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

On Your Marks – Get Set – Run Away [Advertising (Planning) School On The Web Assignment]
May 10, 2007, 11:07 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

So finally I have got off my arse and got round to doing this assignment thingy.

Before I give you the ‘problem’, I have some background ranting to do – and I apologise for the length of this email, I just think it is important you get an understanding of where my head is regarding brands and communication.

I believe planning is a creative discipline. This means we are not management consultants – but by the same token, we are not creative directors either.

As far as I am concerned, our job is to understand the needs / wants / fears of consumers / society and then use this to inspire [and work with] our talented colleagues to help develop an ‘idea’ … an idea that is relevant, interesting and naturally motivates people to fulfil our client needs – both short-term [which is often about sales] and long term [which is about developing/building their clear, concise brand idea]

I also believe planning is about understanding and appreciating ALL aspects of communication – including design, packaging, media, distribution, new products, promotions, price … EVERYTHING … because to truly help your client move forward both short and longterm, you need to appreciate all the elements that can make that happen, not just rely on 30 second television commercial.

For me, the most successful brands are the ones that win the hearts and wallets of consumers – where their success is not just based on their distribution strength or heritage – but something that has great emotional value to the people out there.

[Lets face it, a good idea is pretty much the only legal means left to counteract distribution, spend and heritage]

It saddens me how many clients think of their brand as basically a logo … or a template … or a particular colour … when in reality, consumers always judge them more than just those attributes.

However, the area I believe is the most powerful in truly developing brands for the future is the philosophy of moving cultures, not categories.

Speed of Life

My problem is that too many marketing activities have been created by myopically looking at the category rather than looking at the broader and deeper issues going in consumers lives.

If all you ever do is focus your attention on what is going on in the confines of the category, then you have little or no chance of truly infiltrating the wider aspects of society – which ultimately is stopping you achieve bigger, stronger brand and profit status.

Let me give you a couple of examples …

A few years ago, when Y&R Malaysia were asked by LG Mobile to come up with an idea for a new mobile phone, they knew they were working with a client whose products didn’t really excite the consumer.  Rather than look at the category needs and wants, they realised that being a devout Muslim country – where people are required to pray multiple times a day, always facing towards Mecca – they should get LG to produce a mobile phone with an inbuilt Mecca compass so that people could feel confident they are praying in the right direction, wherever they are. It may sound mad, but by appreciating how important religion was to the culture, they created a truly differentiated product that managed to sell almost 4 million phones.

A French Insurance company [apologies, I’ve forgotten their name] learnt that approx 10% of the French population suffered from hearing difficulties. By training all their counter staff sign language – then advertising this fact – they achieved their highest ever market share because a significant segment of society saw real value in what they were doing for them. 

When NIKE learnt many new mothers feel alone and overwhelmed after childbirth, they created a website which allowed women to form running groups together – which not only helped them connect with other women in the same situation, but helped them get fit and healthy again … all contributing to higher self esteem and confidence.

When Tesco’s found out that shopping with kids was the 3rd most stressful experience after divorce and moving house, they fitted DVD players to some of their trolleys so that the children would be entertained while Mum did the shopping. Not only did this reinforce the Tesco brand idea of ‘Every Little Helps’ … it ensured people found the Tesco’s shopping experience far better than other places – which contributed to sales growth both interms of new customers and increased time in store.

Interesting isn’t it! [Well I think so anyway]

This isn’t about ignoring the category … and it certainly isn’t about ignoring the brand and it’s values/attitude/essence … it’s about looking at both these things but overlaying it with a deeper understanding of the consumers lives, not just their category habits and turning it into something that has real value for both the consumer and the brand.

So with all that, here is the bloody assignment …


fuk hummers


[The Brand Essence of Hummer [for this exercise] is TOUGHER THAN TOUGH]

That’s it.  All that pre-sell for a one line brief. Ha.

I have kept it purposely brief/ambiguous to allow you to make some decisions/deductions of your own – however anything you decide has to be backed up with facts, you can’t rely in just your own personal opinion. Remember, your goal is to find an insight that lets you develop an idea that undeniably motivates people to choose a Hummer over other cars whilst still being true to what the brand stands for.

Finally – because I have a judging panel of hundreds … what I would like at the end of EVERY assignment is the following synopsis …


What insight/s led to this solution being developed. How did you get them and validate them?


What is the core idea that will encourage people to fulfil your clients fundamental business problem whilst still being true to the essence/attitude of the brand. No more than 3 sentences.


Based on the solution developed, what campaign idea/proposition are you going to use to motivate the masses to act in your clients best interests.


Explain how your idea is relevant to the essence of the brand.

To help you understand what I mean – here is an example [again using cultural/lifestyle insights] based on a campaign we’ve recently done for a luxury hotel chain who wanted to attract wives [of senior executives] to book their family holidays with them – despite not being as well equipped as the competitors nor in as many locations. [Their overall brand idea is ‘Away From The Everyday’]


Mothers crave moments where the family can spend real quality time together … however technology [Blackberries and Mobiles] has resulted in people never being totally ‘free’ from outside contact, which has caused family life to be continually interrupted and undermined.


Import ‘mobile signal blocking’ devices into key hotels which ensure no mobile device signal can get through.


DM campaign to the wives of these senior executives – explaining how only this hotel chain ensures a family holiday like a family holidays used to be – before he got too successful and technology got too invasive. [And yeah, it also highlights that if absolutely necessary, the husband can use the hotel phone to call the office. That’s if you don’t cut off his balls first, ha!]  IDEA PROPOSITION: “Technology is as dangerous to family harmony as having a mistress


Offering holidays where people can truly be together as a family – free from external interruption – is truly an ‘away from the everyday’

Get it?  Cool.

Please remember this is not about developing an ‘ad or a proposition’ – it’s about identifying an idea that motivates people because it fulfils an emotional / psychological need and want [beyond just the category] which is in line with the clients short and longterm business goals.

An ad is not the solution – an ad is what you use to ‘communicate’ the solution to the masses in a manner that is fresh, bold, enthusiastic and interesting. 

I’ve written about this sort of thing [and the importance of doing it in a manner appropriate to the brand] at various times in this blog so have a look – to start you off, go here.

We are treating this seriously so while we demand resonant, relevant, effective and exciting solutions … it is important you enchant, charm and inspire us because in the ‘real World’, ‘how you say stuff’ is as important as ‘what you say’.

Please note this doesn’t mean you can/should go into pages and pages and pages of ‘wank’ … think of it as a story – with a beginning, middle and end all expressed in an infectious, enthusiastic manner.

Actually, before I sign off, could I suggest you all read ‘High Concept’ … a book by dead-pervert-film director Don Simpson. 

The reason for this is not because you might enjoy reading about sex, drugs and film stars [though that is a plus] it’s because he details how he used to sell ‘100 million dollar film concepts’ in a few sentences.


Without doubt that is a masterclass in pitching and given he made iconic movies like Top Gun, The Rock, Beverly Hills Cop,  Bad Boys, Crimson Tide, Flashdance … I reckon you might just learn a thing or two from him.

So there you have it, the assignment is officially ‘live’ … so if you have any questions you can email me or post a comment and I promise I’ll try and get back to you as soon as possible.

I will give you one month to do this and so please send entries to this address by JUNE 12th [which is my birthday so I will be in a good mood PLUS I’ll be open to bribes, ha!]

Oh … and there will be prizes too! Not sure what, but we’ll find something – and no Age, it won’t be an iPhone!


PS: The reason I have put [Planning] in brackets in the Advertising [Planning] School On The Web is because I think everyone should [or at least have the right to] contribute to the development of the idea.

Just because you have ‘planner’ on your business card doesn’t mean you are the font of all knowledge. If you can’t inspire and excite the wider team [including the client and the consumer] then as far as I am concerned, it’s indulgence, not intelligence.

Communication development works best when [1] its done in an atmosphere of inclusivity [2] executed with a real understanding of people’s lives [not just relying on what you read in a research paper / academic book] so remember that as you approach this assignment and make sure you have some bloody fun!

74 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Evil genius.

What a great assignment Rob and you have written a brilliant piece on how they should broaden their thinking process to get to a powerful solution.

I am excited to see how this goes. Well done Rob.

Comment by Pete



This is very cool…

Comment by Age

this is good. this is very fucking good indeed.

Comment by andy@cynic

Screw being a judge, I want to take part.

Comment by Billy Whizz

You’re in luck then Billy – as you’re not a judge, ha!

Comment by Rob

Would it be bad if I told my boss to fuck off?

Comment by Billy Whizz

Try it and see …

Comment by Rob

this is the rob i love.
well billy, are you a man or a mouse? i think i hear squeaking.

Comment by andy@cynic

Your hearing is very good Andy. I hang my head in shame.

Comment by Billy Whizz


Comment by Marcus

If you like it Marcus, then I am happy!

Comment by Rob

Excellent. You are a twisted man.

Comment by NP

[…] it out by clicking here – it’s a […]

Pingback by Use Your Head. « WELCOME TO THE P.L.F.

Why am I twisted NP???? I’m not the one who wants to be ‘caned’.

Comment by Rob

I want to USE a cane.

Comment by Marcus

Very nice. I particularly like this bit:

“Please note this doesn’t mean you can/should go into pages and pages and pages of ‘wank’ … think of it as a story – with a beginning, middle and end all expressed in an infectious, enthusiastic manner”

Comment by Will

By the way, wouldn’t worry about planning blog thing for now. I’ll put mine up there next month since no one reads my blog.
Twisted was wrong, Pete had it right with evil genius.
By the way 2, well played for throwing in a useful way to frame thinking free of charge.

Comment by NP

Why is everyone being nice to me? What is going on?

Comment by Rob

We all received the brib..

I mean, we’ve suddenly realised how much we like Nottingham and everyone who grew up there. 😉

Comment by Will

Hang on NP … are you seeking out some compliment? You know for a fact lots of people read [and hell, even ENJOY] your blog as demonstrated when you went on a period of retirement!

Stop being coy – you’re tops and I know I’ll end up looking at what you do and wishing I’d done it first. [I’m a competitive little shit!]

Comment by Rob

Will has an early lead in the judging … amazing!

Comment by Rob

I very much like this idea.
Its getting people to think against the grain, and in a mindset they may not have themselves.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

That’s the hope anyway … ha!

There’s no ‘wrong’ answer … mainly because in adland, there’s very rarely a wrong answer in communication … there’s just lots and lots of different ‘right’ answers.

The real challenge is identifying which ‘right answer’ will achieve the clients goal in the most effective manner. [With the word ‘effective’ being one of the most ambigious terms known to man – like my rant on ROI!]

Comment by Rob

Well done Robert, wishing you all the best with this.

Comment by Richard Branson

[In a pathetic attempt to look all casual having had Mr B on my blog [Jonno, are you trying to show off?]


Comment by Rob

Well if Mr B is here, thanks for the photo for my bro’s project!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

First Jamie Oliver now Richard Branson. Your blog is the of the rich and famous.

Comment by Pete

um, rob. please tell me that you’ve chosen Hummer specifically because GM have stopped production of the vehicle and it will thankfully be disappearing of the face of this earth…

Comment by lauren

Errrrm no Lauren – infact they are going to be on sale in Australia in a few months!

Comment by Robert

hmm…. i read that GM were ceasing production from October 2006. it must just be the H-1. bugger.

Comment by lauren

The US need all the Hummers they can get at the rate they declare war, ha!

Comment by Rob

The H1 is the actual Hummer. The hard as nails army version. The H2 is pretty much (from what ive read) a standard GM SUV with a Hummer style body.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Cool project and a nice celebrity panal.

I’m looking at (I hate to admit) somewhat cool stretch Hummer at the mo. Not that enviro friendly I’m sure, but a good car for scaring people off the road – if you’re into that type of thing.

Comment by Jade

Jade … you have been in Duabi waaaaaaaaay to long, ha!

Comment by Rob

I know. I know. I know.

Scary really!

Comment by Jade

I have just seen, Robert, that you have started ‘The Advertising (Planning) School on the Web’and I would like to wish you a lot of luck, with all my love. I am sure it will be successful because I am a great believer in your ability. (Sorry, everybody, for being so biased!) Mum xxx

Comment by Fiorella Campbell

Right folks … my Mum is online and as she still thinks I’m ‘tops’, I don’t want you lot to make me look too pathetic infront of her – so get your assignments in quick smart or you’ll have her to answer to. [Even though she is a wonderfully sweet 70+ Italian woman, you don’t want to mess!]

As for the swear-a-lot mob who frequent this blog, remember – any rude words [and I’d still prefer if you didn’t use them with my Mum in the house] HAS TO be followed with a 🙂

Thank you.

PS: Hello Mum – love you lots! Rx

Comment by Rob

How sweet!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Hello Mrs C. I’m on best behaviour.

Comment by Marcus

Who Mr M … me or my Mum?

And yes Marcus, I am VERY impressed with you today.

Comment by Rob


Comment by Rob Mortimer

Good ‘on-the-fence’ answer there Mr M, ha!

Comment by Rob

hello mrs c, lovely to hear from you again. unfortunately your son is still up to his usual shenanigans but dont worry, ill keep a close eye on him. just for you. our little secret.
love andy

Comment by andy@cynic

Hello Mrs C., lovely to see you on this blog and I promise I will try to not use any swear words here anymore. 🙂

And Rob: brilliant assignment, great introduction. I am excited to start working. Have a question though, will send it by mail. Think I will send the thing on the 10th. That’s my birthday, so be nice.

Comment by Seb

Has Rob’s mum gone? Can I start swearing again?

Comment by Marcus

Im not bloomin sure Marcus. Rob’s mum doesnt take any guff, so you have to be darn sure not to let any naughty words through the chuffin net…

Comment by Rob Mortimer


Comment by Marcus


Comment by Marcus

Seb, you won’t win favour by saying your birthday is coming up because what you are actually doing is taking away attention from my special day … a day I intend to milk for as much as I can get, ha!

Will check your email tomorrow mate – and I’m glad you like the project, at least so far.

Rob – thank you for protecting the purity of my Mum’s eyes and Marcus, thank you for listenening to Mr M.

I wonder if my blog has already scared away Russell’s regular APSOTW entrants. Hope not – because as much as I like a joke, I am taking this thing very, very seriously because I value it very, very much.

Lets give it a few days. Night all …

Comment by Rob

see the positive things, Rob. I am not taking attention from your 12th. what I do is focussing attention on those special two days in June. and for all the people I know who might read this (not so many, I guess. ha.): all I want from you for my birthday is to save all you attention, love, generosity and swear vocabulary for two days and pour it all over Rob on the 12th.

and I think all the old APSotW-entrants don’t say a thing because they’re already working. right? come on, say something.

Comment by Seb

of all the brands to choose Rob?

Comment by Gareth

Isnt that the point?
Choosing something way outside people’s comfort zone. Most people here would probably never consider buying a Hummer, which makes it all the more important that they can learn to understand the thoughts of someone who would.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

A gauntlet can be heard thudding somwhere..

Comment by NP

i’m way behind here, but hey mrs c.

Comment by lauren

Hello Gareth – think of it as a statement of how much I enjoyed catching up the other day 😉

Not only that, but it good comes out of it [as I am sure it will], you can leave Modernista, set up your own consultancy and sell Hummer these ideas over numberous years for millions. [Accepting a small ‘management fee’ will have to be charged by us, haha! You can tell I’ve got Italian blood can’t you, haha!]

And Seb – with an attitude like that, you should be a New Business Director – corporate toadiness at its finest.

Lauren – stop showing your nice side, it disturbs me and I daren’t imagine what it is doing to Andy!

Comment by Rob


Comment by lauren

Really interesting project, but I’m concerned I may not be at the standard the judging committee will find acceptable. Will you review all entries, even if they are not as well presented as you may experience in your normal day to day job? Thank you. Daniel

Comment by Daniel King

Im sure he/they will.

The whole idea is to help people improve, so if you arent yet at that standard then this will (hopefully) help you get there.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Hi Daniel.

First of all I want to say I appreciate your concerns and welcome your honesty – however don’t worry … this is not a job interview, it’s a course aimed at [hopefully] nurturing the talent that already lies within.

Of course we will look at each entry with a critical eye – what would be the point otherwise – however our goal is to make you better, not to make you wish you’d never got involved.

The guys on the judging panel were chosen for a number of reasons – one being their experience and the other being their genuine good nature … so whilst they’ve been around the block [which means they can comment with clarity and insight] they also want you to succeed because being honest, the ad insdustry needs to continually nurture talent or it will self implode.

I am hopeful we will have people from all walks of life doing this assignment – not just advertising and certainly not just planners – so do whatever you think is right and have some fun.

In all honesty, this course is very important to me … and the way I will measure its success is if you all walk away thinking you are in a better place than when you started.

If I can help in any way – please just shout – and again thanks for your openness and honesty.

Have a great weekend.


Comment by Rob

Daniel – it’s Rob. You could write 2,000 word opus on Nottingham and slip in a fiver, and he’d let you win.

Seriously, as Rob M says, it’s just about improving. Bribery does pay though.

Comment by Will

Thank you Robert, I feel much better and will be thinking about how to tackle this project over the weekend. It is very exciting to have such a great panel of judges so I guess the worst that could happen is that I get a lesson in thinking from people who are recognised as being some of the best in communication. Finally, was that really Richard Branson who commented on your site? Have a great weekend.

Comment by Daniel King

Hi Daniel – glad you feel assured but please don’t use words phrases like “people who are recognised as being some of the best in communication” … because whilst that might be true [at least for some of them, ha] the ego boost you will have given to some of the others [read: Andy] might be too much for me to bare 😉

And yes, it really was Richard Branson. Amazing eh

Comment by Rob

please excuse my colleague daniel, hes been in hospital today and is obviously still concust from the beating im going to give him. apart from that, have a go, we all had to start somewhere, even me. 🙂

Comment by andy@cynic

Hello Mr Campbell,

I too have some concerns. Are we allowed to use Powerpoint with animation?

Comment by Rowan Barsum

oh, and is there an age limit? I forgot to ask. Sorry 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Comment by Rowan Barsum

Over 8’s only. 😉

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Hi Monsieur cynic. So this is why you don’t send us any AOMTD anymore, because you’re busy blogging. Just as well I tripped over your blog from various other links. What a fluke, and what a small, small world. Brenda.

Comment by Brenda

Hi Rowan …

You can use whatever you like if you think it ‘sells’ your idea properly … and if you’re old enough to use a computer, then you’re old enough to take part. We’re an anti-age ‘school’ [mainly because I’m pushing 37 and don’t want to be ageist incase it comes and bites me on the arse in a few years, ha!] In all seriousness, I look forward to seeing what you do – have fun!

[PS: According to your blog you are 82 … if this is genuine [sorry, I am abit cynical by nature, ha] … then I look forward to you showing these young, enthusiastic buggers the value and power of life experience]


How the hell are you? Where are you? I can’t believe you found my blog, and yes, this has taken over AMOTD but I know I have to start it up again as I’ve had too many complaints about not doing it.

Let me know how/where you are and bloody hope to see you soon. I am so glad to hear from you!

Comment by Rob

Brenda … you are still in UAE? For god’s sake meet Jade, another Aussie who is there who is a top person and just left her job in a passionless comms company.

I am so glad to hear from you – even if the first post on your blog annoyed me, hahaha!

Going to bed now but hope to speak/see you soon.

Comment by Rob

Coool. Hello Jade, are you a member of this blog? Will someone please give me Jade’s email address.

Comment by Brenda

Oi … Jade … write to Brenda, she’s bloody tops and is in the UAE too.

This blog is better than bloody Friendster – except it tends to deal in rude, opinionated people – or the ‘Friend of the Friendless’, haha.

Now Ms Brenda – when are you going to tell me what you’re upto given I’ve not heard from you for bloody years. You can email me at … can’t wait.

Comment by Rob

Howdy Brenda,

My email is Chat to you soon.

Comment by Jade

I have never had such an amusing time reading through comments 🙂

Comment by Rasika

Hello Rasika … I wish I could take the credit for the witty number of comments but no, the truth is this blog seems to attract high levels of “clever nutters” – so I am hoping you can buck the trend by simply being intelligent.

Please come back … ha!

Comment by Rob

Leave a Reply