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


The Most Ridiculous Phone Management System In The World …

American companies – like every other country in the World – love automated telephone systems.

To actually get to speak to a real human, is harder than earning a PHD in astrophysics.

But what makes me laugh is how they try so so hard to make it sound like you’re talking to a real person when it’s painfully obvious you’re not.

However, in America, it has reached new heights.

I was organizing Direct TV and was having to repeat my answer to every question asked by the ‘automated human’ because it doesn’t understand British accents when – finally – it accepted my answer.

Imagine my surprise when immediately after, I heard the sound effect of a person typing.

Seriously, it was trying to suggest they were literally inputing my answer into their system.

If that wasn’t mental enough, the sound they used sounded awfully like a typewriter from the 1920’s.

Apart from the fact that a supposed high-tech company shouldn’t feel embarrassed about not using real people, if they really believe genuine human interaction is more desirable for customers than a computer, then HIRE SOME FUCKING HUMANS.

Another example where a consultancy has come in to improve efficiency and ignored reality.



Know Your Audience …

So yesterday – on Linkedin – I found this posted on my feed …

Now putting aside the fact I no longer work at Wieden, the fact is that part of the reason WK is so special is because it doesn’t have an abundance of people who have – or want to have – an MBA.

Wieden is born from a desire to use creativity to do it’s fighting.

That ranks higher than absolutely everything and anything else.

Now I should point out that I am not suggesting someone with an MBA isn’t creative, however that qualification does mean you have a greater focus on business than creativity and that ultimately flies in the face of Wieden’s beliefs.

Of course WK are savvy at business and Mr W is most definitely a business guy.

However unlike many in the ‘commerce World’, they want to grow through creative excellence not ‘optimization’.

Which is why I found this ad so weird.

Has Willamette had a lot of Wieden people there before?

Or had a lot of interest from them?

Or is the reason they are offering such a huge financial incentive means they want them because it will benefit them as much as the student?

Even though a recent decision at WKSH means there are some people who – in my opinion – could do with some basic lessons in how to successfully build a business – the reality is this ad shows how little Willamette know, rather than how much.



Alphabet Genocide …
July 10, 2017, 6:20 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, Comment, Culture

When you move countries, you miss a bunch of stuff from home.

I wrote about this a while back – but having moved to LA, I have discovered something I miss that I never even considered before.

This:

Yep, it’s the letter u.

For some reason, America seem to have some sort of vendetta towards it and have tried to commit ‘alphabetical genocide’ to wipe it out forever.

Honor
Labor
Savior

Of course I never write it like that [just like I will always spell doughnut, d-o-u-g-h-n-u-t and I will always use an ‘s’, not a ‘z’], but every single time I have used the English way of writing a ‘u’ word with the ‘u’, I get a note saying ‘you know in America we spell it without the u’.

Yes America, I do know that and while I am incredibly grateful for the hospitality and generosity you have shown towards me and my family, I will never spell a word without a ‘u’, I will never a high-five and I most certainly will never call football, soccer.

What’s weird is I was never this much of a dick in China. OK, I was – but not about this sort of thing – which has taught me that nothing makes you more British than living in a country that claims to speak English. I dread to think how I’ll react when Otis starts adopting more Americanisms … or as Andy said, more Californiaisms, which – even US citizens say – is the lowest of the low.



Brands With Tickets On Themselves …

I’ve written about San Pellegrino before.

I talked about their mental joint promotion with Bvlgari.

And the with Vogue.

I talked about how a brand I previously enjoyed was in danger of alienating me with it’s wanker associations.

To be honest, it’s less about who they partner with and more about how they present that partnership … screaming it out, showing their desperation rather than cool.

Well recently I saw something else …

To be honest it’s something I’ve seen for ages but maybe, because I was in Malibu, it seemed even more ridiculous despite the fact it kind-of fitted-in with all the other ridiculous folks that were there … prancing around in their designer gear despite the fact they were in a little park for little kids.

What am I going on about?

This …

Or more specifically, this …

Lets put aside the fact this is a can of soda wearing a little hat – A. LITTLE. HAT. – and focus on them creating an app that they want you to download before drinking their overpriced flavoured water.

What the hell?

Seriously, how pretentious, egotistical and up-yourself can they be?

Even the millionaire kids on instagram – with their turned up collars and turned down shades can’t pull all that off so successfully at once.

Seriously San Pellegrino, get your shit together.

You seem to have forgotten being classy and sophisticated is different to acting like Kim Kardashian.

I know Italians are capable of some alarming lack of taste, but this might be a step too far.



Create Ideas Not Advertising …

Remember when I was about to leave Wieden and I wrote a post about some of the work I had loved being a part of over the past 7 years?

Remember how I said there were some other campaigns I was super excited about but couldn’t talk about them because they hadn’t come out?

No, I didn’t think you would [dicks!] … but the point of this post is one of those campaigns has just launched and I love it.

There’s so many reasons why it warms the cockles of my heart.

It’s fun.

It’s insanely diverse in its execution.

But most of all, an idea rather than an ad idea.

I’ve talked about this for years. For me, the best thing we can do is identify the problem, create a solution and then use comms to tell as many people as possible about this ‘new thing’. Sadly, the majority of advertising still is based on identifying the problem then spending millions of dollars telling everyone about the problem.

But what is ‘this’, I hear you cry. This …

What you’re looking at are plasters [or, now I’m in America, bandaids] for kids.

They were developed by us for NIKE to celebrate Children’s Day.

5 years ago the reason parents didn’t want their kids to play sport is because they wanted them to study their school books. Fortunately that is less of an issue now [but still an issue] but what we discovered is there’s a new barrier and that is that parents worry their kids will get hurt. This is more than just a physical element – it’s tied up to a whole host of complex issues parents are going through, from not wanting to give them the pressure they went through to also wanting to prepare them for the insane competition they will face in life – but what we saw was an opportunity to enable kids to show their parents that sports makes them rather than hurts them.

So we made a product.

A plaster/bandaid.

A plaster/bandaid that actually isn’t about protecting the injuries kids get from playing sport but a badge of honor for playing the sport they love. A badge of honor that lets their parents know they are being awesome for letting their kids compete and that what they get out of it are far more than bumps and bruises.

We made this product.

We developed a whole range – with the cultural context and vernacular of each specific sport embedded into the design.

Then we created advertising with them. About them.

Billboards that you can take the product from.

Films that talk about the beauty of pure play.

Posters that you can collect and use.

Comic books where the images on the plasters form the story. 

And best of all, Nike had them in their stores.

Lots of them.

For kids to have, use and show their parents.

And best of all, it was real. They made tens of thousands of packets of them.

It’s not scam. It’s solving a problem in the most creative of ways.

And even though they waited till I’d left to launch it, I still love it.

Hell, even Forbes loves it. [Though the article is a bit pants]

So to everyone at Wieden Shanghai, especially the guys who were the real instigators of it [I know who you are] not to mention Steve, Andy and PT at NIKE, congratulations, it’s brilliant and I’m so happy and proud of you.

Only took 7 years … hahaha.



Out Of The Times …
June 22, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Culture, Marketing, Marketing Fail, Positioning, Sport

The Times.

One of the icons of newspapers and journalism.

Not just in the UK, but across the whole World.

Sure, there have been scandals along the way – not to mention the Murdoch ownership – but overall, it is still a paper that commands huge respect which is why I found this recent ad of theirs on Facebook rather baffling.

Yes, I know football is a global sport worth billions of pounds a year.

Yes, I know The Times have a football writer, Henry Winter, that is highly revered.

Yes, I know that Facebook audiences may be more likely to react to a football story than a journalism story.

But …. come on.

It’s the fucking Times.

And while having a global perspectives has never been so important as it is today, I’m not sure football – or Jose Mourinho for that matter – is going to drive the subscriptions they crave, especially when there are so many more topical [and important] issues they could push against … whether that’s the politically motivated movement to promote anything that challenges a claim as false news or even the tragic terrorist events that have taken place in London in the last few days.

While I appreciate the need to broaden your audience base is vital, chasing them never leads to long term success because ultimately you are handing over your destiny to people who could change their allegiance in a heartbeat, especially when there are so many other alternatives all vying for your attention.

As I wrote a while back, if you don’t commit to what you were created for, then how can you ever expect your audience to commit to what you stand for.



It’s A Fine Line Between Surviving And Thriving …

I’ve survived my first week.

Or I think I have … maybe they are just preparing to tell me to go back to China at the end of the day.

Talking of China [subtle eh] …

Just before I left Shanghai, I was asked if I would write an article about my 7 years in China.

Originally it was meant to be an overview of my experience and what I felt the industry could learn from it. As that sounded far too hard/pompous/wanky, I chose to ignore the brief and write something else.

Given I would always encourage someone who has the opportunity – and interest – to go to China, I thought it might be worth me posting on here, if only for the fact it saves me having to write something new which means I won’t give the impression to my new employer and colleagues that all I do is write blog posts and plan my holidays. Ahem.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I’m a cliché.

I have succumbed to the classic ‘7 year itch’ … except instead of walking away from a wonderful wife and son, I’m walking away from a wonderful country and company.

Yep, I’m leaving China and Wieden+Kennedy.

So if they’re so wonderful, why am I leaving?

Well it’s not because I’m having a midlife crisis – where my head has been turned by something that is ultimately going to lead me to destruction – it’s for a whole host of painfully sensible reasons.

But that’s not what this article is about because Mumbrella asked me to write about my time in China … a kind-of ‘what I’ve learnt and what are the implications for the industry moving forward’ type-of-thing.

The trouble is, I know those things tend to ignite the same sense of dread as hearing a colleague ask, “do you want to hear about my dream?”, so I’ve decided to ignore the brief and write a love letter instead.

I’ve absolutely loved my 7 years in China.

In fact I’d go as far as to say it has been one of the best times of my life – both personally and professionally.

Sure, a big part of that is because of Wieden, my clients and the fact my awesome son was born here … but the whole experience has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Being able to see the huge shifts that have gone on first-hand feels like a total privilege.

I’m not just talking about the obvious stuff, but things like creativity, cultural diversity and technology.

Few things will ever make me as happy as being able to tell the West there’s areas where China is literally miles ahead of them … areas they were convinced they were dominant in.

China did that for me.

Of course there’s been challenges along the way … brands who prefer convenient answers over doing the right thing and a general attitude of good enough is good enough to name but two … but overall, it’s been an incredible and special time.

I’ve had a chance to do things I never thought I’d ever be able to do.

I’ve worked on projects with brands I will forever be proud to be a part of.

I’ve made friends with people who I will always want to be close to.

I’ve re-learnt almost everything I thought I knew.

And on top of all that, I’ve seen an industry start to realise what it is capable of being on it’s own terms, not others.

Not bad for a bald bloke from Nottingham.

Now, anyone who knows me is probably freaking out how positive this article is, so I’ll leave you with 7 things [one for each year I’ve been here] that I hope the industry will stop doing.

This is not because I want to my cultivate a grumpy-bastard image, but because as much as things have improved over the years, the industry is in a fragile state and if we don’t keep pushing forward we could start slipping backwards.

[Yes, I appreciate there’s more than 7, but hey, this is new, optimistic LA version of me. Ahem]

1. No more decks saying ‘China is big’. Everyone knows that. Even a myopic Trump supporter living in Boise, Idaho knows that. And while I’m at it, can Westerners stop throwing the word ‘Confucius’ on every 3rd slide.

2. The clichés of casting. Seriously, if an alien landed here and watched the ads, they’d never know this is a country with incredible diversity and nuance.

3. Please, please, please no more toilet paper ads acting like it’s a symbol of status and sophistication. It’s not. It’s something you clean your arse with.

4. You might not believe it, but there’s more ways to connect to culture than HTML5. Honestly.

5. To the planners who act like they’re academic intellectuals … stop! You’re not fooling anyone and you’re undermining a discipline that needs to be recognised for uncovering exciting creative opportunities, not spouting shit read from a business magazine.

6. Stop with the scam. It’s embarrassing and it is killing the industry for all of us. We all know who does it and I don’t give a shit if they’ve paid for a small store in Wuhan to run their ‘idea’, it’s still bullshit.

7. I know they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it isn’t. It’s lazy and sells the industry short – not just financially, but creatively. There’s a bunch of incredibly talented people here who given the space and time, will reward us with something new and great.

That’s it. Not that hard really…

So with that I say thank you China.

I leave a better person than I came and I’m going to bloody miss you.