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

Talk To The Organ Grinder, Not The Monkeys …
August 5, 2010, 6:08 am
Filed under: Comment

I have always found journalists for adland interesting.

Actually, I’ve always found journalists that work in particular categories interesting.

The reason for that is that I always wonder whether they like writing about this mad/sad/bad industry or whether it’s simply a job that allows them to get paid for the thing they are passionate about.

Of course doing a job that is only 50% of what you really want to do is not that uncommon.

I’m sure the engineers who invented SONY’s Aibo probably had bigger hopes and expectations in their career than producing a fake dog for sad fuckers to buy and bore their mates with … but let’s face it, there’s an awful lot of adfolk who would rather be writing books and films than churning out another script for Hugglies nappies which, on closer investigation, is exactly the same as the other 9,000 they’ve put out over the past 20 years, even if they keep coming up with new terms for the super absorbent nature of the fabric.

Maybe it’s because of this – or the fact that companies like Ogilvy approach self-PR with all the co-ordination of a military campaign – but I wonder why so many articles I read feature some guy talk about the ‘key rules’ to producing successful campaigns when they’ve not even produced a successful turd in the last 10 years.

That’s not to say these ‘experts’ can’t contribute an interesting point-of-view, but I’d of thought it would be much more valuable if the comments came from the people/parties who actually pulled the thing together in the first place … but then with so few people willing/allowed to tell the blunt truth of it all, is it any surprise journos turn to ‘experts’, even if in many cases what that person has done to justify their title is talk a lot rather than do a lot?

[and yes, I know this is pot. kettle black. time]

I know I’ve told this story umpteen times, but when Baz first came to us, he produced references from the following:

Steve Jobs
Bill Clinton
Kofi Annan
Nelson Mandella

… and when we asked how the hell he got them from these people, he said he just asked to meet them.

Literally that’s all he did.

And he met all of them.

And got references from all of them.

And now works directly for one of them.

By simply saying “can I meet you?”

OK … OK … so he put a great guilt-trip premise to them, namely that because they were all featuring heavily in the World news, he would like to find out if their intentions were honorable and if his older years were in safe hands or not – but it’s still a request which ultimately got answered in the affirmative.

Of course I know the pressures of a journo’s deadline is very different from a young kids curiosity timeline … and this post isn’t really about how journalists go about their business anyway … the thing is, if you want to know about something, it’s always better to try and get if from the horses mouth because as clever as other people may be, the reality is their thoughts and theories may be way off compared to what the originator considered the important factors which is why as a planner, it’s always better to learn from the creator than to purely listen to the self-validated ramblings of the commentator … which is another reason why you should try to make your own thing happen rather than mimic the loud mouthed brigade like me.

17 Comments so far
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nice to see youre basically admitting youre one of those pains in the fucking ass who passes comment on stuff he didnt do. about fucking time.

you forgot to mention the other reason its good to follow baz annoying curious lead is you can end up sat on your arse working for one of the most famous people in the world churning out the same thing and getting paid a fucking obscene fortune.

thats a more compelling reason campbell and you call yourself a planner?

Comment by andy@cynic

I always think its a bit like those weekly gossip magazines that attribute quotes to “a close friend” when ad media gets someone to talk about “the key lessons” from a campaign they had nothing to do with. It’s not that they can’t cast light to areas that could be useful in the future, it’s just they are basing their opinion on a post rationalised view which tends to miss the detail that actually can prove to be the most valuable lesson. Plus they always tend to speak in this tone as if they actually did it which is annoying to the extreme. Funny you should mention Ogilvy in your post because out here they’re not nearly as prolific, but I remember in Asia they were (and seemingly still are) the power brokers so it’s nice to see something don’t change in the fast paced East.

So yes, going to the core is always the best thing to do and if you can’t, work progressively out rather than just turn to someone who always has something to say regardless of their knowledge or not. You’ll probably find a few of them on this blog. 🙂

Comment by Pete

Ha … nice analogy there Pete.

This wasn’t actually meant specifically at Ogilvy, just agencies in general who push to be ‘official spokespeople’ on pretty much any subject, regardless of their experience or success. You could argue that is solid marketing of their own brand … or that clients should see behind the image and realise all may not be as is implied … but it was – as I said – less about any potentially journalistic situation and more to do with planners/agencies who blindly follow others in the industry when the people they should at least be checking out are the guys who developed the ideas/campaigns/thinking in the first place.

Behavioural economics is a good one.

Currently its adland/planners darling yet it’s been around for many years and been utilised by many other industries than just adland. Infact the advertising industry is relatively late to the party but you wouldn’t know that reading the blogs etc … and while that’s fine, it might be good if people sought out the originator of the concept because they may have developed it with a broader view or with a different concept at its heart or better still, it might be better if some planners stopped obsessively following what a bunch of other planners said and developed their own theories and practices altogether.

At present I see/read [and do] a lot of stuff that are bad copies of bad copies of something that was once interesting. It still works, but by only being blinkered to hearing it from a small pool of people, you/me are basically fucking up our potential to broaden our knowledge and increase our skills.

How’s that for a rant.

Comment by Rob

not bad campbell. seen fucking better but that was when you were hungry to change the world not kiss danny boys ass. but theres still a glimmer of hope but im not holding out much for it.

Comment by andy@cynic

And to think I never saw what I did as strange till I met you guys.

Comment by Bazza

and to think we thought youd be interesting.

(just keeping you real baz. keeping you real)

Comment by andy@cynic

And for those people who say “but even hearing things from the horses mouth doesn’t mean it is totally pure as their ego may influence proceedings” I’d still say that is a better way – unless of course the ‘horses mouth’ you’re listening to has a reason to not actually be totally clear in their explanation.

Like accused criminals sitting in the dock.

Comment by Rob

It never fails to amaze me how many planners use desk research and old documents to do their job. Anyone would think they’re physically chained to their desk. Then it never fails to amaze me how many clients expect major work to be developed in a week, including the creative. We all need a reality check.

Comment by Pete

pete getting feisty. what the fuck next, mickey mouse starts hitting the kids. or even hitting on the kids.

Comment by andy@cynic

Whenever I read a journalist on advertising I always hope to hell that the journos that report on wars and politics and the economy are a fuck of a lot better informed than their advertising counterparts. I think it’s the junior beat at most news orgs. Or at least I hope the fuck it is.

Comment by simon billing

excellent swearing there simon. and youre right, if major news journos approach their job in the same way as their adrag counterparts were fucking doomed and ill never look at kate ugly adie in the same way again.

Comment by andy@cynic

i think ‘journalists’ are a terrible bunch. like bloggers, but on paper 😀

but i also value a removed, critical observation of an industry, in order to reflect and guide it in a way that those in the thick of it cannot. which is different to reporting on events happening at the time, obviously.

i actually think that people who are able to critique things, aren’t necessarily the ones who can make good things. some of the most astute art/architecture observers ARE peeps who haven’t made anything decent in 10 years, but jeeze they know how to view and assess the whole culture and convey it well.

this is not to support wankers (like me) who go around spouting their opinion about shit when they should be developing a craft. and i think writing about advertising has become less about the craft and more about all the other ego-driven, market-driven jargon bullshit. the art world is the same. as is the music scene and the architecture industry.

perhaps the issue is that good (critical) journalism is not being supported – either by the publishers, or by the industries who actually need it.


that horse’s mouth is rank. by the way.

Comment by lauren

Not wishing to appear contrary Robert, but should you not of asked a journalist for their opinion on this post?

Though in relation to the underlying message you are communicating, I am in full agreement.

Comment by Lee Hill

It amazes me how many planners don’t even plan from within. Quite right you need input from the horses mouth, but when you’re struggling to get that input, how many actually ask themselves what they would think? How they would feel.
The more planners think of consumers as people, the better their thinking will be – and since most (not all) are people too, that’s not a bad place to start.
I’ve met Mr T. Not in an airport funnily enough.

Comment by northern

Absolutely. I always try and avoid using the word consumer, and one of the good things about adland discovering behavioural economics is that it reframes the audience as people, irrational emotional varied people, not ABC1 consumers.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

i know a lot of planners who avoid using the word consumer but it still doesnt stop them missing the fucking point that these people are people and they tend to have more going on in their lives than worrying about when they can nip out and buy their next tube of fucking colgate.

Comment by andy@cynic

Agreed. We all need to remember the bigger picture!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

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