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


If You Thought My Love Of Queen Was Waning …

I love Queen.

Or more specifically, I love early Queen.

I can just about stretch to 1984 – after that, I accept their choices and output became rather questionable.

OK, so I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing them with Adam Lambert leading the stage, but from a musical point of view, it’s fair to say their best days are definitely numbered, but then at 70+ years of age, who can blame them.

That said, Brian May is still someone very special to me.

He basically made me pick up the guitar.

He gave me the desire to learn, the hunger to keep practicing and the confidence to play in bands and gigs all around the World.

Since those early days, I have done a lot of playing.

And bought a lot of guitars.

Classics. Custom made. Cheap as chips.

And while the closest I ever got to his handmade Red Special was a pretty dodgy Gordon Smith back in 1984, I’ve always thought about getting a custom made one of his.

I never did it for a few reasons.

I always thought it was a bit sad to have a guitar so synonymous with someone so famous and – frankly, with the amount of guitars I own – I couldn’t justify it.

But a couple of weeks ago, I accepted owning one is not going to make me any sadder than I already am so while my chops are a fraction of what they were when it was my life and my job, I took the plunge and last week, all my Brian May fantasies came true once and for all.

It might not make me play like him.

It might not even make me sound like him.

But it makes me feel insanely happy and has me playing guitar more than I have in years.

Now all I need is a poodle perm. Oh, and some hair.

Thank you Mr May. Again.

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What’s In A Name …

So I saw this beverage fridge a week or so ago …

I can’t help but wonder if the ‘effi’ of efficold is meant to mean ‘efficient cold’ or ‘effin’ cold’.

Or maybe it’s the most genius name ever …

Letting cafe owners who have the fridge on their premises think it’s for efficiency so they don’t worry about the increase in their electric bill while letting hot, thirsty Londoners believe they’re about to consume a beverage that is fucking cold and will quench their thirst once and for all.

If only all brand names were so multi-interpretive because quote frankly, that is a better naming strategy than anything I’ve seen from any of the brand consultancies …

Have a great weekend. I know I will, it’s a long weekend here.

See you Tuesday.



Careful. Your Data Is Showing …

The big conversation in marketing right now is around data.

So it should be, it’s insanely valuable and important.

But the irony is, while it can absolutely help us have deeper understanding about our audiences behaviour and habits – information that can lead to more powerful and valuable creativity – it’s alarming how many companies who claim to be experts in this field express themselves in ways that are the opposite of it.

Here are 2 ads I saw in Cannes …

Really?

You think that is going to convince people the data and technology you have is going to lead to better work?

You think that represents the language of your audience?

Sure, I know it’s Cannes and so there is a certain sort of person who is attending there at that moment – but they’re still bloody human.

Quite frankly, this is more an ad for celebrating ‘the old way’ rather than the new.

As Martin and I said in our presentation – if companies think creativity can be reduced to an engineering problem, then they don’t understand how society actually works.

Sure … you want consistency if you’re doing surgery.

Or making rockets.

Or producing food.

But society as a whole, is a mish-mash of complications and hypocrisy.

A group where their passions extend to far more than what they transact with … but how it integrates with their life.

Their fashion. Their music. Their games. Their language and imagery. Their context.

If you remove this from the process, you are simply creating the answer you want, not the answer that actually stands a chance of moving cultural behavior and attitudes for the long term, not just the short.

Or said another way, making brands successful in ways culture wants to stick with.

As I said, data has a huge and valuable role to play in all this.

I’m fortunate to have an extremely good data partner at R/GA … someone who not only knows what she’s doing, but appreciates it means nothing if it doesn’t help create better work.

And that’s the thing … great data doesn’t want the spotlight.

I see too much work where the brief seems to have been ‘show this data point’.

Or worse, too many briefs where it is the data point.

Great data – like great PR – is, in a lot of ways, invisible.

It liberates creativity rather than dictates it.

Revealing opportunities to think laterally not literally.

Helps you make work that reaches audience in more powerful ways.

Whether that’s where you play or how you play.

Put simply, data is an incredibly important part of modern marketing but – and this is where many people fall down – it can’t do it all.

It needs help to help make great work.

It can guide … it can reveal … it can lead … it can do so much, but it can’t do everything.

For data to truly show its full potential, it needs the nuances of culture added to it. Not purely for scalability, but for resonance.

As I’ve said many times, we need to stop looking to be relevant and start wanting to be resonant.

Making work that feels it was born from inside the culture, not from an observer.

Or said another way, work that doesn’t patronise, condescend or bore people.

Are you listening IBM and Neilsen?

Data with culture opens up more possibilities for creativity.

Allowing ideas to grow and go in places we might never have imagined.

Ideas that feel so right to the audience rather than explain why they should feel that way.



Be Careful Of Goals, You May Realize They Weren’t Worth Achieving …

As you know, I spoke at Cannes last month with the wonderful Martin Weigel.

While the talk seemed to have gone down very well, the best news was when an old colleague of mine [hello Maria] pointed me towards this …

Yes … that’s a picture of me and Martin ON GETTY IMAGES!!!

Better yet, there’s more than one of these online … there’s a whole range of them, all taken from our WARC presentation at Cannes.

Now as fun as appearing on getty images is – even if they called me the head of stratefy, rather than strategy – that’s not why I’m so happy.

As some of you know, there is a guy who appears in a whole host of stock photos who looks rather like me.

This is him …

If you still question whether we look alike, have a look at this …

See …

In other words, this guy is literally profiting off my – errrrm – looks.

Well, now I am appearing on Getty myself, I get to fight back.

Well I say that, but the idiot who thought it was a good idea to put me on Getty has shown just how mad they are by having the audacity to try and charge €475 for the pic.

EACH PIC!

Hahahahahahahahaha.

Even my Mum wouldn’t pay more than a fiver – and that would be for both and she would still expect change – so while I’m pleased I’m finally giving my doppelganger a taste of his own medicine, it’s disappointing to know even the most insane billionaire in all of billionaireverseville would never buy these so I’m not robbing him off anything.

Damnit.



Attention To Detail Is More Than A Set Of Words …

So I recently saw this ad for the new Philips OLED TV.

It’s a beautiful product and – judging by the description – full of fantastic tech to elevate the watching experience.

Or is it?

You see when I read the first line of the copy, I started to have some doubts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not questioning the quality of a Bowers & Wilkins sound system – they’re incredible – I’m questioning if the rest of the TV matches B&W’s extremely high standards.

Why?

Have a read of the copy. Carefully.

If you can’t read it, it says this …

“Sound by Bowers & Wilkins for audio that lives up our OLED standard”

That’s right, they forgot to add the word ‘to’ between up and our … resulting in the sort of grammar you could expect from a 3 year old kid.

Or said another way, close … but not perfect.

I know it’s a small thing.

I know mistakes can happen.

But if you are trying to present your product as the highest of standards, it’s not a great look.

Hell, if they can let a word slip in their advertising, what standards have they let slip in making the product?

Philips may claim they’ve just launched the OLED+ standard … but judging by the attention to detail they’ve given their ad, it’s much more OLED-.



Be Interested In What Others Are Interested In …

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been invited to speak at a couple of conferences – in Hamburg, for the APG, and at ‘Closeness’ in London.

In both cases, I was asked to talk about the importance about empathy – something I’ve been banging on about for centuries.

And in both cases, I felt the best way to do it was to talk through the lens my Mum had taught me … which is the title of this post.

For an industry that is supposed to understand people, I’m surprised how few seem to really understand what that means.

Rather than understand hopes, dreams, fears, ambitions and contradictions … it seems we prefer to focus on the bits that are relevant to our business needs, without seemingly realizing the important role context plays in shaping how we live.

If you don’t get context, you don’t get people … and you don’t get context without investing time.

Not focus groups.

Not ethnographic studies.

But an on-going commitment to going down the rabbit hole of people’s lives to understand how they live and the nuances that separate each and every one of us.

You can’t do this if you want to ‘fast forward’ to the bits you have pre-determined will be useful to you.

You can’t do this if you want convenient answers to ‘sell your campaign’.

You can’t do this if you want answers rather than understanding.

This last point is especially important.

Frankly, understanding is becoming a lost art.

Understanding is built on emotional connection, not intellectual.

Where you leave your prejudices, barriers, filters, expectations and hopes at the door and focus. Asking questions to understand more about what someone is saying than to get the answers you want to your specific challenge.

It’s hard.

It takes real practice.

Because while you may appreciate every person has a story … it can only truly be revealed if you let them do it in their own way, in their own time, in their own words. Which means you might end up hearing things that makes no sense to you, even though it makes perfect sense to them … and while that might not initially seem valuable, you’ll soon realise it’s immense.

But all this takes time.

And takes a real commitment.

However it lets you go back with knowledge that enables you to make work that feels like it was born from inside the culture rather than from a bunch of observers.

Work that is filled with the nuances that makes the audience take notice.

Care.

React to.

Feel respect towards because it shows respect to them.

Or said another way …

Work that is resonant to culture rather than just relevant.

And it all starts by being interested in what others are interested in.

Not for commercial gain, but because you are interested in who people are.

It’s why my Mum is still teaching me how to live, 4 years after she has gone.

And now she is teaching others too.

Thank you Mum.



Your Enemy Is My Friend …
May 15, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Audio Visual, Music

So recently, the lead singer of The Prodigy, Keith Flint, died.

This news was met with an outpouring of grief from all sides of the music industry

Uniformly, he was celebrated for his passion, talent and his humility – best celebrated by, of all people, James Blunt.

But there was one person who – for me – captured the essence of why Flint was so special.

Kathy Burke – an actor. not a musician – sums up his brilliance as well as the state of the music industry in just 19 words.

That’s not just about her brilliance with words, its her ability to get to the essence of what bands mean to us.

Especially when we’re young.

Where the music we like isn’t just about cultural currency or even generational inclusivity … but to actively demonstrate our independence from our parents choices and preferences.

A thing for us, not them.

Something that speaks to us but shouts at them.

If only planners had such insight …