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

Rejoice …
March 29, 2011, 12:01 am
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… I’m away so go and do something useful instead.

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Revenge Never Tasted So Sweet …
March 28, 2011, 7:00 pm
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Created by my wife so I can give them to someone who really, really deserved them.

Pretty succinct and to the point.

Real turd-look icing.

[But fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on your outlook – it doesn’t taste like it]


I’m trying to convince Jill to turn these into a regular ‘Andy Collection’ but she’s not so sure they’d be a huge market for them in China. Pah!

Still, the essence of the story is don’t mess with me or you’ll get errrrrm, some tasty but purposefully offensive looking cupcakes.

That’s not so tough is it! Damn my Italian heritage!

Why Some Planners Need To Remember We Deal In Humans, Not Robots.
March 28, 2011, 6:16 am
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So tomorrow I head off to Seattle for my date with Microsoft.

Because of that, I don’t think I’ll be doing any posting for the next few days – which means regardless of what you think of Windows, VISTA or Windows 7, you have something to thank Bill Gates for.

To stop you feeling too pleased with yourself, I’m going to leave you with one of my overlong, over-rambly posts.

So I recently got asked to name the single most important thing I think a planner needs, to be able to do their job properly.

The sad thing is, when I told them, they looked at me with surprise … you see it wasn’t things like ‘curiosity’, ‘intelligence’ or ‘creativity’ [though they are all obviously quite important] it was empathy.

I must admit, I am getting a bit fed up how many planners diss human insight.

They act like it’s old hat, irrelevant or serves no purpose whatsoever when it’s anything but.

While I am a big believer that insights can – and should – come from many different places and perspectives, I still firmly believe that understanding what’s truly going on in your audiences heads and hearts is still the best way to drive the biggest change.

Before I go on, I should clarify something …

Understanding society doesn’t mean you simply do things that addresses what they want or think … god no … great brands have a point of view and a set of values that they stick to, that defines what they do and how they do it and if they gave those up, then they’re basically chasing success rather than attracting it.

That said, if you truly understand what is happening in people’s lives – not just in terms of how they interact with a particular brand or category, but in the wider aspects of their life – then new opportunities to be truly creative and meaningful will present themselves and suddenly you move from creating ads to creating fate.

And this is where empathy comes in.

I am aghast at how few planners get people beyond the sort of commentary you’d expect from a robot.

The questions they ask, the views they feedback … cold, one dimensional and lacking in any understanding of the issues, views and situations that are driving it.

Sure, on one level human beings are very similar … we all tend to have 2 arms, legs and eyes and have emotions that cover everything from eating to shitting … but to think that is all you need to know, or that all people’s thoughts and frames or reference are the same is both despicable and offensive.

Too many people are only focused on hearing what people say rather than feeling it – and yet the ability to genuinely understand the situations, issues and complexities that forge many of societies decisions is what turns communication from being a moment of attention into something that has much deeper meaning and value and that is why a planner who can ‘connect’ to people on a deeper level is far more valuable to me than a planner who can simply tell me what the latest trend is with a particular group of people.

Don’t get me wrong, that sort of stuff is important to … but I genuinely believe the greatest way to make a powerful and interesting difference – to brands & society – is to understand WHY things happen, not just WHAT and the only way you can really get that is to have empathy not just curiosity.

Don’t forget to enter Northern’s awesome A[P]SOTW assignment!

A[P]SOTW Assignment …
March 26, 2011, 6:00 am
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The ridiculously clever Northern Planner/Groper [delete as appropriate] has just put up a fantastic challenge for the next A[P]SOTW.

It all revolves around developing a cultural strategy for King Of Shaves … which is not only a brilliant task, but ensures you’ll end up knowing what one of the most over-used terms in adland really means, not to mention what it can really achieve.

His pre-assignment notes are an education in themselves, so take it a step further and have a go. Have fun and good luck.

PS: If you don’t know what A[P]SOTW is, there’s a bunch of links here.

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When You Are Stuck In A Corner …
March 25, 2011, 6:26 am
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So on Saturday it’s Earth Hour.

In a very short period of time, it’s become an established ‘event’ and given the tragic situation going on in Japan at the moment, it’s possibly going to be even more relevant this year than before.

But is it actually doing anything?

I don’t want to piss on it because any positive effect is a good effect, but my issue is that awareness isn’t the problem, it’s sustained behavioural change that’s needed and getting people to switch stuff off for a single hour a year just isn’t creating the cultural shift that’s needed on a long-term level.

What’s the answer?

Well that’s where I’m a fucking ass because I haven’t got one, but with no significant slow down of environmental change and an ever-increasing demand for various forms of energy, something drastic is going to have to happen because if people think they are making a major difference by turning their lights off for 60 minutes – out of a possible 525,000 plus minutes per year – then they are seriously deluded.

As I said, I don’t want to totally piss on it because [1] it’s made a statement and [2] it was allegedly created by an ad agency however as I’ve always contended, awareness doesn’t count for much if it doesn’t motivate the change in behaviour that’s called on which is why in an effectiveness award, I’d be more inclined to say it failed than passed.

Am I harsh?

Maybe … but the issue I’ve had with adland is that they are far too happy just ‘advertising the problem’ when what we should be doing – if only to justify our fees’ – is to try and ‘change the outcome’.

Now of course that is much harder to do, but I know there are a bunch of awesome brains in this industry who could/do come up with stuff that can genuinely create change rather than just create ads however until we stop going for the path of least resistance [or should I say easier fee justification, even though my approach is actually more profitable because you can charge a royalty for the idea as well as the usual fees to make the communication that promotes the idea] we will continue to be viewed as the cockroaches of commerce, and that bothers me a lot because done correctly, we can make a much bigger difference to people and society than many other industries.

But back to the point.

I think the people at Earth Hour have come to the same conclusion as me that to make a major difference, they need to make people change their attitudes longterm, not just their house lighting for one hour.

And why do I think that, because this is their new ‘logo’ …

Yep, they’ve added a fucking ‘+’ sign.


Oh yes, that’ll do it … global attitudinal change all by adding a simple symbol.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that completely and utterly undermines their cred.

It’s lazy, cheap and fails to credit the global population with any sense of intelligence.

The thing is, they could have done it differently.

They’re called EARTH HOUR, not ANNUAL EARTH HOUR so they could simply have created more events throughout the year to encourage a longer-term change in attitude and behaviour.

OK, so the cost of promoting that might be high, but there are other ways from consecutive Earth Hour’s – say 8pm, 9pm, 10pm – to simply making 8pm every Saturday a ‘lights out’ period, but to be honest there are a whole bunch of other methods that are way more likely to instigate change than putting a ‘+ sign’ on a fucking ad.

While any change is positive, we should always be focused on trying to achieve the ultimate goal and if we’re satisfied by simply raising awareness [though there are occasions when that is all that is needed, but certainly not as often as that ‘rationale’ is used by certain agencies and companies] or a momentary change of behaviour, then I think we’re selling ourselves short and not showing how brilliant – and collaborative – we can be.