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

Best Of The Best Or The Least Bad?

Today I’m judging the Effies.

Oh awards …

I’ve written so, so much about them in the past.

Like here. And here. And here. And here.

I must admit, I am intrigued to see what they are going to be like in the UK.

Will they be a celebration of insightful efficiency or will they be like I experienced too many times in Asia, a stream of consciousness that just rumbles along till they think they have explained how they got to their idea and how they have proved it worked.

I guess we shall see later today.

I really, really hope they are good.

Not just because the Effies have always had a standard they’ve lived up to, but because it will give me faith the industry still has fight in it to do things right.

In my time in the UK, I’ve read a bunch of planning documents/portfolios/resumes that have been more about packaging.

Repeating a client brief in a way that has been ‘sexed up’.




There are a bunch of reasons for this.

Part of it is the lack of training agencies give their strategiests.

[Hence why we started the School of Strategic Arts]

Part of it is the huge amount of freelance planners out there who are doing exactly what they are asked because they are fighting for their livelihood.

And part of it is because of the client/agency remuneration deals which means planners are giving too little time to explore the best outcome to the problem they face.

Planning has a valuable role to play in effectiveness.

Planning has a valuable role to play in creativity.

But it needs to be allowed to do it to make it happen … so here’s hoping we see the best of what it can do today, because the Effies is not just important for the people who win, but for what the industry needs to get back to being.

The Best Monday Of Your Life. Unless You Live In NYC …

So the good news is this is the one and only post of the week.

I know … could today be any better?!

You see as you read this, I’m on a plane zooming my way to NYC.

I must admit I’m super excited about it.

Not just because I miss the rush of an intense city … nor because I will get to see friends who I miss very much … but because I’ll be doing two things that are going to be new to me.

One is I’ll be judging the final round of the North American Effies.

The other is that I’ve been invited to talk to design gods, Pentagram.

OK, so I’ve judged the Effies before and I’ve done more than my fair-share of talks, but what’s exciting to me about this is that it’s a totally new context.

The reality is American advertising is very different to the advertising I am used to, make and – to a certain degree – love.

It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just different.

More bombastic. More spell-everything-out. More leave-nothing-to-chance-or-interpretation.

It’s also much more rational and focused on driving immediate sales than creating a position in culture that builds sustainable brand value.

OK, not every brand is like that – and I also know many other markets are becoming more and more like this – but as someone who passionately believes in setting long-term directions, not to mention true culture driven ideas, it’s going to be interesting how I view the results versus some of my fellow judges.

As for the talk …

Well, we all know I can do that in my sleep, but I must admit I’m super excited to be doing it at Pentagram.

For those of you who don’t know, Pentagram are one of the undisputed gods of design.

Literally, one of the gods.

Given it’s not that long ago I was only using the IMPACT I must admit to being somewhat surprised they asked me to come talk to them about my perspective on design, but then I discovered it was less about me and more about the work I’m doing with a certain famous rock band which is why I felt the best way to handle the challenge is to only have 1 image and make that image truthful to what I am sure they’ll leave thinking about me.

Especially when they see my Birkenstocks.

So while I know it’s Monday and you’re probably not looking forward to the week ahead, I hope this post has helped offer you a glimmer of hope for the next 5 days. Unless – of course – you’re based in NYC, and then your week is even darker than you could ever have imagined.

See you next week …

When GREY Turns Black …

Yes, I know I’ve written about this a lot before – hell, I wrote something just 2 weeks ago – but I have to vent.


As many of you now know, GREY Singapore claimed to have developed an app that could help stop refugees escaping their troubled homeland via the high seas, from dying.

It won a bronze Cannes Lion.

It was a total and utter fake.

Rightfully, this was picked up by the media and forced GREY to reluctantly [and I mean, reluctantly] hand the award back, but I have a question …

Why are people shocked at the scandalous behavior of Grey and Cannes?

This has been happening for years and nothing ever happens. Nothing.

Of course, exploiting refugees to win a bronze Cannes Lion is utterly sick but, let’s remember, LYING ABOUT ANYTHING IN A BID TO WIN AN AWARD IS SHIT … whether it’s an iodine bindy, a wifi enabled clothes peg or an app that alleges to help stop needless deaths of refugees taking to the high seas to escape their troubled homeland, despite the fact it is all fake and doesn’t work.

And what did GREY say in response to this finding?

They claim they had been clear it was only in its ‘testing phase’.

Which begs the question, why the hell did they think it was OK to enter an award supposedly based on real work.

I’d love to see the submission and see if their write-up highlighted this fact … which then means Cannes should have kicked it out before it even got to the judging phase.

A total fuckfest managed by imposters and charlatans.

But here’s the thing …

I don’t think the creatives at Grey Singapore are purely to blame for this.

They’ll probably get made the scapegoats, but it goes far beyond them.

There’s the local management who demanded their creative department win awards.

And the global management … despite their claim they never do this sort of thing.

And let’s not forget the holding company that pushes their companies for more and more [fake] results.

And then there’s Cannes … who openly and actively celebrate agencies that do this sort of thing in a bid to keep the money rolling in.

The one slight positive – apart from the work that is genuinely worthy of applause and a true celebration of what we do when we all want to do it right – is that the only reason this scam situation happens over and over again is because, outside of our bubble, few seem to give a shit about who we are and what we do.

In fact, it is only because The Guardian newspaper decided to do a story on the Grey Singapore app [I’m assuming because “refugees” are news worthy – so they’re being exploited again] that the murmurs of a few become the scream of a lot because without that story, I’m pretty sure it would be business as usual.

I hope someone hears it. It’s killing our industry and we need to do a u-turn very quick indeed.

GREY FOR GOOD … the supposed philanthropic arm of GREY is, in my opinion, nothing more than a front for this sort of thing.

If they were being honest they would name it GREY FOR OUR OWN GOOD, but as we have discovered from this years award entries [which, let’s not forget, is just one agency of many agencies pulling this scam] GREY and TRUTH are never comfortable bed fellows.

How To Get An Effectiveness Judge’s Attention …
May 27, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Awards, Comment, Context

So I’ve been doing a bunch of judging this year and while some have been great, a lot have been fucking terrible.

It is kinda scary what some people think represents effectiveness.

Seriously, if they were running their own business based on their effectiveness measures, they’d be dead in a week.

Which is probably why they’re not running their own business.

Now there’s a bunch of stuff that can be done to make a Judge take notice.

Of course there’s the usual.

1. Actually have a story that shows effectiveness.

2. Appreciate judges know all the ways people try to polish bullshit.

3. Understand you have to have done something different to convention or you can’t claim you were directly responsible for the effectiveness.

But there’s one more thing.


Seriously, the amount of times I have to read, re-read and then re-re-read to try and work out what is being said is incredible.

I get some of the submissions are from people where English is not their native language so they feel they have to write more in a bid to make sure judges really understand the points they want to make.

I also know that I’m a bit thick so take longer to get stuff that the average person.

But – and it’s a huuuuuge but – some of the submissions are ridiculous, using 500 words when 10 would do.

I get the desire to add emotion and texture to the case study, but when you’re asked to ‘describe the insight that drove the strategy’ and you take 3 paragraphs to explain it, it’s either a bullshit insight or you’re trying to hide something.

A bit of advice worth thinking about is what a chef told my wonderful colleague Maria when she was doing some research with chefs …

“The more confident you are, the more simple your dish”

What I’m saying is that if your submission is good, have the confidence in it.

Seriously, good things will stand out and so all you need your paper to do is provide the stage for it to shine.

Failing that, you can always throw in a weird quote to capture the judges attention.

Recently, someone wrote this in their entry …

“It is only when a mosquito lands on your testicles that you realize there is always a way to solve problems without using violence”.

No seriously.

I even wrote on the judging paper that this may be the best quote I’ve ever seen.

Sadly – for them – that was the only highpoint of their submission.

Anyway, I digress. Again.

Look, I understand we get excited about the work we do.

I understand we all want to explain the journey to get there.

But for gods sake, think of the context and environment you’re playing in.

When your competitors are bombarding judges with long and complicated explanations and charts, less will most definitely be more.

[I fully expect John Dodds to agree, given I’m basically saying ‘no one reads long copy’]

When Doing Good Ends Up Being Bad …
April 25, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Awards, Corporate Evil, Culture, Only In Adland

So recently I judged a massive amount of effectiveness papers.

A massive amount.

And while there were some excellent submissions – and, sadly, a fair amount of terrible ones – the thing that struck me overall was that it appears Indian marketing is stuck in a ‘do good’ inflation race with itself.

As I’ve always been someone who has advocated the potential for brands to make a difference to their community, you’d think I’d be very happy about this, however when so much of it comes across as contrived, forced, exploitive – or worse – desperately trying to ‘one-up’ the competition without any real thought to what the audience needs – just what they want them to have – you end up feeling disillusioned by the end of it.

Not only that, but I have to question how effective these sorts of campaigns can be when it seems every brand in every category is basically doing the same thing.

As I said, left me feeling disillusioned and I appreciate that’s amazing given it came from reading countless papers about doing good, but I guess that’s another thing advertising is brilliant at doing.