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

To Dad.
January 16, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

At 10:34am today, it’s been 13 years.

13 birthdays, christmas days and new years.

That’s a long time.

A long time to not hear your voice, your opinions, your laughter.

A long time to not see your beautiful pale blue eyes looking up at me with love.

A long time to not watch you frown as I tell you another of my bird-brained ideas.

A long time of not looking at your big, wonderful dimples.

A long time to not see you by Mum’s side.

Holding hands.

Being close.

I wish we could talk.

Discuss what I’ve done and want to do.

Hear your words of advice, encouragement and opinion.

Know I’ve made you proud.

I wish you could meet Jill.

To say hello.

And tell her the same silly jokes you used to tell everyone.

Before questioning our sanity about having a cat.

Even though I know you’d secretly adore her.

I’d love for all that to happen.

While you are sat next to Mum.

Holding hands.

Being close.

But you’re not here.

Not in my physical world anyway.

But you are here.

In my thoughts, hopes, dreams, values and beliefs.

And you always will be … whether it’s 13 years or 33.

Because you are my Dad and I love you.

And miss you.


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You Used To Have To Pay Your Dues To Get Respect, Now If You’ve Paid Your Dues, You’re Ready For The Scrap Heap …
January 13, 2012, 6:03 am
Filed under: Comment

One of the most beloved television programs in England was/is the show ‘Only Fools & Horses’.

While many people will talk about it in terms of the characters … the stories … the overall humour, I always thought one of the other reasons it was able to achieve such acclaim was their ability to introduce poignant moments withoutit ever feeling contrived, preachy or ‘shoved in’.

To go from laugh-out-loud to deeply emotional, back to laugh-out-loud is very difficult and it’s testimony to the writers skill and craft that they were able to do it so seamlessly, let alone so often.

OK, so we all know I’m a sentimental fool, but many of these poignant moments really made an impression on me.

Through their characters, the writers were able to convey a view on life or society that many felt but few spoke about.

I remember one scene where ‘Granddad’ talked about watching soldiers march off to World War I and how he was horrified at how the government treated them on their return.

While I can’t recall exactly what he said [I’ve looked for the clip on Youtube but can’t find it, so if anyone recognises this and knows where to watch it, please let me know] I do remember one line:

“They promised us homes fit for heroes, we got heroes fit for homes!”


Anyway the reason I say all this is because I recently heard a friend quote another line from the show.

While the context of the speech it is about marriage, the sentiment has much broader relevance.

“Marriages don’t come gift wrapped they come in kit form, you have to work at them”.

I love it …

It could be because I’m an old bastard, but I can’t help but feel society has lost it’s appreciation of knowledge, understanding and experience.

Maybe it’s because too many people think everything they need to know is available online, but so many people seem to want the title … the fame … and the cash from day 1.

OK, so that’s a massive generalisation, but the attitude of ‘working towards something’ just seems to be a dying attitude.

Sure, there’s a bunch of reasons for this – of which the demise of ‘job security’ is one – however I am meeting too many people who are self-proclaimed geniuses even though they have nothing to really back it up.

Seriously, sometimes I feel I’m meeting one of those people on ‘American Idol’ who acts like they’re a Rock God even though they are literally ‘killing music’ simply because their Mum said they had a beautiful voice.

And god forbid you call them on it.

I recently met a planner who said he blended ‘science with creativity’.

When I asked if he had studied science, he responded,

“No, and I don’t think that has any relevance to this discussion”.


Contrary to what you may think, this attitude is not because I’m 41 – nor is it because I am anti-youth – it’s just that I am concerned we are turning our collective backs, and respect, on those people who have a breadth of experience in favour of the individuals who only have the potential to earn a history of experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all ‘old’ people are brilliant – at least from a commercial creative perspective – but then neither are all ‘youth’ amazing – again, from a commercial creative perspective – but the fact is it shouldn’t be a case of choosing one over the other when blending experience with youth can often be the key to making amazing things happen.

What a shame it doesn’t happen as much as it should – or could – simply because too many companies value their people in terms of cost rather than value.

OK, so this is a ranty post that is all over the place and it has more holes in it than a piece of Edam cheese …

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the joy of life – both personal and professional – comes from working through situations and problems and it would be nice, especially in adland, if that attitude was viewed in a more favourable light, especially when some of the greatest creativity of the last few years has come about because the people behind it have lived a life of experience, not just a moment of fame.

Why We All Need A Rodi. But Probably Not His Dress Sense.
January 12, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

This is my colleague Rodi.

Yes, I know his legs are the sort of white that Persil Automatic Washing Powder aspires to delivering … but if you can get past that horrific sight [and I recommend you do because he’s a Russian/Australian martial arts ninja bastard] I’ll explain one of the reasons why he is so good.

Planning – and planners – love to make a big deal out of being curious.

To be honest, this has always made me feel a bit sick because we act like they’re the only people in the World with this attitude.

Let’s be honest, curiosity is a basic human trait and even if planners execute this more than the majority [which I’d say is open to debate] they’re no where near as curious as people in the finance, technology, R&D or criminal investigation industries, to name a few.

Seriously, what does a planner class as being curious.

Going through a client research report?

Reading some blogs?

Doing the odd ‘home visit’?

Give me a break …

And this leads to my other issue with so many planners, they forget our job is two fold:

1. To understand & represent our clients audience.
2. To help liberate our clients business.

That’s not optional.
They’re not mutually exclusive.
They are interdependent and should be treated as such.

And this is what makes Rodi so good.

He understands that to help liberate our clients business, he has to understand our clients business.

Not just in terms of marketing or usage or whatever ‘objective’ has been put down on the brief by the client – but the inner workings of what goes on behind the scenes … from what it takes to make & distribute their products and brands to the factors that influence senior managements decisions and actions.

Now you might think we all do that … and without doubt, we should … but if you were to spend a week with Rodi and compare his approach to what most people class as ‘business curiosity’, the gulf in methodology and result would be as obvious as the breast implants on 90% of Hollywood’s Z-grade female ‘stars’.

His approach doesn’t involve getting on to some subscribed research site or do a Google search [though he does that too] he goes and see’s a whole range of people … both within the company and, for a more objective point-of-view, outside it.

I’ve never seen a person consume annual reports with the sort of relish he does.

And he really looks into the numbers.

He looks where the money has been coming and going.

He compares it to where it was coming and going a year ago.

He analyses that with what their competitors say in their annual reports.

He cross references everything against economic data to understand whether they are acting independently or reacting to wider economic issues.

And that’s before he even takes into account the attitudes, needs, wants & fears of society – which he knows well because he makes it his business to know it well. Plus he has an amazing team around him to fill in blanks and questions.

[Yes, that’s you Charinee & Leon!]

Not only does all this result in him knowing our clients business at least as well as many of them do, he is also able to develop business solutions to problems that go way beyond just ‘making an ad’.

There’s nothing I like more than watching him in full flow as he carefully explains how a particular issue can be solved by [eg] changing their distribution approach or relinquishing their current consumers in favour of a more emerging audience or creating infrastructure to allow people to get involved … especially when he uses the clients – and independent – data to prove his point to any doubters.

Don’t get me wrong, Rodi is not – and doesn’t want to be – a management consultant.

Nor a branding consultant.

He simply understands that to get the right solution you have to have the right questions and his view is that if you follow the money, you end up identifying the problems or opportunities that can be the most powerful, interesting and rewarding for our clients, their audience and our agency.

That is someone who is curious.

Not because he wants to look cool or justify his title, but because he wants to be known for helping deliver business results in the most creatively imaginative, memorable and meaningful ways possible.

So next time you say you’re curious, make sure you mean it more in terms of how Rodi does it than some average person on the street … or I’ll send him round to snow-blind you with his legs.

January 11, 2012, 6:18 am
Filed under: Crap Marketing Ideas From History!

After the heaviness of yesterday’s post, I thought I’d get back to what this blog is best known for – bollocks.

So for reasons best not to go into, I came across [not the best choice of phrase] this:

No, I’m not saying having a personal alarm on your iPhone is mental – though how you access it if you’re being attacked is open to debate – I’m saying calling it ‘iRape’ is.



Did the person behind this app not think it sounds awfully like ‘I Rape’?

On first impressions it sounds more like a social network app for the criminally inclined rather than a product that aims to provide you with a sense of security and safety.

How many times do I have to say ‘sell the benefit, not the problem’.

Mind you, when the apps description includes the disclaimer …

“This application will not prevent you from being sexually abused”

… you understand Stephen Thompson, creator of iRape, was doomed before he started.

That aside, the disclaimer helps us understand a couple of other things as well:

1. iRape is selling the illusion [or delusions] of security and safety.
2. American society is a litigiously obsessed society.

Don't worry Stephen, on the bright side you can still make a fortune … all you have to do is open a branding company because I know your naming strategy is tailor-made for the Singaporean market.

Ban The Bullshit …
January 10, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

So this is the 2nd day of writing my blog in 2012 and I have to say I’m finding it hard.

It’s not because, as John Dodds say’s, I’ve had too much holiday … it’s because I feel numb to stuff.

Numb to planning.
Numb to adland.
Numb to brands and branding.

This is slightly disconcerting given this is how I make my income but you see, over the holiday period, I had a chance to read a bunch of stuff and overwhelmingly, I was underwhelmed by what my industry churns out – or celebrates – as ‘interesting’.

Of course not everyone was like that and – much to my dismay – some of the stuff that I found genuinely thought-provoking came from people who also happen to write comments on here [though never their thought provoking stuff I noted] however overall, I was just left feeling rather empty by what adland and planning and branding is becoming.

Maybe it’s because I can remember when it was truly influential on business and culture.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen – and fortunately been part of – work that made a massive difference to everyone involved.

Maybe it’s because I’m just a thick bastard and don’t understand all the intellectualism being banded about.

Who knows, but as much as the industry likes to lay the blame for our declining commercial creative power at the feet of everyone from egotistical corporations to bad marketing managers to basically anyone or anything digital … I would say a lot of it is down to how we manage and promote ourselves on a daily basis.

While there are some that still are flying the flag for creating commercial magic – overall, the industry seems to have morphed into an excuse machine.

We can’t create magic under timeline pressure.
We can’t create magic under budget pressure.
We can’t agree with what clients may suggest.
We don’t think the public know what they want.
We won’t change anything from what we’ve produced.

OK, so I’m being dramatic and without doubt, there are a bunch of external reasons why we’ve suffered so much over the past 10-15 years – however instead of trying to compartmentalize or complicate what we do in a bid to derive more revenue from clients because we’ve sold the commercial value of applied creative thinking down the river for the past few decades … maybe if we just got on with what brands and society actually wanted and needed from us, we’d end producing more great commercially creative ideas than proprietary bullshit.

Wouldn’t that be amazing!?

Wouldn’t it be good to be judged on what we do rather than what we say we do?!

I know it’s easier said than done … I know that too many companies care more about the process than what the process delivers … but if we continue to play along with this attitude and approach, we’re contributing to our own demise in terms of value, respect and future and the thing is, adland offers benefits few other industries could ever hope to create or influence which is why I think it’s time we start remembering what we actually do because looking and sounding like clients isn’t working.

Oh I know why agencies did it.

They thought it would make our clients respect us more … however the irony is it seems to be making them respect us less.

We didn’t lose our seat at the boardroom table because of how we talked or dressed, we lost it because we stopped talking and caring about their needs, goals and dreams and that’s why I believe the only way to get it back is by proving we understand their business at least as well as them and their audience significantly better than them … and the only way that can happen is if we stop believing its about what we say and get back to focusing on creating success through what we do.

I’m not talking about creative awards or effectiveness papers that have made a ‘degree of change’ sound like the second coming of Jesus … I’m talking about doing stuff that fundamentally – and undeniably – shifts the needle.

And how would we judge this?

Well creative and effectiveness awards would still be important, but in my mind, some other ways to tell whether we are being successful in our goal is if [1] we start attracting clients rather than consistently having to chase them [2] we change culture rather than always trying to reflect it and [3] we help re-establish the power and importance of the marketing director at boardroom level.

Of course it requires both sides to make that happen but wouldn’t it be nice if the industry adopted that as their new years resolution.

Just a thought …