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

RobTalks …
December 11, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought someone was really smart and then they did something that made you think,

“Hmmmmn, maybe they’re utterly stupid?”

The last time it happened to me was when the very lovely Steve Harrison wanted to send me a copy of his book on the wonderful Howard Gossage.

Anyway, it’s happened again, but this time its an organization rather than a person.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls … please give a big hand to the latest example of professional suicide … TED.


Yes TED … as in TEDTalks.

An organization that has a rich and enviable history of amazing presentations [including 2 of my all time favorites, which are here and here] have committed credibility suicide by asking me to take part in their ads worth spreading program by answering 3 questions:

1. What stands in the way of brave work.
2. Who – or what – inspires us to overcome these obstacles.
3. What is the bravest thing you’ve seen a brand do this year.

Three questions.

Three little questions.

And yet when I saw them, my first response was ‘what is brave work’?

Is it someone that does something outside of their comfort zone?

Is it someone that does something that challenges the category convention?

Is it someone that does something that questions society?

Is it someone that simply does something no one has ever seen or done before?

You can tell where I’m going with this can’t you!

Within 10 minutes, I had responded to TED’s request with a massive diatribe that – to be honest – wasn’t what they wanted to hear, mainly because it did it’s level best to ignore answering any of those 3 little questions.

That said, there was one bit I liked which was how I said I thought ‘brave’ could be evaluated as successful … which was when an idea or action infiltrates and changes the perspective, context and mindset of societies opinion and behavior on a massive, measurable scale.

I like that.

Sadly – or fortunately – TED didn’t, but not because they’re bastards, but because [1] I was blathering on like a lunatic [I wrote 10 lines about issues I felt were stopping brand bravery!!!] and [2] this is part of a series addressing this issue and so want everyone to approach the task based around the same 3 key questions.

The only other thing they asked is that the example of ‘brave’ I used was specifically associated with communication, hence my initial example of Microsoft and Windows 8 was wrong.

[And yes, I really do think what Microsoft did with Windows 8 was brave, even though when you look at the bigger situation, it was the only option really available to them]

With all that in mind, I went back to the drawing board and ended up actually answering the brief, which you can see below.

You might agree. You might disagree. That’s cool … but I would love to hear your answers if you can be arsed.

I have absolutely no idea why TED asked me to take part – probably for light relief – but it was very nice to take part, so thank you, I hope you don’t live to regret it for too long.

The film associated with the Bodyform ‘Truth’ campaign can be seen here.

The backstory to the campaign can be viewed here.

The other views of those 3 little questions can be viewed here.

Who Needs To Fear Nigerian Email Scammers, When You Have Banks?
December 10, 2012, 6:12 am
Filed under: Comment

Maybe it’s because I travel a lot.

Maybe it’s because I buy a lot of shit.

Maybe it’s because I am just unlucky.

Whatever the case, I get credit card scammed a lot.

From trips to France and on the Orient Express through to new sets of luggage and computers … you name it, I have inadvertently funded it.

Just my luck I have scammers who have expensive – and sophisticated – tastes.

Now the good [?] news is that because this sort of thing is so rife, the credit card companies are relatively quick to sort it out … or so I thought … because last week I discovered someone had spent almost US$10,000 on my Visa card [at the NYC Apple Store no less] and HSBC couldn’t have been more unhelpful.

Apart from taking TWENTY MINUTES to answer the phone, they then told me they couldn’t do anything until I wrote in to officially tell them there was a problem.

I asked why ringing them up and telling them there was a problem, wasn’t enough … but they said “it was the rules”.

This is also the bank that told me they couldn’t act on my requests as I was in China [and the money & branch I was calling was located in Hong Kong] and that to ‘authorize any action’, I’d have to come into that specific branch.

OK, I appreciate taking instructions over the phone is open to exploitation but I’m supposedly one of their Global Premier customers – which is supposedly for people in my exact sort of ‘live-in-lots-of-countries’ situation – but no one at the Shanghai HSBC offices say they can help me.

And they call themselves the World’s local bank.


Access to my money aside, I am now in the situation where I have to wait over 2 months until HSBC tell me whether they accept they have authorized a fraudulent transaction.


Can someone tell me what exactly I am paying an annual fee for?

What makes it even more frustrating is that normally, when I’m overseas, they call me every time I try and use my card to ‘check’ it’s a valid transaction – so how they allowed this to happen is beyond me.

And to think I used to believe it was just their ads that were bollocks.

December 7, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

The Scent Of Disaster …
December 6, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Chanel No 5.

The embodiment of femininity.

Understated. Elegant. Classic.

Sure, they have had the odd moment of madness – like that obscenely indulgent ad by Baz Luhrman featuring Ms Plastic Face, Nicole Kidman – but generally, they’ve stayed true to the perfume brand that was immortalized by Marilyn Monroe and has enchanted and entranced countless generations of women all around the World.

Which makes their current campaign all the more weird, because rather than communicate the essence of their iconic brand [and unlike many that define themselves in that way, this one truly is] in a new way, they’ve seemingly walked away from everything they’ve built up over nearly 100 years and ended up making the sort of rubbish that at first, you think is a massive piss take.

Point 1: They Use Brad Pitt

Don’t get me wrong, Mr Pitt is a handsome fella, but apart from the fact he’s in his ‘redneck, mountain dwelling’ appearance, he’s hardly the embodiment of femininity is he?

Point 2: The End Line Is ‘Inevitable’

I get it. They’re saying that at some point in life, you discover what everyone of a particular mindset – or experience – discovers.

And they’re saying one of those things is Chanel No 5.

I get it, but only from a ‘brand onion’ sort-of sense.

They’re so many words they could have used. Words that are far more evocative than ‘inevitable’ … but it appears the people behind this ad are under the misguided impression the World revolves around them because they’ve ended up choosing a word that sounds more appropriate as the positioning for the latest Twilight movie rather than Chanel.

But it gets worse.

Much, much worse, because there’s a television component to this campaign which leads to my next point …

Point 3: Brad Is Talking Utter Tosh

You could just about justify the use of a male celebrity for a female iconic brand if he was talking about something emotive, sensory and beautiful – maybe how the elusive, yet familiar, scent of Chanel No 5 captivates you while never allowing you to truly capture it – but instead, they have got him rambling some incoherent nonsense that makes you look at the spot in shock rather than awe.

Then laughter. Utter laughter.

You want to see it?

Seriously, you have to, so cop a load of this.

What the fuck were Chanel thinking?

Did someone from TBWA brainwash them with their ‘disrupt at all costs’ philosophy?

A philosophy that ultimately means your competitors influence your positioning more than you do … even though saying something different [or differently] to your competitors is – if done well and for the right reasons – obviously a good thing.

And what if someone doesn’t see the TVC and only the Brad Pitt poster?

Sure, in some ways, that would be less harmful, but surely the response would be either:

1. Ignore it, thinking it couldn’t possibly be an ad for Chanel No 5.

2. Query it, because none of it makes any fucking sense.

3. Avoid it, because they don’t want a perfume that a man flogs.

Seriously Chanel, you’ve gone from being classic to pretentious in one campaign.

Or said another way, from valuable to disposable in a couple of ads.

Even Nokia didn’t achieve that level of brand destruction so quickly.

Your only saving grace is you have so many ‘credits’ in the brand bank, that the huge cost of this campaign [physically & metaphorically] might still keep you solvent.

Though that noise you can hear is Coco Chanel turning like a turbine in her grave.

Utter rubbish.

The Most Influential Place On Earth …
December 5, 2012, 6:11 am
Filed under: Comment

I found this post in my drafts folder, but I thought it was worth putting up because I recently had a ‘discussion’ with a client about how the World’s economic power had truly returned to China.


Yes, because the West was only the dominant power for the past few hundred years and – as we all know – that is definitely not the case anymore.

Of course many people will say that China has achieved that power by exploiting its people and foreign investors so they can go out and buy, buy, buy – and while there is more than an element of truth to all that – I would remind people that [1] there’s a hell of a lot of people/companies who exploited China’s cheap manufacturing for their own gain [2] there’s a hell of a lot of foreign brands that are, in essence, culturally blackmailing Chinese citizens into paying premium prices for average products and [3] no company/Government has had a gun put to their head was forced to sell.

Sure, it’s a very complicated situation – with many twists, turns and perspectives – but I do get very sick of certain people’s myopic view that China is a nation of evil without ever looking in their own backyard.

Anyway, that all aside, the Heritage Federation of America recently put up an interactive map that tracks China’s global investments.

It’s amazing and – if you’re a foreign government – frightening, however as I said earlier, the issue isn’t that it’s happened, it’s why it’s happened and how you need to deal with it rather than just fighting against it.

That approach could be adopted for more than just addressing China’s increasing influence couldn’t it.