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


Creativity Can Find A Way …

One of the things that bothers me about my industry is how they always talk about creativity when most of what they create is advertising.Of course advertising has creativity within it – sometimes, incredibly creativity – but often, the approach is to communicate the problem rather than solve the problem.

OK, so there are occasions when the biggest problem is a lack of awareness, but that is most definitely the exception rather than the rule.

I’ve written and talked about this so much over the years.

From my PSFK talk back in 2009 to my distain of Cannes scam to my adoration of designers and an absolute shedload in-between … and yet I continue to see briefs where the goal was obviously to ‘make an ad’ rather than ‘create a difference’.

This is not purely the agencies fault, in many cases it comes from the client.

Sometimes it’s because they need to support the retailers.

Sometimes it’s because their KPI’s are based on executional delivery.

Sometimes it’s because it would affect their remuneration structure with their agencies.

Sometimes it’s because they are not empowered to do anything different.

Sometimes it’s because they don’t actually care about solving, just producing.

And yet even in some of those approaches, there’s an opportunity to create a solution rather than make some noise if only they’d asked the right questions.

A while back, I had a client that briefed us on an ad campaign.

Got to admit, as much as I love them, it kind-of annoyed the hell out of me.

For me, that was like going to the doctor and diagnosing your own illness and solution.

So we asked why they wanted the campaign and they said they needed parents to let their kids do sport which was hard as they were worried their precious [only] child may get hurt.

And so we said, “If we can find a way to get parents to feel good about letting their kids do sport, are you open to it?”And when they said ‘yes’, it gave us the right to create bandaids that worked as badges of honor and comic books celebrating the power of sport.

Don’t get me wrong, if we had done a TV campaign it would have been a brilliant TV campaign.

But by asking a simple question, it allowed creativity rather than advertising to be the solution.

Or said another way, it opened possibilities rather than closed them off.

The reason for all this is that I recently saw a brilliant creative solution to slowing traffic down.

This is something that has been done in many ways over the years, including the brilliant Speed Dial by Colenso [video here] … but this was something even simpler.

This.

[Or if you’re too lazy to click on the link, the picture at the top of this post serves as a clue]

Now I know you might argue that once you know it’s not ‘real’ people won’t slow down, but I’d challenge that given the way the brain works.

But regardless, I will be interested to see what the data says after it has been in operation a while, but compared to a multi-million dollar ad campaign, or even the prices of stationing a copper there with a speed gun, I’m guessing it will be more effective.

And that is why our industry has to truly embrace creativity rather than just want to make ads.

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If You Want To Learn Insight, Listen To A Criminal …

I work in an industry that spends billions of dollars per year looking for insight.

You’d think for all that cash you’d discover some absolute corkers – but we don’t.

There’s a whole host of reasons for that.

Part of it is because this industry still mistakes insight for what people do as opposed to why.

Part of it is because some clients believe some insights may stop sales opportunity rather than open it up. [Hence the rise of ‘global human truths’ despite their fatal flaw of ignoring the importance of local context]

Part of it is because some believe that unless an insight is positive, the work will be negative. [Which is obviously bollocks, unless you use insights literally rather than laterally and even then, that doesn’t mean the work has to come out like that]

Part of it is because some in the research industry act like the legal industry and realize there is more money in keeping the question going than actually answering the question.

There’s a whole bunch of reasons, and while I believe insights can come from anywhere – I still believe those that reveal people’s beliefs, motivations and behaviours are often the most powerful of them all.

As anyone who has ever worked with/for me will know, I call these ‘dirty little secrets’, because in my experience, they tend to reveal far more than just why people do things, but the circumstances that led to this belief.

It’s not easy … it’s not always perfect … it always requires other work to validate, explore or exclude it … but I will continually push my lovely colleagues to investigate and discover, because when you reveal a dirty little secret, you are already on the road to making work that will be different and powerful.

The reason I say this is because I recently read about Ponzi-scheme King, Bernie Madoff.

While he comes across as a cold, calculated, sociopath … his intellect can’t be disputed.

When asked how he pulled off the biggest financial fraud in history, he said this …

“I succeeded because when you offer people a deal that’s too good to be true, they never want to look too hard into the facts. They say it’s because of trust. I say it’s because of greed.”

There’s a lot of truth in those 2 sentences.

There’s a lot of creative opportunity in those 2 sentences.

I don’t mean to make work that exploits even more people, but to make work for [say, a bank] that can build the sort of conversation that gives them a real chance to prove they have their customers best interests at heart.

But it won’t happen because too many clients think ‘negative insights’ leads to negative work [which is utter bullshit] and most banks already know what Mr Maddoff said, because that’s how they continue to screw the taxpayer out of cash to line their own pockets.

Shame, because a financial institution that decided to be utterly transparent and then communicated, “the reason we tell you everything is we don’t want you to blame us for anything” might be quite a refreshing change.



Don’t Be Like Them …

One of the problems I have with adland is their belief that they must resemble the client.

Not just in terms of the client’s business, but in how they speak, dress and act.

They’re wrong.

The whole point of an agency is to be objective.

Of course to do that means you have to know the business.

Have to know the agendas and goals of the individuals and the company as a whole.

And have to know the competitive and social landscape.

But our skill – beyond making work that captures the imagination that makes the business work – is to see the World differently to our clients while being totally aligned to the goals we’re all working towards is.

I’m hearing more and more companies forgetting this.

I’m hearing of more and more situations where people are being evaluated less on the work they do and more on how they present themselves.

Literally.

I cannot tell you how angry and upset this makes me.

Putting aside the fact that people should be allowed to be themselves – especially in the creative industry – the fact is, if you only have people who think like you and agree with you, then you end up in a situation where your value is basically diminished and the role of the agency is nothing more than simply an extension of the marketing department.

Contrary to what you think, this is not my attempt to justify how I dress.

I know I have a ‘unique’ approach to fashion, but it’s not because I want to be noticed, it’s because I have a ‘unique’ approach to fashion.

It’s who I am.

It means I am comfortable in my own skin.

It means I will be utterly honest to my clients and colleagues.

That doesn’t mean I’m always right, but it does mean I’ll always be honest.

It also means my clients are judging me on the work I do, not the clothes I wear.

Which is exactly as it should be.

Sure, first impressions count but in my experience, good clients place far more value on first interactions because they understand they’ll never get anywhere great if all they do is surround themselves with people who think, act and see things the same as them.

As one of my old senior Nike clients once said to me …

“Middle management don’t like to be challenged because they want to keep things the same. Senior management want to be challenged because they want to keep things improving”. 

Of course not everyone acts or thinks like that – and often there are reasons for it that are due more to company culture than individual beliefs – but in his particular case, if we weren’t pushing or challenging his beliefs or ideas then he would question why we were there, which is why he was one of the best clients I ever worked with and learnt from. 



If More Proof Was Needed …
October 17, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: America, Attitude & Aptitude, Corporate Evil, Culture, Death, Social Divide

A few weeks ago I wrote about everything I thought was wrong in America.

For such an amazing country, it’s mind-blowing to me that there is resistance to dealing with the issues undermining it.

Worse, there’s resistance to even talking about the issues undermining it.

In the post, I highlighted one issue in particular.

Gun control.

Despite the mountains of evidence, the NRA continues to ignore the damage and dangers of gun ownership.

They fight aggressively against any challenge to it.

Any.

They use ‘government control’ as their reasoning behind their obstinance.

That if they give in to this, what else will the government want to take away.

It’s a fucking stupid argument made worse by the fact I received this in my letterbox recently.

Admittedly it was addressed to the person who used to own our house.

A cop.

But that doesn’t take away the fact an organization felt it was necessary to send out a pamphlet about how to deal with school violence – specifically violence that goes ‘beyond the active shooter’.

I don’t know about you, but this makes me ill.

School should be a place of safety.

I know that’s unrealistic, but there’s a massive difference between worrying about bullying and worrying about being shot.

And yet the NRA choose to ignore their role in this situation.

Preferring to blame the shooter rather than acknowledge any role the guns play in allowing people to kill on a mass scale.

The fact this pamphlet had to be sent out at all should be enough for America to realise the gun laws in their country need a major overhaul.

Sadly it won’t be.



A University Ad That Doesn’t Act Like A University Ad. Or At Least Not A Typical One …

University drives me nuts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive fan of education but as I’ve written many times before [ie: here, here and here] they’ve gone from being a place for learning, debate and discussion, to being a place that – according to all their advertising – wants to be a production line for the rich and successful in business.

From we to me, as it were.

The only thing that is worse than this is universities focus on profit rather than learning.

I’ve said this many times, but I find this horrific.

Education is an investment in more than the individual, but the country as a whole.

Their knowledge helps countries grow and prosper, but by governments ignoring that and encouraging Universities to look at what they do in terms of ‘how much can you make out of people’, everyone suffers.

And I include universities in that statement because there will come a time where people realise the value of their degree – especially in comparison to the debt it means they incur – will ultimately make them question if it was worth the effort.

And yet the universities keep pumping out ads saying they’re for the elite.

The next generation of business leaders.

The entrepreneurs and power brokers.

Even though that’s obviously bollocks given how many people go to university versus become the next Zuckerberg etc etc.

Which is why I liked this ad for the University of Pheonix.

Yes it taps into my sentimental bullshit, but I like it because it’s not about supreme business success, but giving you choices.

In a World where working in one industry for the rest of your life is becoming obsolete, the idea of preparing people to be able to adapt is a good one.

Because we are entering a period where for the majority of people, success will be about survival – which is tragic but that’s what happens when Governments view the younger generation as a cost rather than an investment in everyone’s brighter future.



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.



Proof Amsterdam Is Full Of Drug Taking Loons …
October 11, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Agency Culture, Culture

A few weeks ago, the MD of Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam – the insanely smart, kind and horribly handsome – Blake Harrop sent me a cryptic note saying he needed my home address.

OK, it wasn’t that cryptic because he basically said, ‘can I have your home address’ … but it was still a bit weird. And lovely.

To be honest, I’d forgotten about it until I came home late and found a package marked “sculpture” on the dining table.

Despite thinking it was quite likely to be a letter bomb, I opened it up and found this …

Yes, I know it’s fucking hideous, but it’s also beautiful because it’s a clog that has been carved to look like a Birkenstock that is also an iPhone stand.

That’s right, if I was a one-legged weirdo, I could use it to hop outside ANNNNNNND store my iPhone in it.

But that’s not the total mad thing – though I accept the fact this this actually exists, is pretty bonkers – it’s the fact it was a present from the very lovely nutters at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, specifically planning amazeballs Maria and the wonderfully brilliant ECD, Eric.

Why?

Because they are beautiful people and have utterly alarming taste. Or should I say know I have utterly alarming taste.

Anyway I absolutely adore it and it is another reminder how special Wieden is as a company, partly because of who they have in the company …, even if to most folks out there, this would be a declaration of war or the most insulting way to say you didn’t get the job.

Thank you my beautiful fools over in the dam, I love it.