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

Are We In Danger Of Doing Integration For The Sake Of Integrations Sake?
February 22, 2011, 3:17 am
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So yesterday I judged the integration panel of an Australian ad award show and basically the submissions fell into 4 distinct categories:

1/ Great idea badly integrated.
2/ Bad idea brilliantly integrated.
3/ Great idea brilliantly integrated.
4/ Bad idea badly integrated.

To be honest, there were a couple of absolute grade-A, fucking awesome ideas … ideas that I am unbelievably jealous of … but there were a whole heap of submissions that seemed to think that just because they were integrated into a bunch of different channels, it was enough to win an award.

Now I don’t know if this attitude was because of the agency or the client [or both] but just like too many people are focusing on the process rather than what the process delivers, too many clients/agencies are seemingly focusing on being integrated rather than understanding what’s right for the brand and audience to get the results they all need.

Putting aside the whole issue of whether there should even be an integrated category in award shows [my view is “no”, because we should always be doing the right thing by our clients, not making it out like it’s something special], I have to say that I think Ogilvy has to share a lot of the blame for this attitude.

Years ago, when they launched their 360 degree approach, they basically said [or that’s how it’s been interpreted] that an idea – any idea – has to work in every channel or it’s not right.

Now while I buy the thinking in principal, the problem is too many people took it verbatim and suddenly ideas were being executed in weird channels because they could, rather than because it was right and that’s my whole issue with the current integration approach … because judging on some of the submissions made today, a lot of agencies [or their clients] are advocating a “shove the idea anywhere” strategy when the reality is if they know their audience well enough, they should know how and where to develop an idea that allows them to be efficient with their approach, rather than plaster it all and bloody sundry. [Which is hardly a comms ‘strategy’ is it!?]

I am a massive advocate of integrated campaigns – though I’m still shocked how many people think taking a still from a TVC and banging it out everywhere makes it integrated when in reality, all that approach actually is, is duplication.

If people need to latch on to any phrase, it should be an integrated idea, not an integrated campaign … but sadly this is an industry that likes to talk without always appreciating the consequences.

All in all It was a good day … but what it also highlighted to me is that my speech on Wednesday is going to go down like a big bucket of slightly tepid sick.


The Illusion Of Stability …
February 20, 2011, 7:58 pm
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So I’m back in Sydney. Home. Well, kind-of.

What’s funny is that within about 10 seconds of landing here, I sort of automatically reverted to the life I led when I used to live here, 7 years ago.

Maybe it’s because I’m on my own … or maybe it’s because that while many aspects of my life have changed, certain elements are exactly the same … but I did catch myself in quite a few deja vu moments, especially when I was loading myself up with bad documentaries, ha!

To be honest, it felt good.

Normally when I re-visit a place I once lived, I feel a stranger … weirdly disconnected from everything around me, even though it’s pretty much the same as how I left it … but this time, it felt better and for a sentimental fart like me, that’s a wonderful feeling.

Then I had dinner with my friend.

This is a very important person to me – a person who I’ve gone through thick and thin with and who has continually offered support and friendship beyond the call of duty.

To be fair, I think I’ve done the same for them which is why I was devastated to hear the unbelievable dramas they’ve had going on in their life for the past 12 months.

Because we’re in regular contact, I knew quite a bit of what had been going on – and had naturally offered my support as best I could – but seeing their eyes as they recounted terrible situation after terrible situation broke my heart, not just because no one should go through the shit they’re going through, but because I was devastated they hadn’t felt able to tell me everything they had been going through.

That sounds incredibly selfish – but I’m not saying it because I didn’t feel important – I’m saying it because they’re an amazing person and all I want for them is happiness, health and success and the fact they were being slowly pushed down by situations not of their own making – and doing it alone – upset me massively.

Of course I understand why they kept these details to themselves – they’re personal and tragic – however friendship is about being there in bad times, not just good so I’m just glad I now know before it’s too late … which leads to the point of this post.

Life is never going to be all sweetness and light.

We’re all going to have ups and down, good times and bad … which is why I hate how society has been sort-of brainwashed into thinking the airing of any concerns or worries makes you weak or a failure because not doing so is actually more likely to make that outcome a reality.

Of course my industry doesn’t help.

Not just because they use fear to drive materialism which, in some circumstances, contributes to some people’s problems, but because they rarely ever acknowledge life is good and bad and has ups and downs so there’s this message put out that life should be like Disneyland and if you’re not feeling that way, then there’s something wrong with you.

I’m a big believer things can start to change with conversation.

I’m not talking about the superficial or simply spouting words out and not really hearing the reply, I’m talking about having a real conversation … where one person talks and the other listens and then they respond directly to what has been said rather than simply take things off on a tangent that is either about them or away from a subject they feel uncomfortable with.

As I wrote here, good things can happen when you talk about bad … and we should try to remove the stigma of that and whilst I genuinely believe adland can contribute to it, it is nothing compared to what we can do on our own with our friends.

I’ve said it many times, we all have 3 sides … personal, professional and private … and if you think you can really know someone without knowing bits of every side, then the person you’re kidding the most is yourself.

It’s a great pleasure to be back in Sydney and I’m genuinely excited about the Communication Circus, but all that takes second place to the fact this trip has reminded me that friendship needs more than just interaction, but connection.

I Left My Tan In Rio de Janeiro …
February 17, 2011, 7:56 pm
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After 2 days stuck in this …

… I have to say goodbye to this …

It’s been a really good trip … for personal, professional and sheer bloody “I’M-IN-RIO-FOR-A-MEETING” reasons … but without wishing to diss on it, it is also the sort of thing that has the potential to screw up adland because let’s face it, meetings in Rio are not reality – in fact they’re about as far from reality as a job can get – and that’s why it’s so bloody important you remember this sort of thing is a bit of a joke, because if you start to believe this is how life is, you’re screwed.

Maybe that’s another reason I’m Northern’s biggest fan … because as much asI know as he would enjoy being paid to get a sunburn on his bald head [which I got in approx 9 minutes] at the end of the day, the thing that makes him happiest is being at home with his wife and son and enjoying a nice cup of tea.

I don’t mean that in a sad way – to be honest, I’m a little the same [except you need to replace ‘son’ with ‘cat’] – it’s about not wanting to stray too far from ‘everyday reality’ [which is an oxymoron in itself] because that’s where you like to be because that’s where you want to belong.

I know it’s not true, but part of me thinks that’s why I like planners who either grew up – or worked – outside of London so much, because while the capital is an amazing place with an amazing and vibrant ad industry, there is more than a hint of ‘lifestyle bubble’ about the place and it’s very easy to be seduced away from the everyday when that actually is the place a planner really needs to be.

I say all that but now I head to Sydney to go and upset people by speaking about what they don’t want me to speak about [probably] so before I put my other foot in my mouth, I shall leave you be …

People Better Than You Bring Out The Best In You …
February 16, 2011, 9:27 am
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So as you know, I’m in Rio.

Apart from the fact the weather is stunning – as is the view [both landscape and eye candy] – one of the things I’m enjoying most, is sitting in a room with a bunch of my colleagues and trying to contribute to the conversation.

I know … I know … a bunch of planners in a room sounds like most peoples idea of hell, but we’re not going on endlessly about the optimum powerpoint template for a planning presentation, we’re being quite focused and disciplined on some key issues we want to get a better grip on, which are much more about what we don’t want planning to become rather than the other way round.

Anyway the reason I am enjoying the challenge of trying to contribute to the conversation is because my colleagues are good – like proper good – and the way they think/talk/act naturally makes me lift my game … both in terms of questioning what I believe and thinking about things I might otherwise not have considered.

To be honest, constantly questioning myself is one of my most common – and annoying – traits, however the challenges I’m facing aren’t because of a bunch of my self confidence issues, they’re because a bunch of clever folk have raised interesting thoughts and opinions that have resulted in me having to consider – and re-consider – a bunch of stuff I may otherwise have not thought of.

It’s for this reason I always believe you should work with people who are better than you.

Now lots of people say that because it’s the right thing to say, but the fact is, it’s true.

People who are better than you make you think and do in new, fresh and interesting ways … ways that more often than not, you’d of not even come up with, let alone consider … and that’s why collaboration is so bloody important, because someone who has to judge their own ideas will never be able to be truly objective.

And this leads back to a post I wrote recently about letting your fears drive you, rather than your ego.

Adlands ‘Ocean 11’ … except there’s only 6 of them [Dave Terry is off to the side, scaring locals] and only 2 are gorgeous.

Because as much as ‘better’ is open to interpretation [except in my case obviously] the thing is, I don’t believe anyone really wants to feel they’re adding nothing to the debate and so what they tend to do is try really hard to raise their game if only so they can feel they have earnt some respect from the people they respect so highly.

Of course this can be a dangerous game if it becomes about diminishing another persons ideas for your own personal gain, but as I wrote here, if done properly, fear can create creative tension that lets your brain/actions go to places you never thought they could go … and as a byproduct of that … the baseline of ideas gets raised and raised again and suddenly everyone starts getting to better places than they ever dreamed of achiving.

All of this is fairly obvious – and the theory fucks up because I doubt my colleagues would say my contributions have raised their game – however this is a pivotal reason why I believe planners should never work in isolation because at the end of the day, it is almost impossible to be truly objective and challenged when you are judging your own actions which is why regardless of whether you work in a big agency or on your own, you must find someone or someway to bounce things off because working with people better than yourself will improve you more than writing 10,000 briefs.

[PS: Has this post justified having this meeting in Rio yet?]

On Valentine’s Day, Love Is …
February 14, 2011, 11:00 pm
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… going to Rio [with Paul Colman!] and leaving the wife behind.

It’s the best present I could give her, trust me.