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


Your Past Never Hides …

So after the rather big news for me and my family on Friday, I thought I’d write a post that gives my new gang at Colenso an idea of what they have got to look forward to.

A few weeks ago, I was messing around on YouTube when – by utter chance – I came across a video of one of my old planning gang from R/GA.

It was unbelievable.

In fact, I had to watch it twice as I couldn’t believe I had been so lucky … I mean, fortunate.

Not only were they young.

Not only were they smartly dressed.

But they were in full-on corporate toady mode.

Fortunately for them, I am a kind, caring and considerate person … so rather than let this piece of video suicide hide in plain sight for any innocent person – or client – to stumble across, I decided to take the selfless path and notify them of what I had found.

Sure, I might have done it with a bit too much glee.

Sure, I might have milked it a little too much.

But it’s the thought that counts.

Or at least I thought it was, until I got their reply …

Oh I can’t tell you how much I loved this reply.

It literally made me spit out the drink I was having at the time.

It’s not just that he thinks I was doing some z-grade CIA check on him in an attempt to get material to humiliate and Ambar as him, it’s the fact that while I haven’t shown the celluloid car crash to anyone else [which even I’m surprised about], he knows that I know it exists.

I believe it’s called, ‘leverage’ … though I think they would refer to it as blackmail.



Which Came First: The Dumbing Down Of Marketing Or Creativity?

Above is a point of sale sign from a local supermarket.

Look at it.

LOOK AT IT!!!

What a pile of utter shite.

Noticeable for it’s stupidity rather than it’s inspiration.

The sort of stuff you would expect from a 5 year old writing jokes for a Christmas Cracker, than a company with well paid staff, responsible for the commercial growth of an organisation.

So who is to blame?

Well there are many who should feel a sense of shame – from ad agencies to research companies to clients – however when I think of who started this horribleness to begin, I can’t help but feel it was at the hands of the marketing department.

Of course even they are not totally to blame.

The C-Suite, with their demands and expectations have a lot to answer for … almost as much as the investors, who say they want the companies they invest in to be good companies but they better make increasing profits every quarter.

But what I found fascinating coming back to Western markets from Asian – specifically China – was how little ambition there really was.

Oh companies would talk about it – wax lyrical about it – but when you delved a little deeper, you saw there wasn’t much there.

Instead the focus was far more about defending rather than growing, corporate convenience rather than customer understanding, explaining rather than communicating and short-term conformity rather than long term change.

But of course, ad agencies need to take their blame for this situation as well.

Too many doing whatever clients want rather than what they need.

Profiting from process over creativity.

Celebrating speed over substance.

What makes it worse is some think this leads to good work.

Effective work. Using ‘proof’ that ignores the myriad of small, separate elements that combine to drive success so they can place themselves on a self-appointed pedestal.

But there are some who have a bit more self-awareness.

Who know what they’re doing is not as good as it could be.

Or should be.

But rather than face their responsibility in all of this, they blame others for how this came about … turning to questionable research that is based on a few tweets, a couple of chats around the agency or claims every single person on the planet can have their attitudes and behaviours characterised by a singular colour or some other bollocks.

And from this, they will claim the public don’t care about smart stuff.

That they ‘don’t understand’ good ideas and writing.

They they’re simply not interested in creativity and ideas.

Bullshit.

Bullshit.

Bullshit.

I’ve got to tell you, I’m absolutely over it.

I’m over the focus on the lowest common denominator.

Let’s face it, life would be pretty horrible and boring if that is how we really operated … and contrary to popular belief, we don’t.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t elements of predictability in what we do, but to ignore the nuance … to suggest everything we aspire to is exactly the same, delivered via an identical approach … is just plain bullshit.

But here’s the kicker, because more clients and agencies seems to be adopting this approach.

White labelling, phoned-in solutions with a cool sounding names that actively destroys any sense of differentiation and distinctiveness of their brand from countless competitors while also directly insulting the intelligence of the customers they rely on to survive.

I get it’s less hassle to just agree with clients.

I get that having income coming in right now is very important.

I get that a single point-of-sale sign is not going to change the world.

But when we are willing to allow our standards to be determined by how quick we can make money, then all we’re doing is ensuring the long-term value of our industry – and the talented people in it or wanting to be in it – dies even more quickly.

And that’s why I am also over people being quick to piss on anyone trying to do something different.

Claiming it’s self indulgent.

Labelling it a failure before it’s even run.

Saying it won’t appeal to the audience … despite not knowing the brand, the brief, the audience or how people actually think or act outside of some hypothetical customer journey / strategic framework of convenience.

And yet, when you look at the brands, the work and the agencies who consistently resonate deeply and authentically with culture and drive long-term loyalty, growth and profit – it’s the usual suspects and a few newbies, like Nils and the fabulous folks at Uncommon.

Yes our job is to help our clients achieve more than they hoped. Yes our job is to attract rather than repel. But our job is also to help build the future for our clients … influencing, shaping and – sometimes – forcing dramatic change even before the masses are quite ready for it, which means doing work that challenges and provokes for all the right reasons … sometimes asking questions of the audience rather than boring them into beige submission.

And while I acknowledge there are risks in all of that, I personally believe it is far riskier to dumb everything down to it’s lowest common denominator, because every single thing we love, respect and covet has come from someone or something doing something different.

Whether that’s an idea, a product, a story or a new way of looking at the World … it has come from people who understood who we are but take us further than we imagined, pushing the journey and the story with every new chapter of what they create.

They could have taken the easy route.
They could have focused on optimising the rewards.
They could have spent their time ‘removing friction from the transactional process’.

But they didn’t. Or at least, they didn’t just focus on that.

They embraced the risk to create something bigger and more unexpectedly resonant.

Or should I say unexpectedly resonant by those judging them, because they knew exactly where they were going.

And this is why the people who are so quick to dismiss anyone trying to do something new need to understand their actions say far more about who they are and what they value than anything else. And in an industry that is fighting for its life, I put my faith in those using creativity to change the game rather than those who just talk about violation of some old rules.



Lets All Laugh At The People Having A Terrible Time …

So writing a post this topical is a new experience for me, but I saw an ad being posted over and over again on social media this past weekend and I had to write about it.

This is the ad …

Now I admit, when I first saw it, I smiled and thought it was mildly humourous and then I realised what I was looking at was a company being massively exploitative and basically horrible.

This airline is using the break-up of a family … a family involving 6 kids … as an opportunity to try and flog their airline tickets.

Think about that for a moment.

Sure, the parents involved in the ad are huge celebrities … but does that give a company the right to literally piss on their pain for their own gain?

I don’t think so.

Imagine if someone did that to you in your moment of sadness.

Your marriage breaks up.

You lose your job.

A loved one dies.

I pretty much doubt you’d let a family member make a joke like that, let alone a total stranger.

Of course the marketing community will say I’m being a miserable old bastards and say this is a great example of being a ‘challenger brand’ or ‘cultural hijacking’ but that’s because a lot of the marketing community are a bunch of empathy devoid fucks who don’t know what the hell they are talking about.

Most of my career has been connected to challenger brands – and I’ve done more than my share of cultural hijacking – but I’ve never done work where I used an individual persons tragedy to big my client up … especially when my client and the individuals involved have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

Is taking the piss out of companies who have done wrong, fair game?

Sure.

Is taking the piss out of people who have a reputation for a particular behaviour fair game?

Maybe … in very specific circumstances.

But even if the CEO of Hitler Industries endured a personal tragedy, I would never advocate using that as a platform to flog some airline tickets because if you have no empathy or standards, why do you think anyone should have it towards you.

Imagine if a Swedish Airline ran this ad after the terrible 2011 massacre in Norway:

Do you think Norwegian Airlines would be happy?

Do you think they’d say it was unprofessional and in terrible, terrible taste?

I am pretty sure they would, but it seems that rule would only apply if it concerns their wellbeing.

Pricks.

Of course some will say, “but the ad’s worked because people are talking about it” … but there’s 2 responses to that.

1. Awareness doesn’t mean effectiveness.

Given the ad is all about trying to flog some tickets to the US, it can only be deemed successful if they sold out. [And even that is open to intreptation given they may have only put a few tickets on ‘sale prices’ to justify the ad]

2. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

_______________________________________________________________________

I know you may think I’m going on and on about this, but if this kind of work becomes acceptable, where does the line get drawn?

More than that, if this sort of work becomes your baseline, what do you think people will think of you?

Sure, they may find you amusing, but does that mean they will want to give you their money.

Many years ago I was working with a big global consumer electronics brand that kept talking about wanting to do ads using Mr Bean because of the shows popularity in their market.

It was only when we pointed out that while people may like Mr Bean, how many would trust his advice to spend US$10,000 on a television.

I get the first rule for communication is to get noticed … but if revelling in others misery or misfortune becomes your schtick, then don’t start crying when people start turning on you. Just look at GREY FOR GOOD if you want more proof of that happening.



When GREY Turns Black …

Yes, I know I’ve written about this a lot before – hell, I wrote something just 2 weeks ago – but I have to vent.

HAVE. TO. VENT.

As many of you now know, GREY Singapore claimed to have developed an app that could help stop refugees escaping their troubled homeland via the high seas, from dying.

It won a bronze Cannes Lion.

It was a total and utter fake.

Rightfully, this was picked up by the media and forced GREY to reluctantly [and I mean, reluctantly] hand the award back, but I have a question …

Why are people shocked at the scandalous behavior of Grey and Cannes?

This has been happening for years and nothing ever happens. Nothing.

Of course, exploiting refugees to win a bronze Cannes Lion is utterly sick but, let’s remember, LYING ABOUT ANYTHING IN A BID TO WIN AN AWARD IS SHIT … whether it’s an iodine bindy, a wifi enabled clothes peg or an app that alleges to help stop needless deaths of refugees taking to the high seas to escape their troubled homeland, despite the fact it is all fake and doesn’t work.

And what did GREY say in response to this finding?

They claim they had been clear it was only in its ‘testing phase’.

Which begs the question, why the hell did they think it was OK to enter an award supposedly based on real work.

I’d love to see the submission and see if their write-up highlighted this fact … which then means Cannes should have kicked it out before it even got to the judging phase.

A total fuckfest managed by imposters and charlatans.

But here’s the thing …

I don’t think the creatives at Grey Singapore are purely to blame for this.

They’ll probably get made the scapegoats, but it goes far beyond them.

There’s the local management who demanded their creative department win awards.

And the global management … despite their claim they never do this sort of thing.

And let’s not forget the holding company that pushes their companies for more and more [fake] results.

And then there’s Cannes … who openly and actively celebrate agencies that do this sort of thing in a bid to keep the money rolling in.

The one slight positive – apart from the work that is genuinely worthy of applause and a true celebration of what we do when we all want to do it right – is that the only reason this scam situation happens over and over again is because, outside of our bubble, few seem to give a shit about who we are and what we do.

In fact, it is only because The Guardian newspaper decided to do a story on the Grey Singapore app [I’m assuming because “refugees” are news worthy – so they’re being exploited again] that the murmurs of a few become the scream of a lot because without that story, I’m pretty sure it would be business as usual.

I hope someone hears it. It’s killing our industry and we need to do a u-turn very quick indeed.

GREY FOR GOOD … the supposed philanthropic arm of GREY is, in my opinion, nothing more than a front for this sort of thing.

If they were being honest they would name it GREY FOR OUR OWN GOOD, but as we have discovered from this years award entries [which, let’s not forget, is just one agency of many agencies pulling this scam] GREY and TRUTH are never comfortable bed fellows.



When Doing Good Ends Up Being Bad …
April 25, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Awards, Corporate Evil, Culture, Only In Adland

So recently I judged a massive amount of effectiveness papers.

A massive amount.

And while there were some excellent submissions – and, sadly, a fair amount of terrible ones – the thing that struck me overall was that it appears Indian marketing is stuck in a ‘do good’ inflation race with itself.

As I’ve always been someone who has advocated the potential for brands to make a difference to their community, you’d think I’d be very happy about this, however when so much of it comes across as contrived, forced, exploitive – or worse – desperately trying to ‘one-up’ the competition without any real thought to what the audience needs – just what they want them to have – you end up feeling disillusioned by the end of it.

Not only that, but I have to question how effective these sorts of campaigns can be when it seems every brand in every category is basically doing the same thing.

As I said, left me feeling disillusioned and I appreciate that’s amazing given it came from reading countless papers about doing good, but I guess that’s another thing advertising is brilliant at doing.