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

We Need To Dumb Up, Not Dumb Down …
February 14, 2011, 2:19 pm
Filed under: Comment

So I’m sitting in the Air France lounge [above] at 6:30 in the morning, after a 12 and a half hour flight from Shanghai.

Obviously there’s not many people in here but those who are, are in ruffled suits either reading the paper, looking nervously at their documents or tapping furiously at their computer keyboards.

In terms of interior, if it wasn’t for the hard-wearing corporation carpet .. the lounge [which is called ‘The Salon’, as only the French could do] could easily be mistaken for an IKEA showroom because it’s all wood and various mood lighting.

You can just guess the design brief went something like:

“Reflect the aspirational brand values of the Air France brand … professional, contemporary, stylish.”

Well you know what, they failed.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice and clean … it has free wi-fi and offers as many croissants as you can fit down your throat [which is about the only French thing in the place] but it’s also soulless and derivative of every other company who wanted their interior to reflect the same brand attributes … which is why I know that when I leave it in about 45 minutes, I’ll never remember it or think about it again.

Now compare that to Virgin Atlantic.

Many years ago, we were brought in to work with an architecture firm to help create the Virgin Atlantic Lounge experience.

The key difference was that the brief Branson gave us didn’t include words like:

“Aspirational … contemporary … discernable taste”

… infact it didn’t include any descriptors whatsoever, he gave a clear and consise objective:

“Make me a lounge that people would want to miss their plane for”.

Now that’s a brief.

That’s something that tells you what you have to achieve rather than how to achieve it … and while we naturally had to include the Virgin DNA into everything we put forward … the fact is we could start by identifying things that people found emotionally magnetic rather than source items that reflected the brands specific tone & manner which, let’s face it, tends to be either blander than bland [so as to not offend anyone] or purely to the tastes of the CEO.

Too many briefs – regardless of the objective – are a reflection of what the brand wants to communicate about themselves rather than what the brand wants people to feel/think about them and that’s why when I travel, I always try and choose VA … not because of my relationship with them [though that obviously helps] … but because they ensure that even when you’re stuck in transit, you feel like you’re having the time of your life.

In a World where so many companies adopt a strategy of ‘safe’ rather than ‘meaning’ … it doesn’t take much to stand above the masses … and yet so many are seemingly so fearful of doing just that, which is amazing when you remember that thanks to technology, anything and everything you do will now be judged on a global basis, not just a local one.

If you want to make an impression, go for the highest common denominator, not the lowest – and that is something that is true whether you’re making ads or airport lounges.

48 Comments so far
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You think Lee won’t be able to see through your desperate attempt to get an upgrade with this post?

The VA lounge project was fun. Well the drinking was.

Comment by DH

If my memory serves me, you did plenty of that under the guise of creativity and research.

Comment by Lee Hill

It was all for research.

Comment by DH

I remember a few “invoices” that were submitted under the guise of research that raised a few eyebrows, and this is coming from a guy who once charged dinner with 4 strippers to work. [Which was for research before anyone asks!]

Comment by Rob

Shocked at the Air France lounge. You’d think they’d have a bit of their signature red touches, the warmth of hospitality along with the efficient service et al.

Virgin is ace.

Comment by Aditya

I found this post exceptionally interesting Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

What a surprise.

Comment by Rob

I’m going now. Off to Rio … land of babes, beaches, W+K planners and – super scary – Andy.


Comment by Rob

You write better posts when you are in a hurry. I still think it’s wank, it’s just less wank than the usual posts.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I remember once being asked how we got involved in architecture projects and I replied, “you haven’t met my boss yet have you?”

This post reminds me of something I’ll always be proud of and I consider myself fortunate to have been able to work with people who had an ability to get involved in projects normally off limits to mere advertising agencies. I think it’s called nosiness. 🙂

Great post Rob. Safe flight.

Comment by Bazza

After years of study they’ve found it’s all down to Rob being a rude prick.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Rather than “Make me a lounge that people would want to miss their plane for” wouldn’t it be better something like “Make me a plane that people would want to fly with”?
Air France’s best feature : to be on strike faster than any other company

Comment by mccasal

I think VA do that already mccasal. Besides, would you really want Robert involved in aeronautics? His moped projects were dangerous enough.

Comment by Bazza

I wouldn’t want Rob near a coffee machine.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I think he wants to be involved in swedish furnitures…

Comment by mccasal

he did that when he hired a fucking ikea bed designer and made him a fucking planner. the shit he put us through was unfuckingbelievable. hes who george w should of tried to stop for weapons of mass fucking destruction not fucking iraq.

Comment by andy@cynic

you fucking cant help yourself can you campbell. you make a big fucking noise about not writing any of your shit for a while and then write some bollocks the very next fucking day. politicians havent gone back on their word as much as you have.

yes the post is half fucking decent and yes you make a fucking point that has a modicum of fucking value, but dont you get it, we dont fucking care.

anyway to any fucker who is as upset as i am about campbell managing to squeeze out another post of shit during a few hours pissing stopover, rest assured he wont be bothering you for quite a while because i will sacrifice my own fucking sanity by keeping the wanker amused and abused while hes pissing about on dan wiedens dime in fucking rio.

i know, im a fucking hero. now wheres my fucking sainthood?

Comment by andy@cynic

Happy Valentine…

Comment by mccasal

it will be when i can get our my fucking house and to the fucking airport but its hard to get out the door because of all the hot lingerie and cards that have been shoved through the bottom of it.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Billy Whizz

you fuckers dont know youre born.

Comment by andy@cynic

Is it just me or does the photo for the VA lounge look like Spearmint Rhino in las vegas?

Comment by DH

for fucked legal reasons, you have to say “influenced by”.

Comment by andy@cynic

good call. would be even more fucking popular with some of their finest serving the booze. why the fuck didnt campbell think of that one eh? ill tell you why, because hes a fucking wimp.

Comment by andy@cynic

and he has the design aesthetic of someone from fucking seattle.

Comment by andy@cynic

great read, truly inspiring!

Comment by zeljko

Great post.

Comment by Will

are people on fucking drugs. hes poncing in some international lounge and people are being nice to him. fucking kids today.

Comment by andy@cynic

That hadn’t passed me by. Ooh look, I’m eating warm croissants in a comfy sofa while the hio polloi are out if sight and out of mind, fighting over metal chairs designed by the Marquis De Sade, before feverishly queuing to get on their flight, but you know what, the design ethos really gets my goat.
By the way, the stitching on my wallet is broken from all the $100 bills and by diamond encrusted Birkenstocks are too tight

Comment by northern

I thought the same, northern.
and then remembered that the revenue for an airline probably comes in this order: rich bastards (1st/bus); freight/cargo; cattle.

attending to those pool-playing, croissant-eating, diamond-encrusted-birkenstock-wearing motherfuckers is probably the key to staying in the skies. so I shut the fuck up. kinda.

but it could also be that we should still give rob hell.

Comment by lauren

Quite right, the system’s fine, it’s Mr jaded by all his goodies who needs the grief
He doesn’t care anyway, by now he’ll be drowning in thong wearing, gyrating samba lovelies

Comment by northern

I’ve never met him, so I don’t know what he looks like, but I suddenly thought of Andy in a thong.

Really liked the post.

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

I often quote that as my favourite ever brief. Of the small number of airlines I have flown I definitely think VA were the best. Qatar Airways have a lot to live up to…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I disagree. I’ll write a whole post why. promise.

Comment by lauren


Comment by Rob Mortimer

i really like the hate coming out in the comments of this shitty post. he deserves every fucking insult. but dont fret, ill make him pay and I mean with blood and dollar bills.

ciaran. im fucking hot in a thong but you knew that and want it. fucking pervert.

Comment by andy@cynic

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OK … OK … I sound like some nancy bastard, but I’m not really – however I also know no amount of begging will appease you guys so do your worst, it’s not like you haven’t been preparing me for it for the last 4 years.

Comment by Rob

It’s not like you don’t deserve it.

Comment by DH

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