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

Since When Has 12 Gone Into 54?

Yes I’m back.

I can’t say much about the papers I judged except that the posts I’ve written about past entries I’ve judged still seem insanely relevant.

[Like this or this]

So let’s get back to that blog post title.

What the hell am I talking about?

Well, it’s not another demonstration of my terrible maths skills, it’s actually about toilet paper manufacture Charmin, who claims 12 rolls of their loo paper is the equivalent of 54 other brands rolls.


Look, I get they have a few more sheets than other brands, but the equivalent of 42 rolls?

Are they having a laugh?

Even when I look it up, I can only find this:

Ultra Charmin Ultra Soft Toilet Paper 12 Mega Rolls.Charmin Ultra Soft Mega Roll toilet paper is the softer* way to get clean, in a roll that lasts longer**. It has comfort cushions that are softer and 75% more absorbent*. You can use less*. Charmin Ultra Soft Mega Roll toilet paper is 2-ply and also septic-safe. We all go to the bathroom, those who go with Charmin Ultra Soft Mega Roll toilet paper really Enjoy the Go! (*vs. the leading bargain brand, **Charmin Double Roll)

Even this doesn’t explain it … and even if it did, I’d say they’re talking about their ‘double roll’ range which surely would mean it’s the equivalent of 24 rolls rather than 54.

To make matters even more confusing is that if you look the brand up on Amazon, it say’s 12 rolls is like 48, and while that is also obviously bollocks, at least the maths would make it sound sort-of plausible.

But whether it’s 48 or 54, the bit I don’t get – apart from how they are even claiming this – is that if each ‘mega roll’ is the equivalent of at least 4 other rolls combined, how the hell do they still fit on toilet roll dispenser?

I cannot tell you how much this is bothering me.

What am I missing???

Is this a future effectiveness award winner or an Enron contender?

Answers gratefully received.


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 …

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.


It Seems I Am The Fine Line Between Famous And Infamous …

How is your 2018 going so far?

I know it’s still early days – but is it looking good or bad?

Well, if it’s looking positive, I’m about to ruin it for you and if it is looking dodgy, I’m going to help you solidify your opinion.


Well, a few weeks ago, a nice guy called Paul McEnany asked if he could interview me about my career.

While I’m sure his reasoning for his request was to help planners learn what not to do, my ego said yes even before my mouth did … and while the end result is the bastard love child of rambling randomness and base-level swearing, it’s the perfect way to justify your pessimism for 2018 or to ensure your optimism for the new year doesn’t get too high.

So go here and errrrrm, enjoy [if that’s the right word for it, which it isn’t] and after you’ve heard my crap, listen to the brilliant interviews with people like Gareth Kay, Russell Davies, Richard Huntingdon, Martin Weigel and the amazing Chris Riley because apart from being hugely interesting and inspiring, you’ll get the added bonus of [1] undeniable proof I’m a massive imposter and [2] the knowledge that if I can have some sort of semi-successful career in advertising, you certainly can.

You’re welcome.


Proof I Live In A Place That Is The Truman Show Mixed With Pleasantville …

What I’m about to write will make you sick.

It might very well make you angry.

But there is something about Los Angeles I am finding hard to deal with.

Yes, I know it’s an amazing city and where I specifically live – Manhattan Beach – has a landscape that looks like this …

… and a local council who does this at Christmas …

… but the difference between Shanghai in terms of exposure to culture is very, very different.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s there … in many ways, there’s even more of it than in China … but the reality is LA is a series of small towns, 88 to be exact, so you have to actively go to different places to be immersed in the energy of culture whereas in Shanghai, the moment you stepped outside you were drowned in it.

In essence, where once I had to close my front door to stop the roar of culture enveloping me, in LA I have to open it to go find it.

And I’m finding that tough to deal with, because the energy I got from that madness in Shanghai literally energized me.

What makes this additionally difficult is because this is the first time I’ve worked in a place that isn’t in the heart of a city and so the people you tend to run into are either colleagues or people from the agencies around us … like MAL or 72.

Now I appreciate this is a first World problem and it’s not that hard to deal with, but when you are a single-minded believer that to do your job well, you need to be in the middle of cultural craziness – it means that for the first time, I have to actively make time to ensure I am in it.

More than that, I have to make time to make sure the people in my team have the time to stay in it.

Play. Explore. Learn.

And this leads me to the point I want to make.

In my short time in the US, it appears many agencies and clients value data more than culture.

Everything is talked about in terms of data points.

Strategy is created because of data points.

Work is tested for data points.

Now don’t get me wrong, data – if done properly and understood properly – is incredibly important.

More than that, it’s incredibly powerful.

And I’m fortunate I work with some people – and clients – who get that.

But putting aside a lot of what is out there is questionable or the interpretation of it is questionable … the reality is that this data only truly comes alive when it is injected and explored through the texture of culture.

What they think.

How they feel.

What they fear.

The stuff that elevates data from charts to creative opportunities.

The stuff that you only get by being in it, rather than reading it.

And that’s why it’s so important for us to be surrounded by the mess and noise of what is happening around us – not just in the spotlight, but also the shadows – because while it seems many think it is a waste-of-time, it’s the foundation for creating work that is born from the culture rather than is just a bad interpretation of it.


Creativity Without Bruises And Scars Is Not Great Creativity …

A while back – when I was running The Kennedys – I told the guys about how hard it is to make great work.

Ironically, the issue was less about the expression of creativity – though there is always difficulties in that – but in actually getting your precious idea through all the gatekeepers/processes/people without it being impeded, diluted or impacted.

Now don’t get me wrong, being pushed to be better is always good, but it appears we now live in times where the goal of others seems to be the reverse.



Ego/Career management.

Or as my dear friend George once said:

“Creativity today is a client going to the doctor, telling them their expertise is wrong and then prescribing their own medicine.”

Of course people are entitled to their opinion.

Of course ad industry creativity needs to be commercial creativity.

But right now, it appears many clients version of ‘commercial’ is to either communicate what they want people to care about [regardless if they care about it, or believe it] or to say things where absolutely no one can ever be offended because what they want to communicate makes beige look bold.

And because adland – or should I say some within adland – has sold the value of creativity down the river in favour of making fees from process and production, the entire industries ‘creativity’ is being called into question.

What has happened to wanting to make work that makes culture take notice?

What has happened to wanting to making work others wished they had made?

What has happened to wanting to make work that changes entire categories?

Yes, I know there are some that still fly the flag of great work – but not many and not always consistently – and what’s worse is that we, as an industry, have contributed to this situation but what really gets to me … what really pisses me off … is that I feel we are continuing to pander to the wishes and demands of the organisations we are supposed to help, the organisations who – for whatever reason – are undermining our industries value and long-term future.

I’m not saying we should be arrogant.

Or rude.

Or forget why clients hire us.

But come on, why be a doctor when we let the patient diagnose themselves, which is why I absolutely loved this piece by the phenomenal Dave Trott.

At the beginning of this post, I wrote about how I had taught The Kennedy’s that great creativity doesn’t come without bruises and scars … well, if we still want to stand a chance of making the work that shows how brilliant we can be, then we better be prepared to fight harder for it, because being the punching bag is hurting everyone … us, our clients, our audiences.


The Final Countdown …

So today is the first of December.How the hell has that happened?

Wasn’t it February 2 weeks ago?!

I suppose the good news is there’s only going to be 2 more weeks of blog posts for the year.

Which – given I only write this rubbish on weekdays – means 10 more posts.

And two of those will be sentimental claptrap … one for Otis’ birthday on the 11th and then some shit ‘2017 wrap up’ … which means you only have 8 truly pathetic posts to endure.

Christ, it’s like I’m giving you your Christmas present early.

But no, I’m going to give you more.

Much more.

Are you ready?

So recently I was sent a TV ad for Rolls Royce.

You didn’t think Rolls Royce made those did you? Neither did I.

And while the song ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ is an inspired choice, the rest of it is utter pants.

Like utter, utter pants.

It’s absolutely obvious they’re trying to appeal to a younger audience, but the end result says far more about the insecurities of the marketing team at RR – and their agency – than the people they want to engage.

Seriously, I’ve watched it countless times and I’m increasingly coming to the opinion that the only thing they’re actually selling is a ‘colour option’ on the car.

Have a look at this …

What the hell?

Like seriously, what the hell?

It’s like the worst of pretentious fragrance ads interspersed with the most terrible choices of product shot.

Like that analogue clock.

A bloody analogue clock!!!

The whole thing seems to go from being dark and moody to a 1980’s conservative MP in the blink of an eye.

What are they actually trying to say?

More so, who are they actually trying to say it too?

As I mentioned, the choice of music is brilliant. There’s such a powerful idea in the whole thought around ‘for those who want to rule the World’ – and while you could argue Bentley did it before with their brilliant, but scam, ‘Middle Finger’ print ad, that’s still no excuse for making a bad version of a James Bond movie opening title sequence or a very, very, very bad version of Dunlop’s brilliant 1993 ‘Tested For The Unexpected’ ad, just without the charm, wit, self-awareness or story.

Rolls Royce are amazing car makers.

They have incredible attention to detail, quality and – as the star roof demonstrates – a sense of drama.

Nothing in this ad conveys this. Nothing.

All this ad shows is a brand suffering some sort of identity crisis.

Wanting to appear relevant but showing they don’t really know how to be because they mistook an aesthetic for authenticity.

They deserve more.