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

Avoiding Death … But Encouraging Social Alienation
December 22, 2006, 1:29 pm
Filed under: Comment

Strictly speaking I am not on holiday yet so Jill can’t beat me up … however the reason I am cramming in one more blog entry before the official arrival of ‘Mental Season’ is because 3 very nice/clever/daft/bored/drunk [delete where appropriate] people Emily [via Gareth’s site], Diablogue [who know I was begging to be ‘tagged’ really, ha!] and Northern Planner decided to ‘tag’ me.

Now ‘tagging’ means I have to give out 5 little known facts about myself as well as mention 5 other people [with blogs] who I’d like to know more about so I guess you could describe ‘tagging’ as a pyramid scheme for information – which is at least better than cash!

Anyway, the thing is while lots of people have been tagged and put out their ‘little known facts’ – it’s human nature to choose anecdotes that ensures nothing ‘too bad’ is revealed to the World – infact, it’s more than likely that whatever is expressed is carefully crafted to increase the chances of looking funny/clever/mischievous/cool to the masses.

Soooooooooooooo, in a moment of complete and utter drunkenness [even though I don’t actually drink] I’ve decided to turn it on it’s head a little bit.

Yes … yes … I know, it’s typical of me to try and change things abit – and I will continue the ‘trend’ of nominating people I’d like more info on [come on down: Fredrik, Hari, SarahMohammed and Age*] however, what I am proposing is a ‘SELF-RESPECT AMNESTY’ where people can write in and ask me any question they like and I swear right here right now, that I’ll answer them with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – so help me God.

Now I appreciate I was tagged twice so it should mean I have to answer 10 questions / nominate 10 people … but in the interests of minimising my exposure to career-suicide, I have made the executive decision to only answer a total of 5 questions and in the unlikely event I get more than that, I’ll then nominate which 5 questions to answer – with the promise of total, unadulterated, honesty. What do you reckon eh?

PLEASE NOTE: This ‘offer’ is only open till the 7th January 2007 [when I am free from Jill’s anti-communication ‘laws’] so till then, feel free to submit your [no doubt] evilish questions – even though I can’t guarentee an interesting answer! [I’m a crushing bore!] 

So until we speak again – have a top Festive Season and may 2007 be outrageously good for all of you! Ta. 

[Don’t forget to push our Walkman campaign … we need all the help we can get, ha!!]

* Andy, Billy and George – consider yourselves very, very fortunate indeed!

Jesus Is Coming: Quick, Pretend You’re Busy!
December 19, 2006, 12:16 pm
Filed under: Comment

I know you may think I’m being a lazy shit [no comments please] but it’s the week prior to Christmas … I’ve still got absolutely tons to do … the Walkman campaign has just launched [please publicise it all you can, ha!] … we’ve just won another fantastic international client [I can’t say who it is till they’ve informed their other agencies – which they’re not doing till the new year so as not to upset their Christmas!!!] … I’ve got a bunch of horrendous ‘end-of-year’ functions to attend … my Aunt is ill … I’ve still got a few pressies to buy and my other half has threatened me with MURDER if I so much as read any email/blog while we’re on our Christmas holiday … so I guess what I am trying to say is this BLOG is officially closed till around mid-Jan 2007.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a disgustingly debauched Christmas and New Year – and may you get pressies that defy your age [but in a totally positive way].  That means NO to shirts and socks and YES to the purely indulgent, impractical stuff. Ta-ra …

Are You A Soundaholic???
December 15, 2006, 8:58 am
Filed under: Comment

So after far less time than anyone thought possible … including our producer … we have another bit of work for SONY Asia coming out, and this time it’s for one of the true icons of consumer technology, the Walkman.

Now despite tons of research all saying it was outdated and irrelevant – too associated with tape and CD players – our research found people of a ‘certain age’ regarded the brand with real warmth and soul.

OK, so some of you may think that’s a feeling you get when talking about an old jumper or a video game system … and to a certain extent you’d be right … however I always find that when a brand has soul and authenticity, you have a real foundation to build a relevant and powerful brand for modern times – probably best demonstrated by Mini, FCUK and ADIDAS. 

Sure, iPOD is the current God of portable music … and while they owe that mainly to design, navigation/simplicity and the brilliance of iTunes [for giving digital music  – a new format at the time – a legitimate forum to be accessed and played] they also owe a big thanks to Walkman for giving them the attributes of ‘Freedom and Individuality’ which they basically ‘stole’  for their iconic ‘silhouette’ campaign. [I know they stole it, I was one of the people who did some of the ‘stealing’, ha!]

Saying all that, iPOD has infiltrated popular culture more than almost any other single consumer electronic product of the last decade – and I include [none-office] PC’s in that statement. And while some argue iPOD still sells less than the Walkman player [but only if you include all the SONY Ericsson Walkman Phones being sold into the equation] it is the iPOD that has [almost] single handily changed the way the World consumes, creates and purchases music. 

What’s really interesting is that it seems less and less people are really ‘listening’ to music – more often or not, they simply ‘hear it’ [often because they use it as an accompaniment to life’] and if the track doesn’t make an impression on them within the first few bars, they simply ‘change song’.  This means bands are now writing songs specifically for the iPOD user – making sure they have a musical hook within the first few seconds because they know if they don’t – their chances of being listened to, are almost zero.  And then of course, there’s the small matter that iTunes / Internet has undermined the stronghold of the Record Industry – which on the positive side has resulted in musical freedom for many up and coming bands – and on the negative side – has meant musical freedom for many up and coming bands.  And all this still doesn’t take into account the way iPOD has changed the popularity of certain musical genres or the cottage industry of accessories it has inspired or the influencing of unrelated categories to start including iPOD-friendly components into their products [Hummer for example!]

I have immense respect for what Apple have done with iPOD … lets face it, it’s astounding but without doubt they were also helped by SONY who have done their very best over the years to destroy their wonderful brand through some of the most astoundingly brilliant abuse ever witnessed. However it seems SONY have finally realised what they have got with the Walkman brand and from what I’ve heard, they seem to finally want to do it justice again via new products, new thinking and new communication. [Lets hope it’s not just words eh!]

Anyway, while this ‘new attitude’ is being transferred into ‘action’ [fingers crossed], we have been asked to start seeding the Walkman brand back into the consciousness of today’s portable music loving crowd and to do that, we have developed a campaign based around the proposition [and product truth] of “Sound Is Sacred”.

Like with the Robots spot, I know an ad is not going to drastically change their fortunes … which is why I am working in areas such as product development, packaging, distribution etc … but until the really great products start surfacing next year [along with a campaign we’ve done that is fucking magic and exciting] this should help abit – especially as we’re not falling into the competitive trap of talking about ‘memory size’ and/or the fact you can listen to your favourite tracks wherever you are. [No Shit Sherlock]

Walkman might of lost its throne to iPOD … Walkman might have a long way to go to get it back … but if SONY are serious about taking back their seat, then I honestly believe [and I appreciate I may be mental thinking this] they can do it. Afterall, with Playstation they took on Nintendo and SEGA and won, so there are precedents set to show it can happen if they really want it to. I hope they do!

Anyway, hopefully you’ll see some of the tons of stuff we’re doing over the coming weeks/months – but until then, I hope you enjoy the ‘taster’ I’ve supplied, Ha!

The Rant Is Back …
December 14, 2006, 12:04 pm
Filed under: Comment

Can’t be arsed to write something with focus today [yes, I know you may be surprised I kid myself that I do at all other times, ha!] so I thought I’d do what I do best and just rant about a bunch of pics I found in my Flickr account that I’ve done nothing with.

First up, a US Tic Tac ad …

You just know that in research groups, people said that when they eat Tic Tac’s, they role them around their tongue or something … so within the blink of an eye, it becomes a selling point for the brand. 

God help me!  Tic Tac’s are no more playful than Thumbvertising is ‘feelgood’.  Infact, apart from pouring a pack into my mouth then spitting them like a mint-machine gun at passers-by, I can’t see any fun in this brand at all.

Now I do appreciate how hard it would be for a planner to come up with something unique for Tic-Tac … but I am of the firm belief that when this sort-of situation occurs [acknowledging you really have investigated the relevant options available] the biggest insight is there isn’t one [or not one worth hanging your hat on] so you have the right to do something wild, imaginative and if necessary, category [rather than brand] specific. 

Years ago when I was just starting out, I was given a brief from Colgate who had come to us to ‘test our approach’

Now while they had tons of research saying people really were interested in their choice of toothpaste, our research showed [1] that’s not so true and [2] the only people who showed any real element of interest were Mums – and that was more because they wanted their kids to have nice teeth, rather than themselves.

Sooooooo … my strategy was to make kids give a shit about brushing their teeth [given Mum’s were being targeted by pretty much every competitor] and so when we investigated what 15 year old kids were most interested in and they said ‘having sex’, it led to my proposed strategy of ‘People With Ugly Mouths Don’t Get Laid’.

It made sense … we tested it and unsurprisingly it got enormous scores … however, because Colgate don’t live in the Real World, I was asked off the account and the agency project was taken away from us. 

And so while you can say ‘what’s the point of doing it if you don’t get it through’ … my answer is, ‘what’s the point of doing something if it means nothing to no one’.

Right … next up, Australian make-up brand, Australis. 

This has to be written by a male team doesn’t it.  I mean, I haven’t seen such a phalically-posed ad since the Cadbury’s Flake one’s of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. It’s like feminism never happened.

HEADLINE: Some Girls Leave A Lasting Impression

BODY COPY: Some Girls Have It. Everyone Wants It. Now You Can Have It.

For fucks sake … crass, cheap and totally puerile … abit like Australis then eh!

Why didn’t they just go the whole hog and run the ad in a blokes mag and use the headline … ‘Get Your Woman Using Australis Make-Up And Get Great Head’.

Sex can work in advertising … but without subtlety, the brand comes across as cheap, nasty and unpleasant – the best attributes for a brand selling ‘beauty’.

Right, what’s next …

God help me! 

OK … OK … I know medical brand advertising is very, very tough.  Apart from having to follow strict guidelines, the clients tend to be the epitome of conservatism … however this just feels like little thought has gone into it, they’ve gone for quick and easy ’shock value’ rather than something with relevance.

Some friends of mine once did an ad for a medical company who were launching a ‘Fat Reduction’ product. 

Rather than fall into the cliché-ridden trap of ‘look better thin’, they came up with a campaign called, ‘Email Makes You Fat’ and explained that technology is making us less physically mobile which is affecting our natural metabolism rates and causing us to put on more weight.

Genius insight … beautifully expressed and quite rightly very successful [both in sales and ad awards].  We need more of that sort of thing than this ‘cheap thrill’ … and if I see another Pharmaceutical brand use a ‘character’ for their communication, I think I’ll scream.

Keeping on the medical topic …

MediBank in Australia have launched one of the World’s crappest ads.  Well done Medibank.

People playing ‘Twister’ to flog dental, massage and optical benefits … what planet are they on???

Given their competitor, MBF, did the quite wonderful ‘BE POSITIVE’ campaign [a moment where M&C really deserved their plaudits] they were always going to be seen as an older, less pragmatic health company but this ad hardly does them any favours in trying to attract a more ‘youthful’ customer.

Cliché-ridden ‘lifestyle’ advertising …  about as true to life as Reality TV is. Grow up advertisers … this is not aspirational, it’s embarrassing!

So in Singapore there’s a new consumer electronics company called DIXEL that has started out. 

They make hi-def televisions and to be fair, they are pretty bloody good.  Sure, they’re expensive but compared to the models from SONY, Toshiba, LG and Samsung … they represent fantastic value.

They’ve even gone to great lengths to ensure the right ‘brand image’ is conveyed to the status obsessed Singaporeans … by investing a small fortune in a cool looking retail space.

What a shame they have let the other Singaporean trait raise it’s ugly head … that of always looking for a way to make money … because in a shop window of sexy televisions, they are also trying to flog rice cookers, kettles and air purifiers.

In one instant, they’ve gone from Asian Aspiration to Asian Tackiness.  I give them 6 months …

Why did I buy this?  Is it so it takes me back to a time of my youth like the raspberry donuts I had in Thailand?

Is it the colour of Indian [and Asian] food that makes it so bloody tempting and exciting?  Hell, this picture makes me hungry which is more than any Macca’s photo achieves.

Mind you, not all colour makes food better. 

It is widely acknowledged that the colour blue acts as a hunger suppressor – which begs the question why don’t Governments mandate food of a certain high-fat value are coloured blue.  Wouldn’t that have a more powerful affect against obesity than half the measures they’re trying to do now?  Just a thought.

It’s abit old now … but this was an Australian interactive billboard flogging ‘TV services’ direct on your Telstra Mobile Phone.

Why? Are we really that time poor that we need to be able to watch television shows on our mobile? 

You see if time is – as is often described – our greatest commodity, then why is it that productivity levels around the World are actually declining?

And if computers are getting faster and faster, then why is it that we often feel we’re falling more and more behind with our workloads?

I do accept that time is seemingly in short supply … but I feel that it isn’t because we have more to do – but that communication [be it mobile, email, blackberry] is getting to the stage where it’s spinning the World – from an economic standpoint – backwards, rather than forwards.

How many pointless emails do you get copied on?  How many pointless requests do you get asked to do?  How many con calls do you take part in where no decisions are made?

They said technology would set us free … but now it is holding us all back in almost every aspect of life – including development and communication as well as personal and professional growth.

Phew … what a rant … I feel soooooooooooo much better now. Thank you.

Welcome To The Advertising Hall Of Shame.
December 13, 2006, 9:17 am
Filed under: Comment

The Original Belgian Thunder Self Portrait. Circa 2001

As much as I am into innovation – I don’t believe in doing it simply for the sake of doing it … or in the case of ad agencies, doing it in a blatant attempt to get some cheap PR.

Fuck, where has the ability to think ahead gone?  At HHCL we were basically taught to be intelligently brave … and nowadays, it seems like there is a policy of intelligence vacuum.

Giving the World another great reason why drugs are bad, Dutch Ad Agency, Strawberry Frog, have ‘invented’ [hahaha] a new ‘communication medium’ … THUMBVERTISING.

Basically teams of volunteers are touring public spaces with their thumbs aloft, displaying logos tattooed in henna onto their thumb pads as well as having mini ad banners suspended between their thumbs.

No, it is not April 1st … this is the crazzzzzzzzzy World of Advertising.

Strawberry Frog creative director, Mark Chalmers, goes on to show he really has been drinking the kool-aid by saying [apparently with a straight face]

“Thumbvertising raises a smile, is engaging, memorable and has a feelgood factor that’s lacking in most modern advertising.

He is taking the piss surely?  No … I don’t think he is.

And if that wasn’t bad enough – an old client of mine Douwe Egberts’ [another Dutch company!] – has fucking signed up for the daft idea, launching a massive [if that is possible with ‘thumbs’] campaign in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle.

The MD [who surely must be ousted by shareholders after this] goes on to say …

“We wanted to advertise our latest product in a way that engaged with consumers and generate word of mouth interest”

If they wanted engaging, memorable feel-good advertising … I can assure them there are many more powerful ways to do it – and that includes both traditional and none traditional approaches … and that leads to the practical question of how media agencies are going to evaluate/book this astounding medium.  I mean, will there be an R&F on thumbs and if so, how many people will they have to recruit to achieve 50% at 3+?

Thank God my Dad is not alive to see this. He thought advertising was a daft industry in the 90’s – when some good stuff was actually being developed – but now? Christ Almighty – have we really sunk this low?

What both Strawberry Frog and Douwe Egberts have failed to understand that any fool can get their brand noticed … running down the street with a turkey on your nether regions will do it … the trick is to encourage desire, enthusiasm, interest. 

Hell, if I saw some knob-end [or as is probably the case, student] waving their thumbs at me trying to flog a cup of coffee, I think I would have an overwhelming desire to kick their heads in, not run to the nearest supermarket and buy the thing.

Talk about undermining brand credibility … I already feel negative towards the coffee brand for simply insulting my intelligence. 

What next?  Eyelid advertising … Teeth advertising … Poo Advertising [oh, we already have lots of that don’t we!]

No wonder the industry is regarded so badly when this sort of thing is major ‘news’ … and I am sure I am not the only one thinks Strawberry Frog and Douwe Egberts are full of corporate toadies who follow a policy of celebrating the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ rather than shouting, “It’s crap and he’s naked.”

Bad … badder than bad … badder than the baddest bad thing on the planet Bad.