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


WiFi Wickedness …

Just to make sure no one is under the mistaken illusion that this blog is topical, I wanted to bring your attention to something that happened way back in March 2016.

OK … OK … I know for this blog, that’s pretty topical, but let’s put that aside for now.

As I’ve discovered over the years, the car industry may be one of the most competitive industries out there and nothing highlights this more than at Auto-shows.

Seriously, it often appears the focus of the manufacturers is simply to out-do the competition rather than try to engage the potential owner.

Anyway, at New York Auto Show last year [yes, last year] Audi set up a bunch of free Wi-Fi networks and gave them names that highlighted the A4’s features over the BMW 328i.

And because people are always scrambling for free wifi at conventions like this, a huge amount of people not only saw it, but got educated by it at the same time.

Simple, smart, evil.

Of course, this isn’t a new thing, just a smart thing.

A deviously smart thing.



It Takes A Lot Of Work To Keep The Fizz From Going Flat …
April 21, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Creativity, Culture, Design

A long time ago, I knew the guys who started the design company ATTIK.

They had the sort of rollercoaster ride that made everyone involved in it, feel alive by scaring them half to death.

While this article is old, there’s tons of great advice in it for companies … whether new or old.

Having gone through a bunch of highs and lows with both Cynic and Sunshine – and a load of others to be honest – there’s so much of what they say that I absolutely relate to, whether that’s never letting the hustle stop to always being connected to what’s happening at the edge, rather than letting yourself be comfortable with the middle.

Or as they say it …

“It’s like retiring from football and ten years later expecting to play against younger guys, it wasn’t the way to go.”

Read it, I’m pretty certain you’ll enjoy it.



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.



Credit Where Credit Is Due …

One of the things that has always bugged me about adland is the ad ‘credit list’.

Sometimes you’ll read about a one-off print ad that has a longer credit list than a bloody movie.

Seriously.

Look, I get the importance of having your name on things – this is an industry obsessed with that – but it kind of gets ridiculous when people are mentioned because they put the stamp on the invitation for the client launch.

That’s why I always loved that Mother credited everything as Mother.

Sure, you could claim it robbed those involved in the making of the work from getting the credit they deserved – but I can tell you for a fact, there’s no way those people would be anonymous for long.

Of course the worst is when people take credit for things they didn’t really do.

Or big themselves up to make it sound like they were instrumental in what was created.

With that, I want to tell you a story that I heard from my friend – and creative extroidinatire – Kash Sree.

A long time ago – in the 80’s to be precise – there was a phenomenal writer called Richard Cook.

The creative director he worked for was notorious for not giving credit to the people who deserved it and had left Richard’s name off numerous previous pieces of well received work.

One lunch, the creative director handed Richard an ad and asked him to write some copy for it before he got back.

Richard – in a demonstration of his talent – wrote the piece over his lunch break.

It’s the ad at the top of this post.

The ad went on to win countless awards.

In an award-obsessed industry, Richard wasn’t exactly surprised that the creative director yet again denied Richard had anything to do with the work. So Richard unleashed his weapon.

He simply stated if anyone needed proof that he was responsible for the ad, they should read the first letter of every paragraph of the copy.

I’ll save you the bother. It spelled out ‘Richard Cook wrote this’.

Genius.



The Shanghai Kennedys Graduate …

So last week – on Founders Day – we saw The Kennedys Shanghai graduate after 9 months of trials, tribulations and torture [their words, not mine]

What an amazing journey … for them as well as for me.

I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t really know what I was taking on when I agreed to launch The Kennedys – Wieden’s creative talent incubator – but it has proved to be one of the best decisions of my life.

It’s been amazing.

Actually that doesn’t do it justice, it has been one of the most rewarding, exciting and creatively fulfilling times of my career.

Seriously.

Seeing these guys use their creative talent to brilliantly solve an amazing array of radically diverse challenges was an incredible privilege but the work they created was only part of the reward, because I also got to see how their journey affected all of them individually.

Watching them discover – and start to believe – in their own, individual creative voice was brilliant.

Not just in terms of how it affected the ideas they came up with, but also in how they looked at every challenge given to them.

At the beginning of The Kennedys, there was a sense of cautiousness – a feeling of concern they might do something wrong – but by the end, they didn’t give a shit about what others may think and had the confidence to go full force with whatever they believed.

Of course to get to that stage wasn’t easy … and yet the way we did it was.

In essence there were 2 parts.

The first was we needed the guys to feel they were in an environment where they were safe to be vulnerable.

Our view was that if they ever sensed they may be laughed at, criticised or ridiculed then we’d never get them to explore or experiment with where their creativity could go.

To achieve this, we told them we would never say ‘no’ to their ideas.

We could challenge them … we could ask as many questions as we like … but we could never, ever tell them their idea ‘is wrong’.

The second part was to give the guys challenges that made them vulnerable.

Part of this was to prove The Kennedys was a safe place for them to express themselves without limitation, but the other part was we knew the only way they’d discover the power of their truth was if they experienced real vulnerability and came out of it unscathed.

To do this, the first 3 months of assignments were made up of self expression exercises … from making a film about how you felt when you were made to dye your hair white, to creating art work about eating a live octopus to writing a resume of all your failures and an incredible amount of things in-between.

Now, I’ve got to be honest, a lot of people – including The Kennedys – felt I only did this so I could satisfy my evilness, but that is not the case at all.

When you see the creativity in the work they created later in the course – such as the takeaway coffee cup that turns into a frisbee for a local cafe that attracts lots of dog owners … to the Superhero toothbrush glove that makes 5 year old kids want to actually brush their teeth … to the innovation behind a Nike Shanghai Marathon campaign [to name but a few] – I’m pretty certain it was their comfortableness in their vulnerability that got them to this sort of work.

Nothing sums their confidence like their final assignment.

We asked them to come up with something they could leave at Wieden+Kennedy that defined what they had learnt over the course of The Kennedys.

In a perfect world, it would act as a legacy for them as well as an inspiration for everyone in the agency.

It didn’t take them long to sum up their 9 months experience with this turn of phrase …

“The freedom of creativity”

I liked that. I liked it a lot.

Their belief that creativity was about freedom and that freedom meant that any challenge could be met in interesting and intriguing ways was almost the perfect outtake from 9 months of bizarre and wonderful.

And so what did they do with their freedom of creativity?

This …

Yes … it’s a Street Fighter arcade game, but not like any Street Fighter arcade game.

You see the guys decided to reprogram the machine so it featured them as the fighters and included all their experiences over the 9 months of The Kennedy’s.

The characters.
The locations.
The challenges.

They’re all in there.

Including me … where my ‘special move’ is the F-Bomb, and a Birkenstock comes down to destroy everything in its way.

Cheeky bastards.

Someone at Wieden Tokyo asked me to explain what it was like and I said the best way to describe it was South Park on speed and LSD.

Seriously, it’s utterly mental and chaotic and for that alone, it perfectly sums up the journey and spirit of The Kennedys, let alone the way they used creativity to solve the challenge in the freshest of ways. 

But while it is absolutely awesome … what’s even better is the effort it took to make it.

I’m not talking about sourcing the game or even re-programming the game – though they were difficult in themselves – I’m talking about what they did to make sure it was all perfect.

For example, to ensure they could match all the animation of the ‘fighters’, everyone had to take thousands of photographs of themselves – in front of a green screen – in various poses.

THOUSANDS!!!

Then they needed to photoshop it all.

And then animate it.

And that’s before we get to all the other stuff like the background scenes … the animated story sequences and the re-design of the game cabinet.

At Wieden we have this phrase Fail Harder.

It basically means that if you are going to fail, make it because you were going after an audacious goal.

A goal that few would ever dare to try because they would see the obstacles rather than the opportunity.

This game – which they only had 3 weeks to pull off – is the perfect encapsulation of Fail Harder.

Except they didn’t fail.

In fact, it’s so good, I asked them to make another machine so I can have one for home. 

I’m thrilled they said yes … Jill, a little less so. Hahahaha.

Portland might have their “Fail Harder” wall but Shanghai has their “Kingdom of Chaos” Arcade game.  

I am in awe of these guys, I truly am.

7 strangers.
Over 9 months.
Given 21 individual assignments.
Producing over 140 pieces of work.

I couldn’t be prouder.

I couldn’t be more thrilled.

I couldn’t feel more honoured to have been a part of it and to have these talented guys in my life … even if they don’t exactly feel the same way, ha.

Of all the great things I’ve done at Wieden+Kennedy, this has undoubtedly been one of the best.

I’d go so far as to say it has been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

So before I end this post, I’d just like to say a big thank you to the guys who helped make this a very special time in my life.

+ The Magnificent Seven … Carmen, Felix, Griet, Matteo, Meng, Quentin and Wenshu
+ Juni Zhu, the Patron Saint of Saints
+ Arlene Lu and Maxito, the dynamic duo and table tennis losers
+ Patrick Rockwell, also known as the fixer
+ Bryan & Yang
+ Azsa
+ Stone
+ Grainne
+ Nike
+ Boom Boom Bagels
+ Jill Barker
+ Paula Bloodworth, Northy and Marula
+ Yvonne … for never raising an eyebrow when we put in our weird expenses
+ Kim Papworth, Joe Staples and Richard Turley
+ John Rowe and Ryan Johnson in Tokyo
+ Blake Harrop, Alvaro Sotomayor and Judd Caraway in Amsterdam
+ Tony Davidson and Ryan Fisher in London
+ Vitor Abud in Sao Paulo
+ Wieden HR who didn’t say anything even when we made The Kennedys do very weird shit
+ Everyone at Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai
+ Everyone who was part of the Kennedys in Amsterdam, London & Sao Paulo
+ Everyone who applied for the journey
… and finally David Kennedy [and Dan Wieden] who let this thing happen because on April 1st 1982, you started a company that believed in the freedom of creativity

If you ever have the chance to be in – or part of – The Kennedys in the future, whether that is in Shanghai or any of the other Wieden+Kennedy offices, grasp it with both hands.

It will change your life.

It did for me and I’m pretty sure it did for the 7 guys who were our guinea pigs in Shanghai.



Pepsi’s April Fools Ad Is Brilliant …

Well done Pepsi.

Where so many brands made their April Fool’s ad obvious as hell, you’ve gone with subtlety.

The use of a multi-cultural audience was brilliant.

I loved how you made sure they were all stunningly attractive to ensure minorities would find it even harder to feel like they belong.

Comedy gold.

And then you gave them all incredible creative talent to really rub people’s noses in it.

But not just any creative talent … you have them play Cello’s and use DLSR’s to show they have sophisticated taste as well as cash.

Lots and lots of cash.

You cheeky, cheeky monkeys.

And what can I say about that demonstration!

The most passive, bored-looking demonstration of all time.

Even when members of the crowd are supposedly struck by an overwhelming desire to express their creativity – like that scene from 80’s TV show, Fame – you can’t help but feel their version of self expression would be to play musical statues.

Seriously, whoever came up with that should win an Emmy.

I especially like the way you incorporated the Pepsi colours and logo in so many of those signs to really take-the-piss out of social movements.

Less, ‘stick it to the man’ and more ‘we are owned by the man’.

Brilliant.

I must admit, while I was enthralled, I wasn’t sure what the demonstrators were supposed to be demonstrating about.

Sure there was that banging soundtrack going on about ‘live for now’, but surely the opposite of ‘living for now’ is shuffling your feet in a demonstration rather than actually doing something you enjoy.

No wonder they looked so bored and walked like extras from ‘The Walking Dead’.

And that’s when you played your trump card … Kendall Jenner.

At first, I must admit I was confused.

Surely Kendell Jenner is the absolute opposite of raw, youthful energy?

But then you brought us right back into the humour by suggesting she would shun her luxury lifestyle to join a march that no one knows whats for, simply because some bloke with a cello strapped to her back smiled at her.

A bloke she would never encounter in normal life because she makes sure she never has to mingle with the common class.

Get these copywriters writing for Saturday Night Live NOW!

Just when I thought I couldn’t take any more, you upped the game again.

My god, are you insane?

Slowly we see the crowd of about 37 people come face to face with some nondescript Police Force.

I say nondescript, but they’re definitely not American.

Oh no, even you know not to take the piss out of the US Police Force.

I hold my breath wondering what is about to happen.

Then Kendell appears again …

And what’s she got in her hand?

Yes, a Pepsi. A can of fucking Pepsi.

She walks right up to the Policeman and hands it to him.

SHE FUCKING HANDS IT TO HIM!!!

Better yet, you make it so he takes the can and then takes a swig.

The crowd go wild.

Kendell walks backwards and disappears into the crowd.

What a twist … WHAT A FUCKING TWIST!!!

The 37, blue wearing, multicultural, creative practicing teens weren’t demonstrators at all, they were simply spreading the Pepsi word.

They were like Mormons.

Pepsi Mormons.

Absolutely amazing.

I tell you, this ad shouldn’t just win advertising awards, but also comedy ones.

I bet all of comedies greats are looking at this right now and clapping their hands in awe.

Nothing can beat this. Nothing.

Not even Pepsi’s previous attempt at comedy genius – the one where they linked the Mona Lisa’s smile to their logo design.

OK, so some may say the humour is too subtle, but come on, no one would believe that highly paid marketers and agency creative directors really think this reflects the attitudes and behaviour of modern day youth. I mean, apart from being utterly preposterous. it would be totally embarrassing.

No, this is comedy gold, pure and simple. Even the fact they launched it after April Fools Day is hilarious.

Thank you Pepsi for giving me the best laugh of 2017, though you should know being laughed at is not the same as making people laugh.

Pepsi: the choice for a generation that doesn’t exist.



Is Women’s Day In Danger Of Becoming Earth Hour?

Let me start by saying that Women’s Day – and Earth Hour – shine a light on very serious issues.

Issues that should be on top of everyones mind without the need for a reminder.

I also want to say that I appreciate everything has to start from somewhere – but I’m genuinely concerned that Women’s Day will end up going the same way as Earth Hour … where society thinks if they engage on the day, then they’ve done all they need to do for the rest of the year.

I’ve written about this in the past.

While this approach is a great way to ignite a social debate about very serious issues, they often end up – at best – only having a 24 hour impact or, at worst, becoming a superficial celebration of a specific day.

Earth Hour have struggled to combat this … as demonstrated by them adding ‘+’ symbol to their logo … but it will take more than that to maintain an interest for the general population.

But at least Earth Hour has been interpreted by society as a commitment to helping the environment, because I’m not sure the same level of clarity can be said of Women’s Day.

Just recently I heard of a company who honoured the females in their company with a range of gifts consisting of an oven, a quilt and a set of pots and pans to name but a few.

I know for a fact they didn’t mean it to be offensive … quite the opposite … but this highlights how many people/companies have totally misunderstood what Women’s Day is actually about and why it is important.

To further highlight the issue, I heard that some guys wanted to start a ‘Man’s Day’.

These were intelligent, Worldly men – not Neanderthals – and if you spoke to them about equality, they’d be passionately behind it, and yet they didn’t see how their suggestion would completely undermine the importance of this day for the females in their company.

And that’s my worry.

Because equality is a fucking important thing.

Something that requires more than a day of awareness … but if that is the route we need to go down to try and ensure the debate is not allowed to be placed in the shadows, then we must at least ensure the purpose of the day is clear because frankly, while it’s fun that Burger King renamed their Shanghai store for the day, it means little if the only reason they did it was for superficial topicality.

I’m not saying that’s why they did it, but momentarily changing your brand name or giving out gender reinforcing gifts highlights that the real purpose of Women’s Day could be in danger of becoming as superficial as adding a Q&A element to the Ms World competition.