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


What If We’re Wrong …

One of the things that bothers me is how data [in marketing] has become law.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of data – or should I say, real data that has been amassed properly, read properly and used properly – but a lot of the stuff today is nothing more than small bits of information packaged to be big bits of information.

Worse, a lot of it has no texture whatsoever … designed to reinforce a position someone wants rather than to inform and enlighten on things you don’t know but would like to find out.

But even then, data is not infallible.

There, I said it.

Data is as good as the people who created it.

And yet day after day, I read about companies who treat their data like its god … even though you can see the flaws in their approach from 10,000 miles away.

From what they’re trying to discover.

To how they’re trying to discover it.

To what they want to do with it once they’ve got it.

No surprise then that so many then go on to report ‘lower than expected’ revenues.

I’m lucky that I work at a place with a progressive view of data, especially with the way we use our Ventures program.

But in addition to that, I work with an amazing data specialist.

She’s cheeky sod who is a bloody legend.

Not just for what she does but for what she pushes.

A believer in the role of culture not just habits.

But another part of her skill is that she knows what data does and what data doesn’t.

Data guides.

It heavily suggests.

It shines a light on important and essential behaviours.

It forces discussions about how best to approach situations.

But it rarely is undisputed, unquestionable, always certain, fact.

To be honest, I believe most people in the marketing field of data knows this but – as is the case with most things in marketing – we go around talking in certainties in an attempt to raise our professional standing when all it does is the opposite.

Hey, I get it, we see it being done in so many fields – from government to finance – but that still doesn’t mean it makes people believe what we’re saying, it just makes us complicit.

The reality is society is far smarter than we give them credit for. The only reason they let so much of this rubbish pass is because they literally don’t care what we say. They have seen so many facts that turned into fiction that they view what we do as literally a game … which is why, while data and strategy still play an important part in making creativity that helps brands move forward, the most powerful differentiator between ideas that culture sees and culture give a shit about is how interesting, intriguing and exciting it is.

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Care, Not Control …

At Christmas, I went to the free Winter Wonderland show in London.

I say ‘free’, but it cost me more money than a West End Show,

But for all that, there was one thing that I saw that I truly loved.

This.

Yes, it is from a long time ago.

Yes, it is a pretty small thing.

But my god, how good is it?

The idea that the government paid for small versions of real cars to help kids with disabilities feel they are part of society – when everything around them tended to, and still does to be honest, say otherwise – is brilliant.

An act that lets minorities feel they belong.

Are seen and heard.

Can contribute and become more than they thought they could be.

And while this sort of behavior seems to be something consigned to history, they are happening.

I have written a post that comes out on Friday that does a similar thing.

Except it was done by Otis’ school rather than any government authority … and that pisses me off, because in my opinion, this is exactly the sort of thing the government is for.

To look after the people it represents.

Their health. Their wellbeing. Their education.

And before everyone starts calling me a hippy or a communist, it’s not just because that is their duty but because by doing this, they are literally making the country better. Richer.

Not just in terms of happier, smarter more confident people, but interns of invention … collaboration … industry.

A nation that is healthy and educated is a nation that builds, grows and attracts and yet it appears nowadays … governments are about control, power and self serving.

How the hell did we come to this?



Erection By Post …

So I recently saw this ad in the tube.

To be fair, it caught my eye more than most tube ads but there’s something about it that just doesn’t feel right.

To be honest, I’m not really sure what it is.

Maybe it’s that they are advertising viagra on a transportation device that is long and hard?

OK, it’s not that.

Maybe it’s the fact they call it Viagra Connect?

It’s not that, but it doesn’t feel right either.

Oh I know, it’s the fact the company website is GetEddie.com

This bothers me for a bunch of reasons.

One of them is that asking a bloke called Eddie for erection help feels very, very dirty.

Alright, that might just be me, but it just feels very under the counter when the whole premise of the ad is that it’s not something to be shy or scared of.

But more than that, it’s the website that really makes me uncomfortable.

You see while I am sure GetEddie is meant to be a play on ‘Get Ready’, it also feels like it’s trying to imply ‘get head’, which just seems pathetic to the core.

However – and it’s a big however – I appreciate this view may say more about me than the people behind Eddie, because lets not forget the time I thought an Old Spice campaign we did at Wieden – called Smellcome to Manhood – was a play on words about teenage boys experiencing puberty, when in fant it was literally just a pun on the word ‘Welcome’.

The creative team avoided me like the plague after that, which is a shame, as it was one of my favorite Old Spice campaigns.



Start The Week On A High [Score]

So a client of ours has an arcade machine in their reception.

I say ‘game’, but it’s much more like a social definer … separating the haves from the have nots.

Any minute of the hour, you see people congregating there to test their gaming chops.

Pushing themselves to be better.

To rise up the ranks.

To be the eventual champion.

Except when I walked into that clients building, a new sheriff was in town.

Sure, I looked a bit knackered.

Sure, I am more ball shaped than athlete.

Sure, I made sure every meeting was as short as possible so I could play on that machine.

But as you can see from the picture above, I proved that in the field of sports it’s not how you look, it’s how you perform and I performed like the crap arcade game champion I truly am.

Let this achievement give all old dogs out there the belief that 2019 isn’t a year they need to learn new tricks, but to simply challenge the whippersnappers to games that don’t matter and they don’t care about.

Which means this post is ultimately a strategy lesson on repositioning.



When Y&R Had A Point To Prove …

Y&R is over.

Of course, the powers-that-be say they’re merging, but really they’re over.

This is sad for me.

Not just because I spent 4 years of my life with them and did some stuff I’m proud of with people I still respect hugely … from SONY to VB to Schweppes [the ad is here as it’s gone from the post] … but because there was a time where they really took a stand, both in terms of what they stood for and what they did.

Recently I found an ad they did for themselves …

Yes, you can argue it’s a bit dodgy, but apart from the novelty of seeing an agency practicing what it preaches [accepting an agencies work should be the best ad it does for itself] it’s interesting to see them celebrating how technology [read: data] and emotion [read: creativity] sit side-by-side in their company.

Sure, it doesn’t say what the computers at Y&R actually do.

They hint it finds valuable ‘audience stuff’, but for all I know, they might have actually been used to just type and/or design their ads on … but it’s the first thing I can remember where an agency proactively talked about the coming together/tension between data and creativity.

Of course it’s nowhere near as good or provocative as their 1965, Backbone ad [again, for themselves], but it is nice to see an agency have a point of view, which – ironically – is the very thing they stopped doing which contributed to them ending up as the back end of VML.



Majority Cruelty …

Given we’re are in throws of Christmas parties, I think this post is possibly very relevant.

A few weeks ago, I was at Liverpool Street Station when I saw this woman …

People were sniggering at her and I could tell she was getting upset so I went to her and said …

“Excuse me, I just want to say you look fantastic”.

Fortunately for me she didn’t call the police for breaking the cardinal London commuter rule of ‘DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS’, instead she said thank you and then explained she felt a bit silly dressed up for a Halloween party among all these business people.

I told her to ignore them because they were all dressed as depressing sheep to which she turned around, looked at a bunch of the people who had been looking at her and said – very loudly – “fucking sheep”.

While this may be one of the proudest moments of my life, it quickly turned into feeling slightly unnerved given I then got on the same train as the people she insulted whereas she went somewhere else.

But the thing is the way people were looking and acting towards her was horrific.

These weren’t drunken, young idiots, they were sober, middle and elderly business people … and yet they ganged up on her for their own amusement because she was dressed differently to them.

For someone to do that – even if they’re going to a party – is a big deal.

It is an act that makes them very vulnerable … they’re literally letting their day-to-day guard down and exposing themselves to the mercy of the mainstream so the last thing they need are a bunch of the majority showing no respect – or worse – downright distain at them.

We talk about wanting to encourage creativity and openness in the World, but we suck at it.

Whether it’s being part of at a creative review or watching someone dressed for Halloween … we need to start by accepting what they’re bringing to the table is very personal and showing it to others for their judgement makes them very vulnerable so whether we like what they’ve done or not, we should never just dismiss it just because it doesn’t suit our tastes.

Openness means being open to possibilities, not negatively judging with a smile on your face … so I hope Ms Colourfuljoyness went on to have an amazing night and may she wear whatever the fuck she likes going forwards.



Identity Is Defined By Us Or Defined By Others …

So finally we have the feedback on the latest APSOTW assignment.

First of all I owe everyone an apology.

This has taken way longer than it was supposed to.

I’d like to blame the time it took to get the judges feedback, but I can’t … because it was all down to me.

Of course I can point you to moving to a new country, finding a new house and starting a new job, but that’s still pretty pathetic even though it’s true.

So this submission got the most that I think we have ever had.

This is brilliant and I’m so glad so many people decided to have a go.

Of course, part of that is because it seemed relatively simple, but as you’ll read from the feedback below – you’ll soon learn it wasn’t.

But that aside, the fact you had a go is something to be celebrated.

It means you wanted to get better … put yourself out there … try something that makes you vulnerable and for that I say a huge congratulations.

I meet too many people who think that because they have a job, they have ‘graduated’.

The thing is, this job is one that is always developing because people are changing … so actively wanting to improve is something that should be celebrated and for that I – and all the judges – applaud you.

So as we had so, so many entries, we are going to find it almost impossible to write a review on every one. If you want specific feedback on your submission, drop me an email [on the same address as the assignment submission] and I’ll get back to you.

[Promise it will be quicker than this feedback has taken]

As I mentioned earlier, I think a lot of people thought this was an easy task … the reality is it wasn’t.

In fact, in some regards, I would say this was one of the toughest assignments we had set over the 10+ years APSOTW has been going.

In truth, post-rationalising is always a very difficult – if not impossible – task.

We tend to focus on the obvious elements when in truth, so much of the work we make is shaped by smaller little tweaks.

Not only that, but narrowing an issue as complex as this into a single sentence is always going to be super hard … so hard, that some of you went over the limit.

But the really interesting about this assignment is how many people basically wrote a headline for the campaign rather than an insight that could allow other work to be developed from it.

For example there were a lot of submissions that talked about ‘mirrors’.

Now I get why – because the execution focuses on that – but this wasn’t about mirrors or reflections, it was about identity and how you define yourself or let others define you.

In essence, you let the execution get in the way of your point of view.

Overall, the submissions tended to fall into one of four different groups:

1 A headline that summed up the execution. Not the idea behind the execution. The execution.

2 A fortune cookie/pseudo Confucius-style statement about being a man. Any man. Or skin.

3 A smart – but generalist – insight how men define themselves in the World today.

4 An overly complex description of how culture is formed which just felt like an attempt to show how smart you were.

Now don’t get despondent with that list of crimes, I see highly paid planners do it all the time.

The irony is our job is to make the complex simple, not make things even more difficult and yet time and time again the discipline tends to forget this.

If you want proof, just read 90% of effectiveness award submissions where the ‘insight’ is about half a page long.

ARGH.

But back to this …

When looking through the submissions, the judges agreed that to catch our eye, an entry had to have 3 things.

+ Recognition of the cultural tension underpinning the campaign. [This is about black culture, a lot of the statements could have been about anyone coming of age, so to speak]

+ A clear and concise point of view that makes us look at the potential of the idea in a bigger – or different – way.

+ The ability to provoke a reaction … whether that would be with creatives, clients or culture as a whole.

Sadly, we didn’t find that many that did, however there were some that caught our eye.

Divyanshu Bhadoria:
“More than a grooming regimen, shaving is a ritual to preserve the story of our identity”.

Wayne Green: :
“Don’t let a beard hide your pride of who you are and where you are from”.

Andy Wilson:
“Shaving reveals the dignity that is embedded in your skin”.

If truth be told, they could all probably be sharper … but not only did they all capture the tension between identity and conformity and the role shaving has in it, they were favoured by the creative judges as points of view that made them excited about looking at a category in a new way, but a true way.

And that was the point of the task … to take something and capture it’s essence in a way that would provoke a tighter – yet bigger – idea to come to the fore.

It’s tough … it’s very fucking tough … and as I said in the assignment, it’s all pretty subjective, but the judges were weirdly pretty much all in alignment from the beginning, which is why we got to our decision.

So a huge thank you to everyone for taking part.

I hope, after reading the feedback, if you look back at your entry you will see where you could have improved it.

As I said, if you want specific feedback on your entry, send me a mail and if Wayne, Andy and Divyanshu could send me their addresses, I’ll be sending a small prize to you as acknowledgement of your work.

Hopefully this has been a fun and useful exercise. Whatever the feedback, the fact you did it is important … to you, to us and to the industry at large … so I hope you will continue when the next APSOTW assignment comes out early in the new year.

A special thanks to the wonderful Maya Thompson who brought this assignment to me and changed the way I will look at the world forever [in collaboration with her collective of Chelsea and Bree] and a big happy holidays/new year etc etc to all of you who took part. [God, that feels weird to write in only November]

Till next time …