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


Creativity Without Bruises And Scars Is Not Great Creativity …

A while back – when I was running The Kennedys – I told the guys about how hard it is to make great work.

Ironically, the issue was less about the expression of creativity – though there is always difficulties in that – but in actually getting your precious idea through all the gatekeepers/processes/people without it being impeded, diluted or impacted.

Now don’t get me wrong, being pushed to be better is always good, but it appears we now live in times where the goal of others seems to be the reverse.

Sanitization.

Blandness.

Ego/Career management.

Or as my dear friend George once said:

“Creativity today is a client going to the doctor, telling them their expertise is wrong and then prescribing their own medicine.”

Of course people are entitled to their opinion.

Of course ad industry creativity needs to be commercial creativity.

But right now, it appears many clients version of ‘commercial’ is to either communicate what they want people to care about [regardless if they care about it, or believe it] or to say things where absolutely no one can ever be offended because what they want to communicate makes beige look bold.

And because adland – or should I say some within adland – has sold the value of creativity down the river in favour of making fees from process and production, the entire industries ‘creativity’ is being called into question.

What has happened to wanting to make work that makes culture take notice?

What has happened to wanting to making work others wished they had made?

What has happened to wanting to make work that changes entire categories?

Yes, I know there are some that still fly the flag of great work – but not many and not always consistently – and what’s worse is that we, as an industry, have contributed to this situation but what really gets to me … what really pisses me off … is that I feel we are continuing to pander to the wishes and demands of the organisations we are supposed to help, the organisations who – for whatever reason – are undermining our industries value and long-term future.

I’m not saying we should be arrogant.

Or rude.

Or forget why clients hire us.

But come on, why be a doctor when we let the patient diagnose themselves, which is why I absolutely loved this piece by the phenomenal Dave Trott.

At the beginning of this post, I wrote about how I had taught The Kennedy’s that great creativity doesn’t come without bruises and scars … well, if we still want to stand a chance of making the work that shows how brilliant we can be, then we better be prepared to fight harder for it, because being the punching bag is hurting everyone … us, our clients, our audiences.

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The Power Of A Point Of View …

So I know yesterday I basically slagged off big ad campaigns by highlighting the cheeky brilliance of the Narcos ambient campaign, but every now and then there’s a big ad campaign that reminds you who brilliant it can be.

Given I slagged BBH off recently for an Audi print campaign, it gives me great pleasure to say the piece of work I love is also by BBH and also for Audi.


Have a look, it’s brilliant.

Love it.

But here’s the thing, if you strip it back, the strategy isn’t that unique.

I’m guessing it would be something like, ‘Road safety is ultimately defined by how you react to how the drivers around you. The progressive and adaptive safety features inside modern Audi’s are designed to help drivers react and respond to the unexpected actions of those around them’.

I bet that sort of thing has been written a bunch of times for a bunch of cars.

But if, as I imagine it, the brief was summed up with something like …

[Audi designs their safety features in the knowledge … ] ‘The roads are full of clowns’.

… then it’s pretty obvious to see how they ended up with work that elevates itself above the usual car safety feature ads.

Of course maybe it had nothing to do with the brief, maybe it was all down to a great creative team, but BBH have always been brilliant at finding great strategic ways to elevate work so I’m hopeful this is a sign that the BBH I have always loved is back to being the BBH that made them so fucking good.



Mask. Cape. Birkenstocks?

So yesterday I wrote about my new birkenstock t-shirt … and I bet you were thrilled with it. Ahem. Well today I’m keeping with the birkies theme, but I’m adding a bit of Hollywood glamour to it.

No, seriously.

You see I was recently reading a copy of Empire Magazine – the film monthly – when there was an article on the classic 90’s romp, Con Air.

For those of you who need a reminder what it’s about, have a look at this.

Did you watch it?

They don’t make movies like that anymore do they.

Sure, it’s bollocks, but it’s absolutely amazing bollocks.

Hmmmmm, that doesn’t look so good written down, does it. Oops.

“So where’s the birkenstock reference”, I hear no one cry.

Well, in the article, they talk about how John Cusack – one of the movies stars – was a bit of a dick on set.

Apparently he didn’t really want to do the movie but – having resigned himself to having to do it – he decided to throw his star power around.

This is how he did it …

Have you read it?

Have you?

Really?

Well if you have, you’ll know that he insisted on his character wearing Birkenstocks.

Yes, bloody birkies!

Apparently his rationale was …

“I want to be the very first action hero who wears Birkenstocks. Charlton Heston wore sandals and he kicked ass. I wanna do the same”.

Amazing eh?

But even more amazing than that is that we now can understand why John Cusack’s career went the same way as MH370.

Which also explains why I ended up in advertising which, a friend of mine recently called, The MH370 of careers.



Taking The Piss, Literally …

I survived my first July 4th.

To be honest, it wasn’t that difficult given it was basically spending the day eating hamburgers wrapped in stars and stripes napkins.

In fact, I’m quite looking forward to next years already.

Anyway, when I lived in Sydney, there was this myth about someone called ‘trough boy’.

The legend goes that during the Mardi Gras festival, he would wrap himself in clingfilm, lie in the trough of pub urinal and beg people to piss all over him.

I never found out if it was true, but I bring this up because recently – while seeing George at Google – I saw this in their toilets. [Sorry, I mean ‘bathrooms’]

Now you might be wondering what I’m talking about – and I accept it’s not nearly as cool as the million other posts I’ve written about toilets – but what struck me was the high level of branding on this anti-splash toilet aid.

OK, so it works on a similar principal to the ‘fly’ that a Swedish airport painted on their urinals so men would aim their piss at it rather than let it fly all over the place [which was costing them a fortune in cleaning bills] but I must admit seeing their brand name proudly embossed on their product feels strange.

Actually scrap that, what feels weird is their name/logo looks like it suits a tech company more than a hygiene company … which says more about my prejudices than it does about them.

And so I decided to look into them and found out AirWorks is a product, not a brand and it’s made by a company called Hospeco who – if you look at their website – have an image much more in keeping with what I would imagine them to be.

And where am I going with all this?

Well, as normal, nowhere except to say in a world where brands are absolutely petrified of incurring any negative commentary from society, imagine being a brand where your objective is to literally have society piss on you.

If that wouldn’t lead to the greatest creative work ever, I don’t know what would.



Little Things Make The Difference …

In Asia, hand cleanliness is almost an obsession.

People even eat their sandwiches and burgers with knives and forks to avoid having to pick them up.

OK, so maybe that’s the case everywhere and I’m just showing my common Nottingham roots … but I still find it fascinating.

Everywhere you go, there’s hand sanitisers.

I’m not just talking in hospitals, I’m talking restaurants and all sorts of other places.

Recently, I saw this on my wife’s bag.

Yep, it’s a portable hand sanitiser.

But I’m not saying this because it highlights how long we’ve been in Asia, I’m saying it because making a product that can attach easily to a bag is an act of simple genius.

For a culture that doesn’t want to just wash their hands, but have them truly germ free … this little idea has big appeal.

Sure, there’s other products on the market that do a similar thing, but having something that attaches to your bag gives a peace of mind that wipes hidden in your bag, just can’t do. Plus being permanently on display helps advertise the brand to all who see it. Nice.

I’ve said for a while that I feel designers are doing things in more interesting ways than ad agencies and ultimately that’s down to one simple difference of approach.

Designers want to solve problems whereas ad agencies want to communicate problems.

Not all agencies are like this.

Not all agency employees are like this.

But right now, the design industry is kicking our ass and I swear it’s because we are holding on to remuneration models that reward ‘the old ways’ rather than finding ways to get paid for what we are truly capable of if given the freedom to do it.

[That and the fact adlands creative department hiring policy is still primarily based on art and copy rather than embracing different types of creative people/thinkers/doers]

We will have to wake up soon, otherwise the bullshit we churn out for Cannes – that we claim is ‘creative problem solving’ will become the benchmark for our standards and when that happens, we may as well pack up and go home.

But I have faith it can be done, if only because I saw The Kennedys Shanghai consistently solve problems in imaginative and innovative and intriguing ways for 9 months.



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 …




A Reminder That Expertise Doesn’t Mean Acceptance …

NIKON.

A fantastic camera brand with unquestionable credibility.

Now of course, many camera brands are under threat from the increasing quality – and convenience – of smartphone cameras, which is why many are trying to diversify their portfolio to counter any potential profit loss.

Based on this ad, it appears NIKON are trying to do this as well.

Of course, as we have seen from GOPRO and countless other brands … the ‘live action camera’ category has been growing at an incredible rate and while you could argue NIKON might be a bit late to the party, their credibility in cameras stands them in good stead.

Except it doesn’t.

You see what NIKON have failed to understand is that the ‘live action category’ is very different to the photographic category … sure, they both involve needing a lens to capture the action, but fundamentally the rules are different, the values are different and the culture around it are very different.

As I wrote here, GOPRO’s success is not just because they were one of the first to exploit this market, but because they were part of the culture that created this market.

They understood who these people were.

What they do.

What they want.

What they feel.

This knowledge influenced everything … from their positioning [the utterly brilliant, ‘Be A Hero’] through to the style of advertising they created.

The fact NIKON’s ad shows an image that comes from the perspective of watching others do something, highlights how they have failed to understand the audience they are talking too.

All they’ve done is transfer their photographic approach to their communication … but the audience they need to engage have a totally different set of values and aspirations.

Of course it would be hard for them to achieve this given GOPRO have already nailed it with their ‘in the middle of the action‘ photographic style … but that’s the difference between a brand that looks at a category as a sales opportunity versus a brand that is born from the culture it plans to engage with.

As I’ve said many, many times … culture is far more important than category.

Don’t let anyone tell you different.

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PS: Happy Australia Day … a day where you are not just legitimately allowed to get pissed before 10am, but positively encouraged to be. Have a top day. And a top hangover tomorrow.