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


Why Being Dangerous Is A Business Strategy …

There’s a brilliant documentary on the band The KLF.

For those who don’t know who they are/were, they’re a band formed in the late 80’s who wrote some of the early 90’s biggest selling singles.

Except, if truth be told, The KLF were more artists than musicians.

I don’t mean that in terms of them having many different business interests …I mean it in terms of them expressing their creativity in ever-more dramatic, provocative and intriguing ways.

From burning a million pounds to sampling without permission to firing a machine gun full of blanks at an audience live on television to delisting every song they ever made … and a whole lot in-between.

It’s a truly fascinating documentary, where you realise that everything they did – while not planned – was definitely deliberate.

But there’s one quote about them that stood out for me.

Not just because it captured who they were, but because it revealed what is missing for me in so much of the work the industry is producing.

I love that.

I love it so much.

But sadly, many in my discipline of strategy – and all the self-proclaimed marketing gurus – have killed that in the quest to flatter their own ego.

And it gets worse.

No, I’m not talking about the clients who value function, logic and attribution over shaping or changing cultures opinion, attitudes and feelings – though I could definitely talk about that – but the agency creative departments filled with people who want to make ads rather than use creativity to push boundaries.

The KLF may have been seen by the industry as anarchists … but for a band who had a few – albeit massive – hits in the 90’s, their work still is remembered, stands up to scrutiny and can be directly associated with cultural change which is more than pretty much anything our industry, or most industries for that matter, produces these days.

Of course, given the untold billions brands spend to have culture know them, value them and want them … this is pretty ironic.

Oh I get these brands still make a ton of money.

More than even The KLF could burn.

But this isn’t about distribution, habit or media spent, but influence, change and ambition.

This doesn’t mean the talent isn’t there to make something like this happen.

It is.

But it means nothing if the role it’s used for is to give clients what they want rather than what culture can never forget.




The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Neon …

One of the things I’ve found fascinating over the past few years is watching consultancies AND platforms mock the value of advertising and then increasingly try and enter that space.

And while you could argue it’s because they saw an opportunity to do it ‘properly’, the way they have embraced it – and executed it – has shown they seem to want to be more like the beast they wanted to slay than the beast they are.

What do I mean?

Go to Cannes and the whole place has been taken over by corporations.

All the best locations, beaches, hotels are the domain of tech, consultancies and platforms.

Now you could say that’s because they’re the ones with all the money – and that’s true – but what is amusing is WHAT they do.

Because rather than reflect ‘a better way to do what those ad agencies used to do’ … they seem to be doing the same thing ad agencies used to do.

Parties.
Give-aways.
Celebrity talks.
Expensive dinners.

In fact the only thing that is different is how desperately bad their attempts to show ‘they’re creativity’ actually are.

Nothing brought this home more than a poster I recently saw promoting an advertising festival.

An advertising festival representing the ‘modern’ world of the industry.

This was it …

What. The. Hell?

Seriously … what is it?

I’m not just talking about the design and colour palette that could make a 1987 acid house party feel embarrassed … I’m talking about all of it.

The email automation masterclass.

The ‘scale your YouTube’ talk.

The $15 million ad storytelling formula class.

And let’s not forget the ‘thumb-stopping’ direct response scripts.

Look, I get small business may get something out of some of this.

And I appreciate there are many elements to run a successful business.

But this all comes across as used car salesman shit.

Worse, used car salesman shit where their office is a portacabin on a muddy industrial estate in Slough.

In all seriousness, what I find astounding is this must be what the people behind this conference must think is creativity. And don’t get me started on what it says about the people presenting there.

I include Scott Galloway who said ‘brands are dead’ and then not only invests in elevating his own brand, but starts selling courses on how to approach better brand strategy.

[For the record, I respect Scott Galloway hugely but when he said that – like when Mark Ritson said his advertising course was a ‘mini MBA’, when it is nothing at all like a MBA – I couldn’t help but feel their focus was becoming more about building their own cult than building better marketers. In fact, given their approaches have now been so optimised, systemised and codified … you could argue it’s actually undermining brand building because everyone is following the same approach and the result is passive corporate conformity. But I digress …]

I guess what I’m saying is that for all the smarts of modern marketing, the people behind this conference – and potentially the people at it – are revealing they know jack-shit about creativity or culture.

And you know what? That would be fine if they didn’t pretend they otherwise.

But for all their big Cannes events … agency buy-outs … and talk about advertising, the reality is they view creativity as a ‘wrapper’ for their engineering type processes.

A belief there is a singular approach to engage and grow – regardless of audience or category. That the features around a brand are more important than the brand. Or as I told WARC, that the condiments are more valuable than the steak.

Do not get me wrong, advertising has a lot of problems.

It’s got a lot it can learn from platforms and consultancies.

But at our best, we know how to use the power of creativity and culture in ways so many of thehaven’t got a clue about.

Now some may say that statement shows how out of date I am.

How contemporary business doesn’t care about all that.

And maybe that’s right … but while I could point out the vast majority of brands who are infectious to culture were not born anywhere near a ‘consultants proprietary marketing playbook’ … all I have to do is point at the AdWorld poster and say, “Look at that shit”.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there will be a bunch of valuable stuff at the conference.

I am sure it will attract tens of thousands of people.

It may make the organisers a shit-ton of cash.

But for all the smarts appearing at Adworld, they sure as shit don’t have any appreciation of style. And I would like to point out that I say this as someone who was wearing an ironic Celine Dion T-shirt when I typed this.

And with that, I wish you a good weekend … which only gets better for you when I let you know there is a national holiday here on Monday so there will be no post till Tuesday [I know, I just had 2 days off for national holiday – deal with it] … so with that, I leave you with a sneak-peak of the Adworld virtual after party dance floor.



Why Longevity Is About Commitment, Not Expectation …

I recently read an article about footballers who continue to ply their trade in the Premiership despite being in their mid 30’s.

The key takeout was that talent might be able to get you to 17 … but it’s character and commitment that gets you to 35.

It was an interesting view, because there’s a lot of parallels with the ad industry.

Let’s be honest, this industry doesn’t like older people.

We’re expensive.
We’re not willing to work the insane hours it likes us to work.
We’re not as connected to society as our younger colleagues.
We’re all a bit cynical about the claims and promises.

Of course, there is a counter-argument, that these are exactly the sort of attributes the ad industry needs more of.

Experience.
Balance.
Understanding.
Pragmatism.

But what bothers me most is the blanket belief that if you’re not in senior management by a certain age, you have nothing to add. That your value is only in managing the business rather than adding to the creativity.

I wrote about how shortsighted this view was ages ago … reinforced by how much I loved Wieden looked for the creativity in the person rather than the age.

Which leads to my point about footballers.

One of the biggest problems when you’re older is people expect you to know it all.

Of course, some people think they do, but there’s this undercurrant that you should.

So any ‘failure’ is seen as a sign of no longer being appropriate.
Any ‘disagreement’ is viewed as a sign you are not a ‘team player’.
And ‘curiorsity’ gets labelled as trying ‘too hard’.

And yet these say far more about the person judging than the person doing it.

Because in my experience, a failure means a willingness to keep pushing boundaries.
Disagreements don’t mean you’re not a team player, you’re someone who wants the team to be better.
And curiosity is a demonstration you want to play an active role in culture rather than just let it pass you by.

Not to mention the declaration of desire.

Because anyone who chooses to keep pushing their standards and knowledge when they could be choosing an easier path is showing just how much they still want it. Especially when the odds are even greater of them ever achieving it, compared to those younger than them.

For me, these are the advertising equivilent of the footballers character and commitment.

Or said another way …

It’s someone who can keep pace with the needs of the team, while adding to the standards and success of it.

Keeping pace is not simply about speed, but relevance, ambition and creativity.

Of course age doesn’t shouldn’t have anything to do with this – I have met just as many younger people without it as much as I have older – but character and commitment does.

And while there is nothing wrong if you don’t subscribe to this, if companies only measure ‘talent’ by age … they’re not just stupid, they’re showing that they don’t actually care about creativity, just the cliche of it.



It’s Not A Community, It’s A Clique …

Welcome back.

Did you eat copious amounts of Easter Eggs?

Well, regardless if you did or didn’t, this post is going to make you sick as a dog.

Long ago, when twitter first started, Andy pronounced Twitter, Twatter.

To be fair, in the early days it had a certain charm – like blogs – where there was a real community and it came together to support and encourage those around you.

But now …

Oh boy, now it’s either all out verbal warfare or chancers.

But there’s another group that has started making itself known.

The gurus.

Nothing sums up this group more than this:

Now Gaurav works for Clickup as their Chief Growth Officer … which means he’s no doubt, connected experienced and likely has a lot of things we could all learn from. Which is why I am confused he decided to write such a blatantly ridiculous tweet like the one above.

Yes, the ‘voice’ of Apple is an integral part of the brand, but the way he has phrased his words seems to suggest it’s the voice – not the technology, innovation or distribution – of the brand that has made it worth so much.

But even more bizarrely, he’s also insinuating his tips can help you be worth that much too.

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Now maybe he made a mistake – we all do it, me more than most. However when I checked out his other tweets, they all seemed to exist in this little universe of like-minded, self-appointed gurus all saying the same sort of things.

Here’s a couple of them.

Good marketing can never solve for a bad product.
Bad marketing can never solve for a good product
Balance is the only answer

Or this gem …

Over 3.5 billion tweets are posted each week.
But most people are reading the wrong ones.
Here are the 10 best tweets from the week guaranteed to make you smarter:

The problem with social media is that anyone can be a legend in their own lunchtime.

Where it’s not about the work you’ve done, but the ‘following’ you have gained.

What’s even scarier is I’m seeing more and more agencies going straight to Twitter to hire people as if they’re the only ones that count.

And that scares me for 2 reasons.

1, They’re not. The absolute opposite if anything.
2. It feels ‘profile’ is more important than real work.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure there’s way more great planners, creatives and suits NOT on twitter than there are on it. And while some of those bashing out their 280 characters are ‘proper good’, to think that is the only pool worth searching smacks of either delusion or laziness.

Once upon a time someone said, ‘those who can’t create music, write about it’ .

While that was pretty mean, I can’t help but think the modern equivalent of it would be:

Those who don’t create work, tweet about it.

Not entirely true – and also mean – but maybe something agency recruiters should keep in mind when trawling twitter to find their next twitter-famous hire.



When Forest Were Great And Football Ads Were Poor …

Once upon a time, Nottingham Forest were magic.

So magic, they were Kings of Europe. Twice in a row.

So magic, they had a song about it.

So magic, Adidas used them as proof of their football credentials in ads …

That team was amazing.

I even remember those boots.

But I must admit I don’t remember Adidas being the ‘science of sport’ – even though that is the most German sport tagline ever written – all I remember is that at my school, Adidas stood for All Day I Dream About Sex”.

Even though I probably didn’t even know what sex was back then,.

And while I still find it hard to accept my beloved team wore the football gear of the enemy – though I did try to get NIKE to sponsor them, once even including it as a recommendation in a strategy deck which was met by howling laughter – I accept it is nice to see at least one international brand recognised their incredible achievements.

But for all that, Adidas – and Nottingham Forest – will never beat Nike for this.

Still the best World Cup spot. Ever.

Unlikely ever to be beaten.

And trust me, we tried. Hard.

Which maybe says more about what clients want these days than creative ambition.

Maybe,