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


Argos Is Christmas …

When I was younger, I discovered the ‘Argos’ catalogue.

It was at my Grandparents house and it was a bloody revelation.

For those who don’t know what Argos is, imagine Amazon.com before Amazon.

A place where you can buy a huge array of products, all of which were featured in an annual catalogue which you could take home and peruse at your leisure.

[It’s also famous for little pens – now pencils – that you would have to use to fill in the forms to get the products when you went into the store. Pens/pencils that I would say everyone in England has ended up keeping at some point in their lives]

But for me, it only had 2 uses …

1. To get a glimpse at the future of technology.

2. To choose what I really, really wanted for my birthday/christmas.

Every time I visited my grandparents, I would run to where they kept the Argos catalogue and spend hours going through all the pages, gazing lovingly at digital watches, calculators, the emergence of hand held ‘electronic’ games and – eventually – computers.

Every year the catalogue came out, I would be see the advances of tech in front of my eyes.

But more than that, for the right money – I could have it.

Of course I – nor my parents – had the right money except maybe at Christmas, but a boy could dream … and boy did I.

I still remember the excitement the first time I saw Astro Wars … a handheld version of the video game Galaxian

It was like the impossible dream.

A full sized video game shrunk into a small box.

What sort of weird wizardry was this???

I still remember how a bunch of us at school saw it at the same time and we all knew it was the ‘must have’ present for the year.

I was incredibly lucky to get it that year … and while it was a bit crap, I still utterly loved it because to me, that was cutting edge tech.

[As an aside, I just discovered it cost £28 in 1980 – the equivalent of £100 today, so I am utterly gobsmacked I got it given my parents would have had to have saved up for months to afford that. So thank you Mum and Dad, I never realized it was that pricey]

Anyway, the reason I say all this is that Argos have recently digitized all their old catalogues.

And while you may ask yourself, “why?” and “why would anyone care?” you’d be wrong … because if you’re a person of a certain age, the Argos catalogue was not a book of products available for purchase, it was a place of imagination and possibilities and while the stuff inside the late 70’s/early 80’s catalogues are full of the sort of tat even a ‘Everything for £1’ store, would turn their noses up at, looking through them all again, I can honestly say it ignited the excitement I had back then.

Truly.

And yes, that means I really have spent hours trawling through them all.

Again.

And what’s more, I don’t care how sad that makes me.

It was a magical journey down nostalgia lane.

More specifically, nostalgia that was specific to my life, not just everyone else’s.

America may have had Disneyland.

But us kids in Britain had the Argos catalogue.

You can explore the history of 40+ English imaginations, here and you can see why I think the Argos Christmas campaign – which links to the nostalgia theme of the old catalogues – is already the winner of 2019, below.



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’.

Superficial.

Executional.

Literal.

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.



Did I Play A Small Part In Brexit?

One of my favourite bits of work is Blackcurrant Tango.

There’s many reasons for this …

It epitomised the brilliance of HHCL.

It ensured I could work for 10+ years.

I’m even in it [one of the idiots running down the hill]

But recently I watched it again, and while I previously loved it with all my heart, it now seemed to have more of a sinister edge thanks to the Brexit-ridden times we now live in.

To which I can only say, I’m sorry … it was only supposed to be a bit of fun about British pride and eccentricity. Little did I know 22+ years later, huge swathes of England, would literally go stark-raving-bloody-bonkers.

However on the bright side, I might be Nostradamus.

Happy Friday.



Is This The Best Brand Video Of All Time?

Brands have been making ‘consumer films’ for decades.

You know the ones, where supposedly random people wax lyrically about how – or why – [insert brand here] is soooooo good.

Well recently I saw the best one ever made.

EVER. MADE.

Even better than those ‘insane button’ clips for Tesla from years ago.

It’s for Krispy Kreme Ireland – and frankly, they are better than most movies I’ve seen recently, let alone ads.

Apart from the fact the people appearing in it appear to be genuine ‘randoms’, this recent brilliant article in The Guardian highlights just how much of an impact the Doughnut Kings/Queens have had on the Emerald Isle.

Though I think the comment, “It’s like my first lesbian kiss, I’m confused but I love it” … is literally the pinacle of all possible compliments.

So sit back, grab a box of Krispy and enjoy …



Transformer Tech …

When we moved to the US, we bought a new television.

We hadn’t had a new one for 9 years so when we got a ‘smart TV’, it was a revelation.

Sadly, when we were moving to the UK, we had to get rid of it because it wouldn’t work with the UK power grid.

Anyway, we went out and bought the new version of it – and while it is 65″ of OLED, 4K brilliance – the bit I love the most is that it has a feature that disguises itself as a painting.

I know it’s not the first television to do this, but it’s the first one I’ve had that does – and given it’s amazing picture quality – it’s ability to really give the impression it’s art, not tech is amazing.

It also reminds me of the brilliant work the brilliant Red Associates in NYC did for Samsung years ago.

Years ago, Samsung approached them for help on how to sell more televisions.

Rather than respond with solutions relating to branding or distribution, they came back with a more human focused response.

What they had discovered was that men love to show off their tech.

When they buy it – especially if it is for the home – they want to show it off … make it a focus of their World.

But women are different.

They don’t like things that change the focus and flow of the home.

They love technology but don’t want it to overshadow the people and the interactions that go on between the 4 walls. In essence, they want the technology to enhance the family dynamic, not overshadow it.

And so Red Associates told Samsung that they should be looking at changing the frames the TV’s were held in.

Less black and more shades that suit the colour palette of home decor.

Sure the screen would remain dark, but by changing the frame, it would blend in more with the home than stand out.

And you know what … it worked.

Samsung saw a dramatic increase in brand affinity with women.

Which meant when a family wanted to buy a new TV, Samsung increased their odds of being the one chosen because it understood that purchase decisions were based on more than just the tech, but the way it works when it’s off.



Illusion Cocks …

So recently I was in Berlin and had one of the most underwhelming dinners of my life at Soho House.

For those of you who don’t know Soho House, they describe themselves as a ‘private members’ club for people in the creative industries’.

Maybe that’s true, but having gone to the bathroom and seen their urinals, I think Soho House Berlin is actually a private members club for men who like to think they’re big swinging dicks so will happily pay their $2000 annual membership fee just so they can keep using their toilets that have been designed to reaffirm their delusions.

Or something.

Regardless, it’s evil genius – because to paraphrase Bernie Madoff, when you offer people something they want, they never want to look too hard into it because they don’t want their fantasy to be shown for its reality.



Queen Know Music Is Still A Business …

Yes, this is about my favourite band, Queen.

Yes, I know they aren’t really a band anymore and – to be honest – some of the stuff they’ve done in the last 15 years has made me cringe a little bit, but that aside, their music from Queen to Hot Space [I don’t have as much of an issue with it as most Queen fans do] are still albums I hold dear to my heart.

Anyway, as many of you may know, they’re producing a film about the life of Freddie up until the Live Aid concert.

I get why they decided that was the cut off date, because apart from it being arguably their pinnacle moment, he apparently had not yet discovered he was HIV positive so it allows the film to focus on his glory, not his pain.

Anyway, recently they released the teaser trailer for the movie and I have to say, it’s epic.

Not just because of how good Rami Malik looks in the role of Freddie.

Nor because of the bizarrely accurate voice of Brian May.

And not even because of the spectacular stage sets and fashions.

No … it’s because of the fantastic sound design.

Just like when they performed at Live Aid, the band know the best way to get people interested in the movie beyond sad fucks like me, is to remind them how many songs of Queen they know and like.

By mixing some of their biggest hits seamlessly together, they have increased the odds of making a movie about a man who died 27 years ago interesting to people who were born 27 years ago.

That’s pretty impressive, especially for a band that is almost 50 years old.

A band where the guitarist will be 71 years old in a week and the drummer 69 years old in about a fortnight.

[Not forgetting Mr John Deacon, who will be a young 67 in August. And looks it]

Now I know the trailer doesn’t really say anything and – I am still petrified it’s going to end up feeling more like a ‘Lifetime Movie’ than a Hollywood blockbuster [especially with all the issues the production has faced] – but I have to admit I have watched it so many times and been in awe every time … especially the bit between 11 and 16 seconds, where you see the different ‘looks’ of Freddie in concert, because I remember some of them from when I saw the band live.

Oh god, I’m even more pathetic than I thought.