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

Statements That Stick …

One of the things I love is building a planning team who is like a gang.

A bunch of intelligent misfits who all have unique ways of looking at the World but share a common philosophy in terms of what we want to do, change and impact.

I don’t care how people approach their challenges, I don’t mind if people aren’t the best of friends … but it’s important we have each others back and are open to offering opinion, advice and help if needed, even if individually, there is a healthy level of competition to do the best work of the team.

Of course, this is easier to achieve the longer you stay in a company as you can truly stamp your personality on the department but it’s not totally necessary … you just have to be clear in your beliefs, consistent in your actions and lead by example.

Now whether I’ve achieved any of this is something you’d ultimately have to ask the brilliant people who have worked with me at my previous agencies, but as I’ve started a new job at R/GA, I wanted to rally the team around a set of beliefs and language that can start unifying us more closely so I decided to make us all a set of stickers.

Yes, stickers.

I know … R/GA is an agency that wants to make the future … but apart from the fact we’re about creating stuff that comes from culture rather than ignores them, I have a new laptop that needs ‘customising’ so I thought stickers would be a perfect way to kill 2 birds with one stone.

With that in mind, each member of the team has received a set of the stickers above.

17 stickers that convey our philosophy on such matters as what we believe, how we work and what we want to do.

Some are obvious, some are maybe a bit more esoteric … but even if people absolutely hate them, at least I can say I’ve made something that truly has stuck – even if that is literal rather than philosophical – which, I’m sure you’ll agree, makes a pleasant change.

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.


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.

James Blunt Might Be Becoming My New Hero …

I know … I know … I really did write that blog post header.

And yes, I really am talking about James Blunt, the man that can make a choir on Songs Of Praise [is that still going] look like Black Sabbath in their prime.

But don’t forget, this is a guy who is disarmingly self aware.

A guy who uses his self-depreciation to turn you from a hater into a fan.

OK, not a fan of his music but – as I wrote here – a fan of who he is.

And recently I saw something that just makes me like him more …

Yep, that’s James Blunt on Tinder.

A man who people think has got laid more than a $2 crack whore in a room of drunk and horny jocks.

OK, so getting laid a lot is part of the ‘rock star’ cliche, but I still find this move to be brilliant.

Not just because he has found a way to make money from his perception.

Not just because he partnered with platform that is the epitome of his perception.

But because he has shown that when you deal with the commentary others have about you directly, you don’t just rob them of their ammunition, you give yourself a chance to change that perception.

I’ve talked about this a lot – I called it the 8-Mile strategy, after the Eminem movie, specifically the end rap battle at 6 minutes 40 seconds – but it’s also something else I wrote about.

The power of unplanned planning.

Unplanned is where a brand speaks in seemingly obvious terms.

Not in terms of what they do, but in terms of what people think you do.

For example, when Scalextric – the model car racing brand – embraced the perception the only reason men want their little boys playing with Scalextric is because it gives them an excuse to play it for themselves.

Did you click on the link?

Seriously, you should – it not only demonstrates what I’m blathering on about, it’s a great ad.

Great because it’s funny. Great because it’s relatable. Great because it doesn’t fall into marketing bullshit.

Can you tell I really, really like it?

So why do I think this approach works when the industry is seemingly so obsessed with talking about bigger purpose stuff?

Because in my opinion, it’s easier to nudge people’s perception of you if you talk in the context of how they already view you rather than spending millions trying to convince them that who you are is totally different to what they believe or are willing to accept.

It is, in some ways, the ultimate demonstration of honesty.

A lot of brands could learn from that.

This Blog Is The Cockroach Of Blogs …
May 3, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, History, Unplanned

Ten years ago today, I started this blog.


That’s longer that 99% of Hollywood marriages!!!

Now while I’ve experienced a huge amount of things in that time …

I’ve lived in 4 countries.
I got married.
I got a cat.
I had a baby.
My mum passed away.
I sold both my companies.
I got to travel the World.
I qualified as a bloody teacher.
I bought countless amounts of tech rubbish.
I managed to still stay employed.
Got to do some of the best work I’ve ever done.
I had the best holiday of my entire life.
I had the most needed holiday of my entire life.

… and so has the World …

Global economic collapse.
Olympic Games in China and London.
The re-emergence of global terrorism.
The first black President.

[Yes, I know there’s a ton more, but my memory isn’t what it used to be]

… the fact is, the standard of my writing and my posts subject matter have remained pretty much the same.

Want proof?

Here’s the very first post I wrote.

Now you might think that I’m dissing myself by highlighting this fact, but when you take into account I’ve written TWO THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED POSTS [I know, mad eh!] I think it shows a level of consistency and reliability than Volkswagen would be jealous of.

According to the stats, there’s literally been millions of idiots who have supposedly visited this blog – but the fact is, the majority of comments have come from pretty much the same small group of people as it always did.

Sure, some have come, some have gone … some have even gone and then come back … and even this blog supposedly closed down only to start up again because I’m a sad, sadomasochistic fool … but the fact is I have to admire their commitment and industriousness because they’ve managed to write over SIXTY FOUR THOUSAND comments between them.

Or should I say 64,000 insults.

OK, of that 64,000 … at least half are by me trying to protect my honour, but that’s still impressive.

Of course, it could be argued that the reason so many people now check out my rubbish is because there’s less blogs now than there used to be.

Back in 2006, every man and his dog had one … but in the past 10 years, it appears people have grown up and decided it’s better to live a life rather than write about one. Or they simply moved all their complaining over to Twitter.

While some may say the reason I have continued writing when everyone else has left is because I am always a few years behind the times, I prefer to think of it as me winning the ultimate game of [blog] survivor.

Except by me winning, it means humanity has lost.

But despite everything … despite all the good, bad and indifferent stuff that has happened on this blog … I feel this blog has made a powerful difference in my life.

Not because of the rubbish I write – though it has been interesting to debate and learn from people as well as see how my viewpoints have evolved/changed in the past decade – but because it’s introduced me to a whole host of wonderful and interesting people.

The reality is there’s now a bunch of people in my life that are here because of this blog.

Sure, some of them I knew already.

In fact some of them I worked for – or with.

However there’s a bunch that I only know because of this thing I write every day.

I’ve been fortunate to meet many of them – but there’s still a few who have managed to stay away [well done Northern and Marcus] – but the fact is I’m super grateful to have them in my life and despite their cheek and mischief, I know that when the shit hits the fan [as it did last year when Mum passed away], they are watching out for me.

That’s pretty wonderful for anyone, even more so when it’s the byproduct of starting something simple because I wanted a place where I could release – or store – my brainfarts.

God knows if this blog will have another 10 years in it – I know you hope it doesn’t – but the first decade of it ended up being pretty damn awesome. At least for me. So thank you.

Why Toyota Camry Is More Delusional Than Sepp Blatter …
February 25, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Cars, Crap Campaigns In History, Insight, Planning, Unplanned

Late last year I wrote a post about the horrendous advertising Toyota are doing for their Camry in the US.

I talked about how it was attempting to be deep and meaningful, only to be undermined by a crap execution, especially when it’s for a model of car that is renowned for its sensibleness. I don’t mean that in a negative sense … but from the perspective that it’s a solid, reliable automobile and trying to ‘sex it up’ ends up alienating rather than inspiring.

Well, as you can see from the pic above, Toyota don’t give a shit about what I say [and who can blame them] because it appears they’re persevering with this car crash of communication.

What is it with Toyota ads and balloons?

Is it because they are both full of hot air?

And why have the owners seemingly happy to be walking towards a balloon that looks like it’s fallen from the sky?

Probably for the same reason they’ve walked off and – judging by the lit instrument panel – left their keys in their car with the engine running.

Who are these people?

I’ll tell you who they are, they’re bloody idiots.

Bloody idiots with a sexual fetish for hot air ballooning.

And what is it with that headline?

“It’s The Stops That Inspire Us To Go”.



Apart from it being some z-grade Yoda bollocks, the fact is you can see the cars GPS is on so the happy-go-lucky couple featured in the ad aren’t some spontaneous couple, going wherever life takes them, they’re a couple of balloon groupies who planned … PLANNED … their trip.

In fact I’d go one step further.

They’re a couple of balloon groupies who chose to drive to a remote part of nowheresville to pollute the clean air with their bloody car fumes.

I wanted to say this is a perfect example of why focus groups are dangerous, but the thing is, I don’t think even a research model designed to ensure communication is bland and meaningless could have approved this.

But then, if not them, who … because the alternative is even more scary.

What’s going on Toyota?

When you say ‘Let’s Go Places’, do you mean ‘go to the bottom of the advertising barrel’?

Seriously, you’re better than this.

Your agency is better than this.

And humanity certainly is better than this.

Sort it out, because this cannot be working for you.

Toyota Corolla: For balloon fetish, air polluting fools who leave their keys in the car. With the engine running.

When Boring Tries To Be Interesting. And Fails.
December 2, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: Cars, Comment, Crap Campaigns In History, Insight, Planning, Unplanned

I like Toyota.

Well, I used to like them.

When they had the Celica, MR2 and of course, the Supra.

It helped hide the fact they also made cars that made beige Volvo’s look exciting.

Like the Toyota Corolla.

Sure, it’s a perfectly good car.

Practical. Drives well. Strong reliability. Fair resale value.

So why the hell do they insist on trying to sex-it up?

I know buying a car is probably the second most expensive purchase you’ll ever make so you need to feel good about what you’re buying, but trying to make an accountancy conference feel like a Motley Crue aftershow party is always going to end up making you look a tool.

And yet so many car brands continue down this path.

Which gets me back to that Toyota Corolla ad.

OK, to be fair, they’re trying to be less rock star and more deep and philosophical, but it’s still bullshit isn’t it.

“Find who you have not yet become”

What? WHAT?

What’s that even mean?

Forget the rubbishness of that 3rd division Yoda statement, what about the fact they don’t see the irony of combining people lighting sky lanterns that float gently in the air with beauty and grace and calmness with a gas guzzling car that pollutes the air everywhere it goes?

And why the hell are they lighting sky lanterns?

And why did the owner of the Corolla park in the middle of the road?

What if all those lanterns land on the house at the top left of the picture and it catches fire?

How is the fire truck going to get there and save the occupants if the road is blocked by some selfish Toyota Corolla owner?

And they have the audacity to end the ad with the line, ‘Let’s Go Places’.

I’ll tell you which place you should go … to the local jail where you will probably meet the marketing team who asked for this contrived, passive piece of rubbish … which achieves the rare feat of alienating both the folks who choose a car as a reflection of their ego and the folks who want a car that offers quality and reliability rather than hype and hyperbole.

You know, the people who would actually find the boring reliability of a Corolla exciting.

Sometimes we try so hard to be different when just telling the truth is the most refreshing approach available to us.

Forget Planners, Hire Designers …
July 10, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: Design, Planning, Unplanned

Look, I love planning – not so keen on a bunch planners – but what we do and how we do it has a lot of [underrated] value.

BUUUUUUUUUUUUT, sometimes what we do is – let’s be honest – a bunch of bollocks.

We either do stuff to feed our own ego or do stuff that doesn’t take the brand conversation anywhere new … which not only buggers up our client and bores our audience, but feeds the level of hate many disciplines have for us.

And to be honest, I don’t blame them.

As much as it might be sensitive to say, sometimes the biggest insight is “there’s nothing new here”.

However that takes a lot of balls and courage to admit because essentially, you’re saying you can’t take something to a new place, and that is very hard for the ego to take.

But here’s the thing … it’s not that you COULDN’T come up with something, of course you could, the issue is – whether because of the client request, the category situation or the products overall parity – you couldn’t come up with something that would make a significant difference in the situation you find yourself in and when that happens, the best advice I can give is to give the task to a great creative or design team and sit back, knowing that the biggest contribution you’ve made, was getting the hell out of the way.

I say this because I saw this:

In a whole magazine of ads, these were the only ones that stood out.


Sure, they are just well designed images … sure they don’t say anything deep and meaningful about the brand … sure, they’re not exactly redefining the category … but you know what, maybe they don’t need to.

Maybe they just want to look fresh and fun and attractive so that the next time you’re in a bar or a club, you will ask for Stoli instead of the countless other vodka brands that try and claim to be anything other than a bloody alcoholic drink.

Of course, someone will now tell me a planner was involved in this account … and if they were, good on them, except I would love to know what they actually did given the only difference between this brand and countless others is the name, the design and the flavours.

Planning has a lot to offer and a lot to give … but if the work you do can’t – or won’t – elevate the brand and audience to creatively infectious and intriguing new places [even when they’re old situations], then all you’re really doing is ‘packaging the strategy’ rather than ‘creating the future; and the only people who benefit from that is the agency who will charge you out for essentially writing a bunch of powerpoint decks that no one will ever read.

Fuck, I hope no one in the creative team reads this.

Or my planning team.