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

It’s Not An Ad, It’s A Documentary …

So recently, someone sent me this from the US …

It definitely raised my eyebrows reading it.

Mainly because – regarding Prince Andrew – it was absolutely true.

And while it was definitely done for ‘attention seeking’ purposes … and the company behind it has, as far as I can see, absolutely no connection to the Royal Family in any way … it is STILL better than most brands trying to hijack a cultural moment for their own benefit.

Maybe it’s because of the subject matter, one few would dare to play with.

Maybe it’s because they went all in with their headline, rather than blandom bullshit.

But when a mini-storage billboard – using terrible font and imagery – still produces something much better than the ads from brands trying to ‘hijack’ the Boris resignation, you realise 3 things.

1. The corporate desire to blend in more than stand out.
2. The lack of pointed headlines in communication.
3. The phone-it-in approach to comms planning.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t advocate using Prince Andrew as a figure in any of my clients ads either … but I’ll remember that billboard far more than whatever BK and countless others did during a mass ‘high profile’ moment.

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How To Lose Clients And Alienate People …
August 23, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Music, Wieden+Kennedy

A few weeks ago, I had a call with a big time music manager of a big time musician.

For reasons I am still not sure of, I’d decided to spend the day wearing the Leonardo DiCaprio sweatshirt Andy and Dave had decided to buy me for another reason I am still – and never will – not sure of.

So yes, that does mean I’d worn it to work.

In front of clients.

And everyone basically said I was better dressed than usual.

The bastards.

Anyway, it was late at night [for me] and the music manager comes onto the zoom.

They look at me for a nano-second before saying …

“That’s an interesting choice of clothing to wear to this meeting”.

To which immediately I replied …

“Well, this is about rock n’ roll so I thought there was nothing more rebellious than an old man wearing Leonardo”.

The pause before their response was longer than a flight from NY to NZ.

Never have I lived up to Dan Wieden’s Fail Harder philosophy as much as I did that night. Except he meant it in terms of ‘failing in the quest for brilliance’, where as I just failed.

So to anyone out there kicking themselves for making a daft mistake at work … I hope this story of stupidity helps put your situation in perspective. It could be worse. You could be me … actively alienating people who I’m supposed to be working with. And I’m still employed.


You’re welcome.

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Some Agencies Have Dogs …
August 22, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Agency Culture, Colenso, Comment, New Zealand

… we have goats.

Or said another way …

How do you say you’re an agency in NZ without saying you’re an agency in NZ.

And yes, I have been told the look on it’s face suggests it’s seen a fox, so keep your comments to yourself, thank you very much.

Have a great week, I’m off to talk to the animals. And the goat. Boom Tish.

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Valued Rather Than Value …

I’ve written a bunch about clients who have gone out of their way to make me feel valued.

Like the signed Wayne Rooney shirt I was given to give to a cab driver I met in Atlanta.

Or the green M&M’s so I could live out my Van Halen fantasies when they asked me to do a talk with little notice.

Or the years supply of Coke Zero because they knew I really, really love it.

Or the amazing custom built guitar with unique detailing to say goodbye when I left China.

Or – most recently – that photograph at the top of this post.

Of Rick Rubin with the Beastie Boys outside Radio City in NYC by Josh Cheuse.

From 1985.

Autographed by all.

Which was a gift from the management team of musical gods.

Like, what the hell?!

Yes, I know this means I have a lot of clients that are obviously bonkers, but the most valuable thing they did with all this was teach me the difference between valued and value.

Because with all these clients, I was a pain in the arse to them.

I demanded a lot from them.

We would ‘debate’ over stuff.

And yet, rather than complain about me, they let me know they appreciated it.

Because they knew the reason for it was because I wanted them to win better.

And I did. And do.

Because win better is not about simply ‘fulfilling the requirements of the client brief at a price that represents value for money’ … it’s about pushing for change, standards and possibility.

Because when you do that, you open the door to work that can take you to totally new places with totally new possibilities.

Now I’m not saying it’s easy.

Nor am I saying I’m the only one who does it.

Weigel is the master of it.
Wieden was built on it.
And Colenso haven’t won agency of the decade twice in a row by accident.

But what is common to all is dealing in truth rather than pandering to ego.

Playing up to standards rather than down to compromise.

Having the hard conversations rather than the convenient ones.

And with this means sometimes having to deal with gut-wrenching fails.

But here’s the thing, I’ve learned …

Great clients want great. Great thinking. Great ideas. Great results.

But it’s more than just wanting it …

They actively encourage it and help it through their systems.

They are transparent and honest while being open and ambitious.

They rely as much on their experience and taste as they do their research processes.

So even if things don’t quite end up where you all hoped, they understand, appreciate and protect what you did together and keep internal minds focused on what it achieved rather than just what it didn’t.

And they do this by not just looking at the numbers, but the audience.

And when I say that, I don’t mean they define their ‘customers’ in some faceless, colour-coded, generic set of terms.

They know and invest in understanding the sub-culture of their category and brand.

Not just what they buy.

Or how they use product.

But what the hell is going on in their life.

Because it’s not just about ‘shifting product’, it’s also creating change.

Something that opens up the future rather than just continually trades from the middle.

My old Nike client, Simon Pestridge – who I’m so happy is my client again – said something to me once I’ve held on to.

“Middle management want to be told they’re right, senior management want to know how to be better”

Because he is so good, he didn’t realise how he behaves is not representative of all senior management. But in my experience, it is of the truly great.

And that’s why they don’t look at value simply in terms of ‘economic return x input cost’, they look at it in terms of ‘are you making us better’.

The industry seems to have forgotten that.

Too many appear to have chosen pandering as a business model.

Too many bosses demands compliance rather than curiousity.

And that’s what we need to change …

Because challenging the client doesn’t mean you are an asshole.

It means you give a fuck.

Play to be valued.

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The Endurance Of The Cliche …

When I last went to Cannes, I was inundated with ads from data/tech companies saying how they could get better results.

The problem was the ads were so bad, that you were left thinking ‘they may know data, but they sure as shit don’t know anything about people’.

But there’s another sort of ‘data-based’ ad that is just as bad.

Because while this group do know how to talk to humans, they sure as shit don’t know data.

Have a look at this …

Or this …

Oh the cliche …

The wonderful, joyful cliche.

That thing people say is a cliche “because it’s true”.

And while perception may appear reality, it’s not is it? Not always.

Not all men are crap at fixing things.

Not all people lie to their partner about the price they paid for things.

Not all people are just shit.

And while I am sure the people behind it think it’s just a bit of fun.

And while I accept there may be an element of truth to some of what they say.

It’s just the modern day equivalent of those ads we look at now with shock and contempt.

I get we live in competitive times.

I understand the importance of standing out.

But data that doesn’t relate to humans and cliches that just undermines them don’t do anyone any good. They just – as these ads demonstrate – create the illusion of value.

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