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

The More Things Change, The More They Are Depressingly The Same …
January 18, 2011, 6:18 am
Filed under: Comment

So I fancied a bit of nostalgia and decided to check out the cynic original ‘reason for being’ paper I wrote on June 11th 2003.

This is what it said.

We’re angry that many companies treat the public like morons.

We’re angry advertising agencies inflict painful commercials on the world justified by a few people at a research group who have been deemed an ‘accurate segmentation of the general population’.

We’re angry companies talk ‘loyalty’ but most don’t know what it even means.

We’re angry companies are blatantly attempting to turn the World into frightened-consumers where if they don’t own-this, try-that, smell-like-this or look-like-that they are branded 2nd class citizens.

We’re angry products are upgraded in the blink of an eye.

We’re angry the brand experience rarely meets the brand promise.

We’re angry ‘customer service’ is something you read about in history books.

We’re angry brands are more about ‘blending in’ than ‘standing out’.

We’re angry most ads are boring, stupid or have absolutely no idea in them.

We’re angry most “solutions” are ads and when they’re not, in the majority of cases, they have about as much commercial understanding and reality as a 4 year old.

We’re angry ‘average’ is becoming a defined business direction.

We’re angry adland talks about innovation but most of the time, it’s just the same old wrong said a new way.

We’re angry the poor person in the street is regarded simply as a ‘walking wallet’ for a company’s balance sheet.

We’re angry communication companies don’t seem to care about people … the men and women of the World who spend 8 hours a day working in a job they can’t stand just to pay for a bloody air freshener they’ve been told they have to own.

And you know what, I’m still angry about those things.

Very angry.

Not just because these things still exist – which means in the big scheme of things, cynic failed – but because it is still pretty much the norm almost 8 years later.

But if I was starting cynic today, there’d be some more things I’d be adding to this list and that would include the following …

I’m sick of adlands celebration of digital campaigns that are really just a TV ad that’s been placed online.

I’m sick of adland acting like storytelling is a new pheneomenon that can change the world of business and creativity.

I’m sick adland and its associated publications, conferences and god-knows-what, choose to ignore this or talk big and then – in the majority of cases – do exactly what they’ve always done.

I’m sick of adland treating ‘content’ like it’s nothing like an ad when in the majority of cases, it’s just a longer, more convoluted and – sadly – more mindnumbingly boring version of the ‘classic’ 30 second spot, which at least had the decency to be over in the blink of an eye so we could get on with the stuff we really were interested in.

The thing is, I love this industry.

It’s been very good to me and I know – thanks to the many very clever people in it and a few special agencies/companies – that it can make a massive difference, not just to companies, but to the wider community as well … however with its obsession to achieve quarterly targets at any price, that potential is not just being pushed to one side but being forgotten.

Of course money is important, hell, I’m a big fan of money – and hopefully making as much of it as I possibly can – but if the powers-that-be carry on ignoring the fundamental elements that can prove and celebrate our value and just choose to either [1] get their end-of-year bonus &/or [2] focus on things that make us feel better or more important … then we’re in danger of not having a business that is worth being part of in the next 20 or 30 years.

I know I’ve said all this before.

I know some will think I am being overly dramatic.

I know some will say I only do this because I’m too thick to come up with something original and exciting.

Maybe that’s all true … maybe I’m just in a pissy mood after reading another industry mag that is basically a PR outlet for agencies egos … but I’m over these fundamental issues being ignored by the wider industry, so if you guys can tell me any things that you think adland are happily ignoring – even though they are actually fundamental to what we’re supposed to do – let me know and I promise you I will use them as the basis of any presentation I am asked to do, starting with this one.

Of course action is more important than words … but like alcoholics and drug addicts … if we can get them to admit they have a problem, we’ve achieved the first step in helping everyone getting a bigger, better, brighter future, not just the lucky bastards who work with/for the few agencies or bosses who are already making this happen.

50 Comments so far
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just what the fuck has got in to you campbell? you went away for christmas a mild boring planning fuck and youve back in 2011 a mild planning fuck. what did Jill feed you, a fucking 1990 attitude time machine?

of course everything you say in this post is shit youve said countless fucking times before but its the way you are saying it that i like, youre fucking spitting it out punk style and asking for a fucking scrap. bit stupid doing that being an iti but still fucking impressive.

ps) rereading our ad threats reminded me we were fucking good. why did you have to go and fucking ruin it. cock.

Comment by andy@cynic

What can I say? Will ‘sorry’ do?

Comment by Rob

only if its accompanied with a great big fucking bankers draft.


well fuck you then.

Comment by andy@cynic

youre going to australia as one of the headline acts? fuck me, and i thought that gruen bollocks proved they were stupid.

Comment by andy@cynic

Campbell follows in Oprah’s footsteps. You would have thought one would have sufficed. 🙂

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

where the fuck have you been freddie? with acidic comments like that you have come back with a fuckin boom. now come back and lay some more oprah shit at campbells feet.

Comment by andy@cynic

Piers Morgan is the new Oprah, didn’t you know?

Comment by northern

He certainly hasn’t come back to get us to look at his blog, it’s quieter than a brothel during a clap epidemic
I say we go over to Freddie’s blog and comment innane rubbish until he posts somegthing, anything, anything at all

Comment by northern

I’ve been taking a break from places like this. Trying to have a life not in front a screen for a change is quite refreshing.

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

Freddie! How the hell are you? I thought Chaz was keeping you too busy to even come here, let alone write a comment.

Anyway, I’m in Singapore on Sunday so I’ll smack you round the bonce as we eat a huge buffet for your cheek.

Great to hear from you mate, be even greater to see you.

Comment by Rob

What you propose sounds appealing Rob -buzz me when you’ve arrived and we’ll make a plan.

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

I’m angry a planner is getting an all expenses paid trip to Australia for no reason. The organisers might think there’s a reason, but after they’ve seen Rob in action they’ll realize I’m right.

Comment by Billy Whizz

youd think the aussies would have learnt that from fucking oprah as well.

Comment by andy@cynic

The sad part [for me and – in time – the Aussie organisers) is I agree with you Billy. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

“Once I was asked to head up a new long-range planning effort. My wife listened to my glowing description of my new job. Next evening she blew the whole schmeer out of the water by asking: “What did you plan today, dear?” Bless her.
Robert Townsend, 1970

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

Last week I was asked to explain planning to a bunch of international students. I replied:

“My Mum still doesn’t understand after 20 odd years of explanation, so I’m not going to waste your time trying to do it in 5 minutes.”

They looked relieved.

Comment by Rob

youre not normally that kind. you are going fucking soft in your old age.

Comment by andy@cynic

There’s only so many times you can see pain in peoples eyes before even the coldest of hearts starts to melt. That’s why I admire you, you have managed to keep the evil streak going for longer than most. Ha.

Comment by Rob

one of my many fucking skills. but i note you fucking ignore my pain to still give me shit. bastard.

Comment by andy@cynic

Keeps your anger energy levels up.

I’m like your personal trainer of hate …

The things I do for you …

Comment by Rob

To answer your request, I’d wonder whether:

Much of adland sees their role as solving an advertising problem when they should be solving a business problem.

Much of adland is built of siloes that effectively generates layers of specialisation that separate the ultimate solution from the original problem and in doing so distorts the whole process in the way that chinese whispers distort comprehension.

Much of adland focusses on always providing their best solution when sometimes they should be pointing out that the better solution may come from somewhere else (e.g. another department, another channel or a reframing of the problem).

Much of adland allows clients to insist on all the above.

Comment by John

You forgot that much of adland focuses on the channels that makes them the most money rather than what is right for the challenge. But then too many people follow this route – including clients – so you can hardly blame them for being so myopic. And shortsighted.

I’m sadly in agreement with everything else you say – not sad because you’re right, but sad because it is right. Again, I still think the heart of making things better is to focus on doing the right thing and getting paid well as a byproduct of that rather than just focusing on the money – but then what the hell would I know.

Comment by Rob

I continue to admire and respect your desire to shift the advertising industry to a better place. Whether this is feasible or sensible from personal, professional or commercial points of view is a bigger debate.

That aside, if the industry had more people like you within it, I am sure the health of the industry would be much stronger.

Seeing your passion in full throttle is invigorating. Keep it up.

Comment by Lee Hill

There’s no glory in stealing candy from babies Lee …

Well there is, but winning/stealing is better when it’s done from good competitors than bad. God I am pathetically sad aren’t I.

Comment by Rob

You could be a big partnof the solution Lee. Not you personally but YOU, you know.. shift the balance of play totally in one samurai stroke..

Which leads me to my fundamental question: why has adland never properly organised/unionized to support and truly fight for it’s biggest asset( people and their creativity to solve business problems through solutions that resonate enough with citizens to open their wallets) or offered a proper scalable alternative for clients and talent to the two most hatefully pronounced words in adland: network agency? Seems adland is more master of maintaining stat quo then experts in changing it so how does that boost client confidence to ask for more than paint by numbers?

Comment by Niko

Good point Niko – but this sort of devolution plays into the hands of the big boys who can mop up the crap and make a profit on it because of scale, hence keeping things exactly as they are is a kinda-mad strategy.

Of course, now we’re seeing agencies like mine pick up big P&G projects means the big boys may have to lift their game, but short term profit always tends to cloud long term issues, mainly because the attitude is that by then, it’ll be someone else’s issue.

Comment by Rob

Those oz organisers aren’t that stupid Rob, they didn’t use your photo in the press release.

Comment by DH

Now that’s real strategy.

[Ignoring the fact, the real, real, real strategy would be not inviting me in the first place]

Comment by Rob

I wonder if other industries spend as much time arguing about “it’s future”? Actually, I know of at least three other industries that do – but they don’t seem to do it in the same way. Things are changing all over the place. Some industries seem to be able to deal with this change better than others and some industries, new ones, bubble out of the change. The better ones become the benchmark, leaving the industries who struggle with change looking old and slow (and the same).

Good morning.

Comment by Marcus

Great point Marcus – why do you think that is.

My view is that a lot of the time, they do little to actually change their situation and so the same old issues keep raising their ugly head – especially when revenue issues start impacting the conversation.

Of course not everyone is like this, but my god, we do seem to do it more than most.

Comment by Rob

Why? Certain industries know their place. Others (advertising) don’t.

Comment by Marcus

True – but don’t you think that sometimes, “not” knowing [or more precisely, not accepting] your place can lead to great things?

Mind you, the issue I think that is driving it is that many agencies don’t want to accept their place but do nothing about it but whinge and say “that could have done it better”.

Comment by Rob

I’m not talking to you anymore. You know why.

Comment by Marcus

German tourist?

Comment by Rob

My kids.

Comment by Marcus

The agencies run by people that have actually worked in the business tend to evolve, move with the times etc.
The ones (most of them) run by ‘businessmen’ don’t and face off with ‘businessmen’ who run the client companies.
Most agencies pretend to be professional and do things by linear process, when process tends to lead to the obvious answer and since all agency process is the same, bar the branding, well, you know the drill.

Comment by northern

Don’t know if I completely agree with that NP … at least in multinationals because [sadly] the guys who tend to run those have got there because of resilience or maintenance rather than leadership … but then maybe that is exactly why they’re liked so much by the holding companies.

At least businessmen – or businessmen who have started/run their own company – appreciate the need to evolve and drive business, but then I wouldn’t want Alan Sugar as my boss so maybe I’m talking clap trap. As usual.

Comment by Rob

Alan Sugar = Richard Branson – charm – human understanding – creative understanding.

That’s the difference between a successful businessman and a billionaire entrepreneur.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Let’s get this clear once and for all, Sugar made the vast majority of his money from property speculation.

Comment by John

He was also behind the manufacture of an Amstrad stereo I got when I was about 11 that was fucking pants so he’s in my bad books, even if his rant about adland on The Apprentice made me like him. A lot.

Comment by Rob

I have no interest in his opinion on adland. A guy who thinks a creative poster is one that has £149.99 written in purple instead of red.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

You should hear his view on adland, it was fucking great – especially as he’d just watched Publicis London do some work for him/his contestants.

Comment by Rob

I may have a listen, but he seems to have so little creative understanding I doubt even accurate comments are made for the right reasons.

Comment by Rob Mortimer


We need to be nice, be honest, be open, be engaging and be creative.

I believe it is very much a problem caused by spending two decades showing the client and businessmen just how much profit we were making. The previous generations of adland brought it on themselves and this is the consequence we have to deal with.

We need to stop being pompous, be creative but without huge egos, be more understanding of people and their time (it’s their time we invade).

People love good advertising, isn’t that the perfect reason to make it?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I’m lost – I must have written the comment badly as per usual – I kind of meant that the multi national people haven’t got the experience, skills. attitudes, like, unfortunately the leaders of multi-national agency operations
So that’s why I agre that the people – in either camp who have built stuff up themselves- i.e actually done the job tend to ‘get it’
That’s why I admire BBH’s policy of promoting from within and the way Wieden’s started with the ad people no one else wanted.

Comment by northern

If Marcus hadn’t got a job soon I was tempted to start an agency just to bring him into adland…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

It’s not you, it’s me.

[Have you heard that before NP? Ha]

I’ll casually skip over your W+K hiring policy comment incase I incriminate myself. But the BBH one is a good one, and something the industry could learn from because it ensures you actually train and nurture your people, rather than just chuck them in the deep end and tell them to sink or swim.

Comment by Rob

I didn’t mean you honest.
As for that phrase, usually I’ve got, “It’s not me, it’s you” but there you go

Comment by northern

Mrs NP is a Saint.

Comment by Rob

[…] Trick is indentifying what kind of work you are doing, so you can start planning for the inevitable change needed for things to remain sort of the same. […]

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