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


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.



When You Run Out Of Reasons To Believe …

Reasons To Believe, or RTB for short.

Of course they’re super important, but a few years ago, I realized that clients felt they were important for different reasons than agencies.

For us, it’s about proof. Something tangible we can use to help build our ideas off.

Of course it’s best when it’s something unique, but as long as it’s true, that will do.

But for clients, it’s different.

Sure, they know it helps sell their product to their audience, but it’s also important to them for self-validation reasons.

Imagine you’d spent 3 years of your life making Post-It notes slightly more sticky. You’d want to feel that was worth it wouldn’t you … so when an agency comes back with an idea that doesn’t focus on the importance of ‘stickiness’, you’d feel all your hard work was wasted. So you’d push back.

And back.

And back again.

And even though it leads to fucking awful advertising, you’d be happy because for you, this isn’t about selling the product, it’s about you feeling less shit that a proportion of your life was spent on making a piece of paper slightly more sticky.

I experienced this quite recently – when I was in China.

For weeks we had issues with a client on a particular idea before we discovered he was the person behind the design of a small element of the brand and he felt we were ignoring it … which translated to him feeling we were ignoring him.

Ego can be a great thing.

It can give you the impetus to push you forward. Try new things. Explore new standards.

It can also fuck you up.

Make you lose sight of the bigger picture. Or any picture for that matter.

Which is probably what happened to the guys who had to do the packaging for the brown packing tape.

And why I love the absolutely correct comment from Mike Jennings [courtesy of John Dodds]

If that wasn’t enough, here’s something else to blow your mind.

I am on holiday on Monday for 2 days.

A work holiday and a national holiday.

Bet you thought my days of free holiday blagging were over, didn’t you.

Well you thought wrong, because it is July 4th … a day I will soon grow to love.

And with that, I’ll see you Wednesday y’all.



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.



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.



Why Trust Is The Single Most Important Word In Business …

One of the things that makes me smile is when I hear – or read – Western articles talking about how things like iPay will change the way people spend/transact forever.

The reason for my amusement is not just because this has been happening in China for at least 2 years, but that iPay is a massively inferior product when compared to something like Wechat wallet.

Now, to be fair, lots has been written about Wechat.

From how it has become a hub for almost every aspect of daily life in China – from messaging, to ordering food and taxis to spending, borrowing, investing or sending money – right through to it’s ability, in 2016, to transact more mobile payments in 14 days that eBay & Amazon did globally in an entire year.

[UPDATE: During the 2017 Chinese New Year, Wechat say 46 BILLION red packets [envelopes with money] were sent through their app over the 7 day holiday period. This represents 5 times the volume that occurred in 2016]

And all that is true and fascinating … but unless you live here, I don’t think anyone can truly grasp the way China has embraced technology based spending.

What makes it even more amazing is that prior to Wechat, China tended to be quite protective in how they used their money.

They were one of the slowest nations to embrace internet banking.

There’s millions upon millions of people who still won’t put their money in a bank.

And yet Wechat has come about and despite not being a bank, if has fundamentally changed consumer habits and sentiment regarding their cash.

Which has fundamentally changed retail habits and sentiment regarding how they offer service to their customers.

So how did they do it?

Well, there’s a bunch of reasons.

Without doubt one is they appeal to a different generation to those who were there before.

A generation brought up in the digital age.

A generation who have a ‘I want it now’ mentality.

But it’s more than that.

You see Wechat’s genius was they refused to take any advertising for years.

In a nation where making money is everything, Wechat resisted the lure of ‘easy cash’.

This might not seem a massive thing, but to the people here, it felt like they’d found a brand that actually cared about them.

A brand that wouldn’t sell them out to line their own pocket.

This gave Wechat an integrity few brands could ever hope to achieve – especially in such a limited period of time and in a place as suspicious as China – so when they launched their ‘wallet feature’, there was no doubt people would embrace it because the level of trust in them was so high.

Of course there’s many other reasons for their success – and arguably, Wechat did this so they could ultimately win the long game with advertisers and partners – but with so many brands talking about ‘changing behaviour and perceptions’, it’s worth remembering part of Wechat’s success is as much because of what they didn’t do, as it is what they did.



Has The Ad Industry Become A Hype Industry Rather Than A Creative One?

A while back – unsurprisingly, at Cannes Scam Ad time – an agency made a plate that they said absorbed the grease from food to reduce the calories.

Of course, I’ve not seen this plate anywhere since they entered it into an award … but the reason I bring it up is because I recently saw a real, live, genuine product that frankly, is an embarrassment to that piece of scam.

Worse, it’s an embarrassment to the whole ad industry.

Here is it …

Yep, it’s another plate.

Except this plate doesn’t have mini-holes to “supposedly” drain a small proportion of the bad stuff from your dinner.

No, this one is shaped to reflect the size, shape and capacity of the average human stomach.

That’s it.

At a glance, you can see the quantity of food that should be going down your mouth.

Now of course what food you put on the plate has a huge impact on the effect it will have on your body, but given so many of the obesity issues are caused by quantity, this could have a real impact on your overall health in an instant.

No questionable ‘technology’.

No ads telling you to eat healthier.

Just a product that actually helps you help yourself … albeit in an ingenious, guilt-tripping/educational way.

I’ve said this before, but I genuinely believe designers are currently solving problems in better and more powerful ways than adland. Of course we still do brilliant things, but in our quest to try and make ourselves look good … we seem to be focusing our energies on chasing hype rather than doing something that proves how genuinely smart we can be.

And if you need any more evidence of that, just look at the recent Super Bowl.

An event that should be the best ad for the industry but ends up being the worst … mainly because for all the talk we spout about being innovative and focused on solving problems, we end up making TV spots that sell bad humour, brand ego or z-grade self-help manifestos.

Sure there’s the odd one or two every year who do something genuinely interesting [but rarely as good as this], but at a time where we have a chance to show how good we can really be, they still end up being the exception rather than the rule.

Or said another way.

A bunch of ads that cost millions of dollars are less effective, creative and insightful than an £18 bowl from fullstopbowl.com