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

These Students Are Smarter Than Ad People*
March 13, 2007, 2:06 pm
Filed under: Comment

So I recently did a project with SONY where I used students of the quite wonderful Prof Mark Chong from Singapore’s SMU Uni. [Far left in the photo above]

The brief I gave them was to find cultural / lifestyle insights that they could use to unlock dramatic sales growth for either SONY Walkman or SONY HD Handycams … WITHOUT the need for advertising.

How they transformed these insights into consumer motivation was upto them … but it had to be within the realms of reality, not require billions [or even tens of millions] of dollars of investment and dramatically differentiate the products from the competition.

Well, without going into what the guys came up with [because we are looking at actually making it happen] what they developed was far more powerful and interesting than alot of the output currently being seen from the big brand R&D departments!

Infact, the guys behind the Walkman idea came up with something so simply brilliant that I’ve been beating myself up for weeks – because I know I would never of come up with something that great in a million years.

In a World with lots of self-professed Idea/Marketing gurus … I love the fact that in a few weeks, a bunch of students with no ‘real-life’ experience came up with concepts that I truly believe could change the face of business – especially SONY’s business.

For years I/we have been banging on about the value of intelligent naivety … where a company involves smart people in the ‘development phase’ of products/brands [even if they have no in-depth experience of the category] because their ability to approach a problem ‘without category-convention blinkers’ allows them to see opportunities others may miss.

It is for this reason that we’ve found ourselves being involved in such wonderfully varied projects as creating televisions for B&O, designing interiors of planes for Virgin, developing none-harmful weaponry for the British Military of Defense and now … helping a bunch of students come up with great ideas for SONY.

Ad agencies talk about ‘ideas’ … but they’re not really … they’re advertising execution ideas, and that’s quite often a very different thing altogether.

If the industry is to reclaim the respect it deserves, it has to look at ideas in the context of something that solves a particular client problem then using advertising to communicate that solution rather than jumping straight to ‘the ad’.

Don’t get me wrong, some ad campaigns really have a fantastic business driving /consumer benefiting idea at the heart of them … Orange [the original campaign], Tesco’s, AA [4th Emergency Service], Virgin to name but a few … but now it seems we are getting more and more ads that communicate nothing more than what the client wants to shout about even though it has no real benefit [or consideration] for the consumer.

For me, the best ideas of the past few years are the one’s that have addressed lifestyle/cultural insights, not just category ones.

That’s why I love the French Insurance Company who taught their counter staff sign language because they learnt a relatively high percentage of French people had hearing difficulties … or the US bank who automatically rounded up their customers money to the next dollar [putting it into a savings account for them] because they knew anyone on a budget tended to ’round up’ their expenditure to ensure they didn’t overspend … or even LG, who created a mobile phone with a digital compass within it, because they knew followers prayed towards Mecca numerous times a day and sometimes needed to know which way to face. [4 million phones sold!]

Those are ideas … sure they still needed advertising… but at the heart of them was a real idea that answered a clients business problem by understanding and motivating consumers via a message based on more than just category conventions.

I really, really hope we can make the students SONY ideas come to fruition, because apart from them being brilliant [especially the Walkman one] nothing would make me happier in proving to the so-called Guru’s, that no one has the monopoly on good ideas – people just need to be embraced, educated and encouraged!

* And yes, the 2 dodgy blokes at the back of the photo ARE Freddie and me!

41 Comments so far
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ace fucking post rob!! i think age already said this in another post, but this is the reason that your blog is in my required reading. true creative insight, not sanctioned creative wank.

Comment by lauren

On one post you insult me … on another you compliment me … I’m confused!

Are you schitzo … am I schitzo … is this another fine demonstration of me procrastinating about my work … does anyone care … WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME!


Ahem. Sorry. Lost it abit there.

PS: Thanks for the compliment, I am genuinely touched – especially as the glory should all be for the students, ha! [But I guess that’s corporateland for you eh, ha!]

Comment by Rob

um… are you ok?

Comment by lauren

This post makes me want to be an ad planner.

Nuff said.

Thank You.

Comment by Age

No I am not OK Lauren … I’m trying to convince a stubborn and deluded ‘know-it-all’ creative that culturally, Malaysians will react positively to an ad that’s message is ‘BE YOUR OWN GOD’.

Where’s the people with the Fatwa’s when you need them eh!

Age … thanks mate … that is a bloody massive compliment and I really don’t know what to say/add. Hope all is OK – especially with the personal stuff going on in your background.

Comment by Rob

I’m with Age and Lauren on this Rob. Great post and a vast improvement on your War & Peace effort of yesterday.

Can’t wait to see you talk at our conference, it will be very exciting especially as there’s always that chance it will turn into a riot. Lets face it, it wouldn’t be the first time. Miami?

Comment by Pete


And Pete … can I remind you the Miami ‘incident’ was all down to Andy, I was absolutely innocent. Well, quite innocent. Oh, OK … it was all my fault … but I am much more mature now, honest!

Comment by Rob

SO many secret stories… Andy, I’m hoping this soon to be released book is of the Cynic-World “tell-all” variety!

Comment by Age

Please tell the Miami story. Please.

Comment by Marcus Brown

Age … our book isn’t a biography, I mean, who the fuck are we to talk about our lives – even though I’d bet they’re more exciting than Rio Fucking Ferdinand.

And Marcus …

Comment by Rob

Good stuff, shows what can happen when we’re not too clever for our own good

Comment by NP

Nothing like a good riot. Excellent.

ps. Skype is driving me mad today.

Comment by Marcus Brown

Thats a great idea, and shows there is hope for the ad industry.

As long as there are people who understand the real insights instead of faking them then advertising will work.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

To true Rob … and I can’t wait to tell you what they came up with because I think you’ll say something along the lines of …


Comment by Rob

Im sure I will.


*looks at watch*

Not yet?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

rob, although i’m sure rob m doesn’t really want a riot again, i hope you haven’t ‘matured’.. that would be a waste of words that often REALLY need to be said.

Comment by lauren

dont worry lauren, the soft bastard will never fucking mature. lets be honest, any man who gets excited about electronic rabbits that read your email and can tell you the weather in fucking copenhagen on a cold tuesday night are hardly on the straight road to sensible. maybe thats why i love him so much, maybe its not. now tell me about this catholic upbringing? on second thoughts, better not.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hello Lauren, I must concur with Andy that there is absolutely no danger that Robert will become mature any time soon. Nor do you have to worry he will lose his ability to speak openly, honestly and frankly; it’s in hid DNA and for that we should all be truly grateful as well as scared shitless.
cynic isn’t a company, it’s his philosophy.

Comment by George

Lauren, having had a Video Sykpe chat with Robert that nearly lost me my job, I can confirm that Rob is off his trolley. Which should be welcomed.

Comment by Marcus Brown

Hello … why have I suddenly been accused of [1] being off my trolley and [2] almost getting Marcus the sack ESPECIALLY when it was me who was caught by clients doing the World’s shittest Bruce Lee impression for him on Skype this afternoon. [see tomorrow’s post if you dare!]

Anyway, as far as I am concerned, sensible is boring and given Andy has vomited on a new clients desk, George has … OK, so George is pretty normal bar the odd poo episode … and Marcus has an irrantional love for sausage meat , I don’t think they have the right to call ME ‘mental’.

Mind you, when you see the Bruce Lee thing, you might not quite agree …

Night all …

Comment by Rob

Do tell me this was videod…!
Videod? Video’d…er…Recorded.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

People, wait to you see the Bruce Lee thing. It’s amazing. Honestly amazing. And may I remind you Rob that I wasn’t the only person around here getting overtly excited by sausages. If my memory serves me right the entire Cynic organisation came to a grinding stop because of it. And your clients were into it too (“Senior Bloke at Virgin gets off plane and asks how sausage is doing”).

Now puking on a desk is perfectly acceptable in my book. If it’s got to come out then it’s got to come out. Same with poo.

Now off to bed. You mad fucker.

Comment by Marcus Brown

Mr. M. Yes there is film in the can.

Comment by Marcus Brown

Excellent 😀

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Thank God our company isn’t listed on the stock market. What have you done now Robert?

Comment by George

is rob on drugs or will i need more of them once i see his latest act of madness? he is possibly the most rock and roll planner on earth. or do i mean sad shit? i always get those 2 things mistaken.

Comment by andy@cynic

Thin line between genius and madness, and Rob is currently in a Toyota Prius doing donuts around it with a bottle of scotch in one hand and a camcorder in the other.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

rob would never drive a prius so it is obvious he has been abducted by aliens and replaced with an even weirder fuckwit than the one we had before. bring back our rob, bring him back now.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hey Rob, just to let you know we’ve not forgotten about your brothers thing, we’re trying to get it sorted, we just need to track him down.

I am so sorry, I do realise we seem to be letting you down over and over again and that is something we really don’t want to do, especially to you.

I really hope to have some good news for you very soon.

Comment by George

I didnt think he would drive a Prius, but I wasnt sure what he would drive..!

No worries George, its not like I expected anything from it (obv he/you are very busy!); just thought it was worth asking! I dont feel let down at all! 🙂

Comment by Rob Mortimer

For the record, Rob drives either Golf GTI’s or Mini Coopers; they have to be black and have to be crammed with as many features as is physically possible. In short, he is a car salesmans dream.

I’m definitely going to chase him and his PA down this week, you have been good to us and it is the least we can do. I hope to have news soon.

Comment by George

Heh, im learning in a mini (not a cooper sadly), and my colleague has a Golf gti.

I bet he has every gadget known to man:

Monkey powered climate control? Yes please. Electronic seat belt adjusters? Yes please. Robot roof rack assitance? Yes please…

Thanks George!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Ahem … should I admit that I once paid $1000 for a back seat armrest?

Maybe not …

Comment by Rob

Andy, you will not be disappointed by the Bruce Lee video. Although, from all accounts, Virgin were.

Comment by Marcus Brown

Haha! You dont even USE that seat…
…*ahem*… with an armrest.

Diamond cup holders?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Thanks Marcus … build me up then crash me down. You and Lauren must be some kind of bastard double act, hahaha!

And Rob, no diamond cup holders [I’m not fucking Paris Hilton for Godsake!] but how about my windscreen heater – even though I lived in Sydney!

To be fair, if I didn’t have it, there would of been a space on the facia that wouldn’t have been used and we can’t have that can we.

Right, bed for me now … night.

Comment by Rob

What the hell you talking about campbell? Crash you down. I’ve said it’S amazing and it is amazing. I can’t help it if you scared the tits off of the client can I?

Comment by Marcus Brown

Facia fillers – spawn of satan…

Comment by Rob Mortimer


Comment by Rob

good morning! waking up to read this comment thread, i’ve decided that we’re all mental. end of story. makes great reading though. 🙂

andy, let go of the catholic upbringing – it’s in the past man.

rob, of course marcus and i are in cahoots, it’s a ‘brown’ thing… so looking forward to seeing Bruce Lee vid.. if it’s anything like the Elvis impersonation, it should be a riot…

Comment by lauren

Hello Lauren … well I am glad you are saying we’re ALL mental because I can rationalise that as saying we’re normal and it’s everyone ‘out there’ who are nutters which is a much nicer feeling for me, ha.

The BRUCE LEE – ahem – is up, so I look forward to hearing all your views. Actually I don’t, but that’s not going to stop you is it.

Comment by Rob

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