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


Majority Cruelty …

Given we’re are in throws of Christmas parties, I think this post is possibly very relevant.

A few weeks ago, I was at Liverpool Street Station when I saw this woman …

People were sniggering at her and I could tell she was getting upset so I went to her and said …

“Excuse me, I just want to say you look fantastic”.

Fortunately for me she didn’t call the police for breaking the cardinal London commuter rule of ‘DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS’, instead she said thank you and then explained she felt a bit silly dressed up for a Halloween party among all these business people.

I told her to ignore them because they were all dressed as depressing sheep to which she turned around, looked at a bunch of the people who had been looking at her and said – very loudly – “fucking sheep”.

While this may be one of the proudest moments of my life, it quickly turned into feeling slightly unnerved given I then got on the same train as the people she insulted whereas she went somewhere else.

But the thing is the way people were looking and acting towards her was horrific.

These weren’t drunken, young idiots, they were sober, middle and elderly business people … and yet they ganged up on her for their own amusement because she was dressed differently to them.

For someone to do that – even if they’re going to a party – is a big deal.

It is an act that makes them very vulnerable … they’re literally letting their day-to-day guard down and exposing themselves to the mercy of the mainstream so the last thing they need are a bunch of the majority showing no respect – or worse – downright distain at them.

We talk about wanting to encourage creativity and openness in the World, but we suck at it.

Whether it’s being part of at a creative review or watching someone dressed for Halloween … we need to start by accepting what they’re bringing to the table is very personal and showing it to others for their judgement makes them very vulnerable so whether we like what they’ve done or not, we should never just dismiss it just because it doesn’t suit our tastes.

Openness means being open to possibilities, not negatively judging with a smile on your face … so I hope Ms Colourfuljoyness went on to have an amazing night and may she wear whatever the fuck she likes going forwards.

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Strange Combinations …

Maybe it’s because I only have one working eye.

Maybe it’s because I’m an complete and utter idiot.

Maybe it’s because they’re both basically in black and white.

But when I saw the above ad at a local tube station, I thought it was all for the same product and couldn’t work out why the fonts were all different.

On the plus side, it made me take a closer look which means it’s immediately more effective than most of the ads I see underground.

As I said recently, tube ads are terrible.

Boring and rational as hell … with some occasional loose ‘riding the tube’ reference.

Boring while pretending to be wild and wacky … with some occasional loose ‘riding the tube’ reference.

Boring because they think they can get away with writing the longest, long copy ads in history, regardless that they make it feel like watching paint dry.

For such a captive audience, you’d think agencies and brands could find a way to enhance the passengers journey rather than letting their ego get the better of them and make them think they’re sitting their patiently waiting to read about another app launch that does exactly the same as the other 10 apps rationally explaining their role with some ‘crazy’ visual attached. Seriously, when the only reason I notice an ad is because I thought a whisky brand had made a milk product, you know it’s time we look at what ‘engagement’ means in our industry.



I’m Even More Confused By Who I Am …
November 7, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Culture, Differentiation

So a while back I wrote about how I had one of those DNA tests done to identify my heritage and when it came back, it didn’t resemble anything I expected.

Well unsurprisingly I recently got an email saying they had ‘updated’ my results to better reflect my information.

“I knew it” … I said, with a self-satisfying smugness that they had got it wrong.

That was until I pressed the link and discovered this …

I’m still only 1% British and 27% Italian … but now I’m a whopping 64% European Jewish.

Now I have absolutely no problem with that, except – as I said in my earlier post – my Mum’s family have been Italian for many generations and my Dad’s family have been British for many generations so either there’s some big family secret or, as I suspect, Rosie the cat did some fiddling with my sample before I sent it off.

The reality is it doesn’t bother me, but it does intrigue me.

What is the truth?

What would my parents say?

Why am I not religious in any way whatsoever?

Whatever the answer – and let’s be honest, we’ll never really get one – it highlights that nothing is as it seems, however hard we try to make it so.

People who voted for Donald Trump should remember that fact in particular.



Every Detail Matters …

So I’ve not been sacked – yet – which means I feel confident enough to write another post for the week.

About a month ago, as I was flying to LA from Hong Kong, I re-watched the Michael Mann classic, Heat.

Making a movie – like making communication – consists of many elements.

Sure, you need a great story and you need great actors who can bring that story to life … but what really elevates the work to something special is a passion for the details.

Or said another way, the craft of craft.

In simple terms, this means the person heading the project doesn’t just appreciate what they don’t know, but they trust the people around them, who do.

They create the time and space for the broader team to do their best work on their areas of expertise. Encouraging debate and discussion to explore how each member of the team believe they can enhance the goal of the project to even bigger and more exciting places.

I think Heat is an example of this.

While Michael Mann wrote and directed the film, he allowed his expert team to be experts … ensuring every scene was as powerful or as believable as it can be.

There are many things I could highlight …

From allowing De Niro and Pacino to ad-lib their cafe scene because he trusted their talent to make the moment something unique right through to making sure the way the actors left the bank [after they robbed it] mirrored how trained soldiers would leave such a building.

[Apparently that scene is still used by many military organizations as a way to train their soldiers on how to leave a building]

But while those things are good, if you really want to see craft in action – and understand the impact it can have on the final product – then rewatch HEAT and marvel at the sound design of the main gun fight … because despite the movie being over TWENTY THREE YEARS OLD, it still stands out for all its majestic power and still continues to make the viewer feel like they’re actually in the scene.

Details matter.

Talent matters.

Craft matters.



Rob Channels Jerry Maguire …

So a while back, someone asked me what I thought made a ‘good planner’.

To be honest, all I really remember is that they caught me on a bad day and so I kind of went on an all-out rant.

By pure chance I recently came across my reply and while I definitely sound a bit of a mentalist – not to mention I miss out talking about a whole bunch of stuff I believe is super-important, like empathy – there was a lot in there that I felt had some value, if only to open a debate about what our discipline is supposed to do and what it can be.

So with that in mind, here I rant …

__________________________________________________________________________

Planning is one of the most overused terms in the industry these days.

Everyone is now a planner … except in truth, many are either ‘packagers’ – taking the clients info and packing it into easily digestible chunks – or media people who tell you where to put your work based entirely on numbers rather than any true audience understanding.

Now I am not saying those folks aren’t important, of course they are, but for me planning is about ignition to bigger opportunities and possibilities.

For me, a planner understands 3 fundamental things:

+ What the real business problem is.
+ Who the core audience is.
+ What the creative opportunity is.

Those 3 things form the foundation of making things … things that don’t just solve the problem, but help the client have a sustainable position in culture that ultimately makes their marketing work harder for them.

Great planners care about creativity rather than advertising.

Care more about authenticity of a brand rather than marketing of a brand.

Want to uncover why people do stuff rather than just what they do.

It’s not about convenient answers, but ones that really understand the madness of how we all think and do and what we value and believe.

Of course when you’re spending billions of someone else’s money, the temptation to choose convenient, mass-acceptance answers is high and while that can get you results, breakthrough only comes when you resonate with culture rather than just try to be relevant to it.

The un-said.
The hard to explain.
The not easy to hear but it’s true.

It’s for this reason I always tell clients they shouldn’t focus purely on the methodology being used to uncover this stuff … but the person leading it, the people they’re talking to and the questions they are asking.

There’s a reason why a brand like NIKE is still at the top of its game after so long.

Sure, they have ups and downs along the way, but to still have that energy and pull 54 years after they were founded is remarkable.

Of course the biggest part of this is they make great products, have a focus on innovation, have incredible distribution and enjoy the benefits of their market power. But arguably, other companies can lay claim to doing this which is why I believe their ‘secret sauce’ is their commitment to the culture they believe in and are a part of. The culture of the athlete.

Everything they do goes through this lens.

Everything.

And that’s why their marketing doesn’t follow the usual strategic approaches of looking for ‘white space’ or ‘getting to as broad an audience as possible’, but to have a deep connection to the lives and minds of the athlete so they can bring the lessons to life in the most inspirational, yet deeply authentic way possible.

This approach dictates everything, including how they choose and use their agency partners.

From a planning perspective, I know I placed far more value on someone who has a deep love of sport and creativity than anyone who could talk process or methodologies because for me – and NIKE and Wieden and every other agency on their roster – their job was to inspire great creatives to do something audacious for a client who fundamentally believes in the power of their brand voice and sport.

All this highlights 3 things.

1. Great planning comes from truly understanding the core audience.

2. Great work comes from knowing how to be useful to the creative team.

3. Great brands differentiate themselves by their authenticity and distinctiveness.

I’ve written a lot about differentiation.

While the goal should always be to ensure your clients stands out from their competitors, if the approach is to ‘own’ a position that hasn’t been taken, then ultimately you’re letting your competitors dictate your future rather than deciding it for yourself.

For me, great brands embrace their truth in fresh and exciting ways.

They attract culture rather than chase it because they are the culture, not observers of it.

It means they are always moving forward rather than remaining stagnant.

It means they’re always relevant rather than fighting for it.

Planners play an important part in this.

But only if they remember the work is the key, not the ego.



May The Forth Be With you …

I know this is late but then everything on this blog is late, but I absolutely love what Heathrow Airport did on 4th May.

I love it for many reasons.

But the main one is they did it right.

Sure, you could argue what they did was to hijack the day and gain some extra publicity … and I’m sure that was part of their motivation … but what I really like about it is how they went for the highest common denominator, not the lowest.

While the board features names most people will understand – R2D2, Wookie, Death Star, Han Solo, Leia – they have also used elements that only the true Star Wars nerd will get … like the name of the planets, the measurement of time and the weather conditions.

What this means is that not only will they get ‘mass appeal and coverage’, they will also make the hardcore nerds feel good about it … feel they’re dealing with an organisation that really gets them rather than just pretends to.

In a World where marketing is too often expressed as a constant stream of generalised noise … those who show their authenticity through actions and behaviour will win big every time, because as we saw in our America In The Raw study, the future of brand differentiation is going to be less about unique product attributes and more about demonstrating how you truly understand your audience.

Or said another way, resonance not [pretend] relevance.

So well done Heathrow, you deserve to be in a galaxy far far ahead of your competitors.



How To Know You’re Improving …

A few weeks ago, I ran a planner training session – with the amazing Paula Bloodworth – in Amsterdam.

The theme of it the session was this …

When we first presented the image, you could tell a few people were wondering what the hell I was going on about.

It was a training session … designed to help planners make less mistakes, not more … but they were missing the point.

Planning isn’t about perfecting.

It’s not even about differentiating

It’s about making things happen … moving things forward … opening new possibilities … increasing value [copyright Weigel] and you don’t get to that if you just stick with the traditional approaches, practices and goals.

Of course this doesn’t mean you get to be an irresponsible dick with someone else’s money, but it does mean you have to look at problems in ways that normal approaches may not get – or even appreciate – and to do that, you need confidence.

Confidence in your abilities.

Confidence in feeling uncomfortable.

Confidence in making others feel uncomfortable.

Of course, at the end, you have to pull it all together because not only are you not going to get a client to try something without the chance of great reward, they need to know there’s method behind your madness … and while you might not always achieve the result you all wanted, ‘failing’ because you were pushing for something great is rarely failure, because not only do you all get a shitload of learnings from the exercise [learnings that can get you over the line next time] but you often end up opening a door to a World the whole industry never imagined and now wants to run full-pelt through.

In other words, you are pushing things forward not keeping things the same.

Which all helps explain why I believe planners should aspire to make better mistakes rather than succeed at average levels … because while consistency may get you the promotion, confidence creates the possibilities.