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

Light … Camera … Impress: It’s The APSOTW Assignment …
April 30, 2010, 5:23 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

When Russell started this ‘school’, he ensured there was a lot of variety in his challenges because he believed [and I presume still does] that modern communication requires people who are creative generalists – not just specialists.

Gareth, Andrew and I have tried to continue that tradition [but if we haven’t, don’t tell us, we’re sensitive little souls] however we are also conscious that we don’t want to stray too far away from the fundamental reasons A[P]SOTW was set up in the first place.

With all that in mind, this assignment has been developed to test a number of things that are vital in the modern world of communication:




Originally I was going to set you the objective of protecting the revenue of the increasingly irrelevant Yellow Pages ‘book’ – however I’ve decided to save that for another day because I want us to focus on another important tool in the planners arsenal, the ability to present.

I’m not talking about writing powerpoint decks – we’ve touched on that in previous assignments and I wrote a post about that a while back – I’m talking about the physical ‘pitch’ presentation of which these 2 are great examples:



[If the clip doesn’t work, click here]

The reason I’ve shown you these 2 videos is even though one is talking about something new [not just literally, but interms of tech] and the other is aiming to make people look at something old, with fresh and excited eyes … they both engage, excite and entice because the presenter has the ability to take the audience on a journey where they get emotionally entwined with the thinking, the idea, the benefit and the occasion.

This is way more than just being entertaining or gimmicky, it’s about purposeful inspiration … which is why I believe they are both great examples of my beloved [and BBH developed] ethos of ‘don’t sell, get people to buy’.

So what’s the actual assignment …

Well it’s basically a pitch presentation … except your job is not just to develop a strategy and idea to solve a specified problem, but to pitch it to the judges as if you were in the room and doing it in the flesh.

Look I know for many people, public speaking is absolutely terrifying … but it is incredibly important … not just to win business, but to be able to convey your message at conferences, meetings or just in life – so even if the thought of a ‘live presentation’ scares the living bejesus out of you, I encourage you to have a go and I assure you all feedback will be constructive and take into account your particular circumstances.

[Don’t panic, we’re not looking for presentations with uber-slick camera shots and lighting, afterall as much as both the videos above were directed by highly paid professionals calculating every shot and angle, at their heart it’s just a person with a screen taking an audience on a journey of emotional & commercial value]

Now before I get to the challenge you’ll be answering in your presentation, I just want to talk about the role of pitches.

As far as I am concerned, most pitches are won/lost before any presentation takes place.

The ability to schmooze, knobble, manipulate and emotionally ‘connect’ are quite often far more effective at winning business than a great idea presented flawlessly.

Then there’s the situation where a client ignores the quality of the idea and just chooses an agency based on an execution or some gimmick.

As I’ve said, I’m not into ‘flash’ or ‘gimmicks’ … but as much as many pitch presentations are quite often a bit of a sham, there are occasions where what you say and how you present will make a massive difference to the outcome [excluding the millions of times where you’ll have to present an idea/view to a client/colleague] so being able to present to an audience in an engaging and captivating manner – so by the time you’ve finished, they’re believers and followers rather than passive spectators – is unbelievably valuable.

So let’s get to what the business issue is we need you to get your head around shall we?


“How can ‘Head & Shoulders’ shampoo be seen as the brand men [18-35] should use every day, rather than just on the occasions they think they have a dandruff issue”

That’s it … a one line uber-basic, uber-ambigious brief.

I’ve not done this because I can’t be arsed to write something more complicated … or I don’t know how to write something more complicated … I’ve done it because [1] often that is what many pitch briefs ultimately come down to, with 800 pages of irrelevant brand ego waffle shoved inbetween and [2] I want to keep if fairly basic because not only do you have to work out what to do, you have to work out how you’re going to make us choose you in just 10 minutes as if you were in the room with us.

[Saying that, it would be good if you could develop ideas that go beyond ‘Dandruff Stops You Getting Laid’… however if you must go down that route, make sure your thinking, evidence and presentation lifts it out of the gutter, ha!]


Judging Criteria:

Quality of thinking

Quality of strategy/core idea

Clarity of presentation

Infectiousness of idea

Magnetism of presentation


As usual, I’ve asked a bunch of people to help me judge this and they are:

Chris, Regional CEO of M&C Saatchi Asia
[best new biz guy I’ve ever seen – let alone worked with – in my entire life]

Stephen, a leading UK based barrister
[a master in the art of persuasion – and in matters more important than marketing]

Dominic, lead planner on NIKE [China] at Wieden & Kennedy

Jonah, venture capitalist at ThinkorSwim
[gets pitched to 200 times a year. Every year]

Freddie, planning director at BBH

Rebecca, screen writer at Dreamworks
[also worked for ‘High Concept’ pitch masters, Don Simpson & Jerry Bruckheimer]

Gareth, God at Goodby’s

Andrew, God of planning [& DigForFire/DMG], swimming & cooking

Errrrm, me

Four Rules:

1/ We just want to hear about the idea – we don’t need to see other materials unless you feel it necessary or desirable to show.

2/ No video is allowed to be more than 10 minutes in duration.
[You can submit this via a file or on Youtube, but if the latter, please let us know if you are OK with us pointing people to it after the judging has taken place]

3/ No documentation is allowed to be submitted to support your video presentation.

4/ As much there will be the temptation to take the piss, this is serious and we want you to present as if you were there in the room with us.

Right, that’s all the judging bits over … and to prove I/we are not complete and utter bastards, here’s some links that might give you some tips if at this point you’re in ‘blank mind hell.

How to present like Steve Jobs



Entries to be sent to this address by midnight GMT, May 22nd

Any problems/questions/issues – drop me a line, but most of all enjoy it – take our minds on a journey of discovery and adventure but make sure it has substance and logic because great business people only sign on the line when it makes business sense to them, not just emotional.

Oh, and whilst I said this assignment was to help planners develop and sell better work, it is not limited to them … infact I encourage anyone who wants to have a go to enter, because not only is there no ‘wrong answer’ [so you don’t have to worry about looking silly, which you wouldn’t anyway] the fact is there are many situations in life where having the ability to persuade someone to think your way would be useful – especially where debt collectors are concerned, ha!

Choice Without Relevance Is Confusion …
April 29, 2010, 6:42 am
Filed under: Comment

A while ago I wrote about tourism campaigns and they were mainly pants.

I also casually mumbled some ideas that I felt would show how much a country can offer, without needing to cram an epileptic-fit-inducing number of montage shots in every 30” ad.

One of them was starting a cable television / Youtube channel that each day, talked in depth about a different element of the country.

The reason I liked it was because I felt it would not only give undeniable evidence that there’s lots to do in that country, but it would allow the culture and values of the place to shine through.

I’m not suggesting this was ground breaking thinking … it probably wasn’t even an original idea … but I’m glad to see the country that – for me – has the best international tourism campaign* had a similar idea, because they’ve recently launched a whole host of mini-movies where musicians [it was done for MTV Australia] explain what they love and why they love particular parts of NZ.

There’s quite a few, but for some reason, this one with Liam Finn [son of Crowded House singer Neil] made the biggest impression on me.

Of course NZ use many channels communicating many things … but they always incorporate 2 elements that I think should form the blueprint of any tourism campaign:

1/ The message is always tailored to the audience [based on a real understanding of why a particular group doesn’t come or doesn’t want to come to NZ]

2/ The tailored message is always expressed through the core brand idea

Sure they’ll run campaigns saying how cheap a flight is or, as was recently the case when they found Brits holidaying to Oz for the ‘trip of a lifetime’ perceived it too far to also consider visiting, how close it is [approx 180 minutes from Sydney] … but they’ll always make sure the idea of PURE is never lost or secondary to the message being communicated.

It might not be the fashion to talk about the importance of brand ideas, but I still think they play a vital role … as long as [1] you live up to it [2] it’s built on values, not just features and [3] you know what to do with it when you’ve got one.

Brands, planners and creatives should take note … and I don’t just mean those representing tourism accounts.

* I know Queensland’s ‘Best Job In The World’ campaign has received all the recent accolades, but as brilliant as that was, it was basically a one-off PR driven promotion whereas NZ’s 100% Pure, is a long-term brand building campaign.

If It Walks Like A Twat … Talks Like A Twat … It’s Probably A Twat.
April 28, 2010, 6:43 am
Filed under: Comment

There’s a lot of talk in adland at the moment about doing stuff that achieves stuff … stuff that will help our clients grow culturally, commercially, environmentally and/or simply in terms of love, adoration or popularity.

Errrm, isn’t that exactly what we are supposed to have been doing – and have been claiming we do – for the past 30 odd years?

To present this as a ‘new view’ is absolutely terrifying but not as scary as people in adland thinking our clients will greet this news with smiles, applause and open arms.

Seriously, are we really that fucking stupid?

I think we are you know …

I’ve said for years that the ad industry of the 50’s and 60’s were more industrious and commercially minded than much of what goes on today … and whilst [thankfully] there are still some people and agencies who believe in ‘doing’ rather than ‘saying’ … the fact the industry is happy to talk about this stuff like they’ve cracked the Da Vinci code demonstrates how increasingly myopic, delusional and irrelevant we’ve all become.

PS: Just in case anyone gets the wrong impression, this post is NOT aimed at Gareth’s brilliant speech from the 4A’s … he is most definitely allowed on his soapbox because he [1] means it [2] has been living it and [3] has been fighting for it for a very long time … however to the self-appointed gurus who talk a good game, despite never having actually done what they proclaim – I would like you to know your dirty little secret isn’t safe, it’s not even a secret.

This Year Is Going At A 1000mph So Let’s Let Our Emotions Out For A Quick Runaround Shall We?
April 27, 2010, 6:36 am
Filed under: Comment

How sweet is that eh?

No I haven’t been at Mountain View … well actually I have, but that’s purely coincidental … the reason for showing that video is because in the fast-paced World of adland, it’s quite easy to forget the general masses are touched, influenced and inspired by emotions and feelings … so it might be useful if every once in a while, we put aside the pads featuring ideas for sponsored jokes and/or youtube rip-offs and actually started listening, watching, learning and communicating with the real World, you’d be amazed how smart many of them can be.

If you need a quick ‘health check’ on the validity of your ‘human race’ membership, please answer the following:

1/ What percentage of your friends work in the advertising / marketing / film / music / gaming / fashion industries?
A: 25%
B: 50%
C: 75%
D: What other kind of industries are there?

2/ What sort of magazines do you read:
A: A wide range of titles covering a wide range of subjects
B: Gossip trash
C: Anything where your photo may appear
D: Read? That’s such an outdated bloody concept

3/ Do you know people called:
A: Pete or Sally
B: Roger or Elizabeth
C: Sebastian or Jemima
D: Tarquin or Mercedes

4/ What does lunch consist of:
A: Whatever you’ve brought from home
B: Whatever you and your colleagues decide to eat
C: Whatever your secretary has been told to go out and get you
D: Whatever restaurant has been labelled as ‘the place to be seen in’

5/ What does “Creche” means:
A: A place where babies are left by people struggling to make their mortgage payments
B: A place where babies are left by people who don’t want their uber-cool lifestyle disturbed
C: What people who can’t afford a live-in Swedish nanny have to use
D: The sound 2 cars make when they collide on your street located in the fashionable part of London / NYC / SF / LA / Sydney / HK / Singapore / Shanghai etc

Finished? Cool, now find out how ‘real’ you truly are …

You are have a great grasp of what is going on for many people in society from what they do and what they are thinking.

You are pretty normal with your friends defining you as a person rather than an adman/woman.

You are think you’re a special talent and as such, live in a carefully crafted bubble that basically keeps ‘normal life’ out.

You are the CEO/ECD/EPD or a multinational advertising agency who thinks you know it all even though the only exposure you have to the average persons life is through the people you hire to drive your car and wash your house.

You know what, I can just about accept it when clients, suits, creatives and senior management fall into category C and/or D – but not planners – planners are supposed to understand and represent the masses, not be islands of self appointed, pseudo intellectual superiority or worse, pretend rock stars … so whilst I am not really suggesting you can’t be a good planner/adman if you live in a nice house, in a nice place with nice things … it is worth remembering that interacting with the everyday life of everyday people is way more valuable than simply reading about it in reports or blogs.

If Adland Is So Creative …
April 26, 2010, 6:40 am
Filed under: Comment

… why do they always use this song as the music bed for their [1] montage style ads and/or [2] their effectiveness award submissions.

Seriously guys, change the record. Literally.

And remember, if you’re interested in an interesting ad award, check out last weeks post.