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

Instead Of Thinking There Are Always 2-Sides To Every Story, We Should Acknowledge There Are 2-Sides To Every Situation …
February 10, 2015, 6:25 am
Filed under: Comment, Minimum Wage, Point Of View

A while ago I read a letter in the Daily Telegraph.

It was a letter that literally stopped me in my tracks because it forced me to re-evaluate something, that until that point, I had felt blindly passionate about.

While I could make myself feel better by acknowledging the situation the person raised has not been something I have ever faced, the fact I never even considered it bothers me.

Of course, there will be people out there who will say there are far more people who don’t face this situation than do and so to change it for the minority could undermine and hurt the majority – and I accept that – but it also highlights how as an industry, we tend to prefer focusing on the big commonalities of our audiences, rather than embrace the edges of how so many of them think and live their lives.

I get why, I honestly do … we are trying to find the broadest possible commonality across various segments of society because that enables us to create work with the broadest possible appeal. But as we all know, trying to engage everyone means you often end up engaging no one, plus there is the little fact that there’s no such thing as a ‘standard life’ and just because we have found a way to place people into a fairly simplistic set of characteristics doesn’t mean it reflects the tensions and concerns that are really going on in millions of peoples lives.

Of course exploring these broader edges impacts both time and money – factors many view as an expense rather than an investment – however the argument for doing it is not just that you will have a better understanding of what reality is for your audience [which lets you create work that actually means something to them rather than is more expensive wallpaper] but it reveals the potential implications of your idea/concept/action so you can identify problems before they happen or opportunities before you miss out on them.

This is not about diluting your point of view – that is arguably more important than it ever has been – however having a point of view that is built on simplistic understanding of what is going on means, at best, you end up with work that is noticeable rather than meaningful … which is a problem many agencies, brands and governments tend to confuse with each other.

So to Candice Baxter of Grimsby, thank you. I hope your daughter dreams are realised.

Love Fades But Never Disappears …
February 9, 2015, 6:25 am
Filed under: Comment, Love, Rosie

So it’s the 2nd week since I decided to re-start blogging.

And I’m still here.

But it gets worse.

It’s Monday.

And I’m feeling sentimental.


A few weeks ago, I thought we had lost our beloved cat, Rosie.

She sometimes rushes out the door when I get home and when she hadn’t come out to see me after 10 minutes [she actually likes me, though it could also be because I give her treats], the reality that she may have got out started to become a reality.

But it got worse.

You see we live on the 5th floor of our apartment and there have been occasions where she has rushed out the moment I’ve got in and run into the lift before the doors have closed.

Every time this has happened I’ve been able to get her but maybe this was the time she succeeded.

I got in the lift and went to every floor of our building.


I went to the underground car park.


But it was when I went back to our apartment to check if she had been found that I really started to feel a sense of panic because I could see Jill was starting to get worried.

She had checked every one of her hiding places – even the vent that once fell down and she basically climbed into the walls of the building – but she wasn’t to be seen.

It was about now that I started to think she had gone.

She had run out of the door when I got home, got in the lift – which returns to the ground floor – and then, when the doors opened, panicked and ran straight from the apartment lobby, out of the automatic doors and into the madness of the China streets.

While she fancies herself as a tough cat, she’s pathetic and wouldn’t survive a minute on her own. She’s even scared of birds.

So I decided to check every floor again. Just in case.

But still there was nothing.

Then I went back to the underground carpark and looked under every car.

Again, nothing.

So all that left me to do was go out and walk the gardens shouting her name.

I grabbed a pack of her favourite treats and with a sense of despair, but a need to feel I was still doing something, I went out into the rain and shouted “Rosie” over and over again.

I walked and walked and walked but nothing.

Not even a meow from the street cats.

And it was now – after about 40 minutes of looking – that I started to come to the realisation that she had gone, that I would never ever see her again.

I loved that ball of fluffy mischief.

Yes she was a whining pain in the ass, but she was my whining pain in the ass and she had given me more happiness than I ever could have imagined.

The thought that she was on her own, out on the wild streets, was incredibly upsetting.

I imagined her hiding. Too frightened to move, too frightened to stay in one place for long enough to be found.

She would be cold and hungry and alone and all I wanted to do was find her, take care of her and protect her.

I started thinking how I could never have another cat.

That all it would do was remind me of who it was replacing.

And that wouldn’t be fair on the new cat.

I felt a real and deep sense of loss.

Why did Rosie have to run out?

Why hadn’t I noticed her escape when I walked in?

How could an evening go so bad so quickly?

Then the phone rang. It was Jill.

Rosie had just walked into the lounge from somewhere in the apartment.



The sense of relief was incredible. I mean totally out-of-proportion incredible.

Except it wasn’t really ‘out-of-proportion incredible’ because while she’s a cat, she’s a member of our family.

I used to snort in derision when people used to say that, but it’s true.

We know each others ‘ways’ and indulge each other – whether that’s letting her meow at 7am to announce she wants breakfast or me waking her up with pats when she’s curled up – which is why I live in the delusional belief that had she escaped into the wilderness on that cold, lonely night in Shanghai, years later we might have come face-to-face again and when it happened, the reaction would be something like this …

Happy Monday.

Maybe Max Was Mad Because He Had Too Many People Offering Their Opinion?
February 6, 2015, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment, Creative Development

One thing I hear more and more of these days is how the development of creative is being diluted by outside partners.






And – worst of all – crowdsourcing.

To be honest, I’m in agreement with a lot of the creative community on this.

There are three things that have happened over the past few years that I believe have had a disastrous effect on the quality of communication:

1. Many clients are only staying in their job for 2-3 years so there is no desire to do something that builds over time, they are just focused on not doing anything that rocks the boat so they can all but guarantee their next move.

2. We have become obsessed with the short-term results, which is ultimately stopping – or at least hindering – the ability to develop and build something that offers bigger opportunities for the brand and the business down the line.

3. We all think we are creative.

OK, so point 1 is hardly new and – depending on the industry – either is point 2, but the whole ‘we are all creative’ is definitely a newer situation over the past few years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not saying only those with ‘creative’ on their business card can lay claim to being creative, but in terms of the development of communication, they have a skill and a craft that very few have and even they have – in the main – had to go and study how to do it for many years.

Of course, it can be argued that there are a bunch of creatives out there who are their own worst enemy by focusing purely on what they want to do rather than what the challenge they’ve asked to solve requires [in other words, they think they are in the art business, rather than the commercial art business] … but that aside, when you look at the quality and craft of the work that is put out into the public domain each and every day, it’s not hard to spot the huge [negative] influence of people who – if truth be told – should have kept their noses out of things and let the professionals get on with it.

Or as George used to say:

“It’s like going to the DR, telling him what’s wrong with you and what he needs to prescribe to make you better”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying creative development should be an impenetrable process, but when outsiders get dictatorial and prescriptive, all they’re actually doing is undermining the potential of what can be created because while I know they are doing it for the right reasons, they are operating with blinkers on whereas the creative department have the ability to see and communicate things differently.

Not wrong. Just differently.

Anyway, the reason I say this is because I recently read an interview with the screenwriter, Terry Hayes.

He used to be a journalist but went on to write the screenplay for 2 of the Mad Max movies.

In the interview, he was asked this:

Do you prefer writing books, because when you do that, you get to be screenwriter, producer, director and studio exec?

What I loved was his answer … an answer that highlights that as bad as adland is for outside influence, the movie business – which, let’s not forget, is an industry so many creatives aspire to being a part of – is incredibly similar.

“With so many egos and conflicting ideas, scriptwriting is no longer about creativity, it’s about crowd control”.

What a brilliant, insightful and tragic comment.

Of course it isn’t always that way, but it seems to be becoming the rule rather than the exception.

But before you think this post is anti-outside influence … there is one thing I would add.

If you want total creative control, then you have to take on some of the economic risk.

You can’t have one without the other – that’s not how it works and I don’t include ‘the risk of losing the client if things go wrong’ as part of that – which is why I still believe one of the best thing anyone can do is start their own company because whether it wins or fails, the lessons you learn help you understand the issues and complexities your clients are going through which not only allows you to empathise with their position and point of view, but helps you influence which decisions they make.

It’s all too easy to say “they’re wrong” just like it’s too all easy to say “I’m right” … which is why I still believe the best way to let creativity truly win is to be given a clear and concise challenge by the client [as opposed to an executional delivery] and put your money where your mouth is, not just your ego.

At the end of the day, power comes from success and that needs, as Harrison Ford said, an understanding of the ‘value of value‘.

Look For The Rabbits …
February 5, 2015, 6:25 am
Filed under: Insight

Despite what many think, advertising – and planners in general – like to talk about honesty.

What’s really going on in our audience’s mind.

What really will make a difference in their life.

What really they will respond to.

And while many may think that’s total bollocks, the fact is – in the main – it’s done with good intention.

But because of the way our industry works and the expectations placed upon us by clients, we tend to be quite one dimensional and obvious in our ‘honesty’ … where the backbone for our recommendation is based on identifying one thing that will sell our clients brand/benefit in a way that will reach the most people as possible.

And that’s good.

Except by looking for that one thing, we ignore all the other things that could add more texture and intrigue and perspective to what we’re trying to do. The other things that may actually attract people interests rather than continually trying to chase after them.

The reason I say this is because I recently read an article about David Hockney.

For those who don’t know who he is, he is a British artist who is renowned for his art and his pugnaciousness.

Anyway the article says this:


David Hockney has never been troubled by criticism, says Tim Lewis in The Observer.

Even in his youth – a gay, grammar-school boy from Bradford – he was protected by his own confidence.

“When I first got to the Royal College of Art, people used to mock me: ‘Trouble at t’mill, Mr Ormondroyd’, stuff like that, but I’d look at their drawings and think: ‘If I drew like that, I’d keep my mouth shut.’”

He wasn’t scared of being openly gay, either. “I thought ‘I’m going to be an artist, I have to be honest. We lived in bohemia, and bohemia is a tolerant place. There was a bohemia then. There isn’t now because you need cheap places for bohemia, don’t you?”

He loves to smoke – not least because it annoys “dreary health-freaks”.

“One time …” he relates, “… I was walking in Holland Park and I stopped to watch some rabbits playing”.

“I sat on a seat watching and then some magpies came down, black and white birds, and they looked rather good. I was sitting there having a cigarette and three girls come running by, jogging, and they see me and come: ‘Ow, ow …’ [he wags his finger] … and I sat there and thought ‘They think they are very healthy, but they haven’t seen the rabbits.’ And I thought: ‘I’m healthier than they are.’”


So remember, next time you are given a planning project … don’t blindly follow the path that you’re being led down, look for the rabbits.

When Brands Go Delusional …
February 4, 2015, 6:25 am
Filed under: Crap Campaigns In History, Crap Marketing Ideas From History!

Have a look at this …

Putting aside the ever so slight over-promise and over-exageration that Costa are offering a ‘world class business platform’ that ‘fuels the best meetings, ideas and people’ … the bit that makes me laugh the most is that all they’re actually offering is a coffee machine.

A massive, unsightly coffee machine.

A massive, unsightly, over-the-top coffee machine that requires you to do everything except boil the water for their watered down, poor excuse for a coffee.

That is unless you force some poor secretary to make it for you in a bid to delude yourself that you are important when really you’re st another victim of the annual brainstorm meeting.

And then there’s the claim this visual monstrosity was created by leading design and technology experts.


What leading design and technology experts was that then … the same ones who designed the outfit for Coco The Clown?

Hell, even the way they have added ‘Express’ to their name is annoying.

Not only does it look like a cheap after-thought, it hardly conveys the image cues of groundbreaking ideas … whatever the image cues for groundbreaking ideas actually are.

Look, I get they want to expand their market.

I get they want to brand themselves as offering unique values.

But it’s all utter bollocks isn’t it.

They may claim a cup of their coffee will enable you to stomp around the office a little bit taller and a teensy-bit more confident … but what they’re basically selling is the equivalent of popping into your kitchen at home to make a cup of instant coffee … except it costs 10 times as much, tastes 10 times less enjoyable

Actually that’s wrong.

Because with the Costa Express Self-Serve Coffee Bar [TM] not only you find yourself holding a massive purple cup that screams “I AM A MIDDLE LEVEL NO BODY WITH ABSOLUTELY NO TASTE”, you’ll also earn the ridicule of your colleagues when, instead of coming up with a World Class idea as stated in the above ad, you’ll stress out when asked what you’d like to order for lunch from the brainstorm menu.

I’ve been in this industry for a long time … I’ve heard all sorts of over-claim and ridiculous reframe … but I have to take my hat off to Costa for pushing the boundaries of big-talking to a whole new level.

They sign off the ad with ‘GET A TASTE’, they should have replaced it with ‘GET A LIFE’.