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


When You Stop Being Paranoid, You Stop Being Competitive …

Back in 2007, Forbes magazine ran this cover …

2007 is also the year Apple launched the iPhone, a product – lets not forget – that was ridiculed by Nokia executives.

While hindsight is 20:20, you can see why they were skeptical.

Here was a computer company entering a category they had absolutely no heritage or expertise in.

A computer company who only a few years ago, was on its knees after launching a plethora of badly thought-out products.

But while those are, on face value, two fair perspectives … they were blinkered to the changes that were going on both in tech and society.

Blinkered or arrogant.

The irony of business – especially our business – is that it needs a healthy dose of confidence and paranoia.

Confidence to be secure in what it believes in.

Paranoia to never let them feel settled with where they are.

The moment you think you’ve made it, you can be pretty sure you won’t be there for long.

When I was at Wieden, I could always tell who had the potential to be there for the long haul by their attitude.

In essence, those who thought getting the job was the achievement were not going to last.

Not always, but generally … because Wieden’s brilliance isn’t just about the work it produces, but the belief of what creativity can do and the ambition to see where it can be taken.

It’s similar to what I believe made Apple so powerful back in 2008.

Ambitious.

Tenacious.

Restless.

Relentless.

Stubborn.

Naive.

… and, of course, paranoid.

Not in terms of who gets there first – though that is always in the back of their mind – but who gets to do it best.

And that’s why I love hiring people who have a point to prove.

A chip on their shoulder.

A dirty little secret.

Because in a World where the smart people can perfect what we already have, it’s the freaks who change where we go.

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James Blunt Might Be Becoming My New Hero …

I know … I know … I really did write that blog post header.

And yes, I really am talking about James Blunt, the man that can make a choir on Songs Of Praise [is that still going] look like Black Sabbath in their prime.

But don’t forget, this is a guy who is disarmingly self aware.

A guy who uses his self-depreciation to turn you from a hater into a fan.

OK, not a fan of his music but – as I wrote here – a fan of who he is.

And recently I saw something that just makes me like him more …

Yep, that’s James Blunt on Tinder.

A man who people think has got laid more than a $2 crack whore in a room of drunk and horny jocks.

OK, so getting laid a lot is part of the ‘rock star’ cliche, but I still find this move to be brilliant.

Not just because he has found a way to make money from his perception.

Not just because he partnered with platform that is the epitome of his perception.

But because he has shown that when you deal with the commentary others have about you directly, you don’t just rob them of their ammunition, you give yourself a chance to change that perception.

I’ve talked about this a lot – I called it the 8-Mile strategy, after the Eminem movie, specifically the end rap battle at 6 minutes 40 seconds – but it’s also something else I wrote about.

The power of unplanned planning.

Unplanned is where a brand speaks in seemingly obvious terms.

Not in terms of what they do, but in terms of what people think you do.

For example, when Scalextric – the model car racing brand – embraced the perception the only reason men want their little boys playing with Scalextric is because it gives them an excuse to play it for themselves.

Did you click on the link?

Seriously, you should – it not only demonstrates what I’m blathering on about, it’s a great ad.

Great because it’s funny. Great because it’s relatable. Great because it doesn’t fall into marketing bullshit.

Can you tell I really, really like it?

So why do I think this approach works when the industry is seemingly so obsessed with talking about bigger purpose stuff?

Because in my opinion, it’s easier to nudge people’s perception of you if you talk in the context of how they already view you rather than spending millions trying to convince them that who you are is totally different to what they believe or are willing to accept.

It is, in some ways, the ultimate demonstration of honesty.

A lot of brands could learn from that.



A Car Ad On Social Media That Doesn’t Totally Suck …
September 13, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Advertising, Cars, Comment, Creativity, Marketing

On face value, the title of this post is quite a big call.

But, when you remember there’s so little good car ads about, it’s not that hard to ‘stand out’.

And while the visual element of this Porsche ad is pretty boring, there’s something about that line of copy I really like.

In just 12 words, it’s managed to capture the sense of awe a Porsche should make you feel.

And while you could argue these 12 words could be used for any car brand, when you know that Frederic Porsche once said …

“I want to build cars that are not something to everyone but everything to someone”

… you realize how good that copy is.



Speak In A Way Culture Can Hear …

I know this week has been a week of super short, super bad posts – even by my standards – but today I end the week on a longer and more serious note.

A few weeks ago, the country singer Glen Campbell died.

Despite sharing the same surname, I have never shown any interest in this singer/songwriter because basically, I hate country music.

Sure, I knew a couple of his songs, but if you’d asked me who sang them, I would have not been able to tell you in a million years.

So why am I writing about his death?

Well, when he died, a friend of mine – who is a massive music guy – wrote on his Facebook about Glen Campbell’s life and there was one bit that really hit me which was how he dealt with being diagnosed with Alzheimers.

Rather than retire quietly, he stepped up his workload.

Not to capitalize on his illness or end his career on a high … but because music was something he loved and he wanted to enjoy it before he forgot it.

And he was forgetting it.

He needed a teleprompter on stage to help him remember the lyrics to his songs.

He needed to be reminded that some members of his band were his very own children.

But that’s not the thing that hit me, it was the fact that he wrote a song about his illness called, ‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You’.

To be honest, just hearing he had done that reminded me of the poem Clive James wrote about his impending death. A post that was extra significant at the time because I was about to fly to England to be with my Mum for her impending heart operation – an operation that sadly didn’t work.

As many of you know, I’ve written a lot about death.

Not because I particularly like the subject, but because I believe not talking about it can do us far more harm.

It’s never a comfortable topic to discuss, but I know my denial of my Fathers situation led to me experiencing 10 years of pain.

And while my Mum died unexpectedly, she had made sure that it was something we talked about in general terms and then – as an act of love that is almost impossible to comprehend – she quietly made arrangements to ensure that if she did not get through the operation, the legal ramifications of her passing would not add extra burden to my broken heart.

I must admit, I initially found it hard to think that she had done this for me.

Of course I recognised it as an act of love but as she had once told me that she was scared of dying alone, I imagined her fears would have become even stronger while she was preparing all these things for me.

I’ve got to be honest, it’s only writing this that has made me realise that regardless the nervousness Mum was feeling, she would also have had a sense of contentment that she was able to do this for me.

That’s a level of love that has literally made me tear up while I am writing this which reinforces why I am so, so glad that she knew I was with her when the worse moment happened.

I write all this because I hope Glen Campbell’s family will one day feel the same sense of love when they read the lyrics to his sons, ‘I’m not gonna miss you’.

I can’t imagine how it must have felt hearing this song for the first time – especially as his Alzheimers had only just been diagnosed – but in time, I truly hope they can see past the pain and feel the love of someone who, at their darkest hour, wanted them to know how much he loved them.

I’m still here, but yet I’m gone
I don’t play guitar or sing my songs
They never defined who I am
The man that loves you ’til the end
You’re the last person I will love
You’re the last face I will recall
And best of all, I’m not gonna miss you
Not gonna miss you
I’m never gonna hold you like I did
Or say I love you to the kids
You’re never gonna see it in my eyes
It’s not gonna hurt me when you cry
I’m never gonna know what you go through
All the things I say or do
All the hurt and all the pain
One thing selfishly remains
I’m not gonna miss you
I’m not gonna miss you

It those lyrics haven’t affected you, then you’re not human.

Which leads to a point I’d like to make about advertising.

No, really …

As you will have worked out by now, I am an emotional bloke.

Of course that doesn’t mean I don’t value intelligence or information or data, it’s just that if our learnings aren’t conveyed in a way that captures how our audience actually feels, it becomes ‘cold’ to me.

Part of this is because I believe our job is to connect to culture, part of this is because I believe creativity should push and provoke … but mostly, it’s because I believe the best work connects to audiences on a much deeper level than the superficial.

Put simply, it feels like it’s come from inside the culture rather than from someone observing it.

And that’s why Glen Campbell’s song is so powerful to me … because even though I hate country music, when I read his lyrics, I was reminded that great work talks in a way you powerfully feel rather than passively rationalize.

Thank you for the lesson Glen.



Finally, Something Useful On This Blog …

Yes it’s a national holiday in America and yes, I said there would be no post today … but the thought of you not having your daily dose of my blog joy broke my heart so I am doing this for you.

I know, I should be knighted.

Ahem.

Anyway, the wonderful Mark Sareff has written a book.

I’ve written about Mark before because apart from being whip smart, he’s also one of the nicest people on the planet.

[Though I appreciate being being one of my friends and mentors may undermine that declaration a bit]

Anyway, while Mark may not be the best known names in planning, he is – in my opinion – the best planner in the industry and so anything by him is going to be interesting and useful and that is exactly what his book is.

It’s full of fantastic strategy nuggets of awesomeness based on real-world experiences.

It’s fun and quick to read and best of all, it’s free so if you are at all interested in smart thinking without the intellectual bullshit, then download it here … it just may be the first useful thing I’ve ever done for anyone on here.

Right, back to my holiday.



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.



Why A Bin Is Better Than Earth Hour …

I’ve written about my skepticism of Earth Hour.

And while I appreciate any bit of good is good, I feel the problem with Earth Hour is that it lets people off the hook for the remainder of the year just because they turned their lights off for a few hours on a single day.

Recently I saw this …

Yes, it’s a bin.

A simple bin in the airport.

But what I love about it is the fact it says LANDFILL, rather than rubbish.

Maybe this is nothing new – maybe this is just a byproduct of having lived in China for the past 7 years – but by ensuring I knew exactly what was going to happen to what I put inside it, it made me look at what I was doing.

I’d like to think I give a shit about the environment, but I can honestly say that bin had a stronger effect on me than Earth Hour. Not only that, but that bin won’t let me off the hook for the rest of the year. It will be there – every time I pass it – reminding me that my choices will determine how much I poison the planet.

The other thing this does is highlight my big problem with adland … which is that it loves to communicate problems rather than solve them.

When a bin [and let’s remember, this is not the first time this has happened] produces more effective solutions than much of adland – and certainly what adland awards at shows like Cannes – maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what we view is creativity.

Please don’t think I am pissing on the power of communication or ignoring the importance of craft and exploration – of course I’m not – but for an industry that celebrates the freedom of creativity, it’s amazing how limited we are in our execution of it.

Of course part of that is our ego – because not only do we like to think that we can solve all the problems of the universe, but we feel simply ‘renaming’ something is beneath our creative brilliance, despite it potentially being more effective than a Worldwide campaign asking us to turn our lights off for the night.

I think this is why I loved Fearless Girl and Mr Parking Ticket Nerd because at the end of the day, they have understood our industry is at it’s most powerful when we’re at the creative end of business rather than the business end of creativity.