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


Out Of The Times …
June 22, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Culture, Marketing, Marketing Fail, Positioning, Sport

The Times.

One of the icons of newspapers and journalism.

Not just in the UK, but across the whole World.

Sure, there have been scandals along the way – not to mention the Murdoch ownership – but overall, it is still a paper that commands huge respect which is why I found this recent ad of theirs on Facebook rather baffling.

Yes, I know football is a global sport worth billions of pounds a year.

Yes, I know The Times have a football writer, Henry Winter, that is highly revered.

Yes, I know that Facebook audiences may be more likely to react to a football story than a journalism story.

But …. come on.

It’s the fucking Times.

And while having a global perspectives has never been so important as it is today, I’m not sure football – or Jose Mourinho for that matter – is going to drive the subscriptions they crave, especially when there are so many more topical [and important] issues they could push against … whether that’s the politically motivated movement to promote anything that challenges a claim as false news or even the tragic terrorist events that have taken place in London in the last few days.

While I appreciate the need to broaden your audience base is vital, chasing them never leads to long term success because ultimately you are handing over your destiny to people who could change their allegiance in a heartbeat, especially when there are so many other alternatives all vying for your attention.

As I wrote a while back, if you don’t commit to what you were created for, then how can you ever expect your audience to commit to what you stand for.



A Half Brit, Half Italian Who Spent 7 Years Living In China And Now Lives In America Starts Work At An Agency That Sounds Awfully Like A German Bank …

So as you know I have left China and moved to LA.

And, given I’ve written about it, you know the reasons behind the decision.

However I am also conscious I haven’t said where I am going. OK, so I know others have said where I’m going, but I haven’t. At least on here. 

Well today is the day, because today is the day I start my new job.

Actually I should say today is the day I start my main job because I’m also doing an on-going project with a rather famous rock band [ no, it’s not Queen] however I’m super excited to announce that as of this morning, I have become partner, chief strategy officer and official ‘new boy at school’ at American agency, Deutsch.

If you are based in the US, I’m sure you’ve heard of them but if you’re not, you’ll probably know them for this

To say they’re big is an understatement.

They’re huuuuuuuuge.

Massive clients. Massive office. Massive team.

Basically it’s the classic American cliche … everything is bigger in the US.

Now I’ve got to admit, there’s an element of their scale that makes me nervous … but that’s part of the reason I am so excited to be here.

When we were deciding where to go, I was very clear I didn’t want to do something that was similar to what I’ve been doing over the last 7 years. That’s not because I haven’t loved it – I’ve loved it almost too much – but because I couldn’t see the point of leaving a company I love if I was only go to end up at another company that wanted to be like the company I’ve just left.

What Deutsch offers me is the chance to play and learn in new areas.

Sure, it’s still advertising … but there’s a few fundamental differences from what I’ve been doing for the last few years.

1. I’m going to be a partner.

I’ve got to be honest, this was very important to me. I always want to grow and be challenged and one of the things I knew would be good for me was if I was given the additional – and official – responsibility for helping run an office.

Now you may think I had that at Wieden Shanghai – and I did, kinda – however the structure of the company meant that unless I become an MD [something I don’t want to be] I would always be an invited guest, never one of the hosts.

I should point out I knew this when I joined and I was always given the opportunity to speak up and speak out, however I believe there’s a point where responsibility without authority undermines your potential and ambition and ultimately, I wanted to see if I could make a bigger difference to a company or if I’m full of shit.

2. Deutsch are much more into using tech to solve their clients business problems.

This is almost going back to the way cynic approached things and I love that. However, it is not for the reason that I am sure Northern Planner will suggest … which is that I might be able to convince a client to let me make a moped or car for them.

In all seriousness, one of the things I really liked about Deutsch was their desire to forge their own direction rather than replicate someone else’s. That sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many places try and mimic Wieden without seemingly realising there’s only one W+K and they will always be the best in the World at what they do.

Deutsch’s ambitions feel more entrepreneurial and applied and I find that desire, fascinating.

3. I get to set direction for brands rather than translate someone else’s direction.

While I’ve worked around the World and represented massive regions of the globe, the reality is in most cases, I’ve been about translating someone else’s perspective on what the brand does/is. Someone who tends to work and live in America.

If I’m honest, I’ve never really found this a hindrance – especially in China, where the cultures was so different, so it was always fun to try and work out how to make things connect – but it will be nice to be at the real start of the challenge for once.

Of course there’s other reasons …

The partners are all great people who just happen to work in advertising.

I get to infect a new bunch of talented planners and hopefully make them even better than they thought they could be.

I have the opportunity to make my new team one of the most respected/hated/mischievous departments in the whole of North America. I find that idea really exciting and really infectious.

And then there’s the 2 big ones …

I get to give my family an environment that is healthy for them and we get to experience and immerse ourselves in a brand new culture. Again.

Those are worth their weight in gold … especially as we’ve found a Mandarin school for Otis so he can still feel a connection to the country he was born in and the country his father loves and will miss deeply.

[Oh, we also own and get to drive cars again for the first time in 15 years. I am embarrassingly excited about it … though driving on ‘the wrong side of the road’ is interesting … especially for all the other drivers in LA]

In fact the only thing I don’t like about my new job is that I’m called the Chief Strategy Officer.

I’m not that keen on that. It feels so cold. So exclusive. So disconnected to creativity.

But I get America loves its titles so it’s a small price to pay for the adventure.

So we will see what happens.

It could all go down in flames or it could be a fantastic adventure and for me, when those are the possibilities, that makes me massively excited.

So thank you Deutsch for the incredible opportunity, let’s hope you don’t regret it …

More posts in a couple of weeks when I’ve either [1] settled in a bit or [2] been fired.



They’re At It Again …

I know … I know … you would think I am over the whole ‘pram marketing’ thing by now.

Not just because I’ve written a ton about it [here and here and here and probably many other places] but because Otis is 2 and doesn’t need one anymore.

But I’m not.

Not while they keep putting out bullshit like this …

Like everything iCandy do, there’s so much that just pisses me off.

Let’s start with the colouring of the ad.

Orange.

ORANGE.

Who the fuck would want an orange pram?

I’ll tell you who, the pricks who own a lime green Lamborghini.

Yeah, those folks who are so bloody egotistical that they make sure absolutely no one can miss them.

Having a supercar to nip down to the post office to buy some stamps isn’t enough.

They need it in a shade of vomit that means even blind people can see it.

But that isn’t even the most annoying bit.

Look at that claim.

ABSOLUTELY FUTUREPROOF.

Errrrrrrm, does it turn into a bike?

What about a car?

Or a house?

Does it turn into anything OTHER THAN A BLOODY PRAM?

No, no it doesn’t … but yet again, iCandy have spouted a load of marketing twaddle because they don’t want to be in the pram business, they want to be in the innovation business and while I have no doubt that to give a pram 30 different configurations is quite an achievement, it’s still a pram and the innovation isn’t that soddin’ innovative.

But hey, they won’t matter to the fools who buy it … the same fools, as we identified earlier, who buy a lime green Lamborghini.

Because to them it won’t matter if they never use any of the configurations available to them because the purpose of purchase is not to ensure their child is protected and comfortable while being transported between the gym and the chip shop … oh no … for them, it’s all about being seen by everyone around them and being able to bore their ‘friends’ with a list of the prams features they will neither use nor understand.

Once upon a time there was a famous advertising slogan for the telecommunications company Orange that said:

The futures bright, the futures orange.

Well, thanks to iCandy, we have an updated version of that.

The futures bright, the futures fucked.



Vanity Drives Insanity …

A little while ago, I wrote about how technology scared me.

It wasn’t because Facebook had served me an ad suggesting I may like to buy a Queen t-shirt that states I was born in the month of June … it was because it was hideous, even for me.

However recently, I was exposed to something even worse than that.

Something that technology was to blame for.

This …

OK, so these things are meant to be a bit of mindless fun … but imagine if you were Barack Obama or Chris Evans.

Would they think it’s ‘mindless fun’?

Mindless, maybe … but fun?!

Even if the technology behind this ‘game’ is simply randomly grabbing 2 celebrity photos and claiming the enquirer is a combination of them, it’s all a bit dangerous.

Yes, I said dangerous … which I openly admit, is a very over-the-top statement, but it’s my blog so I’ll call it what I want.

Oh yes.

Ahem.

So back to the point of the post …

You see there are a huge amount of people who are forever looking for evidence of their specialness and they adapt their reaction to news and events to suit.

A horoscope announcing the World will recognise your contribution to civilisation?

Met with a sense of positivity or – at the very least – hope, even if you try laugh it off to your mates. Trust me, if you’re reading it out for others to hear, there’s a part of you that believes it. Or wants to believe it.

A horoscope announcing this is a week where you will reveal yourself to have failed?

Met with a sneer and swear words.

The thing I found funny about this ‘which celebrity are you most like’ thing, was how many people did it and posted the results.

There were just as many people despairing about what was given to them as there was humble bragging.

The despair was written in a way where you felt the person was asking their friends for reassurance that they weren’t really a cross between Lassie and Britney Spears whereas the humble braggers wrote with a tone that tried to convey they’d found the whole thing hilarious while actually being smug their true spirit had been recognised by an online ‘game’.

And that’s why I love what I do … because while many think it’s all about listening and watching, I feel it’s about understanding and interpreting because so much of what we do is driven by what we are trying to hide [even from ourselves] rather than what we want to reveal.

As I’ve said many times, we’re all hypocrites and these shit Facebook things have a wonderful way of revealing it.

[But I really do think I have Chris Evans/Obama qualities. In my case, I’m positive it’s all true]



Can Anyone Miss Home This Much?

Despite being half Italian, I identify myself as British.

And I love my country.

I do.

I know I don’t live there, but it is still somewhere very precious to me, both for my memories and my friends.

My Britishness affects quite a lot of what I do and how I do it.

Even to this day, if I see ‘bangers and mash’ on a menu, I’m going to have it.

It doesn’t matter if I’m in London, Shanghai or Vietnam … it’s going to go into my gob.

And when I do go home, I absolutely adore stocking up on old favourites.

Monster Munch crisps.

Double Decker chocolate bars.

Kebab Cob Special from Nick the Greeks on Radcliffe Road.

Of course it’s not just food that makes me feel British, but I mention this because I recently got served this ad on Facebook.

Look, I get how nostalgic food can make you feel.

And yes, I appreciate how irrational our emotions can be.

But seriously, who the hell would be nostalgic for beef stock cubes.

Especially pretty shitty beef stock cubes.

Suddenly I don’t feel anywhere near as sad as I thought I was.

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PS: If you want to get a taste for British regional ‘cuisine’ – as well as good old fashioned banter – check out the comments in this awesome article about the Wigan ‘pie sandwich’.



WiFi Wickedness …

Just to make sure no one is under the mistaken illusion that this blog is topical, I wanted to bring your attention to something that happened way back in March 2016.

OK … OK … I know for this blog, that’s pretty topical, but let’s put that aside for now.

As I’ve discovered over the years, the car industry may be one of the most competitive industries out there and nothing highlights this more than at Auto-shows.

Seriously, it often appears the focus of the manufacturers is simply to out-do the competition rather than try to engage the potential owner.

Anyway, at New York Auto Show last year [yes, last year] Audi set up a bunch of free Wi-Fi networks and gave them names that highlighted the A4’s features over the BMW 328i.

And because people are always scrambling for free wifi at conventions like this, a huge amount of people not only saw it, but got educated by it at the same time.

Simple, smart, evil.

Of course, this isn’t a new thing, just a smart thing.

A deviously smart thing.



Little Things Make The Difference …

In Asia, hand cleanliness is almost an obsession.

People even eat their sandwiches and burgers with knives and forks to avoid having to pick them up.

OK, so maybe that’s the case everywhere and I’m just showing my common Nottingham roots … but I still find it fascinating.

Everywhere you go, there’s hand sanitisers.

I’m not just talking in hospitals, I’m talking restaurants and all sorts of other places.

Recently, I saw this on my wife’s bag.

Yep, it’s a portable hand sanitiser.

But I’m not saying this because it highlights how long we’ve been in Asia, I’m saying it because making a product that can attach easily to a bag is an act of simple genius.

For a culture that doesn’t want to just wash their hands, but have them truly germ free … this little idea has big appeal.

Sure, there’s other products on the market that do a similar thing, but having something that attaches to your bag gives a peace of mind that wipes hidden in your bag, just can’t do. Plus being permanently on display helps advertise the brand to all who see it. Nice.

I’ve said for a while that I feel designers are doing things in more interesting ways than ad agencies and ultimately that’s down to one simple difference of approach.

Designers want to solve problems whereas ad agencies want to communicate problems.

Not all agencies are like this.

Not all agency employees are like this.

But right now, the design industry is kicking our ass and I swear it’s because we are holding on to remuneration models that reward ‘the old ways’ rather than finding ways to get paid for what we are truly capable of if given the freedom to do it.

[That and the fact adlands creative department hiring policy is still primarily based on art and copy rather than embracing different types of creative people/thinkers/doers]

We will have to wake up soon, otherwise the bullshit we churn out for Cannes – that we claim is ‘creative problem solving’ will become the benchmark for our standards and when that happens, we may as well pack up and go home.

But I have faith it can be done, if only because I saw The Kennedys Shanghai consistently solve problems in imaginative and innovative and intriguing ways for 9 months.