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

A[P]SOTW: The Judges Speak!
May 23, 2008, 7:47 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

megaphone madness Photo: Ehnmark

Drumroll please …

Yes, in far less time than it normally takes, the results for the Japanese Packaging A[P]SOTW assignment are in!!!

OK … OK … so a snail could have done it quicker but hey, we’re improving so surely that’s something to celebrate?


God you’re one tough bunch of bastards.

Now before I get to the comments, I have some house-keeping …

First of all, as of today, I’m going to be out of contact for about 2 weeks so if you have any comments/questions/rants about your entry, could you either …

1 Wait till I come back [around 10th June]


2 Email John who set the assignment.

American Idol ROCKS! Photo: Kell

Secondly I want to thank John who set this brilliant-but-tough assignment.

Given the poor bugger is incredibly busy, I am amazed at how much time he devoted to both writing and judging the entries. Thanks mate, you’re a top bloke and I look forward to doing some more projects with you in the future.

Thirdly, I want to thank all the judges who took time out of their busy days to read, review and comment on the assignments.

Hopefully you will find the feedback interesting and fair because whilst there are multiple ways to answer the challenge [especially when many of them are totally new concepts] the judges experience and knowledge means they can talk with a certain degree of authority as to how they think each ‘idea’ would play out in the ‘real World’.

The A[P]SOTW is about improving people’s thinking/approach/presentation so whilst some of the comments may be read as being quite harsh, they are not said with malice – their aim is to help you be even better because there’s no point doing this if all we do is blow smoke up your arses.

With this in mind, the core criteria that the assignments were judged on were …

Feasibility [is it likely the idea they have come up with could actually be executed?]

Scale [can the idea be executed on a big enough scale to make a real impact?]

Potential for Success [based on the previous criteria, could the concept really work?]

… however other elements like core insight, strategy clarity, intrigue and excitement, presentation style, etc were also taken into account .

Fourthly – I want to thank everyone who entered this assignment.

Without doubt this was a bloody difficult one – especially as it was focused on a country many of you hadn’t ever visited – however it is exactly these sorts of challenges that adland need to start taking on [and overcoming] if it wants to start getting some of its credibility back.

I appreciate that for some of you this was all very new, so I thank you for having a go and I hope the experience [and comments] will keep you hungry for doing – and achieving – more.

Finally, because we always get people asking to see the submitted assignments, I’ve put them all up on slideshare – so you can now have a read and see if our comments are fair or the work of a bunch of people trying to live out their Simon Cowell fantasies.

OK, that’s enough waffle, lets get onto the ‘reviews’ and in no particular order, we’re going to start with …


This caused quite alot of debate amongst the judges.

On one hand we liked how you focused on one core segment rather than try and change the attitudes of all Japanese … and we liked how you incorporated technology into your solution [despite not explaining how it would work] however it is here that the mutual appreciation society parted ways, ha!

The reality is that eco-bags are already widespread and relatively trendy in Japan and yet despite this, their environmental impact has been very small.

With this in mind, we cannot why the Government would support this initiative over the countless others who claim to promote/provide environmental benefits. [What’s in it for them that the other schemes don’t offer?]

Don’t get us wrong, we thought your solution was interesting – but it left us with more questions than answers – and when you take into account things like the technological development costs, the lack of explanation regarding how people would find out about this scheme, the fact you don’t mention how the bag could be made from recyclable materials, the potential issues of bag theft [if the ‘prize’ for minimising waste was significant] we ended up feeling you got lost in the ingenuity of your idea rather than finding/explaining ways that could make the concept actually happen.

For us it’s an idea of potential but not reality. At least not yet.



I’ve always copped alot of flack for my irrational love of the IMPACT font … however when the judges saw the hideous design of your first slide, they suddenly decided I wasn’t as bad as they first thought.

The opening slide to a presentation is very, very important … you should think of it as a movie poster – trying to draw people in to find out more.

If your slide was for a movie, it would be some Britney Spears rubbish so unless you happen to think ‘Crossroads‘ should of won an Oscar, please don’t do this sort of thing again 😉

Luckily for all of us, once we delved inside we found things to be much, much better.

To be honest, your concept sounded very much like the ‘Unpackaged’ store we mentioned in the brief – however because of the little touches you talked about [little things that would make all the difference interms of customer experience and brand meaning] we all felt it could be a concept that would work in Japan, albeit in a niche category.

What we liked about your presentation is that you truly had a core idea that you built off – however by not explaining how you would give this concept scale, we feel it was only ‘half developed’ interms of truly answering the brief.



Well it’s quite obvious you know the Japanese market and if you don’t, then [1] you did a shitload of research and [2] you have a very strange name for someone who lives in Blackpool!

In all seriousness, we thought you came up with an interesting idea, linked to a very powerful and culturally driven insight.

The issue we had was that from an executional point of view, we felt it was all quite disparate.

To be fair, the touchpoint concept is a good one – and we are sure it would generate shitloads of free publicity – however it all seemed abit loose and given the concepts success would be down to the actions and attitude of the individual, we feel it’s potential could be undermined by consumer lethargy and/or cultural expectations.

If you had tightened this element up and explained how/why retailers, brands and Government would get involved [who are all well known for jumping on bandwagons as long as it doesn’t directly affect them] so that the concept had scale and energy, we’d of got really quite excited about your idea, especially as you had included a cultural education element within the concept.

Interms of insight and idea we liked them – interms of execution and scale, we had doubts – but with abit of work something great could be made of it and it’s ‘development costs’ would be much less than some of the other submitted ideas.



Well I know you don’t live in Japan so the fact you detailed so much culturally relevant information is to be congratulated – however some of the judges felt you were trying too hard to show you’d done your research because when it came to developing a core idea, they were left wondering what it was.

It’s not that some of your ideas wouldn’t work [though no one could understand what your Harajuku bag PR stunt was all about] it’s just some of the ideas are either being done [charging for plastic bags] or not fundamentally addressing the issue we set [ie: While the furoshiki idea would clearly reduce the use of plastic bags, the retailers would still have to wrap up certain items, ie: food, so the benefit gets reduced]

Saying that, your returnable plate idea was fun – and if you did something like the South Australian Govenrments policy of paying money for recycled aluminum cans – then we think you could be onto something that could motivate and educate change .

I know you were rushing to get this assignment done because you had other things on your plate so hopefully you understand where we’re coming from – however from a client perspective, we believe that if they read this presentation they’d be confused as to what you were recommending as a core strategy because it feels like you’re advocating a bunch of small ideas where the only common factor is they all ‘help the environment’ whereas we wanted something that would fundamentally change the Japanese populations attitude towards multiple layer packaging.



If we were Paula Abdul, we’d talk about your wonderful sense of fun and your nice presentation style – however we’re not so lets get to the point shall we.

To be honest, our comments are quite similar to the ones we had for David – except you didn’t try and pretend you had a core strategy, you just came up with a bunch of ideas.

Apart from the fact there are issues regarding scale and effectiveness, it all felt like some small local council ‘environment campaign’ … where they try desperately to people to care when in reality, they won’t give a shit.

You do get points for your ‘WHAT TO DO’ slide – genius – but in future you might find it better if you spend time looking for a core insight [one that links to why people act/think in a particular way about a particular issue] because that way you can develop ideas that address the insight and achieve the goal with a more unified approach.

Whilst it’s not perfect, it you look at Naoko’s presentation you’ll see how the insight allowed the issue to be tackled in a culturally relevant, consumer motivating way – though I appreciate how hard this is to do when dealing with cultures you know little about.



Communicating the problems caused by excess packaging in an interesting medium really has merit – and without doubt the idea is valid – however we all felt it was a concept more suited to promoting change rather than fundamentally driving it.

Sure, great communication has the ability to motivate people to change their behaviour and attitudes … but what we were looking for was more of an idea that would force things to happen [because it was linked to a cultural insight rather than blackmail or fear mongering] rather than just ‘hope’ it does.

We do like the idea – and think it would be a great way to seed attitudinal change in the younger generation – but interms of driving mass change today, we question it’s potential unless it was maybe backed by considerable Council/Governmental support.



While some of the judges felt you took too long to get to your points – as well as the fact you seemed to rehash alot of what was said in the initial brief – we all felt your presentation had a natural flow without any need for massive ‘mind jumps’.

Saying that, whilst you had some some good ideas – and you really delved into the Japanese mindset – we felt you might have missed the point a little.

While the ritual of wrapping/unwrapping has clearly permeated into packaging, there are other reasons why this has become the ‘norm’ [ie: convenience and ignorance] and because of this, we feel your idea may not achieve the scale you believe it might.

Without doubt popularising the use of furoshiki would help reduce amounts of packaging – which could also lead to further thought about the need to reduce it even more – however we feel this is more of a tactic than a fundamental strategy.

Saying that, getting people involved in the packaging process early on is a very good idea, but it should also be about educating people on the amount of waste incurred using more ‘mainstream’ methods.

For us, we were hoping you could expand on how you would get the public to understand and participate in what packaging entails – both culturally and environmentally – however interms of having a point-of-view, backed by cultural relevance and interesting insight, we thought you had done a good job.



This polarised the judges – between thinking it is an idea of indulgence and idea that has scope, at least executionally.

What we did all agree on was that the ‘culture vs culture’ argument was very confusing – which meant we weren’t quite sure how all the elements linked together.

Nevertheless, while you didn’t go into how this campaign would actually work [ie: who would drive it, what channels it would work in] it is definitely an interesting approach, and does present something that could make people think twice about the effect of packaging and the choices they have.

Unfortunately, without a clear and concise strategy, we cannot decide if this concept is more style over substance – and from a ‘client’ point of view, that is not a good situation to be in.

Not sure about the scale, not sure about the insight, not sure about the strategy – but interms of imagination and intrigue, it’s good.

Now if you could only make them all work together [so thicko’s like the judges can understand] you could be onto something …

Barristers Wig> Photo: Philippe & Angie

So there you go …

What do you think?

Fair? Evil? Interesting? Pointless? Useful?

As I said, if you have any comments/questions then just get in touch however one thing that really stood out in all the assignments was people’s difficulty in formulating and presenting a clear and concise argument.

It would be lovely to think clients choose their agency/strategy on the quality of the idea … however you just need to look at the rubbish that adland puts out each day to realise that is not the case.

The difference between potential and reality is down to the ‘sell’ … and this is something that we felt was lacking in all the submissions.

Don’t get me wrong, you all had plenty of information and much of it was presented in a pleasantish format – however none of us felt there was one proposal that stood out from all the others because quite frankly, none of the submissions had a fundamentally strong – yet clear – argument.

Sure we’re a tough audience, but to win isn’t just about showing you understand the market – it’s about taking the audience on a clear journey so that by the end of the proposal they feel absolutely convinced yours is the only path to glory.

Yes it is much easier to achieve this when you get the chance to present in person, but that’s no excuse for writing proposals that lack breadth, depth, excitement, intrigue, clarity and vision.

If it’s any consolation, this is a situation that many in adland suffer from and whilst I would never suggest I am a genius in ‘pitching’, I have achieved some success in getting clients to buy more ‘ambitious’ proposals, so when I come back from my travels I’ll try and write some ‘presentation pointers’ because it’s much more satisfying seeing a great idea live out in the real World than have it consigned to the bottom drawer.

In the meantime, the best bit of advice I can give remember the old BBH line: Get people to buy rather than try and sell.

[If you want to see a master of this, watch any Steve Jobs presentation or read his ‘rules to the pitch’ here. Alternatively, go and watch a barrister present his case in court – they understand ‘audience relevance’ better than almost any other profession on earth]

Dukes of Hazzard party invitation Photo: Justin41018

I must admit I wish some creatives / media / account service people had had a go at the assignment because I am sick to death of adland being so departmentalised – especially where ‘thinking’ is concerned – so maybe next time we have to find a challenge that’s more inviting for people from other disciplines and industries to have a go.

I love advertising and I love planning however it is important to remember that if you don’t embrace and inspire the wider comms team [including the client] then what you end up doing is not intelligence, but indulgence … and involving others for input is not diluting the solution or showing weakness, it’s actually representing professionalism and openness.

Right, after that little rant we need to appoint a winner and after alot of deliberation and consultation [mainly because we don’t feel any one person truly ‘got it’] we’ve decided that Naoko should be crowned ‘best in class’. [FUCKER! shout the rest of the people, ha!]

This is not to say the other assignments didn’t have merit – many certainly did and all had elements that were interesting either interms of strategy, insight or execution – but we felt Naoko’s idea directly linked to the key insight, had the potential [with a bit of work] to achieve scalable success and didn’t require outrageous investment to make it happen.

So Naoko, if you’d like to email me with your details, we’ll get something sent out to you very soon.*

All that leaves me to say is thanks to everyone for being part of this, I hope you found the whole thing interesting [and challenging] and I encourage you to look out for the next assignment which I think is going to be set sometime in the nearish future by the sickeningly talented NP .

Hopefully I’ll get to do this all again soon [though you lot may feel differently] … and I promise next time I’ll be more efficient with the report, ha!

Have a great weekend and see you in a few weeks …

* Don’t be too excited/disappointed, it’s not that good at all, ha

28 Comments so far
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Nicely written up Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

Fair comments.

Linking the layers of wrapping to layers of stress is a pretty interesting idea. Maybe wrapping everything in that impenetrable vacuum formed plastic will get that across…

Comment by Dave Mortimer

oi rob, i know you wanted to be simon cowell while dodds, hill and i were worried youd come across all paula abdul so i guess we should all be glad you ended up as randy jackson 🙂

to everyone who did this assignment, read the comments, hear the comments, learn from the comments. campbell cares a fuckload about this school thing because he carefully took shitloads of judges comments and wrote them into little parcels of insight so dont take his efforts or our comments for granted.

well done for having a go but never be satisfied because thats when everything goes tits up.

ps – andrea, your ‘what to do’ slide is up on my wall and as my team know, that the ultimate compliment 🙂

Comment by andy@cynic

Glad you understand our comments Dave – however [and I say this without wishing to undermine all your efforts] please don’t look at Naoko’s presentation as the benchmark for success … the reason Naoko’s presentation was awarded, was because it ‘ticked’ more boxes than everyone elses presentations [though they all achieved ‘points’, but either in different areas or in less numbers] however it still wasn’t the sort of thing we believe that would [1] solve the fundamental challenge that was set or [2] get a client to buy the solution based on the presentation or strategy.

I appreciate it is difficult to understand just what we were looking for without showing an example ourselves – and if I/John have time, we’ll try and create one for everyone to see – however if you look at our feedback and then my general comments, I think you’ll understand some of the issues that we felt were either not addressed or had major room for improvement.

Without doubt this was a very, very tough brief – but as I said, better tough than so easy it has little value in encouraging people to think in new [and commercially viable] ways.

Well done to all … as Andy said, this is very important to me so I hope people don’t get downhearted or pissed off with the feedback because they shouldn’t, especially when they remember their assignments were judged by really tough yet respected individuals.

Make us eat our words at the next assignment 😉

Comment by Rob

Maybe if Naoko had a team of anti-packagers who stood outside big retail stores taking people’s purchased goods and removing all the excess packaging (in accordance with the insight) they would be able to get massive PR and educational value for the price of a few dustbins and street staff. Just a thought.

And no Nike comments please 🙂

Comment by Pete

I’m sure the NIKE thing is because you have been stuck on Microsoft … what other possible explanation could there be 😉

Comment by Rob

yes well done everyone, and thanks for putting time and energy into this. It was a tough one and lots of interesting ideas came out of it. Really like Naoko’s idea, would love to see how this could be developed. Will definitely try to put some time aside to give my own response too.

Comment by john c

well done to all.

Comment by lauren

Aye, fair enough. I know I wanted to but I was in the middle of my exams. Now I’m aware that’s no excuse but it could have been better (at least for my own peace of mind of course). I know I missed a core strategy and was expecting that comment – because frankly I don’t live in Japan, have never been there and just reading about something 360 degrees different than what I live in won’t cut it for me…I’d rather go on a safari in Africa than watch it on tv if you know what I mean.
I know it was possible though, like for instance centuries ago rice wasn’t eaten in Japan as it was considered sacred – how the change happened they don’t say but hey! Sign a whole nation could do it.

From what I read about David Mortimer’s presentation, he may have had a similar approach as me, which wasn’t so good but to us it felt like the sensible thing to do. Working on this thing made me want to go to Japan for all the times I’ve asked myself ‘do they really…?’

But thanks for the time and effort you put into this, it helped a great deal 🙂

Comment by andrea

oh and I just read the comments now, thank you andy, they told us to be honest!

Comment by andrea

You know what Andrea – you had a go, you [hopefully] learnt some stuff and you have a desire to visit an amazing country – as far as I am concerned, that’s a bloody great result.

Comment by Rob

I like Sainsburys strategy, make the bags so thin, useless and easily ripped that you are forced to find alternatives!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I’ve learnt that I know nothing 🙂

And shush Rob, you should try co-op, they don’t give you a bag at all and when you’re standing there waiting to pay they’re going to say ‘do you want to buy a reusable bag for 10p?’ and your only answer can be ‘I JUST WANT A BAG!!’ … how’s that for fast, shock strategy? 😀

Comment by andrea

are people trying to tell me they actually buy and cook their own food? fuck me.

campbells away now so lets play merry fucking havoc on here. come on, we can swear, be rude, patronize, be sexist and homophobic.

bollocks, its like when you turn 19 and realise theres nothing you can do that you havent been able to do for the last 12 months. damn campbell and his liberal fucking blog comment rules, he can spoil my fun even when hes not here the fucking bastard.

Comment by andy@cynic

you boring bunch of bastards, well fuck you, ive got better people to go and piss off than you “nicey nice” shits

Comment by andy@cynic

Don’t be a lollipop boy, Andy. But if you like…I am angry and disappointed at the moment…so go on.

Comment by Seb

what the fuck are you going on about andy? go and have a lie down and come back when you’ve stopped pretending to be a geriatric with incontinence..


Comment by lauren

I might get a kick in my cheeky face but I don’t really understand what the idea behind the winner’s work is. I can’t see a strategic idea evolving from all the problem related facts in her presentation.

On one hand there is the fact of multi-layered packaging and it’s meaning in Japanese culture. Then on the other hand there is the fact that a majority of Japanese people is stressed. And .. boom … we mix too different things together to form a solution? Furthermore I think it’s a pretty ambitious thing to completely change a fundamental part of Japanese culture.

The presentation of David Mortimer for example is a bit confusing but there is a very simple strategic thought in it. As it is hard to change a part of culture why not revive it’s forgotten tradition of the Furoshiki. It has the potential to be a trend in a culture that emphasises tradition and – most important – doesn’t produce much waste.
Certainly there has to go some development and thinking into that. But one point in Naoko’s presentation I thought was really interesting. The fact that special and very beautiful packaging is not thrown away but kept to use it again. A modern version or development of the Furoshiki could be a very interesting solution. Me thinks.

But maybe I am completely wrong. Just wanted to write that down so maybe Andy has something to go nuts about. Ha. Have a lovely weekend you all.

Comment by Seb

Curse my rushed presentation!

Comment by Dave Mortimer

didn’t have much time to do more than just flip through the entries, but one commonality seemed that there has been spend lots of time to describe the problem, and then basically illustrating the desired outcome, while the original question of how to get there was not really addressed very much.
“Let’s revive the habit of Japanese furushiki”, or “make them see waste as stress”… I am fine with both direction,… but now, how do you really get there, that’s the whole question.

That said, again, the task was really a difficult one.

Comment by Michael

yes mortimer, i hope you are suitably fucking ashamed with yourself. your brother wouldnt be so slack 🙂

just for the record i know this was a fucking hard task but i dont think anyone should apologise for that because if you can start thinking of ways to solve there problems, flogging some oven fucking chips should be a breeze.

yoda has finished talking his genius now, lol

Comment by andy@cynic

David I am shocked. Deeply.

Comment by northern

campbell update.

he popped into england where its colder and wetter than a witches tit, he had lunch with pervy dodds and then spent 3 hours of his life watching elton johns bastardisation of billy elliott which all means this blog is going to be fucking brilliant when the lazy cock comes back because hes going to have tons to bitch, moan and rant about but not as much as me who has had to put up with his and georges shit for the last couple of fucking days.

im a saint for sparing their lives, a fucking saint.

Comment by andy@cynic

in the words of the killers: andy, you’re a star.

Comment by lauren

in the words of ben folds: there’s always someone cooler than you.

Comment by Seb

in the words of campbell: pudding!!!

Comment by John

in the words of me “fuck off”

Comment by andy@cynic

hope youre not saying campbell was pulling his (or your) pudding dodds

Comment by andy@cynic

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