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


Sometimes The Audience Finds You …

So I recently read an article on the UK distributors of Danish store, Tiger.

Tiger is often referred to as ‘Posh Poundland’ as it sells all manner of stuff.

Anyway, in 2005, a husband and wife – with no business experience whatsoever – decided to pour all the money they had into buying the rights for the brand in the UK.

They openly admit it was very difficult and they made many mistakes but 11 years later, they sold it for an estimated 40+ million pounds.

So far so good, but what really interested me was something they said at the end of the interview …

How brilliant is that.

It’s also a great lesson in thinking about your audience.

Too often, our industry defines audiences by the segment we believe are the most likely to want to buy our brand/product.

While that makes perfect sense, the problem is we are often end up being pretty generalistic in who we define our audience to be … often because our clients are petrified of putting limitations on their sales potential. The other problem with this broad audience approach is that it tends to end up being the audience for the whole category, which means we end up pitting ourselves directly against our competition.

What I love about this Tiger example is – albeit by lucky accident – they realised their was a very specific segment who were attracted to this product. A segment that liked it for reasons beyond what was expected, and yet was something that actively drove them to buy.

Now I admit it takes balls to do this.

It also takes absolute honesty.

And confidence.

But when defining audiences, it’s always worth remembering the motivations for purchase are often very different to what we would like to think they are. Of course we know this, but when in front of a client, it’s amazing how often we either temporarily forget or simply choose to ignore.

By being absolutely open to who could/should be interested in our clients brands, we not only stand the chance of making work that truly resonates with a particular segment, but one that automatically differentiates you from the countless competitors all trying to steal your share, which is why I still love the V&A London museum ad from the 80’s, where Saatchi’s [in their absolute pomp] realised the thing people liked most about the place was the cafe, which led to them running ad’s with the bravest ‘endline’ you may ever see …




An Oldie. But A Semi-Goldie …

This is one of those ads that is constantly referred to as being a perfect example of perfect advertising.

David Ogilvy was behind it – spending 3 weeks doing nothing but reading about the car – before producing that amazing headline.

OK, so there is some conjecture whether he came up with it or not, but regardless, it’s one hell of a headline.

But here’s the thing, when you read the rest of the ad, I’m not sure if its worthy of all the accolades bestowed upon it.

Sure it comes from a different time [as the $13,995 price tag highlights] … and yes, some of the ‘features’ they mention were probably cutting edge back then [power steering for example] … but after you get past that epic headline, what you actually have is an ad that is just a list of product features.

While there are still nods to the sense of craftsmanship and technology within that list – for example, you can have a telephone as an optional extra – I can’t help but feel that all the romance the headline conjures up in your mind disappears once you get to the details.

Maybe that’s because it appears the strategy was not actually to communicate the sophistication and craftsmanship of the car, but to change the perception of it being only for the super-elite … the one’s who are chauffeured around rather than drive themselves.

Hey, I could be wrong, but the fact they use that hilarious image of a ‘Dad’ picking up the kids from the local shop after school – not to mention they state in the copy that you don’t need a chauffeur to drive it – means I might have a point.

Now I get I have no right to criticise the wonderful Mr Ogilvy and the fact this ad is continually referred to implies it was hugely successful … but when I was reminded what the actual ad looked like – rather than just hearing that headline – I couldn’t help feeing that I find this scam ad for Bentley far more appealing.

[Though I accept that just might be my Nottingham heritage shining through]



How Raising A Child Reveals Whether You’re Full Of Shit …

I love my son.

I love him so much.

He is such a sweet kid.

Sure he’s a bit cheeky and a bit mischievous, but he’s just a lovely little boy.

I want his innocence and wonder to never leave him – but sadly, I know it will.

I also know things I’d never wish on anyone will happen to him.

Bullying.

Heartbreak.

Sadness.

And all I can do is try to prepare him for it in a way where he knows he can come through the other side.

Of course part of that will be by making sure he knows he is loved and supported unconditionally by his parents … the other part is making sure he is brought up with as much openness as possible.

One of those things is him understanding men and women are equal.

As I wrote about a while ago, my wife and I have had some stick from relative strangers in how we’re bringing Otis up.

One of the things they’ve ‘questioned’ is why we let Otis play with dolls and brooms, why we bought him a kitchen set and why we let him dance wherever and whenever the mood takes him.

Of course it’s none of their fucking business … but the fact is, we don’t want Otis to grow up thinking boys do this and girls do that and seeing our little boy being as happy playing with dolls as he is with his iPad is utterly wonderful.

I have to admit, I find the level of sexism around me frightening. I find it especially bad when I hear it from a man who has daughters. I literally cannot understand that.

And yet many ignore it exists.

They say any wrong behaviour is ‘cultural’ rather than sexist.

Of course there are cultural traits that define gender roles – especially in Asia – but that doesn’t mean they’re right or you have to carry on with them, even more so when you are not from this part of the World.

And yet it is everywhere – even in supposedly liberal and developed nations, as this wonderful piece by Hillary Clinton shows.

While Hillary says the way women are judged differently to men is ‘not bad, just a fact’, I find it deplorable.

But it’s true.

I remember having to tell one of my talented female planners to clap her hands a bit differently because it looked too much like a little girl and a bunch of sexist pricks would then judge her for that. I hated having to do that … but there was no way I was going to let this talented individual be ignored just because they had decided the way she applauds looks juvenile.

And that’s why I like what Cindy Gallop is doing.

Or what she’s trying to do.

My problem is she’s treating all white men as the enemy which, in my opinion, not only doesn’t serve her purpose any good, but is the sort of generalised bollocks that certain white men have treated females.

And that’s why Otis is being raised to see equality not prejudice … because values, roles and/or potential shouldn’t be evaluated or judged by gender or demographic, even if the way society operates – including those supposedly fighting against it – wants to keep that the norm.



New Is Always Resisted …

New.

3 letters that can inspire all manner of emotions in people.

When it is associated with something you already like, you tend to be happy … excited even.

However, when it is associated with a fundamental change to what you already know and/or do … then the general response is skepticism or outright distain.

I recently did a presentation to a client of ours about the need to do 3 fundamental things when looking to push into new territories.

1. Remember society knows what they want, they just don’t know how to articulate it.*

2. Make your UX as intuitive as possible so people can move from the present day to modernity without feeling insecure.

3. Prepare to ride waves of criticism.

There were two big reasons I wanted to remind my client of this.

One is that I recently read an interview with a tech journalist who said his biggest challenge was not to review brand new technology as if it was fully developed technology. He has to remember his view should be about potential, not realisation.

The second was this …

Interesting eh?

I don’t know when that article was written.

To be honest, I’m not even sure that article is real … but given the name of the ‘journalist’, the visual design and sarcastic ‘riddle of email’ that is placed at the bottom of the piece, it does seem the sort of shit The Sun newspaper would have peddled.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate how mad ‘the internet’ and ’email’ must have sounded back then – mainly because I was living through it – however, instead of having the distain of The Sun, I distinctly remember how excited I was about what I was hearing.

Maybe that was because of my age.

Maybe that was because of my love of gadget tech.

Maybe that was because I was seeing science-fiction becoming reality.

Whatever the reason, it served as an important reminder to me to listen before I dismiss.

Of course, there’s lots of new things that turn out to be a pile of shite … and sometimes that is because they are literally, a pile of shite … however societies skepticism to ‘new’ plays a huge role in whether things take off or not [acknowledging there’s a whole host of other elements] which is why the next time someone offers up something that challenges your tradition, think about what they’re trying to solve before you judge how they’re doing it … and who knows, maybe adland can be part of something new rather than packaging up someone else’s new.
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* I say this because people constantly quote Henry Ford’s “If I asked people what they wanted, they’d say a faster horse” … and yet, if they had said that, it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what they’re saying is they want to get from point A to point B faster than the current modes of transport available to them. In other words, they were giving big clues to what they wanted without even realising it.



Repetition Builds Reputation …
June 17, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Context, Culture, Marketing, Perspective

Friday is a wonderful day.

It doesn’t matter how much shit you have to deal with, it will always be better than a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

OK, if you have to work the weekend, then that’s shit … but generally, it’s a magnificent day.

It is also a day where 2 things are cemented in my mind.

Crunchie chocolate bars and 70’s TV show Crackerjack.

I have not eaten a Chrunchie for 25 years and Crackerjack has not been on screens for the same amount of time … and yet these 2 things are still synonymous with my favourite day.

Of course, part of it is because Crunchie used to market itself as that Friday feeling and Crackerjack used to always start their show with the words “It’s Friday, it’s 5 o’clock, it’s Crackerjack” … but the fact I still deeply – and positively – associate those things with a particular day of the week is amazing.

Especially at my age.

Of course, psychologists will say I am ‘projecting’ and marketers will say ‘awareness means nothing if I’m not buying the products’ … to which I’ll respond with “of course I am” and “I would if I could buy a bloody Crunchie in Shanghai”, however it serves as a reminder that committing to a positioning – or an idea – has great value for brands, especially compared to relaunching every 12 months.

Seriously, this annual relaunch ‘strategy’ drives me mad.

Apart from the fact it demonstrates a brand trying to appear interesting rather than doing things that are interesting, the reality is that in the main, the only thing being ‘relaunched’ is the advertising slogan which – in a bid to not alienate any potential audience – has ended up being even more meaningless, ambiguous and forgettable than the one before.

Don’t get me wrong, there are occasions and circumstances where you might have to change track – sometimes dramatically – but if you’re doing it every 12 months, then it says far more about you than it does about the state of your business or culture.

So if anyone says ‘positioning’ doesn’t work … tell them they don’t know what the fuck they are talking about. Then go eat a Crunchie and watch Crackerjack on Youtube.

Happy weekend all …



How To Get An Effectiveness Judge’s Attention …
May 27, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Awards, Comment, Context

So I’ve been doing a bunch of judging this year and while some have been great, a lot have been fucking terrible.

It is kinda scary what some people think represents effectiveness.

Seriously, if they were running their own business based on their effectiveness measures, they’d be dead in a week.

Which is probably why they’re not running their own business.

Now there’s a bunch of stuff that can be done to make a Judge take notice.

Of course there’s the usual.

1. Actually have a story that shows effectiveness.

2. Appreciate judges know all the ways people try to polish bullshit.


3. Understand you have to have done something different to convention or you can’t claim you were directly responsible for the effectiveness.

But there’s one more thing.

STOP OVERWRITING.

Seriously, the amount of times I have to read, re-read and then re-re-read to try and work out what is being said is incredible.

I get some of the submissions are from people where English is not their native language so they feel they have to write more in a bid to make sure judges really understand the points they want to make.

I also know that I’m a bit thick so take longer to get stuff that the average person.

But – and it’s a huuuuuge but – some of the submissions are ridiculous, using 500 words when 10 would do.

I get the desire to add emotion and texture to the case study, but when you’re asked to ‘describe the insight that drove the strategy’ and you take 3 paragraphs to explain it, it’s either a bullshit insight or you’re trying to hide something.

A bit of advice worth thinking about is what a chef told my wonderful colleague Maria when she was doing some research with chefs …

“The more confident you are, the more simple your dish”

What I’m saying is that if your submission is good, have the confidence in it.

Seriously, good things will stand out and so all you need your paper to do is provide the stage for it to shine.

Failing that, you can always throw in a weird quote to capture the judges attention.

Recently, someone wrote this in their entry …

“It is only when a mosquito lands on your testicles that you realize there is always a way to solve problems without using violence”.

No seriously.

I even wrote on the judging paper that this may be the best quote I’ve ever seen.

Sadly – for them – that was the only highpoint of their submission.

Anyway, I digress. Again.

Look, I understand we get excited about the work we do.

I understand we all want to explain the journey to get there.

But for gods sake, think of the context and environment you’re playing in.

When your competitors are bombarding judges with long and complicated explanations and charts, less will most definitely be more.

[I fully expect John Dodds to agree, given I’m basically saying ‘no one reads long copy’]



Does Honesty Triumph At The Expense Of Truth?
February 19, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Context, Culture, Cunning, Empathy, Insight

So recently I saw 2 quotes that I love.

First this one …

Then this …

I suppose what links them is they capture societies awkward relationship with ‘truth’.

And I’m talking about all of society, not just the folks who work in adland.

Of course, I appreciate that truth is [often] relative, but the fact is, unless we’re in a situation where we’re fighting for our lives, we generally find expressing or hearing bold, blunt truth pretty uncomfortable.

We talk around it, we use words to soften it, we attempt to hide it under statements like “it’s complicated”.

This isn’t purely because we’re a bunch of hypocritical beasts – though, as I’ve said many times before, we are – it’s also because our brains are designed to protect us [rather than learn for us] so when we find ourselves in a situation that has the possibility of danger, it responds in a way it believes will help us achieve the most positive outcome … which is often cautious honesty rather than unfiltered truth.

Yes, I really am saying that honesty is different to truth.

In my opinion, while the intention is the same, the delivery is different.

Of course part of the reason for this is because people are generally caring and compassionate souls who don’t want to cause upset or harm to others – and that is a beautiful thing which should never be dismissed – however it could also be why we sometimes blindly believe or find someone utterly refreshing when we hear them talk in a way we perceive is blunt and confident, despite the fact we also sometimes find – as in the case of Donald Trump – it’s has nothing to do with truth – or even honesty – it’s pure egomania and an attempt at manipulation.

We say love is complicated … politics is complicated … filling in a tax return is complicated … but to be fair, that’s only because underpinning all of those things is a subject that is the most complicated subject of them all. Truth.