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

Brainwashing Peace.
August 18, 2006, 9:11 am
Filed under: Comment

Singapore is gearing up for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has led a Four Million Smiles advertising campaign – advising the poor locals to grin at those arriving for the event.  Yes, I’m being serious, you have to be happy – by law!

Then there’s the cabbies

As the entry below shows, they are a special breed altogether sooooooo, to keep up the ‘illusion’ of Singapore being a peaceful, polite, morally clean city/country … they have been given special training to improve their manners. Wonder how long that lasts eh!?

Then, in an act of absolute naivety, the head of the local police has reminded people that Singapore laws state any outdoor demonstration by more than four people requires a police permit – so he is not expecting any trouble over the event.

Sure mate … you have nothing to worry about, the people against the IMF are known for being law-abiding citizens aren’t they. 

The only reason they’ll be no trouble at the IMF event is because even if thousands of protestors do make it all the way over here – they’ll probably have a brain aneurism within the first 2 days because they won’t be able to comprehend how a whole nation can be obsessed with one goal … shopping … and how they’ve got more shopping centres per capita than anywhere on Earth, to do it!

It’ll probably throw their body into wild convulsions … get them frothing at the mouth … and even if by some miracle that doesn’t get ’em, one look at the standard of ads around the place, will.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Singapore … but I just wish they’d be honest and admit it is not a ‘free’ society, but a dictatorship. 

Look, I actually don’t have a problem with that because …

[1] I am a guest in this country, not a citizen.

[2] With what they’ve achieved in such a short time, it’s a great ad for that sort of ‘governance’

… but my concern is this patriarchal control is setting up Singapore [especially the youth] for a major fall sometime in the future – because too many people don’t believe they have to ‘think’, they simply have to ‘do’. 

And if the country really wants to achieve even greater heights, then it needs to ‘let go’ a little bit and encourage the talent that lives within the country to explore, learn and develop on their own terms – because if they don’t, they could get left further and further behind because they won’t know how to cope with the World’s constantly changing dynamics.

Guess it goes back to my earlier entry about Singapore’s value of art versus business eh?  Also guess this will get me kicked out the place, ha!

The Most Dangerous Taxi Driver In The World?
August 18, 2006, 9:07 am
Filed under: Comment

Taxi drivers in Asia are ‘interesting’ to say the least.

In my time here, I’ve had them clipping their nose hairs while driving … coughing up ‘greenies’ … offering me drugs … driving at 110mph in zero visibility … swerving into cars that didn’t get out of the way quick enough … tell me how they love to fight ‘foreigners’ … steal my change … take me to places I don’t want to go to … offer me prostitutes … and now this experience. [Click here]

In a really twisted way, these are some of the reasons I really love Asia.

Money Can Buy Pride.
August 17, 2006, 8:46 am
Filed under: Comment


In 2004, an Australian gameshow host, Ian Turpie, appeared in numerous advertisements under the headline TV Star’s Amazing Confession!

In the ads, Turpie [with his wife Jan by his side] explained “Impotence nearly ruined my life” and that Advanced Medical Institute’s ‘Nasal Delivery System helped him “get my sex drive back!”

Maybe it was the claim of a ‘Nasal Delivery System’ helping reverse impotence or maybe it was the desire to never see Turpie on TV again … but Australia’s Trade Practices Department took AMI to court for false advertising, and SHOCK, HORROR, they won.

Apparently the Federal Court was told Turpie never used AMI’s spray to treat impotence or erectile dysfunction and the interview, as described in the ad, never actually took place.

To totally rub salt in AMI’s wounds, the prosecution explained …

 “While Mr Turpie no longer had the sexual desire he had when he was a young man, he was still able to achieve an erection when he desired, and so did not suffer from impotence or erectile dysfunction”.

After consideration, Justice Kevin Lindgren [who somehow managed to not smile through the whole proceedings] found AMI had engaged in deceptive or misleading conduct by publishing the advertisement and that publicist Philip Somerset was a party to it.

Now ignoring the fact that using a sad, washed up gameshow host is never going to be a really great idea to sell erectile dysfunction medication [abit like Viagra’s use of Pele] …who really is at fault here? 

Sure, Turpie is a tosser for willingly taking money to lie and yeah, AMI are absolute blithering idiots to think this concept will work … but how come the ad industry doesn’t take more of a battering on this matter? 

OK, maybe an ad agency wasn’t used at all [maybe it was just Turpie’s publicist] but if one was, they should be hung, drawn and quartered … because what they’ve done is reassert in the consumers minds, that ads are lies and shouldn’t be taken notice of.

On the positive, Turpie can relax knowing the Neanderthal Aussie Man will no longer regard him as a ‘poof’ because they thought he needed help to ‘get it up’ … even though he is a money-grabbing, morally corrupt Tom Selleck lookalike!

Charm Keeps You Coming Back For More.
August 16, 2006, 10:36 am
Filed under: Comment

I have been doing quite alot of work with clients recently about the importance of charm. 

It’s been alot of fun and so far the results [and comments] have been really positive … even though alot of the time I’ve been poking holes in their brands, briefs and communication.

The basic premise is that organisations are so [1] ’bottom line’ focused and [2] obsessed with ‘quantifiable results’ … that any element that cannot be directly attributable to fulfilling the short and long-term goals of the brand are generally ignored and/or discarded.

This means one of the most important elements of brand communication … ‘charm’ …. is featuring less and less, ultimately driving significant decline in the emotional connection between brand and consumer.

Ages ago I met the chief architect for Stanstead Airport – and he was wonderful. 

He explained his job wasn’t just about creating a building that enabled the efficient delivery of passengers to planes – but the creation of an environment that attracted people to come back over and over again.  To achieve this, he ensured his building had a ’soul’ … which is why he included little ornate touches that showed a flair and charm you don’t normally associate with airports.

Branson also subscribes to this point of view …

When he briefed the designers for Virgin’s Airport Lounges, he said their goal was to create an environment where people WANTED their flight to be delayed!  A great brief – perfectly demonstrating why Virgin is held in such esteem by the public.

Our job IS to make more money for clients … but this constant quest for quantifiable effectiveness is resulting in less and less brands having a ’soul’ … meaning less and less brands have an emotional connection with consumers … meaning less and less brands can achieve success unless they ‘own distribution’. 

It’s things like charm, flair and imagination that created buildings like the one above [Lincoln Cathedral] … a place that has a magnetic hold on people even if they are not religious.  If we used today’s corporate ‘efficiencies’ to build new places of worship, we’d probably end up with Cathedral’s that featured Four Walls And A Flat Roof – because it effectively fulfils the business objective. [as probably proved by numerous focus groups]

Is it any coincidence that in movies that depict the future, most show cities of simple, clean, common shapes rather than of variety, texture and colour? Lets bloody hope it is!

If First Impressions Count, God Help This Man.
August 16, 2006, 10:35 am
Filed under: Comment

This photo is from MEDIA Magazine [Asia’s ‘Campaign’] and features BBDO’s Global CEO, Andrew Robertston.

Now I don’t know the man – and friends have said he’s a smart and decent guy – but why would anyone have their photo taken wearing 1980’s ‘Wall Street’ braces while sat next to a Donald Trump doll?  For the record, I know I have no right to ever question someone’s fashion, so I can let the braces pass as NY big business power dressing, as I’ve seen first hand in meetings over there – but Trump? Surely most people know by now he’s more the King of cons than the King of New York?!!!

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but in an industry where symbolism counts for so much, this feels like the future of creativity – or more specifically, the future clients want from their agencies – is more focused on wealth and power more than work and people.

I should add I have no doubt Mr Robertson is very very good at what he does, and BBDO are one of the networks who do have agencies in their fold that are genuine leaders in global creativity – but I wonder what he would say about this photo in 10 or 20 years time?