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


Insights And Sinsights …

Insights.

That single word that causes so much debate.

What they are.

How you get them.

When you know you have a good one.

It may not be fashionable, but I’m still a big believer in them.

Sure, there’s rarely one single silver bullet insight that stands the test of time, but they still have a valuable role to play for effectiveness, creativity and possibility.

Or they do if they’re done right. And used right.
And not made to say stuff that they’re not saying.

I say this because I saw this brilliant tweet recently …

I have to be honest, I laughed and laughed.

Until I remember a long time ago, reading an award submission that said something like that.

Except they were serious.

Something that tried to connect Facebook likes with human motivation.

No … I’m not joking.

And what was scary was people didn’t call it out. They didn’t even question it.

Which explains why some people may read the tweet above and want to enter it into an Effie whereas others will want to enter their face with a fist.

Comments Off on Insights And Sinsights …


People Who Think They’re Genius, Probably Don’t Know Their History …

A company in the UK was recently invited to be part of a big pitch in China.

A very big pitch.

Because I know the founder of the company – and she knows my history with China – she asked if I could cast my eye over what they were proposing.

She’s a good friend so I said yes.

So over a few hours on zoom, they took me through all their work.

They’d been very busy …

Huge amounts of research.
Huge amounts of analysis.
Huge amounts of thinking.

It was really good, there was just one problem.

It was all wrong.

Not because what they’d discovered wasn’t true or accurate, but simply because they’d fallen for what I call, the planners achilles heel: What you think is interesting and new, isn’t interesting or new for the audience you want to engage’.

Look around and you see it happening everywhere.

From people who think they’ve discovered a new brand that’s been around for years, to consultants who proclaim they’ve invented a new business model that other industries have been using for decades to adfolk spouting theories their predecessors were applying before they were even born.

And while I get there can be innocent reasons for this happening, the inconvenient truth is it’s driven by a pinch of arrogance here … a sliver of laziness there … and a big dollop of the issues that continue to undermine the value and potency of the discipline of strategy within business and agencies.

There is craft in what we do.

A set of practices, standards and values that are designed to help us do better and be better.

Practices, standards and values that were developed over time by brilliant women and men.

Now that doesn’t mean we can’t add to it … play with it … challenge it or reinvent it …but it seems the goal for many is less about what is created and more about how they appear.

Hey, I get it …

We all like recognition and right now, the industry rewards that more than it rewards those who create the work that gets the recognition. Which is utterly terrifying.

But while I would never want to stand in the way of people making a truckload of cash, the desire to satisfy our ego is having an adverse, negative effect on the work we make and the audiences we serve.

Put simply, we’re boring them to death.

Because what we think is cutting edge innovation – whether in creativity or consideration – has been seen before, done before, known before and replaced before.

Or said another way …

Regardless what we want to believe, dDuplication is not innovation and degrees of change is not revolution.

I genuinely believe this industry can be great, innovative and valuable.

But it won’t happen if we continue to ignore rigour and reality in favour of believing if it’s new to us, it must be new to everyone.

Comments Off on People Who Think They’re Genius, Probably Don’t Know Their History …


The Exclusivity Of Commercial Seriousness …

I have always found it rather amusing that occasionally the industry press has shown an interest in what I’m doing – or done.

Even now, my first reaction is, “don’t you mean the other Rob Campbell, who started RKCR Y&R?”

And while occasionally the answer is, “yes, we do mean him” … I have approached any interaction with my tongue, generally in my cheek.

Hence I’ve said if I was a Star Wars character, I’d be Darth Vader.

I’ve felt fine writing sarcastic responses to discipline assassination.

And I showed no shame saying the word ‘wank’ in response to a new business win.

To be fair, Campaign Magazine – where a lot of this madness took part – played their part in the relationship by running pieces questioning if my wife was real and if I was having an affair with a reindeer.

I say all this because a friend sent me something he had just found in an old edition of Campaign in Asia …

Apart from the fact that I was at Y&R Asia 16 years ago, so I’m wondering why on earth anyone would keep a copy of Campaign that long … it did make me smile.

Yes, I used to use the word ‘toptastic’ a lot.

A. LOT.

And yes, I can absolutely see myself saying that, even though I LOVED Mediaworks and would do it again in a heartbeat.

But more than that – and I appreciate how egotistical this makes me sound – it was nice to see a bit of humour in an industry that is quickly going up its own arse.

Yes, what we do is important.

Yes, we need companies to recognise we care about their longterm wellbeing.

But for an industry that is supposed to understand how to connect commerce to culture … this overly serious, overly complex, overly monotone approach to all we do isn’t helping.

I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t take what we do seriously, but maybe if we stopped taking ourselves so seriously – so we can resonate with culture rather than patronise them – we may end up with better work and better results.

And by god, could we do with that.

Though I appreciate this may simply be my attempt to reframe my industry ridiculousness as professional, so should Otis ever see it, he won’t think his Dad was a total lunatic.

Maybe.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

National holiday on Monday, so see you Tuesday. That is if anyone reads this blog anymore – I have no idea. [Which is probably a very good thing, ha]

Comments Off on The Exclusivity Of Commercial Seriousness …


The Difference Between Brand And Band Strategy …

I was recently interviewed by a music company about the work I do for artists.

They – quite rightly – wanted to know what I did and how it was different to what I normally did.

And I explained the difference was made clear pretty much in my very first meeting.

Because I was told this …

Now I can’t be sure they used those exact words, but that was the general premise.

And that was what was amazing.

Because when working with brands, they want you to use creativity to engage audiences, but with bands – at least the ones I’ve been exposed to – it’s the opposite.

I don’t mean they want to alienate people – though they understand the importance of sacrifice better than almost any brand marketer I’ve ever met – it’s just they are the creativity … they are the product … and so the last thing they want is some fucker placing a layer of ‘marketing’ on top of their artistic expression which can be twisted, diluted or fucked with so what they want to say and what it means to them, has no consideration whatsoever.

Now I admit I’m very fortunate the artists I’m working for are of a scale where they have the power to not just consider this issue but do something about it.

Many don’t.

However by the same token, when you’re of that scale, the potential for things to get messed up in some way is much greater.

Which is why they ensured I knew my role was not to market them, but to protect their truth.

Do and explore things that amplify who they are not just flog more product.

And because what they create is an expression who they are … they can express their truth without falling into endless streams of cliched brand consultant speak.

+ So no buzz words.
+ No ambiguous terms.
+ Just stories, experiences and considerations that have defined all they do.

And that’s why they don’t really care if you like their music. Sure, it helps, but they don’t want fawning fandom, they want people who understand what they value, believe and give a fuck about so everything associated with what they do expresses it.

Or said another way, they want people who can ‘speak their tongue’.

Now I am the first to admit there have been some mistakes.

Some things you go, “why did you do that?”

But in the main, I’ve not seen much of it and even when I have called stuff out, they have [generally] appreciated it, because – as I was also told on my first day – I’m being paid to give them truth not comfort.

I’ve always said people should not aspire to be a planner, but get away with the things a planner can get away with. And I’ve got away with a lot as a planner. Done all manner of weird and wonderful.

While I’d like to think that’s what helped me get this gig … the reality is I got it because of an introduction from someone I know.

And while in theory any strategist could do what I’m doing, how I do strategy and how I have been asked to view what it’s role is, has highlighted that’s not the case.

Not because of capability, but what the industry currently wants and expects.

And this is manifested in increasingly not being given the time, support or standards to do things right.

Where speed is more important than substance.

Process more valuable than output.

I wrote about this and more, here.

But it’s more than that, it’s also what clients think strategy is for …

Packaging rather than changing.

Wanting quick wins rather than long term value.

Targeting needs, not a point of view in the world.

Chasing convenience not authenticity.

If anything, doing this work has made me even more grateful to the bosses, agencies and clients I’ve worked with over my career.

Because when I look back, the truly great ones were basically like a band.

Born of belief. Defined by a point of view. Wanting to attract not chase anything popular.

And that’s a big part of why they have been able to remain at the forefront of their individual discipline, category and/or sub-culture.

Because they never saw strategy as a tool for marketing, but to amplify their truth.

Comments Off on The Difference Between Brand And Band Strategy …


Peak Planner Cat Lady Who Is A Bloke …

As you know, I love my cat Rosie.

I have written A LOT about her over the years.

Like this.

And this.

Or this.

And this.

To name but a very, very few.

But recently, I got the opportunity to give a presentation about her to senior members of our clients.

Better yet, it was about what they could learn from her.

Yep … an entire presentation about my cats superior brand building capabilities.

Of course it went down well …

By ‘well’, I mean they didn’t report me to my bosses or the Police.

Which is why I am of the opinion I’ve achieved all there is to achieve and can now bask in the glow of having just achieved the top level of the classic planner game ‘things you can learn about brands from _________’.

And I can tell you, that is better than winning any Cannes, Effies or WARC Grand Prix.

Oh, have to go, there’s a knock on the door and I can Doctors and Nurses outside holding a jacket that has no arms in just my size …

Have a great day.

Comments Off on Peak Planner Cat Lady Who Is A Bloke …