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

China’s Change …
August 31, 2010, 6:29 am
Filed under: Comment

Photo: China Daily

So recently a couple of us got interviewed by Wired magazine about our views of China however what we found more interesting was interviewing the journo [from the UK, but based in SF] about his views of the place.

To be fair, he had only just arrived and openly acknowledged his perspective was based on only about a weeks worth of exposure to the country … but despite that, he rattled off a lot of facts, figures and views that sounded very similar to the sorts of business books that claim to give real insight into this unique country.

In other words, it was a perspective that was one dimensional, driven by fear and – quite often – just plain wrong.

Being a good journo, he knew this was the case which is why he said he needed/wanted greater exposure to what was going on so he could make a much more informed view … but the fact is, there’s a lot of people out there – a lot of business people – who are quite happy to read a book and then think they know all that’s going on, even though if the situation was reversed, they’d think it corporate suicide.

Too many people think they are smarter than the next.

They think their talent and brainpower can bypass years of training, experience and exposure and somehow pull off a feat where thousands have failed before them.

Adland is littered with them … and planners are often the worst.

We talk like we are fonts of all knowledge and yet in terms of real exposure to real situations, we often haven’t even taken the stabilizers off our bikes of life.

The best thing I ever did was start a company.

Actually quite a few.

Some were nothing but unmitigated disasters but others – like cynic – ended up being quite special indeed.

One of the main reasons for that was that we went for breadth of knowledge, not just depth.

We were – and are – huge believers in getting multiple perspectives on the same issue because whilst we knew one extreme view was as potentially flawed as the counter extreme view … it opened our eyes to bigger issues, decisions and opportunities and by doing that, we were not only better informed, but were able to develop work that had the potential to have real relevance to a greater amount of people.

Planners, bloggers and businessmen have to be careful not to surround themselves with people who only share their same view, because if you do that, you can end up like many of the Western companies who’ve come to Asia … deluded, confused and broke.

41 Comments so far
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back up a fucking minute there campbell. what the fuck were wired doing interviewing you unless it was an article on the bullshit of planning. fuck me the standards of journalism have fallen.

youre right about the lack of fucking debate. everyones too fucking nice, at least to everyones fucking face so were ending up with much more fucking mediocre. debate is healthy which is why my cholesterol level is like a fucking athlete. sure its a sumo but do you really want to make something of that?

wise move, must be your genius planner side coming out.

Comment by andy@cynic

Are you drunk?

You went from insulting me to semi-complimenting me to insulting yourself. Should I call your much better half to check on you?

And as for Wired, well they only interviewed me because one of my colleagues felt sorry for me as he was [rightly] the one they wanted to talk to … so they’re [ie: Wired] not as mad as you thought but my wonderful colleagues tastes might be.

Comment by Rob

thank fuck for that. and im not drunk but im about to be. dont know what youre missing campbell.

Comment by andy@cynic

the lesbians arent hot in commieland. thats when you know youre a real financial superpower, when you have hot carpet lickers.

china lesbians. #fail.

(but for fucks sake keep trying)

Comment by andy@cynic

Their furry collars are a bit butch.

Comment by John

And what’s with the ear muff position – is that some kind of signalling?

Comment by John

man after my own perversions. but its not perverted its fucking natural innit.

Comment by andy@cynic

Germaine Greer is organising her hitmen as I type.

Good points though. Ha.

Comment by Rob

she was quite a hottie in her day. didnt put out much though.

Comment by andy@cynic

Your chosen bike of life would be a Segway or some similar gadget – what can we learn from that?

Comment by John

hes a cock with fuck all taste. but we knew that doddsy so whats your fucking point?

campbell. did you really want a twatbike? fuck me when did that shit happen? hope jill told you the fucking implications which basically mean a life of isolation and emptiness with the odd pocket of extreme violence. probably by me.

you wanted a segway? you twat. didnt i teach you anyfuckingthing.

Comment by andy@cynic

I just watched some lame documentary in which a poet investigated the urge to upgrade technology – Campbell is apparently on a hedonic treadmill in search of happiness via increased functionality. you heard it here first.

Winnebago Man which preceded it wasn’t a lot better.

Comment by John

The good news: I did not buy a segway.

The bad news: It did cross my mind in a momentary lapse of reason and taste but thankfully sanity prevailed courtesy of some helpful comments like, “You’d look like a twat” … which was kinda like a compliment given I’ve been told I have looked like a twat for the last 8 years.

As for my hedonistic treadmill … I tend to upgrade my weirdo tech so what does the poet [a fucking poet!??] got to say about that. On second thoughts, best not ask.

And as for Winnebago man, was it really bad? I’m devastated if it was.

Comment by Rob

words fucking fail me campbell. i suppose its better you didnt buy a sad man twat trike but the fact you entertained the idea still means you deserve a good fucking kicking.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hedonic not hedonistic!

Comment by John

I enjoy your blog, but I do have a question that’s been nagging at me from the first (no, second) time I read the blog: is Andy your proof reader? How else to explain his comment always appearing before anyone else has had a chance to comment?
I’m just askin’.

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

im just fucking unlucky ciaran.

Comment by andy@cynic

He has nothing in his life other than to press ‘refresh’ on his computer till my post comes up. I vary the times it is published to keep him interested but apart from the odd moment where Doddsy wants to play, he has never let me down.

Comment by Rob


Comment by andy@cynic

It might be all over the place but this is a great post. It never ceases to amaze me how little real exploration many planners undertake, preferring to stay in the comfort of their office than going out and meeting people.

And that photo is just plain mad. In a good way of course.

Comment by Pete

I met a planner last week who has had 3 months to do a project on technology useage and guess what – they’ve used research reports and desk research all the way. What an absolute tool.

Comment by Rob

“Planning is an outdoor pursuit”, eh? Best advice ever.

Comment by Age

And yet so many companies think that means you’re slacking off – amazes me. Hell, even I’ve heard the odd muttering of discontent from some of my colleagues because I put in place specified days where my team have to go out individually and discover shit, free from the confines of their clients and job … so it’s about getting back to basics about what planners roles are both with clients and with agencies.

We can’t represent society if we never mingle or explore with it.

Comment by Rob

dissent in the ranks already? well done campbell, make the fuckers pay for their job offering generosity and the fact youre right is neither here or fucking there.

Comment by andy@cynic

The Chinese newspaper shows lesbo action? That’s better than the sun page 3. Well it would be if the girls were hot and topless.

Didn’t read the post so have no idea if it’s good or not. Guessing not.

Comment by DH

Isn’t Andy the real reason behind the success, width & breadth of POV @ Cynic ? Seriously, his comments do reflect that at times 😛 , you just type it out don’t you! ha.

Hey, your post does reflect reality in ad land , and the sad part is , it’s being accepted more & more – day by day. I wonder if it’s do with time, money / resources of sheer lack on genuine curiosity

Comment by bhaskar

Given all his work ended up being about how “Brand X” would get you fucked by a better standard of man/woman – regardless of the category – I would say his breadth of views wasn’t that broad at all.

Comment by Rob

In my previous (US-based) company, every so often somebody from HQ would travel to Asia giving us a presentation on the China and India phenomena. And in their naivete, they were so excited because they finally were making sense of Asia for all of us. Not that the numbers were wrong but, as you were pointing out, they were so unidimensional to the point of missing the …point. My Asian colleagues, being the usual polite selves, never replied anything, but I am sure they were getting a kick out of it. But just imagine an Indian or a Chinese traveling to the U.S. and sharing their views of the U.S. to an American audience, I have the suspicion that the audience would not be equally willing to listen patiently. Truth be said, all of my US-based clients were truly trying to understand Asia, consumer behavior, spending power, drivers, inhibitors, etc,; but in their over-simplification they had a hard time accepting that China did not equate to the whole of Asia, that indeed each key Asian country was so much different from the rest. It also dawned on me that while the US clients were eagerly lapping up my reports, their Asian colleagues were more like ‘oh-hum, tell me something I don’t already know;’ which made me realize that these clients had just to talk to their Asian colleagues rather than spend money on reports written by another white boy.
Unfortunately, the world lives by stereotypes. The majority of people are happy to live by these stereotypes, which are true but they are only basic factoids. How many times do I have to hear, ‘Oh Italian: pasta, pizza, mafia, Prada and fucking Bocelli.’?! Sure, the Chinese eat dogs, the Brits are pasty and have horrible food, Americans enjoy weird sports, the French…well, are the French, and so forth. These are all true things, but they don’t paint the whole picture. But what sells are these stereotypes and this applies not just to the mass audience but even to our CEOs, planners, our leaders in general. Perhaps it’s because we can only process x amount of information, so stereotypes simplify matters by breaking it down in some ‘primordial’ components.
And by the way, I really love the expression on the policeman to the left.

Comment by claudio

you realise youre far too fucking clever for this blog.

Comment by andy@cynic

If my TV NLP training has taught me anything… (very possibly it hasn’t) That expression on the policemans left looks like a micro expression of contempt.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

or hes just shot his load.

Comment by andy@cynic

I think planning is unique in being a job where knowing a bit about a lot of things is better than knowing everything about one topic.

But it’s stil important to look in detail before you make wide sweeping judgements.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Knowing a bit about a lot of things is awfully close to not knowing much about anything.

Better to know a lot about a lot, because if you don’t somebody else will.

Comment by John

Well yes, it’s better to know a lot about a lot of course! But the expression doesn’t work so well like that!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I am a big believer in breadth of knowledge … but the key is knowing what you don’t know so if you have an idea that exceeds your experience, you can get someone in to validate, investigate or incinerate it – which ultimately ensures you don’t spend your clients money on rubbish but also, you do get to explore outside of ‘category norms’ which often exist because of reasons other than undisputible rules.

Comment by Rob


Know what you don’t know so you can ask the right questions.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

you would say that campbell or youd never be allowed out to meet people again.

Comment by andy@cynic

girth vs length debate, planner style.

Comment by niko

First post back from my holiday and I get snogging lesbians, the dangers of yes men and the revelation that Andy hangs on Rob’s every word.

Comment by northern

the only hanging i do for campbell is trying to put his neck in a fucking noose.

Comment by andy@cynic

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