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


Creativity Without Bruises And Scars Is Not Great Creativity …

A while back – when I was running The Kennedys – I told the guys about how hard it is to make great work.

Ironically, the issue was less about the expression of creativity – though there is always difficulties in that – but in actually getting your precious idea through all the gatekeepers/processes/people without it being impeded, diluted or impacted.

Now don’t get me wrong, being pushed to be better is always good, but it appears we now live in times where the goal of others seems to be the reverse.

Sanitization.

Blandness.

Ego/Career management.

Or as my dear friend George once said:

“Creativity today is a client going to the doctor, telling them their expertise is wrong and then prescribing their own medicine.”

Of course people are entitled to their opinion.

Of course ad industry creativity needs to be commercial creativity.

But right now, it appears many clients version of ‘commercial’ is to either communicate what they want people to care about [regardless if they care about it, or believe it] or to say things where absolutely no one can ever be offended because what they want to communicate makes beige look bold.

And because adland – or should I say some within adland – has sold the value of creativity down the river in favour of making fees from process and production, the entire industries ‘creativity’ is being called into question.

What has happened to wanting to make work that makes culture take notice?

What has happened to wanting to making work others wished they had made?

What has happened to wanting to make work that changes entire categories?

Yes, I know there are some that still fly the flag of great work – but not many and not always consistently – and what’s worse is that we, as an industry, have contributed to this situation but what really gets to me … what really pisses me off … is that I feel we are continuing to pander to the wishes and demands of the organisations we are supposed to help, the organisations who – for whatever reason – are undermining our industries value and long-term future.

I’m not saying we should be arrogant.

Or rude.

Or forget why clients hire us.

But come on, why be a doctor when we let the patient diagnose themselves, which is why I absolutely loved this piece by the phenomenal Dave Trott.

At the beginning of this post, I wrote about how I had taught The Kennedy’s that great creativity doesn’t come without bruises and scars … well, if we still want to stand a chance of making the work that shows how brilliant we can be, then we better be prepared to fight harder for it, because being the punching bag is hurting everyone … us, our clients, our audiences.

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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..



Know Your Audience …

When the internet first started, you often found your inbox full of ‘newsletters’ from companies who had sent you stuff simply because you once showed an interest in what they were doing.These newsletters invariably talked about what the company wanted you to be interested in, rather than what you were interested in – which is why they would often end up in the trash, without even opening them.

To be honest, I thought the worst of those days were over, but then last week I received this …

Now, as I am sure most of you know, I don’t drink alcohol.

Nothing.

In fact, not a sip of alcohol has passed my lips since NINETEEN EIGHTY FIVE!

That’s 32 years … longer than some of you have been alive … so putting aside the fact I never showed an interest in this company, the opening 2 sentences of their ‘personalized email’ has 2 major mistakes:

1. It’s not perfect for me.
2. Which is why it’s hard to get hold of me.

So while I like my colleagues and I especially like them when they’re drunk so I have more embarrassing shit to have on them, I wouldn’t buy this for myself – or them – which suggests that the ‘newsletter tsunami’ that I thought had died a long time ago, is not only alive and well … but has evolved to pure business scam, which is hardly likely to make me trust them, even if they had something I wanted.

I can only imagine they were drunk when they put me on their newsletter list.

That or they’re fucking idiots.



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.



The Final Countdown …

So today is the first of December.How the hell has that happened?

Wasn’t it February 2 weeks ago?!

I suppose the good news is there’s only going to be 2 more weeks of blog posts for the year.

Which – given I only write this rubbish on weekdays – means 10 more posts.

And two of those will be sentimental claptrap … one for Otis’ birthday on the 11th and then some shit ‘2017 wrap up’ … which means you only have 8 truly pathetic posts to endure.

Christ, it’s like I’m giving you your Christmas present early.

But no, I’m going to give you more.

Much more.

Are you ready?

So recently I was sent a TV ad for Rolls Royce.

You didn’t think Rolls Royce made those did you? Neither did I.

And while the song ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ is an inspired choice, the rest of it is utter pants.

Like utter, utter pants.

It’s absolutely obvious they’re trying to appeal to a younger audience, but the end result says far more about the insecurities of the marketing team at RR – and their agency – than the people they want to engage.

Seriously, I’ve watched it countless times and I’m increasingly coming to the opinion that the only thing they’re actually selling is a ‘colour option’ on the car.

Have a look at this …

What the hell?

Like seriously, what the hell?

It’s like the worst of pretentious fragrance ads interspersed with the most terrible choices of product shot.

Like that analogue clock.

A bloody analogue clock!!!

The whole thing seems to go from being dark and moody to a 1980’s conservative MP in the blink of an eye.

What are they actually trying to say?

More so, who are they actually trying to say it too?

As I mentioned, the choice of music is brilliant. There’s such a powerful idea in the whole thought around ‘for those who want to rule the World’ – and while you could argue Bentley did it before with their brilliant, but scam, ‘Middle Finger’ print ad, that’s still no excuse for making a bad version of a James Bond movie opening title sequence or a very, very, very bad version of Dunlop’s brilliant 1993 ‘Tested For The Unexpected’ ad, just without the charm, wit, self-awareness or story.

Rolls Royce are amazing car makers.

They have incredible attention to detail, quality and – as the star roof demonstrates – a sense of drama.

Nothing in this ad conveys this. Nothing.

All this ad shows is a brand suffering some sort of identity crisis.

Wanting to appear relevant but showing they don’t really know how to be because they mistook an aesthetic for authenticity.

They deserve more.



Plane Crash Advertising. Again.

I’ve written a lot about how bad airline advertising is.For an industry that is selling escape, adventure, discovery and recuperation – I’m shocked how terrible it is.

Sure, there’s exceptions … Virgin has always been strong [and not just because I was involved in so much of it] and the S7 work from Wieden Amsterdam was wonderful, but the majority are the sort of bland rubbish I’ve ranted about from Singapore and Turkish airlines.

Well there’s a new shit airline ad challenger in town and it’s Lufthansa.

What. The. Hell?

Everything about this piece of awful bemuses me.

The only reason being on a plane at sunrise/sunset is better than being on a rooftop bar with your mates is because you get a better view.

That is literally it.

Sure you might be going on holiday.

Sure you might be sat in business class.

But in terms of that fleeting 60 seconds you get to see the sunset/sunrise, I can assure you it’s better to be at a rooftop bar with your mates.

Even more so if you’re talking about watching the sunrise … because the only reasons you’re awake at that time are shit.

1. You’re jet-lagged to hell.

2. You’ve been woken up mid-sleep to be served some sloppy breakfast that is way too early for you to digest.

And yet they still have the audacity to say ‘air travel engineered around you’.

No it’s not.

Unless this ad was created to appeal to an uber-niche target audience that get sexually excited at seeing sunsets, there is absolutely no evidence Lufthansa engineer their air travel around their passengers needs.

Maybe I should test it.

Hey Lufthansa, I really like spending the day with my family and I hate having to go through all the hassle of getting to the airport and then dealing with security so could you bring your plane near my house and wait for me for when I’m ready to fly?

Could you?

Please … after all, you engineer air travel around me.

You silly, lying, bad-marketing fools.



When Marketing Is Nothing More Ego And Delusion …

Once upon a time, the attitude of marketing departments was to continually communicate ‘new news’, even if it was only of value to themselves.

It didn’t matter what was said, the goal was to keep in the public eye at all costs.

A bit like Madonna in the 1980’s.

Anyway, over the years – possibly driven by rising media costs – this trend died down and there was a greater focus on speaking when you actually had something to say.

Sure, there was the odd bit of self-indulgence, but overall marketing departments actually marketed their brand rather than their ego.

Of course, when social media happened, we saw – and continue to see – a return to the bad old days, where brands speak to themselves about things even they don’t really care about.

Part of this is because they regard social as ‘free advertising’ and part of it is because their competitors are doing it and they don’t want to be left behind.

That doesn’t mean social is bad, it just means the way it is used often is.

But all that pails into insignificance compared to something I saw recently.

Something where I cannot fathom why they did it and who they think will care.

What am I talking about? This …

That’s right, a photo library company is talking about how they’ve changed their watermark.

Their fucking watermark.

And then they make it sound like we’d actually want to pay them to have the picture WITH the watermark.

WITH IT!

Who are these idiots?

It’s not even a nice watermark so when they say ‘say goodbye to cheap-looking watermarks’, the fact is [1] you wouldn’t be and [2] they seem to have forgotten the whole point of using a photo library is so you can have access to images THAT FEATURE A WATERMARK.

And just when you think things can’t get any worse, they use – quite possibly – the worst ever headline I’ve ever read.

Look at it.

LOOK AT IT.

If you hate watermarks and never want to see one again, the chances of you wanting to see an updated, ugly watermark is exactly zero.

Why Photologo?

What was your thinking on this?

What do you think people are actually going to say, think or do?

This isn’t ego, this is makes Donald Trump’s delusion look utterly sane in comparison.

In the World of ridiculous marketing stunts, this has to go down as one of the worst, especially because even if you’re some mental case and love watermarks, the reality is you can download the pic with it for free.

FREE!!!

Which all says to me that the owners of Photologo are the most insane people I’ve ever ‘met’ and I can only assume that the people who convinced them this was a good idea also own APAC Insider Magazine.