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


Saying You Care Means Nothing If Your Actions Show You Don’t …

One of the things that has shocked me since coming back to England is the amount of gambling that goes on here.

Not just in terms of people actually doing it, but brands trying to get people to do it.

It’s everywhere.

Football shirts. High Streets. Apps. TV shows.

I know it shouldn’t really shock me as there has been so much written about it in the papers, but the sheer volume has blown me away.

Another thing that has blown me away – for equally bad reason – is the way the gambling companies are trying to portray themselves as good citizens.

That all their ads say, ‘When the fun stops, stop’ – or some variant of it – might sound like they care, but apart from the fact there’s countless stories of them actively encouraging people who are demonstrating the have a problem with gambling to keep going, it makes no sense.

Because the moment you realise gambling has stopped being fun, you’re pretty likely to be in the grip of addiction.

Or said another way, it’s too late.

Once upon a time, I was in that place.

I was young and the amount of money we’re talking is minute … but I was in a full-on addiction to fruit machines.

I was still a student and working part time as a pot washer, and within seconds of receiving my weekly pay packet, I’d be feeding all of it into a fruit machine.

Occasionally I would win big (£25) but most of the time I’d spend my weeks earnings within minutes – leaving me without a penny.

Now I’m lucky, I was able to stop – mainly because credit was not readily available back then, because if it was, who knows what shit I would have got myself into – but I can still remember how much I hated myself when I lost but how excited I was when I was about to begin.

And yet, despite knowing what I was doing to myself, I was unable to stop myself for months.

While I would not wish that on anyone, it was a hugely valuable lesson.

It taught me I have an addictive personality and helped me to manage what I do and don’t expose myself too.

Sure, I buy a shitload of pointless gadgets, crap t-shirts, guitars and Birkenstocks. But it’s also why I haven’t tried any alcohol since my last taste 34 years ago, why I’ve never tried any drugs and why I never tried smoking – though that one was easier, as I’ve always hated the smell.

I do believe that people have to take some responsibility for the decisions and actions they take – but addiction is something we have to accept, skirts the rules of logic.

You become helpless and need controlled.

And given the impact certain addictions can have on people is loss of health and/or loss of livelihood and family … having a note in small letters at the end of an ad that has spent 29 of the 30 seconds celebrating the excitement and glamour of gaming – and then puts all the burden of managing addiction on the victim – seems pretty shit.



I’m In A TV Ad …

Well that was quite a week.

Otis is doing OK.

He’s feeling much better and we’re hugely relieved.

Even though the risk of kids suffering severe health issues due to corona is very small, seeing your child not well is always hard – made 10,000 worse with the media all revelling in making it sound like the bloody plague.

That said, it means we are in quarantine for another fortnight, but them so is the whole country.

Fortunately Jill and I don’t look like we have caught anything, but then it’s a 2 week incubation so who knows.

On the positive, if I do, it will mean I’ve hit the virus jackpot – which is something to be proud about. Maybe.

So back to the title of this post.

Scarily, it’s entirely accurate.

To be honest, I’ve been in quite a few ads in my time.

Blackcurrant Tango.

Triple J.

Even a Nike spot.

But never have I been one of ‘the stars’ … but I am now.

Take a look at this.

The best bit is this ad was seen by someone in Portugal who was as shocked to see me in it as I was when to find myself in it. Though I note they used a photo that doesn’t really show my face … which is obviously very wise indeed, but not quite as wise as it would have been to not invite me to talk with Mr Gladwell in the first place.

Which was going to be my long way of saying this is the last post for a week but Corona Virus screwed with the conference so now you will see me on Monday.

And you thought the effects of Corona couldn’t be any worse!



Go Your Own Way But Only If It’s The Way We Want You To Go …

So I was at the tube station recently when I saw this …

Seriously … what the hell is this rubbish?

Do they honestly believe people will believe this?

That they can get on the plane and either:

1. Tell the pilot where they want to go, regardless where the plane is supposed to be going.

Or …

2. Tell the pilot which way to go, like they’re in a cab?

What the hell is wrong with these airlines?

I mean I thought that horrific Lufthansa ad was peak crap, but this is possibly even worse.

At the very least, it’s a tie for plane crash advertising … though, to be fair, Etihad only have one stupid statement on their ad compared to their German competitor, who not only talks about ‘air travel engineered around you’ [lie] but follows it up by suggesting the experience on their plane is better than having a drink on a roof top bar at sunset. [another lie]

Alright … alright … I admit I have an allegiance to Virgin Atlantic after years of working on their ads and having a close relationship with some of the people at the company, but not only have I never proposed making work that suggests the passenger is in control of where they go or how they fly, I know if I did they’d not only not buy it, they’d fire me on the spot.

What are Etihad thinking?

Who is advising them on this rubbish?

Why is it the best airlines – Virgin Atlantic and S7 and occasionally, Delta aside – have the worst advertising?

There is so much to write about air travel.

There is so much to talk about what it enables people to see, feel, experience and learn.

I once read a stat that said air travel is the only method of transportation that has reduced in price [based on average incomes] over the years. Or said another way, airlines are more effective at helping cultures interact and learn about each other than the United Nations.

But what do they end up saying?

Nothing.

They say nothing other than bland lies that no one will believe.

I can help you Etihad. I want to help you. You’re a great airline that deserves so much better.

Call me … I won’t even ask for free upgrades. Probably.



When Distinction Ends Up Being The Same …

Once upon a time, endlines meant something.

They were distinct, explained a brands value or purpose.

And more often than not, were packed with personality.

Then Dan Wieden fucked it up for everyone.

You see his famous JUST DO IT became the benchmark for all brands.

Marketing Directors craved a line that summed up who they were in 3 words.

The number of words was more important than what it said … which is why you now get this …

What a pile of shite.

Bland, contrived, sameness …

Literally doing the opposite of what it is supposed to do.

Designed to appeal to the ego of the board rather than the hearts of the audience.

All because we have fallen into the trap of believing simplistic equates to effectiveness.

It doesn’t.

Simple might do … but simplistic is the lowest common denominator that requires zero thinking because it makes zero impression.

It’s why I sit here and can remember endlines from my childhood more easily than end lines I watched 10 minutes ago.

Handmade by Robots … for Fiat.

Refreshes the other parts other beers can’t reach … for Heineken.

Do you love someone enough to give them your last Rolo … for, ahem, Rolo.

Of course there’s a few modern endlines that work … GoPro’s ‘Be A Hero’ for example [though they went and fucked it up by changing it to utter blandom] … but in the main, companies seems to like endlines that sound like they know what they’re doing but don’t really say much at all.

At cynic we used to call these ‘Yoda Statements’, but what is even scarier is consultants are being paid a fortune to come up with this sort of twaddle.

That’s right, companies who claim to know how to help business grow are coming up with statements that literally make companies blend into everything else.

And yet they still are valued more highly by clients that companies who know how to push, provoke, inspire and capture the imagination of culture through creativity.

If anything tells you how mad the World is, surely one of them is that.



Valentine’s Day Is A Moment, But The Future Is Forever …

One of the things that frustrates me is when companies talk loudly and proudly about their ambition but then follow it up with, “but we have to take baby steps to get there”.

The only thing that annoys me more is when agency folk say the work they’ve made isn’t great, but it does, “push the client a bit further than they were before”.

Look, I get it … there are many implications to what we do, but as much as this ‘softly, softly’ approach may sound like it makes sense, it often ends up being counter-productive.

Being slightly better than where you were means nothing if everyone around you is taking huge strides forward.

But of course, just blindly rushing ahead often ends up with people getting burnt … just like planning your progress while constantly looking through the rear-view mirror.

At some point, you have to take a leap.

A step-change from what is known and established to something that changes how you, your audience and your competitors look at what is possible.

For me, this is what innovation truly is about, not micro-improvements designed to keep a company or product up to date with what the category and their competitors are doing.

I get for the company involved, that may feel like a big step – and for them, maybe it is – but it’s not really moving them ahead, it’s just keeping them closer behind the people leading – and owning – change.

To make it worse, culture don’t really care how big a step it was for you, they care about what’s in it for them – so if it’s not done to move them forward, you’re basically putting the ‘no’ in innovation.

So how do you leap forward without falling?

Well, on one level, you can’t.

Innovation of any kind runs the risk of failure … that is inherent to anything that is trying to dramatically move forward.

However you can improve the odds of success.

I’m not just talking about having an open attitude towards failure … where you look at it as a way to learn and progress rather than to lose due to unnecessary risk.

I’m talking about the power of insight.

Insight gets a bad rap these days.

Some of it is because a lot of things people claim are insight are anything but.

However I have been noticing an increase in the number of people using the Henry Ford quote of, “If I asked people what they wanted, they’d say a faster horse” … to basically try and undermine the value of insight.

But as I’ve talked about for years, if someone couldn’t tell from that quote that people wanted to get from A-to-B faster than they currently are able to do, then they’re a fucking idiot.

Sure, there is a lot of work to do to get from ‘speed of mobility’ to the creation of the motor vehicle, but the foundation of what people are looking for is right there for all to see.

Or hear.

Contrary to what many say, I personally believe people do know what they want … they just don’t know how to express it.

It might be said in hidden ways.

Or through actions written off as stupidity.

Or via behaviours that push against tradition.

Or with associations that feel random or misunderstood.

Or simply the core of a subculture inventing their own approaches.

It could be anything.

Which is why I believe our job is to listen, explore and investigate … recognize the clues culture expresses through their secret codes so you can work with your creative friends to translate this into something that defines something new.

Creates step change not a degree of change.

Reveals a new possibility rather than remakes something old.

Basically resonates with the speed and direction of culture, rather than tries to be relevant to the present rules.

And while that may indeed still fail or just require a shitload of hard work to evolve the idea into something infectious or – eventually – inevitable, it means you are leading change rather than being shaped because of it, which has the potential to change your future in ways no one could ever imagine.

Of course, the problem is not just that many people claim to want pragmatism but insist on micro-progress based on established behaviours, rules and habits … there’s the issue that some people evaluate something that challenges convention by the standards of what is already in place – ignoring the fact the idea they are evaluating it against has been given literally decades to hone their offering and establish their role.

Or said another way, some people happily kill something before it has been given the chance to be something, because they’re basing it on what they think rather than translating the codes of what culture want.

Like Blockbusters, who passed on Netflix.

Or Nokia who dismissed the threat of the Apple iPhone.

Or VW who basically laughed at Tesla and their electric car.

And while I accept anyone who wants create the future – rather than have it created for them – has a lot of obstacles to jump, there is good news.

Because for those who have competitors who believe progress only comes through refining and optimizing what they already have, they have been given the gift of time to create something that redefines the rules.

Leapfrogs established behaviours.

Create a new set of standards and expectations.

Because the only way to counter money, heritage and distribution is to innovate past it, in the knowledge that you know you’ve found something interesting when everyone feels the impact of your pragmatism …

Like a lightbulb compared to an optimised candle.
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Before I go, to ensure I leave you in the Valentine’s Day spirit, here’s what love is in the modern age – as described by the wonderful Amelia – who DID give me permission to post this, so keep your insults to yourself.

Got to be honest, I’m glad I am married because if I wasn’t, I’d either end up single or in jail.

And yes John, I did say prosperity instead of posterity. Deal with it!



Stooopidcases …

Yesterday I wrote a post about stupid.

Well, it appears it may be the theme for 2020, because I just saw this …

Yes, that is an ad for a new suitcase that is making a big deal that it comes with wheels.

WHEELS.

Actually it’s much more than that because they’re making a big bloody deal about where the wheels are supposedly from.

Now I know I once bought a wifi suitcase that the security people at the airport wouldn’t allow me to take on a plane because the ‘battery charger’ wasn’t removable, but even for me this is utterly bonkers.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely appreciate Japan’s perfectionist, craft mentality – to make a big deal about ‘wheels made in Japan’ is possibly the best example of bonkers brand manager ego/delusion that you’ll see this year.

And no, I didn’t buy it.

Cheeky bastards.



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 …