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


Careful. Your Data Is Showing …

The big conversation in marketing right now is around data.

So it should be, it’s insanely valuable and important.

But the irony is, while it can absolutely help us have deeper understanding about our audiences behaviour and habits – information that can lead to more powerful and valuable creativity – it’s alarming how many companies who claim to be experts in this field express themselves in ways that are the opposite of it.

Here are 2 ads I saw in Cannes …

Really?

You think that is going to convince people the data and technology you have is going to lead to better work?

You think that represents the language of your audience?

Sure, I know it’s Cannes and so there is a certain sort of person who is attending there at that moment – but they’re still bloody human.

Quite frankly, this is more an ad for celebrating ‘the old way’ rather than the new.

As Martin and I said in our presentation – if companies think creativity can be reduced to an engineering problem, then they don’t understand how society actually works.

Sure … you want consistency if you’re doing surgery.

Or making rockets.

Or producing food.

But society as a whole, is a mish-mash of complications and hypocrisy.

A group where their passions extend to far more than what they transact with … but how it integrates with their life.

Their fashion. Their music. Their games. Their language and imagery. Their context.

If you remove this from the process, you are simply creating the answer you want, not the answer that actually stands a chance of moving cultural behavior and attitudes for the long term, not just the short.

Or said another way, making brands successful in ways culture wants to stick with.

As I said, data has a huge and valuable role to play in all this.

I’m fortunate to have an extremely good data partner at R/GA … someone who not only knows what she’s doing, but appreciates it means nothing if it doesn’t help create better work.

And that’s the thing … great data doesn’t want the spotlight.

I see too much work where the brief seems to have been ‘show this data point’.

Or worse, too many briefs where it is the data point.

Great data – like great PR – is, in a lot of ways, invisible.

It liberates creativity rather than dictates it.

Revealing opportunities to think laterally not literally.

Helps you make work that reaches audience in more powerful ways.

Whether that’s where you play or how you play.

Put simply, data is an incredibly important part of modern marketing but – and this is where many people fall down – it can’t do it all.

It needs help to help make great work.

It can guide … it can reveal … it can lead … it can do so much, but it can’t do everything.

For data to truly show its full potential, it needs the nuances of culture added to it. Not purely for scalability, but for resonance.

As I’ve said many times, we need to stop looking to be relevant and start wanting to be resonant.

Making work that feels it was born from inside the culture, not from an observer.

Or said another way, work that doesn’t patronise, condescend or bore people.

Are you listening IBM and Neilsen?

Data with culture opens up more possibilities for creativity.

Allowing ideas to grow and go in places we might never have imagined.

Ideas that feel so right to the audience rather than explain why they should feel that way.

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Management Is Directing, Not Dictating …

One of the things that really shook me working in the US was how hierarchal it was.

Of course I appreciate not all companies are like this, but in my experience, there were a huge amount who were.

Where the person with the highest title won.

Regardless how right – or wrong – they were.

And what this led to was a bunch of talented people opting for the easier life.

Where they did what the most important person in the room wanted, because ultimately it meant they would have less stress and could go home on time.

Or realised their career growth was about managing up rather than being great.

I don’t blame them – especially those who had families to feed – I just found it sad and alien.

Sad … because I saw incredibly talented people being restrained and restricted.

Alien … because I had been brought up to see management as enabling people to make the best work of their life.

Directing rather than dictating.

Creating the time, space and energy to let your team craft the work not focus on the politics.

But in America, this didn’t seem to be the case … it felt it was much more about following orders rather than solving the challenge in the most interesting and exciting of ways.

I kind-of wrote about this before, but the reason I’m saying it now is because I recently read a book that reminded me of some of the things I saw and – to a degree – experienced.

A book that reinforced why I will always love Wieden – and now R/GA – because they were founded by individuals who value creativity rather than devaluing age.

The book I’m talking about is called “Disrupted: Ludicrous Misadventures in the Tech Start-up Bubble” and was written by ex-Newsweek journalist Dan Lyons.

It’s a humorous tale of his experience working for the tech/marketing company Hubspot and – without giving anything away – it’s a total shitshow.

There’s a bunch of reasons for it … but as I read the book, I couldn’t help feel that many of them were because of this hierarchal practice that I saw in America.

It’s definitely a book worth reading because apart from just being enjoyable, it is super informative in how Silicon Valley works.

Even more specifically, how the finance of Silicon Valley works.

But if that doesn’t tempt you, then maybe this will.

You see Dan Lyons – the author – was a hardcore, tech journalist and yet when he joined Hubspot, he found himself in the marketing department. After experiencing the industry first hand, this is what he had to say about the conferences we love to go to and talk at …

“Marketing conferences are filled with wannabe gurus and ‘thought leaders’ who work themselves up into a revival-show lather about connecting with customers and engaging in holistic, heart-based marketing … which sounds like something I made up but is actually a real thing that really exists and is taken seriously by actual adult human beings, which makes me want to cry.”

Harsh?

Maybe.

True?

Definitely.



You Can Tell How Much The Finance Industry Thinks Of Us By The Products They Try To Sell To Us …

OK, I know banking is an easy target but – as anyone who has read this blog over the years will know – I am more than happy to throw darts at them.

Recently I came across this gem from Nutmeg … one of those financial institutions who give themselves a cool name so they can pretend they’re ‘down with the people’ when everything they say and do demonstrates the opposite.

Have a look at this …

Apart from the fact that they say nothing about what they do or how they do it – because, let’s face it, compound interest is hardly a unique offering – I’m just surprised they are saying that if you leave £20,000 for 40 years you’ll get over £140,000 at the end of it.

First of all, £20,000 is a lot of money.

Secondly, putting £20,000 away that you’ll never touch is an amazingly big ask.

Thirdly – and I don’t want to sound a dick – but I don’t know if £140,000+ sounds that much after a wait of 40 years.

Sure, I wouldn’t say no to it and I appreciate it represents a huge growth on your initial investment, but after removing the £20,000 you put in at the beginning, that works out to be a return of £3,000 a year.

OK, that’s not bad, but it’s certainly not enough to live off and certainly not the ‘most powerful force in the Universe’ that Einstein supposedly said.

And let’s not forget that little bit of copy at the top of the ad that say’s ‘Capital at risk. Forecasts are not a reliable indicator of future performance’.

Yes, they really are saying that everything they’ve just said could be a load of bollocks.

Imagine what else you could do with that strategy …

“Eat chips 10 times a day and could be beating admirers off with a shitty stick*”

[* Your health is at risk. Forecasts are not a reliable indicator of future performance]

Or what about this …

“Buy this skin care and you will look 30 years younger*”

[* Your self esteem is at risk. Forecasts are not a reliable indicator of future performance]

Why hasn’t someone thought of using this cross-category before???

But getting back to Nutmeg … my question is who is this ad aimed for?

Is it for people who are worried about their future and will put all their life savings away to get £140,000 in forty years time – ignoring the fact, that in 40 years time, £140,000 will be worth around £2.77 in todays money?

Or is it aimed at the wealthy … who can afford the investment, but probably expect even higher returns?

Honestly I’m not sure, but one thing I am certain of is that a financial organisation who doesn’t tell me why I should choose them over every other financial institution that also claims if I give them my money for 40 years, they’ll [hopefully] give me more back – but no guarantees – doesn’t stand much chance of getting any of my money.



When Y&R Had A Point To Prove …

Y&R is over.

Of course, the powers-that-be say they’re merging, but really they’re over.

This is sad for me.

Not just because I spent 4 years of my life with them and did some stuff I’m proud of with people I still respect hugely … from SONY to VB to Schweppes [the ad is here as it’s gone from the post] … but because there was a time where they really took a stand, both in terms of what they stood for and what they did.

Recently I found an ad they did for themselves …

Yes, you can argue it’s a bit dodgy, but apart from the novelty of seeing an agency practicing what it preaches [accepting an agencies work should be the best ad it does for itself] it’s interesting to see them celebrating how technology [read: data] and emotion [read: creativity] sit side-by-side in their company.

Sure, it doesn’t say what the computers at Y&R actually do.

They hint it finds valuable ‘audience stuff’, but for all I know, they might have actually been used to just type and/or design their ads on … but it’s the first thing I can remember where an agency proactively talked about the coming together/tension between data and creativity.

Of course it’s nowhere near as good or provocative as their 1965, Backbone ad [again, for themselves], but it is nice to see an agency have a point of view, which – ironically – is the very thing they stopped doing which contributed to them ending up as the back end of VML.



Like Walking Across A Minefield In Clowns Shoes …

I have written a lot about scam in the past.

How it is destroying the credibility of our industry.

How the main culprits are the agencies behind the bland wallpaper we see each day.

How these scam places are devaluing the agencies who make amazing work for real clients.

Recently John Hegarty suggested that agencies found doing scam should be banned from award shows like athletes are banned from competing.

I absolutely love this idea.

I don’t think it will stop it happening, but it will severely reduce it.

But I’d go one step further.

Years ago Andy told me the judges of the awards are complicit in scam happening.

He said that they were so focused on being associated with great work, they didn’t care if it was real work.

I think he has a point which is why rather than just banning the agencies who do it, I’d ban the judges who award it.

Of course, the judges could say they acted in good faith and assumed the people behind the competition had evaluated it’s appropriateness.

And that’s fair, but the award competitions need entries and the horrid reality is that scam has paid the bills for many of them for too long so to expect them to rigorous in their validity might be a bit too much to hope.

But here’s the thing, scam isn’t even hard to spot.

Part of the reason for it is – as I mentioned – because it comes from agencies who are more known for their blandom than their pragmatsism.

The other reason is that in their quest to be provocative, the agencies often overstep the mark because they know judges love this sort of thing.

Have a look at this …

It’s about as perfect an example of scam you can get.

A visually driven idea [because unless the copy is in English, it will stop judges liking it]

A clear point of view.

Embracing topical events to make their point.

On face value, it all makes perfect sense – but apart from the fact that idea is as old as the hills – the use of a Muslim woman highlights the desperate attempt of the agency and creative team to be ‘award worthy’.

Sure, all the pictures reflect people following some sort of ‘ideology’ … but a skinhead walking away from other skinheads in a riot and a soldier walking away from other soldiers on their way to unleash war on some nation is very different to a Muslim woman walking away from a group of other Muslim women who simply appear to be Muslim women.

Talk about making a massive and insulting comment to women of the Muslim faith.

The implication that they are all blindly following an ideology designed to cause destruction to others – as seems the theme given the other executions – is both wrong and frankly irresponsible.

But who cares about that when there’s an award to win.

But then, those who enter the dark world of scam don’t care about anything.

Including thinking if their ‘idea’ actually is consistent or makes sense.

Name them.

Ridicule them.

Ban them.



The Fine Line Between Ego And Desperation …

This headline came out in AdAge not that long ago.

For me, it says more about the state – and ego – of advertising than it does about the state of the environment.

Don’t get me wrong, a company who is doing something positive is a wonderful thing.

But when that company uses their action to promote themselves in an industry mag … well, that kind-of takes the shine off it.

Then again, when an agency is in the press more for what they’re doing – or plan to do – than what they’ve actually done or made, then you can’t help but feel their strategy is more to distract from the truth than to celebrate the good.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I am still a cynic after all.



Devil In The Details …

I appreciate me – and this blog – being back, constitutes the worst Monday ever, but deal with it.

Hong Kong was as it always is … busy, noisy, energetic, proud, flamboyant.

Fuck I miss Asia.

Well, I miss lots about Asia, but one of the things I don’t is the bullshit bank advertising.

Where every company tries to convey how prestigious they are and – as a byproduct – how aspirational their customers are, even though what they show is the sort of tacky success you tend to see in a z-grade reality show contestants house.

Case in point this stuff from UOB Bank.

Introducing Singapore’s first diamond embellished, metal card.

No, seriously.

What a load of bollocks.

But what does ‘diamond embellished’ even mean?

Is it that minute square in the card … to the right of the chip?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha, I think it is, because nothing says success like having a credit card with some cheap ass specks of diamond that even Ratners jewelers would turn their noses up at.

But it gets better …

By ‘better’, I obviously mean worse.

Because not only have they launched a credit card for the most insanely idiotic and egotistical customer on the planet – or at least Singapore – they’ve shown their true tacky colours by making one of the worst copy mistakes I’ve seen in ages to accompany the cards launch.

“For those who value exclusivity in its most extinguished form”.

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Dickheads.

I love it, because nothing says class and sophistication like a lack of basic language skills.

Now while I’d love to extinguish the people who came up with this card and who want this card, I think leaving things exactly as they are is a much better solution … because not only does it make the people at the bank look the sad, shallow, idiotic wankers they are, it also ensures anyone who pulls this card out looks the sort of pathetic, egotistical, insecure and unsophisticated asshole they truly are.

That’s what I call a WIN:WIN in my book.

I will always love and miss Asia with all my heart, but I will always hate the lazy, contrived, aspirational bullshit that the marketing departments of so many companies continue to peddle.