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


Some Kind Of Motivation …

On the 10th September, Metallica launched their Blacklist album – a reissue of their iconic ‘Black album’ from 1991.

It’s a very special album because not only is reissuing a 30 year old classic something to be handled with great care … it also features their songs being sung by a greater assortment of artists than you’d find in a packet of Bertie Basset’s Liquorice Allsorts.

From Elton John and Miley Cyrus through to Depeche Mode and Yo-yo Ma.

Add to it that each track sold goes to a specific charity of the artists choice, and you can imagine it was quite a complex beast to make sure it all ran smoothly.

I had a small part in that.

Specifically the charity management and distribution for the artists.

Getting closer to the launch date, the amount of details that needed to be finalised was pretty intense. What made it even more complicated – at least for me – was that by being based in NZ, I’m a full 16 hours ahead of NYC, so trying to co-ordinate timings with HQ became a bit of a logistical nightmare.

Or should I say, a mathematical one.

The night before, things were particularly tense so to make sure we stayed motivated and focused for literally the final hurdle, the band and record company management sent out some individual emails to various members of the team to inspire them to the finish line.

When JFK was in this situation, he asked America to think about what they could do to help the nation change and progress.

When Al Pacino’s character in the movie ‘Any Given Sunday’ needed to motivate his team to glory, he unleashed his iconic “inches” speech and watched them dig deep to record an unlikely win.

This is what I got.

While it may look like they’re taking the piss, I think there’s a really valuable lesson to learn from their approach.

Motivation isn’t just about what you say – or even how you say it – it’s knowing the people you are trying to motivate so well, that you know exactly what will connect with them.

Not many leaders do that.

Hell, not many leaders even understand that.

But those who do – whether its rock band management or the iconic Brian Clough – achieve loyalty and incredible performance out of all who work with them and for them. Though I appreciate I could be saying all this to ignore the other possibility of why they chose to send this meme to me. Hahaha.

You can buy something very special – that will literally and directly help tens of thousands of people around the World – here and learn more about the project and artists involved below



Why Being Starstruck Stops You Seeing What You’re Saying …

The celebrity endorsement.

Favoured by brands who have nothing interesting to say.

Or by companies who want to look more important than they are.

Of course they’re exceptions.

NIKE for example … because at least their choices are directly connected to the category they operate in, which is more than can be said for Clooney and Nespresso. Or the new entrant. Another handsome, old, white male actor – who, according to his ex-wife – may have domestic abuse issues to answer for.

Maybe that’s why Brad Pitt agreed to do one of the worst ads I’ve seen in a long time. To pay for any legal trial … whereas at least Clooney does it to raise the money for the films he personally wants to make.

In the old days, celebs went to Japan to top up their pension – safe in the knowledge that no one would see their stuff. Then the internet happened and not only could everyone see the rubbish they’d do for a big pay day, they realised they could do it now in their home country given everyone had seen their willingness to sell their credibility for cash.

Which leads to this …

Neymar.

For a financial investment firm.

If that isn’t weird enough, they’ve weirdly made Neymar look like he’s the financial advisor.

What the fuck?

Are they suggesting he is so rich he can give people expert financial advice?

If they are, is his advice, “become a professional footballer for PSG”.

Or is something else …

Is he paid so badly he’s had to get a second job selling financial advice?

That would at least make some sense as Neymar HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY OF TAX AVOIDANCE!!!

Yeah, this financial company decided that the best celebratory endorser they could use to promote their company internationally was a convicted tax dodger.

Did no one think about that?

Did no one question what that would say about them?

Did they think that because Qatar – where QNB is based – don’t charge personal tax, it means Neymar’s crime basically doesn’t exist?

Did no one ask why were they photographing the football star as if he was a financial advisor?

Nope.

And was that because they were starstruck?

Or was it because they didn’t think about it?

Or care?

Or think anyone else would care?

Or was it all of the above … because let’s face it, there’s enough examples to show many investment firms don’t give a damn about rules, customers or tax obligations … so maybe using Neymar was the most truthful and inspired choice they could make.

How nice of QNB to make it so much easier for the authorities to find people exploiting the financial rules for personal gain, because now all they have to do is ask one question:

“Do you use QNB?”



Simple. Wins.

For all the money companies and agencies spend on trying to know their audiences better.

For all the systems and processes companies and agencies put in place to be reduce the friction of purchase for customers.

For all the data companies and agencies invest in and rely on to identify market opportunities they can leverage.

For all the investment in experience to drive brand consistency.

It’s amazing how simple it is for a brand to differentiate themselves from the competition … resonate with a specific audience … encourage emotional loyalty and build commercial value by simply having a point of view that is expressed by doing what people find important rather than what you want them to find important.

This brilliance is from Tesco in association with St John’s Ambulance.

Clothes that your baby will look good in and could – if the worst happens – help save their life.

No eco-systems.
No data analysis.
No additional experience layers.
No focus group idea blandification.

Just an idea where the value is undeniable to all.

A real idea. Not an ad idea.

A real idea where communication amplifies the solution rather than is the solution.

Done for real, not for ad award submissions.

Some agencies [and brands, like Timpson’s] do this sort of thing properly – for example the brilliant Tontine pillow [by the brilliant Mark Sareff] and H&M’s One Second Suit, not to mention the fact Colenso has consistently been doing this sort of stuff for decades – however if clients let their agencies partners solve problems without their dictatorial interference or obstacles … and if agencies listened to what their clients need rather than what they want them to want … we’d not only have more interesting, valuable, creative and effective agencies and brands, we’d be making more of a difference than all the pointless purpose statements put together.

I can but hope.

We all should, because it’s down to us.



Finally A Brand Experience That Stands Out From The Crowd …

As funny as the photo above is, the reality is it’s still a better brand experience than much of what passes for good brand experience these days.

Hell, if I was shopping there and saw that sign, it would make me smile, which is more than a lot of brands and their experience strategies achieve.

I’ve said it before but too many companies mistake basic interaction as brand experience. Or worse, think that by simply removing friction from the purchase process, they’re building a good brand experience.

Seriously, how boring and self-centred must their lives be to think that?

If done well, brand experience can be a huge thing.

And by well, I don’t mean making bad, average – or creating a consistent base-line standard across the company – I mean making the things that actually matter to audiences, personal and valuable … or focusing on the key things audiences think you actually do well and pushing that so the experience can become something that is almost seminal so people want to share, repeat and shout about.

I wrote about this a while ago [here and here, for example] … but it still blows my mind how many companies and agencies approach experience in terms of not getting left behind when they should be seeing it as an opportunity to move ahead … a chance to leave their competition looking slow, rather than themselves.

And before people say this approach would cost more money, it doesn’t. Or it doesn’t have to. It’s all about defining the experience you want to create.

Given a badly placed store sign next to some condoms gave me a better brand experience than so many of the systems, processes and strategies brand experience promotes, it’s safe to say the discipline may need to start understanding what people give a shit about rather than what they wish they did.



Who Is Fooling Who?

Being old, I’ve done more than my fair share of judging awards.

I enjoy it.

Yes it’s a major investment in terms of time, but when you come across an absolutely devastatingly good submission, it’s worth every second.

However it is also fair to say that over the years, there have been some real painful experiences. Either in terms of average papers being seemingly entered into every category in a bid to increase the odds of winning something or papers that have such a strong scent of scam, even Ray Charles can see how suspect they are. [Sorry Mr Charles]

I always laugh when I come across those. Specially at the agencies submitting them … because while they obviously think they are geniuses – or the judges are idiots – the reality is they’re wrong on both counts.

But here’s the thing, people can slag off awards all they like, but they matter.

For Colenso for example, they’re important.

We’re a small agency on the other side of the planet and being able to show our creativity and effectiveness is vitally important to keep demonstrating our validity to attract global clients.

But – and it’s a big but – it only works if its real.

And that only works if all the winners around it are also real.

Now I appreciate that different clients have different needs and budgets.

I appreciate different markets have different cultural traits, behaviours and media.

I absolutely appreciate some entries use a language that is not their native tongue.

And I think that is all brilliant – though I also think none-native English speakers are at an immediate disadvantage and the award organisers should be looking at ways to change that.

However, if you need to write 8456738585463 words to explain your problem or your idea or your insight or your results … you’re not helping yourself.

Nor are you if you are using the pandemic as your strategies main adversary – often followed up with the words, ‘how do we grow in an era of the new normal?’.

Of course I am not doubting the pandemic has caused havoc among categories of business all over the world. It’s definitely happened to me too. But if we don’t explain what the challenge is – how it has affected behaviour or values or distribution or competition or anything other than it ‘made things more difficult’ … then it’s as lazy as the time I judged the Effies in the US when Trump came to power and the opening line of 85% of all submissions was:

How do we bring a nation divided together?

[My fave was when a whisky brand used that as their creative challenge. HAHAHAHA]

I take the judging seriously because I want the awards to be valued.

I want the awards to be valued because I want the industry to be valued.

And I want the industry to be valued because I want clients to win, creativity to win and the people coming up behind me to have a chance of taking us all to better and more interesting places that we’re at right now.

And I believe they can if we don’t fuck up the chance for them.

I get awards are nice to have.

I get they can drive business and payrises.

But if we keep allowing bullshit a chance to shine – and let’s face it, we have time and time again – then all we’re doing is fucking ourselves over.

I’m fine with failure.

In fact I’m very, very comfortable with it.

Especially when it’s because someone has tried to do something audacious for all the right reasons … because even if it doesn’t come off, it’s opened the door to other things we may never have imagined. There’s even real commercial value to that.

But when agencies create, hijack or exploit problems to just serve their own means – then fuck them. Maybe – just maybe – if they did it at a scale that could make a real difference, you’d be prone to encourage it. But when it’s done to achieve just what is needed to let the creators win an award … then frankly, the organisers and judges have a moral obligation to call it out.

Asia gets a bad wrap for this. And over the years that has been deserved, but I can tell you no market is immune. Hell, I’ve even seen some in NZ recently – or one in particular – and what made it worse was it wasn’t even any good.

But as rubbish as that example was, at least it didn’t stoop to the levels we have seen previously.

Let’s remember it’s only 4 years ago an agency WON MAJOR AWARDS for an app they said could help save refugees on boats by tracking them in the sea … only for them to then claim – when later called out – that the app was in beta testing hence the information being sent back to users was not real.

Amazingly ignoring the fact they didn’t say that in any of their entry submissions and if they had, they wouldn’t have been eligible for the awards they entered in the first place.

Creativity can do amazing things.

Advertising can do amazing things.

But we fuck it up when we put the superficial on the podium.

Of course, this is not just an agency problem. Clients are also part of this. Because if they let agencies do what they are great at rather than treating them as a subservient production partner … maybe we’d not just see more interesting work, but even more interesting and valuable brands.