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


Professional To The Core …

For reasons I don’t understand – but I do like – I occasionally get asked for my opinion in industry magazines.

While I absolutely take what I do seriously, I have realized that if I was to compile all that I’ve said that has been printed, I would look a bit of a maniac.

For example, there’s this. Or this. Or even this.

And just recently I was asked ‘what Star Wars character would I be’ and this was my answer …

But here is the thing …

While many may think I do this because I need psychiatric help or have a career death wish, there’s another reason behind it and it’s about comfortableness.

You see when I was a youngster in the industry, I was surrounded by super-smart, super-senior people who were full of opinion, personality and provocation.

While I didn’t agree with everything they said, they helped me realise that ‘just because you take your job seriously, doesn’t mean you have to take yourself seriously’.

What this did was let me feel comfortable in taking to any of them about any madcap idea I had … let me talk to clients about subjects that may otherwise seem ‘off limits’ and let me work with colleagues without thinking it made me look weak or incapable.

In essence, cheekiness has enabled me to do – or be part of – things that I may not otherwise never have been able to do.

From work I’ve been a part of … clients I’ve worked with … agencies I’ve worked at and countries I’ve lived in.

Now of course, mischief is in my bones so it wasn’t exactly hard … but being encouraged to embrace my truth rather than oppress it had a huge benefit to my career and so while a bunch of what I say and do is because I’m a bloody idiot, there is a part of it that is intended to create the space and atmosphere to enable my colleagues and clients feel comfortable with being vulnerable … whether that’s expressing their ideas, their fears and ambitions or simply realizing that if I can have a career while still being a sweary fool, then they – with all their talent – surely can.

You might think this is a load of bollocks – and I totally understand get why – but it’s true.

The future of adland is not going to come from more processes, it’s going to come from more people being able to express or explore their ideas without fearing they will be judged, shot down or ridiculed.

And if you think that’s a dramatic statement, just go on twitter and see how the masses react to any idea that challenges the belief system they have bought into, even though they know for a fact that the very small amount of people who succeed – which are mainly white men – are generally the ones who reinforce the cliche rather than push or break them.

Happy Monday.



Was Groundhog Day A Documentary On Chinese Advertising Strategy?
June 26, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: Campaign Magazine, China, Culture, Insight, Planning

So before I begin, I should point out this post appeared in Campaign magazine.

The reasons I feel I can re-post it are:

1. I wrote it.
2. I forgot I wrote it.
3. I actually think it’s quite good.

So now I’ve got that out the way, let’s get on with something that – sadly – is as relevant today [for once] as it was when I apparently wrote it sometime last year.

Aspirational toilet paper.

Aspirational chocolate.

Aspirational coloured pens.

In China, it sometimes feels there is only one strategy adopted by brands and agencies, and that is one that offers ‘status by association’.

Of course there is a reason for this and it’s because the need to progress is inherent within the cultural value system. But this singular strategy of ‘buy this and look successful’ is both wearing thin and ultimately becoming less and less relevant to many in society.

Don’t get me wrong, it still works because there are millions upon millions out there who are enjoying opportunities that were beyond their wildest dreams as recently as five years ago. However if every brand follows this strategy—and many do—I continually wonder how commercially viable it is to base your differentiation on the simple claim that your brand offers proportionately more ‘status’ than your competitors.

Or said another way, is it really that smart to put all your hopes on claiming your brand offers more than the current aspirational inflation rate?

So what else is there?

Well, contrary to what many in the West say, people here have far more hopes and dreams than simply ‘to be rich’.

Yes, money is regarded as a tool to achieve—and show—progress, but to think that is the sole goal of 1.4 billion people is both misguided and insulting.

Besides, more and more people are starting to realise that the ‘good life’ they seek is getting harder and harder to achieve as more folk go after fewer opportunities.

So it’s little surprise that there are hundreds of millions of people who are looking to connect to things that offer them more emotional value and range than simply material status.

In 2012, we did a campaign for Nike during the London Olympics called ‘Greatness’.

It didn’t say ‘buy this and look rich’.

It didn’t claim you would get envious stares as you walked down the street.

It didn’t even say you would join an elite group of the rich and famous.

In fact, it did the absolute opposite.

It simply said that greatness was about giving your all, regardless of the result.

And in a culture where that word was almost exclusively associated with ‘achieving success at the highest possible level’, many said that would be social suicide.

Except it wasn’t, because it tapped into the emotional needs of a generation to feel they are good enough. That not eating aspirational chocolate, using aspirational toilet paper or writing using aspirational coloured pens was ok … which is possibly why it went on to become China’s biggest success story of the year, embraced, engaged and adopted by millions – literally millions – all across the country.

So while I totally appreciate the effectiveness of associating brands with ‘material status’, it’s amazing what you can achieve when you stop treating society as sheep and start treating them as people.



Planners Are Pathetic, Pointless & Other Words That Begin With The Letter ‘P’ …
March 15, 2013, 6:18 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Campaign Magazine

So there’s an age old debate whether planners are of any value to adland.

Despite being one for almost all my working life, I agree that there are a lot of things wrong with what modern day planning has become.

To be fair, this is less about the discipline and more about how some companies – and planners – work.

Sadly, too many view planning [and planners] as either a tool to charge clients incredible amounts for creating over–complicated, ultimately meaningless, powerpoint documents [mainly because they’ve sold the value of creativity down the river] or a license to act like they’re a cross between the second coming of Christ and Einstein.

And to those companies and planners, I say fuck you … because planning can contribute a lot to [commercial] creativity and all you’re doing with your actions is destroying its validity and credibility.

In my mind, our job is to perform 3 things:

+ Understand what’s really going on in the minds and heads of society. [Not the things they say, if anything, the things they’re not saying]

+ Identify the fundamental problem that we need to solve to liberate our clients potential. [Both now and in the future]

+ Stimulate, encourage & inspire our broader creative colleagues to be braver, bolder and more exciting in their response to the problem at hand.

That’s it.

Our job certainly doesn’t stop once the brief has been written … in fact, in some respects, that’s where it starts … and ‘planner’ certainly isn’t code for writing countless, pointless powerpoint documents.

Sure, writing and presenting is part of the job … but it’s purpose is to help drive better work, not encourage clients to be more closed-minded which is why I have this [admittedly stupid] view that if you write a presentation and people never refer back to it, you’ve contributed to the confusion, not clarity.

Anyway, a few months ago, someone wrote in to Campaign magazine slagging off planners.

Not just slagging them off, but character assassinating them.

OK, so some of the things they said were fair – at least in the context of the sort of planners who I think need a kicking [who in my book, should be called ‘Pretenders’ rather than ‘Planners’] – but I still was upset this sort of attitude was being expressed in such a condescending and generalistic tone.

Are some planners crap?

Yes.

Do some planners add nothing except more obstacles?

Yes.

Do some planners think they’re geniuses despite having never made anything other than a creative brief?

Yes.

Do some planners confuse being interesting with saying [other people’s] interesting things?

Yes.

Do some planners forget the creative teams are friends, not enemies?

Yes.

Do some planners forget we are judged on the output, not the input?

Yes.

But let me tell you, planners don’t hold the monopoly in that shit … there’s plenty of creatives, suits, MD’s and almost everyone in-between that have those same misguided, deluded, myopic opinions.

As do people in almost every industry from banking to policing.

So I decided I couldn’t let it pass.

Yes, I know it serves no purpose.

Yes, I know it won’t convince the doubters to change their opinion.

Yes, I know I am basically ‘biting’ to an idiots proclamations but, unlike research companies who seem to never stand up against idiots making a mockery of their industry, I think it’s important to fight for what you believe in when it is being openly challenged – even if you’re being challenged by a myopic fool who, for all I know, has only ever worked in a company that employs wannabe-geniuses who end up just writing complicated powerpoint documents no one reads to [1] justify their job [2] keep their delusions alive – which is why I wrote this:

Is it immature?

Errrrrm, of course it is – this is me we’re talking about – but daft views deserve equally daft responses so regardless of what happens, I feel I can look at myself in the mirror because I’ve stood up for what I believe … and as the old maxim goes, if you don’t stand for something, you might fall for anything.

Don’t mistake this post as my attempt to stoke the fires of Planners vs Creatives – it’s not and never will be because I respect, love & need my broader creative colleagues – if anything, it’s simply a rant against prejudice [& shit planners] which is why one of the best bits of advice I ever got was before you start questioning others, take a long hard look at yourself first.

Oooooh, I feel so much better after that, have a top weekend.