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


Love Works In Strange Ways …

So good news, this might be the last post for 2 weeks.

TWO.

Though don’t get too excited because it might only be one.

Either way, you have lucked in as it’s definitely the last post of the week because today I’m in Paris and then on Wednesday, I’m off to Lisbon so I can speak at a conference.

Hahahahahahahaha.

I must admit, I still find it hysterical that people want to hear me talk about anything. Especially given all my ‘material’ is available for absolutely nothing on this blog.

Well, if ‘loss of brain cells’ is absolutely nothing.

And yet I do enjoy talking at conferences …

I like the process of trying to think of something interesting to talk about for the audience.

Working out the best way to get the message across without falling into the deadly presentation paralysis.

Then adding the stories that will either make the audience semi-like me, think I’m a cheeky bastard or just plain hate me.

I say all this but I bet the only reason I do get invited is to be the court jester to the audience – and given the wonderful Mr Weigel will also be at the same conference – I’m even more sure of this fact.

But what it means is I’m away till Monday so with that I want to leave you with a delightful story I’ve just heard about.

In the early 80’s, Queen worked with a German producer called Mack.

He was quite revolutionary for the band – helping change their sound and way of recording – which meant they were one of the few artists who went into the 80’s stronger than when they were in the 70’s, culminating in some of their biggest ever hits.

Another One Bites The Dust.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

Under Pressure.

Radio Gaga.

I Want To Break Free.

Unsurprisingly, Mack got very close to the band and asked Freddie Mercury to be his eldest sons godfather. And it’s to this background I read this story from Mack about what happened on his sons birthday.

Have a read, see you Monday and here’s a link to the video being talked about below.

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You Can Do Whatever You Want As Long As It Is What We Want You To Do …

When I first came to London, I signed up for Zip Car.

To be honest, the process was a nightmare, but I thought it would be useful.

Was it?

Well, put it this way, we ended up buying out own car.

I’m sure Zip is useful for many people, but part of the problem for us was that there just weren’t many cars close to where we lived. What this meant was that if we wanted one, we probably would need a taxi to get to-and-from the car, which kind of defeats the purpose.

The reason I am saying this is that I just saw this ad for them on the tube.

While there were many things I found a bit bizarre about the ad – specifically the fact you’re sitting on the tube but it’s telling you to get a taxi – the bit that got me the most was in the body copy, where they say …

“… leave our car wherever you leave your inhibitions”.

And then, via the ever-useful *, they clarify this with the additional …

“… just make sure you leave your inhibitions in the ZipZone”.

So in essence, they’re trying to position themselves as the enabler of the spontaneous spirit but then have terms and conditions that mean you can only live that way if you’ve thought through your actions.

Or said another way, they want you to plan your spontaneity.

Idiots.



Society Is Growing Kids Faster Than Battery Hens …

One of the things that is a beautiful nightmare for parents is watching the speed of their children grow up.

At each stage of their development, you think they have reached ‘peak perfect’ and you want them to stay that way forever … but you can deal with their growth because they bring an even more delightful element into their behaviour and, as a byproduct, your relationship.

It’s utterly, utterly magical.

That said, it still doesn’t stop the fact it all happens in the blink of an eye, so while you want to always encourage their development, you just wish it would slow down a little.

The reason I say this is that I recently read about a graphic designer was so appalled at the cover of a young girls magazine, that they decided to release what they thought it should be.

Now I must admit, my first impression to this story was that the graphic designer was probably a self-righteous individual who wanted kids to grow up in the same conditions as they did.

That was until I saw this …

The original cover of the magazine is on the left, their version is on the right.

I’m going to ignore their cover – because you can read how it came about and the story behind their idea, here – however the magazine they redesigned is a real magazine and, according to their own website, supposedly stands for:

Girls’ Life (GL) magazine was founded in August 1994 (yes, we’re ancient, we know) by Karen Bokram. Since then, GL has grown from a 23-year-old’s pipe dream project to a best-selling and award-winning platform for tween and teen girls.

Tweens and teens.

An incredibly impressionable age.

Now look at that cover.

Look at those story headlines.

Now I appreciate I am an old, white male … but they seem to place huge subliminal pressure and expectations on young women.

Wake Up Pretty.

Dream Hair.

Fashion you need to own.

Boyfriends.

If young women want to explore any of those things, then that is wonderful, but I wonder how much of it is because they are being made to feel that way rather than being something they are naturally interested in. Of course, there is something wonderful about learning to develop and grow … but this seems less about personal growth and more about playing to stereotypes – and advertising dollars – so that they can then be judged by broader society.

Of course parents have a big role to play in managing the environment their children play in, but at a time where the World is finally waking up to fighting the prejudice, oppression and stereotypes women have had to face for centuries, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve this when the World they are surrounded by continues to push an agenda of compliance … especially when they’re titles supposedly designed for the betterment of young women.

Of course this is not limited to content for young women, young boys also have stereotypes of behaviour and aspiration shoved down their throats that are unrealistic and add incredible pressure to their development.

I get children will always grow up too fast for parents, but it is scary how even that isn’t fast enough for media outlets.

What makes it worse is so many of them say their ‘purpose‘ is to inspire brilliance in their readership.

Girls Life specifically say their role is ‘dedicated to informing, inspiring and entertaining girls around the globe—and that includes everything from starting your business (we LOVE spotlighting smart, successful teens) to putting up with periods to styling a personal look you’ll love’.

Which is why I look at the Graphic Designer who screwed with their cover and say ‘well done’ … because I now realise what they did was not act like a judgmental parent, but simply show Girls Life how their cover should look if they are serious about what they claim they represent.



What You Can Learn About The Danger Of Assumption From The Original Woodstock Festival …

One of the things I do when I first get a brief is try to see the creative opportunity.

Where we can make the biggest and most interesting difference.

Changing something.

Pushing something.

Destroying something.

However the reality is that in many briefs, this isn’t always clear – mainly because so many are written from quite a transactional perspective, designed for an agency to ‘answer it’, rather than use it as a springboard for bigger, more powerful and more sustainable impact.

And that’s why the best thing you can do is ask questions.

Explore.

Prod.

Challenge.

Not just in terms of who authored the brief, but the people who are responsible for what comes out of it.

There are some people who think this approach has the potential of alienating clients, but in my experience it has quite the opposite effect. People in power regard this as a demonstration of someone who gives a shit … someone who wants to help them achieve the best outcome in ways that can best serve their business. Ideas they may simply never have seen or considered before.

And that’s exactly why I do it because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t know the level of the clients ambition … their desire for change and impact … and without that you can’t possibly see the creative opportunity you have in front of you and you may go down a path that leads to nowhere because you have made assumptions that simply aren’t true.

Don’t get me wrong, we all need new business to survive – let alone thrive – but my point of view is that if people aren’t excited or clear on what we are looking to do, then it either leads to a painful journey with painful work at the end of it or just mistrust and quite frankly, I haven’t got time for either of those in my life.

So what’s all this got to do with the title of this post?

Because I recently read an article on the famous Woodstock festival and was reminded – from a comment by Tommy James from the band, Tommy James and The Shondells – how dangerous ‘assumption’ can be.

And who is Tommy James from Tommy James and The Shondells?

Well, this might tell you why you haven’t heard of him or them …

Don’t assume the person communicating with you has total clarity on their situation.

Don’t assume the people around you have total clarity on the situation.

Just don’t assume.



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.



If A Plane Can Make Me Feel Emotion, Why Can’t Most Brands?

I fly a lot.

I have flown a lot for a very long time.

And still, I am not sick of it.

OK, that period of flying to America every week got to me, but generally, I love the feeling of flying – even though now, as a Dad, it makes me slightly more panicky just in case something happens.

I have to say of all the flights I do, long-haul are my favourite.

Part of this is because I sleep very, very easily on planes and so I get more rest on a plane than I do at home.

Part of this is because I get to watch movies uninterrupted, something that stopped happening when Otis was born.

Part of this is long-haul flights are my ‘normal’, so I don’t see them as long – just flying.

But of all the planes I have flown, I never got to do it on Concorde.

Maybe it’s because my Dad’s dream was to fly on it to NYC.

Maybe it’s because it entered mainstream service when I was at an impressionable age.

Maybe it’s because it flew at twice the speed of sound and so high, that you could see the curvature of the earth.

Regardless of the fact it was – in essence – the first rocket ship for public use, there has always been something about Concorde that was magical to me.

To be honest, I’m not sure why …

It was so quick I wouldn’t be able to enjoy a good sleep.

It was small – only 100 passengers – so I’d feel a bit claustrophobic.

The windows were so minute, you wouldn’t ever get a decent view unless you were next to it.

But regardless of all that, it was a magnificent machine … the likes of which, especially in domestic air travel, may never be seen again.

A few weeks ago, I got to see one.

Not a picture.

Not a model.

A real, refurbished one.

And I have to say, it was pretty emotional.

They had done it very well and in addition to giving you a good history of the rise and fall of the plane, they even included a ‘virtual flying experience’ that was pretty realistic.

However at the end, they showed a video of the last Concorde flight coming into land – Union Jacks flying from the pilots windows – and you felt a real sense of loss.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true …

Concorde was different.

Concorde was ahead of its time.

Concorde was the embodiment of the glamour of flying.

And while she was noisy, environmentally unfriendly, hideously expensive and the subject of a terrible crash [which, to be fair, was caused by the fault of another plane rather than herself] there was something magic about that plane and while I didn’t get to fly on her, it means a lot to me that I got to sit in her.

Thanks Concorde, you could teach a lot of companies a thing or two about capturing an audiences imagination.



The Role Of Products Is As Much Dependent On How We See The World As They Want Us To See It …

Dear Ring Doorbell marketing people …

If you want your product to have more emotion in your communication, stop talking about stopping thieves and start talking about how your product can capture spontaneous moments of family love and happiness.

This picture of me with my son is one of my all time favourites.

Caught by your product as we waited for his Mum to open the door.

Imagine the instagram account you could have of happiness, love and family …

A much nicer association than the fear-mongering you tend to peddle.

You’re welcome.