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


Stop Thinking Your Audience Is Stupid And Start Realising They Just Don’t Care …

So recently I saw the above scoreline posted by a sports platform.

8-0 is a pretty emphatic win.

But then I saw the sports platform in question had stated FCB had won.

No shit sherlock, even the amazing Stevie Wonder could see that!

And it’s this sort of state-the-obvious statement that reveals so much about the state of research, clients and agencies.

Because somewhere along the line, a bad research company has told a bad client that they need to order their poor agency to put a state-the-obvious fact within their carefully crafted piece of communication because there’s a 0.000001% chance the message they want to convey is not quite clear enough.

That, or because the client wants to ‘own’ a particular word in their category – and it will be evaluated by post campaign research – they want to make sure they say it as many times as possible to increase the odds … regardless of the fact that in the real world. no one ever uses the words ‘vitality’ or ‘efficacy’.

ARGHHHHHH!

Years ago I watched a documentary called Z-Channel about the early days of cable television.

One of the networks, Z-Channel, was very avant-garde … playing programs featuring all manner of obscure content.

When asked why, they said this:

“Too many play to the lowest common denominator. We want to play to the highest”.

If only more research, clients and agencies remembered that, then maybe we would make more work that respected the audience and aimed to enthral, inform and entertain them rather than bore them into submission via work that treats them like village idiots.



The Fine Line Between Victory And Vulgarity …

Let me start by saying I have a lot of respect for Charles and Maurice Saatchi.

What they did … the legacy they created … is, even now, amazing.

Their agency was responsible for so many of the ads that went on to define my childhood – both in good and bad ways – however, as I got older and entered the industry, I started to understand just how audacious they were in terms of what they thought the ad industry could be. And do.

Back then, their mantra was ‘Nothing Is Impossible’.

And they certainly lived up to it.

But while this led to some truly incredible work, it also led to the brothers ultimate downfall when they tried – amazingly and brilliantly – to buy Midland Bank.

There have been many reasons written about why their plan didn’t work out … and what happened subsequently … but I have to say, I’d imagine working for them at the time – with their sheer confidence, swagger and ambition – would have felt pretty intoxicating.

However this post isn’t about that, it’s about what happens when, in your quest to keep moving forward, you lose your values or self awareness and end up being a caricature of what you once were.

I’ve seen it happen.

I once worked with an advertising great who ended up believing everything they did was great, simply because they did it.

It didn’t take long before they were phoning in their work.

Not caring about what was going on around them.

Saying whatever they wanted because they believed whatever they said was wanted.

It was pretty tragic and I remember a very horrible conversation between us, where I said he had become the beast he had been obsessed with slaying.

It didn’t go well for me.

And, within a year, it didn’t go well for him … when his deluded arrogance took a step too far and his actions and behaviors couldn’t be ignored any longer.

Nowadays I occasionally see him spouting racist shit about immigration and foreign workers, which I find even more shocking given he spent so many years living across the World, not to mention – if rumours are to be believed – doing unspeakable things with certain people when he was in Asia.

But this isn’t a post about an old, short-lived, delusional colleague – nor it is to suggest the Saatchi brothers are anything like my old, delusional colleague … however this is about the moment [at least for me] when the Saatchi brothers revealed they may have not grown with the times, but were lost in old times.

This.

It was early Jan, 1990.

Saatchi was – I believe – the biggest agency in the World.

And the World was changing.

The party of the 80’s was over and everyone was trying to work out what the next decade had in store. One thing that had already started to happen was the fall of communism.

Protests had been happening throughout 1989 and they continued to gain momentum when, in November of that year, The Berlin Wall – a symbol of Communist/Western ideals – fell.

And it was on that wall Saatchi had placed that ad.

Not on the Western side, but the Eastern.

It wasn’t up for long, but they paid to have it there.

A way of showing their mantra.

An act of deliberate provocation for shock value.

An attempt to keep the spirit of 80’s excess alive.

A claim it was welcoming East German’s to independence and choice.

But the problem was, it wasn’t the 80’s anymore and so it came off as an act of commercial vulgarity. An act of cynical shamelessness to try and capture the headlines. And suddenly, the agency that could do no wrong suddenly went from being audacious to trying too hard.

Or said another way, Saatchi’s were trying to hold on to the past rather than lead the future.

Can you imagine an agency doing that now?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of them out there that have a complete lack of self awareness … not to mention another bunch whose entire business model appears to be ‘doing things first’ … regardless of its value to culture, creativity or commerce … however I doubt even those guys would think doing this would be a good idea today.

Or at least I hope not.

And that’s why I believe a positioning is not as good as a point of view.

Because positioning’s are set in stone.

They don’t move with the times … they stand firm, shouting their same tune regardless of what is going on. But a point of view is different. There’s flex in that. It lets you express what you believe, but how you express it is shaped by what is going on around it.

There’s longevity in a point of view.

There’s resonance in a point of view.

There’s less need to shock, because you always speak what others are trying to say.

Saatchi’s continue to do great work.

Saatchi’s continues to be filled with great people.

But I’ll always wonder what they could have been if they’d not crossed the line from audacious to caricature.

You can read the story of the Berlin Wall ad, here.



Our Purpose Is To Kill You …

Hello!

Yes, I’m back.

And yes, we’re in our new home.

Hell, we’ve almost totally unpacked.

Emphasis on ‘almost’.

We’ve also had more conversations with the people in the village in the last few days than we had with everyone in London, combined.

Friendly is very weird.

I remember when we lived in LA, the neighbours came and brought us ‘welcoming gifts’.

That freaked me out big time.

Fortunately England doesn’t allow for that level of intimacy, so we just had to make do with polite and interested conversation.

Anyway, I want to start the week with a post about this …

That, ladies and gentlemen, is Kraft/Heinz new product push.

Mac and cheese for breakfast.

BREAKFAST!!!

Their rationale for it is apparently that they found 56% of busy parents serve their kids Mac & Cheese for breakfast.

Now I appreciate I don’t know all the facts, but I’m calling bullshit on this.

Part of that is because I am pretty sure cereal and milk or toast is faster than making Mac & Cheese. The other part is that 56% figure lacks any context … in terms of the number of ‘busy parents’ that were asked and where.

David Lin, a friend of mine, suggested the marketing meeting went something like this:

“We can drive growth by building more occasions … we need to own breakfast”

Given the share price collapse of Heinz in recent years, I think he is bang on.

But there’s something else this news highlights.

This Kraft/Heinz brand purpose reads as this …

As a global food company, the Kraft Heinz Company’s ambition is to help end hunger worldwide.

Unless they believe the best way to achieve their purpose is to kill people with obesity, then it suggests here’s another example where brand purpose is utter shit … designed to make the board feel better about what they do without actually having to do it.

Or said another way, Martin was right. As usual.



Stooopidcases …

Yesterday I wrote a post about stupid.

Well, it appears it may be the theme for 2020, because I just saw this …

Yes, that is an ad for a new suitcase that is making a big deal that it comes with wheels.

WHEELS.

Actually it’s much more than that because they’re making a big bloody deal about where the wheels are supposedly from.

Now I know I once bought a wifi suitcase that the security people at the airport wouldn’t allow me to take on a plane because the ‘battery charger’ wasn’t removable, but even for me this is utterly bonkers.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely appreciate Japan’s perfectionist, craft mentality – to make a big deal about ‘wheels made in Japan’ is possibly the best example of bonkers brand manager ego/delusion that you’ll see this year.

And no, I didn’t buy it.

Cheeky bastards.



Gwyneth Is As Subtle As Her Acting …

So as you read this, I’ll be in Sweden and not back till Wednesday.

As I won’t be writing a post tomorrow, I thought I’d write a post today where the impact of it would easily last 48 hours/

So have a look at that picture.

A close look.

Seriously, isn’t it terrible?

It looks like it should be the poster for a porn movie rather than a show about an international actress who is appearing on an international streaming service.

And then there’s that line.

Christ almighty …

Do they think we don’t get what the image is supposed to reflect?

But then Gwyneth doesn’t do subtle does she …

I’m not just talking about her over-the-top Oscar speech or her ‘conscious uncoupling’ pretentious divorce language … I’m talking about this.

Yes, the candle that smells of her vagina.

From Goop, her company that makes up complete medical lies.

And while it would be easy to laugh at all this stupidity, the fact is that candle has sold out and Goop is supposedly worth $250 million which has led me to 3 conclusions.

1. Brands need to stop thinking humans are logic operated.

2. Market valuations are about as trust worthy as politicians.

3. I’m losing my faith in so much of humanity.

See you Wednesday. If you’ve recovered in time.