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

When Hijacking Culture Is Copyright Theft In Disguise …

Love it or loathe it, but Wordle has captured the world’s attention. Whether it will continue to do that now the NYTimes has bought it, is anyones guess, but right now, it’s peak popularity.

Hell, even I love it and I HATE word games.

Crosswords? Hate.

Scrabble? Hate.

And yet whether it’s the last thing I do before I go to sleep or the first thing I do when I wake up, I’m playing the days challenge. And I’m brilliant at it. Hahaha.

Anyway, I was on Twitter when I recently saw this from Air New Zealand.

Look, I get it’s a competitive world.

I get brands are looking for anything that can help them stand out.

And I get ‘hijacking culture’ is a cheat way of doing this.

But there’s 2 reasons why this approach is tragic rather than magic.

First is it’s Air New Zealand.

Of all the airline brands out there, they are a pioneer. An innovator. A leader.

They’ve created, influenced and changed the airline industry in ways few have come close.

From being the first to make ‘in-flight safety videos’, entertainment to creating economy seats that turn into beds.

Ripping off Wordle doesn’t represent any of this.

If anything, it does the opposite.

But then, when I see the work they are putting out these days, maybe it all makes sense.

When a nation that prides itself as explorers and adventures has their National Airline promote their role in a post-covid world as being ‘we fly for you’ … you have to question if they realise what they’ve done or if they made a conscious effort to ditch the approach that made them great and forward thinking in favour of the sort of bland, contrived, unrealistic and meaningless twaddle of big corporation 90’s advertising.

Like this.

From 1991.

God I hope not. They are better than that and NZ needs them to be better than that.

Which leads to the other reason.

Hijacking culture.

What’s interesting is that so many brands do it.

As I said, I get why … but 99% of them have failed to understand how it really works and so we now live in a world where the approach is so common, it doesn’t surprise anyone.

If anything, it un-hijacks culture.

So how does it really work?

Well having worked with the brand and agency that arguably created the approach – or at least mastered it – the secret is to do something that adds to culture, not just steals from it.

Which means having an actual right to be there.

Then do something that opens things up, not just repeat what’s already happened.

Adding a point of view to the situation not just adding more noise and clutter to it.

Of course, even with all that, it still doesn’t mean it will work … but its definitely going to be better than the desperate amateur hour that so many brands favour.

Who think it makes them look cool but forgetting if you’re trying to be that, you’re definitely not ever going to be that.

People In Glass Houses Shouldn’t Be Throwing Stones …

One of the things I hated when I lived in China was hearing people slag off the country for all manner of things.

While some of the accusations were true, the reality was China was not the only country that participated in such behaviour but people chose to ignore that.

Not that I’m defending what was going on, because even though I rarely saw any of it – in fact I saw more in the US and UK when I lived there – I knew it was going on.

However there were some claims that showed people didn’t know what the fuck they were going on about.

The amount of people who would come to Shanghai from America and say, “let’s do ideas that force the government to deal with the pollution crisis”.

They’d say it like they were the very first people to identify China had a problem with pollution – which is possibly the greatest sign of arrogance you could have. So we would tell them.

China knows there is a pollution problem.

They are actively fighting it.

They’ve been the biggest investor in green tech for decades.

Proportionally, they still pump out less pollution into the air than America.

In fact, up until the last few years, they pumped out less pollution than America full stop.

America had been doing that for decades.

And there’s parts of London with a higher pollution index than most parts of China.

Then they’d stop acting like they’re a superhero and start understanding their perspective had been driven by media bias not cultural understanding.

But there were some things that were accusations. The lack of respect for copyright being one.

Of course, it’s not just in China this happens, but it definitely happens there. A lot.

Even now, I still think Uncle Martian is peak-plagiarism … mainly because they didn’t just make replicas and sell them as originals, they created a whole new brand based on the intellectual property of brands including Jordan and Under Armour.

I say that because I recently saw another version of this.

Maybe not quite as bad as Uncle Martian, but pretty terrible al the same.

But not from China … so you can keep your prejudiced thoughts to yourself.

It’s that brand at the top of this post that looks awfully like this …

I am an enormous fan of Liquid Death.

I love what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

Not only are they the true embodiment of a cult brand – with some amazing cult behaviours, such as their $100,000 country club membership … or buy a slab of Liquid Death – they have made drinking water in public cool for men.

That’s something no other beverage brand has pulled off.

So while I am sure they would think someone ripping them off is a sign they’re doing something right, it’s also a sign some lazy, parasitic pricks are ripping them off.

Though as George once said when we once pitched an idea to a client who said, “but what if we just asked another agency to do your idea for cheaper?”

If you choose to go with someone copying someone else’s idea rather than the people who actually came up and created the idea, then you deserve all the disappointment and confusion you get. Including the lawsuit.

How A Venus Fly Trap Proves We Have Got Nature All Wrong …
March 22, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Family, Love

Recently we bought a Venus Fly Trap.

And it’s safe to say, I’m transfixed.

These plants shouldn’t exist. They’re literally bonkers.

A plant that eats the living. EATS. THE. LIVING.

It’s the sort of thing you’d expect to come from the mind of a z-grade movie writer, not a bloody gardening shop.

But here it is, living in our house and trapping flies like a serial killer.

Which reveals a truth about nature we often forget.

You see when marketers talk about nature, they tend to position it as calm … fragile … innocent. A gentle place where humanity can be restored by its peaceful resonance.

But as the Venus Fly Trap shows, nature is actually the original hard bastard.

Of course it should be obvious …

She’s lived sustainably for billions of years.
Survived dinosaurs, meteors and nuclear bombs,
Found ways to evolve regardless of environment or climate.
Created an eco-system far more impressive than anything DHL or Amazon can muster.
Sustained life for longer than all mothers put together.
Kept the planet breathing despite our best attempts to choke and burn her.
Developed an operating system light years ahead of anything Apple could come up with.
Knows more about life than every scientist, doctor and self-help guru in history.

Nature isn’t gentle. She’s as fierce as a tiger with a set of nunchucks and a bazooka.

Which begs the question …

Why the hell do all these brands keep flogging ‘nature’ as passive when she created things like the Venus Fly Trap?

It just goes to show they don’t even understand their subject matter, let alone their audience.

Thanks VFT. You’re nails.

The Fine Line Between Customising And Vandalising …
March 21, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Comment

Recently I bought myself a new laptop.

The Rolls Royce of laptops.

Not just because it’s a MacBook Pro … but because it’s THE MacBook Pro.

14″ screen.
64gb RAM.
2TB hard drive.

It’s a work of art.

Or it was until my friends at RedBubble tempted me to make it a work of bad student street art.

At least every sticker has significance to where I’m from, the things I love or the places I’ve got to call home.

But even with that, if you listen carefully, you can hear Steve Jobs turning in his grave.

Happy Monday.

The Best Award Submission Template You’ll Ever See …

I posted this on LinkedIn a while back, but I thought I’d post here too. Not because I couldn’t be bothered to write an original post [when have I ever done that?] but because I think it is actually valuable for anyone working in addend.

If you work in an ad agency – especially in the planning or strategy department – you’re going to have a time in the year, where you’re writing award submissions.

You name it, you’ll be writing it.

And while I often judge these awards, the purpose of this post is not so I have an easier time reading the countless submissions … it’s so you can see how to make your case more persuasive.

The basic rule is this.

When you’ve written your paper and think you’ve got it “just right” …

I want you to read this article and then start again.

Yes, it is a food review.

Yes, it’s from the Birmingham Mail newspaper.

And yes, it’s from someone who describes herself as ‘common as muck’.

But when you read it, you’ll learn what wonderful writing, proper insight, real appreciation of the role of creativity and actual honesty looks like.

It’s a magnificent article.

One filled with appreciation and wonder when it could so easily have been a judgemental hatchet job.

I was so taken by it, I even wrote to the journalist offering to pay for their meal … and I don’t even do that for my team.

[For the record, she replied and said she couldn’t accept it. So I asked for her charity of choice and made a donation under her name instead. It was this one if anyone else feels inclined]

So if a food review in the Birmingham Mail newspaper can do it, you can do it too.

I’ll be watching.

And judging.