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


Nothing Says Thought Leadership Like Outsourcing Your Thought Leadership …

Anyone who has ever read this blog would know the last thing I’m about is thought leadership.

Maybe thought rambling, but not thought leadership.

However a company recently reached out to me about that very subject.

Not to hear my perspective on a particular subject, but to offer to tell me my perspective on a particular subject.

Is this AI on a whole new level?

No, it’s a company who apparently doesn’t like small talk and wants to get straight-to-the-point about offering me the chance to have them write an opinion piece for me and then get it published.

Not my actual opinion, I should add … but one they know they can shove in any random magazine because they’re desperate for content and get me to pay them for the privilege.

Oh, they drop some great magazine names.

Fast Company. Forbes. Tech Crunch.

But we all know the reality is 99% of the articles will be in stuff like the West Bridgford Gazette and the Illawarra Mercury.

I would love to know how many of these things they do?

How many ‘thought leaders’ are actually thought outsourcers?

And I guess I will because I’ve written to them to say ‘this looks amazing, please can you give me more information’, even though the reality is I already feel enough of an imposter without paying these bastards to rub it in.

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You Either Are Building Or Destroying. Building Is Better …

One of the things I’ve found interesting over the years is how planners deal with creative reviews.

In the main, they fall into 2 groups.

1. The ones that tear things down.

2. The ones who lift things up.

What makes #1 worse is that in many cases, what drives their destruction isn’t the work doesn’t answer the brief, but doesn’t answer it in the way they imagined.

In other words, they’re acting like a Creative Director.

Don’t get me wrong, a brief is important – it’s something that not only gives direction and lets ideas be pressure tested, but serves as a historical document so people can see where things came from at some point in the future.

But – and it’s an important but – a brief is not law.

It is not something that can’t be changed, enhanced or thrown out and re-done.

The goal has to be the work and while briefs can work ‘in theory’, if the creative teams aren’t getting to ideas that ignite energy in people, then it’s time to look at where the brief is stopping creativity to flow.

That does not mean you post-ratrionalise whatever is produced, but by the same token, you don’t expect a brief to be answered to the letter, which is why I stand by the belief a brief should act as a direction rather than a destination.

And that’s why I like planners who ‘lift things up’.

Who look for the good in the work rather than the bad.

Not in a Paula Abdul ‘everything is good even when it’s not’ kind-of-way, but recognise the threads that could lead to something exciting and new … threads that encourage rather than dictate … threads that lets everyone feel you’re on the same team and want the same thing.

The reason I say this is because I recently saw a quote that I loved.

It comes from US politician, John A Morrison and he say’s …

“Knowledge may come from taking things apart but wisdom only comes from putting things together”.

I love this.

I love what it means and represents.

And that’s why I think planners need to spend more time on wisdom than knowledge, because while a major part of our job is finding out the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’, if we don’t think of how those things can come together in interesting ways, then we’re not only limiting our own potential, we’re doing a disservice to where creativity can go and what it can achieve.



Consequence Purchase Strategies …

A few years ago I wrote about the brilliance of supermarkets.

Not in the sense that it offers a one-stop-shop to get all your food requirements, but in how it combines products that you don’t think should go together, but do.

I called this romantic notion strategy but the reality is it’s simply understanding either the breadth of a persons character or the requirements of a particular audience.

To be honest, I’m underselling both those approaches because while it may appear obvious, it’s scary how few companies – and agencies – make those connections and yet the result of them is genuine brand differentiation, true audience connection and incremental sales.

Well I recently saw another area that supermarkets are great at and that is spotting implications of a particular purchase and offering remedies.

OK, so this is not so new – but whereas places like Amazon offer ‘similar purchase alternatives’ [under the banner of, ‘people who bought this also bought this’], supermarkets offer real product partners as demonstrated by this Asda in Derby.

Yep, some headache pills in the booze section of the store.

Not a massive leap, but simple and effective and – arguably – far more noticeable and inviting than expecting people to go to the medicine aisle and buy them without any prod.

It’s amazing how often we forget the most obvious approaches in the quest of being smart … which ironically, shows how un-smart we can be.

The only thing I’m trying to work out is whether this says more about the customers who shop at Asda or the people who live in Derby.



Not Everyone Gets It …

I’ve written a lot about the state of tourism advertising.

To be honest, there’s very few categories that do it worse.

A mass of generic vignettes that shows every possible activity you can do with a bad line stuck at the end that generally tends to be some over-promising superlative placed before the name of country the ad is about.

There have been a few exceptions.

The original ‘100% Pure’ New Zealand campaign is one, but there’s not been many more.

Which is why I loved this poster that appeared in Helsinki …

OK, so they are preaching to the converted – given anyone who saw it happened to be there anyway – but it’s just a great way to make someone feel special and welcomed.

I love it.

I love it for so many reasons.

I love how they celebrate their visitors while also acknowledging they’re bloody nutcase.

I can imagine a tourist seeing that, agreeing it was a mental thing to do and then walking away smiling … feeling better about their decision and themselves.

That’s pretty impressive. Especially for a poster.

Which all goes to show that brands that are self aware can connect to culture better than brands that are bland egomaniacs.



Inspired By …

My whole family are connected to the law.

Not the bullshit, sharp-suit, high-charging wankers we hear so much about these days, but the guys fighting for genuine justice.

My father in particular hated what the legal industry had become … from being a discipline that fought for justice to one that now tries to keep problems going so they can keep charging exorbitant fees.

So what has that got to do with the picture of these Gummy Pandas.

Well, I saw these in a local Starbucks and I just thought how mad this was allowed to exist.

We all know it’s a take on Gummy Bears.

We all know they’re trying to steal business from Gummy Bears.

We all know they’re trying to make people think they’re getting Gummy Bears.

OK, so it’s a bloody sweet that you don’t really pay much attention to … but if this was a person, it would be identity theft and yet companies continue to pay huge amounts to law firms to protect their hard work when anyone can set up what is basically a duplicate brand by simply changing a letter or – in the case of Uncle Martian – not even putting in that effort.

Anyway, the real reason I’m writing this is because I wanted an excuse to link to my favorite ever Amazon reviews for [Sugar Free] Gummy Bears and I assure you, it’s way, waaaaay, waaaaaaaaay more enjoyable than this post.



I Know They Say Too Much Coffee Can Be Dangerous But This Is Ridiculous …

When I was younger I loved pocket knives, especially swiss army knives.

Not because I was a mugger – though I am from Nottingham – but because I found the way all the different elements came together in one small package, fascinating.

While I have grown up since those days [as have Swiss Army Knives, judging by this monster] I still find my eyes drawn to them when I see them, which is why this caught my attention.

But then, I looked a bit closer and saw it was a special edition.

And then I looked closer still and saw it had a picture of something that looked like a bloody Nespresso pod on its blade.

There’s a simple reason for that, because the image is supposed to be of a Nespresso pod, because this knife is made from recycled poncey coffee pod packaging.

I have to be honest, I didn’t know what to make of this.

Without doubt, one part of me thought it was bloody awesome, and yet another part of me hated it because by pointing out the specific material they recycled to make their product, I felt it was some sort of ‘official’ alliance and suddenly it was less about helping the earth and more about exploiting it.

Of course I knew I could be wrong – as I usually am – however when I looked into it, I found this descriptor on the Victorinox website:

“Two Swiss innovators, one directional collector’s piece. Meet the Pioneer Nespresso Livanto: a Swiss Army Knife with sustainability at the heart of its design blueprint. The second limited edition from this unique collaboration between Victorinox and Nespresso, it fuses a solid eco conscience and heritage with intricate engineering. This utility piece features scales crafted from 24 recycled coffee capsules in a striking bronze hue. It’s where green living meets coffee culture and intrepid adventure.”

… and in an instant, Victorinox and Nespresso left a horrible taste in my mouth, even worse than their coffee but – thankfully for them – not as bad as their ads.



(M)adland …

So I’ve been asked to speak at a McKinsey conference.

No, I’m not exactly sure why either.

Anyway, while they want me to talk about creativity, my goal is to cause debate and conflict among these highly paid, process driven, business brains which is why my presentation will be called, “You Wouldn’t Understand …” and I’ll be focusing on the magic of chaos.

Now I’m under no illusion the audience will regard me – and the industry I represent – as a bit of a joke, which is why I will do my usual 8 Mile strategy of owning all the prejudice and negativity they could throw against me so I rob them of their ammunition and force them to listen rather than judge.

And that’s where I need your help.

Of course there’s a bunch of stuff I could say, but I’m interested in things that go beyond just the process or thinking of creative development, but the ridiculous ways adland conducts it’s business.

To start you off, I want to leave you with a quote from a friend of mine, a new business guy at a super-successful agency’ that said this to me:

“I will travel miles to talk about myself to someone for free”.

When you see it like that, it’s pretty insane … ignoring the fact many management consultants do exactly the same thing except they call it a ‘business audit’. [Though to be fair to them, they then charge a fee that makes this sort of cold-calling pay for itself]

Anyway, any other suggestions or examples will be very, very welcomed and remember, you’re fighting for creativity here. And my personal vindictive satisfaction.