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

Reverse Blogging …
July 28, 2009, 6:49 am
Filed under: Comment

So tomorrow I am going away for a few weeks.

Even though I think having a client wanting to take me to see AC/DC in NYC this Friday should be classed as work, I’ve been informed what I’m actually going to be doing is ‘having a holiday’.

And you know what? That’s fine by me … I/we/you need a break.

So the good news is that after today, I won’t be around till August 10th.

Yes, more than 2 weeks without my stupid blog, facebook, twitter, SMS’s, emails and whatever else I subject you too – even though I admit, if I didn’t have the wife with me, I’d probably sneak in the odd comment because I am a total sad bastard.

But there’s more.

Oh yes.

You see not only will I be away, but so will Andy.

It’s a 2-for-none deal and it is being offered exlusively for you.

[Before any rumours start, I should point out he is not going to be with me. Are you insane???]

So as this is the last post for a while, I thought I’d do something a bit different – something that basically [1] shows how brilliant you all are and [2] lets me get a taste of the horror I put you through every weekday.


Anyway, a few days ago I was going through a file of photos I have that are intended for future blog rants.

The thing is, in some cases, I can’t remember for the life of me what I had intended to write about … and then came an idea, get YOU to write about it.

So here’s the challenge …

Below is a photo of a Chloe shopping bag.

[For those who don’t know who Chloe are and what they do – be very grateful – however as that is actually an integral part of what I am about to ask you to do, just know they make bloody expensive handbags – which is what was contained in this bag – amongst other things]

What I’d like you to do is write a post about it. Not about the photo per se, but a marketing issue that you think the photo encapsulates – either directly or indirectly.

For example … it could be about the power and importance of packaging.

Or the role fashion plays in society.

Or ideas how Chloe should/could counteract piracy.

Or why people happily embrace pirated products – to the point they brag about the fact they own a fake, which if you think about it, is pretty weird.

If you have your own blog, what I’d like you to do is write your post there [including photo] then post the link on here so we can all check it out.

If you don’t have your own ranting page – then I suggest you get one, ha. Nah … if you are not in possession of an ego the size of Ben Nevis and still want to take part, then simply write your ‘post’ in the comments section below.

[Maybe this could coin a social media evolution, social dictatorship perhaps?]

There’s 3 reasons why I’d like to do this experiment …

1/ I always think in adland, it’s useful to be able to make semi-intelligent commentary about anything that’s thrown at you.

[If you need ‘tips’ how to do this without making a complete fool of yourself, go here]

2/ As I said, Andy’s away for a few weeks so there’s a chance it can be done without turning into total farce or collapsing into complete anarchy.

3/ I haven’t written a proper post for today as I have stuff to finish off before Wed.

In all seriousness, I’d be really interested to see what marketing/advertising issues the photo brings up in your mind and if enough of you take me up on this challenge, then maybe we could make it a regular feature or part of the A[P]SOTW.

Right, I guess I’ll have to wait and see what you come up with … or whether any of you can be arsed to do it … so until the 10th, toodle-pip.

In Nottingham, Life’s A Beach … Then You Die.
July 27, 2009, 6:08 am
Filed under: Comment

Despite high crime, high teenage pregnancy, high drug usage and high[ish] unemployment – I have always been very proud of coming from Nottingham.

Or should I say, I WAS always proud of coming from Nottingham till I saw this …

Photo: Veggiesosage

Despite it resembling some sort of building site, it is an attempt to recreate a beach in Nottingham’s Old Market Square.

A beach.

In the centre of Nottingham.

Of course, this comes from a county that once spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on a rebranding campaign to ensure it remained relevant and enticing to national and international trade and tourism and after months of research and consideration, came up with a slanted, letter ‘N‘.

Yep, despite having a whole host of values and characteristics to base their strategy on … the agency [who probably think Peter Arnell is a visionary] – and local Government – decided the key to Nottingham’s future was ‘N‘.


Did I say genius? Sorry, I meant twats.

On the bright side, it seems the person behind this moment of madness has been – like all British crims – despatched to our open prison on the other side of the planet, because Age recently sent me an article that talks about Melbourne’s new inspiring branding idea.

Yep, you guessed it, it’s ‘M‘.

Just think, a single letter – that is available to all and could easily represent all whole host of M-lettered cities – cost AU$240,000.


OK, so the Aussie dollar is the Pacific Peso of international currencies, but it’s nice work if you can get it … and Landor [the guys who had the balls to put the invoice in] seem to get it a hell-of-a-lot.


Yeah – I’d like a heap of dosh dropped into my bank account for pimping up a single letter of the alphabet, but being able to look at myself in the mirror each morning is worth way more.

Anyway, back to the Nottingham beach.

Look, I’m sure creating a faux-beach in the middle of a city made some sense to someone at some point in time – and without doubt it has generated tons of press coverage – but when I saw this video, I think the true enourmity of the car crash potential of the idea became clear …


No, it’s not the fact shitloads of money has been spent on creating the most un-beach like beach in the whole wide World … nor is it the fact that when it rains – and it will – it’s going to make like site of the D-Day landings look a dream … it’s the fact that the moment the place was officially ‘opened’ a crowd of weirdo’s consumed every square inch of the place in the time it normally takes them to pick a wallet.

Seriously, it’s like they have never seen a building site before in their lives … but as I am popping over there next week, I guess I’ll be able to see for myself whether – like Danni Minogue – its better in the flesh.

I won’t be holding my breath.

Insights That Make You Laugh …
July 24, 2009, 6:55 am
Filed under: Comment


It’s a word that has been bastardised in so many ways.

Well to be fair, the word hasn’t, but the meaning has.

I get really upset when I hear what some people pass off for ‘insight’ these days – but I’ve banged on about that so many times that I won’t waste my breath and your patience.

However I want to write about how you get it.

Of course there’s the classic disciplines … exploring, interviewing, reading, talking, dissecting, watching, living … however there’s another approach we’ve continually used that has proved to be very beneficial over the years …


No, I’m not talking politicians or bankers, I’m talking about the buggers who are paid to purposefully make you laugh.

Now there’s a couple of reasons for this …

1/ Many of them are experts in human observation and have an innate ability to express it in a meaningful and thought-provoking way.

2/ When you are working on a project that is literally sucking the life out of you, they can make you laugh – ensuring you don’t find yourself accidently repeatedly brushing a razor across your wrists.

Now I am not suggesting this could/should be done instead of the more classic approaches to insight development – god no – but what I am saying is that often they can provide either some ‘food-for-thought’ interms of how/why people act in specific ways OR give you inspiration as to how this can be expressed in a creatively interesting way.

There’s many ways you can do this, you can sit down and watch shedloads of comedy DVD’s – which is good for future ideas – or you can, as we have, go out and make friends with a bunch of funny guys and then, when appropriate, approach [and pay] them to hear their views and observations about particular issues or habits.

In all honesty, this method has helped us develop quite a few interesting things … from the ‘You Can’t Watch This’ campaign for SONY Bravia [based on Billy Connolly’s comment that ‘TV manufacturers were mad using TV advertising to show how good the picture was on their new TV’s because if it looked good on the set the viewer was watching at home, why the fuck would they bother going out to buy a new one?] through to proposing to GIO Insurance they become the official ‘life insurance’ company of the Jackass crew.

Now I know the 2 examples I’ve just given, don’t exactly represent core insight – more idea expression – but in all honesty, you’d be amazed how often we’ve found a comedian make an observation that opens up new doors both interms of strategy and creativity.

Look, I know this approach is nothing new or ground breaking – but when you look at the state of so much advertising today, anything that can drive more interesting yet resonant and relevant thoughts is worth exploring.

To get you started, have a look at this …

… or for a more American view, the brilliant George Carlin …

… so next time you watch a comedian, don’t just piss yourself laughing – write some of their human observations down [I mean literally, write them down. In a book or on your computer] because you have no ideas when they might come in handy.

Would The Average Creative In Adland Use Meccano To Create An Ad Or Something Bigger?
July 23, 2009, 3:21 pm
Filed under: Comment

When I spoke at the PSFK thingy last year, I mentioned a quote that basically said we never hear authors or artists refer to themselves as ‘creatives’ … the only people who openly define themselves that way tend to be folk who work in advertising.

Now that sounds pretty harsh but in a time where adland happily talks about their ability to create ‘ideas’ [which amazingly tend to always turn out as a traditional kind of ad], Marcus has pointed me to a couple of average guys who – as a byproduct of their curiosity and ingenuity – have inadvertently made a complete fool out of the majority of big talking, big spending ad fraternity.

I think what they have done is brilliant.

Not just because it is, but because it may force the industry that pays my mortgage and – believe it or not – I still love, realise that talk is cheap and if we all really want to get back where we belong, we need to start embracing ideas that create change, not just create ads.

Good work guys, not as good as a biscuit mug, but good all the same. 😉

The Curse Of Over Engineering …
July 23, 2009, 7:32 am
Filed under: Comment

Have a quick glance at these instructions …

Can you tell what it is?

OK, have another look …

Any closer?

Well in the interests of you getting off this blog as quickly as possible, let me help you – they’re the instructions for a toilet.

Yes … a bog!

Now you may be wondering why you would require instructions for a product that has, for all intents and purposes, been the same for decades – well that’s because we’re in the era of over-engineering.

Of course there’s a fine line between evolution and over-engineering – and I appreciate that things can always be improved – however I can’t help but feel that when you have a toilet ‘misson control centre’ that looks like this …

… you are in overkill mode.

Buttons to put the seat up and down.

Buttons to make the toilet seat warm.

Buttons to make the seat jiggle to help you ‘perform’.

Buttons to wash your front or back bits.

Buttons to dry your front and back bits.

Buttons to flush the thing, even though it does it automatically.

There’s even a button – which I admit is quite cool – that produces a sound of pouring water so it encourages you to wee whilst making sure that anyone else in the bathroom can’t hear you when you decide to ‘drop your kids off at the pool’.


To make matters worse, you end up being so bloody captivated/weirded out that you spend 3 times as long in there as you would otherwise do meaning everyone outside thinks you’re either up to no good or have the worst constipation since Oprah. [Why else does she go from thin to fat in seemingly 7 weeks?]

What’s wrong with the old shit-and-go toilet?

OK, so I appreciate cleanliness is a big issue – especially in public areas – and touching a loo seat isn’t going to be high on most people’s agenda’s, but christ, a piece of toilet paper could help you move that up/down with minimum germ risk.

Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate the need for companies to continually evolve and I accept I’m writing a post on it so it could be argued it captured my imagination – but to me, this all smacks of the micro-innovation I talked about a while back … where companies ignore exploring cultural insights that could drive their innovation inspiration in ways that could genuinely engage society in more meaningful and motivational ways, in favour of simply forging ahead with what they know – heads down, blinkers up.

Have a look at your phone.

How many functions do you really use?

I’m not talking about once or twice … or in a mad burst of activity when you first downloaded/bought the new app … I’m talking about something that is a fundamental part of how you live your life.

Yes I know I am a total hypocrite given I own robot dogs, cats, rabbits, flowers and R2D2 dolls … but if you’re anything like me, you’ll maybe use 10 core functions on your phone a day.


And yet phone companies pack them with all sorts of features … features we might never even know, let alone access.

In our quest to grow, too many brands/companies/people are focusing on features rather than value – and in a day where an app that allows 140 characters to be sent has more impact than the latest 400 trillion megapixel camera phone from Samsung, maybe it’s time brands started getting back to understanding what’s really going on in people’s lives rather than just churn stuff out.

I’ve said it many times, but I believe the future of brands and advertising is understanding people and culture better than anyone else and sadly, I can’t help but feel there’s an awful lot of companies out there who believe they know it all and/or feel society is too thick to express what they really want.

Sure, people might say – as in Henry Ford’s famous quote – they want a “faster horse”, but as I’ve banged on countless occasions, if you were to explore that statement more closely and ask some pertinent questions, you’d be able to identify that what people are really saying is they would welcome a method of transportation that can get them from point A to point B in a relatively quick time, regardless of weather, road or distance. In other words, a car.

For me, this ability to ‘translate’ is one of the core skills of a planners – or it should be – but sadly so many agencies have sold objectivity and creativity so far down the river that the only way they can justify their monthly retainer is by getting guys to churn out paperwork rather than have them explore, identify and apply [or at least encourage the application of] relevant, powerful and game-changing insight.

But then we know as much as agencies say it, most of them can’t think beyond the ‘ad’.

Oooh I’m fiesty today aren’t I. Must mean I had a good nights sleep, ha!