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


Weigel Isn’t Bad …

Martin Weigel.

The professor.

The planners planner.

The miserable bastard that never returns your emails.

Well he might be all of those things, but to me, he’s my mate.

What’s more, I think I’m his mate too – which means he’s not nearly as clever as everyone thinks he is.

But the reality is, he has his place as one of the best because he is. That simple.

Not just because he’s as smart as shit … but underpinning his intellectual ramblings are very simple, but powerful, beliefs that benefit everyone he is interacting with.

I say this because I recently heard his answer to the question, ‘What should a planner do and care about?’ to which he responded with this …

That’s it.

4 lines.

But those 4 lines cover so much.

Vision. Creativity [Not advertising]. Innovation. Cultural Resonance. Ambition. Action. Focus.

In other words, strategy that is designed to liberate rather than play nicely with others.

It’s what makes him so good and the work he does so great.

I should hate him, but I can’t …

And it’s not just because I bloody love his bloody lovely other half.

The reason I say this is that one of the things I’ve been shocked about in America is the standard of planning.

There … I’ve said it.

No, it’s not because I’m a snobby Brit.

No, it’s not because I don’t understand the cultural differences.

It’s because a lot of it is bad.

I’ve spent a lot of time exploring what is out there and in many cases it’s either strategy that the individual has used for pretty much every client they’ve worked on regardless of the situation, or at worst, it’s a snappy worded version of the client brief.

Or just bad taglines that say nothing and mean nothing.

In other words, packaging rather than planning.

Now of course there are some epic planners here – I am fortunate to have a bunch who work with me and there’s a bunch who I wish would work with me – but there has been a bunch who I’ve met/spoken to who have just underwhelmed.

I recently met one who said their main approach to strategy was ‘owning the social platform’.

I had to ask 3 times if I had heard right, and I had.

And when I said they weren’t the sort of planner I wanted in my team, he said I didn’t know what I was doing.

OK, there’s probably more than an element of truth in that, but even my worst planner skills is better than that.

And yet this individual was a senior planner in a good agency.

In other words, he was responsible for helping brands decide the direction they were going to invest millions of dollars in.

MILLIONS!

The World has gone mad.

There is a craft to planning.

You can’t outsource it all to data and media.

Of course those people have a place – and an important one at that – but the hard work is still done by those who realize it’s not about the ad, but the direction, tension and opportunity for the brand and culture.

The one’s who can think of ideas that aren’t really just an executional idea.

Which is why we need more Weigel’s than Gary V’s.

Because flash means nothing if it doesn’t address what I now call, Weigel’s ‘Four Principals Of Worthiness’.

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The Beauty Of Madness …

Last week, Nike dropped an ad.

A 3+ minute ad.

THREE MINUTES, ARE THEY MAD?

Well yes they are because it’s the most magical 3+ minute ad you will see in a long, long time.

I know you might say I’m biased because [1] it’s Nike [2] it’s by Wieden and [3] my beloved ex-collegue, Paula Bloodworth, worked on it … but I’m not saying it for those reasons, I’m saying it because it’s sheer gloriousness.

Sport.
Culture.
Authenticity.
Eccentricity.
London.

You watch it and you are sucked in. You’re smiling, laughing, nodding, relating.

Whether it’s how outsiders see different parts of London to the madness some young athletes have to go through to be noticed.

There’s so much to love about it … though I have to say my favorite parts are definitely the female footballer, the ice-hockey player and the guy at the end on the bike who swipes the ball away.

Brilliant casting, writing, everything.

An ad that shows how great advertising can be when it’s injected with madness, authenticity and originality. Not to mention fun. Not in terms of what the ad is – though it’s full of that – but in terms of feeling how much fun everyone had making it.

An ad that not only shows the elasticity of NIKE’s brand voice, but their ability to be culturally authentic while staying true to who the brand actually is.

Right there is why Wieden is so fucking good.

It’s not just that they’ve made an ad people around the World will love – even if they won’t understand it all – it’s that they’ve made an ad that people in London will truly get.

An ad that is for them.

About them.

Bursting with all the swagger, humour and contrast that makes that city what it is.

I’m sure they knew they had something special at the very beginning but when it started actually coming together, they must have got super excited.

And nervous.

I remember going through all those emotions when we were creating Blackcurrant Tango.

But as I’ve said before, the best feeling in adland is when you think a piece of your work is going to be either amazing or a disaster

Nothing in-between.

Because it means whatever happens, it’s going to make a statement.

And this ad does.

Without doubt it is my favorite NIKE spot in a while [acknowledging a huge amount of them of late have been extra good] and I’m so happy for all my friends who were a part of it.

In fact the only thing wrong is when they say ‘Nothing Beats A Londoner’ when we all know a Nottinghamer can.

Ahem.



It Seems I Am The Fine Line Between Famous And Infamous …

How is your 2018 going so far?

I know it’s still early days – but is it looking good or bad?

Well, if it’s looking positive, I’m about to ruin it for you and if it is looking dodgy, I’m going to help you solidify your opinion.

Why?

Well, a few weeks ago, a nice guy called Paul McEnany asked if he could interview me about my career.

While I’m sure his reasoning for his request was to help planners learn what not to do, my ego said yes even before my mouth did … and while the end result is the bastard love child of rambling randomness and base-level swearing, it’s the perfect way to justify your pessimism for 2018 or to ensure your optimism for the new year doesn’t get too high.

So go here and errrrrm, enjoy [if that’s the right word for it, which it isn’t] and after you’ve heard my crap, listen to the brilliant interviews with people like Gareth Kay, Russell Davies, Richard Huntingdon, Martin Weigel and the amazing Chris Riley because apart from being hugely interesting and inspiring, you’ll get the added bonus of [1] undeniable proof I’m a massive imposter and [2] the knowledge that if I can have some sort of semi-successful career in advertising, you certainly can.

You’re welcome.



When It’s Unfiltered, It Might Leave A Nasty Taste In Your Mouth But It’s At It’s Most Authentic …

When I first joined Deutsch, I wanted to understand what the hell was really going on with American youth so I sent 3 of my team – Maya, Armando and Leigh [along with Sarah, a photographer and co-supported back at HQ by the wonderful Kelsey] – backpacking across the US to spend about a month in some of America’s most opposite cities.

Specifically the richest/poorest … fastest growing/shrinking … most/least diverse.

No nice hotel rooms.

No fancy travel.

Just a month hearing and learning from America in The Raw.

As you can see from this little text exchange below, it left a mark on the guys …

In all seriousness, while they loved it, there were some things they saw and went through that challenged them deeply on a personal level. So deeply, that I honestly believe they have all come back changed for the experience.

And yet overall, what they found was a nation full of young people who wanted their country to be the one they had been brought up to believe in.

A country that lets anyone succeed.

A country that cared for their own equally.

A country where it led by taking on the big challenges and issues and crushing them.

Now of course, you could argue America was never really any of these things – just a master of PR – but that aside, the country they have found is not the country they want and so the way they are approaching their life is basically one of survival.

And what do I mean by survival?

Well in essence, it’s how they can cope with what’s going on until it stops.

Their overall view is “I can’t control the future, but I can control the present”.

And while their behaviour is expressed in multiple ways, we believe they fall into 4 distinct territories …

Protect: Keep safe what you have and don’t risk anything to get what you want.
Disguise: Define your relevance by the topical things you want to associate with.
Escape: Physically create a [momentary] world you want to live in.
Fight: Push against the unfairness you face.

Of course it’s way more complex and complicated than that – and we have spent a lot of time exploring and uncovering the influences, attitudes and behaviours that drive it and define it – but it does seem those 4 lenses are consciously and subconsciously influencing how people are starting to behave.

In all honesty, this adventure has been fascinating – not just in terms of understanding what is starting to happen, but how the issues of race or equality are reaching points where you can feel major change is on the way. Whether that change is instigated by government or the people is still anyones guess, but what we know is that it won’t be able to be swept under the carpet as easily as it has in previous years.

They won’t let it, especially with the current administration doing all it can to prod and provoke them.

The implications for society and business are huge – both in terms of positive change and negative potential – which is why we have created a [coffee-table] book and a presentation and – when we get some breathing space – a short film to truly define and explain what we heard and discovered. But as much as all those things are exciting, the bit I love the most is my team have given a voice to those who are rarely heard in the purest and most unfiltered way you can get.

There’s a lot of things I’ve done in my career that has made me proud.

This is most definitely one of them.

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If you’re interested in seeing/having a copy of the ‘America In The Raw’ book, let me know. I can’t guarantee we can accommodate everyone, but we’ll try.



Anti Positioning Is Enticing …

Positioning.

That thing that planners, marketers and advertising in general spends eons going on about.

Of course I understand why … having a clear and concise territory that you play in helps society associate you with a role/purpose that, hopefully, will pay dividends in the long run.

Now the thing with positioning is it’s as much about sacrificing what you’re not going to be as it is defining what you are.

As much about who you’re not going to appeal to as who you will.

For the last 25 years, I’ve been a massive advocate of that until I saw this …

The photo – and quote – comes from a band called Illust8ors.

I don’t really care if you’ve never heard of them, but that reference is amazing.

Rage Against The Machine and Maroon 5.

Two bands that should never, ever be in the same sentence and yet – despite all you would think – it makes me want to check them out rather than shut the door on them.

Who knows if they mean what they said.

Who knows if their music is like Rage Against Maroon 5.

But I will soon … because while some may say they’ve positioned themselves broad, they’ve achieved exactly what a great positioning does … pull people in.



Standards And Opinion Are The Only Thing That Separates Us …
February 3, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Brand Suicide, Point Of View

One of the things I hate about marketing is how it now chases customers rather than attracts.

They pander.

They crawl.

They basically say – or do – whatever it is their research says people want from them.

Which not only makes entire categories look, act and behave the same way, but it ultimately undermines the whole point of marketing in the first place.

Sure, every now and then you’ll get a ‘manifesto ad’ where a brands talks about what it believes … however, on closer inspection, you realise most of them are saying nothing whatsoever or are so contrived in their expression, that you realise they’ve been designed to blend in rather than stand out.

Great brands sacrifice.

Great brands polorise.

Great brands stand for something.

Great brands are stubborn bastards.

That doesn’t mean they don’t care about the people who embrace them, they do. The reality is their success is born from not trying to appeal to everyone, but to mean everything to someone.

Where loyalty is disproportionate.

Irrational.

Committed.

But sadly, at least in terms of marketing, those days seem to be over.

Sure, there’s the odd brand out there that still proves the power of a strong point of view – the brands who were born from the culture they operate in – but in the main, the majority of communication out there is a bland, pandering, message of pleading beige.

The equivalent of a teenage boys begging an uninterested girl to love him.

I say this because I recently saw an ad for a wine merchants that gave me a modicum of hope.

Sure, they end it with a bit of a ‘sell out’ exclamation [but they still link it to the standards and quality that they believe makes them different to the competition], but at it’s heart, I like that they’re saying they know their shit and when they think you’re potentially going to make a mistake, they’ll tell you.

A focus group would claim this attitude ‘alienates the customer’.

That the brand is ‘condescending’ to its audience.

That the tone could ‘put someone off from going in the shop’.

That they should talk about their ‘royal seal of approval’ not their attitude.

But I say this … would you rather spend your money at a place that will happily let you walk out with something you might hate or a place that has the knowledge and experience to help you find something that will give a better experience than you originally imagined?

For that alone I congratulate Berry Bros & Rudd.

For ignoring the blandification of the focus group, I stand up and mightly applaud.



A Perfect Example Of Reframing …
September 2, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Cunning, Insight, Perspective, Planning, Point Of View

Part of the job of a planner is to reframe situations.

Taking an issue and offering a perspective that turns a seemingly negative, into something positive.

It means we can turn high-sugar cereals into ‘energy for a kids day’ or expensive smart watches into ‘personal assistants’ who are with you at every turn.

Or until their battery runs out.

Which is after about 24 minutes.

To be honest, reframing is not something exclusive to planners … politicians have done it for centuries, and don’t get me started on how long religious leaders have been doing it.

But the thing is, it’s not lying … it’s simply offering a perspective on a situation that is different to commonly held beliefs so that it can help people consider things in a different way.

Sure, the way many planners use it is clunky and obvious, but occasionally, reframing can be a beautiful thing.

I say this because I recently read this:

Let’s be honest, the author is simply reframing the value – and relevance – of people born in the 1970’s and early 1980’s … but the point they make is a good one.

Whether that is a point that has any intrinsic value in society is open to question [though I think it has, though I also know that I am bound to say that] but for me, you can tell when reframing has been done well because unlike so much in adland, it is not designed to make the recipient feel good, but simply to make them think.
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Talking of reframing, the Chinese government have insisted everyone spends the next couple of days ensuring family bonds are strong because they know that is the foundation of a good society. Or said another way, we have 2 days national holiday so see you next week.