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


The Older I Get, The More I Get This Film …

There’s no more to really be said is there.

But if you haven’t watched Falling Down … then I really encourage you to. It’s brilliant. Except for the fact it feels like a representation of how we are made to feel as we witness the slow deterioration into corporate mediocrity and self-interest behaviours.

Ahem.

OK, I get that’s pretty heavy. Especially for a Friday … so let’s leave on a bit of a positive.

As tomorrow is April 1st, there will be no blog post. That is not the positive by the way.

Because of that, I thought I’d leave you with the 2 best ones I ever wrote. Given how old this blog is, that is pitifully low even by my standards … but these worked because both were picked up and talked about by various people in the industry as fact. Which, as I am sure you can imagine, filled me with absolute mischievous glee.

With that, enjoy Method Planning and the Power of Poetry.

Have a great weekend.

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2023: Trends …

A few weeks ago, I posted this on Twitter …

Quite a lot of people liked it for one reason …

It’s kinda true.

For all the shit people throw at the younger generation for chasing the next shiny thing, the same can be said for business.

Worse. In my experience, the younger generations are far more committed to what they think is the right thing and stick with it, even in the face of other things coming up.

OK, so there may be some subjects where they are quick to switch, but it’s not the stuff that costs tens of thousands of people their livelihood just because someone at the top wants to look like they have their finger on the pulse.

Seriously, the way some companies behave is like watching a massive game of Hot Or Not … just with billions of dollars riding on every decision.

Once upon a time, a planning colleague – Rodi – once said the biggest problem with business is they remain interested but never want to commit.

He was – as usual – bang on.

And while there are many schools-of-thought that suggest that because of the speed of change ‘those who commit, lose’ … they’re really missing the point.

Because while you have to know what is happening and shifting, it’s only those who commit to what they believe in who can create something that leads culture to them … rather than continually chasing where they’re going.

It doesn’t mean it will always work out, but we know the alternative achieves that even less.

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Marketing Is Less About Promoting Your Truth, But Hiding Your Flaws …

Toblerone.

The chocolate you only see – and buy – at airports.

The chunky triangular pieces that are guaranteed to give you lock jaw.

And while you may think nothing has changed with that chocolate for 10,000 years, a lot has.

Not in taste.

Not in ingredients.

But definitely in reputation.

You see in 2016, the Swiss chocolate brand quietly increased the gaps between the pieces so they could use less chocolate and maintain their price.

On one hand, that’s a smart way to do it.

However on the other, by not telling anyone that’s how they were doing it, left Toblerone’s owners – Mondelez – look like they were trying to pull a fast one.

A year later, Mondel─ôz went a step further and reduced the number of triangular peaks in each pack from 15 to 11.

But that’s not what this post is about …

You see, Mondelez shifted a large amount of Toblerone’s production outside of Switzerland.

However, in 2017, the Swiss Government passed legislation that restricts use of Swiss provenance. To be able to market yourself as ‘made in Switzerland’, 80% of raw ingredients must be sourced from the country and the majority of processing take place there.

For milk and milk-based products – ie: Toblerone – the required quota is 100%, with exceptions for ingredients that cannot be sourced in Switzerland, like cocoa. Apparently products branded as ‘made in Switzerland’ can command a 20% premium compared to other comparable goods from other countries … with this rising up to 50% for luxury items.

Given the extortionate prices of all things Swiss, none of this is a surprise.

Anyway, because Toblerlone no longer meets the criteria to use Swiss iconography in its marketing, they have to replace the image of the Matterhorn mountain that has been a mainstay of their packaging for over 100 years.

The Matterhorn was used because of it’s near symmetrical pyramidal peak that mirrors the shape of the almond-and-honey-laced chocolate bar.

Anyway, in a perfect example of diversion marketing justification, just take a read of what an Mondelez say’s to explain this change …

I mean, I know they’re not wrong … but their ability to ignore the reason WHY they are changing the logo is the sort of corporate-toady that I both admire and loathe in equal measure.

Admire … because the willpower needed to be able to publicly sell-out your own morals and standards for the good of your employer is almost impossible to fathom.

Loathe … for exactly the same reason.

I have no problem Toblerone are producing their product outside of Switzerland … but I have a lot of problems with them trying to hide that fact under the guise of some packaging redesign.

But then that’s modern marketing these days.

Rather than opening up opportunities for more people to consider buying you, now it is increasingly about hiding the reasons people might not.

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Creative Colonisation …

This is an open letter to Little Black Book, Campaign Brief, Adweek, Cannes, Warc … basically every industry publication or award show around the world.

Please …

Pretty please …

… can you stop awarding English speaking agencies – especially those only with offices in English speaking nations, only producing work in English – titles like ‘Best APAC agency’.

I get they may have won more awards than any other agency in the region.
I get they may have topped more categories than any other agency in the region.
I get they may have been recognised more than any other agency in the region.

BUT at best, they’re the best ENGLISH SPEAKING agency in APAC.

That clarification is important …

Because apart from it being factually correct, it stops devaluing and demeaning the companies, agencies and people who don’t speak English as their native language.

Which in terms of the APAC region, is the vast majority.

Years ago, an agency who had been named APAC Agency of the Year, put something out that said something like:

“If you’re a company in Japan who are ambitious, then the APAC Agency of the Year would love to help you fulfil your goals”.

Now I get recognition is important.

I also get being named APAC Agency of the Year is utterly epic.

But … but …

Hell, it wasn’t even written in Japanese … which suggests they didn’t think it mattered if you don’t speak the language, don’t know the culture, don’t have an office in that country, don’t have any Japanese employees, don’t work in Japanese … you can teach them a thing or two about great work.

I mean, can you get more Colonialist than that???

Hell, even if they meant it in terms of expanding outside of Japan – rather than inside the country – it’s still pretty arrogant.

That said, I used to see this shit all the time when I was in China.

I still remember an exec from a UK-only based agency telling a room full of Chinese business leaders “we can help them be successful”, despite that being the very first time they had been in China … or the social media ‘guru’ who told people at Unilever China why Twitter was so powerful, not realising Twitter was banned in China.

It would be hilarious if it wasn’t tragic.

I should point out Colenso has been crowned ‘best APAC agency’ in its time … and while that before I was here, I still find it wrong and would openly say it was.

Sure, they didn’t suggest they were going to colonise the whole region with their approach to creativity, but they also didn’t say they weren’t … which still suggests some sort of superiority, intentional or not.

Look, I get the titles are a byproduct of how the awards are calculated … and I get it also reflects who enters and how many times … but given the vast majority of the judges are English natives – with Western frames-of-reference – it immediately benefits those who come from similar backgrounds.

This is not a new issue for me.

I said it when I got Chaz from BBH to do a co/presentation with me/Wieden in 2012 … I said in back in 2013, when I was invited to speak at Mumbrella about Asian creativity and I said it every time I was spoke at an Asian awards where the lead language was – bizarrely – English.

Asian creativity has a terrible reputation.

I know there’s issues of scam advertising, but that’s not unique to Asia. Remember Peggy?

The reality is the Asian region has used creativity in innovative ways for thousands of years.

For fucks sake, this is where paper, printing, money, gunpowder, wheelbarrows, coffins, chopsticks, toilet paper, holistic health and TikTok originated.

Sure, the creativity produced today may not always follow Western market approaches … and their contexts of life may be very different to other countries … but that doesn’t mean it’s any less worthy, valuable, creative or interesting.

We can all learn from others.

There is so much to gain from hearing how other countries approach things.

Being the best English speaking agency in APAC is still a wonderful achievement.

But there’s enough ego in this industry without us adding to it by handing out titles that have more in common with colonialism than creativity.

Over to you industry award and magazines …

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The Lost Art Of The Written Word …

One of the most important skills of a strategist is the ability to communicate.

Not just in terms of the spoken word.

Or presenting to others.

But writing.

Actual words.

That should be obvious, but for all the ‘guru courses’ out there, none – as far as I have seen – have focused on the importance of writing.

Thinking.

Framing.

Explaining.

Yes.

Writing?

No.

And yet writing is the most powerful way to help others not just understand your thinking/framing/explaining … but feel it.

A way for them to understand how issues affect people.

The concerns. The tensions. The reasons behind the actions they take.

Wieden+Kennedy always valued the art of writing because Dan was a writer. It was a measure of your ability as a strategist. The skill of writing just enough, never too much. Truth without any hyperbole. Tensions not obstacles. A story not a set of points. A point of view not a range of general observations.

Some were exceptional at this. People like Weigel, Bloodworth and Lindblade to name but three … but everyone knew that while so much of the creative process came from conversations, the written word set the foundations.

Which is why – despite this not having anything to do with advertising, planning or brief writing – I am still in awe of the power of this piece of writing from The Economist that, in just 6 sentences, ignited the process that resulted in the destruction of a Prime Minister’s reign.

It is also the best ad for The Economist in years.

It’s why one of the best ways a planner can develop is read.

Not simply to expand your knowledge, but to discover how to help others expand theirs.

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