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

Superlative Stupidity …
February 28, 2022, 8:00 am
Filed under: Apathy, Attitude & Aptitude, Context, Crap Campaigns In History, Marketing Fail

I get that in life, people find different things exciting.

Some think train spotting is a thrill, for example.

I also understand that people like to think the job or industry they work in is exciting. It lets them feel they have value … importance … a purpose of repute.

But things go wrong when you try to convince others that what you do is exciting when the context they have for it, is the absolute opposite.

Which is my long-winded way of saying why this ad is basically insane.

Bringing the excitement back to dentistry???

What the hell?

And if that wasn’t bad enough, their explanation of what that means is even more delusional.

+ A general check up.
+ Two X-Rays.
+ Scale and clean.
+ All for the low price of 25 quid.

OK, £25 does seem cheap – in fact, it seems TOO cheap – but I have to say, I doubt anyone outside of dentistry would find this news ‘exciting’.

Christ, the British have terrible teeth so they’re definitely not going to buy into this bullshit. In fact, I’d go as far to say that I doubt even dentist-loving American’s would find this news ‘exciting’ … and they go hyper over teeth.

I am sure they are a good company. In fact I know they are. And anyone who goes into dentistry is worthy of extra praise because I can’t imagine what it’s like staring into people’s mouths each day.

But according to whoever wrote this – or thought this – it seems they believe a visit to the dentist can rival a night out to a concert or a theatre or even a night in front of the telly.

To which I want to tell them this.

It doesn’t and it can’t.

So stop making ads that are as painful as a visit to the dentist.

Thank you.

Create Change, Not Ads …

One of the reasons I always loved Colenso was their approach to advertising.

Rather than always make the ‘ad’ the solution – or worse, use ads to promote the problem – they used creativity to solve the challenge in front of them and then created brilliant advertising to amplify awareness of whatever solution they’d come up with.

I’d talked about this approach in a presentation I did way back in 2008 for PFSK in Singapore.

We had just launched Sunshine and I was talking about the difference between solutions and ad solutions … all while Colenso had found a way to bridge both.

They used this ‘double dipping’ creative approach for everything.

Treehouse Restaurant for Yellow Pages.
Asscam for Levi’s.
Play for Spark.
Tally for State Insurance.
X-Ray Cast for Anchor.
Speed Dial for Volkswagen.
MyHooman for Pedigree
Brewtrolium for DB Export.
K9FM for Pedigree.

There’s too many examples to write about, and now I’m at the agency that did all this brilliance.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen this approach in action almost every day.

Of course it doesn’t always work … and it doesn’t always get bought … but the idea of bringing audacious solutions to problems rather than just audacious advertising is something pretty infectious.

There are a few really exciting things on the table, but recently we launched something – with our client Spark – that doesn’t just excite me, but makes me so proud I’m going to break my habit and actually write about it.

I know, who am I?

Beyond Binary is our way to create a better internet. A more inclusive internet.

In conjunction with our client, Spark – and working alongside rainbow communities – we developed a piece of code that anyone can download and easily add to their website.

What this code does is change the field formats on websites so they no longer only offer Male or Female options.

While to many this may seem a small thing, to the Trans and Non-Binary community – of which we are talking millions – it is important. Not simply because it represents them being seen and valued by organisations, but because it stops them being forced to misidentify who they are to fit in with established internet protocols.

In addition to the code, we made a film [see below] to help communicate why this is important for the non-binary community and business … as well as a website where you can download the code, learn how to add it to your existing site, hear stories from people who are affected by this situation every day and even access a pre-written presentation you can use to show your bosses why they need to do this.

A lot of people spent a lot of time working on this – which is why I was so thrilled when Campaign Asia wrote such a lovely piece about it.

I am not saying this because they used a competitor campaign to highlight how good ours is – though that helps, hahaha – but because they got it.

The understood exactly why we did it and how we did it … and that’s important because we sweated this. A lot.

Obviously we’re very proud of Beyond Binary but the key is getting companies to take part … so if you read this blog and work for a company with a website, please can I ask you to get involved. The more inclusive we make the internet, the better it is for everyone.

Thank you Colenso for being stupid enough to bring me over.
Thank you Spark for making this actually happen.
Thank you to the communities for helping and trusting us to do this right.
Thank you to anyone who takes part.

This is why it’s so important …

Accidental Legacies …

A few weeks ago, I read this:

It was said by Susan Ann Sulley, one of the singers in The Human League about their iconic song, ‘Don’t You Want Me’.

I have to admit, it has absolutely captivated me.

From the acknowledgement there was a real chance they could have put sleigh bells on the song if they thought it would chart over Christmas – which would have immediately made the song a novelty record rather than one of pop’s true classics – to her statement of simply being ‘an ordinary girl, doing her best’.

The level of honesty featured in those few lines is both breath-taking and disarming … especially given it comes from someone from within an industry that loves to big-talk itself, even when they haven’t had a Worldwide hit like Susan has.

To be honest, this openness is reflected in the entire article – which reinforces some ‘no nonsense’ Northern stereotype that adland likes to communicate over and over again.

But there’s something else I like about it …

Because while rigour and planning definitely increase the odds of success, the uncomfortable truth for all those companies, consultancies and self-anointed marketing masters who claim to have proprietary processes that ‘guarantee success’ is the legends, legacies and icons of culture owe far more of their good fortune to the beauty of happy accidents than an obsessive focus on the perfection of a process.

Said another way, they leave space for chaos rather than try to remove it.

I get it may sound counter-productive, but as Martin and I said way back in 2019 … chaos creates what order can’t.

Design Changes Possibilities …

Yesterday I wrote about laziness in retail, well today I’m going to write about when you care deeply about it.

Have a look at this packaging:

Maybe it’s because I’m half Italian.

Maybe it’s because pasta is my undisputed favourite food.

Maybe it’s because the brand uses wheat from the region of Italy my family is from.

But how utterly glorious is it?!

It does everything packaging should do …

It is distinctive without trying too hard.

It shows the quality of the product inside.

It feels premium without being pretentious and charming without being childish.

It is a bloody masterpiece.

I love that because the pasta shape is an integral part of the packaging design, it allows the overall look to be clean while still being informative.

What’s even better is that while it started out as a project by Russian designer, Nikita Konkin … it ended up being turned into a real brand by German company, Greenomic Delikatessen, who bought the idea of Nikita.

Or said another way …

Creativity turned an everyday product into something with a highly desirable and distinctive commercial value.

Isn’t it funny how all those marketing training programs being flogged left, right and centre never talk about this sort of thing. Instead it’s all dot-to-dot processes to build identikit branded assets, eco-systems and strategy frameworks.

But then this also shows the difference between design and adland.

Designers identify real problems and look for ways to solve them with clarity, simplicity and distinctiveness. Whereas too many in adland choose what problem that want to solve and then add all manner of complexity to the solution in a bid to look like they’re fucking geniuses or to try and justify the ever decreasing fee the procurement department is forcing on them.

Remember Peggy?

The ‘innovation’ JWT Australia claimed ‘would allow their client to empower people to maximise their day through weather aggregation technology’. What that bullshit translated to was a ‘scam product and app’ that would tell you if it was going to rain so you’d know if you should hang your clothes out to dry

Yep, forget weather apps.


JWT was going to revolutionise the ‘washing line process’.

By making it longer, shitter and more expensive.


Unsurprisingly nothing happened with it because it was utter bollocks whereas everything happened for Nikita because he actually saw something that had real commercial value without extensive investment.

However in classic Russian melodrama style, he says he came up with the idea when he was “in love and perhaps this influenced me, though it could be just a coincidence” … which suggests he’s no longer in love and probably spending his time designing vodka bottles that look like your heart is dying. Or something.

I have written a lot in the past about the importance and value of design.

Whether it was the brilliant SONOS ‘sound waves‘ or the potential of using BK’s new logo as an emoji for food ordering.

Underpinning all of this is consideration, simplicity and craft.

Yes, I appreciate a personal project affords you more time than a client project … but designers are getting it right more often than adland and yet the talent in adland is there.

There’s tons of it. Everywhere.

And while there are still some amazing things coming out from the industry, I can’t help but feel design is pushing the possibilities of creativity more … which means the issue for adland must be something else.

Whether that is time, expectation, budgets or relationships, I’m not sure … but whatever it is, the attitude of ‘good enough is good enough’ is far too prevalent these days.

Or should I say, it is until someone like Nikita comes along and shows companies what they could have if they allow the experts to show them how they see the World rather than being told what to create by a committee of middle managers who value speed over quality and lack taste, judgement and real understanding of their audience.

It’s not easy to make something great.

But as a packet of pasta proves, it’s worth it.

Creatively, commercially and culturally.

When Retail Goes Porn. And Management Go Stupid …

What were they thinking?

Were they thinking?

And then, to add insult to injury, they announce it’s 70% off.

The lack of self-awareness is amazing.

Nothing showed this more than the way so many companies talked about their approach to the recent festive holidays.

On Linkedin – which I appreciate is the opposite of professionalism – there were so many posts from senior members of companies going on about how they were giving their staff time off during the holidays, as if this was a treat because normally they expect their staff to pay the company to work 24/7.

I’ve said it before, but time off is not a gift it’s a right.

More than that, it’s proof a company cares about the health and well-being of their people.

Unless you’re giving weeks instead of day/s, then making a big deal of it is the total opposite of the hero-signalling they think they’re doing.

As is when they announce to great fanfare ‘unlimited time off’ … which I wrote about as an act of wanting to appear generous when it’s really about control, because as we all know, it’s a crock of shit.

If it was really unlimited, then you could never go to work and not get fired and we all know that’s not going to happen.

Sadly it seems a lot of organisations follow the Trump/Johnson school of leadership – all headlines and no thinking.

While that can work initially – mainly because it’s just an act of populism built around doing the opposite of whatever the previous governing body enforced that was unpopular – it soon gets found out because people realise the decisions are not made for what will make them feelvalued, but what the management think will make them look valued.

Of course you can’t please all people all the time … but honesty, transparency and not trying to take credit for something you’re supposed to do, goes a long way.

We all make mistakes, it just seems a lot of companies are making a lot at the same time and somehow reading that as endorsement rather than group think stupidity.