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

Class creates change. Hype creates headlines.

I work in an industry that loves to make big deals out of everything.

Literally everything.

And yet, how many of those things were still being talked about a month later?

Or maybe a week?

Or even the next day?

The reality is that for all the work that claims to be revolutionary in its thinking/execution, the reality is few seem to be.

And the same is with agencies.

While it is difficult, the reality is any agency can hit the ad jackpot at least once in their life.

Maybe it’s a Super Bowl spot … or a Cannes award … or just something utterly, utterly brilliant/fun/funny/emotional … but for me, the true test of greatness is not about having done it once, but having done it on a consistent basis.

I don’t mean in terms of getting a headline in the industry press – however nice that is – I’m talking about capturing the mood and imagination of a nation.

Years ago I met someone who kept telling me about the time they ‘achieved something big’ in their career.

What they were talking about was admirable and certainly worthy of feeling proud about, however this thing was 15 years in the past.


Don’t get me wrong, the person in question should absolutely feel they achieved something few do because they did … but if you are living 15 years in the past, you’ll never be able to move on into the future.

And that’s why one of the best bits of advice I ever got was to always be known for something in every job you have.

It doesn’t matter if you did something amazing over a decade ago, be known for having done something good things in the present.

Whether I have done that is questionable, but that advice has meant I have always gone into new adventures with the desire to make a difference. That should sound obvious, but you’d be amazed how many people try and live off their past.

So for me, it’s always about trying to find something I can improve, impact or instill … something that will last longer than my time there.

Now I appreciate you can easily fall into some post-rationalisation of achievement, because – let’s face it – when you’re judging yourself you’re rarely hard on yourself, but most people accept nothing worth doing comes easy so if they see you as having consistently done positive things wherever you have worked, it not only separates you from the lucky ‘one-off’s’, it lets you look at your career in terms of what it can still be, not just what it was.


The Beauty Of Madness …

Last week, Nike dropped an ad.

A 3+ minute ad.


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.


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.


Social Media That Is Actually Social …

For a long time I’ve had a problem with social media.

Actually I should rephrase that …

For a long time I’ve had a problem with people who claim social media is all that matters.

Part of it is because too many companies have approached it as free media.

Part of it is because too many agencies have approached it like it’s a magazine.

Part of it is because ultimately, everything can be social, not just things on certain platforms.

And that’s why, for all the hype it gets, the amount of social media campaigns that have actually been truly social [as in, gained traction and awareness beyond their core audience eco-system] is relatively small.

Please note I’ve said ‘campaigns’, not one-off tweets … which, apart from the fact the idea of a ‘campaign’ on social is kind of an oxymoron … makes it even smaller.

And then if you add ‘successful’ to that group of criteria, it gets even smaller … with arguably only Ice Bucket Challenge and #MeToo being worthy of acclaim, which, let’s not forget, were both causes dedicated to righting human wrongs.

Which is why I have fallen in love with this social media campaign from Doncaster County Council for naming their 2 new grit-spreading trucks.

Please read it.

Read all of it.

I know it’s super-long but I guarantee you will love it.

Every single line and suggestion.

For me, it’s single-handedly the best social media campaign of 2017.

No, seriously … because a conversation from Doncaster County Council about their Road Gritters achieved over seven million impressions in 48 hours.

Seven. Bloody. Million.

I love this campaign for so, so many reasons.

I love that they treated their audience with a brain.

“We would like your name suggestions for two of our new gritting vehicles, please. Keep em clean and be original – we’d prefer not to spend the next few days trawling through responses of Gritty McGritface and Gary Gritter. 🙄”

I love that the people running it were empowered to respond to negative comments with wit and focus rather than – as is the norm – to back down and beg for forgiveness when someone challenges them.

“For those who say the council shouldn’t be wasting their money on this, we say getting the community interested and engaged in how their town runs is a good thing”

I love there mischief and humor with lines including …

“When you look at your grandchildren, what side of history do you want to tell them you were on? #DoncasterGrittingWorldCup”

But most of all, I love that one of the winning names was …

Gritsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Anti-Slip Machiney

… proving there is justice in the World.

Yet again, we see a campaign from an organisation that doesn’t have ‘social media experts’ dictating their approach being more successful than the output of an entire industry who claim to be the most informed people in their field.


Well, as much as I have met some truly brilliant social media strategists in my time, the fact is the vast majority fail because they forget the importance of understanding one key element in creating a social media campaign.


Look, it’s not just the social media industry that is making this mistake, everyone in communication is … preferring to rely on data than some good, old-fashioned, get-in-the-weeds exploration and discovery.

This is not some anti-data rant, it’s just in our quest to drive speed and efficiencies, we are walking away from understanding the texture that makes any data worthwhile … the stuff that helps you develop ideas that feels it comes from the culture rather than an observer of it.

The Doncaster County Council campaign should serve as a reminder everyone about how to make great comms.

In these days where it seems the emphasis is on the platform, the reality is we’re all still trying to connect with humans so spending time to really understand how they think and do stuff is still the key to making ideas that makes a difference.

Not purely in terms of optimizating effectiveness, but in terms of how people feel, think and act.

You know, the stuff that makes sustainable differences to companies rather than this short-termism we have all fallen victims to because to quote John Le Carre, a desk is a dangerous place to view the World..


Not Everyone Gets It …

I’ve written a lot about the state of tourism advertising.

To be honest, there’s very few categories that do it worse.

A mass of generic vignettes that shows every possible activity you can do with a bad line stuck at the end that generally tends to be some over-promising superlative placed before the name of country the ad is about.

There have been a few exceptions.

The original ‘100% Pure’ New Zealand campaign is one, but there’s not been many more.

Which is why I loved this poster that appeared in Helsinki …

OK, so they are preaching to the converted – given anyone who saw it happened to be there anyway – but it’s just a great way to make someone feel special and welcomed.

I love it.

I love it for so many reasons.

I love how they celebrate their visitors while also acknowledging they’re bloody nutcase.

I can imagine a tourist seeing that, agreeing it was a mental thing to do and then walking away smiling … feeling better about their decision and themselves.

That’s pretty impressive. Especially for a poster.

Which all goes to show that brands that are self aware can connect to culture better than brands that are bland egomaniacs.


The Power Of A Point Of View …

So I know yesterday I basically slagged off big ad campaigns by highlighting the cheeky brilliance of the Narcos ambient campaign, but every now and then there’s a big ad campaign that reminds you who brilliant it can be.

Given I slagged BBH off recently for an Audi print campaign, it gives me great pleasure to say the piece of work I love is also by BBH and also for Audi.

Have a look, it’s brilliant.

Love it.

But here’s the thing, if you strip it back, the strategy isn’t that unique.

I’m guessing it would be something like, ‘Road safety is ultimately defined by how you react to how the drivers around you. The progressive and adaptive safety features inside modern Audi’s are designed to help drivers react and respond to the unexpected actions of those around them’.

I bet that sort of thing has been written a bunch of times for a bunch of cars.

But if, as I imagine it, the brief was summed up with something like …

[Audi designs their safety features in the knowledge … ] ‘The roads are full of clowns’.

… then it’s pretty obvious to see how they ended up with work that elevates itself above the usual car safety feature ads.

Of course maybe it had nothing to do with the brief, maybe it was all down to a great creative team, but BBH have always been brilliant at finding great strategic ways to elevate work so I’m hopeful this is a sign that the BBH I have always loved is back to being the BBH that made them so fucking good.


You Know How Boring Adland Is Becoming When A Leaflet Is The Best Thing I’ve Seen In Ages …

If you’re wondering what the photo above is, it’s an insert that was placed in the X-Ray machine trays that you place your electronic items in at airports.

In other words, it’s a paper insert in a plastic tray.

And yet it’s the most fun piece of advertising I’ve seen in ages.

OK, so part of the reason I like it so much is because the standard of advertising right now is pretty poor, but the other part is that whoever was behind it, understood what the brand – in this case, Narcos – was all about.

The cheekiness of advertising a TV show about drug smuggling at the very place in an airport that is designed to stop them, is brilliant.

Yes, you may say it’s obvious … but there’s many obvious things that don’t get made because ‘ambient media’ doesn’t have the reach of mainstream broadcast or the targeting of digital.

And yet this paper insert in a plastic tray made me smile.

Made me take a photograph of it.

Made me write about it.

And while the reach of this blog is about 5 people, that’s still better than 99% of campaigns churned out in the mainstream world.

I admit I’ve always been a sucker for good ambient media stuff.

Sure, it got a bit mad there for a while … where it was less about extending the spirit and purpose of the brand in interesting and relevant places and more about just putting ads wherever you could get away with … but when it’s done right, well thought out ‘brand experiences’ can have an impact that is bigger and better than many multi million dollar ad campaigns.

So to whoever did it, thank you … you reminded me that creativity is more than just what you do, but where you do it.


James Blunt Might Be Becoming My New Hero …

I know … I know … I really did write that blog post header.

And yes, I really am talking about James Blunt, the man that can make a choir on Songs Of Praise [is that still going] look like Black Sabbath in their prime.

But don’t forget, this is a guy who is disarmingly self aware.

A guy who uses his self-depreciation to turn you from a hater into a fan.

OK, not a fan of his music but – as I wrote here – a fan of who he is.

And recently I saw something that just makes me like him more …

Yep, that’s James Blunt on Tinder.

A man who people think has got laid more than a $2 crack whore in a room of drunk and horny jocks.

OK, so getting laid a lot is part of the ‘rock star’ cliche, but I still find this move to be brilliant.

Not just because he has found a way to make money from his perception.

Not just because he partnered with platform that is the epitome of his perception.

But because he has shown that when you deal with the commentary others have about you directly, you don’t just rob them of their ammunition, you give yourself a chance to change that perception.

I’ve talked about this a lot – I called it the 8-Mile strategy, after the Eminem movie, specifically the end rap battle at 6 minutes 40 seconds – but it’s also something else I wrote about.

The power of unplanned planning.

Unplanned is where a brand speaks in seemingly obvious terms.

Not in terms of what they do, but in terms of what people think you do.

For example, when Scalextric – the model car racing brand – embraced the perception the only reason men want their little boys playing with Scalextric is because it gives them an excuse to play it for themselves.

Did you click on the link?

Seriously, you should – it not only demonstrates what I’m blathering on about, it’s a great ad.

Great because it’s funny. Great because it’s relatable. Great because it doesn’t fall into marketing bullshit.

Can you tell I really, really like it?

So why do I think this approach works when the industry is seemingly so obsessed with talking about bigger purpose stuff?

Because in my opinion, it’s easier to nudge people’s perception of you if you talk in the context of how they already view you rather than spending millions trying to convince them that who you are is totally different to what they believe or are willing to accept.

It is, in some ways, the ultimate demonstration of honesty.

A lot of brands could learn from that.