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

Plastic Ain’t So Fantastic …
July 13, 2010, 6:18 am
Filed under: Comment

I’ve pre-written this post so I have no idea how my first day at W+K went, but if I’m still in a job – then I am sad to say you can expect more frequent blog posts in the near future. However if they have realised just what they have done, then the gap between this post and next will be much longer as I will be selling everything I own to pay the bribes that stop me being sent to the middle of nowhere to make cheap kitchens or something.

Right back to the bollocks …

A few months ago I was in KL doing a workshop.

During a lunch break, I went to check out shopping centres – or more specifically – check out the people who go to the shopping centres.

In-between talking to anyone who was coming out of a shop carrying masses of bags, I just walked around to see if I could spot any specific retail differences between Malaysia and other markets … and while I wouldn’t say what I’m about to write signifies a unique take on KL window displays, it was enough to get me escorted off the premises by 2 security guards and then have them wait at the entrance to make sure I didn’t get back in.

So what was so bad that got me thrown off the premises?

Well to be honest, it’s all their fault because all I did was photograph quite possibly the ugliest shop mannequin I’ve ever seen.

This mannequin:

How hideous is that eh?

Of course the stupidly high forehead with the Hugh Grant floppy hairstyle doesn’t help – but putting that aside, the whole thing is just plain ugly.

The thing is, I can’t help but feel it’s supposed to be Eurasian.

Eurasian is obviously a European/Asian mix … however in Asian adland, it’s almost the defacto cast call for models.


Well because some believe it is a more ‘aspirational’ look for the people of Asia.

There’s that word again … fucking aspirational.

Aspirational heritage to go with aspirational clothes to go with aspirational gadgets to go with aspirational toilet paper … and yet nine times out of ten, the only justification the company has to explain their ‘aspirational’ label is they charge a fuckload of money for the product.

Yep … like ‘luxury’, the marketing community have completely bastardised and simplified the meaning of the word ‘aspirational’ to try and make themselves feel better about what they do while making the masses feel worse.

I have nothing against aspirational products … just like I understand there is [sometimes] a commercial benefit to communicating a lifestyle image that your audience finds attractive and desirable … but more often that not, there is no depth of exploration of this view, it’s executed as a simple “this costs a lot of money and so you will obviously want it” tone and manner and that just annoys the shit out of me.

Now here’s the thing … Asia does regard money as the root of all happiness – more so than possibly most other regions on the planet – however, this is also a culture with deep rooted values and beliefs and so many marketeers overlook that because they think by simply painting something ‘gold & red’ they have immediately achieved the goal of looking – and thus justifying – their high price point.

To be honest I don’t know who annoys me more … the clients who have this oversimplistic – and generic – approach or the agency/planners who happily go with it.

A long time ago, Freddie and I did some work for a truck engine oil that to this day, is some of the best work I – and I think Freddie – have ever done.

Again the client wanted it to be ‘aspirational & premium’ however rather than simply reflect the cliched ‘success’ image cues that you tend to see in 99% of all ads out here, we spent time to find out what these guys – Phillipino truck drivers – really aspired to and then found a way to link it all together.

The best bit was that our work didn’t just make these people – viewed as some of the lowest valued individuals on the economic scale – feel great about themselves, but it made people who were much, much, much more fortunate than them actually aspire to be more like these truck drivers.

Not obviously interms of economic circumstances, but interms of their honour, values and beliefs. Infact when the head of the oil company saw it – a man who has more money than Sorrell – he allegedly said,

“I hope I’m like that man”.

How amazing is that eh?

A billionaire Texan saw the values of a poor Phillipino truck driver as something he wished he had. We didn’t focus on what they had on the outside, we talked about what they had on the inside and those were way more aspirational than a new BMW 5 series, a sailboat or a fucking gold Rolex.

Which leads back to my point.

The mannequin in the picture above is – to my eyes – hideous …

This is not because it’s Eurasian … but because it’s a really badly designed Eurasian mannequin.

There could be a whole host of reasons for this:

Maybe it was designed by the Elephant Man … maybe it was bought from a warehouse that had a fire and all the faces went a bit weird … maybe it came from a ‘high forehead’ magazine shoot … but for me, if the retailer had done one of 2 things, it could have ended up much better and resulted in shoppers spending more time looking at the clothes rather than the head.

1. Stop thinking the people of Asia don’t regard anyone or anything from Asia as being attractive, aspirational or desirable.

This view that ‘the West is best’ is diminishing by the day – driven by things like technology & economy – and to think no one would buy anything that appeals to Asians is preposterous to the nth degree.

On top of that, using a Eurasian model isn’t clever.

You think people can’t spot you’re trying to be relevant and yet aspirational at the same time?

I know this is a region where myth & legend have a huge impact and influence on culture, but with the shift in society, the view that the order of desirability always goes:


… is wrong, especially with the younger generation who now get far more influenced by the sort of people that the older generation would regard as a weapon of mass contradiction.

Sure, some categories may reflect this hierarchical order, but it is in no means a blueprint by which all categories, countries and [to maintain the ‘c’ theme] consumers follow … as many brands would see if they just looked a bit deeper. Or – in some cases – just looked.

2. If you’re going to do something, do it right.

I know it’s a simple mannequin but it matters.

If the person[?] wearing the clothes wasn’t important, fashion brands wouldn’t spend such outrageous amounts on people whose only talent is being a genetic freak with positive outcome.

If you really want a Eurasian mannequin, get one made – don’t go for the cheap as shit option – because people don’t just buy a single item, they buy all the things associated with it and if there is one element that is less than favourable, then you better hope to hell the other aspects of your product are hot shit or it’s going to stay in a warehouse than hang in a wardrobe.

I know … I know … this is another overlong, tangent-loving post that all stems from a photo of a bad shop mannequin in Malaysia. I am aware of that … but as much as it’s called a ‘cliche’ because there is more than an element of truth in it, it doesn’t mean there are not other ways to approach the task … ways that are just as relevant if you look deep enough.

I suppose the thing that really bugs me is that for as long as I’ve been in adland, I’ve always heard how agencies want to differentiate their clients brand from the competition … and yet, when they actually have the opportunity to do it, they go with the easiest option.

Oh sure, they claim all sorts of reasons why their ad is different to everyone else’s – but in the real World, most times you would be hard pressed to spot any sort of difference other than the brand name.

Maybe this is because agencies have cut their fees so low they need to churn ads out as quick as possible just to break even … or maybe it’s because the research clients commission is so superficial that it is impossible for anything new, interesting and relevant to come out from it … who knows – there’s probably a whole host of reasons and circumstances but surely it should happen more than it does, shouldn’t it?

50 Comments so far
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plastic aint fantastic? are you fucking mad? when pammy is looking more like a raisin by the fucking day her tits still look like they did in her baywatch prime.

i dont understand a fucking word of this post. its planning wank and if this is what wk has turned you in to, then its another reason why i hope youre sacked within the week.

good job on being thrown out of a shopping centre for being a fucking pest. coming from nottingham i guess the usual reason would be shoplifting.

Comment by andy@cynic

Unlike your Texan billionaire, too many clients and agency folk like to think they’re superior to the customer and the help. That blinds them to the woefulness of their marketing.

Comment by John

The way many ads turn out gives more insight in to the people who paid for the ad than the audience it is meant to appeal to.

Comment by Pete

see campbell, doddsy and pete said all you rambled on about in a couple of lines. a couple of fucking lines and they didnt need a photo of a billy conquest anywhere near it.

and none of this “you spoil us” shit, you torture us.

Comment by andy@cynic

Love your comment Andy.

I’ve read this post twice because it is a bit all over the place but there are some great bits here especially how clients make choices based on their own insecurities, prejudice and ignorance than any true understanding of their markets views and attitudes towards their own people and region.

I know what you are saying is different, but the same hierarchical views extend beyond just Asia. Germany would be placed higher than Spain for highly engineered cars and Italy would be perceived as more desirable for fashion than Iceland but I concur in many circumstances the views held in Asia are not because of proof points of another regions excellence more a disregard for what Asia could do so I’m pleased to see it is slowly changing against some audience groups, even if some marketers want to keep it firmly where it once was.

Like you have said countless times, many marketing decisions are made based on what is believed the ‘boss’ wants to read/hear/say than the market which could be one reason why this reluctance to embrace Asia’s own identity, value and achievement,

I don’t know how this long rant (mine and yours) came from that ugly mannequin and I’m not even sure I agree with you that they were trying to make it look Eurasian but the points you raise aren’t just valid but important and I hope this is the start of a new stream of blog posts talking about planning, marketing and cultural issues, situations and opportunities.

Comment by Pete

of course pete then went and fucked it up with this comment but he rightfully acknowledged my brilliant view so ill let him off with only minimal pain and humiliation.

Comment by andy@cynic

just realised this post was written before his short one so basically he got praise from me for nicking doddsy example. those planner types are devious little fucks.

Comment by

Good points Pete … but as I’ve been bollocked for writing too much, I’ll leave it at that for now, ha!

Comment by Rob

i have a lot to add about the use of mannequins, (not just about race but of course about gender) but i’ve fuck-all time to do so right now. i’ll be back. and you’ve been warned.

Comment by lauren

that sounds like trouble.
fucking fantastic.

Comment by

Andy’s right, your post is all over the place.

But why don’t you link to the ‘great piece of Philippino truck driver advertising’ already. Nothing like some T&A to spice up a blogpost.

Comment by New High Score

Because I’d hoped my post wouldn’t need T&A but who am I fooling.

The other reason is I can’t find the ad, just the stealomatic, but even that is quite good so if I can be bothered to upload it to Youtube, I will thank you very much you ungrateful – but fair critic – bastards.


Comment by Rob

[…] definition of branding and marketing esp. in’Retail Lifestyle’ segments..From a fellow Power 150 blogger, in Kuala Lumpur Aspirational heritage to go with aspirational clothes to go with aspirational gadgets to go with […]

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I prefer Kim Cattral

Comment by northern

Are the plastic tits better in the US then?

Comment by DH

Actually, you’d be amazed to know there’s a different design aesthetic – Americans like them very round and don’t care of they look real or not.
Feel the same though

Comment by northern

Thanks for writing this post. About time someone put a few nails in that aspirational bit in the brief. Do marketers mistakenly interchange tone & benefit? Can see you’re enjoying the new gig. Keep on fighting the good fight!

Comment by harshal

This is a planning post isn’t it?

Comment by Marcus

Not anymore lets talk about plastic jugs

Comment by northern

Northern – don’t they explode at high altitudes?

Comment by Marcus

It was I’m afraid Marcus – but Northern England’s “Hugh Hefner” brought it more into line with the normal tone of this post.

Northern, you are very informed … how long were you under Police observation?

Comment by Rob

I have experience of fakes, that’s all I’m saying.
Marcus, not modern ones
And doesn’t anyone else like that classic film from th 80’s- also starred Leiutant Harris from Police Acadamy

Comment by northern

Of course you have experience with fakes, you work in adland. Is that what you meant?

Comment by Rob

Speaking of Acadamies, where’s the School of the Web feedback. That’s the last time I neglect Youporn to type like a Tasmanina Devil type think for your benefit Mr Campbell, the very last time.

Comment by northern


Comment by Marcus

Yes I’m a slack shit … funnily enough I’ve written an apologetic blog post about it for tomorrow but now it’ll look like you guilt-tripped me into it so well done, you are the puppet master.

Comment by Rob

(and I have experience of fakes of all kinds, as people being the least convincing)

Comment by northern

You’re from Oop North … can we fuck all this “word” rubbish off please?

Comment by Rob


Comment by Marcus

Get bent

Comment by northern

Cool to see KL is getting with the fashions of 1986.

Comment by Billy Whizz

“aspirational toilet paper” LOL

no idea if i got your post, but heres my two cents anyway. i dont see why something worth aspiring to would be european or eurasian in general. its a bit like all things american some people in europe, or west germany for that matter, were after, i guess. and later all things west german were idealized by many people in east germany. it always seems to be linked with perceived prosperity and history. a process of emancipation seems to start at a point when it is realized that an ideal wasnt as perfect as it seemed and/or other ideals can be found or constructed that seem to be more appropriate. bit of a half-baked comment. fried brain and all. its the real new tropics here.

Comment by peggy

can you stop raising the fucking tone of this blog peggy, strangers might come on here and think its a place where clever hangs rather than the array of freakoids like planners and the now infamous northern groper.

Comment by andy@cynic

raising the tone. thats the tool of the fool to make things sound cool, or clever to be precise lol to my defence, it wasnt on purpose. i stand by the points i was trying to express tho. its just too hot to talk or think straight.

Comment by peggy

“Northern Groper” … that’s so good it could just stick!

Comment by Rob

And proud of it

Comment by northern

Yes, but Mrs NG might not be so happy about it.

But what a role model for young Will!!!

Comment by Rob

Seen you ex-agencies latest Visa bollocks?

Rant away …

Comment by Rob

it surely comes with a playboy subscription and the ac/dc album. “Made with carbon, it is the ultimate buying tool”, according to their website. because plasitc aint so fantastic eh lol.

Comment by peggy

The charges didn’t.

Comment by John

I really don’t know where to start – lets dramatise personal service, no wait, lets do soft porn!
What is disruptive about using sex to sell to alledgedly succesful men?
There isn’t a story, there isn’t a twist, it’s just a women in black looking sexy amongst black things.
Now if there was Media Arts idea with a hundred sexy women on motorbikes racing down 5th Avenue for real, perhaps whisking men off fo an hour of amazinh escapades and it was filmed, facebooked, youtubs etc, then fine, at least there would be some sort of 360 degree idea.
This is just dross AND I’m being nice to it since I have a weakness for women in tight leather AND Donna Feldman.

Comment by northern groper

What’s in the past is in the past.
He’ll be too busy learning to cook like Gordon Ramsay, swim like Patrick Duffy and worry about his hairline
Her past is as chequered as mine

Comment by northern groper

I desperately want to meet your wife. Just after I’ve shown her all your recent comments.

Comment by Rob

Just don’t stare at her rack

Comment by northern groper

You have changed sooooooooooo much since you left the shackles of TBWA. Now I’m starting to wonder if that’s a good thing given your slow metamorphisis to becoming Andy, unless you feel you need to take his place given his house fixing absence.

Comment by Rob

I have many sides, none of then as extreme as Boucher.
Anyway, I only mentioned I had limited experience of fakes – your twisted imagination did the rest

Comment by northern groper

speaking of fake tits and plastic mannequins, can i rant now? or did i let too much time pass?

Comment by lauren

Go on, rants are always fun

Comment by northern

Oh yes please Lauren … you can’t let Northern Groper get all the rant accolades.

Comment by Rob

[…] and to think I thought I’d seen the ugliest mannequin in KL! Leave a Comment Leave a Comment so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this […]

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