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

Sometimes It’s Better To Keep Your Mouth Shut …
March 27, 2008, 7:21 am
Filed under: Comment

Cadie's Piggy Bank

Just received this from Amazon …


Greetings from

You saved $1.00 with’s Pre-order Price Guarantee!

The price of the item(s) decreased after you ordered them, and we gave you the lowest price.

The following title(s) decreased in price:

Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale

Price on order date: $13.99

Price charged at shipping: $12.99 

Lowest price before release date: $12.99

Quantity: 1

$1.00 is your total savings under our Pre-order Price Guarantee


A dollar?

A whole bloody dollar?

And that’s in US currency.

Whoppedobedoo, I’m rich beyond my wildest dreams!!!

Look it’s nice to know I have to pay less than I had originally been told – but with that level of saving, maybe they would have been better to keep quiet about it [so I’d “discover” it by myself and think they’re a great bunch of guys, even though in reality I doubt I’d of even noticed it] or simply sent an email that didn’t feel like they were stating I’d won the national lottery.

And that ladies and gentlemen is the problem with CRM – especially computerised CRM – because what they think [or want to think] is important to their customers is about as significant as a small dry fart after a plateful of Baked Beans.


Self Indulgent Countdown …
March 27, 2008, 6:45 am
Filed under: Comment

Number 1 Shaped Pinata Photo: NDUT_BLUPLE

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A[P]SOTW Assignment: Turning Japanese [And I Hope Anyone In Advertising Has A Go, Not Just Planners]
March 26, 2008, 7:30 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

25/03/2008 Do the assignment or the cat gets it!

So last month I was in Tokyo and while there, I met this horrid bloke called John who is a planner at BBH.

I should point out that I don’t mean he was horrid in the same sense that I am horrid – I mean it in the way that he was too nice and clever for his own good.

Anyway, I asked if he would like to do the next A[P]SOTW assignment and he very kindly agreed so below, you will find a task doesn’t just require you to use your brains to come up with a solution to a specific business problem, but also requires you to get into the mindset of a Japanese consumer.

Now you may think this is unfair – especially if you live in Nottingham – however great communication is when you have relevance and resonance with the target consumer so if you don’t relate to the situation, find out ways to truly get under their skin – from conversation to reading to visiting to experimenting etc etc.

Right, before I go, I need to give you some rules/deliverables …

1 The date for submissions is APRIL 25th 2008 [the address to send them to is here]

2 All submissions should have your name and email on the title slide

3 Questions regarding the subject matter of the assignment should be directed to John

4 Questions regarding the deliverables of the assignment should be directed to me

5 This is not about doing ‘ad’s or a proposition’, it’s about coming up with an idea that will solve the problem set below. If you end up doing ads, then fair enough – just make sure it is being used to ‘communicate’ the solution to the masses rather than be the solution itself.

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

The criteria for judging will be based on the following areas: Feasibility / Scale / Potential for Success – so make sure your presentations cover these areas.

Interms of judging, we have a panel that covers the whole spectrum of marketing and communications because my attitude is great thinking should inspire EVERYONE, not just bloody planners!

With this in mind, our panel of judges includes …

Arun, Deputy Editor of MEDIA Magazine [Asia’s ‘Campaign’]

Lee, a very “big wig” at Virgin

Sarah, a member of Apple’s amazing product design team

John, a marketing expert and serial conference attendee 

Andy, the brilliant [but disgusting] Global CD of cynic

Lauren, a conceptual installation artist and lover of tatts.

Howard, a director of the wonderful Lonely Planet

Jill, an amazing graphic and product designer/inventor, despite being my wife

… and of course, John and myself.

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.

Finally, if you want my view on planning/creativity – I ask you to read the first few paragraphs of this post – which is why I hope some creatives also take this project on, not just planners.

Right, now that’s all over and done with, lets get on with things and so it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to Lovely John


In response to Rob’s last Earth-destroying Hummer project, I decided to jump on the Green hybrid-wagon in an attempt to save our beleaguered Mother Earth, so perhaps you could take your laptops out into the garden and listen to your ‘Essential Panpipes’ or ‘Best of Whalesong’ compilations for inspiration [on second thoughts not the whalesong one actually, this brief is about Japan] 🙂

Firstly, a bit of background.

Anyone having visited Japan will doubtless have been amazed and bemused by this most unfathomable of cultures. Even after living here for over 7 years as I have some things continue to amaze, while others, unfortunately, leave me in dismay.

Packaging in Japan does both.Tsutsumi bunka – ‘packaging culture’ as it is known – has been a fundamental part of the Japanese identity for centuries.

No gift would be complete or in fact deemed acceptable to offer without elaborate presentation; anyone who has bought a souvenir in Tokyo will have experienced the incredible attention to aesthetic detail that goes in to the simplest of purchases, from a coffee mug in Starbucks to a ten dollar toy in Kiddyland.

One only needs to go into any convenience store to see the effect this has on consumer goods and the shopping experience.

The quality and diversity of shapes, sizes, textures, colours, sounds and even smells is astounding, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.

With such a huge rate of product development and saturation of most categories, packaging is often the only clear differentiating factor and a reason to try something new.

chewing gummery Gum Heaven

functional water products Water Confusion

The downside of this attention to detail is that packaging, both decorative and functional, becomes more than a nicety – it is expected and without it, a product loses value.

And as consumers expect this level of attention to detail in presentation when they go shopping, the level of waste generated by perceived value-adding packaging on even the most everyday, throwaway purchases is ludicrous – especially where food and drink is concerned.

Order a takeaway iced coffee from the average café, for example, and you will receive the drink in a plastic cup [with lid], straw [in paper outer], a carton of gum syrup, a carton of UHT milk, a paper towel, a stirrer, all presented in a nice paper bag [with the corner edge nicely folded over for aesthetic purposes]

At the convenience store, you buy a bento or lunchbox [with chopsticks in wrapper], ice cream [with spoon in wrapper], and a banana [individually wrapped of course] – all three come in separate plastic bags, all of which will of course be binned in less than half an hour in most cases.

banana Wrapped Banana

mackerel bento open Mackerel Bento Box

14032001 Individually wrapped snacks

The result of this obsession with convenient consumption: 773,500 tonnes of plastic lunchbox cases a year; 27 billions sets of disposable chopsticks in 2007; and 30.5 billion plastic shopping bags a year, some 300 per person, a figure which does not include the tons generated from the individual serving wrappers.

Tackling this seems to be a twofold issue – firstly, getting Mr and Mrs Japanese Public to see that this level of waste is [a] unnecessary, [b] unsustainable is vital because they will ultimately decide whether this change in ‘wrapping mentality’ happens because in Japan, the customer isn’t just King, they’re God.

Secondly, there is also a need to fully convince businesses that they have a vested interest in providing new solutions to this issue because the desire for convenience and appreciation of packaging are unlikely to disappear overnight, if ever, however where there is consumer interest in practical but eco-sensible options, there is some serious yen to be made.

When I saw this piece on Unpackaged in London – an organic store which only sells products with no packaging [essentially an old-school grocer’s] – it made me wonder how this might work in Japan, particularly as the Japanese are traditionally very thrifty.

unpackaged Unpackaged London

Awareness of  the importance of ‘eco’ behaviour is clearly becoming more widespread, however big brands routinely feature eco-messages in their advertising; stores with greener attitudes towards packaging exist in funkier shopping-hoods; the ‘designer eco-shopping bag’ was rated one of the big hit products last year.

Eco is trendy and increasingly important to the consumer, but is yet to have much of an impact on daily consumption.

The pervading notion remains that even everyday products without the aesthetic appeal and attention to detail afforded by packaging have less value, not to forget being less convenient- consequently, retailers are apprehensive about making a stand on excess packaging, wrapping and waste, lest they lose a customer base who have come to expect the service.

Don’t get me wrong, in other ways Japan is a hugely environmentally-conscious country, way ahead of most in awareness of recycling and energy-saving technologies. But there are many bizarre oversights and this is one of them.

I would love to see a  conscious shift in consumer attitudes towards unnecessary packaging in daily shopping, and to see Japanese consumers make their voices heard.

In a society of typically time-starved workaholics with a desire for ‘convenience’ who are less inclined to voice a lone opinion on such matters, it’s certainly not an easy task.

Thus the brief in a nutshell is how do you convince Japanese consumers that unpackaged goods are more aspirational than packaged goods?

All that post for that simple challenge! God, planners do like to talk alot don’t they!

Right, that’s it … get your thinking caps on, have fun, anything is possible [as long as you can justify/validate it] and I/we look forward to seeing what you come up with to make the World – or Japan at least – a better place.


Some Reference Links:

Traditional packaging …

Unpackaged …

Wrap-Happy Japan …

Packaging For The Sake Of It … 

Even Japanese Shops Are Packaged Beautifully … 

The ‘PS’ Section:

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!

Finally, please don’t worry if you’ve never done something like this before – the role of these assignments is to make you better, not destroy your passions/dreams – so regardless of what you do for a living or where you do it, have a go and I promise we’ll give you constructive feedback, regardless how much we’d like to express our inner Simon Cowell’s!

Self Indulgent Countdown …
March 26, 2008, 6:45 am
Filed under: Comment

Number 2 Photo: WES4UA

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I Am The Ghost Of Paul Colman [Except He’s Not Dead So This Is A Crappy Headline To Announce The Feedback From The Last A[P]SOTW Assignment]
March 25, 2008, 7:13 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

Want some?

OK folks, it’s taken far too long but over the next 2 days we’re going to have the feedback from the last A[P]SOTW assignment [by Paul] and then we’re going to have the next one which you will have one month to complete.

Like the last assignment I set [even though this one has be done by the lovely and talented John at BBH Tokyo] we have amassed a panel of judges to evaluate your entries – a panel that is made up of more than just planners because because we have to remember, great thinking inspires EVERYONE, not just more bloody planners!

Anyway, that’s tomorrow – today, I am writing up Paul’s evaluation of the last assignment because the silly sod has decided to stop his blog despite loads of us relying on it for life support!

Right, lets get on with it – starting with Paul’s public apology, hahaha!


Dear All,

Sincere apologies for talking so bloody long to come back to you all, there isn’t really any excuse, but there are some reasons.

To cut a long story short, in the last couple of months I’ve been working on a number of huge projects at work, I’ve had to find a new place to live [several actually], and deal with a bit of personal crisis.

So, sorry it’s taken so long, but I hope there are some helpful pointers in the feedback.

Please feel free to mail me any direct questions at paul5458 at hotmail dot com if you feel anything is unclear, and could the winner please contact me for your book. 



47 reject Paul On The Naughty Step

OK, so now the air has been officially ‘cleared’, here’s Paul’s comments to all those people who came up with clever ways to make EXTRA chewing gum have something abit errrrrm, extra!

[Because I only got sent Paul’s feedback and the original assignment docos – I don’t know who some of the feedback refers to as some people didn’t put their details onto their submission [a learning for the future there eh!] so in these cases, I’ve just listed a key point from the preso in the hope you will recognise who Paul is talking about]

Assignment ‘A’ [Not sure who did it, but it’s the one that talks about ‘Helicopter Parents’]

Strange opening, not sure what you’re telling me. Is this our audience?

1 Okay fine, but a bit too psycho babble, but let’s see where it goes

2 Not sure I get the leap here

3 Still not sure, but kudos for quoting Springsteen

4 This is odd, slave trade, Springsteen, gum, I’m not sure what the idea is

5 I’m lost – you need to clearly state what the idea is

6 This is complicated and hard to be excited about

7 Still not sure I get the idea, or why it applies to Extra

There was lots of ideas in there, but wasn’t sure what you’d want me to do as a result of that, or why it would be good for the brand.

Stefano Augello

1 Nice opening slide, it’s good to remind me of the task

2 Good, I like objectives, but worried about the term ‘Lovemark’. Also, I don’t remember setting the second objective about distinctiveness, but interested to see if you deliver against it

3 Good structure, clear slide

4 You have my attention

5 Not sure what you’re saying here

6 Okay …

7 This feels weird here, I think you covered this at the start

8 This is quite convention, although I do like the idea of tastes mixing when people kiss, this could be really interesting

9 There is one good idea here, the rest if clear, but you should have done more with it

Conventional area, but really nice idea of it that you didn’t do enough with, shame I was intrigued. Good effort. 

Assignment ‘C’ [The one that talks about making Extra the ‘Green Gum’]

1 Bad use of clipart, but good reminder of task

2 Useful recap

3 Clear set up for the brand

4 Again, useful background, I’m interested to see where this goes

5 Yes, I get the point – you need to the idea

6 Brave to take on this area, good. But Extra Awards is not very original

7 This is a bit of a wish list, I’m not sure you’ve explained how this will help the brand become more meaningful. It also has the potential to reduce the food values of the brand

8 Seems a bit of a leap

You found an interesting area, but you need to think more about how it relates to Extra now, and their brand perception and benefits.

David Mortimer

1 Nice start, looking forward to seeing how you do this

2 Not sure penetration is the problem, but let’s see where you go

3 I’m not sure this is true – is it really believable that chewing gum is cool?

4 Useful competitor context

5 Some nice ideas, but you need to think about how this affects perceptions across all audiences. I’d also question how credible it is – feels like a marketing gimmick

6 Again, this feels gimmicky, but there is a logic to your ideas

7 I feel the same about this idea

8 This feels like it is talking to a different audience

9 Feels like there is a bit of logic gap here – it’s not banned with the older audience so aren’t they less likely to accept the new perception you’re trying to create for the younger audience?

Overall really clear, but I’d loved to have seen where else you could have taken the idea of ‘rebel gum’.

For instance, what would that look like in packaging, in NPD, in experience?

Zach Glass

1 Good start – I like the idea of an enemy

2 Clear insight into the role of gum

3 Conventional but clear and concise

4 Interested to see where you go with this, it makes sense up until now

5 Nice idea, I like the fact that you’re thinking of media ideas

6 Good to know, I’m ready for the idea

7 Yup, go it, let’s get to the idea

8 Bit cheesy, but I like it. Could make the brand cooler and more resonant, which are major problems to overcome

9 This is a bit far fetched, but why not! I like the sentiment of the thought

Once more I would have like to have seen you take this idea further, but still some nice thinking in here in terms of how context can affect perceptions.

Assignment ‘F’ [It’s the one that talks about ‘Endurance’]

1 Straight in there. Quite safe to think merely about extending the current positioning

2 Right, not sure what this means, so let’s get on

3 Okay…

4 I’m not convinced this is credible, I need more convincing

5 Sounds like you’re saying this is nothing more than a marketing idea, which is a little uninspiring

I feel like you need to think more around the idea you wanted to get across, it felt a little random.


1 Nice slide. Hello

2 Good reminder of brief

3 Again, useful

4 Feel like I’ve seen this before, but let’s see where we go

5 Good image, I’m in a good mood

6 Huh? This suggests that anything that puts a smile on your face good be an area Extra could own, which is a big step

7 Right…

8 I don’t get what you mean here

9 Lots of ideas here which is good, but feels like a massive area to try and own

Clear slides, and some good ideas, but you never really convinced me of the core idea linking Extra – smiling – extravaganza.

Gustavo Gontijo

1 Never a bad idea to quote me (and recap task)

2 Good and interesting research

3 True, you have my attention

4 Yes, simple and interesting

5 Yes, useful to know where we are

6 All very serious all of sudden, but I want to know how you propose to do this

7 Not sure what you mean by ‘flavoured moments’, but maybe it will become clear

8 Good to have lots of ideas but quite conventional, though they do make sense

9 This might sound rubbish but I like this kind of slide, I know the presentation is over and I find out about you, which is all good

Clear and made sense, it just felt like the final area was a bit ‘safe’.

I would have liked you to have thought more about other areas, such as packaging etc.

Good effort though.

Assignment ‘I’ [Positions EXTRA as ‘Mental Hygiene’]

1 Nice slide layout, and point of view

2 Arresting graphic design

3 Yes

4 Get it

5 Clear and easy to follow

6 Simple, which is good

7 Set up that leaves me wanting more

8 New area, very interesting. I like this

9 Clear strategy – I like the boldness of moving the market functionally

10 Really good, these all make sense and fit with the strategy

Really good stuff, clear and simple and interesting.

I would like to have had a final chart finishing things off, but small complaint.


1 Good market information

2 Useful to see where market opportunities are

3 Very conventional position for the UK, but maybe not for Scandinavia

4 Again very similar to UK

5 Safe and conventional

6 I don’t really get this

Some good structural stuff in there, but you need to be a bit bolder.

I know this is a very UK based opinion, but you need to take into account who your audience is, in terms of who is marking.

Assignment ‘K’ [The ‘Take Some EXTRA Time’ idea]

1 Good opening

2 Good research and a rich area

3 This is intriguing, the presentation could be more visual

4 Nice way of looking at it, but you’ll need to convince me this is credible

5 Okay…

6 I get the pun, but the image feels wrong, and I’m still not convinced by the idea

7 This feels like a logical leap in terms of the clash of the modernity that gum represents and the more traditional values you talk about

Although I don’t quite buy it, this was clearly presented and easy to understand.

You could have done with some visuals but it was still easy to follow and quite engaging.

Dennis Volkmann

1 Okay, I follow

2 Still follow, but where are we going?

3 Still following

4 Too much set up, we need to get to the idea

5 Useful information, but maybe should have come earlier

6 Again, useful, but should have come earlier

7 Audience is always useful, but I feel like this should have been explained earlier, I’m a bit lost

8 I don’t really know what the idea is. Is it about relating it to the idea of ‘lasting longer’?

You didn’t really explain the idea, or why you thought it was interesting.

Joao Correia Pereira

1 Good to start with the problem

2 Nice old ad, and exploration of the issue

3 Yes, a given, I think

4 Ditto

5 Again, this is all pretty obvious

6 This feels like one of the benefits a lot of the category communicates now

7 Bit confusing

You didn’t really explain your idea clearly.

There was something in unusual occupations but it needed more thought.

Assignment ‘N’ [Talks about launching new products and how ‘chewing creates clarity’]

1 Nice opening. Clear and simple

2 Useful and interesting – good chart

3 Good thinking, shows you’ve taken some time to understand the market

4 Really interesting to see where you go with this, it’s a useful exercise to think of the portfolio

5 Loads of work and research that reveals the answer

6 Bold, but why not (apart from that fact it’s not on brief)

7 Okay, but how?

8 Okay…

9 Interesting area, I like this

Some really good stuff here, and very thorough.

Thought you could have taken it a bit further, but strong presentation.

John Mills

1 Funny, which is always good

2 Good question

3 Yup

4 I have to admit I’ve never heard of this, but let’s see where we go

5 Okay…

6 Not completely clear why this is important

7 Is this assertion, if so, I’m not sure how convinced I am

8 Yes, but this is simply the task

9 Some good thoughts here

Some interesting thinking in here, but felt a bit reactionary and assertive.

Rajeev Sharma

1 Right, rather grand and general, but that’s cool, let’s see where we go

2 Not sure what this means

3 Okay…

4 I don’t know what you mean, hopefully you will answer

5 Err…

6 This is hard to follow

7 This is even harder to follow

8 There is an absence of strategy here

9 Mmm…

I know it’s hard because you’ve not experienced the product, but the internet makes the world a small place.

Assignment ‘R’ [EXTRA is for people who have more to worry about than their ‘gum’]

1 Good opening, ugly chart

2 Good research

3 This is interesting, no one else considered these fact, you have my attention

4 Bit much here, but useful

5 A lot of background here, I need to know what your strategy is

6 I feel like you’re throwing information at me

7 Again, a lot of information

8 I’m not so interested in what happens now, I want to know what you think they should do now

9 Mm…this is done now. I’m not sure I buy that people do think about it now

There was too much background here and not enough thinking. You need to think about why the data you uncovered matters, and how much I need to see.

The Checkered Flag Photo: Splorp

Bloody hell, that’s a hell of a lot of assignments submitted, how bloody fantastic!

However as there can be only one winner, Paul has decided that this time it’s awarded to the person who did ‘Assignment N’ – congrats!

To be fair, it’s quite a similar solution to whoever did ‘Assignment I’ however they were able to express their argument more clearly PLUS [and this is a big one for me, even though I had nothing to do with this project] they also talked about the importance of ‘doing stuff’ [from product/distribution/packaging] because that would fundamentally differentiate EXTRA rather than just rely on advertising.

Anyway, whoever the clever sod was who did Assignment N, get in touch with Paul and he’ll bung you a book for your troubles.

To everyone who entered, well done and I/we all hope you enjoyed the assignment. As I said at the beginning of this post, if you have any questions, don’t forget to email Paul at paul5458 at hotmail dot com but be patient, the poor bugger is in mad juggling mode.

Now, as variety maketh the thinkerthere’s going to be another assignment tomorrow and this one’s a complete mindfuck as it’s to do with Japan and packaging [Cue: Evil Laugh] … so if you’re up for it, come back in the morning and lets see what your brains come up with, can’t wait!