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


Sinsights …
April 20, 2011, 6:23 am
Filed under: Comment

Hello Ineffectiveness!

So I’m one of the judges at the AME festival and the category I’ve been given to look at is ‘best insight’.

There are a lot of entries … covering a lot of categories … and I have to say the standard of them overall has been average.

Sure, there are some fucking awesome ones, the sort of insight that not only pulls you in with its genius, but also makes you hugely jealous with it’s discovery … however there are some that are nothing short of a scandalous embarrassment.

To be fair, some of the issues are because …

1/ Some entries come from agencies in countries where English is not the native language … so they can’t articulate themselves as they would like to and end up being at an immediate disadvantage.

[The fact entries have to be submitted in English is an issue in itself. I appreciate it’s the language of business but we are in Asia and it kind of reflects many of the issues I talked about here]

2/ Some agencies just don’t know how to write a compelling submission meaning it’s all over the place and you literally have to put it together like a written jigsaw.

… however that still doesn’t excuse the fact that there’s a hell of a lot that are utter bullshit and the fact certain agencies felt it OK to enter means they either are deluded [which I doubt], think the judges are so fucking stupid they might not realise [which I hope not] or believe that because the company behind the awards make so much money from putting them together, they will encourage everyone to not be too harsh for fear of stopping them entering next year. [which is possible, but not true]

While there are many types of insight, at it’s heart, they’re all about WHY stuff happens rather than WHAT.

As a concept, that shouldn’t be too hard, however it would appear there’s a hell of a lot of people who view that as one of the greatest challenges known to man because entry after entry was just pointless or generic observation, after pointless or generic observation.

Now I don’t know who is to blame for it.

Clients: who obviously don’t get what an insight is and just want something that makes them feel they’re great regardless of relevance or reality.

Agencies: who seemingly don’t care what an insight is as long as their client keeps spending money with them.

Planners: who don’t get what an insight is due to bad training, talent or understanding.

Of course not all entries were bad. As I said, some were fucking astounding … however if I was to look at the overall standard, I’d say it was a distinctly average bunch.

And that breaks my heart because it undermines what we are all capable of doing and contributing to both industry, commerce and culture.

However one thing that really, really, really got my goat was how many submissions had insights that bore no reflection in the work that was produced.

In many cases it was like I was looking at 2 totally separate entries.

The thing is, this is a marketing effectiveness award [though based on the entries, it’s really should be called an advertising effectiveness award] with the goal to show how your genius/devious approach, transformed the success of your brand in disproportionate terms.

If you end up with an ad that basically is either [1] the same as it always has been or [2] a category cliché … then I can’t see how you can claim you contributed something innovative that had a devastatingly positive effect on the brands result.

Effectiveness awards are more than just the result, it’s how you achieved the result … and if you’re going to say it’s the insight, then make sure you tick off the following criteria:

1/ It’s a genuine insight … not an observation or just plain bollocks.

2/ The insight is fresh, interesting, relevant and – to a certain degree – explainable … not some ‘bland’ or ‘state-the–obvious’ rubbish or some statement that suddenly makes an appearance with no explanation and then is never touched on again.

3/ The work reflects the insight … that doesn’t mean the work is the insight, just reflects it.

4/ The work that reflects the insight is work that doesn’t reflect the category. As far as I am concerned, it shouldn’t reflect a brands ‘usual’ approach either …however if you are doing something genuinely different to the category, then I can sort-of accept why you might want to enter it again, even though winning with that insight one year makes me think you shouldn’t be able to enter it again the following year. But that’s just me.

5/ The results you’re claiming actually mean something. Something tangible and commercially valuable. Including how many fucking ‘facebook likes’ you got or that some 16 year old spotty blogger in Singapore thinks “it’s like, totally rad. Dude” is not effectiveness, it’s called making a silk purse out of a pile of shit. And you can include ‘how many youtube hits’ in that as well. Basically anything that tries to flog ‘awareness’ rather than shareholder value.

Of course, the alternative is to not enter any awards where I have been kindly asked to be a judge … though I know the other guys casting their eyes over the entries and they make me look like Mary Poppins.

Saying all that, apart from some truly amazing entries that deserve all the praise they will get – the award event is shaping up to be truly awesome with some fantastic speakers ranging from Mark Earls and Rory Sutherland through to PT Black and founder of Tudou, Gary Wang so if you find yourself in Shanghai on the 12th and 13th May and don’t mind being seen in public with me, pop in and I’ll buy you a drink. As long as it’s a Diet Coke.


76 Comments

Insight – there are too may awards shows.

Comment by John

That’s a statement of what’s happening John, not why. 🙂

Comment by Pete

Good point. I’m guessing ego and laziness – on both sides of the relationship.

Comment by John

you walked into that fucker didnt you doddsy.

Comment by andy@cynic

Another great post today Rob. It’s really sad that you found so many entries to be poor. Once upon a time the Asia region could blame it on the marketing discipline being underdeveloped with not enough senior and experienced people running throughout the organization but no now, so it has to be because of lack of training and lack of standards.

Were the submissions packed full of words and charts? Always a good sign the author is struggling to justify their entry.

Your 5 criteria are good but I think if each box on the entry form was limited to just 100 words, it would separate the bad from the good and drive better standards almost immediately.

Comment by Pete

oh stop being such a fucking creep pete. the 100 word shit is quite good though, it means you can go to the fucking pub sooner, im all for that shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

I like the 100 word limit per box idea Pete …

To be fair, there was a ‘total word limit’ per submission but you’re right, way too many entries went on and on and on with terms and charts that ultimately served no purpose other than to confuse or deviate focus from the main issue.

Best entry I saw was short, concise and to the point … mainly because the thinking and the work sold itself which – to your point – demonstrates submissions with confidence and submissions with nervousness.

Comment by Rob

The “all submissions must be in English” is a good point. I don’t really know a way around it unless they hire quality translators to either re-write their submission or talk to the judges (if they don’t speak that language) but it does immediately place them at a disadvantage.

So I will ask the question I know most people on here will want to know, what was the worst insight you read or can’t you say?

Comment by Pete

He’s just slagged everything off, if he can’t take the piss out of the worst thing he read he’s an italian wimp.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Oh that’s right, he IS an italian wimp, no dirt then.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I can’t. Not now. Or at least not in public. Hahahaha.

Comment by Rob

Why is there an award for those things that stop creatives from making the idea they want to make? That shows how sick you planners really are.

Comment by Billy Whizz

theyre like the nazis billy except weaker, shitter, wimpier and with crapper uniforms.

Comment by andy@cynic

Why were you asked to be a judge?

Comment by Billy Whizz

the usual reason billy, desperate.

Comment by andy@cynic

Yes, the usual reason.

Comment by Rob

Another award show celebrating the best author of an entry paper. Guess DDB will have won loads again then.

They’re the only agency that can enter one campaign and win 100 awards because they enter in to every category going. It’s not a complaint or a criticism, just an observation. (Not an insight Pete)

Comment by DH

Why weren’t you asked to judge best use of cats?

Comment by John

Be fair John, he was already judging 1 pointless category, he can’t be expected to manage them all.

Comment by DH

The answer is John, because they wouldn’t let me enter my own moggy [not in the bestiality sense] and so I walked away in a huff.

Comment by Rob

Just seen Australia are included in the region of these awards. Like their national football team, it appears they’re happy to be part of Asia when it means they stand a better chance to win. Based on Rob’s comments, that sounds like the best use of strategy at the awards.

Comment by DH

Rob will be proud of that comment David. Fair comment too.

Comment by Pete

been drinking the piss & vinegar again dave?

Comment by andy@cynic

Oh I like that. I like that a lot.

Comment by Rob

And why the fuck are you using our ex president in such an insulting way. He was very effective, he brought a strong country to its knees in under a decade. Even adland can’t achieve that sort of result.

Comment by Billy Whizz

theyre fucking working towards it.

Comment by andy@cynic

Rob, do you think you can have excellent creative work without an insight?

Comment by Angus

yeah come on campbell, answer the manwomans question.

i know the fucking answer, but lets see how youve fucking changed without my guidance.

Comment by andy@cynic

Of course you can Angus – however I genuinely believe a great insight [which doesn’t mean it’s come from a planner, in fact it’s becoming more common that it won’t have given the one-dimensional approach so many of them have in identifying them] lets more interesting, meaningful, adaptive and longer-lasting work to be created.

The issue isn’t the value of an insight, for me the issue is the standard of what gets classed as one and a lot of that also has to do with the time that is given to actually identify them.

The sad fact is too many planners are hired for fee justification rather than creative liberation hence the need to have an insight to deliver excellent creative work is more open to debate, even though the effectiveness of that work is potentially harder to be assured of.

Which leads to the debate of what is excellent creative work and what is effectiveness … but I’ve banged on about that in the past and quite frankly, I know no one is interested.

Now how the hell are you and how is the life 2.0 going?

Comment by Rob

my comment was way fucking better.

Comment by andy@cynic

Phew. I was worried for a moment that you felt insights were essential. As Andy says, it’s fucking obvious that they’re not.

Too often they’re forced and then shite and the real ‘insight’, for want of a better term, may come in production etc.

For what it’s worth, I also have a slight question mark in my mind re the emphasis on ‘why’. Certainly there’s some good juice in ‘why’ but I think of one of my favourite ads of all time, the Tide ‘silence the stain’ ad, for example. I’m sure some wanker could write an appalling ‘insight’ that has an element of ‘why’ in it, but the truth is they just cleverly showed what stains can do. Is it not then an insight? I’m happy to not call it an insight, but it’s still a nugget of potential inspiration for creatives, isn’t it? (Of course I’m just using this as an example – one imagines the creatives came up with the nugget anyway, as is often the case…)

You know, I don’t think I’ve seen a real, well written, insight for years.

Manwoman

PS. 2.0 is the same as 1.0 but with more smiles and screaming

Comment by Angus

if you want to do more than just a fucking ad you need to know “why” which is why most of adland only talks about doing more while that ugly fucker campbell has gone and done it.

and i didnt say insights arent important, if you get the fucker right they make a fucking big difference in every fucking way, the issue is the great ones are fucking rare bastards which is why campbell will always get some credit for saying that sometimes the biggest insight is there isnt one. takes balls to say that. or a creative with a loaded gun.

Comment by andy@cynic

and maybe the tide insight was people were over false fucking promises and wanted to see the bastard working in front of their eyes because they dont want to put all their faith in a product that still shows theyre a messy fucking eater when they pop down the shops to buy some more soup. greedy fuckers.

Comment by andy@cynic

would that insight win your fucking poxy award campbell?

Comment by andy@cynic

In response to Andy, of course a good insight is important, but better to have no ‘why’ insight and just a good obvious nugget (if you have good creatives) than some wank bullshit that someone’s used for post rationalisation.

Comment by Angus

Of course another major issue is the ability to be able to communicate an insight to the wider team in a way that is interesting, exciting and feeds the imagination …

And then there’s the whole ‘perceived insight’ versus the ‘real insight’ which I’m a massive fan of as I wrote here: http://bit.ly/e29Otp

But I agree with Andy that if you want to do something that goes beyond adland you need to know the ‘why’ of an insight because that tells you what you actually have to impact, not just what they are doing.

And yes Andy, your insight for Tide would win an award. That’s how low some of the standards were … ha!

Comment by Rob

insights. the fucking most overused term since “of course ill never leave you”. manwoman angus asks if you can have excellent creative work without it and its fucking plainly obvious you can but when you get have a fucking great insight it means you can go to places creatively that you didnt even think about and can make work that means more for longer.

the problem is what a load of sad fucks class as an insight and how the fuck they get them. theres only so many ways you can say the same fucking thing in a different way and if you have fuckers who will only approach an issue in one way thats what youre going to end up getting. to do fucking excellent creative in a fucking meaningful way you need people who look at the world in different ways because they see angles on shit the traditionalists cant fathom and so it has fuck all about having a title with the word “planner” on it and everything to do with how you see and feel the world from others fucking perspectives.

adland has given creatives shit for acting like theyre the only ones allowed to be creative because it says so on their business card well i say planners are shit for acting like theyre the only ones who can be clever because it has planning on their card. and what the fuck does planning mean? it doesnt come across as understanding emotions and people its a fucking hard, cold, clinical word designed to keep corporate accountants happy and make companies forget were about talking to other people.

for the record i dont hate all planners. campbell and his like are good but thats because they got fucking well trained and worked with me. its the ones who go off into mba land that get on my tits, who think people are robots, dont want colour and imagination in their lives and will always do shit based on a reasoned argument, which as far as i can tell, no fucking mba planning cock would understand what that is.

if campbell is slagging off the quality of insights its not just because theyre just shit, its because the work that came from it was bollocks. the thing (only thing?) i like about him is he bases planning on the work it produces not the shit that was written and he takes responsibility to help his team do better shit and sell better shit. if there were more like him (but without the birkenstocks and queen shit) maybe more creatives would give planners the time of day but right now, getting a brief that has cliches and yoda statements all over it makes us want to kill.

this is the longest fucking comment ive ever written. i feel fucking sick.

Comment by andy@cynic

Long comment.
Good comment.
Compliments.

If you think I can’t tell this is your attempt to butter me up to buy you a great birthday present, you must be mental.

Comment by Rob

you owe me my fucking livlihood so i sure as fucking shit expect an overpriced fucking birthday present from me you tight bastard.

Comment by andy@cynic

you mean planners are supposed to do more than make the coffee? who knew.

Comment by Billy Whizz

and theyre shit at that too.

Comment by andy@cynic

This is blatant bum licking

Comment by Angus

not based on average fucking bag carrier suit standards its not.

Comment by andy@cynic

An insight isn’t necessary to make meaningful communication, an insight is necessary for brands to understand what their audience regard as meaningful communication.

Comment by Lee Hill

look at lee being all deep and fucking meaningful.

and you better mean brands needs to understand how people think and feel rather than some focus group shit that only talks about an ad and their fucking brand.

Comment by andy@cynic

wheres my present?

Comment by andy@cynic

I would not dare mean anything else Andrew.

And it’s in the post.

Comment by Lee Hill

1) good.
2) fucking typical.

Comment by andy@cynic

It’s interesting how we (and I don’t mean just planners) obsess about insight while seemingly placing relatively little or no importance on foresight.

Has anyone ever come across an award for it?

And I think this is more that just semantics by the way.

Now, I know for a fact that a killer insight can unlock massive opportunity and take the creative exploration into areas it would otherwise never have touched on.

But I agree with Lee that “An insight isn’t necessary to make meaningful communication, an insight is necessary for brands to understand what their audience regard as meaningful communication”.

I guess the problem with the traditional insight obsession is most pronounced when it happens in the large multinationals. Because in this environment, more often than not, insight = focus group. And we probably all agree that this methodology has huge limitations. Don’t get me wrong, focus groups can be great, but they can also be directly damaging. And this issue gets amplified when virtually all brands out there use the same research companies, asking the same consumers the same questions. Insights, in effect, become commoditised.

If only the large multinationals could stop systematically stigmatising mistakes and risk-taking, and instead empower their marketers (decision-makers at large) to actually think and use their judgment. Then brands would naturally be more foresight driven – on the front foot anticipating where the audience is going – as opposed to staring in the rear mirror in the form of a “focus group”, constantly struggling to keep up with change.

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

Question Rob, what were you calling a bad insight? A state the obvious observation or just plain rubbish?

Comment by Pete

why do planners always give a fucking option? its not a fucking schoolyard game. its fucking obvious the answer will be “both” and that doesnt make me a fucking insightful fucking genius to know that even though i am a fucking insightful genius.

Comment by andy@cynic

I stand corrected.

Comment by Pete

too fucking right you do. i should charge for this shit. what the fuck is going to go on when im on my fucking birthday holiday is any fuckers guess but i know its all going to go to shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

Your ‘pick a side’ rant makes you sound like Jill … which bothers me nearly as much as it will bother her.

Comment by Rob

I think you and Northern should do a reverse takeover of every strategy group around the World, starting with the APG.

Comment by Bazza

But we all know italians only fight for whichever side is winning. (Sorry Mrs C)

Comment by Billy Whizz

and groper is too busy on youporn to mount any fucking challenge.

Comment by andy@cynic

this post is fucking great.
although i can’t work out whether it’s because
a) i’ve landed myself a project that has me writing “what is meaningful?” and “why?” on bits of card and sticking them up on my desk; b) the comments from lee, dave and andy (andy! whoa!) are amazing or c) rob is on a ranty, nailing-it roll that we’re all benefiting from.

judging from andy’s last comment, i must be a planner because clearly it’s d) all of the above.

i’m guessing “gut feeling”, “intuition” and “my mum” are not sufficient forms of insight at these awards. shame. 🙂

Comment by lauren

Never underestimate ‘gut feeling’ Lauren …

Of course, finding evidence to back it up is important [not to mention the strength to walk away when you’re proved wrong] but I’m a massive fan of ‘gut’ if only for the fact if you take planning on a logical level, it’s job is to make brands ‘fit in’ not ‘stand out’ and so following the usual process and questions means you are working towards category conformity rather than cultural value & meaning.

Or something …

Comment by Rob

oh, and buy a girl a drink before you use georgie baby as your leading image again. i almost spewed before 10am when i opened this post up.

Comment by lauren

That implies my blog posts don’t normally make you spew. That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

Comment by Rob

i do my best.

Comment by lauren

Maybe you should become a suit. Or a politician.

Comment by Rob

ok, that’s the third time you’ve suggested i become a suit or a politician. officially entering existential crisis….

Comment by lauren

Interesting stuff – it seems that it’s been concluded that insights don’t have to have a why – thus rendering my initial comment less naive than it may have appeared.

Yet, it also seemed to be suggested that there was a need for new insights and while I can see that’s a way to resist stale thinking, doesn’t this just encourage the “identification” of insights that are nothing of the sort.

I know they’re not interchangeable but a business that claimed a new sustainable competitive advantage every couple of years would be derided, so why do it with insights? Isn’t this exactly why the screaming manwoman Angus points out he/she hasn’t seen a good insight in years?

Isn’t it possible for an agency to win a client by asserting that they have a better creative explanation of the existing in sight rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

I know markets move swiftly, but the vogue for disruption (which is just an old idea re-framed) has a lot to answer for. If an insight is truly insightful, it must surely have some longevity, no?

Comment by John

Couple of points …

I personally believe that ‘why’ is incredibly important and I will always look for it even though sometimes I have to accept it’s more hunch or circumstantial … however to Freddie’s excellent point, I personally believe if you have the right approach to insights and look at breadth not just category depth, it can provide that foresight that can change the future (rather than just be reflective of the past) as per my Henry Ford rant regarding his view people didn’t know what they wanted, but more often than not they do, they just don’t know how to say it which is what I believe a great planner should be able to see and liberate.

Comment by Rob

But does it have to be a new why?

Comment by John

it does if youre a planning wanker that wants to win an award from campbell or a client who wants to pretend theyve actually been doing some shit.

its not a matter of new or old its a matter of right or fucking wrong and people keep fucking changing their minds and fucking habits so its not really new shit, its shit for now.

enough of this bollocks, this has stayed too much on fucking tangent already so lets talk about how shit the band queen were.

Comment by andy@cynic

and are.

Comment by andy@cynic

not one slag off off queen. not fucking one. youre all too fucking soft and are only encouraging campbell to keep going. fucking fools.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m alarmed at how much sense you’re making on this post.

To answer your question Doddsy, no – they don’t have to be new insights – infact this desire to always shun the old in favour of doing something new is maddening, especially when sales strengths/issues are as reliant on factors outside of marketing as in it … however people and circumstances do change so whilst the core insight might remain in place, the circumstantial elements may have evolved and you have to ensure this new filter is taken on board just to make sure that anything you do reflects the times as well as prepares or shapes the future.

Comment by Rob

Rob/Fredrik,

I think the foresight point is a good one, but I’m reminded of the Douglas Holt books (which NP is referencing well in a lot of recent posts) on cultural strategy.

Even the most solid piece of branding/insight work can be pulled apart if culture moves away from the thinking. Look at Stella – reassuringly expensive works until the product’s binged on/there’s a disconnect between what the brand’s saying and what’s happening culturally.

So, I suppose, I don’t mind whether it’s foresight or a thought which goes beyond observation to be genuinely insightful. The important thing for me is that it speaks to what’s happening/about to happen in culture.

Comment by Will

Didn’t reassuringly expensive post-date the binge association?

Comment by John

RE ran from the 80s to about 2005/6.

Comment by Will

It was largely discounting and promotions that gave Stella it’s binge rep. The brand stopped living up to the message.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Yes, Rob.

Interestingly, the decline can pretty much be linked with the Grand Prix IPA Effectiveness paper, which argued it was possible (in 2000) to discount AND promote the brand as premium.

Someone dropped the ball on that one.

Comment by Will




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