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

A Picture Tells A Thousand Data Points …

One of the things I love is hearing anecdotes of how people got companies to do things they initially didn’t want to do.

It is particularly of interest to me when those anecdotes are based around creative approaches to achieving their goal.

Recently I heard one that I think is of particular brilliance.

While the move towards electric cars is inevitable, the reality is that unless manufacturers make their cars highly desirable – in terms of appearance, function and excitement – it’s going to be a slow sell.

Let’s face it, Tesla’s success has little to do with how they’re powered and more to do with the fact it borrows from the sort of ‘future tech’ we were sold in cartoons as little kids.

Silent? Check.

Gull wing doors? Check.

Central computer screen? Check.

Self driving abilities? Check.

Hyper-speed button? Check … even though they call it ‘insane’.

But as cool as this all is – and it is – the reality is it comes at a price that most car manufacturers can’t get away with, so they have to try and find ways to offer desirability but at a lower unit price.

Which leads to this story I heard recently …

Because of the batteries needed to power the new generation of electric cars, the reality is most cars will be designed to be slightly taller to accommodate them. In turn, what this means is that to stop the cars looking slightly weird, they require bigger wheels – which adds a huge cost to the manufacturing process.

So the story I heard is that the designer of one of these cars was being told by his board that they would not sanction the bigger wheels as the price was too high.

He tried all manner of ways to get them to change their mind, but they felt it was a purely aesthetic issue and one they could live with.

So as a final act of desperation, he decided to do a presentation to the board about the importance of perspective.

In his presentation, he showed 2 pictures.

This …

And this …

The top he said would be how their car would look with the smaller, cheaper wheels.

The bottom would be how their car would look with the bigger, more expensive wheels.

Or said another way, one would look weird, one would look normal.

Apparently the board smiled.

Then approved his recommendation.

The reason I’m saying this is that we live in times where there appears – at least to me – an over-reliance on data to explain/decide/justify everything.

Of course data is important, but unless you do something with it that your audience can relate to, it’s pointless. And that’s why I love the above story so much because what the electric car designer did, was remind us how visual storytelling can influence or frame an argument in in ways data alone can’t always achieve.

Worth remembering next time you are writing a deck and filling it with a 100 pages of data explanation.


Why Am I The Bald, Beardy, 4-Eyes That All Other Bald, Beardy, 4-Eyes Are Measured By …
October 23, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Audio Visual, Comment

I was recently tagged on instagram by someone called ‘leatherslife’.

For the record, I don’t know this person and – as far as I know – have never met this person and yet they seem to have a level of insight on me that is both impressive and frightening.

[I’m ignoring the fact it also means I’m utterly predictable]

Anyway, this is what they said …

Yep, poor John Boiler – ex-W+K ECD extroidinaire, founder of 72&Sunny and my office neighbour – was [initially] mistaken for me simply because he is a bald, beardy and 4-eye.

Imagine having an amazing career, doing incredible work and starting a phenomenal company and being mistaken for a birkenstock-wearing Brit … well, mistaken until I open my mouth, show my work or reveal my footwear.

Terrible for him, brilliant for me.

Thank you leatherslife.

When You Can Tell A Company Has Lost It …

I’ve written a lot about GoPro.

I’ve bathed them in adoration … highlighting how they were born from their community, which enabled them to create communication that literally inspired the growth of their community, not to mention a whole new multi-billion dollar industry.

I’ve also written a bunch about how other brands simply don’t get it … like Kodak and Nikon.

So it absolutely breaks my heart that GoPro are fucking up.

I’m not just talking about their product issues – or their reluctance to innovate – but the one thing they used to do flawlessly.

Their ads.

Look at this …

OK, they’ve kept their ‘in the middle of the action’ imagery.

And yes, they’ve kept the message mercilessly short.

But look at it … that visual hardly screams ‘live action’ and that message is a perfect example of corporate blandom and passiveness.

However there is an even bigger question.

Why – just why – did GoPro walk away from their absolutely brilliant ‘Be A Hero’?

I honestly think that is one of the best lines since Just Do It and yet, within a few years, they’ve seemingly walked away from it and for what?

To keep things new and fresh?

If that’s what they think then they have utterly failed.

It might be new but it’s certainly not fresh.

‘Be A Hero’ was brilliant because it perfectly encapsulated the spirit of the brand and the people who use their products.

It was a line that could last a lifetime. I genuinely believe that.

This obsession with an annual ‘relaunch’ is ridiculous.

That isn’t how you build something … but it is certainly how you destroy it.

Look, I know end-lines don’t make a brand, but they do effect how culture views them.

I know some people don’t agree with that – thinking end lines are old hat – but my response is if NIKE walked away from Just Do It and replaced it with something like ‘Feel Amazing’, I’m pretty sure everyone would think they’ve lost their spirit and edge.

A bit like going from ‘Be A Hero’ to ‘Capture Different’.

A Kodak Moment Is Now An Embarrassing Moment …


A company that once was synonymous with photography that is now synonymous with failure.

There are a million stories detailing their demise, but fundamentally, it wasn’t because they couldn’t innovate [they were one of the pioneers of digital photography], they didn’t want to bring it to market because they didn’t want to kill their photographic developing business, even though that business was going to kill them if they continued with it.

But this post isn’t a bad history lesson, it’s about the new Kodak … the lean, mean, technology machine.

Have a look at this …

Yep, it’s the World’s first 360 degree action-camera with 4k picture detail.

OK, so you could say bringing out a device like this, years after GoPro blew-up the market, shows Kodak still have a habit of being late to change, but at least this time they are trying to offer a fundamentally better product than what is currently available – not to mention leveraging the 360 degree market, that seems to have come from nowhere.

But even that isn’t what this post is about.

No, what this is about is that based on this ad, Kodak still think it’s the 1980’s.

A few years ago, I wrote how one of GoPro’s strengths was how they were part of the culture they were making products for. This authenticity separated them from the countless other brands that tried to jump on the bandwagon – even when they had arguably better products.

Two years later and it seems some brands still haven’t grasped the importance of focusing on the culture, rather than the category.

Look at that ad. Look at it.

It’s fucking horrible.

If a photo of the London skyline from a bloody restaurant wasn’t bad enough [what the hell is ‘action cam’ about that???] … what about the utterly terrible shot of the product.

A brown square with a shitty dome on top.

It looks like a crap 1950’s robot toy that you’d find in a Kinder-Surprise.

What the hell were Kodak thinking?

And then there’s the product name and the font choice.

PIXPRO … using a stencil type font in a desperate bid to look cutting edge.

If your product is the ‘future’, you don’t need to use a shitty font because people will work it out for themselves. And even if you decide you absolutely, positively, desperately want to do it … my advice is to not use a font that is synonymous with the 1982!

And what’s that line … ‘Brings You Closer’.

What does it even mean?

Here is a product that gives you 360 degree views [which, arguably, they don’t even show in the ad] and they use that line.

Mind you, here is a product that gives you 360 degree views in 4k quality, and they don’t even help you understand what 4k quality means to the recipient.

There is so much they could do to make people want to know more – even using an old-school print ad – but no, they’ve gone for the worst advertising you could get.

Apparently the product is quite good … but sadly for Kodak, with a name that represents the past rather than the future and an ad that reinforces that perspective, I think the only view they’ll be seeing is their once great name growing smaller and smaller into the distance.

Kodak Moments …
May 18, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Audio Visual, Family, Jill, Mum

I was recently looking through my Flickr account – casually browsing through images – when I came across 2 photos that stopped me in my tracks.

Not because they were anything dramatic, but because they highlighted 2 moments in my life that were emotionally, very special.

The first is this one.

That’s my Mum. In Singapore. Attempting to eat edamame beans with chopsticks.

She found it difficult, but she persisted, even though it meant every meal took an age to finish … especially when she had rice. Ha.

I believe this was her first time to Singapore and her first time meeting her not yet official, daughter-in-law.

She loved both.

I also remember that I picked her up from the airport, introduced her to Jill then had to get on a plane to South Korea for some bullshit meeting I had to attend. Both ladies forgave me, probably because they had a better time without me.

I look at that photo and my Mum looks so young.

I don’t mean by a few years, I mean by decades. Because it’s less about how she looks and more about the spirit she has in the photo.

A bit silly. A lot happy. Pleased to be together with me and see the life I was starting to create for myself.

I would give anything to have this moment again, but having not realised I had this photograph, I guess in some ways, I am.

The other photo is this.

It was taken in 2006 in New York.

We had just come from Memphis, because I’d taken Jill to see Graceland for her 30th birthday.

She loved Elvis. Still does. Her first ever tattoo was his name on her wrist.

It was also the World Cup … and I remember saying to Jill that I didn’t want to go round Elvis’ house a second time – even though I found it fascinating – because England were going to be playing the USA.

She didn’t mind, mainly because it meant she could stay longer with her true love without me being there as the third wheel.

Anyway, I remember this photo was taken on our first night in NYC.

We only were there because we had to wait 2 hours for a table at Serendipity.

I also remember this loud woman on the next table to us being in awe of our pizza. Both in terms of size and smell.

She was right … which is why we took this photo to make sure we captured the bloody enormous scale of this delicious pizza.

And my beautiful wife-to-be. Even though that was still over a year from happening.

It was an awesome night and I remember how we went from the Italian restaurant straight to Serendipity for one of their famous frozen hot chocolate, before walking back to our hotel in the wonderful summer evening.

Then the next day we met Andy. And Bazza …

The fact both these photos commemorate events that took place less than 10 years ago, blows my mind. They seem so much older than that … probably because so much has happened over this period.

Jill and I got married.

We moved countries. And moved countries. And moved countries.

I sold the company I started.

Then I sold another one.

We had a little boy.

My wonderful Mum passed away.

Big changes … life changing changes … which is why I am glad photos exist.

In some ways, they’re even nicer than video.

Sure it would be lovely to hear their voices, see their expressions, experience the energy of the moment again … but photos force you to engage in them, put yourself into the scene and by doing that, in some weird way, it makes the moment feel more real, makes you feel more connected to what is going on. Or at least it does for me.

I know this is an entirely indulgent post, but sometimes I need to do something that reminds me this is still my blog, not yours. Ha.

A Reminder That Print Advertising Can Still Be Brilliant As Long As You Want It To Be Brilliant …
December 4, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Audio Visual, Craft, Design

I must admit, I have a soft spot for print advertising.

Not the stock-photography shitty stuff you see 99% of the time, but the stuff that is distinctive, crafted and tells a story.

The stuff that is simple rather than simplistic.

The stuff that treats their audience with intelligence, rather than a bunch of retards

The stuff that stands out from everyone else because they’ve appreciated the importance of design, not just shouting.

The stuff that, if truth be told, was the backbone of British advertising.

There’s been a bunch of these ads over the years, but recently, it seems there’s been a lot less.

Maybe that’s because of the way designers and art directors are being trained these days or maybe it’s because of the economic marketing shift towards digital … but it’s probably got a lot more to do with the approach favoured by many marketing departments.

Sell the features, forget the brand.

This could be why one of the last print ads that I really loved was that British secret service execution … but recently I saw one that took me back to the glorious days of print.

Where an image said a thousand words.

And the words simply said enough to make you want to find out more.

And the best bit is it’s for a British company.

Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls … cop a load of this:

I love it.

Sure, you could argue you need to know what Bowers & Wilkins do for it to be truly effective, not to mention understand they have a product that looks like a Zeppelin balloon … but I’d argue you’re being too John Doddsy, and even he couldn’t fail to be impressed by the lack of copy in the ad.



Explains the product benefit without having to spell out the product benefit.

For me, it’s almost a perfect print ad.

One you can’t fail to notice and – more importantly – associate with a particular brand, which is something very, very rare these days despite the fact that’s what all work should try and do.

What with the SONOS logo and this, it seems it’s the sound companies who are leading the way in terms of brand building communication.

[Mind you, if you look at this old SONY ad, you could argue they always were]

So take a bow Bowers & Wilkins and your agency.

This is awesome. Just like your audio systems.

Remember When Ads Were Truthful, Simple & Bold?
July 29, 2015, 6:25 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Audio Visual, Great Ads In History

Contrary to popular belief, I genuinely love the ad industry.

When it’s good, it is very, very good indeed.

However when it’s bad – and I have seen a lot of it recently at Cannes – it’s deceitful, shameful and a load of indulgent bollocks.

There has been a lot written about how Cannes may be ruining the ad industry but I would say the ad industry is doing a very good job of that themselves. Thank god there are a few agencies – of which I am very fortunate to be in one – that don’t subscribe to the scam strategy for success, though I wish the ones who did were named and shamed a bit more regularly because ultimately they are making our lives far more difficult than they should be.

Mind you, if a client chooses an agency on the awards they won through scam, then they deserve all they get.

But that’s not what I want to write about, I want to write about this:

Yes, it’s an old ad.

An old product ad.

An old product, print ad.

But look at it …

Look at the writing – not just the headline, which is British charm at it’s best – but the copy.

How they openly admit how expensive their product is [and don’t forget when this ad came out, 3 grand was probably a years wages for many] … but not because they want to claim it gives you ‘status’, but because it costs a lot to make – and own – some of the best sound products in the World.

It all combines to make an ad that communicates brilliant sound quality, production innovation and brand swagger without once spelling out – or should I say spoon feeding – sound quality, product innovation or brand swagger.

Better yet, they manage to do all that simply and succinctly and in a way that demands to be read, rather than ignored.

Yes, I know it’s from a past time, but when I compare it to many of the print ads – actually, scrap that, ads in general – that get put out today, I can’t help but feel we should be looking to the past for our standards rather than continue to run manically towards the edge of obsolescence. Or idiocy.

Though – to be honest – that statement could also apply to SONY as a company and marketing managers as a whole.