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

More Ways To Tell Whether Your Planner Is A Potential Danger To Your Business.
May 9, 2011, 6:23 am
Filed under: Comment

Following on from last weeks ‘intellectual’ variant, today we will focus on the ‘cool-as-fuck’ variety of the planning species.

1/ They will wear a t-shirt that either features the Motorhead logo [even though they will probably only know ‘Ace Of Spades’] or a brand the rest of us have never heard of but just reeks of being as cool as fucking fuck.

2/ At the end of every sentence, they’ll say “yeah?” as if he/she wants to be sure the audience is keeping up with their genius, even though secretly, they’ll be sure that is an impossible ask.

3/ Every reference they use will come from Fast Company or some underground music mag.

4/ They’ll use keynote with every fucking effect it can produce on every fucking slide.

5/ Their presentations will feature one word and some random – but gritty- looking image.

6/ Or just an abstract video.

7/ Or a photo of them. Stage diving or something. Probably from their facebook page where they can ‘accidently’ show they have 74,000 friends.

8/ And every presentation will start with a quote … either from a dead rock star, an indie song or a skateboarder.

9/ Then – when they present it – they’ll ignore everything on the screen and just walk about in their skinny jeans, sucking their cheeks in and saying things like, “You won’t of heard of these guys but …” and then proceed to show how they’re best mates with this bunch of losers/lucky bastards and that they hang out at the sort of hotspots only the hottest of filmstars go to. And they all take drugs together. Or talk about budhism.

10/ They absolutely, definitely, one thousand percent will talk about being a DJ. And they’ll say it in a tone like they’re the fucking bomb and if anything, planning is just their side project.

11/ Or photography. They’ll definitely be the greatest photographer in the World and will probably use their shots in their presentation. Either featuring miserable, drug addled teens or cliched hipsters. In a coffee shop.

12/ They will never, ever describe themselves as a planner. Always a trend hunter, chaser of the cool or follower of the fucking amazing.

13/ They only rate people with an arm of tattoos.

14/ They are convinced all the chicks in the room fancy them. And the men.

15/ They never. Never ever. Never, ever, ever talk about the general public or masses.

16/ They genuinely believe they are the smartest, coolest, most in touch person in the room … exemplified by their condescending views and remarks on the habits and beliefs of the audience, covering everything from their sad mainstream choice of music/fashion/tech/mags/cheese through to their naive views on who is the best writer of the modern age. Which will always be a magazine writer. Always.

17/ They’ll throw so many random facts at you that you’ll not realise till much later they haven’t voiced a single opinion or insight of their own, they’re just copied and pasted words/facts/terms that other people have told them, reported or actually got off their arse and done.

As there are 17 reasons compared to the usual 15, the rule is if you recognise 3 or more of the above traits in yourself – or someone you know – act swiftly and decisively because quite frankly, “normality” is going to kill you, you give us mere mortals the fucking shits and you’re not nearly as ‘connected’ or ‘brave’ as you think you are.

It’s A Fine Line Between Capturing Imagination, Over Promising & Talking Complete And Utter Bollocks …
May 6, 2011, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

Look at this:

Yes, it really is a notepad that is claiming it [1] uses future technology and [2] is the choice for tomorrow’s superstars.

Now while I appreciate it caught my attention, the fact is I look at the brand with distain and pity rather than awe and aspiration … and that’s because to make a claim like that requires either an element of proof or an element of tongue-in-cheek and this has neither.

The problem with planning is that if you take it to it’s logical conclusion, it’s job is to help brands fit in to people’s lives and frames-of-reference … which in some ways could be interpreted as being anti-differentiation. Because of this, planners are being encouraged to go to greater and greater extremes so that their creative colleagues [from an ad agency structural perspective, not an ability perspective] can do something that is interesting and imaginative.

Now I am all for creating work that is culturally impactful, provocative and imaginative – but without some element of anchoring [or, a tone that basically demonstrates you have let go of all seriousness] you end up running the risk that what you create ultimately distracts rather than motivates … and whilst some may claim ‘disruption’ is the key to creativity, I would argue that the goal of simply ‘standing out’ – whatever the cost – is not a smart strategy, but one that demonstrates an air of desperation.

I’ve never worked for TBWA but they are an agency I have always admired.

To be honest though, that admiration is based more on their past work than present – though there have done some stuff recently that I am very impressed with.

The point is, when they were at their ‘disruptive best’, they were never about pointless claims or over-promising, they were about challenging the status quo through better, more provocative insights &/or using alternative, provocative tones-of-voice … in short, it was based on smarts not shock and I can’t help but feel too many people have missed this point and embraced an attitude of ‘if it stands out, it’s OK’ and it’s not, it’s not OK at all.

The danger of post rationalisation is that people skip over the little things that shaped the approach – that went on to make the biggest difference to the thinking and the work – and so whilst I think planning and execution should always be imaginative, involving, interesting and intriguing … there’s a point where if the masses look at it and go “what a pile of bollocks”, it’s possibly more about agency indulgence than commercial brilliance.

Solutions Are Everything, Even If They’re Questionable Solutions …
May 5, 2011, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So I live in China – a land of rich history, culture and learning.

I love the place.

I love it’s complexity, madness and paradox.

I love it’s ambition, attitude and acceleration.

I love how they’ve embraced a strategy of ‘creative practicality’.

Creative practicality?

What I mean, is that they have an ability to understand problems and opportunities better than almost anyone else in the World … and can develop solutions that strip away all the extraneous detail and get straight to the point.

Now of course, one persons ‘creative practicality; is another persons ‘copyright infringement’ and in no way am I endorsing that – however it has to be said, Chinese companies ability to seize and grasp problems/opportunities and turn turn them into commercial solutions is a sight to behold.

Whereas other countries/companies seem to embrace a never ending line of brainstorm and branding meetings until they feel they have identified the ‘ultimate’ solution, many in China simply ‘get on with it’ and learn from their mistakes.

It’s contrived branding process versus cumulative branding process.

Want to make your apartment look classy?
Put in an ornate, spiral staircase that leads to nowhere.

However, as impressive as this is, one of the biggest problems facing Chinese brands is their reputation.

You see in their quest to maximise opportunity, there is a prevailing attitude – at least in modern business – that ‘good enough’ is good enough.

That might be OK for companies wishing to make a quick buck from an emerging trend – and to be honest, quite a lot of Western brands seem to embrace the same attitude – however in terms of Chinese brands who aspire to global domination, it means they may have to undergo a fundamental change in attitude.

Of course, not all of China’s 1.3 billion people think this way.

Neither do all their companies.

And the fact is, many organisations could easily shun Western markets because their home population is so big, they could become the the biggest brand in the World [in a particular category], without ever exporting a single product.

However for those who want to truly infiltrate the global market, it will require them to let go of the need to only deal with what they know [the cliche of ‘face’] and go back to some of the values that built their country – values that focused on doing things very well rather than the path of least resistance.

While this may seem a tough task, the reality is if anyone can do it, China can – because in a culture that is [seemingly] driven by wealth acquisition and progress, they will adapt to whatever ‘rules’ are required to maximise opportunities – be it quality control or branding process – though the real power will come when they start to define the rules rather than simply follow others.

Bit like how the Japanese car market took on the Western car market.

It’s an exciting time to be here, you should come and check it out for yourselves.

15 Ways To Tell Whether Your Planner Is A Potential Danger To Your Business …
May 4, 2011, 6:05 am
Filed under: Comment

Today we will focus on the ‘intellectual’ variety of the planner species.

1/ Every sentence they say or write includes a percentage. To 2 decimal points.

2/ They use 68 words when 10 will do.

3/ Studies have shown that 78% of those words are ‘corporate talk’ and 22% are whatever was featured on a ‘word of the day’ site.

4/ Every reference they use comes from a management book or a business magazine … but certainly not from their personal experience.

5/ Their powerpoint slides are filled with words [in size 10 font]

6/ Or occasionally a clipart pic.

7/ And every presentation starts with a quote … either from a dictionary, a spiritual leader or a business god.

8/ Then when they present it, they make sure they read every single word on the screen. EVERY. BLOODY. WORD.

9/ They mention their companies proprietary tool about 10,000 times and act like it is God.

10/ They always go over their allotted time.

11/ They are always as quiet as a mouse when creative work is being presented.

12/ They only rate people who have an MBA or went to their university – which you can be sure is dropped into the conversation at every opportunity.

13/ If the meeting goes over lunch, they will immediately make a beeline to sit next to whoever is the most important person in the room.

14/ Their knowledge of people’s attitudes, values and behaviours comes exclusively from google or research reports and they don’t even appear embarrassed by that fact.

15/ They genuinely believe they are the smartest person in the room … exemplified by their condescending views and remarks on the habits and beliefs of the masses, covering everything from their inferior choice of wine and cheese through to their naive views on who the best investment analysts and houses are.

If you recognise any of these traits in yourself – or someone you know – act swiftly and decisively because quite frankly, adland is going to give you the shits and you’re going to give adand a headache, and an even worse name.

You Need Winter To Love Summer …
May 3, 2011, 6:32 am
Filed under: Comment

So I’m coming into a stupidly hot Shanghai summer … however, as it’s not quite there yet, I’m getting to enjoy walking to work in a warm – not hot – temperature and a bright, clear sky and quite frankly, it’s bloody fantastic.

Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in mainly warm climates for the last 15 odd years – where it’s called winter when the thermometer say’s it’s colder than 80 degrees – however this shift in the weather has really affected my mood.

And in a good way!

I’m happy.


Of course this is nothing new, people all around the World feel happier when the weather turns better … however having basically missed out on seasonal temperature change, at least to the extent you get in China, the whole ‘approach of summer’ is like I’ve never experienced it before and the feeling is addictive.

Apart from just putting me in a good mood, it’s the change of surroundings that makes it even more impactful.

The streets are full of happier people … dressed in brighter colours … saying “ni hao” when I wish them a good morning.

The trees are full of green leaves, gently swaying in the wind, making a sound that seems to be quietly shouting [I know, I know] that people should relax rather than run …

The streets seem cleaner, the sky is definitely brighter and the air seems to gently caress your face rather than try to rip it off.

And best of all, the Chinese community don’t look at my birkenstocked feet – and then my face – with a look that seems to say, “Call the Police, the local nuthouse has just lost one of it’s patients.”

Sure, I’ve had to go through a number of months of cold to get to enjoy this day …

Sure I’ve had to wear shoes for the first time in 15 years …

Sure I’ve had to buy my first coat in over a decade …

… but the fact is, having come through the other side of weeks of cold and grey, I feel much more positive – as if I’ve come through something tough and won – and while that is obviously a pile of self-delusional bollocks, the thing is, it’s only when you’ve experienced frustration and struggle that success truly feels sweet which is why I always tell my colleagues to not give up at the first, second or even third hurdle … because when you finally get that client to buy the idea, ad or strategy that has filled you with excitement for weeks, that’s when you truly know how good adland can make you feel.