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


When Media And Messaging Go Stupid …

So I’m away tomorrow so this is the last post of the week.

I know … what an early gift eh?

Well let’s see if you still feel that way after you’ve read it.

So recently – in the Fulham Broadway tube station – I saw this …

I know, it’s an innocuous little ad.

Harmless even.

What on earth could I find wrong with it?

Well a lot really,

Let’s start with this ad being in Fulham Broadway Tube Station.

I don’t know if any of you have see that station, but it’s this:

Yes … it’s on a street.

A busy street.

A busy street with no waterway conveniently located.

At least no waterway located within a few minutes walk so you could change your choice of transportation.

Why?

Why spend money on that?

Yeah ,., I know someone will say it’s because passengers from Fulham may catch another tube in a place where a ‘Thames Clipper’ is possible, but come on, if that’s the case do it in the fucking station where that is likely to happen.

But then there’s the actual ad.

I absolutely loathe ‘best kept secret’ type messaging.

Apart from the fact it is ensuring all the customers of Thames Clipper who may actually think it is the best kept secret are now about to be inundated by new passengers stealing their seat and general calmness of commute [because yes, advertising does work] this doesn’t tell you in any way WHY it’s the best kept secret?

Is it the tranquility of the trip?

The speed of the journey?

The price? [Let me tell you, it’s definitely NOT the price]

The timetable?

The locations you can get to?

The views?

The history of the buildings on the embankment?

The seats?

TELL ME, JUST WHY THE HELL IS IT LONDON’S BEST KEPT SECRET?

There are so so many different ways they could have handled this campaign … beautiful, inventive, charismatic ways … ways that could have made someone think twice about the darkness of the tube or the traffic jamming experience of the bus … ways that would have given the Thames Clipper a personality that out charmed even TFL … but no, instead they went with a poster of an old, white male who looks like he works in the city using a quote that says absolutely nothing about the experience in places where you are literally miles from being able to engage with it even if you wanted to.

Thank God I’m not here tomorrow, because I need a lie down.



Oh China …

I am spending a lot of time in China at the moment for work.

I won’t lie, this makes me very, very happy.

And while it is in Beijing more than my ‘home’ of Shanghai, it still gives me a very warm feeling.

That said, on a recent trip to Beijing, I had a classic #OhChina moment that made me smile.

#OhChina moments are – for people who have ever lived there – an experience where you cannot imagine it happening anywhere else in the World.

It is almost without question something slightly frustrating … created either because of cultural differences, a loss in translation or someone being a bit cheeky, lazy or shit.

In our time there, we had it all …

From hiring a painter who turned up with no paint or brushes because he said he was there to paint [and nothing else] to my mate discovering his cleaner was earning some money on the side by letting workmen cool off in the summer sun, by either sitting in his air conditioned apartment or – for a bigger fee – have a shower.

As I said, it’s frustrating and sometimes even annoying, but within an hour, you find yourself smiling and muttering, “Oh China”.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was in my hotel and went to get my laptop and passport that I had left in the room safe.

China has low crime – especially towards foreigners – but I put them in there as I was out most of the day and didn’t have a bag with me to keep them in.

So I go to the safe and the passcode doesn’t work.

Nothing.

I knew it was the right code and it registered as the right code but it did nothing.

So I rang down to reception to ask them to come check it out.

To be honest, this thing has happened to me before.

Once in Shanghai, the safe failed and they opened it by welding the doors off.

I still remember the feeling of confusion as I saw them come in and cover the smoke alarms … but they did it and I made my flight.

So back to Beijing …

The hotel sent up 3 people.

An engineer, a duty manager and some other person.

They kept trying to reprogram the safe but it wasn’t working.

Worse, the safe was built into the wardrobe and it was a ‘top-down’ model, so it was much harder to get to it.

So what were they going to do?

This …

Yes, that is the sound of them drilling.

Not the hinges, I should add … the bloody middle of the safe.

With a long drill bit.

So long it could go through the safe and my passport and laptop.

I asked them what would happen if they damaged my goods and they said, “we don’t know”.

Hahahahahaha.

But despite the potential for absolute tragedy, they not only succeeded, they did it with no damage whatsoever.

OK, so the safe was fucked …

… but my stuff was fine.

My favourite bit was when the manager worriedly asked if I’d taken any photos because he didn’t want anyone to think this was normal. Of course, the fact this has happened to me before meant it is pretty normal but the reality is the staff were very nice and apologetic and – frankly – it made me miss this country even more because it’s this sort of ridiculous that makes this country so infectious. At least for me.

Oh China …



Technology Can Make Us More Human …

Technology gets a hard wrap.

It is blamed for all manner of wrongs, when we conveniently forget we are the ones programming it and using it.

Of course, they’re not totally blameless – but like powerpoint – we have to accept that the ‘badness’ that comes from it is, at the very least, equally our own fault.

But sometimes you see something that reminds you of what power technology has.

How is can change how someone looks at the World … feels about that World … thinks about the World.

No where is this more apparent in the area of medicine, where AR is being used in ways that few ever originally considered.

Not just to make people heal, but to make people feel better.

There’s a big difference between those 2, and if you are not sure what they are, then look at this wonderful clip of an elderly, Liverpool football fan, who is suffering from demetia.

Like most things, the role of technology is in our hands. We either use it for good or for evil and the scary thing is – as we’ve found out from countless platform ‘owners’ – the line between them is very thin indeed.



Mario Has An Accident …

So I love video games.

Absolutely love them.

I’ve had pretty much every console since the bloody Philips G7000.

And trust me, if you can look at that console favorably, you must really love gaming because it was pretty shocking.

But of all the games I’ve played on all the consoles I’ve owned, one has been a particular fave.

Mario Kart.

God I love that game.

So simple yet so addictive and always so much fun.

So while I have that game on countless Nintendo consoles, when I heard it was coming out on the iPhone, I quickly downloaded it.

Only to get this …

WHAT. THE. FUCK. MARIO?!

Nintendo have always been the bastions of seamless entertainment.

Turn on and play … but they launch a game on the bloody iPhone, a device that could – in theory – open up a huge commercial opportunity for them and it doesn’t work.

Worse, they openly tell you it won’t work for a few days … which begs the question, why launch it?

Maybe it’s not Nintendo’s fault as it has been widely reported Apple launched iOS 13 too early and it’s littered with bugs [another sign that Mr Jobs is long gone] but whatever the reason, as a Nintendo and Mario fan, this has pissed me off … almost as much as it will piss R/GA off when my timesheet is filled with the job code MARIOKRT.

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I appreciate this is not exactly the best post for Remembrance Day, or maybe it’s the perfect reminder why we should all get along with our neighbours so we avoid ending up causing a wealth of pain and hurt no one deserves or recovers from.



Aspirational Averageness …

This is kind of an addition to the post I wrote a week or so ago.

You see I recently read a business magazine and almost every article – and I mean EVERY article – had a story about a company that was obviously trying to position themselves as ‘against the ordinary’.

Now while I appreciate anti-ordinary can be manifested in many ways, I couldn’t help but think that all the brands featured were selling products that were the epitome of ordinary.

Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Ordinary is both misunderstood and underrated which is why I think it would be great if a company actually embraced and celebrated that’s what they did … however in the context of the companies featured in the magazine, they were suggesting that what they did elevated them beyond all comparison.

I get why they would want to do this.

I get the commercial value of being seen to do this.

But if you’re going to claim it, your products and brands should demonstrate it and in the great majority of the companies featured in the magazine, the absolute opposite was true.

There are probably a ton of reasons for this.

From the ego of management to the job protection strategies of the people below them to the revenue fear of the agencies they work with … but that still doesn’t escape the fact the stuff they made was about as bland as a beige Volvo.

To paraphrase that old joke, isn’t it disappointing the people who know how to create extraordinary products and brands decided to end up making beige and boring instead.



Goodbye Otis Inheritance …

Last year, when I joined R/GA, I wasted my sons inheritance by having an array of stickers made for the team.

Of course I did it under the guise of expressing our planning philosophy and approach, but really it was so they could cover their laptops in them like the vandals I wanted us to become.

Or something.

To be honest, even as tools towards hooliganism, they were still better than the stickers and badges I have had made previously. Even the one’s I did to say goodbye to America.

Well a year has passed and I’m still here [fools] so I thought I’d waste a bit more of Otis’ inheritance by having some old-school tech made for them.

That’s them at the top of this page.

To be honest, I’m still trying to work out the reason for them but I think it has a lot to do with basically being cheap as chips [go on, say it, “like me”] … so cheap in fact, that I had some made for a Mike and Sam – a wonderful creative team here – who have the misfortune of sitting opposite me.

And they say I don’t know how to win friends and influence people.



Anything Is Easy If You Don’t Want It To Last

I am unashamedly a believer in brand.

I know there is a huge amount of talk about its commercial value, but – like the talk about whether we need ‘insights’ – there is plenty of evidence to suggest it continues to drive companies growth and revenue.

And while there are accademics, like Byron Sharp, who have proven people are far less loyal than they claim, the fact remains that loyalty – whether emotional or transactional – has significant value in building sustainable success for a brand.

But here’s the thing many brand owners forget.

To stand any chance of loyalty from your audience you need to be loyal to them.

Continuously.

It’s not good enough to simply offer discounts and early access.

Sure, that can help, but audiences know exactly why you’re doing it.

Real loyalty – by which I mean there is an almost irrational connection to a brand – is born from brands acting in ways that prove why people should care and keep believing in you.

Behaviour not just words.

Progress over the comfort of repetition.

Authenticity not just chasing popularity.

Telling beautiful stories not just spouting facts or contrived ‘ads’.

As I said, there are some marketers who say none of this matters in a world where digital enables them to have ‘direct to consumer’ relationships at a fraction of the cost of brand building.

I get it. It’s quick and it can be powerful which explains why every day there seems to be a new company claiming it will disrupt the category.

But where they go wrong is not realising disruption without distinction [ie: brand building] doesn’t create long term sustainable value, it just creates new commoditization.

In such an extremely competitive, highly-pressured, fast moving world, I would argue that brand has never been so important to stand a chance of having a stronger future.

And while this might all sound hypocritical given I work for a company who is trying to invent the future of marketing – which includes building new ways to have D2C relationships for clients, finding new ways to interact with subcultures through digital and passionately believes in disrupting categories – the fact is we never do this without an obsessive focus on the authenticity of the brand and how we can help it create the future culture wants to follow rather than just exploiting the offers of the present.

For me, the real issue is we are seeing is companies wanting all the good bits of brand loyalty without much of the effort, for which I leave them with this story I heard when living in China.

The successful farmer plants their seeds and nurtures them in the knowledge that when it comes time to harvest, their crop is bigger and healthier. It takes time, but it is always worth it.