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


If You Don’t Have Trust You Don’t Have Anything …

Recently there has been a number of cases where we’ve sadly seen companies take creative ideas from one agency and have them made, without acknowledging the original creator, by someone else.

We saw it with the Coinbase Superbowl spot and I saw it with an ex-client of mine.

What is especially amusing is that when these people are called out, their first inclination is to try and bluff it out … despite you being able to prove it was your work thanks to specific dates, presentation materials and information about who was in attendance.

In my case, the individual in question literally asked “what’s your problem?”

With a comment like that, they were either being deliberately ignorant or, well you get it …

So we launched legal action against them.

At the time, some said this was sour grapes.

That we were being petty and alienating future business as it would make companies want to keep away from us.

But they were wrong.

Because this was never about the specific piece of work they took from us had gave to someone else – while not paying or acknowledge us for the origination, it was about respecting relationships and valuing what you do.

It’s fine to have differences of opinion.

It’s fine to realise a relationship – regardless how long and fruitful it has been – should end.

But that doesn’t mean you can act like the relationship never happened and you can do whatever you want with the things you did together.

Creativity is hard enough without all the commercial obstacles it needs us to jump over.

Brand assets.
Processes.
Eco-systems.
Appropriation.
Corporate politics.
Pre-testing.
Post-testing.
Measurement criteria.
Short timelines.

The last thing the industry needs is to have to start worrying about the integrity of the people you’re working with/for … which is why we took legal action, because our view was if we didn’t, we would be complicit to it when it happens again in the future.

Maybe not to us. But to someone.

And for the record, while they didn’t let it go to court, we were recompensed fully and it never did us any harm in winning other business. Quite the opposite in fact.

Now doing this doesn’t mean you have to it with public fanfare and maximum embarrassment, we didn’t – though I should point out I think what Kristen did with CoinBase was both brilliant and utterly justified – but it also doesn’t mean you should just forget about it and put it down to ‘experience’.

Whatever way you look at it, this is NOT how business works and nor should it.

Look, we all make mistakes.

Some can be bloody massive ones.

Hell, I’ve made bloody millions.

But how you deal with those reveals who you really are and sadly, the industry is seeing quite a few people who don’t seem to believe this sort of behaviour is in any way wrong.

Sure this attitude might work for them in the short term.

Sure they can try and deflect and deny blame for as long as they like.

But while I was going to end this post about the more transparent the relationship, the better the work … I decided it would be better to end with two [paraphrased] pieces of advice I got from Dave Luhr, the now retired Chief Operating officer of Wieden+Kennedy.

For those people who know who I’m talking about, you will hopefully hear his voice as you read it … though in conversations with me, he would always start with “Campbell …”

“Anyone who thinks they were successful by themselves is an asshole”.

“No one does their best work for assholes”.



Connect Don’t Communicate …

As many of you know, I’m quite the emotional guy.

[OK, I get it … that’s an understatement. Let’s leave it there]

But while this can sometimes result in me having an ‘Elton John’ moment [™ Elton John] I have always been a huge believer in the value and importance of empathy.

Part of this is because my Mum always told me to be interested in what others are interested in, but as I got more and more into my planning career, I realised that if you can truly understand the feelings and emotions someone is experiencing, it enables you to make work that others will also feel and resonate with.

A perfect example was this work we did ages ago for Nike in China.

It had already been decided the idea for the global 2012 Olympics Campaign was going to be Greatness. The problem was that when we spoke to kids all over China, they didn’t feel they were ever able to refer to themselves as great.

They felt that was a term saved for the chosen few. The people who the government deemed as having done things that raised the entire nations profile and success.

Of course they didn’t articulate it like this … we got there by spending time with them and slowly pulling away the layers of codes and confusion so we could understand what they wanted to say rather than what was being said.

Or said another way, we wanted to understand rather than get answers.

Now I am not denying it took a while … and I also accept being an Olympic campaign, we had the time and the money to do things right. But the thing is this rigour was worth it … because not only did it turn into an incredible campaign … not only did it become China’s most successful ever campaign … it helped changed attitudes towards what greatness is and allowed millions of kids to feel they could feel valued and valuable.

This is the work.

The reason I say this is because for the past few months, I’ve been working with The University of Auckland’s Creative Thinking Project in exploring new ways to use creativity to engage and deeply resonate with audiences.

Thanks to the work of Sir Richard Faull, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at The University of Auckland and Nuala Gregory, a fellow of the National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries – also at The University of Auckland – we have explored and experimented with a whole host of different creative formats to identify which one can create the best conditions for connection.

The findings have been astounding.

While the vast majority of communication spend goes towards television, digital and outdoor advertising … none of these had the same impact on audiences as the power of the poem.

In fact, when poems were used as the content for television, digital and outdoor, the increase in engagement went up on average 13.3%.

THIRTEEN!

OK, I know that may not sound a lot on first impression, but when you consider last year, companies spent SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIVE BILLION DOLLARS GLOBALLY on advertising … if this can improve connection to potential audiences by 13%, then it has huge commercial opportunity.

[And by that, I mean for brands, creativity and the University of Auckland]

Now I suppose on one level, none of this should be a surprise.

Rap is a kind of poetry.

A way to communicate that’s felt as well as heard.

But while we have started to explore this, our focus has been on poetry and the results, as I detailed above, have been fascinating.

Sir Richard believes this may be heavily influenced by the challenges the World has faced over the past few years. Where the feeling of isolation of helplessness has created an yearning for any sort of emotional connection. And while TV may have their manifestos, they often come over as contrived … whereas poems have a fragility to them that enables them to better resonate and connect to audiences.

For example … of the literally thousands of poems tested, this was one that achieved one of the highest scores, despite being from an anonymous author.

Now this mountain I must climb
Feels like the world upon my shoulders
But through the clouds I see love shine
It keeps me warm as life grows colder

While it is deliberately ambiguous, it appeared to connect to audiences as they saw it as capturing the struggles they felt in life. Where there is still an expectation for progress and yet the conditions people find themselves having to deal with are increasingly harsh and difficult.

Other poems that resonated – and follow a similar theme to the previous example, except it is by contemporary poet, Ocean Vuong – include this:

And when your fears subside
And shadows still remain
I know that you can love me
When there’s no one left to blame
So never mind the darkness
We can still find a way

As well as a piece from his work entitled ‘Life’, which has a much darker theme:

Loneliness is my hiding place
Breast feeding my self
What more can I say?
I have swallowed the bitter pill

We are still working on the research but have set up an instagram that lists the poems that have tested particularly well.

I would love it if you could visit the page and let me know how the poems affect you. If they do.

Now I appreciate this leaves me open to all sorts of ridicule.

And I assure you that I am not trying to suggest poems are the future of effective advertising.

This is simply a project to see if there are techniques that allow us to better connect emotionally to audiences without necessarily needing to spend months in the field meeting endless people.

While I am part of this work, it is ultimately the property of Auckland University.

Fortunately, they have said I can promote the work because they would love to have more respondents take part. So if you are interested in discovering more – and helping see where this creative adventure could lead, can I ask you to sign up here.

That said, I would recommend you do it today … because studies have found April 1st is the optimal day to get people to sign up to ‘research’ that is actually just some 80’s song lyrics from Foreigner, Guns n’ Roses and Queen.

Have a great day. I know I will.



Is This The Ultimate Metaphor For Modern Creativity?

I recently saw this very disturbing video.

When I say ‘disturbing’, it’s not bad … in fact the person in it has CHOSEN to be in this situation … however watching it absolutely freaks me out.

I find it hard to watch.
I find it hard to breath.
I find it hard to comprehend.

In fact, every time I watch it, I start jiggling my arms and neck because I need to feel I am free to move rather than be trapped in the most contrived of spaces.

Have a look at this …

However after forcing myself to watch it a few times, I realised it could be seen as more than just a deranged man wanting to increase the odds of death. It was a perfect metaphor for so much of working in the modern creative industry.

Yes, we could talk about the quest for craft and rigour. The painstaking approach we take to find an idea that will unlock a whole world of change and opportunity. The commitment to doing the right thing rather than the easiest.

I could talk about that, but …

1. I don’t know if that is true for a lot of what goes on these days.

2. It feels far more a reflection of dealing with corporate politics, committees, toxic positivity, arrogance and ego or – worse of all – workshops, specifically those designed to let people ‘feel part of the process’ despite the fact they created the problem you’ve been asked to solve.

I know all this sounds massively arrogant of me.

It’s certainly not the case all the time.

But the fact that when it isn’t, it’s like a revelation means it’s far more present than many like to admit. And that’s horrific. Not just in terms of the wasted energy and time … but in lost opportunities. Which is why the best relationships are built on people who want the same thing.

That doesn’t mean they will always agree on how to achieve it … but it does mean you trust and respect each others opinion, talent and expertise rather than thinking the other party is out to screw you over. Though the way the procurement process is often handled, it’s not hard to see why that happens.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Not if you really want something to be great.

Not if you truly value the work the other party brings to the table.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about costs – of course not – but as I wrote a while back about how Metallica’s management dealt with me when we started working together, their view was when you pay someone well, you’re not just showing respect for what they do, you’re ensuring they want to give you their best in all they do.

Which makes an even more cost effective arrangement.

A more trust-worthy relationship.

A more productive partnership.

Who knew?

Oh yes, the people who understand the value of living up to quality, not purely down to a price.



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.