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


Social Media That Is Actually Social …

For a long time I’ve had a problem with social media.

Actually I should rephrase that …

For a long time I’ve had a problem with people who claim social media is all that matters.

Part of it is because too many companies have approached it as free media.

Part of it is because too many agencies have approached it like it’s a magazine.

Part of it is because ultimately, everything can be social, not just things on certain platforms.

And that’s why, for all the hype it gets, the amount of social media campaigns that have actually been truly social [as in, gained traction and awareness beyond their core audience eco-system] is relatively small.

Please note I’ve said ‘campaigns’, not one-off tweets … which, apart from the fact the idea of a ‘campaign’ on social is kind of an oxymoron … makes it even smaller.

And then if you add ‘successful’ to that group of criteria, it gets even smaller … with arguably only Ice Bucket Challenge and #MeToo being worthy of acclaim, which, let’s not forget, were both causes dedicated to righting human wrongs.

Which is why I have fallen in love with this social media campaign from Doncaster County Council for naming their 2 new grit-spreading trucks.

Please read it.

Read all of it.

I know it’s super-long but I guarantee you will love it.

Every single line and suggestion.

For me, it’s single-handedly the best social media campaign of 2017.

No, seriously … because a conversation from Doncaster County Council about their Road Gritters achieved over seven million impressions in 48 hours.

Seven. Bloody. Million.

I love this campaign for so, so many reasons.

I love that they treated their audience with a brain.

“We would like your name suggestions for two of our new gritting vehicles, please. Keep em clean and be original – we’d prefer not to spend the next few days trawling through responses of Gritty McGritface and Gary Gritter. 🙄”

I love that the people running it were empowered to respond to negative comments with wit and focus rather than – as is the norm – to back down and beg for forgiveness when someone challenges them.

“For those who say the council shouldn’t be wasting their money on this, we say getting the community interested and engaged in how their town runs is a good thing”

I love there mischief and humor with lines including …

“When you look at your grandchildren, what side of history do you want to tell them you were on? #DoncasterGrittingWorldCup”

But most of all, I love that one of the winning names was …

Gritsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Anti-Slip Machiney

… proving there is justice in the World.

Yet again, we see a campaign from an organisation that doesn’t have ‘social media experts’ dictating their approach being more successful than the output of an entire industry who claim to be the most informed people in their field.

Why?

Well, as much as I have met some truly brilliant social media strategists in my time, the fact is the vast majority fail because they forget the importance of understanding one key element in creating a social media campaign.

People.

Look, it’s not just the social media industry that is making this mistake, everyone in communication is … preferring to rely on data than some good, old-fashioned, get-in-the-weeds exploration and discovery.

This is not some anti-data rant, it’s just in our quest to drive speed and efficiencies, we are walking away from understanding the texture that makes any data worthwhile … the stuff that helps you develop ideas that feels it comes from the culture rather than an observer of it.

The Doncaster County Council campaign should serve as a reminder everyone about how to make great comms.

In these days where it seems the emphasis is on the platform, the reality is we’re all still trying to connect with humans so spending time to really understand how they think and do stuff is still the key to making ideas that makes a difference.

Not purely in terms of optimizating effectiveness, but in terms of how people feel, think and act.

You know, the stuff that makes sustainable differences to companies rather than this short-termism we have all fallen victims to because to quote John Le Carre, a desk is a dangerous place to view the World..

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What We Can Learn From Tom Hanks About Working With Others …

OK, full disclosure, I don’t really like Tom Hanks.

Sure, I’ve enjoyed some of his movies but for some reason – maybe due to overexpose of his movies in my early 20’s – I think he has a face I want to smack.

But recently I read an article on him that changed my opinion of him.

To be honest, this ‘change my opinion’ thing is getting annoying.

First is was my ultra-nemesis, Morrissey – though he seems to behaving like a twat again.

Then it was Johnny Marr.

And now Tom Hanks.

Who next … Todd Sampson? That would literally make me want to kill myself.

Good job I know that will never, ever, ever happen.

But back to Hanks.

In the article, Hanks covered a huge range of subjects … the roles he’s taken, his approach to parenthood, the mistakes he’s made – it was all very interesting, vulnerable and honest – but the bit that caught my eye was this:

“I learned a long time ago that you don’t have to like the people you work with. If someone wants to be a dick, it’s OK, but if their dickishness means everybody else doesn’t get to work at their best level – if you being a dick means you’re going to encroach upon my process – there’ll be a slug fest in the parking lot. There will be words exchanged I’ve worked with men and women where I’m like, ‘Are we going to have to go through this again?’ And, well, yes, because that’s what’s called for. On rare occasions, people are insane – but those are really rare.”

The reason I like this is because one of the biggest issues many face in agencies is working with others.

OK, in the majority of cases, as Mr Hanks states, it’s all good – but occasionally you find someone who is especially difficult – not because they are pushing for the best work, but because they think they are the only one’s capable of doing the best work and don’t value anyone else’s contribution or process to get there.

In other words, they’ve become the office egotistical dick.

We’ve all seen them.

Prancing about like they’re gods-gift.

At best they’ve done something genuinely good in their time. At worst, they’ve only done something good in their mind.

What I like about Hanks advice is that it ultimately helps you work out when you should or shouldn’t act.

In other words, if the person isn’t affecting your standards negatively, then let it pass.

Life is too short and ultimately, your engagement with them is not going to achieve anything.

However if their actions are impeding the work you do to the standards you hold, then it’s time to strike.

I should point out that when I say ‘strike’, I don’t mean it literally, but the key point is that the moment you feel your process/standards are being limited because of this other persons actions or behavior, you need to speak up.

To them.

Directly.

I wish I had known this earlier in my career.

When I think of all the energy and time I wasted taking on issues that were just annoying rather than damaging, I want to kick myself. But the good news is that working in advertising means I’ll be able to use this advice properly in the very near future.

And it’s important.

Not just because you should never let someone negatively impact your standards and process, but because – as fellow actor Michael Keaton pointed out – even if you’re just an employee, you’re still in charge of the direction of your career.

So thank you Mr Hanks. Damnit.



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.



Creativity Can Find A Way …

One of the things that bothers me about my industry is how they always talk about creativity when most of what they create is advertising.Of course advertising has creativity within it – sometimes, incredibly creativity – but often, the approach is to communicate the problem rather than solve the problem.

OK, so there are occasions when the biggest problem is a lack of awareness, but that is most definitely the exception rather than the rule.

I’ve written and talked about this so much over the years.

From my PSFK talk back in 2009 to my distain of Cannes scam to my adoration of designers and an absolute shedload in-between … and yet I continue to see briefs where the goal was obviously to ‘make an ad’ rather than ‘create a difference’.

This is not purely the agencies fault, in many cases it comes from the client.

Sometimes it’s because they need to support the retailers.

Sometimes it’s because their KPI’s are based on executional delivery.

Sometimes it’s because it would affect their remuneration structure with their agencies.

Sometimes it’s because they are not empowered to do anything different.

Sometimes it’s because they don’t actually care about solving, just producing.

And yet even in some of those approaches, there’s an opportunity to create a solution rather than make some noise if only they’d asked the right questions.

A while back, I had a client that briefed us on an ad campaign.

Got to admit, as much as I love them, it kind-of annoyed the hell out of me.

For me, that was like going to the doctor and diagnosing your own illness and solution.

So we asked why they wanted the campaign and they said they needed parents to let their kids do sport which was hard as they were worried their precious [only] child may get hurt.

And so we said, “If we can find a way to get parents to feel good about letting their kids do sport, are you open to it?”And when they said ‘yes’, it gave us the right to create bandaids that worked as badges of honor and comic books celebrating the power of sport.

Don’t get me wrong, if we had done a TV campaign it would have been a brilliant TV campaign.

But by asking a simple question, it allowed creativity rather than advertising to be the solution.

Or said another way, it opened possibilities rather than closed them off.

The reason for all this is that I recently saw a brilliant creative solution to slowing traffic down.

This is something that has been done in many ways over the years, including the brilliant Speed Dial by Colenso [video here] … but this was something even simpler.

This.

[Or if you’re too lazy to click on the link, the picture at the top of this post serves as a clue]

Now I know you might argue that once you know it’s not ‘real’ people won’t slow down, but I’d challenge that given the way the brain works.

But regardless, I will be interested to see what the data says after it has been in operation a while, but compared to a multi-million dollar ad campaign, or even the prices of stationing a copper there with a speed gun, I’m guessing it will be more effective.

And that is why our industry has to truly embrace creativity rather than just want to make ads.



If You Want To Learn Insight, Listen To A Criminal …

I work in an industry that spends billions of dollars per year looking for insight.

You’d think for all that cash you’d discover some absolute corkers – but we don’t.

There’s a whole host of reasons for that.

Part of it is because this industry still mistakes insight for what people do as opposed to why.

Part of it is because some clients believe some insights may stop sales opportunity rather than open it up. [Hence the rise of ‘global human truths’ despite their fatal flaw of ignoring the importance of local context]

Part of it is because some believe that unless an insight is positive, the work will be negative. [Which is obviously bollocks, unless you use insights literally rather than laterally and even then, that doesn’t mean the work has to come out like that]

Part of it is because some in the research industry act like the legal industry and realize there is more money in keeping the question going than actually answering the question.

There’s a whole bunch of reasons, and while I believe insights can come from anywhere – I still believe those that reveal people’s beliefs, motivations and behaviours are often the most powerful of them all.

As anyone who has ever worked with/for me will know, I call these ‘dirty little secrets’, because in my experience, they tend to reveal far more than just why people do things, but the circumstances that led to this belief.

It’s not easy … it’s not always perfect … it always requires other work to validate, explore or exclude it … but I will continually push my lovely colleagues to investigate and discover, because when you reveal a dirty little secret, you are already on the road to making work that will be different and powerful.

The reason I say this is because I recently read about Ponzi-scheme King, Bernie Madoff.

While he comes across as a cold, calculated, sociopath … his intellect can’t be disputed.

When asked how he pulled off the biggest financial fraud in history, he said this …

“I succeeded because when you offer people a deal that’s too good to be true, they never want to look too hard into the facts. They say it’s because of trust. I say it’s because of greed.”

There’s a lot of truth in those 2 sentences.

There’s a lot of creative opportunity in those 2 sentences.

I don’t mean to make work that exploits even more people, but to make work for [say, a bank] that can build the sort of conversation that gives them a real chance to prove they have their customers best interests at heart.

But it won’t happen because too many clients think ‘negative insights’ leads to negative work [which is utter bullshit] and most banks already know what Mr Maddoff said, because that’s how they continue to screw the taxpayer out of cash to line their own pockets.

Shame, because a financial institution that decided to be utterly transparent and then communicated, “the reason we tell you everything is we don’t want you to blame us for anything” might be quite a refreshing change.



The Power Of A Point Of View …

So I know yesterday I basically slagged off big ad campaigns by highlighting the cheeky brilliance of the Narcos ambient campaign, but every now and then there’s a big ad campaign that reminds you who brilliant it can be.

Given I slagged BBH off recently for an Audi print campaign, it gives me great pleasure to say the piece of work I love is also by BBH and also for Audi.


Have a look, it’s brilliant.

Love it.

But here’s the thing, if you strip it back, the strategy isn’t that unique.

I’m guessing it would be something like, ‘Road safety is ultimately defined by how you react to how the drivers around you. The progressive and adaptive safety features inside modern Audi’s are designed to help drivers react and respond to the unexpected actions of those around them’.

I bet that sort of thing has been written a bunch of times for a bunch of cars.

But if, as I imagine it, the brief was summed up with something like …

[Audi designs their safety features in the knowledge … ] ‘The roads are full of clowns’.

… then it’s pretty obvious to see how they ended up with work that elevates itself above the usual car safety feature ads.

Of course maybe it had nothing to do with the brief, maybe it was all down to a great creative team, but BBH have always been brilliant at finding great strategic ways to elevate work so I’m hopeful this is a sign that the BBH I have always loved is back to being the BBH that made them so fucking good.



Successful People Can Tell Whatever Story They Want …

Whether you like him or hate him, Gary Vaynerchuk has made a very big impression in a very small period of time.

As with anyone in this position, he has attracted his unfair share of fans and haters.

A few weeks ago, there was an article that challenged the story he tells people.

Not just in terms of it’s message [Anyone can achieve their goals if they’re prepared to work hard for it] but his background.

As we all know, there are always 3 sides to any story – your side, their side and the truth – and while it is true many people who have dreams and work hard DON’T achieve their goals, I felt it was pretty harsh of the author to pick on that given that there’s literally no other way to achieve your goals … just some are lucky and some [most] aren’t.

But this is where I do agree with author of the article, because they correctly highlight ‘successful people get to tell any story they want’.

I find it amazing how many successful people reimagine history.

It’s not hard to work out that their goal is to ensure people view their achievements through the lens of their unique brilliance – whether that is attitudinal or through their acts.

Of course both of those elements would have had a part to play in their success, but to not acknowledge the luck they enjoyed is to create a narrative that is as deluded as most of the Linkedin write-ups I read.

That said, not everyone is like that …

Many, many years ago I met a very, very successful man.

He had made his fortune in air conditioning and when I asked him what he felt he owed his success to, he said, “1976”.

Basically, he had owned a small firm specialising in fans and air con. Business was OK but not setting the World alight until the summer of 1976, where the UK experienced it’s hottest summer on record.

In that summer, he created the foundation for his future fortune.

It wasn’t that people just wanted a way to immediately cool themselves down, it made companies realize they may need to have a solution for future summers in the office.

Yes, he had worked very, very hard during this time – and subsequent years – but as he said to me, he had always been working hard … it was the good fortune of extreme weather that made his efforts experience greater rewards.

In other words, luck.

And while he still downplayed the effort he put in to be successful, I remember even back then how refreshing it was to hear someone being humble about their success rather than claiming it was down to their unique abilities and vision.

Which is why I still follow the advice of my dad, which was always listen to the opinions/advice/experience of others but remember a good percentage of what they say – even if not intentional – is probably what they wish they did rather than what they actually did.