out I’m 100% idiot.



Give A Little Love To The People Who Think They Will Never Get Any …

As today is Valentine’s Day, I am going to write about love.

Not the rubbish peddled by the card and florists so they can charge a 100% mark-up on their usual prices because today is supposedly a ‘special day’, but the sort of love that shows you genuinely care rather than have been bullied into looking like you do.

The fact is, they’re more people on the streets than at any point in the last 20 years and it’s going to get worse.

While a lot of media likes to paint these individuals as thieves or con artists, the vast majority are good people who have simply fallen on hard times. This could be because of family, work or mental health – but they are good people and we can’t be allowed to forget that.

While it’s easy to avoid them, I have a little ask.

If you see someone who you think is having a tough time – and please know most don’t have the confidence to write a sign, let alone ask for help – just quietly go up to them and say, “I don’t want to embarrass you but I thought this might help” and then provide what you can.

A bit of money, some food or a [none alcoholic] drink.

Then simply walk away with no fuss or expectation of gratitude because I guarantee your small act will have made a difference, if only for the momentary interaction of human warmth that is hugely different from the invisibility and insignificance they experience every day.

As many of you know, this is an issue that is hugely important to me that I see getting worse every day. Any help, helps … from simply acknowledging their existence, to offering a little helping hand to doing something that can give them back some of the self-esteem that they thought they had lost forever.

I will be forever grateful to Virgin and Human_2 for helping me see how much a little gesture can make a big difference. If more people understood that, maybe they’d feel more comfortable reaching out when they see someone having a tough time.

Happy Valentine’s Day.



The Beauty Of Madness …

Last week, Nike dropped an ad.

A 3+ minute ad.

THREE MINUTES, ARE THEY MAD?

Well yes they are because it’s the most magical 3+ minute ad you will see in a long, long time.

I know you might say I’m biased because [1] it’s Nike [2] it’s by Wieden and [3] my beloved ex-collegue, Paula Bloodworth, worked on it … but I’m not saying it for those reasons, I’m saying it because it’s sheer gloriousness.

Sport.
Culture.
Authenticity.
Eccentricity.
London.

You watch it and you are sucked in. You’re smiling, laughing, nodding, relating.

Whether it’s how outsiders see different parts of London to the madness some young athletes have to go through to be noticed.

There’s so much to love about it … though I have to say my favorite parts are definitely the female footballer, the ice-hockey player and the guy at the end on the bike who swipes the ball away.

Brilliant casting, writing, everything.

An ad that shows how great advertising can be when it’s injected with madness, authenticity and originality. Not to mention fun. Not in terms of what the ad is – though it’s full of that – but in terms of feeling how much fun everyone had making it.

An ad that not only shows the elasticity of NIKE’s brand voice, but their ability to be culturally authentic while staying true to who the brand actually is.

Right there is why Wieden is so fucking good.

It’s not just that they’ve made an ad people around the World will love – even if they won’t understand it all – it’s that they’ve made an ad that people in London will truly get.

An ad that is for them.

About them.

Bursting with all the swagger, humour and contrast that makes that city what it is.

I’m sure they knew they had something special at the very beginning but when it started actually coming together, they must have got super excited.

And nervous.

I remember going through all those emotions when we were creating Blackcurrant Tango.

But as I’ve said before, the best feeling in adland is when you think a piece of your work is going to be either amazing or a disaster

Nothing in-between.

Because it means whatever happens, it’s going to make a statement.

And this ad does.

Without doubt it is my favorite NIKE spot in a while [acknowledging a huge amount of them of late have been extra good] and I’m so happy for all my friends who were a part of it.

In fact the only thing wrong is when they say ‘Nothing Beats A Londoner’ when we all know a Nottinghamer can.

Ahem.



Lessons For Marketing …

In the old days of marketing, the attitude was 'always have new news'.

Of course, the reality is constantly having new news is almost impossible – especially news that actually means something to the majority rather than the boardroom – but this attitude has seemingly stood the test of time, despite the fact it arguably does more harm to the brand than good.

[Lufthansa take note]

And that's why I passionately believe one of the most important lessons for marketing is knowing when to speak and when not too.

I appreciate many will disagree – especially those who indulge in self-indulgent, ego-messages via social media – but in a World where we are constantly bombarded with noise, adding to it doesn't seem to be the smartest move, especially if your way of 'getting attention' is becoming more and more exaggerated while claiming it to be based in truth.

[Lufthansa take note]

Is there a way to communicate on an on-going basis?

Of course. The simple rule being ‘talk about the stuff your audience cares about rather than what you want them to care about’, but for all the research available to us, I’m still shocked how few brands really understand this … mainly because they still think they’re in a battle for share of voice rather than share of give-a-shit.



When Science Fiction Becomes Science Fact …

So Elon Musk’s SpaceX company successfully launched his Falcon Heavy rocket.

I was interested for many reasons, most notably for the fact that when he launched his previous rocket – I saw it but didn’t know what it was, so my brain got bent out of shape as I tried to work out whether it was an alien invasion, a Korean rocket or just a Hollywood stunt.

As it did to many others too.

For the record, to make sure Otis wasn’t scared by his parents and odd-parents reaction, I told him it was Santa doing a ‘trial Christmas run’.

He didn’t believe it … which is impressive because at that stage, none of us knew what was actually going on.

But this launch was different.

Bigger. More innovative. More spectacle.

And as amazing as all that is, what I found the most fascinating was how they made the booster rockets return back to earth.

IN UNISON!!!

I’m not saying this just because it’s the sort of thing you only expect to see in a JJ Abrams movie, but because by doing that – he just reduced the cost of space exploration from NASA’s billion dollar a flight price tag, to about 90 million.

Incredible.

But there is something even more wonderful.

No, I’m not talking about the fact it’s made me write the most topical post in this blogs history, I’m talking about how it has reignited the imagination of people around the World.

Shifting the aspirations of tech from making a billion dollar app to literally changing the potential future of the World.

Of course you need a lot of money to do that, but everyone has to start somewhere and as long as Musk continues to show how to do this with responsibility and humour for the benefit of the planet [unlike how he conducts his personal life], then I think he has just introduced humanity to an incredibly exciting chapter in it’s development.

And boy do we need that.



Some People Never Learn Their Lesson …

Way back in 2008, the lovely people at PSFK invited me to speak at their Asia conference in Singapore.

While I had a lot of fun doing it, you’d think they would have quickly realised never to invite me to do anything again.

Well they managed to hold off for 10 whole years, but the lovely mad fools decided to ask me to do something again.

OK, so it’s writing an article on the Super Bowl rather than actually showing my face to a member of the paying public, but it’s still an alarming lack of judgement on their part.

For which I am truly proud.

Given how much rubbish there was out there, I could have written miles and miles of abuse, but the folks at PSFK were smart by limiting me to about 800 words, though that didn’t stop me writing a paragraph questioning why Queen would sell the use of their song ‘We Will Rock You’ to RAM Trucks.

Fortunately for you, they edited that bit out.

Unfortunately for you, they left the rest in.

Fools.

So to those of you who can’t be arsed to click on this link, here’s the post.
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In addition to being the pinnacle of American football, the Super Bowl is also one of the pinnacles for the ad industry. A chance for us to remind everyone what we can do. So with that, I’m going to write about three pieces of work I thought celebrated the highs of ad-land and three pieces that will require me to spend the next 11 months in therapy.

Before I start, I should say:

+ I’m cynical and British so I’m not the best person to write this.
+ I acknowledge it’s hard to make a Super Bowl spot that stands out for good reasons.
+ All ads require a lot of people to work very hard so when it goes bad, there’s a bunch of reasons for it and I assure you they’re all as disappointed as you. Or they should be.

Let’s start with what I think pushes the ad industry forward:

TIDE: It’s A Tide Ad

Thank you for being self-aware enough to acknowledge you simply make clothes clean.

And for doing it in a way that doesn’t just highlight the clichés of ‘the Super Bowl ad,’ but kinda-hijacks and owns all the ads that run after your spot.

For me, you won the Super Bowl.

AMAZON: Alexa Loses Her Voice

No one really needs reminding about Alexa do they? But hey, at least they had fun doing it and poked fun at themselves. Jeff Bezos might be a genius in many things, but no actor is going to worry his acting chops are going to take their job. Except, maybe, Keanu Reeves.

BUDWEISER: Stand By You

Let me be clear, I did not like this ad. At all. I felt it was contrived and patting itself on the back.

But the idea behind it—using their cans to distribute water to those in need—is very good and something they’ve apparently been doing since 1988.

It resonated with me more than the Stella Artois/Matt Damon spot, which has a similar goal, because not only has Bud been doing it without fanfare for a long time, it required them to do something beyond handing over a check.

I know I look a dick criticizing anyone who wants to help those in need but, like the Hyundai spot, you end up wondering if Stella is doing it because they genuinely want to help people or needed a platform to attract more drinkers.

It shouldn’t matter as people are being helped but it feels exploitative, which is why Bud wins the ‘social cause’ category of Super Bowl for me.

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Now for the ones I feel holding us back. Seriously, this was hard because there were tons of them. But some reached a lower bar than others, so with that…

MONSTER: You Deserve Better

What do you do if you’re a guitarist in Aerosmith and your singer is too busy making bad Super Bowl ads [this year, it’s Kia] to make a new album? You have a go too.

Joe Perry shouldn’t have bothered. Not just because his appearance is ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ short, nor because 99.76% of the overtly Gen-Z target audience wouldn’t know who the hell he is… but because the premise of the ad (in-ear headphones are crap) is about five years too late.

The ad ends with the line, “You Deserve Better.” They’re right, Joe does.

JACK IN THE BOX: Jack vs. Martha

There used to be an agency called Cliff Freeman. I loved them and tried to get a job there over and over again, but it never happened.

Part of the reason was because of their Jack In The Box work, which was genuinely mischievous, funny and memorable as hell.

This is none of those things. It’s not terrible—there were worse—but compared to their heyday with Cliff Freeman, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

NFL: Dirty Dancing Spoof

NFL players re-make the pivotal dance scene from the movie Dirty Dancing before a line appears that says, “To all the touchdowns to come.” I rest my case.

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I know I said three, but there’s one more I have to give an honorable mention to: that Scientology thing.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find a religion that runs a Super Bowl ad trying to attract members rather than use the cash to try and help those in need very, very strange. Even Stella Artois is trying to help the needy so maybe I’ll follow them instead.

Given the Super Bowl is such a momentous event—where the traditional rules of advertising arguably, can be broken—it’s just a shame that we continue to see the same three approaches each and every year.

I’m not saying funny celebrities, true Americana and/or political commentary don’t work, but if we’re going to show how our industry really understands how to connect with culture, it might be nice if we didn’t approach every year by producing a stream of 30 to 60-second TV ads when we have the technology and brains to develop ideas that can affect how millions behave, literally, as they’re watching the game.