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

Insight Generation Tool …
May 27, 2009, 6:52 am
Filed under: Comment

Step 1

Put your dog and your wife/husband/partner in the boot of a car for an hour.

Step 2

When you open the boot, which one is really happy to see you?

That’s insight!

Please note, this is an open-source insight generation tool. We thought about making it proprietary, but out of the kindness of our hearts, we decided everyone should be able to use it … hell, if it stops rubbish like this, it’s worth it.

Now I am having a couple of days off – so I’ll see you back on Monday – and given I’m such a sad bastard who pre-writes his posts, I can assure you’ll see one of the weirdest ‘slices of life’ you’ve ever clapped your eyes on.

Have fun …

[PS: Mr Dodds, expect your ears to burn, I’m having lunch with Mary [the one at the Financial Times, not the one married to George] on Friday!]

What Does It Say About Adland …
May 26, 2009, 8:41 am
Filed under: Comment

… when one of TBWA’s most senior global guys [like in the top 3] stops me in the street and asks if he can borrow HK$200?.

HK$200! That’s like one pound 37 pence in real money. What’s going on???

Sometimes There’s Beauty In A Beast …
May 26, 2009, 6:52 am
Filed under: Comment

I know this might come as a shock, but I want to write about an ad I like. Yes … LIKE!

I know it’s my own fault, but a lot of people think all I ever do/think is negative stuff – and whilst I certainly think adland treats society too dismissively and itself far too importantly, there are many times when I look at something my industry has produced and thought, that’s got something interesting in it.

What kind of bothers me, is the things I find interesting are not the things everyone else does …

For example, the T-Mobile ‘Trafalgar Square Singalong’ spot that Saatchi’s London has just done doesn’t do that much for me.

Actually I should rephrase that …

I love the execution and I really like Richard Huntingdon’s underlying thought of “Life is made for sharing” … but I just don’t think the whole thing does much for T-Mobile because for me, it could be for any number of brands in any number of categories,

OK, so this might be one of the first spots of their longer term strat … something that in time, will help forge a particular and meaningful identity in the hearts and minds of the British public … however as a person immune from UK telco company communication, I first thought it was a spot for either SINGSTAR or Vodafone’s ‘Make The Most Of Now’ campaign.

‘Life Is For Sharing’ is a lovely thought … but this spot doesn’t really do it for me even though from an executional point of view, it’s interesting and watchable.

Yes … yes … I know you’re going to say “BUT THAT’S THE POINT ROB” but I don’t think it is, infact I think that’s the sort of attitude that has got adland into the state it is and it’s only because I know how smart Richard is that I feel pretty comfortable in saying I’m sure the blame for this sort of ‘substance free’ communication lies at the feet of the client … because there’s too many of them out there who view advertising as a cheap alternative to doing/creating something that people would really find infectious, usable, interesting and valuable.

Anyway I digress …

Back to the ad I like …

Well it’s pretty simple actually, it’s this …

An Ugly Duckling With A Swan Of An Idea

I’m not really sure why I like it as much as I do … but it probably has something to do with the fact there’s a real idea in it and an idea that is counter to the trend of NEW and IMPROVED.

Of course it’s not a new strategic direction … there’s been many brands that have used a similar idea, but quite often they cover it up with all sorts of creative trickery [ie: Heineken] whereas the simplicity of the idea is its strength.

I just like the sentiment behind the ‘We put the no in innovation’ and the way they express it through the copy …

“Henry Perky created the Original Shredded Wheat in 1892.

One man (Him). One ingredient (Wheat). One machine (The machine).

We didn’t give it any add-ons or plug-ins. Heck, we didn’t even name it”

And I also like the fact they aren’t frightened to take the piss out of themselves a bit with stuff like …

“All we did was make it Spoon Size in 1961. Did we go too far? Time will tell”


I know it’s not fashionable to have much copy in ads, but I think that has more to do with certain people [adland and clients] not understanding how to make it interesting than the tired excuse people haven’t got the patience to read it.

As I wrote previously, you could throw that argument at nearly anyone and anything … and the reality is part of the reason agencies get paid in the first place is because they’re supposed to know how to make people interested in brand X, Y or Z.

Of course what is happening more and more these days is that rather than use insight, imagination and bravery … we are using insipid shock, sponsored jokes, over-stylisation and/or extreme-CGI … and whilst there is a place for all of that, I can’t help but feel the simplicity of the solution is getting lost in a sea of self indulgence, often done to justify a huge charge-out rate than actually doing something that can make a real difference to the client, society and agency.

If we’re not careful adland will become like the legal industry.

Not just in the way they try and charge outrageous amounts for every little thing, but in how they try to delay fundamentally solving the issue just so they can ‘extract’ as much revenue as they possibly can.

On face value that might sound like good economics … but I disagree … because I think it’s better to be known as someone who can make a difference than someone who simply goes with the flow.

I love ads – always have and always will – and I love that I have been fortunate enough to work on some rather successful and famous campaigns in my time [and hope to still have a few left in me – as long as I keep working with the clever bastards] … but if adland wants to get back to where it belongs, it has to stop trying to only ‘brand a moment in time’ and start developing ideas that make people stop, think, feel and act again.

Everything Should Come With Instructions …
May 25, 2009, 6:05 am
Filed under: Comment

Bang goes my argument that adland should stop treating people like idiots.

Talking of idiots, have a look at this clip Age sent me …

And what is the valuable lesson these two examples demonstrate to all planners?

NEVER assume.

Yes that means you might have to do a bit more work … and yes that may result in you simply clarifying what you’ve always known … however trust me, that’s a million times better than going into something with all guns blazing only to find out the person you’re really shooting, is yourself. In the foot.

Oh, and another word of advice.

If you do end up finding out that nothing has changed interms of the masses attitude and/or behaviour … don’t make a big song and dance about it, because ‘normal people’ will simply look at you and go, “We already knew that you bloody idiot.”

Research companies and certain planners in multinational agencies, take note! 🙂

Who Persuaded Who?
May 22, 2009, 6:11 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

So finally the opinions are back …

Sorry for the delay, but with a judging panel made up of artists, barristers and mothers – you have to accept these people have busy lives.

Now I don’t know whether it was because it was a shit assignment or because people are working 23.45 hours of the day to make ends meet during the economic crisis – but there weren’t that many respondents to this challenge.

Of course when Gareth or NP do the next one and they get 400 submissions, we’ll know the real person to blame is me … however putting that aside, let’s get on with what your heads came up with.

Without doubt it was a rather different assignment to the ones we’ve had previously … however I honestly believe it was an important one and if you want to end up doing great work rather than good – especially with more and more companies embracing blatant conservatism – the ability to persuade is going to become even more valuable, important and [from a pay packet perspective] desirable.

Now this was an assignment – like most things to do with communication – where appointing a ‘winner’ was more to do with how the judges ‘felt’ about the submissions rather than anything more scientific, however to aid them in their evaluation, I asked them to consider the following things …

1/ Flow of presentation

2/ Power of imagination

3/ Clarity and logic of the proposed strategy

Finally – before we get to the feedback – I just want to talk about the importance of presentation.

In an ideal World, it would be nice to think substance will always beat out style … however sadly, there are still a large amount of clients that get seduced by the glamour of it all … so whilst I am not suggesting you should start creating your strategies around the quality of images you can source, I do think it’s important you remember about the impression you want to make on your prospective client though that doesn’t mean you adopt a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, but spend some time understanding the psyche of the person you are about to take on a journey.

Even though I say it myself, I’m pretty good at this ‘character evaluation’ lark – which is why before every new presentation, we spend quite a bit of time getting to know the character of all the people we’re about to stand infront of.

What’s their background?

Are they more analytical or visual?

Are they ambitious or ‘company men’?

What brands do they associate with or want to associate with?

Who do they admire?

Favourite film/book/band?

By getting an understanding on this sort of information, it helps shape the way you present – not interms of changing who you are or what you think and believe, but interms of the language, mannerisms, detail and focus of your recommendation.

Hell, it’s because of this approach that we’ve adopted all manner of presentation styles to ensure we were truly relevant to our audience, from hiring Personal Trainers to pitch for a sports brand on our behalf [because we knew our physical appearance would probably distract the uber-fit marketing director from paying attention to what we were saying] to getting an artist to paint our entire strategy as a piece of work.

Of course not everyone is good at visual design – hell, my wife is convinced I am the Stevie Wonder of art direction – so if you worry you’re not good enough, don’t just read other people’s work for inspiration … go and check out a range of magazines and see how they do it or simply make friends with some designers and ask for some help because your career is too short to allow your ego to consistently trip you up, ha!

Oh, and all of you had presentation covers that pretty much conveyed the same info …

From the very first page, you should be setting up your argument.

Give the title of your preso something that will grab the participants attention … something that links into your overall idea … something that challenges or promises … don’t give it a pithy title that blandly relates to the executional nature of the brief with your name and date on it.

I’ve said it before, but read Don Simpson’s “High Concept” book … that guy sold multi-million dollar movie concepts in 60 seconds and it all started from the first second he walked into the meeting, not the last.

Trust me, if a client has had a day of pitches where every agency presents their ‘brilliant ideas’ in the same way, using the same format … you can stand out without the aid of props, gimmicks or stupidity … you can do it by simply being efficient, focused, interesting and exciting from the moment you walk in the room, which I guarantee will be remembered far more than a presentation that requires 27 slides before you even get to a bit where the clients issues are even mentioned.

Anyway I digress … onto the judging …


One of the judges [Andy] said this was like a Hollywood movie … starts off really interesting and then sort of loses speed and energy about half way through.

Without doubt this presentation demonstrated a great knowledge of current affairs as well as the role and purpose of a national flag. We also liked the use of the tag cloud though one judge, did dismiss it as “an attempt to seduce the uninformed” however overall it felt like there was a lot of facts being thrown about without any clear purpose for their role.

We got what you were trying to say/do – but it just felt like you weren’t really convinced about it and basically made the best of it as you could, because the thought of starting again was too much to handle.

That sounds overly harsh … it was well presented, had some very interesting points and ultimately answered the brief, but I think if I was a genuine client, I’d go away thinking there was something in it, but not enough to convince me to choose it.

Saying that, you get 10 points for linking the image with the German national anthem – that was corporate crawly evil genius.


I love Zeljko.

Every time there’s an assignment, I can be sure Zeljko will submit something … and every assignment, I know it will be a submission to remember.

Of course, whether that is always for the right reasons is open for debate, but what I can say is that it always stands out and always with a fair argument behind it.

Now I know the judges will look a bunch of bastards, but the goal of this project was to persuade us as to why we should change our national flag … and as much as we liked the fact Zeljko argued NOT to change anything at all – the fact is the brief wasn’t answered.

Of course advertising needs people who have the courage of their convictions and strong points of view … but this assignment wasn’t about that … it was about the power of persuasion, because with so many companies paralysed by corporate fear, the only way to get them to let go of the bland and boring and embrace something challenging, exciting, powerful and fresh is to be able to explain why something they may initially think sounds mad, is infact the most obvious thing they’ve ever heard.

As for the content of your argument …

Well, like everyone else we thought there were some interesting points in it, but a lot of the ideas felt like they could be appropriate for many countries. [ie: Eco Tourism]

Whilst ‘pure’ is interesting, the issue we had was that it didn’t naturally resonate with us as regards Croatia.

Now that doesn’t mean it’s a wrong or bad thing – especially if the country can back it up – but it just didn’t feel right [mainly because our consciousness is filled with other images of the country, which maybe could have been utilised or included in your overall justification] plus New Zealand would be pretty upset given that has been their positioning for quite a few years.

With this in mind, you get encouragement and praise but a reminder to ANSWER THE BLOODY BRIEF. 🙂


This submission was well presented and showed obvious knowledge of the Indian culture – but it all seemed a bit generic and given there are so many elements within India that could have been used to form the foundation for your argument, we feel it was a bit of a lost opportunity.

Your choice of words were good and expressive and it all led to a specific point of view … however our thoughts were that it didn’t really take us anywhere new and led us to believe you either weren’t really convinced in your own argument or were almost trying to sell the current flag.

The overall approach is right, but we think you need to adopt a more cynical view when evaluating your own arguments because in real life, clients place strategy under far greater scrutiny, especially when they’re trying to be persuaded to do something new and fresh.


How appropriate that this presentation was by someone called Sam representing the USA because the whole approach smacks of the sort of thing that would make Uncle Sam very proud indeed.

To be honest, we have the sneaking suspicion the idea was pre-determined and you made it ‘fit’ … which would be fine, except without any insights/persuasion, you don’t give the judges any reasons why they should believe ‘this is right’.

Like Zeljko, you seem to have missed the point of the assignment … and that’s a shame because with a statement like ‘Even With Freedom We Choose To Be Together’, you have something that could be really interesting.

Whilst we’re in the creative business, it is important to remember we’re in the commercial creative business and so whilst a lot of strategy isn’t worth the powerpoint slides its written on, people still need to ‘feel’ they’re doing the right thing and just hoping to the work will do that for them is either very brave or incredibly naïve.

It can happen – the Tiger Woods ‘hacky-sack’ ad is one example [Woods was doing his ‘balancing trick’ during an interval in the filming of a NIKE commercial. When the creatives saw what he was doing, they immediately put a camera on him and a totally new and unscripted NIKE GOLF commercial was in the can. The fact is, this spot was much, much better than the one they were there to actually make which is why NIKE had no hesitation in authorising its release immediately] – but that most definitely is an exception and you’ll have to go a bit further if you’re going to be able to pull off a similar thing. But I am looking forward to when you do.


To be honest, everyone really liked this assignment.

We felt the information was sharp, interesting and relevant and we especially liked how it linked with the teachings of Islam but not in some contrived or hard-to-believe way.

Interms of visual appeal – it was pretty pants.

Given the content was emotional and delicate and flowed together pretty seamlessly – the actual look & feel was pretty clunky.

Luckily for you the people judging were looking at the persuasiveness of the argument rather than the visual appeal [though you need to improve on that side, for the reasons detailed above] which is why I am very happy to say, you have been chosen as the ‘winner’ of the assignment.

Well done Jacob, good job – now get some design knowledge or at least read of this.

So there you have it, another A[P]SOTW is over … and I hope everyone who took part had fun, got something out of it and feel the comments are fair.

[Feel free to write to me if you want to know more]

The next one should be up in a few months so I hope you all take part and for anyone who wants to check out the submissions for themselves, you can go here.

Well done to Jacob – let me know your address and I’ll get something sent to you.

Have a top weekend all – see you all Monday.