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


Goodbye Mr Gee …
January 18, 2019, 7:30 am
Filed under: China, Chinese Culture, Death, Empathy, Insight, Marketing, Media, Planners

When I first moved to China, I heard of this ad man who was highly regarded for his authentic insight into Asian culture but without the smug arrogance shown by so many of his peers.

His name was Ian Gee.

A few years later, I had the pleasure of meeting him when we were both invited guests on an episode of the now defunct, Thoughtful China.

Unsurprisingly he stole the show with his smart comments delivered in his understated charismatic way.

Despite his brilliance making me feel even more of an imposter than I normally do, we hit it off and while we only met in person that one time, I was thrilled we stayed in touch – often instigated by comments he made on this blog.

Sadly today I heard from his son that Ian passed away yesterday from cancer.

Few people knew he was ill because he kept it to himself as he didn’t want it to define him.

He need not of worried because lots of people know he was a kind, generous, humourous, intelligent man with unwavering and unapologetic standards for doing what was best for the work, the people around him and the culture he represented … and anyone who tried to shortcut or short-change had better watch out.

It was a true privilege Ian.

Comments Off on Goodbye Mr Gee …


When We Put Our Heads Up Our Asses …

So this is hard for me because it not only involves an agency I like very much – Droga5 – but it also involves a number of personal friends.

So over the past few months, there’s been a campaign for Email marketing platform, MailChimp.

Not that you’d know it, because the campaign has been about creating seemingly random ads for things with names that kind-of sound like MailChimp but never actually say it.

Hence we’ve had all sorts of things like FailChips and SnailPrimps placed all around NYC.

And why?

Because when the brand sponsored the hit podcast ‘Serial’, someone in the promo mispronounced the brand as “MailKimp” and Droga5 thought that could be a fun way to advertise the brand.

That’s right, spend a shitload of cash doing a bunch of things that never actually mentions the brand name or relates to what the brand does.

This is how a Mailchimp exec explains it …

“We used mispronunciation as a creative device to inspire all kinds of different executions, knowing that people would be curious about what they were seeing and search for more information”.

What?

WHAT?

Now I accept there is a good chance I might be wrong, but are people that curious?

Do people give a flying fuck about this sort of thing?

Maybe they do, which means I can’t help but wonder how they felt when they discovered what it was really all about.

Were they pissed off they’ve just been part of a marketing scam?

Or maybe they ended up being massively disappointed by what they discovered it all to be about.

Or did they go, “Wow, that’s amazing” and immediately sign up for their service, even if they didn’t need it.

I have a feeling it’s not that likely to be the last option.

Don’t get me wrong, I know people love to ‘discover’ stuff, but I’m not so sure that means they love discovering they’ve just been had.

All of this feels like the people behind the campaign either watched one too many bad spy movies or took Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘tipping point’ a tad too literally.

But it gets worse.

Much worse … because this ‘strategy’ of mispronouncing the brand name – according to the credits released with the campaign – required 7 strategists.

SEVEN.

What did they do?

What is the bloody strategy in any of this?

I appreciate that sometimes the biggest insight is there isn’t one … but even then, you don’t need 7 strategists. Hell, even if you were doing a campaign to solve world hunger, you wouldn’t need seven strategists.

WHAT IS GOING ON!?

I love Droga5 and I massively respect my friends who were involved in this campaign, but this all smacks of early dotcom advertising and we know what happened to the majority of those brands.

Actually I’m wrong, because at least those ads focused on people remembering the name.

This isn’t advertising, it’s anti-advertising and while the industry might think that’s something cool and worthy of aspiring too, in the real World – or at least The Guardian – they know it’s a great advertisement for saying our industry has its head up it’s own ass.



Why You Should Never Ask Normal People To Act In A Video As A Normal Person …

As most of you know, I love car-crash internal videos.

I love them for so many reasons …

The ridiculousness of ego.

The appalling lack of judgement.

The desperation packaged as confidence.

While I’ve written about so many of these things over the years, my favourite has always been Singapore’s Media Development Authorities corporate snuff video.

Or it was until I saw this …

No, it’s not a spoof.

It’s actually meant to make working in the Australian Department of Finance look attractive.

Apparently it cost $4,000 … having looked at it, that’s still $3,995 too much.

What were they thinking?

OK, I get what they were thinking, but how did they think this was good enough to release?

Hell, they should have known it was going to be a pile of fucking awful the moment they saw the ‘script’.

But no …

And then there’s the decision to use the real employees in it.

I appreciate the attempt to make it authentic, but people can’t act being people.

Hell, even Keanu Reeves – a Hollywood actor – finds it hard to act being a person.

I get some intern may not realise the stupidity of agreeing to appear in something like this … but what about the senior guys? Unless they had a gun put against their head, they should have absolutely refused to do it.

Hell, if they were threatened with death, they should have taken that option because the embarrassment of appearing in something like this – or even working in a place that does something like this – is potentially career destroying.

All in all, this is going to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

They could have saved it if they came out and said, “guess we should stick to working with the numbers that run the country, rather than act”, but no they’ve said nothing which means they might think this is really good.

Oh dear.

The lack of self-awareness within companies and organisations that supposedly understand or represent the masses is mind-blowing.

Worse, their lack of appreciation that everything you do say’s something about you to all who experience it is bordering on insanity.

But on the bright side, their blindness is my light.



So What Does Your Advertising Say About Your Country …

So I saw this quote recently and I admit I found it very interesting.

Yes, I know there are flaws with it … from being a generalised statement to being dependent on the media you individually engage with … however if you put that aside and look at it from the perspective of mainstream communication, I do think there’s something in it.

Which begs the question …

If you were to really look at the ads trying to grab your attention today, what do you think they are saying about the values, attitude and aspirations of the country you live in.

I’m genuinely interested to get your perspective. Thank-you.



You’re Either In Control Or Being Controlled …

Many of you may have already read this, but a while back, Politico magazine wrote a long – but fascinating – article about the moment George W Bush heard about 9/11.

What makes it especially interesting is they talk to people who were with him that day … from his Chief Of Staff, to his security detail to journalists to the pilots of Air Force One and the F-16’s sent to further protect the plan.

It is an amazing insight into one of modern histories most defining moments as well as being a wonderful lesson in how to give direction to chaos rather than letting chaos direct you.

You can read it here.



The Media Mumble …
July 22, 2015, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment, Communication Strategy, Media

I’m a big fan of media planning.

Not the sort of mouse-clicking, box-ticking rubbish that goes on way too often … but the sort of planning that truly demonstrates an understanding of cultural behaviour to help realise a clients commercial ambitions.

Now that sort of approach is nothing new, if anything, it has been the basis of how media planning was supposed to work from day one … which is why I never fail to be amazed when certain specialist agencies make it sound they’re being revolutionary when all they’re actually doing is adopting the fundamental approach of their discipline.

But what really bugs me is that despite all their big [read: small] talk … despite them having more data, tools and opportunities at their fingertips than ever before … media planning was arguably more inventive in the past than it is in the present.

Of course, part of the reason for this is that the most important attribute a client wants in their media partner is quantifiability … which means they are automatically limited to choosing platforms that already have industry ‘measurement criteria and benchmarks’ built-in.

Now I totally understand and appreciate why clients regard this as important, however knowing how many people have been exposed to a message is very different to approaching communication with the goal of influencing change of attitude or behaviour.

It’s for this reason that I still find it amazing how few companies give their media partners 10-20% of their media budget to experiment or explore alternate approaches with. It’s almost like they feel safe in the comfort of predictability – which is of course exactly why they don’t do it, because in corporateland, it’s better to not cause any surprises than run the risk of doing something great.

How I wish they would. Not just so infectious creativity could be put back into media strategy … not just so they could see how impactful this approach can be on their business … not just so some very good and talented media strategist mates of mine could truly show how brilliant they are when given real freedom … but to stop out-of-date, slightly awkward, speeches like the one above from ever happening again.