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

Happiness At The Misfortune Of Others …
November 23, 2009, 6:33 am
Filed under: Comment

Many years ago, when cynic was a mere few weeks old, we were approached by Porsche to do some work for them regarding public opinion.

To be honest, we almost felt guilty taking the money because it didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what the key viewpoints would be, but as we all had mortgages to pay, we did and decided to have some fun trying to work out ways we could get the info.

To cut a very long – and boring – story short, on top of all the traditional and professional methodologies, we ended up doing some other stuff that was rather left field.

George went out onto the streets of NYC with a man holding a video camera. He had to stop random men on the street on the pretext of wanting to ask him some questions about some economic viewpoint or other.

Within a couple of minutes, Andy – in a Porsche Boxter we had hired – would come screaming round the corner, playing music at Metallicaesque decibels, shouting at passers-by in a demented and random way.

It was at this point George would look at his interviewee and ask …

“What do you think of that?”

And almost every time, the interviewee would respond with a diatribe of clichés that included such gems as …


“Gets paid a fortune for doing nothing”

“Eats at hip restaurants with models”

“Snorts the average American’s annual salary up his nose”

“Probably lives in an overpriced warehouse apartment”

After a few minutes of hearing this character assassination, George would say the same thing …

“Sounds a pretty good life doesn’t it?”

To which invariably, the respondent would smile or laugh and nod in agreement.

Now is everyone who drives a Porsche a overpaid, model shagging, top restaurant eating, coke snorting’, apartment dwelling wanker?

No … however what we found interesting is that these clichés tended to be offered by pretty much every person we spoke to and yet, when we would say to them it sounded quite a cool life, they all nodded in agreement and laughed – as if they had realised for the first time their views were driven by jealousy rather than disgust.

A dear friend of mine – Juanita – calls this ‘projection’ [part of Jung’s theories / learnings / research] and whilst I don’t agree with all her/Jung’s views and theories, on this one I do … which is why armed with this information, we were able to develop some lovely ideas for Porsche based around ‘life’s not fair’ even though the German gits never ended up using any of them.


Still, this project helped explain to me why this Bentley ‘ad’ resonated so deeply with both Bentley and none-Bentley drivers alike …

As usual, I don’t really know why I’ve told you all this … especially because I’ve missed out a ton of stuff that was actually the heart & soul of the experiement … but it does possibly explain why this weekend – whilst out on the expensive streets of cold Hong Kong – I saw something that made me smile with sickening contentment …


And there I was thinking I was a socialist … no I’m not … I’m a wannabe [though some would claim I’ve climbed to the very top] wanker.

Well I do work in adland I suppose.

Professor Prostitute …
November 20, 2009, 6:19 am
Filed under: Comment

One of the things I have always loved about my job is meeting the weird and the wonderful … however one of the things I adore about my job is when I can involve the weird and the wonderful into existing projects.

Over the years I’ve involved all sorts of people with all sorts of ‘diverse’ backgrounds to help us help clients be more interesting, engaging and effective – from car thieves to mothers with multiple kids to stand up comedians to Buddhist priests and almost everyone in-between.

However, much to my colleagues delight – and my mother’s dismay – there is one category of individual that I have gained a reputation for turning to, and that is people who work within the adult entertainment industry.

Adult entertainment industry?

OK, let me define it more clearly … prostitutes and strippers, pimps and pornographers.

Clear? Good.

In all seriousness, I have been introducing these ‘specialists’ to my clients for years – and whilst their first impression may be shock when I talk about getting them into the meetings and process – by the time they have heard their insights, views, experiences and opinions [which obviously all link to a certain aspect of their business and/or business problem] they feel they have powerful information that very few people, organizations and/or industries could ever hope to identify, let alone give them.

The reason I bring this up is that I am currently embroiled in a project where yet again, ‘ladies of the night’ are helping me out.

Without going into too much detail, they are helping me educate my client [who is in the hospitality business] why they are not doing as well as they could.

You see prostitutes go where the money is [or as Mr Dodds likes to say, they ‘fish where the fishes are’] and when I first stepped on my clients property, I realized there were very few who hung around there and given the category, location and clientele they have – that is not good at all.

Now to be fair, there’s quite a few reasons for this situation – their security people for one – however, what these wonderful and smart ladies have been able to do is clearly articulate why there is such a lack of their presence onsite, which as a byproduct, identifies the real issue facing my clients business [which has now formed the foundation of what our brief is] and highlights the ‘excuses’ many of the people in the company have given for their lack of performance and/or judgement.

So am I suggesting that my client should evaluate our success by the upturn in prostitute presence?

Well yes, actually I am.

Of course there will be many other factors as well – however whether you like it or not, prostitutes are some of the most entrepreneurial business people around – so if our work results in them wanting to find a way into my clients establishment, then it means we must be doing something right.

The reason I bring this up is that quite often – when trying to identify the fundamental issues facing a client – we often rely on a standard approach to investigation.

There is nothing wrong with this, however if you tend to have one methodology you tend to see problems the same way and this is often the driving force behind the sameness of ad agencies solutions for their clients.

Of course I am NOT suggesting adult entertainers can offer insight to every client problem NOR am I saying that you should approach them to help every client problem … what I AM saying is that when you are approaching a challenge, you should go way beyond the usual subjects for your information because a conversation with someone from R&D or payroll or the job centre of adult entertainment – could open up your mind to new and/or alternative underlying issues which could ultimately help you identify new and exciting ways to overcome them.

Just for the record … I talk to people from many walks of life, not just ‘sexperts’ … however the reason why I have found myself getting them involved in what we’re doing is because we have a bunch of clients where having a real understanding of societies deep and dark secrets, thoughts and behaviours has helped us identify both the real problems and the real opportunities.

It might sound like a joke – and I know you’re all sniggering at the back – but I can honestly say their insight and information has had a big part to play in helping us develop work work and ideas for a whole bunch of brands from Tango and Virgin Atlantic to VB Beer and Dreamworks – though you would be hard pressed to understand why by looking at what we have done, because their role is to help us understand people, not help us how to sex things up.

And that’s the point, just because someone is only seemingly specialised in one category doesn’t mean they can’t contribute thoughts and knowledge to another. Of course their situation has to have some sort of relevance to the issue you are looking at, but you’d be amazed what learnings you can get by having a chat to someone who is not weighed down with the baggage of how certain industries operate.

We call this intelligent naivity so next time you are in a situation where you have to really understand the issues facing an industry or why society has a particular viewpoint, don’t just go with depth, explore some breadth [as long as you don’t find yourself in this situation] because you never know just what they might help you turn up and even if nothing does come of it – you’ll of had a bloody interesting time doing it and might have some learnings you can use at a later date.

Finally, if for some reason you do find that someone from the adult industry could help you in a particular area [and obviously I mean related to your job, not your perversion] could I suggest you approach the matter sensitively because you might not have the clients, colleagues, accounts department and wife that let you get away with it and I’m sure-as-shit not going to let you sue me when you’re sacked for sexual misconduct or expense misuse.

In The Mind Of A Billionaire …
November 19, 2009, 6:29 am
Filed under: Comment

So it’s that time again where I ask you guys to do my work for me.

And no, you won’t get paid.

As usual.

Anyway, I’m doing something for my friends at Virgin – or should I say I’m trying to prove a point to my friends at Virgin – so without saying anything else for fear of being accused of manipulating the jury, I was hoping if you could answer these 4 questions for me:

1/ Of all Virgin brands, which is your favourite?

[Don’t care why – don’t care if’s it’s perceptual – want to know which Virgin brand resonates/excites you the most]

2/ Of all Virgin brands, which do you think is the companies ‘King’ & ‘Jester’?

[Don’t care why – don’t care if’s it’s perceptual – want to know which brand you feel represents the companies philosophy the most and the least]

3/ Yes or no, when you see all Virgin brands, are you surprised there’s that many?

4/ If you were Mr Branson, is there a category of business you feel is ripe to go into?

[You can suggest anything, the only caveat is that there’s a real commercial benefit to the company. You may suggest a subset of a category they already operate in or something completely new, but if you could give a very basic/general rationale for your thought, that would be great]

Should you want to do it confidentially [which is maybe what I should have done, ha!] you can email me here – however this is no trick question, it’s simply you articulating what your immediate response is to the questions I’ve just detailed.

Seriously, thank you so much … though hopefully it’ll be Mr B who is the most grateful.

Emphasis on the word “hopefully”. 🙂

Have P&G Got Into The Movie Biz?
November 18, 2009, 6:41 am
Filed under: Comment

So I sat through the latest Hollywood blockbuster extravaganza – 2012 – and whilst it was always going to contain the classic traits of that sort of movie, namely … all CGI no substance, actors who have followed the Keanu Reeves school of method acting and more plot holes than a A-Team strategy … even I was surprised how utterly and completely pants it was.

To be honest, I spent more time laughing at the movie than anything else … it really is something to be [dis]believed … however after it finished, I realised that whilst the film company is claiming it is another flick from Roland Emmerich’s ‘Disaster Production Line’ [Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow] I am of the belief it was actually written and produced by P&G.

Now you might think I’m talking pants, but remember product creation, sponsorship and placement is nothing new for organisations like this … afterall the term ‘soap opera’ came about after P&G’s arch-enemy, Unilever, started paying/sponsoring/making television and radio dramas [in the early days of programming] to help promote their washing powder products!

Anyway back to the ‘proof points’ of P&G’s Hollywood credentials …

1/ There Is No Subtlety At All – I Mean NONE!

Storyline … acting … product placement… are all executed with extreme levels of obviousness. Either the film crew were made up of Liberace’s children or they think the human race is made up of total retards*

Some of my favourite bits?

[i] To make sure people know one of the characters is supposed to be the Queen of England, they make her appear on screen with a load of corgi dogs!

[ii] To try and make people think this is ‘real life’, they have Danny Glover playing the US President and some bad actor with a bad Austrian accent playing Arnie.

[iii] One of the characters is on the phone, listening to his friend as a tsunami approaches [despite the fact they showed the other guy ring off 2 seconds before].

You know when the friend has died because you hear some splashing of water before silence.

Now maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think a 1500 foot wave would make the sound of some gentle splashing do you?

[iv] There are SONY Vaio computers at every turn and surprise, surprise … SONY Pictures were behind the making of this movie.

2/ Contrived Emotion/Humour

Someone dies = actors cry.
Someone does something brave = actors smile.
Someone does something bad = actors grimace.

All backed up with an orchestral soundtrack that comes straight off the CD entitled ‘Cliché movie moments’. [ie: Dark minor chords = bad stuff. Swirling major chords = good stuff]

Seriously, if people interacted like that in real life, we would either all kill ourselves or kill eachother – especially when your loved one can go from adoration to hatred [or vice–versa] simply because you forgot to put some sweetener in their fucking cup of coffee!

3/ Unbelievable Claims

The movie is supposedly based on some ancient prophecies.

Let’s look at those last 2 words again: ANCIENT PROPHECIES.

That’s very much like using some non-descript “Doctor” to explain why P&G’s ‘Product X’is better for you than any of the other leading products on the market.

Mind you, if some Hollywood company is going to spend a shitload of cash on some claims from hundreds/thousands/millions of years ago … then I am more than happy to get my share with some declarations of my own. How about “Banks will make the World implode with the weight of debt they place upon us” or “Cats will fly”? Send money direct to my Paypal account please …

4/ Developed Through Bad Research Groups

You get the distinct impression this movie was written as it was being filmed – with each section quickly tested against a research group consisting of people even Jerry Springer would turn down.

For example no animal is allowed to be shown to be hurt… they can show the slow and painful death of kids, parents and/or elderly folk but if a fluffy animal is hurt, you’re dead!

However the bit that really bugs me is that throughout the movie, pointless and/or unrealistic elements are seemingly dropped in for no real reason other than to help rationalise the ridiculous story with the conspiracy theorists / fantasists / thickos who demand their delusions are nicely wrapped up with a great big pink bow on it.


Well the worst one is described in ‘point 6’, however it is rather amusing that we are asked to believe that a ship designed to withstand the force of a 1500 foot Tsunami wave fails because some ‘rope’ has got caught up in one of their 100 ton, water tight doors.

See what I mean? This is straight out of a Pantene ad …

5/ Family

It doesn’t matter what life throws at you … it doesn’t matter what state your marriage is in … it doesn’t matter how self centred you are … it doesn’t matter how pissed off your kids are with you … when something happens that could affect the livelihood of your family, you come together and love each other with the energy and passion that could be used to power Chicago.

Oh and it is also important that at a time of total crisis, the family are able to perform feats even Superman would find out of his reach.

Hold your breath underwater for 19 minutes and 33 seconds? Pah … easy.

Fly a plane through a collapsing World even though you’ve only ever had 3 lessons? No problem.

Navigate a Winnebago at speed around falling balls of fire and lava from an erupting volcano? Do it with your eyes closed.

6/ He Who Owns The Distribution, Owns The Market

Sorry George! Ha.

Quality doesn’t count, just own the distribution … or in this case … ensure your movie is shown at the majority of the World’s cinemas so that people are disproportionately likely to buy a ticket to it.

7/ Product Placement

I’ve already talked about the SONY Vaio thing … but that’s nothing … apart from a Bentley plug that singlehandedly would stop me buying one of the bastards even if I could afford it, they plug a brand I never thought could [let alone would] appear in a Hollywood movie.

Are you ready for what it is?

OK, it’s GOODNITES nappies.

I am not kidding you.

According to the story the little girl of the lead characters still wets the bed – despite being 7 years old, which they make sure they articulate clearly – which is why the mother packs her off with some ‘GOODNITES Nappies’ for when she goes camping with her Dad.

Oh but it gets better – or worse as the case may be.

At the end of the movie … infact the VERY LAST LINE … the little girl announces proudly that she no longer wets the bed, in short, she’s claiming that using these Kimberly Clarke products helped her stop pissing the sheets and is now able to go on sleepovers without leaving an embarrassing mark.

Who the fuck comes up with this shit????

Just think … someone got paid to write that storyline. I hope to fuck they got paid a shitload because their career and credibility is never going to recover after that.

Seriously what was everyone thinking?

I know movies cost a lot of money but surely they could of said ‘no’ to this bollocks? I just hope to god this didn’t come from the brain [hahaha] of someone in adland – but I have a horrible feeling it might have – which means I’ll be reading about this “inspirational use of product placement” in AdAge sometime in the near future.

Sure I’ve remembered the name of the brand and what they do – but even if I had 1000 bed wetting kids at home – I’d never buy their products, not unless I was going to use them as firelighters to burn down the offices of Kimberly Clarke, SONY Pictures and anyone else related to this monstrosity.

So there you go, seven reasons why I think P&G wrote and directed the god awful [unless it’s really a comedy, in which case, it’s bloody brilliant] 2012.

You think I’m wrong don’t you?

Why? Is it because you think there’s no way they’d advertise a competitor’s product if they really were behind it?

Let me tell you, when you see how clunckilly they’ve made the placement, you’ll realise it has more to do with brand espionage than anything else.

Seriously, if I was at Saatchi’s I’d start to get a bit worried because it seems one of their biggest clients has decided they don’t need them anymore and can do it all by themselves.

Hell, how ungrateful can they get when Saatchi’s have spent years and billions of dollars infusing that faceless, clinical, advertising-by-numbers organisation with their philosophy [and proprietary tool] ‘Lovemarks’.


Good Commercial Design Is Never Just About Asthetics …
November 17, 2009, 6:41 am
Filed under: Comment

As many of you know, my wife is a designer.

However, unlike many people who have this title – her skills go way beyond sitting in front of an Apple Mac.

Over the years she’s done [and still does] all manner of projects/inventions – from corporate, product, digital and packaging design through to the creation of kids wallpaper that changes colour dependent on the pressure applied to it [ie: kids can ‘vandalise their room’ with hand crafted graffiti and yet still appear little angels to their parents because it all returns to normal within a few minutes] and her current area of interest, cakes.

Yes, each one of those roses was hand created by Jill and all are edible!

The thing is, Jill has always banged on that good commercial design solves problems and given she’s created a whole host of tangible stuff – I would say she is more successful at this than many in adland who despite all the claims, can generally think only 30” film segments and/or double page spreads are necessary.

Anyway the reason I bring this up is that I recently got sent something I think is brilliant for a whole bunch of reasons.

Not only is it a great bit of industrial design but it came about because someone recognised that something we all take for granted had business implications on a whole host of industries so not only have they been able to develop a practical solution that could save companies money in a whole host of areas, but it also has the potential to make the ‘design inventor’ a bloody fortune.

Ladies and gentlemen … boys and girls … see how sometimes, reinventing the wheel is not indulgent, but can be powerful, profitable and game changing.

How good is that eh?

The thing is, whilst an industrial designer found a solution, the identification of the problem was there for us all to see – so if adland [and planners] really want to live up to the intelligence we bestow upon ourselves, maybe it’s time we started opening our eyes to problems beyond the marketing and solutions beyond the advertising.