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


Deliberately Ignorant …

Once upon a time, a creative friend of mine rang me up.

He had been offered a job in China and wanted to hear my perspective on being there.

During the conversation, he asked if the pollution was bad.

When I asked why he was asking, he said he was pretty susceptible to asthma and while on his visit to the agency there, he had felt a bit ill, despite the weather being good.

He had asked some of his prospective workmates if they felt the weather was ever bad for breathing and they all said no and he wanted to know my take on it.

I laughed.

Not just because it’s pretty well documented the air there is not great, especially for an asthmatic – despite the government being the biggest investor in green technology in the World – but because it reminded me of something my Dad had told me while watching the Tom Cruise movie, A Few Good Men.

I know this is going off on a tangent, but hang in there.

You see, at the scene where Jack Nicholson spouts his immortal “You Can’t Handle The Truth” line, my Dad burst out laughing.

When I asked why, he said this:

“There are occasions where people will openly deny truth. Not because they hold a different opinion, but because to accept it means they would have to accept their complicity in a situation truth has revealed. Sometimes, the simple act of acknowledgement means people are forced to face and question the motives and values they conveniently chose to hide away”

His point was literally what my friend had experienced.

The prospective colleagues he asked about weather conditions knew full-well there is pollution in the air. However, their mind had almost forced them to forget it. Not because they were liars or bad people, but because if they admitted the truth, then they would be forced to ask themselves why they were there when they knew it was likely to be doing them harm.

We experience this every day.

Deliberate ignorance.

From people hired to purchases made.

Not because people are bad, but because we don’t want face the questionable decisions we’ve chosen to make to benefit our personal circumstances over health, values or friendship.

Which is why my mate decided not to go to China.

The moral of the story.

Remember people sometimes don’t tell you what they think, they tell you what protects them from you knowing what they think.



Talked Through Disaster …

Once upon a time, it felt like there were a lot of movies where a passenger on a plane had to step up and take control because all the pilots had fallen ill.

It would always feature a member of the flight crew discovering the Captain and co-pilot were sick or unconscious, followed by a nervous public announcement asking: “Is there a pilot on board?”

Eventually someone – typically an Alpha male type of man – would step up and the movie would then focus on the story of them being talked through how to land the plane … which they’d do without a loss of life and everyone, especially the glamorous female flight crew member, would fall in love with them.

Sometimes these movies were comedies – Airplane for example – sometimes something more serious, but that was the general premise of all of them.

Now there have been stories where this situation happened, or at least in terms of a passenger having to help land the plane annnnnnnd – as we learnt on the Netflix Fyre Festival documentary – you can learn to fly a plane through Microsoft Flight Simulator … but frankly, the idea of being thrown into a situation you have never been in before, with hundreds of lives at stake and a time limit for success to be executed is something that must be pretty much everyone’s worst nightmare.

Why am I saying this?

Well because I saw the lowest rent version of this situation recently.

Or, said another way, the ‘training wheels’ version of this situation.

This.

Yep, that’s a ‘be talked through your own haircut’.

Be TALKED through.

Not video. Phone.

Hahahahahahahaha.

And then they charge you $14 for it.

What if you have a complicated haircut?

What if you need it colouring and can’t tell if it’s right?

What if you end up spending hours talking them through the cut?

OK … OK … so it’s someone taking the piss, but as funny as it is, there may be people who would actually pay for this.

No seriously.

Not simply because of the state pandemic hairstyles got in – though obviously I wouldn’t know this – but because we shouldn’t forget, there’s restaurants out there who charge you a full restaurant price to cook your own steak on the BBQ.

I’ll never work out why some people think that is a good night out.

Sure you don’t have to wash up, but you do have to pay a lot of cash for something you could have done – for much cheaper – at home.

So you heard it here first. Next pandemic lockdown, invest in the phone haircut business. They will be the future … or they may end up as a z-grade horror movie on Channel 5.



Who Is Fooling Who?

Being old, I’ve done more than my fair share of judging awards.

I enjoy it.

Yes it’s a major investment in terms of time, but when you come across an absolutely devastatingly good submission, it’s worth every second.

However it is also fair to say that over the years, there have been some real painful experiences. Either in terms of average papers being seemingly entered into every category in a bid to increase the odds of winning something or papers that have such a strong scent of scam, even Ray Charles can see how suspect they are. [Sorry Mr Charles]

I always laugh when I come across those. Specially at the agencies submitting them … because while they obviously think they are geniuses – or the judges are idiots – the reality is they’re wrong on both counts.

But here’s the thing, people can slag off awards all they like, but they matter.

For Colenso for example, they’re important.

We’re a small agency on the other side of the planet and being able to show our creativity and effectiveness is vitally important to keep demonstrating our validity to attract global clients.

But – and it’s a big but – it only works if its real.

And that only works if all the winners around it are also real.

Now I appreciate that different clients have different needs and budgets.

I appreciate different markets have different cultural traits, behaviours and media.

I absolutely appreciate some entries use a language that is not their native tongue.

And I think that is all brilliant – though I also think none-native English speakers are at an immediate disadvantage and the award organisers should be looking at ways to change that.

However, if you need to write 8456738585463 words to explain your problem or your idea or your insight or your results … you’re not helping yourself.

Nor are you if you are using the pandemic as your strategies main adversary – often followed up with the words, ‘how do we grow in an era of the new normal?’.

Of course I am not doubting the pandemic has caused havoc among categories of business all over the world. It’s definitely happened to me too. But if we don’t explain what the challenge is – how it has affected behaviour or values or distribution or competition or anything other than it ‘made things more difficult’ … then it’s as lazy as the time I judged the Effies in the US when Trump came to power and the opening line of 85% of all submissions was:

How do we bring a nation divided together?

[My fave was when a whisky brand used that as their creative challenge. HAHAHAHA]

I take the judging seriously because I want the awards to be valued.

I want the awards to be valued because I want the industry to be valued.

And I want the industry to be valued because I want clients to win, creativity to win and the people coming up behind me to have a chance of taking us all to better and more interesting places that we’re at right now.

And I believe they can if we don’t fuck up the chance for them.

I get awards are nice to have.

I get they can drive business and payrises.

But if we keep allowing bullshit a chance to shine – and let’s face it, we have time and time again – then all we’re doing is fucking ourselves over.

I’m fine with failure.

In fact I’m very, very comfortable with it.

Especially when it’s because someone has tried to do something audacious for all the right reasons … because even if it doesn’t come off, it’s opened the door to other things we may never have imagined. There’s even real commercial value to that.

But when agencies create, hijack or exploit problems to just serve their own means – then fuck them. Maybe – just maybe – if they did it at a scale that could make a real difference, you’d be prone to encourage it. But when it’s done to achieve just what is needed to let the creators win an award … then frankly, the organisers and judges have a moral obligation to call it out.

Asia gets a bad wrap for this. And over the years that has been deserved, but I can tell you no market is immune. Hell, I’ve even seen some in NZ recently – or one in particular – and what made it worse was it wasn’t even any good.

But as rubbish as that example was, at least it didn’t stoop to the levels we have seen previously.

Let’s remember it’s only 4 years ago an agency WON MAJOR AWARDS for an app they said could help save refugees on boats by tracking them in the sea … only for them to then claim – when later called out – that the app was in beta testing hence the information being sent back to users was not real.

Amazingly ignoring the fact they didn’t say that in any of their entry submissions and if they had, they wouldn’t have been eligible for the awards they entered in the first place.

Creativity can do amazing things.

Advertising can do amazing things.

But we fuck it up when we put the superficial on the podium.

Of course, this is not just an agency problem. Clients are also part of this. Because if they let agencies do what they are great at rather than treating them as a subservient production partner … maybe we’d not just see more interesting work, but even more interesting and valuable brands.



Fempowerment Fails …

Years ago I worked on the shampoo brand Sunsilk.

I know. Me.

A bald bloke.

Hahahahahahahaha.

Back then, it was in a two brand fight for dominance with Pantene.

They went back and forth trying to get one over the over.

Apparently the brands had legally agreed how each one could show the ‘shine’ of the hair they washed in TV ads. A slight deviation that allowed each one to build their own distinctive look.

Back when I was on it, albeit for 2 mins, Sunsilk was a big, mature brand.

A powerhouse.

So you can imagine my surprise when I saw this:

What in gods name is that?

What is it?

It’s like the worst Barbie ad I’ve ever seen.

An ad that claims to ‘rethink’ pink but doesn’t really rethink anything.

Oh they may think they are, but the people behind this need to know you can’t just say pink now represents possibilities, future, strength and shiny [gotta get those haircare ad cues in there, even if it makes even less sense to the premise of the ad] … you actually have to make it mean that.

It’s a commitment.

A focus.

Acts beyond advertising.

So sadly, when you make an ad so bubblegum it looks like the bastard love child of the movie, Legally Blonde and a packet of original Hubba Bubba, you’re not really going to convince anyone.

On the positive, they cop out by saying ‘pink is whatever we make it’ and so I would like to tell the people at Unilever and Sunilk they did exactly that, because they have made pink brown.

Shitty brown.

Am I being mean?

Yep.

But then this is a multi-billion dollar company who has profited by putting women across Asia in cultural jail by promoting white skin as the right skin … used COVID to maximise profits for their antiseptic products and continually used stereotypes to promote it’s products … so I don’t have much sympathy for them.

Especially when they’re now trying to connect to young women by saying ‘pink’ is powerful while using all the same tropes, styles and themes that means what they’re actually communicating is ‘pink is the same old girly cliche they’ve been profiting from, for decades’.

There’s some absolutely incredibly talented people at Unilever.

Including some very good friends of mine.

There’s also some brilliant systems and processes within the organisation.

Sadly, there’s also a blinkered reliance on some questionable research methodologies, which results in a lack of self awareness so they end up with work like this.

They have done some brilliant work in the past.

Some truly brilliant.

But – in my opinion – not so much right now. Made worse with the sort of underlying messages that undermine people rather than elevate them.

If it wasn’t for their huge distribution and pricing power, it would be interesting to see what would happen to the brand.

But the thing is I want them to do well.

I want them to make work that changes and positively impacts culture.

They’re a huge spender on advertising.

They have the ability to change how culture feels and how the industry is perceived.

A Unilever that does great advertising is a Unilever that will have positive knock-on effects in a whole host of other areas and industries.

I’d even be willing to help them – for free, for a time – if their starting point was about building change through truth rather than their messed-up, manipulative version of purpose.

However given they made this ad after saying they wanted to stop the stereotypes in their advertising, it appears their view of reality is more blinkered than a racehorse.



You Can’t Stop Sport …
September 20, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Culture, Sport, Talent, Youth

This is a real t-shirt from the 80’s.

Not sure who would commission such a thing, but I can imagine skateboarders loved wearing it as they were breaking the law.

But now, in 2021, we can categorically say the people behind it are wrong.

Because as we saw, skateboarding IS an Olympic sport and it was brilliant to see.

To witness someone win an Olympic medal before they are even a teenager was incredible.

Not just for what they achieved, but how they will have connected to a generation of youth who will not only now see sport in a new light … but will also be able to see the potential of what they can achieve.

We need more of that.

Because in a World where everyone acts like they’ve achieved success, skateboarding doesn’t let you get away with it.

Sure you can buy the clothes.

Sure you can hang out in the right places.

But when you get on that board, it makes you work for everything you get.

No shortcuts. No favours. Just commitment, practice and effort.

Which makes every success worth celebrating.

Which is what we should all be celebrating.

Which may explain why the Olympics was still special, when in some ways, it should have passed us by without so much as a whisper.

Here’s to more sport being legitimised by incredibly talented young athletes who some people have wanted to keep in the shadows.