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

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes …
March 30, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So a while back there was a video doing the rounds that featured a young kid being shown a bunch of logos and then being asked to name the brand behind them.

It was sweet, cute and – in a small way – insightful.

Maybe it’s because I’m becoming more and more Chinese … maybe it’s because I like giving fucked up projects to my colleagues or maybe it’s because I just thought it would be interesting, but I decided it would be good to copy the experiment but from a purely Chinese perspective.

With that in mind, I asked my poor colleague, Yi Liu, to find some 5 year old kids and test whether they recognised some of the World’s biggest brand logos.

However, on top of ‘describing what they see’, we also wanted to find out if they knew what the brand actually did and – where possible – where they had seen them.

Thanks to the 2 little characters who helped us out, the answers are charming and funny … but similar to the original experiment, they are also insightful, especially in terms of category association and media habits.

It might of been a bit of fun … we might have used an age group that many of the brands tested don’t really target … but for some brand managers, the kids opinions should put the fear of god into what they’re doing & how they’re doing it.


Does UPS Stand For Utter Parcel Shit? Yes … Yes It Does.
March 29, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

I’ve been doing this ad lark for a long time.

One of the very first bits of advice I was ever given was from the genius Steve Henry who told me,

“Good advertising is the fastest way to destroy a bad brand”.

In essence, what he was saying was if you pimp your wares to the great unwashed and say things like, “you’re great” and “you can trust us”, you’d better deliver because otherwise you’re going to suffer.

So, a while back – maybe 8 weeks ago – Jill’s Dad in Canada wanted to send us some things.

On top of the usual ‘family stuff’, he had sent us a couple of products he wanted our viewpoint on.

These weren’t just any product, these were products that [1] he had invented and [2] could literally change the face of an entire category … so you can understand why – when you also take into account the madness of China – he opted to get them couriered over to us rather than trust the postal service.

Now in terms of delivery company, there’s basically the big 4: FEDEX, DHL, TNT and UPS.

While I have no idea what exactly influenced Jill’s Dad choice, I’m guessing the fact UPS were running a multi million dollar campaign explaining how they “loved logistics” had something to do with it.

OK …. so that ad should have given him a clue all might not be as it seems, however what has happened over the subsequent weeks will ensure he, me – and hopefully all of you who read this rubbish – will never use them again.

A few weeks back I got a phone call.

I answered and a woman immediately asks, “Do you speak Chinese?”

When I said no, she giggled and said wait a moment.

I waited.

I waited some more.


I hung up.

This happened a few more times before I finally said, “Who are you and why do you keep calling me?”

Only then did they reveal it was UPS.

OK, so you’d think we were on the way to getting things moving – but oh no – because the next thing the person on the phone said was that I had to email them with a full list of what was in the package and whether it was for personal or professional use.

After I pointed out that [1] I didn’t know what was in the package and [2] I didn’t know who it was from [at that time, I was unaware Jill’s Dad had sent us anything] they asked me to email them anyway and they’d take it from there.

One week passed.

Two weeks passed.


I re-emailed.

A reply! Yippee!

Except it was a reply telling me the person wasn’t dealing with the issue anymore and I had to write to someone else.

I emailed.

An almost instant reply. Yippee!

“Can you send your Chinese Visa and passport info to us for customs clearance.”

I email it over within the hour.


One week passes.

I email them again.


Finally a reply and do you know what it said?

It said the parcel was not for me, it was for my wife so all my information was useless.


I replied asking why they had called me in the first place and why they hadn’t mentioned this in any of the correspondence.


I go to UPS website to find a formal way to complain … and guess what, you can only do it via their ‘form’.

So I write to them and slag them off on Twitter.

Somehow someone from UPS see’s my tweet and tells me to write to them so they can help sort it out.

Finally, some positive action so I eagerly write to them explaining my situation.


Not a fucking dickybird.

After a few days I get an email from UPS China telling me I had to supply Jill’s “China ‘in and out’ stamps from her passport”.

After a strongly worded email asking WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING as well as WHAT THE HELL HAS MY WIFE’S CHINESE IN & OUT PASSPORT STAMPS GOT TO DO WITH ANYTHING, I send the requested stuff.

By pure coincidence – and within minutes of sending the previous email – I get a response from UPS HQ, referring to the complaint email I wrote to them via their website.

“The reference number you gave us doesn’t exist, we cannot proceed without this”.

They seriously said that.


What a load of fucking inept wankers.

I’m pissed off now.

Pissed off to the point of pettiness.

So for 3 days, every hour, on the hour, I email the same person at UPS China with the same email:

“Where is my package?

Why aren’t you helping?

This has now been 7 weeks.

You have all the information.

Give me my parcel”

I have to say, I grudgingly admire them because they just ignored me.

Didn’t bat an eyelid.

Then Jill decides to take matters into her own hands.

She rings them up.

What completely fucks UPS China is that my wife speaks Chinese so their “don’t understand” bullshit won’t work on her.

She gets passed from person to person – eventually being told that, “… because we had declined to pay the duty, they hadn’t delivered the parcel.”

Apart from that being a blatant, utter lie … the fact is they hadn’t even told us how much duty was to pay.

So she asked.

And do you know what it was?



That’s one pound 40 pence.


So having told them we would happily pay the charges … having sent them passport information, Chinese visa information and having wasted copious amounts of time, effort and blood pressure, they said they’d get it to us.

That was 10 days ago and still nothing.



Some would say this is a perfect example of ‘China’s frustrations’, and while a part of that might be true, it goes much deeper than that.

UPS are making a huge boast that they love logistics.

They go on about having a global network dedicated to making things happen.

They talk about their ability to get things to people, anywhere in the World, exactly when they need it.

And it’s bollocks.

All fucking bollocks.

OK … OK … I know that mistakes can happen.

I know that sometimes things can just go from bad to worse.

But when that happens, it’s your chance to make amends … turn a negative experience into loyalty for life, as I wrote about ages ago with my Volkswagen experience.

But this isn’t a mistake … it’s a comedy of errors.

No one has taken any responsibility.

No one has tried to make things better.

In fact no has shown the slightest bit of care and consideration whatsoever.

UPS might say they ‘love’ logistics, but it appears they don’t ‘understand’ logistics.

They don’t care about their customers, their employees or – seemingly – their reputation.

They are a blight on the planet and a disgrace to business and I advice each and every one of you to never, ever, ever use them again.

Fuck you UPS, fuck you and your claims … I just hope your ad campaign proves to be hugely successful so you get lots of people calling on you to deliver their precious packages because then, they – and you – will find out Steve Henry’s view is true and you’ll end up receiving the harsh lesson you need to learn how to act like the global brand you pretend to be.

You Know You’re Over 40 When …
March 28, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

… you think every slight ailment could be life threatening.

A headache is an aneurism.

An aching back is a tumor.

When you get angry, people tell you to ‘watch your blood pressure’.

And it doesn’t help that DR’s start using words like ‘cholesterol’ and ‘prostate examinations’.

Seriously, whoever said ‘life begins at 40’ didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about.

Oh you young ones can snigger, it’ll happen to you eventually.

I used to be you.

Looking at my older colleagues and smirking when they told me of their aches and pains, woes and stresses.

While I know I’m not the healthiest person whose ever lived, DR’s always said the fact I’ve never smoked, taken any drugs or drunk any alcohol for literally decades always put me in the ‘generally good state of health’ category – despite the eye, the gall bladder and everything else that has fallen off/apart over the years.

So you can imagine my surprise when following Nigel Dougherty’s induced health check, I was advised I needed ‘blood pressure pills’.

Now I’ve always had relatively high blood pressure but nothing mental – and nothing has changed – but now, at 41, Doctors deem it is something that needs to ‘controlled’.

To be honest, this has affected me a lot.

Not because I always thought this was the medication you got when you were 60 … not because I will always have to answer “yes” to questions about taking medication … not because it will limit my roller coaster experiences, but because it is another reminder of my own mortality.

OK … OK … let’s get something in proportion, it’s not because I’m in a life-threatening state of health, it’s about being proactively preventative – but that said, it has knocked me for six.

The reality is that nothing changes.

I pop ½ a pill a day and everything is OK but that’s not good enough.

I don’t want ½ a pill a day.

I don’t want any pills.

The reality is I need to change things.

Not just diet and exercise, but my whole attitude to life – and my biggest concern is that while some of that is easy, some of it will be near impossible.

I work in a mad industry.

An industry that can make mountains out of molehills.

An industry full of prima-donnas and egos, bursting to be released.

An industry that can changes its mind and viewpoint at the drop of a hat.

An industry that is constantly juggling between pleasing itself and pleasing its clients.

An industry that is mad, bad, dangerous to know and a whole lot of exciting on the top.

An industry that – for all my frustrations with it – has kept me interested in it for the best part of 2 decades.

When I was at cynic, we had a poster that read: Remember, it’s only a job.

It’s purpose was to remind us that while we were doing something important, it wasn’t something that should be regarded more highly than life and family and friendships.

It would appear that I need to remember this myself.

No, I’m not blaming work for my blood pressure, I’m blaming me.

My problem is I still get stupidly enthusiastic about things.

Despite having been in this industry for longer than some of you have been alive, I still see every project for what ‘it could be’.

In some respects, this sets me up for failure – and frustration – time and time again, but I have this uncontrollable need to try and do something great with everything I do.

Of course most of the time I don’t get anywhere near where I hoped it could be – but thanks to my personal “issues”, that desire is always there.

People say adland is a young persons game, but while some say that’s to do with talent or their ability to keep pace with the industry, I think it’s actually about their ability to move on with things.

I find it very hard to let go of what ‘could have been’, especially when it hasn’t happened because of short-sightedness or fear.

I keep pushing things. Trying to find a way around the obstacle. Trying to find people who can help prove it can work or can help make it happen.

Sometimes I’m successful, quite often I’m not … but I have a backlog of opportunities I am trying to clear.

Maybe it’s all to do with being an only child or something … an incessant need to get what I want, despite the fact I never managed to achieve that when I was a kid – except for the Raleigh Grifter and Digital Clock Radio.

I should learn to let go .. I should learn to accept defeat … in fact now, thanks to being scared by my blood pressure medication – I have to.

How utterly depressing.

I honestly don’t know how I’m going to manage it, but as much as I enjoy my job, I love my family way, way more and besides – as I wrote here – the older I get, the more things I see I want to do, try and explore and there’s no way that’s going to happen if I let adland get to me first.

Growing older is part of growing older, but health has a funny way of giving you the sort of clarity a planner could only hope to deliver … so to end this post, let me say that if you are under 40 and think every ailment could be life threatening, then you’re a hypochondriac … however if you’re over 40, then you’re being ‘careful’ and sometimes that’s braver than simply taking things on without regard for the consequences.

Nothing Say’s Tasty Like The Thought Of A Good, Old Bowel Movement …
March 27, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Crap Campaigns In History

Whether it’s Kellogg’s or Macca’s, all food companies want to be associated with ‘health’.

I understand why, because in this image conscious, health illusion World of ours, selling the premise of ‘good food’ increases the chances – and regularity – of purchase.

Talking of regularity, I want to draw your attention to an ad I recently saw …

OK, so I appreciate Nestle Acti-V yoghurt is good for you.

I appreciate it contains special micro-organisms and fiber that has been ‘scientifically proven’ for effectiveness.


By all means say it ‘keeps you regular’.

Maybe say it helps ‘keep your insides healthy’.

But for fucks sake don’t say BOWEL MOVEMENT because instead of building up ‘taste cues’, you end making people think ‘Eat this and shit a lot’.

But it gets worse.

Yes, even worse than basically flogging ‘instant shit’.


Because rather than just say bowel movement once and pretend it didn’t happen, they go straight back to the ‘talent’ who say’s, “Mmmmmm Mmmmmm’ [which could be either an attempt to imply the yoghurt is tasty or that she’s just shit her pants] and then end the whole sorry episode with a big picture of the product and a super surrounding it that say’s in great, big letters:



And they ran this ad during American fucking Idol.

AMERICAN IDOL, a show designed to appeal to 17 year old losers.

And 41 year old planning idiots.

Another example of brilliant media planning.

But all that aside, I have a word of advice for Nestle.

If you want to sell a product that keeps people regular, may I suggest that directly associating its taste with shitting is probably not the best way to go. Look, I appreciate your ‘honesty’ … I admire how you are trying to offer people a better alternative to cardboard bran … but in future, try using code words for ‘bowel movements’ instead of saying it so literally because regardless how yummy your product is, placing an image of someone heaving on the toilet is not very good for you or any of your potential customers.

Unless they are trying to make 2 Girls and 1 Cup, the sequel.

Don’t Judge Others By Your Own Standards …
March 26, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

So last week, Jill and I watched ‘The Bone Collector’, a film made in 1999.

I have no idea what the movie is about because I only watched it so I could look at Angelina Jolie in her prime, however there was one scene that caught my attention and that was when Denzil Washington’s character asked Angelina’s …

“Are you computer literate?”

Can you imagine being asked that question now?

It’s a given these days and yet it’s not that long ago when saying you could use Word/Excel/Powerpoint was a major advantage in the job-hunting stakes.

However I recently came across something that reminded me the importance of not assuming stuff …

Apparently, that is a genuine Facebook update – and while some might say that is representative of the sort of person no brand would actually want as a customer, I’d say that attitude is representative of someone who doesn’t understand society outside of the carefully constructed marketing bubble they live in.

While I am passionately against dumbing down to the lowest-common denominator, it’s important to remember that the masses might not be at the same level of as you both in terms of capabilities and interest [acknowledging this doesn’t automatically mean they less capable or interested than you] – so making sure you know where the majority stand is important, because if you don’t do that, you might just find that what you’re doing is alienating rather than communicating.