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


It’s Better Oop North …

Ad blogging was once a rich, vibrant community.

It was amazing how much people looked out for each other.

A lot was driven by Russell Davies … but the effect of it was something pretty special.

I met a lot of people because of that community … some, still even come on here.

Occasionally.

But when you compare it to the toxic, ego-filled bullshit of ad twitter … I can’t help but feel the blogging community was a much more valuable and positive resource for adland.

Especially if you were a junior.

While there are many positives of social media, learning the strategy discipline through 280 letter tweets is not really going to drive the craft forward.

Nowadays there seems to be only 2 people still blogging.

Martin and me.

Or said another way …

Nowadays, only Martin writes a blog that has real value and depth for the industry and discipline.

One of the people I am saddest at having stopped blogging is Andrew Hovells. Better known as Northern Planner.

I’ve written about him a lot in the past.

From how much I respect him to how much I liked trolling him by sending him to see Queen in concert, when he absolutely hates the band.

But I revisited his blog recently and there’s just so, so much amazing stuff on there.

Stuff for people curious about planning.
Stuff for people just starting planning.
Stuff for people having a career in planning.
Stuff for people leading work and teams in planning.
Stuff for every level and need in planning.

And while there are many other resources for this sort information on the internet, Northern Planner’s is especially good for 3 reasons:

1. It comes from someone who could have worked at pretty much any of the best agencies in London, but didn’t and instead chose to stay ‘oop North’ and bring the planning discipline to a part of England that [i] didn’t have it and [ii] needed a lot of convincing to see it’s value. Not only did he achieve that – and validate the discipline for more people in the region to become a part of it – his work gave the supposed London ‘superstars’ a run for their money.

[He also turned down coming to cynic, which still devastates me, because he would have made such a difference to us. But it also shows how smart he is. Unfortunately]

2. He doesn’t give you a process to follow, he gives you a way to look at the discipline and the roles within it. Meaning you’re developing your own planning style and voice … not regurgitating someone else’s.

3. All of it is free. Every last bit of it.

Given the amount of amateurs ‘flogging’ their questionable, superficial and inauthentic courses that don’t have the right to even be in the same universe – let alone industry – as Andrew’s generous, considered and carefully explained lessons and insights … I know who I recommend people spend their time learning from.

I really miss Northern and his blog.

But the planning community should be missing it even more.



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,



Twisted Logic Is More Interesting Than Corporate Logic …

When I was living in Shanghai, I met a young guy who said to me,

“I think the Chinese government are rock n’ roll”.

Given I couldn’t imagine anyone less rock n’ roll, I asked why they said that. To which they replied:

“You told me rock n’ roll was about doing whatever you want to do, regardless what other people think. That’s the Chinese government”.

Mind. Blown.

Never in a million years would I consider the Communist Party rock n’ roll … and now that’s all I can think. I say this because recently I had another of these moments.

It was when I read this:

How amazing is that?!

Now whenever I talk to my friends named Tim, I keep imagining them as a moth.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

If you don’t leave space for conversations and understanding, you will miss out on these little gems of opinion. These things that can make you look at subject in a completely different way. That can take you to different place with even bigger possibilities than you could imagine.

And yet we – as an industry – aren’t leaving space for this.

We actually think getting into the real world is a hindrance.

Too messy. Too much time. Too many opinions.

So we actually advocate building creativity and brands from a weird sort of recipe book.

Where equal parts questionable data, brand assets and self-serving logic come together to make something that looks like a cake but generally tastes bloody awful.

Because we’d rather follow what everyone else does than create something everyone else wants.

Valuing attribution more than change.

Oh don’t get me wrong, I get the importance of all these things.

I agree and value their role in brand building and creativity.

But as I wrote a while back, it’s utterly bonkers that as an industry, we value the condiments of the meal more than the steak.

Recently, someone called me irresponsible for demanding my team spend time meeting, talking, listening and understanding people from all walks of life.

They literally used that word: Irresponsible!

Now I don’t mind admitting there’s many things I could be accused of being irresponsible for, but valuing the role culture has in liberating creativity and possibility isn’t one of them.

No wonder society is so bored of what we do.

No wonder brands have had to reframe bribery as loyalty.

Or membership.

Because while we think we have all the answers, culture has the interesting.



Create Change, Not Ads …

One of the reasons I always loved Colenso was their approach to advertising.

Rather than always make the ‘ad’ the solution – or worse, use ads to promote the problem – they used creativity to solve the challenge in front of them and then created brilliant advertising to amplify awareness of whatever solution they’d come up with.

I’d talked about this approach in a presentation I did way back in 2008 for PFSK in Singapore.

We had just launched Sunshine and I was talking about the difference between solutions and ad solutions … all while Colenso had found a way to bridge both.

They used this ‘double dipping’ creative approach for everything.

Treehouse Restaurant for Yellow Pages.
Asscam for Levi’s.
Play for Spark.
Tally for State Insurance.
X-Ray Cast for Anchor.
Speed Dial for Volkswagen.
MyHooman for Pedigree
Brewtrolium for DB Export.
K9FM for Pedigree.

There’s too many examples to write about, and now I’m at the agency that did all this brilliance.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen this approach in action almost every day.

Of course it doesn’t always work … and it doesn’t always get bought … but the idea of bringing audacious solutions to problems rather than just audacious advertising is something pretty infectious.

There are a few really exciting things on the table, but recently we launched something – with our client Spark – that doesn’t just excite me, but makes me so proud I’m going to break my habit and actually write about it.

I know, who am I?

Beyond Binary is our way to create a better internet. A more inclusive internet.

In conjunction with our client, Spark – and working alongside rainbow communities – we developed a piece of code that anyone can download and easily add to their website.

What this code does is change the field formats on websites so they no longer only offer Male or Female options.

While to many this may seem a small thing, to the Trans and Non-Binary community – of which we are talking millions – it is important. Not simply because it represents them being seen and valued by organisations, but because it stops them being forced to misidentify who they are to fit in with established internet protocols.

In addition to the code, we made a film [see below] to help communicate why this is important for the non-binary community and business … as well as a website where you can download the code, learn how to add it to your existing site, hear stories from people who are affected by this situation every day and even access a pre-written presentation you can use to show your bosses why they need to do this.

A lot of people spent a lot of time working on this – which is why I was so thrilled when Campaign Asia wrote such a lovely piece about it.

I am not saying this because they used a competitor campaign to highlight how good ours is – though that helps, hahaha – but because they got it.

The understood exactly why we did it and how we did it … and that’s important because we sweated this. A lot.

Obviously we’re very proud of Beyond Binary but the key is getting companies to take part … so if you read this blog and work for a company with a website, please can I ask you to get involved. The more inclusive we make the internet, the better it is for everyone.

Thank you Colenso for being stupid enough to bring me over.
Thank you Spark for making this actually happen.
Thank you to the communities for helping and trusting us to do this right.
Thank you to anyone who takes part.

This is why it’s so important …




It’s All A Matter Of Taste …

OK, so today is a slightly un-topical post.

About Christmas.

Yes, I know that happened 2 months ago, but when has that ever stopped me?

You see I recently saw that Walkers – the royalty of Crisps – launched this.

What the hell?

Like, what the absolute hell?

I once did a project for Walkers about new flavour variations and we talked about topicality but I never – in any way – considered mince pie flavour.

I think we did say Christmas Dinner flavour.

Or maybe even Turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce flavour.

But mince pie?

No, no, no, no, no.

I particularly like how they say on the packet, ‘Limited Edition Flavour’.

No fucking shit, Sherlock.

And yet I admire the genius of it.

Let’s be honest, when something is as illogical as that, you’re going to try them aren’t you.

And when it’s linked to a particular event, it’s likely to pull in the people who don’t normally eat crisps.

Sure, it might make some crisp fanatics never try a new flavour again or make the occasional crisp scoffer, never eat another one again … but it’s still a smart strategy.

Which reinforces my view the most effective strategy these days is the ridiculous.

Ridiculous achieves what logic can’t.

Because rather than play to the norms of category behaviour are, they just ignore them.

In fact, they go off on a tangent even a protractor couldn’t measure.

Not in its entirety, but in an area that’s a necessity.

And while that sounds counter-intuitive, what it does is find a way around the in-built firewalls we have in our heads to avoid all this logical nonsense and messes with us.

Igniting our intrigue.

Demanding consideration.

Tempting us by simply being unlike anything we had ever considered.

And yet it’s not annoying.

In fact it’s pretty refreshing.

Because in a world increasingly sensible – it celebrates the bonkers … reframing how you look or feel or think about something you thought you knew all there was to be known.

In essence, it lets brands show that while they take what they do seriously, they don’t take themselves too seriously. Which must be a huge relief for all the people who work in the company, let alone society, given all the pompous, self-righteous, pseudo-Yoda bollocks we are bombarded with day after day after day.

We did a similar thing with a campaign for DB Export Beer …

A campaign that WARC said was the most effective campaign on earth.

Further allowing us to prove the commercial effectiveness of creative ridiculousness.