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


The State Of Advertising Is In A State …

I’m back.

Did you miss me?

No, didn’t think so …

Anyway, a friend of mine recently wrote an article in the UK edition of Campaign Magazine about the state of outdoor advertising.

He made many good points – from the fact it’s now been relegated to ‘out of home’ categorisation to so much of it ignoring the basic principles of static communication by shoving so many words on it, you get the impression it’s a print ad, just repurposed for outdoor.

But for me, his point was not just about outdoor, but advertising as a whole.

Have a look at this ad by BBH London.

Nice isn’t it.

It ran in 1997 [I think]

Now look at this ad.

Same product.

Same agency.

Even the same line.

Horrible isn’t it.

OK, it’s not horrible by todays standards, but when you compare it to the ad they made 20 years earlier, it is.

And what’s with that ‘beautifully designed’ copy?

As if a car manufacturer would choose to make an ‘ugly designed’ car.

In the last 20 years, the standard of creativity has been severely dented.

Oh sure, Cannes is out there celebrating winners left, right and centre but there’s 2 flaws in their praise:

1. So much of it is scam.

2. The rest of it is niche.

But here’s the thing, the quality inside ad agencies has not diminished – if anything, it has improved – and let’s not forget, both of these ads were done by BBH … one of the all time greats … so I can only assume the shift downwards is being caused by clients focused on satisfying their ego rather than intriguing their audience.

Which makes me question whether clients understand what advertising is and how it actually works … because it seems they are of the belief the masses are sat at home waiting for them to tell them what they should care about so they can run out at the earliest opportunity and make the purchase.

Of course I know that’s not true and of course, I know there are some amazing clients out there – because I’ve worked with them – but maybe this madness is because clients are more focused on the words/phrases played back in their post campaign research analysis [ie: beautifully designed] rather than aiming for society be intrigued, excited or hungry for their brand.

In other words, for all the research and data we have on audiences, there’s far too much emphasis on what brands want people to care about them rather than understanding – and connecting to them – on what they actually care about.

So to Audi, please get back to communicating driver to driver, because not only is this ‘brand to consumer’ approach not working, it’s making you look like every other bland car brand in the category and that kind of defeats the purpose of investing millions of dollars in marketing.

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When Priceless Has A Price …

So I was driving into work a few days ago when I heard MasterCard talk about their priceless causes campaign.

Apparently every year they choose a charity they are going to help and in a bid to raise money for them, they launch campaigns to try and get additional support from their customers.

OK, so you could argue this is a blatant attempt to look less like a bunch of money-hungry bastards, but it’s better than nothing, so we’ll let that pass.

But I’ll tell you what I won’t let pass and that’s them placing a limit on how much they are willing to donate.

Yep, even though they call this program ‘Priceless Causes’, the reality is they do have a price and in the case of their chosen charity, STAND UP TO CANCER, it’s 4 million dollars.

Oh it gets even worse than that …

First is the fact that 4 million is the maximum they’ll pay out and given the criteria they have stated to make a donation, there’s a chance they’ll get a way with a lot less.

Then there’s the fact their donations are directly linked to their customers spending [on their MasterCards of course] you could say every cent they hand over [and they’re literally giving 1 cent for every $10 spent] is coming from their customers pocket rather than theirs.

Why didn’t someone say anything?

Sure, the potential of 4 million dollars is a good thing … but apart from the fact the CEO of MasterCard was paid over $15 million dollars in 2015, it’s pretty shit to talk about ‘Priceless Causes’ and then put a price on it.

I should be happy about this campaign.

I should be glad a financial institution is doing something good for others.

And yet I’m left with the overwhelming impression that all they’re doing is stealing from the pockets of society. Again.



Know Your Audience …

So yesterday – on Linkedin – I found this posted on my feed …

Now putting aside the fact I no longer work at Wieden, the fact is that part of the reason WK is so special is because it doesn’t have an abundance of people who have – or want to have – an MBA.

Wieden is born from a desire to use creativity to do it’s fighting.

That ranks higher than absolutely everything and anything else.

Now I should point out that I am not suggesting someone with an MBA isn’t creative, however that qualification does mean you have a greater focus on business than creativity and that ultimately flies in the face of Wieden’s beliefs.

Of course WK are savvy at business and Mr W is most definitely a business guy.

However unlike many in the ‘commerce World’, they want to grow through creative excellence not ‘optimization’.

Which is why I found this ad so weird.

Has Willamette had a lot of Wieden people there before?

Or had a lot of interest from them?

Or is the reason they are offering such a huge financial incentive means they want them because it will benefit them as much as the student?

Even though a recent decision at WKSH means there are some people who – in my opinion – could do with some basic lessons in how to successfully build a business – the reality is this ad shows how little Willamette know, rather than how much.



Stop Marketing Bollocks …
July 7, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Crap Campaigns In History, Marketing Fail

So I was in a shop recently, looking for a bike for Otis, when I saw this …

Can someone tell me what a ‘Limited Lifetime Frame Warranty’ is?

You can’t have a limited lifetime, just like you can’t be half pregnant. You either are or you’re not.

OK, there is the odd exception … mainly when governments are involved.

For instance I have permanent Australian residency, except they make me renew it each year … but we all know governments never make sense so I’m willing to let that pass.

What’s worse is that messaging was proudly displayed on the box … like they thought it was a good thing.

A. GOOD. THING.

What the fuck were they thinking?

What that sign actually says is ‘don’t listen to a word we say’ … which is true of so much communication these days, which begs the question, who is this sort of oxymoron marketing designed to actually appeal to – an increasingly cynical audience or an egotistical client?



It’s A Fine Line Between Surviving And Thriving …

I’ve survived my first week.

Or I think I have … maybe they are just preparing to tell me to go back to China at the end of the day.

Talking of China [subtle eh] …

Just before I left Shanghai, I was asked if I would write an article about my 7 years in China.

Originally it was meant to be an overview of my experience and what I felt the industry could learn from it. As that sounded far too hard/pompous/wanky, I chose to ignore the brief and write something else.

Given I would always encourage someone who has the opportunity – and interest – to go to China, I thought it might be worth me posting on here, if only for the fact it saves me having to write something new which means I won’t give the impression to my new employer and colleagues that all I do is write blog posts and plan my holidays. Ahem.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I’m a cliché.

I have succumbed to the classic ‘7 year itch’ … except instead of walking away from a wonderful wife and son, I’m walking away from a wonderful country and company.

Yep, I’m leaving China and Wieden+Kennedy.

So if they’re so wonderful, why am I leaving?

Well it’s not because I’m having a midlife crisis – where my head has been turned by something that is ultimately going to lead me to destruction – it’s for a whole host of painfully sensible reasons.

But that’s not what this article is about because Mumbrella asked me to write about my time in China … a kind-of ‘what I’ve learnt and what are the implications for the industry moving forward’ type-of-thing.

The trouble is, I know those things tend to ignite the same sense of dread as hearing a colleague ask, “do you want to hear about my dream?”, so I’ve decided to ignore the brief and write a love letter instead.

I’ve absolutely loved my 7 years in China.

In fact I’d go as far as to say it has been one of the best times of my life – both personally and professionally.

Sure, a big part of that is because of Wieden, my clients and the fact my awesome son was born here … but the whole experience has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Being able to see the huge shifts that have gone on first-hand feels like a total privilege.

I’m not just talking about the obvious stuff, but things like creativity, cultural diversity and technology.

Few things will ever make me as happy as being able to tell the West there’s areas where China is literally miles ahead of them … areas they were convinced they were dominant in.

China did that for me.

Of course there’s been challenges along the way … brands who prefer convenient answers over doing the right thing and a general attitude of good enough is good enough to name but two … but overall, it’s been an incredible and special time.

I’ve had a chance to do things I never thought I’d ever be able to do.

I’ve worked on projects with brands I will forever be proud to be a part of.

I’ve made friends with people who I will always want to be close to.

I’ve re-learnt almost everything I thought I knew.

And on top of all that, I’ve seen an industry start to realise what it is capable of being on it’s own terms, not others.

Not bad for a bald bloke from Nottingham.

Now, anyone who knows me is probably freaking out how positive this article is, so I’ll leave you with 7 things [one for each year I’ve been here] that I hope the industry will stop doing.

This is not because I want to my cultivate a grumpy-bastard image, but because as much as things have improved over the years, the industry is in a fragile state and if we don’t keep pushing forward we could start slipping backwards.

[Yes, I appreciate there’s more than 7, but hey, this is new, optimistic LA version of me. Ahem]

1. No more decks saying ‘China is big’. Everyone knows that. Even a myopic Trump supporter living in Boise, Idaho knows that. And while I’m at it, can Westerners stop throwing the word ‘Confucius’ on every 3rd slide.

2. The clichés of casting. Seriously, if an alien landed here and watched the ads, they’d never know this is a country with incredible diversity and nuance.

3. Please, please, please no more toilet paper ads acting like it’s a symbol of status and sophistication. It’s not. It’s something you clean your arse with.

4. You might not believe it, but there’s more ways to connect to culture than HTML5. Honestly.

5. To the planners who act like they’re academic intellectuals … stop! You’re not fooling anyone and you’re undermining a discipline that needs to be recognised for uncovering exciting creative opportunities, not spouting shit read from a business magazine.

6. Stop with the scam. It’s embarrassing and it is killing the industry for all of us. We all know who does it and I don’t give a shit if they’ve paid for a small store in Wuhan to run their ‘idea’, it’s still bullshit.

7. I know they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it isn’t. It’s lazy and sells the industry short – not just financially, but creatively. There’s a bunch of incredibly talented people here who given the space and time, will reward us with something new and great.

That’s it. Not that hard really…

So with that I say thank you China.

I leave a better person than I came and I’m going to bloody miss you.



It’s Been An Honour …

After 7 years, today is my last day at Wieden+Kennedy.

Just as traumatic is that in 6 days, it will be my last day in China.

Or said another way, it will be my last day living in Asia-Pacific after 22 amazing years.

There’s honestly too much to say.

Too many memories to write about.

Too many people to thank and talk about.

So instead I’ll just say it has been the time of my life.

An amazing, spectacular, wonderful adventure both personally and professionally.

From marriage and babies to being part of work that defined World Cups and Olympics.

Wow.

It’s absolutely fair to say I will miss every bit of it but I’ll take the memories because it means I had the experience and for that I am truly grateful.

Now, because we’re in the middle of mad moving mode, this blog will be on a little hiatus for a few weeks.

Probably about a month. [Though we all know there’ll be the odd post here and there]

On the bright side, when it’s back – probably sometime in June, in time for my birthday [ha] – you’ll get to read posts that won’t just be about planning, but how I don’t understand how to make anything in America work.

I honestly think I’m going to find it harder to acclimatise to America than I ever did to China.

Hell, I can’t even order a cup of coffee without getting confused about their cup sizes.

So with that I want to sign off with a few little thank-you’s.

The reality is a huge amount of people made my time here amazing, however there’s some who had an even bigger influence and I want to call them out because the adventure I had – and am about to embark on – literally wouldn’t have been possible without them.

My wonderful planning team. Past and present. Every day was a genuine fucking honour. The awesome Kennedys. It was seriously the professional highlight of my last 12 months. Thank you. And that definitely includes you Juni. Kel Hook. For hiring me. You changed my life and I’ll never be able to thank you enough. Jason White. Thank you for supporting me even when I caused destruction. John Rowe. For being brilliant in every possible way and making my time at W+K Tokyo so good, I never wanted to leave. NIKE. I know that might sound corporate toady, but as I have nothing to gain from saying it, it means it is true. 99.7% of every person I met or worked with at Wieden+Kennedy worldwide … whether they are still here or long gone. Martin Weigel. You’re a cantankerous, warm hearted, brilliant man. Just propose to Mercedes and get on with it. Whiteside. Because you’re awesome and funny and humble and deserve so much and yet are happy with what you have. Clare Pickens. I love you. I literally fucking love you. [But stop cutting your hair because it makes you look shit] Sandi Hildreth. For being awesome and gorgeous and loving the same sort of rubbish music as me. Claudia Valderrama. For looking out for me even though you told me I was a “pain in the ass”. W&W, Azsa, Arlene and Max … for making sure I stay excited – and in awe – about the birth of amazing ideas. Gerber, for somehow – and I’m not sure how – influencing me to get tattoos. I came here with none, I leave with not enough. Simon Pestridge. Thank you for everything. In many ways, you changed my career and opportunities. You’re more than a great client, but a friend. Kim Papworth. For that talk that was totally worth the wait. Luhr. For being Luhr. Stech. For making your 6 months here, the most exciting 6 months for me full stop. David Terry and Paul Colman for trying really hard to be ‘alpha-males’ but actually being fucking sweethearts. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. Joe Staples. He won’t understand why, which is why. MJ. No, not Micheal Jackson or Michal Jordan, but Matthew Jung … for being a phenomenal Nike and Converse client who backed us to do the best work we can do every-single-time. Karrelle. For pretending to still be British when he’s basically American. Steve Tsoi for still welcoming me to the table even though I never made life easy for you or your team. Scott Silverman. You had nothing to do with China, but if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have had the chance to be here. Chris Jaques. You also had nothing to do with China, but if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have had the platform to show others what I could do. What I could be. Dan Wieden. For not actually firing me even though you said, “You’re fired” every time you saw me. And starting a place that is so special amongst special companies. Xiaoli. For everything you have done for us, but most specifically for the love and care you have shown my son. China … for being so important to global business that you gave me access and exposure to the sort of senior leadership few in the World will ever get to experience. The amazing, warm, slightly crazy people of China. I will absolutely miss everything about your unique ways. Except the spitting and the plane delays. And finally – and most importantly – my beloved Jill, Otis and Rosie. Without you guys, none of this other stuff would have mattered.

OK, the Gwyneth Paltrow bollocks is over … and to prove it, have a look at this.

Do you know what it is?

That’s right, it’s one of the 600 stickers I have had made that I have spent the last 5 weeks hiding throughout the refurbished Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai office. And I mean ‘throughout’ … including various W+K hangouts, like Baker & Spice, Jamaica Blue and Little Catch.

That should make their life a pain in the ass for a few years.

It will be like I’ve never gone.

And with that, it’s time to go.

It’s been a lot of fun. Time for an adventure in LA. God help us all.



They’re At It Again …

I know … I know … you would think I am over the whole ‘pram marketing’ thing by now.

Not just because I’ve written a ton about it [here and here and here and probably many other places] but because Otis is 2 and doesn’t need one anymore.

But I’m not.

Not while they keep putting out bullshit like this …

Like everything iCandy do, there’s so much that just pisses me off.

Let’s start with the colouring of the ad.

Orange.

ORANGE.

Who the fuck would want an orange pram?

I’ll tell you who, the pricks who own a lime green Lamborghini.

Yeah, those folks who are so bloody egotistical that they make sure absolutely no one can miss them.

Having a supercar to nip down to the post office to buy some stamps isn’t enough.

They need it in a shade of vomit that means even blind people can see it.

But that isn’t even the most annoying bit.

Look at that claim.

ABSOLUTELY FUTUREPROOF.

Errrrrrrm, does it turn into a bike?

What about a car?

Or a house?

Does it turn into anything OTHER THAN A BLOODY PRAM?

No, no it doesn’t … but yet again, iCandy have spouted a load of marketing twaddle because they don’t want to be in the pram business, they want to be in the innovation business and while I have no doubt that to give a pram 30 different configurations is quite an achievement, it’s still a pram and the innovation isn’t that soddin’ innovative.

But hey, they won’t matter to the fools who buy it … the same fools, as we identified earlier, who buy a lime green Lamborghini.

Because to them it won’t matter if they never use any of the configurations available to them because the purpose of purchase is not to ensure their child is protected and comfortable while being transported between the gym and the chip shop … oh no … for them, it’s all about being seen by everyone around them and being able to bore their ‘friends’ with a list of the prams features they will neither use nor understand.

Once upon a time there was a famous advertising slogan for the telecommunications company Orange that said:

The futures bright, the futures orange.

Well, thanks to iCandy, we have an updated version of that.

The futures bright, the futures fucked.