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

Closed For Jetlag.
March 23, 2012, 6:00 am
Filed under: Comment

Yeah, laugh it up you bastards, but if you were flying long distance with United, you’d know exactly what I mean.

See you Monday, no doubt with a wide range of very ranty posts thanks to 19 hours spent in the company of United Airlines unique take on ‘customer service’.

NIKE’s Biggest Fan Now Resides In Atlanta …
March 21, 2012, 3:49 am
Filed under: Comment

Remember a couple of days ago I wrote about the value of a truly passionate marketing director?

Remember how I said that when you meet someone who is a true fan of their brand – not just their executional process – greater things happen?

Remember how I linked this all to a cab driver I met in Atlanta a few weeks ago who told me was a mad Man Utd fan and that when I’d told my NIKE client, he gave me a signed Wayne Rooney shirt to give him?

What do you mean no?!


Well to remind you, read this.

Have you read it, because if not, none of what I’m about to write will make any sense – or should I say even less sense than normal.



So after my morning meeting, I organized to meet Mr Cabbie – real name Assefa, or ‘Abu’ for short – so he could take me on another magical mystery tour of Atlanta’s best and worst areas.

I don’t really understand why, but we really seemed to hit it off the last time [ie: the first time] we met, so I was happy that as soon as he picked me up, we got straight back into the rhythm of our conversation.

We chatted about what we’d been up to for the past couple of weeks.

We chatted about what had been going on in the World the past couple of weeks.

We chatted about what had been going on in America the past couple of weeks.

And finally, we chatted about the football that had been going on in the past couple of weeks.

Slowly I brought the conversation around to his love of Man Utd.

Slowly I brought the conversation around to his love of Wayne Rooney.

Slowly I brought the conversation around to my NIKE client.

Slowly I brought the conversation around to me having a signed Rooney shirt for him.

I’d love to say when he heard this, he screeched his cab to a halt but that’s not what happened.

There was a pause.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure he’d heard me but then he pulled the cab over to the side and turned his head back to face me.

“Are you kidding me?”

“Nope …” I replied, as I pulled out the package from my bag and handed it over to him.

He took it, sat back in his seat and just looked down at it.

“This is a real Wayne Rooney shirt?”

“Yes.” I said.

“Autographed by him?”

“Yes.” I said again.

“You stupid, lovely, kind man, I cannot believe it. This is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.”

To which he undid his seat belt, turned around and gave me a massive, massive, massive hug before shaking my hand – while shaking his head – and muttering, “My family will never believe this.”

So thank you to Simon at NIKE who made this all possible.

He’s not only made a man in Atlanta a NIKE fan for life, he’s let me feel a real privilege in playing a small part in making it happen.

And Assefa refused to let me pay for my cab ride.


So next time you wonder if your client is truly passionate about their brand, tell them this story and if they don’t say, “Good on them” or “That’s cool”, then start giving their name to headhunter companies because trust me, you’ll be doing both of yourselves a favour.

America’s Latest Weapon Is Available In Large, Huge & Fucking Massive.
March 20, 2012, 6:07 am
Filed under: Comment

America is the land of the paradox.

They go on about free speech but then verbally abuse anyone that says something they don’t like.

They talk about being a god loving country, then do things that no god would approve of.

They talk about being ‘green’ but they’re one of the World’s worst culprits against the environment.

They [pretend] they’re the richest country in the World, but it’s filled with the poor.

They express their hatred of socialism, yet openly embrace a single Police force, Army, Navy, Postal Service and FBI to name but a few.

OK, so I’m generalising – not everyone is like this – but a hell of a lot are, yet despite it, I still quite like the good old U S of A … or should I say I did until I realized they were using weapons of mass destruction against their own people.

No, I don’t mean United Airlines – though that is definitely up there – I mean the fact that when you ask for a ‘light snack’ they deliver this to your hotel room …

… but when you ask for a Diet Coke, they send you this …

What the hell?

How come when you ask for food they deliver you a portion that would keep a military platoon full for a week, but when you ask for a Diet Coke, they give you a bottle that make Gwyneth Paltrow look like a fat bastard.

I know why, because the American Government want their population fat.

Fat people are too tired to make a fuss.

Fat people don’t start riots because they can’t fit through their door.

Fat people don’t commit crimes because they know they can’t outrun the Police.

Fat people will only question the economy if they can’t afford a Burger King meal deal.

Fat people can’t become spies because they would’t be able to hide in the shadows.

Fat people don’t take up space at the beach because it’s too hot for them to visit.

Fat people make the US car industry better at building big and strong cars.

Fat people can be controlled via a Double Whopper and fries.

Forget all that talk about nuclear bombs being the weapons of mass destruction, that’s complete bollocks … America’s weapon of choice is obesity which is why I am guessing the real reason the troops were sent into Iraq was they’d heard there was going to be a new Diet Coke factory being built there.

No wonder they say holiday makers who visit America for 2 weeks put on 8 pounds.

How Many Clients Genuinely Love Their Brand …
March 19, 2012, 12:15 pm
Filed under: Comment

I have been very fortunate to work with – and for – some awesome people.

Not just bosses and colleagues, but clients too.

And undeniably, the common factor with all of them is they absolutely loved their brand.

Sure, they enjoyed their job as well but it was more than that, they loved the brand they represented and fought for.

I don’t mean some contrived, corporate ‘passion’ that we sadly see far too often, I mean a relentless desire to celebrate and promote the company they work for and believe in.

Quite frankly, that is wonderful to see, addictive to experience and – sadly – getting rarer than rocking horse shit.

Yes, I know not everyone loves their job.

Yes, I know not everyone has to love their job.

But lets face it, if you’re in marketing, if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing there’s a major fucking problem.

And that’s my concern, in my time, I’ve met way too many marketing folk who aren’t passionate about their brand.

They’re passionate about their process.

They’re passionate about their executional deliverables.

They’re passionate about second guessing what their boss wants.

They’re passionate about saying ‘no’ to anything ‘different to the norm’.

But that’s about it.

Don’t get me wrong, passion can only get you so far, but I can tell you, it is difference between passive ‘effective’ and super fucking active awesome ‘effective’.

I say all this because of a recent situation that happened to me.

So I was at a NIKE meeting.

While we were waiting to start, I started telling the CMO about this taxi driver I’d met in Atlanta a couple weeks ago.

I told him how I’d hired him to show me the best and worst of Atlanta.

Yes, I know that sounds a bit weird, but as I was only in the city for 24 hours, I wanted to get a taste of the place and felt my perspective would be improved if I filled my limited time with a schedule that went beyond just ‘airport-hotel-client-hotel-airport’.

Anyway, I told him that I found out the cabbie was Nigerian and loved Manchester United.

I told him how we had talked about Dwight Yorke.

I told him how he’d told me his Dad was 90 years old and that no one should interrupt him when he is watching a football game back in Nigeria.

I told him how he had said his Dad “gets younger” when he’s watching his team play.

I told him how he hated ‘American sports’ and that football was the only game for him.

I told him that I was going back to Atlanta the following week and that because I’d found the cabbie so interesting, I’d emailed him to organise another exploration into Atlanta’s fortunate and not so fortunate society.

While we were chatting, a man walked into the meeting and handed my client a red package.

My client looked at me and said,

“Well if he loves Man Utd so much, maybe you should give him this.”

What ‘this’ was, was a Manchester United shirt, signed by Wayne Rooney with an official certificate of authenticity.


I’m obviously a loyal Forest fan [read: sad fuck] but even I wouldn’t mind that.

Of course, handing over something like this is going to basically ensure Mr Cabbie loves NIKE forever [not to mention, ensure I will do anything for my client in the future], but that’s not why he did it [well, maybe making me his bitch was quite influential] … he did it because he loves his brand and he loves the idea he can do something that will literally make some guys whole fucking year.

I love that.

He didn’t have to do it.

I didn’t even realise he had done it.

But he did it … and tomorrow I’m going to give it to Mr Cabbie.

I can’t wait to see his face.

I can’t wait to hear what he says.

I can’t wait to know he hasn’t called the Police because some random passenger has given him something super awesome.

Mind you, if he charges me for the cab ride, I might make him eat the thing.

But that aside, when you have a client who loves their brand so much they will make things happen simply because it makes ‘fans’ happy, you understand one of the reasons why that brand is so successful.

So thank you Simon, you’ve just become the most popular man in Atlanta. At least with one person, and maybe two, dependent on how much – or how little – you abuse my ‘bitch’ status.


PS: The good news for you is that because I’m in the US for most of the week, blog posts are going on hold till next Monday. I know I say that every time I’m away, but quite frankly, I’m too tired to write any more of the rubbish most of you could fart out in your sleep. Ta-ra.

Why Planners Should Cry …
March 16, 2012, 6:16 am
Filed under: Comment

Adland has become a bit machismo.

It’s all about intellectual swordsmanship, trying to destroy someone or something with your brain and theories … so it’s no surprise so many of the ads out there either shout at the recipient as if they’re brain dead or show the sort of contrived emotion, you’d expect from some mid-afternoon, American cable television network.

Or a robot.

I’ve long said that for me, the greatest asset a planner can have is empathy.

An ability to absorb not just what people say, but feel it.

Their strengths, weaknesses, hopes and fears …

… then be able to allow your colleagues to feel the same things when you explain it to them.

When you do this, I genuinely believe magic happens.

When you do this, you’ve stopped making advertising and you’ve started creating deep, meaningful and powerful emotions.

For me, we’re losing this ability.

We’re choosing the path of intellectualism rather than emotion and that bothers me. A lot.

A few weeks ago I was at a pitch when the client asked a question about Chinese mothers.

When I was explaining the fundamental conflict so many were facing deep inside, I realised I was literally tearing up.


And you know what … instead of everyone pissing themselves laughing, there was literally a stunned silence in the room.

Not because they were shocked that some 41 year old bloke was tearing up, but because some 41 year old, bald bloke from Nottingham had made them feel – or understand – what their Mum’s [or, in some cases, them themselves] were going through.

No planning charts.

No theories.

No proprietary tools.

Just good ol’ emotions, expressed from a Mothers point of view rather than an ad person.

I’m not trying to put myself up as something special, far from it, but I am saying that emotions are the most powerful way to express and communicate and if as planners we approach everything with the cold, clinical and calculated view of a researcher, we are denying ourselves [let alone our clients and our audience] the ability to truly understand and connect with others … which in these days of technological advancement and ever shifting circumstances and environments, is the only consistently powerful piece of armory we have.

Of course tearing up in a meeting doesn’t prove you have empathy, if anything, it just proves you’re a little strange … and please don’t think I am suggesting every ad should be a tear jerker [but it would make a change from the almost constant ‘contrived happiness’ being shoved down our throats] … I’m simply saying that as an industry we go on about the power of emotions and yet 95% of what we do is bereft of anything to do with them even though, as we all know and as I said earlier, when you really connect to how people feel, magic happens:

About 10 trillion times better than the first John Lewis ad they did.

Still think selling ‘colour’ for colour televisions, is weak, but as an ad it worked beautifully.

You know I was going to put this one in didn’t you …

And finally, one of my faves, even though I am obviously incredibly biased, ha!

[You can read about the background to it here]