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


Heroes Come And Go But Legends Live Forever …

My god. It seems impossible.

You were the black mamba … the one with superhuman powers, how is this even possible?

And we must not forget the others who died by your side, including your young daughter.

You leave a billion fans with a billion memories crying a billion tears.

I’ll never forget how you showed your love to the obsessed young fans in China. It was the same kindness and compassion you showed to someone who didn’t know shit about basketball.

Me.

Maybe that’s why my favourite work with you was Mentu. Not just for what you did for young, Chinese players, but for making me truly appreciate just what you brought to a game I didn’t then understand.

I still believe the music we used was the perfect soundtrack to present your dramatic, distinctive elegance.

There are players famous to a team.
There are players famous to a game.
There are players famous to a country.

But there’s few who are famous around the world, whether that sport is played there or not.

You are one of the legends.

You will remain forever.

But your loss is a tragedy.

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If You Thought Fragrance Ads Were Mental Before …

Fragrance ads.

They are a law to themselves. All whimsical romance or overt seduction expressed in contrived, theatrical and over-acted ways.

I get selling smell using visual mediums is hard, so wrapping it up in some sort of concept makes sense … except when every one of those concepts is the work of someone who is obviously off their face on coke.

Sure, some can be funny.

Those horrific, pretentious Gerard Butler ads for Boss ended up being comedy gold … and the recent Johnny Depp ‘Sauvage’ campaign – that was hijacked by the public – turned out to be an act of genius but in the main, we are exposed to a plethora of commercials that feature a beautiful actor/actress getting paid a fortune to destroy their credibility against a backdrop of an overly produced stage set, a contemporary – but utterly bland – sound track and unsubtle messages of shining bright etc etc.

However recently I saw something different.

Kinda.

Because while it follows the well-worn path of the fragrance category, the script, acting and production values are so low, you would expect it to be an ad for a ‘Everything For A £1’ shop not Emporio Armani.

To make matters worse, it seems the people behind the ad sold it to the client by saying …

“We are targeting 40+ couples who hate each other.

They yearn to go back to a time where they were together out of choice, not because they have a mortgage to pay.

A time where they hung our spontaneously, not because they have to do the weekly shopping.

To connect with them, we will tell a story of a young couple falling in love.

We will capture the intensity of a developing relationship where they are intoxicated with each other.

We will incorporate scenes from classic films or ads from their youth – from 50 Shades Of Grey and those old Nescafe Gold Blend ads from the late 80’s/90’s to the classic ‘cycle to the moon’ scene from ET … though it could be more BMX Bandits, it all depends on how much budget you give us.

In essence, we are not selling perfume, we’re selling marriage guidance in a bottle”.

At this point, I imagine you’re wondering what the hell I’m going on about … well ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls … sit back and all will be revealed …

But please have a bucket ready for the flow of vomit that will be coming your way.

50 Shades Of Grey/Gold Blend Inspired Bollocks …

ET/BMX Bandits Inspired Shite …



Back The Experts, Not Your Ego …

I’ve written about this – kinda – a long time ago.

As in FOURTEEN YEARS AGO.

It’s the situation where unless there is group consensus, nothing goes ahead.

Yes, I’m talking about that thing called democracy.

Now I’m all for democracy … even when it goes bonkers and votes in our current Prime Minister.

But when it comes to the issue of creativity, I am less inclined to support it.

You see creativity is pretty subjective … it is also pretty scary … so even though our industry is filled with highly trained, highly experienced, highly regarded experts in the field, the decision to make something often ends up being driven by a client asking themselves, “do I like it?”.

Actually, it’s probably not that and more, “will my bosses like it?”

Oh of course no one will admit that … they’ll talk about how their experience or their conversations with clients/colleagues/customers is influencing their decision, but more often than not the reality is they feel far more comfortable doing something that ‘fits in’ rather than ‘stands out’.

Fitting in is safe.

Fitting in doesn’t get the scrutiny.

Fitting in doesn’t upset anyone around you.

So we end up in a situation where many clients ignore the experts – the people who know how to capture the imagination of the public in a way that serves their clients best interests – and focus on what the people around them think.

Or said another way, their strategy to approval is to ensure they can mitigate blame rather than drive glory which is why they allow the decisions to be made by committee rather than by their personal commitment.

It’s similar to those marketers who let research make the decision for them rather than inform their decision.

It’s the abdication of responsibility.

Now of course not everyone does this.

There are some amazing clients out there … those who are clear in what they want to achieve and trusting in the experts who want to help them get there.

But it’s getting less and less which is why we are ending up in more and more situations where ideas are born from pragmatism, diluted through fear and then executed by committee.

And if you need more proof, here’ is a quote from Dave Trott …



If There Was A Eurovision Door Contest …

… then surely this door would win it for England hands down.

Yes, I am writing about a front door.

Is this a new low on this blog?

It just might be.

So this door is a few doors up from our house.

To be honest, in all the time I’ve lived there, I never noticed it … and then one morning, it’s pinkness shone bring like a lighthouse against the cold, miserable, darkness of Fulham.

I don’t know why, but it feels quintessentially British to me.

Maybe it’s because of the tiles that lead up to the door.

Maybe it’s because of the gaslight lamp attached to the door.

Maybe it’s because of that single milk bottle nestled by the door.

Or maybe it’s because I swear I’ve seen doors like that in movies like Four Weddings And A Funeral and Paddington.

Who the hell knows, but it came together enough to make me want a pink door at my house.

Seriously.

And I swear if you asked me what colour door I’d want before seeing this one … I doubt I’d have ever suggested pink in a million years.

And yet seeing it in the flesh makes me feel differently.

Not because it stands out from the typical blues and blacks … nor because it feels showy or attention seeking … but because as much as I see the colour, it’s what the colour makes me feel that is enticing.

You see for me, I feel everything behind that door will be lovely.

Charming. Comfortable. Warm. Inviting … all the things you would want your house to feel.

Which all goes to show, features on their own are nothing if they don’t stir your emotions.

Clients could do with remembering that like I could do with remembering never to write a post about a front door again.



Thinking Of You Dad …

Today is the 21st anniversary of Dad dying.

That blows my mind as I remember how that day unfolded so clearly, it could have been yesterday.

The only good thing about all the years that have passed is that I can now remember the good times with him – when he was healthy – rather than just focus on the 3 years he was deeply affected by his stroke.

And because of that, I want to talk about a time I remember vividly with him.

I had done well at school and Mum and Dad said that I could have a toy for all my hard work.

I was pretty good at school but at exam time, I would freak out and basically become paralyzed with fear.

Anyway, Dad took me to Broadmarsh Centre in Nottingham.

Broadmarsh was – and still is – the inferior shopping centre in Nottingham, but it had a dedicated toyshop so off we went.

I was so excited.

I loved going on trips with Dad and to get a gift as well was mind-blowing.

I remember him telling me to look around and see if there was something I liked.

The problem was I liked EVERYTHING, but I knew we didn’t have a lot of money so I tried to choose wisely.

I remember there was a Dinky Toy, Bell Helicopter I liked.

It was orange but the cabin was blue and it looked cool.

I showed it Dad.

“Do you like it?” he asked.

I nodded in wild agreement.

“Well we can get that then …”

And just as we were about to go to the till, my eyes spotted a die-cast Rolls Royce.

This was not a Matchbox car, this was something else.

A ‘to scale’ model of a Roller with doors that opened, a boot and bonnet that opened and a steering wheel that actually turned the wheels.

It was AMAZING.

It was also expensive … I think about £5, which back in the late seventies, was a big amount.

Dad saw me playing with it and asked, “Do you like that more?”

I nodded but felt guilty as I knew it was expensive and didn’t want Dad to spend so much money on me.

I remember him looking at me with his beautiful blue eyes and warm face.

He smiled.

“Well …,” he said, “… you’re looking at me with those moo-cow eyes, and you have done so well at school that maybe we can do it just this once”.

I was flabbergasted.

I was going to get the coolest car I’d ever seen.

I remember being so happy and showing Mum when we got home.

I remember hearing Dad explain to her I’d looked at him with these big ‘moo-cow’ eyes and he couldn’t resist.

I remember how happy they were for making me so happy.

And while it would be easy for them to think getting me a new toy was the reason for my joy – and it certainly contributed to it – the reality is I was happy because my parents were always caring, loving, supporting and encouraging.

The things they sacrificed for me is unbelievable.

Of course I didn’t realize it at the time, but what they did without so I could live with is amazing.

I hope they know that I worked this out.

I hope I told them when they were around.

My childhood was a blueprint for great childhoods.

I never wanted for their love or support.

I never felt they didn’t care or weren’t engaged.

My Mum and Dad were amazing to me … as teachers, carers, providers and inspirers.

Sure we had our moments – often caused by me being a cheeky or mischievous little shit – but even then, I never doubted they cared.

Never doubted they wanted the best for me.

And while Mum and Dad would have preferred it if I’d followed a career in law or medicine or a formal music education … they believed it was more important I lived a life of fulfillment rather than contentment.

It is a lesson I hope to pass on to my son one day.

Their grandson.

Oh how I wish they could have met him.

I don’t have many regrets but that is one of them.

So what I do instead is instill their lessons and love into his life.

So that while he may never meet them, he will always feel their presence.

Dad, I miss you.

I miss you so much.

I would love to tell you and show you so many things.

To see your reaction. To hear your questions.

You may have been gone from my physical life for 21 years, but you are still so deeply entrenched in my life.

It gives me strength when I face challenges.

Support when I feel alone.

Perspective when I get consumed by small things pretending to be big.

I love you.

Give Mum a kiss from me as you hold her hand.

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Creativity Is About Lateral Leaps, Not Literal Execution …

So while going through my photos, I found this screen grab from Dave Trott …

To be honest, I wrote about this a couple of years ago but if it was relevant then, it seems even more relevant now.

There is more and more work that just seems to be a literal execution of the client brief.

Not even the agency brief … but the clients.

Literal.

Contrived.

Feature focused.

I can’t help but feel their strategy is to bore people into submission, and while it may be argued this approach is working – probably because all the competition are following the same thing – the reality is the value of the brand gets diluted and so the long term success of the brand ends up being based on factors like price or distribution.

Of course, price and distribution always have and always will play a critical role in a brands success, but the inherent value of it is elevated hugely when you are in a position that people actively want it and seek it out. Yet, as I wrote a while back, it appears many brand managers are only focused on sales today without any consideration for the sustainable value of the brand tomorrow and if you are constantly harvesting your good will, eventually it will run out.

The big issue is so many marketers still think people are waiting for them to advertise.

That they are sat on the edge of their seat waiting to hear from them and buy from them.

That they have nothing better to do and all that they do do, is based on rational logic.

This approach says far more about the people behind the brands than the people they hope will buy from them and while I appreciate creativity requires a leap of faith – something some marketing folk weirdly feel is an act of corporate irresponsibility – the fact is society respond to [authentic] emotion far more than rational argument, at least in terms of communication, and so if they want their brand to move forward, the only thing that can counter spend, heritage and distribution is to embrace creativity and to do that properly, it means being Lateral, not literal.



Sometimes Quiet Is The Most Powerful …

Well I’m back.

The good news is it’s already the last day of the first full week back at work.

How good is that?

Well it’s probably too good, so let’s end it on a low.

I mean high.

I mean … oh who cares …

One of the things I’ve loved about British comedy is their ability to be utterly poignant.

I’ve written about this before but recently I was reminded of a scene in the last season of Blackadder that really got to me.

It’s from Blackadder Goes Forth … the series about WW1 … and it’s the final scene of the final show, as they are about to climb over the safety of their bunker to face certain death.

It’s not exactly the sort of scene you would expect in a comedy, and it’s not played for laughs, instead it captures the honor and bravery of the men and women who gave their lives for others wellbeing.

But as the scene ends, it crossfades to something else … something that both captures the tragedy of war, the futility of war and the sadness of war. It’s quite an amazing scene – especially given it’s quiet simplicity – and yet it works, which is even more remarkable given it was never in the script.

Originally the final scene was going to show the cast being gunned down and end – as previous seasons had – with their deaths, but a combination of factors meant the footage they took was so bad that it was almost unusable.

Without much time before the show had to be aired, they came up with an idea that didn’t require a rewrite or even new footage and yet it became one of the most famous and powerful conclusions to any show in British history.

As I have said before, sometimes the most powerful moments of creativity are born from adversity but when you know what you want to communicate, the reward can be something quite magical. Different … but maybe even more magical.