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


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?”



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.



Fempowerment Fails …

Years ago I worked on the shampoo brand Sunsilk.

I know. Me.

A bald bloke.

Hahahahahahahaha.

Back then, it was in a two brand fight for dominance with Pantene.

They went back and forth trying to get one over the over.

Apparently the brands had legally agreed how each one could show the ‘shine’ of the hair they washed in TV ads. A slight deviation that allowed each one to build their own distinctive look.

Back when I was on it, albeit for 2 mins, Sunsilk was a big, mature brand.

A powerhouse.

So you can imagine my surprise when I saw this:

What in gods name is that?

What is it?

It’s like the worst Barbie ad I’ve ever seen.

An ad that claims to ‘rethink’ pink but doesn’t really rethink anything.

Oh they may think they are, but the people behind this need to know you can’t just say pink now represents possibilities, future, strength and shiny [gotta get those haircare ad cues in there, even if it makes even less sense to the premise of the ad] … you actually have to make it mean that.

It’s a commitment.

A focus.

Acts beyond advertising.

So sadly, when you make an ad so bubblegum it looks like the bastard love child of the movie, Legally Blonde and a packet of original Hubba Bubba, you’re not really going to convince anyone.

On the positive, they cop out by saying ‘pink is whatever we make it’ and so I would like to tell the people at Unilever and Sunilk they did exactly that, because they have made pink brown.

Shitty brown.

Am I being mean?

Yep.

But then this is a multi-billion dollar company who has profited by putting women across Asia in cultural jail by promoting white skin as the right skin … used COVID to maximise profits for their antiseptic products and continually used stereotypes to promote it’s products … so I don’t have much sympathy for them.

Especially when they’re now trying to connect to young women by saying ‘pink’ is powerful while using all the same tropes, styles and themes that means what they’re actually communicating is ‘pink is the same old girly cliche they’ve been profiting from, for decades’.

There’s some absolutely incredibly talented people at Unilever.

Including some very good friends of mine.

There’s also some brilliant systems and processes within the organisation.

Sadly, there’s also a blinkered reliance on some questionable research methodologies, which results in a lack of self awareness so they end up with work like this.

They have done some brilliant work in the past.

Some truly brilliant.

But – in my opinion – not so much right now. Made worse with the sort of underlying messages that undermine people rather than elevate them.

If it wasn’t for their huge distribution and pricing power, it would be interesting to see what would happen to the brand.

But the thing is I want them to do well.

I want them to make work that changes and positively impacts culture.

They’re a huge spender on advertising.

They have the ability to change how culture feels and how the industry is perceived.

A Unilever that does great advertising is a Unilever that will have positive knock-on effects in a whole host of other areas and industries.

I’d even be willing to help them – for free, for a time – if their starting point was about building change through truth rather than their messed-up, manipulative version of purpose.

However given they made this ad after saying they wanted to stop the stereotypes in their advertising, it appears their view of reality is more blinkered than a racehorse.



The Fine Line Between Chocolate And Dog Shit …

As far as I know, that ad – at the top of this page – is real.

Let me say that again, Blackburn Council made an ad that said little girls – but apparently not little boys – may mistake dogs shit as chocolate and may eat it … making them go blind.

Blind!

And to make sure there was no misunderstanding, Blackburn Council thought it was fine to show a photo of a little girl, sat near a dog shit with dog shit brown all over her face and mouth.

What. The. Fuck. Were. They. Thinking?

There are so many problematic things with this I don’t even know where to start. More than that, I don’t know what could have led to them going with the full nuclear option.

Did a little girl eat dog shit thinking it was a Mars Bar?

Did a member of Blackburn Council drop their Mars bar on the grass and wants to ensure no one eats it while they look for it?

Are dog owners in Blackburn feeding laxatives to their dogs so they can have a competition with other dog owners in Blackburn to see who can get their dog to shit the most, with added points for it resembling a chocolate? To be fair, if a dog could shit like an After Eight mint, I’d be prone to award them bonus points for that.

Are parents just dropping their young daughters in the park and leaving them to fend for themselves till they’re back from work?

Do little girls in Blackburn suffer from a rare disorder where they can’t distinguish the small of dog shit with the smell of food?

Is it a guerrilla ad from Specsavers Blackburn to encourage more eye tests?

Are they trying to enter the Effies and win an award for being able to proudly state ‘not one little girl went blind from eating on dog shit’?

Are dog owners in Blackburn just a bunch of sick bastards?

I literally don’t know how they got to this point.

I want to know.

I demand to know.

Because while Blackburn Council may think they’ve made an ad to communicate to dog owners about clearing up after their pet, what they’ve actually done is ensure no one will ever visit Blackburn again. And DEFINITELY never buy any chocolate from the shops.

Extraordinary.

And with that, I leave you with a photo of this …

While the people who read this blog just see a sad man with a [fake] dog shit on his head.

And probably want to make endless comments like ‘shit head’.

To someone at Blackburn Council, they see the potential of a little girl … sat in a park … without parental supervision … mistaking it for a sad man with a Milky Way on his head.

Mind you, if it was a Turkish delight, they may have a point.

Because that perfumed, dark pink jelly chocolate rubbish always tasted like shit.



They Deserve 32 Root Canals …

Toothpaste.

It’s all kind-of the same isn’t it.

OK, so the manufacturers would disagree – which is why they keep launching different variants with all manner of ‘secret ingredients’ – but to the average person on the street, not only is the product pretty much the same, so is the advertising.

I get it, toothpaste ads must be hard … but even that doesn’t justify this shit from Colgate.

Cop a load of this.

Yep … ‘Made for greatness’.

Not made for great teeth, but greatness.

Hmmmmn … that’s not an over-claim whatsoever is it?

It’s a toothpaste.

For teeth.

TEETH.

And while teeth have a big role in our lives – and culture – THEY HAVE FUCK ALL TO DO WITH YOUR ABILITy TO CLIMB A MOUNTAIN.

Or a flight of stairs for that matter.

Now I appreciate I’m biased because in 2012, we did Greatness for the London Olympics … but have a look and tell me which you think is better … more resonant and more appropriate?

Yes, exactly.

And that’s before you have been reminded about the two lead NIKE Olympic ads from 2012.

Find Your Greatness.

Jogger.

God, even now Jogger gives me chills.

As I said, I get how hard toothpaste ads must be, but if Colgate want to do something right and interesting, they should give me a call – as I literally have 3 great ideas they can have. For a price. On the bright side, I promise you that whatever the price we agree on, you wont have to pay with your dignity like you have had to do with this.

Oh god how I’d love it if they did that, even though we all know it’s not going to happen.

So I’ll leave you with this.

Colgate … I am sure this passed all manner of internal research tests.

I am sure you this makes you all feel you’re doing something really important for humanity.

And while healthy, bright, strong, clean teeth are important – and Colgate plays a big role in that – it would be so much better if it helped make the brains of the people who approved this, as bright as their teeth, because maybe they wouldn’t have churned out the advertising equivalent of a root canal without anaesthetic.

Call me Colgate. Seriously. Please call me. I can put a billion dollar smile on your face.