Friday, December 21, 2012

They say people don't read anymore, it appears the don't write either!

Interesting Media Idea from STCars

Singapore's largest second hand car dealer doing co-op ads with drink and drive public safety announcements.

"If you need to, we can help you sell your car when you have no use for it"....ha ha ha . . . .

Thursday, December 20, 2012


I guess one man's icon of progress is another man's car showroom opening...

If only consumers followed our work like we'd like them to...

What I learned sitting on the client side pitch team

I had the pleasure of sitting on the client side of a big pitch this year. Fascinating. I wish I'd done it years ago as it gave me a birds eye view on the process and let me really see what clients go through. Anyhow, I collected some thoughts over the process and thought I'd share. I don't think any of these refer to anyone in particular, so hopefully no-one will get bent out of shape - it's more of a general set of observations. If you are bent out of shape, tough, this is a blog! Besides, I think we've all done most of these at one point or another. Enjoy.

Here goes, in no particular order.

1. "Bob Smith says hi!" isn't convincing as a post pitch moment of connection.

2. Memorability vs. brevity - you need to think about where you present in the order of agencies and adjust accordingly (go first, be VERY memorable, go last be VERY brief because we're bored already).

3. Even if you think our brief sucks, we don't want to hear your +/- 10% improvement, just suck it up and move on.

4. We have no idea what you mean by your proprietary tools.

5. We like that you're proud of your work, but don't present it like you've just invented electricity or split the atom.

6. Listening to pitches is easier than writing them.

7. We make fun of you a lot more than you make fun of us (and we get to do it while you're presenting).

8. You're not the only ones who decide if people suck in the first 5 minutes.

9. Spit it out man..enough with the set up.

10. Spend a whole lot more time prepping your Q&A - think presidential debate!

11. We know you spoke to consumers, everyone does, just try not to make it so obvious they all happen to work in your office.

12. Now that everyone does a manifesto video, maybe tone down the dramatic setup - we all have iMovie and a camera phone.

13. There's so many new sexy things to talk about, but how about not forgetting 'asking for the business' (which I always find a bit of a cringe) and maybe explaining what you'd do in the first 90 days.

14. Facebook and Twitter isn't a digital strategy.

15. If you're going to wear something culturally connected to the country, don't button it up over your shirt and tie.

16. Don't welcome people back when they come back from the bathroom - there's a chance they just threw up and feel very self conscious (I nearly did on the last day courtesy of a very odd lunch).

17. Be more flexible, if the client is flagging/dying, do what YOU TELL US, bend with the process and listen to your consumer (US). Step it up!

18. Cutesky still works - pitch drama is far too under-used in an increasingly digital world.

19. Leave behinds never get read, BUT, they do make an impression - go big, but go light (size/impact over content).

20. Spend 1% of your thinking trying to incentivize clients to close their FKIN laptops. Gameify the mother! Make it fun and/or a stigma - use your audience to police their colleagues. Same goes for leaving the room for calls and bathroom breaks.

21. Follow up with a 1 page summary of your approach - that way, 10 pitches later when they are struggling to evaluate a presentation they can barely remember they have a 'Cliff Notes' of your work to refer to.

22. Be original - imagine you saw your idea for the first time and think "is this worthy?"

23. Do your homework. If there's a risk that your entire idea is potentially floored, dump it. Don't rely on being able to fend off objections in the 5 min Q+A, it's over, walk away.

24. Stay awake and try to stay off your phones.

25. If you're audience is losing the will to live, think on your feet. Stop. Confront. Change the conversation. What have you got to lose? You were already dead. Change the presentation into an intervention! Who knows, you might make it in as an outlier/a curiosity!

26. Be careful who you’re snippy to in the company cafe checkout queue before the pitch they might be a key decision maker!

27. Tell me much less about what you know about what I already know and tell me lots more about what you know that I don’t.

28.Stop ticking boxes - “we’ve done our homework” - we presume that you’ve got this far by being relatively thorough.

29. Remember many in the room potentially aren't marketing people, so target your pitch to your 11yr old niece - make it understandable and cut the jargon.

30. Start with a non advertising idea and certainly not with a 34 frame storyboard :30 spot.

31. Never, even if you don’t believe it, open with a :60 TV spot. Start with the edgiest “street art” idea and move backwards!

32. Try to de-define your work and position EVERYTHING as multi purposeful content. Everything somehow has to work everywhere.

33. Know the river - ideally know who to give the bound book to before you walk in the room and be careful who you ask for advice - i.e. don’t give it to the oldest man in a tie when it’s the youngest woman in a dress who’s the marketing director.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sandy Hook: A crazy individual, a congress of weak and scared politicians, an ever powerful gun lobby (NRA), a disappointing president, a population with a generally naively historical view of the constitution and way too many quiet voters. A recipe for absolutely nothing to change except for the atrocities to get gradually worse.

As if this whole thing wasn't bad enough. I hear these slippery politicians calling for "national dialogues" and a "thoughtful debate about the 2nd amendment" and "moving forward together". This is the same BS we heard last time and the time before. If you want a full sense of the shameful, situation listen to Fox News Sunday this week (with the fairly reasonable Chris Wallace - son of the genius Mike). You have senator Dick Durban being a total wuss and some other nameless faceless politician talking about the previous assault weapons ban with 940 weapons exempt. And then you've got Joe Lieberman, getting splinters in his ass as usual.

Here's some of the avoidance of the real issues that I heard.

1. It's all about mental health. Hmm. Well, we have crazy people here in Singapore and in Hong Kong, Shanghai and all over the world. But they don't shoot children by the score.

2. It's all about catching the crazies early - ie. it's your fault mum and dad! This from politicians who are taking a knife to healthcare and especially mental healthcare provisions. Also, how would the right react to the intrusion of the 'state' in determining if a healthy 19yr old was crazy - it's ok to wiretap Americans in the name of counter-terrorism, but don't come after my son who is innocent of a crime etc.

3. It's time to bash video games and movies again. But, remember, they have those in other countries too and they don't slay innocents to this extent. Could there possibly be something else.

Ahhh. Yes. The right to bear arms. Could it be the only common denominator in all this is the ease with which a baddie can get his paws on guns - and pretty serious ones. I think so and most honest people would have to agree.

That said, this debate has been had before and I believe nothing will change. But I do have a solution.

America is all about freedom and the constitution. So, let's go back to the constitution and treat everything else in it with the same amount of literalism, lack of historical perspective and give it the full respect as the second amendment gets.

Off the top of my head.

1. The founding fathers spoke not of the speed restrictions we now suffer from the federal government on our horses (i.e. cars). Therefore, I propose the stripping of all speed limits across the nation. Also, who is the government to tell me which side of the road I should canter upon.

2. Alcohol. Show me in the constitution where there are drink driving laws. Exactly. Drink up boys, strap yourselves in and drive home like maniacs. It's your constitutional right.

3. No mention of airports in the constitution, so, what's the need for security there. We should be free to go where we want without restriction from the federal government.

4. No mention of federal subsidies in the constitution so texan oil guys and mid west farmers, sorry it's over and we want our money back.

5. The right to bear arms is clear, so I'm buying shoulder mounter RPG's just in case. Any problem with that?

I could go on and on.

You get the idea - and I'm sure Bill Maher could do it 10 x better.

How come some of the constitution is iron clad and the rest isn't? How dumb are we not to see and accept that the real common denominator in all this is gun availability? I know crazy people who like train sets and aren't sociable and have sketchy backgrounds but, because they don't have assault rifles, I'm not especially worried.

Anyhow, watch Fox News Sunday and weep - and PLEASE vote Joe Lieberman out of politics, he's an embarrassment to both parties and it's time he tended to his garden more.

Ok. I'm done on this. My thoughts are with the families of the victims and especially those yet to come.

I leave you with Dick Durbin's tepid comments...and he's a democrat!

"We need to sit down and have a calm, quiet reflection on the 2nd amendment. Are there guns that really shouldn't be sold across America? Military assault weapons such as the one used in this horrific incident. Are there high capacity ammunition clips that really have no value whatsoever when it comes to sporting or hunting or even self defense? That a person could buy body armor and use it to protect themselves as they kill innocent people? We need to have a thoughtful calm reflection on these things and do it in the context of our second amendment." 

You know what Dick (I presume that's not a nickname) we don't need a thoughtful calm reflection, we need people like you, weak politicians afraid out of your skins of the NRA, we need you OUT OF THIS DISCUSSION and real compassionate brave people in your place to take action and stand up for the majority.

I fear little will come of all this. Obama seems as weak as ever on this one and his talk of really doing something seems no different from before. What a terrible state of affairs.

The only thing I think I can say in certainty is the founding fathers would be spinning in their graves if they thought the 2nd amendment led to this.

One last point. If I hear another right wing christian say how their prayers are with the families, I would simply ask them "what would Jesus do?". He certainly would't be with the gun lobby and, my guess is, he'd be strongly against the original 2nd amendment and it's dreadful frankenstein-like manifestation today. So, save your prayers until you learn to think about what Jesus would do and maybe take some action in his name.

Ok, I've got that out of my system.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Airline of Middle Earth

Very nicely done by NZ Airways. Surprising it took this long to leverage the franchise so smartly.

 Check out the safety video here...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

This doesn't look good!

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

Not a bad opening paragraph or two. This former gunner in the Iraq war's first novel is getting rave reviews. So far it's beautiful and kinda harrowing at the same time!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's a little off topic from my advertising rants, but...

..we seem to want to design, bake, eat and not pay for our cake when it comes to democracy in the middle east. We don't like Assad, but like the rebels but suddenly (in today's NYT) don't like THOSE rebels. We don't want Mubarak, we want democracy, but we don't want the Muslim Brotherhood who won. We don't want Gadaffi, we want the rebels, but we don't want THOSE rebels. We wanted elections in Palestine, but we don't want THOSE guys winning. We're like 6yr olds. And it'll happen again in Syria post Assad and in Iran (hopefully) post Ahmadinejad/Mullahs. Make up your mind America/the West. Do you want democracy or do you want some kind of 'special' democracy where you get to choose the best winner? Coz I'm not sure that's what democracy is.  YEAH, I said it!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

While I'm on the photography theme...

Great little ad. All the hallmarks of nice work. Inside enough that only the target audience gets it, humor, surprise, simplicity and an insight.

A Legendary Interview with Henri Cartier-Bresson

I love Cartier-Bresson and I somewhat like Charlie Rose - when he's not being a pompous ass; which is most of the time. This interview brings these two things together wonderfully. Cartier-Bresson has Rose on the back foot the whole way through, refusing to pick up on his hopeless pandering and constantly catching him out with 90 degree twists and turns.

Charlie: "Is there a moment for you that you know when to snap?"
Henri: :When the subject takes me"

Charlie: "Did surrealism affect your photography?"
Henri: "I don't know I've never thought about it...."

Charlie: "You were very young (at the time of Surrealism)"
Henri: "I don't know what young means. You are alive, or not!"

Charlie: "the brain is young, and the heart is young..."
Henri: "I'm an anarchist!"

Charlie: "You're an anarchist, in what way?"
Henri: "I'll answer only in front of the police"

Charlie: "something must have aede you want to be a photographer..."
Henri: "[exasperated]  I don't consider myself a photographer"

Henri: "I was always very lucky because I always had in my hip pocket...[he taps his back pocket]"
Charlie: "Money?"
Henri: "NO. Film"

Charlie: "Why do you do it? You shoot photography because it's what you do"
Henri: "Because it's quicker than drawing"

Even if you don't like photography, watch this master at work. A modest giant in the world of art and photography and, by the looks of it, a lovely man. He's also pretty sozzled by the end of the interview.


Henri Cartier Bresson on Charlie Rose

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

This just in!

The nature of news is changing, more dramatically than I imagined.

I love the 'pigs' commercial from BBH for the Guardian in London. I like it most because it very succinctly sums up in 60 seconds the new world of news that we live in. I'll let you check out the spot for yourself, but the idea behind it is that news is a far more participatory thing than ever before and the 'conversation' can, in the end, drive the story - wolf dies, pigs arrested, pigs admit to insurance fraud, public outrage over housing crisis all leading to banking reform.

This has happened, on a smaller scale, in Singapore this week. Ma Chi, a financial advisor from mainland China crashed his SGD 1.8m Ferrari into a taxi early Saturday morning killing himself, the taxi driver and his Japanese passenger. This simple traffic accident has kicked off an intense debate covering the country's immigration policy, the rising cost of living driven by the recent influx of foreigners and the widening income divide in Singapore. There has not been that much in the press about this - beyond the emerging facts. This story has been driven largely online and largely via social media with people sharing, commenting and contributing to the story. This is increasingly the way that news is going to be. It's a blend of reportage and commentary from (what we used to call) the reader or viewer.

It's a fascinating evolution of a concept (news) that we seem to see as quite static. Look around. It's really not.  Let's see where the Ferrari and the taxi driver story goes next, but don't bank on it being driven solely by the traditional news sources and channels that we know and love.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Malvinasgate II

Further to my earlier post on the Falklands ad controversy. I read that the Argentine government had, in fact, commissioned the ad to be made. I felt bad about my post and realized that I'd got it wrong. I've been busy this week and  didn't have time to take the post down - and anyhow, none read it because I didn't forward it on to my Twitter feed or onto Facebook.

Good job I was busy.

It turns out that the agency were not being entirely truthful and neither was the Olympic dude who starred in the ad when he revised his earlier statement and said that the ad was in fact made for the govt. Now they have yet again revised their position and admitted that is was 'spec work' that was then shopped around - as I'd first suspected.

It's a golden rule of any business, when you're caught, don't try to lie your way out of it; you'll get found out eventually and it'll be all the worse.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

China For An Hour (a week)

Just had a lovely dinner with David Topolewski who runs a really interesting technology firm in Beijing ( and we talked a lot about what we saw as America's problems from a long way away here in Asia.

I brought up the Tom Friedman's idea of being "China for a day" - the ever smug Friedman's (in this case entirely valid) notion that China gets to make mandated smart decisions because of their complete lack of democracy and how, in small doses, it makes for some super smart plays. We agreed that America needs something radical like this to change because, as David said, "reform takes decades, innovation is far more immediate".

We then got on to Singapore politics and I pointed out that while many don't like the Singaporean system because it's far from democratic, it does work. David pointed out that in the 50's Singapore's GDP per cap was the same as Jamaica's, now look at us today. Like it or not, Singapore's mix of semi-democracy, nation building and ruthless single minded vision has worked pretty damn well.

I don't think Singapore is "China for a day". But, I do think Singapore is "China for an hour a week" and, like it or not, it's worked. The kinds of bold, long term strategies that real change demands, don't get done in this world of 49%/51% politics. Maybe it's not everyone's cup of tea, but right now my Singapore Dollar is higher than ever, the property market is on fire, GDP is higher than ever, unemployment is 2.1%, we just got voted the third most popular place in the world to live and we're about to overtake Macau in terms of gambling revenue.  This is a remarkable and interesting place, and people who still talk of us in terms of caning people and banning chewing gum would do well to think again!

Saturday, May 5, 2012


To be up-front. This isn't a pop at Y&R. I worked there and we had our differences, but this isn't me bashing my former agency - honest.  This is about an industry problem of scam and fake work.

Now that we hear more about this story a slightly different picture emerges. I'm only going on what I've read, so forgive me if the picture changes again. From the reports, the agency paid for the film to be shot, and importantly, there was NO CLIENT. That's right. The government did not request for this film, it was shot by the agency on-spec.

The athlete was interviewed on Al-Jazeera and he said he was told by the agency that there was no buyer for the ad, but they would seek one once it was made. He was then told, two months later "there was a chance the Argentine government might be interested".

So, this is clearly scam, created by the agency and then shopped around to anyone who would be willing to sign an awards entry and put their name behind it.

I've nothing against great creative work, but scam is a blight on our industry. It distracts us from the real work, it takes up valuable time and resource from the fee paying side of the business, it gives creatives a false sense of worth and sometimes (like this time) it really screws you over.

Only in organizations that are awards obsessed can this happen. It's a shame for the people involved who were, likely, just following orders. But it's symptomatic of a bigger issue - the cycle of awards and scam.

For the record. I personally think it's time the UK seriously negotiated with Argentina to give back the Falklands. However, since the discovery of oil off the coast, the chances of that are slim. Shame. I also thought it was a beautiful piece of film, so maybe that's some consolation as you look for your next job.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fruit Merger

Why doesn't Apple buy Blackberry?

They've got the cash and, surely, their packed data technology would help those of us why switch phones when traveling to avoid the crippling data roaming charges. They are strong still in the enterprise space where Apple surely has big ambitions. While Blackberry messenger would be a great trojan horse for iOS in markets like Indonesia and the Philippines where it's huge. BM might also help augment what is a slightly confused (to me) messaging/IM strategy for Apple right now - esp. in in context of the many new 'free' messaging services (what's app etc.)

I'm not saying Apple is buying RIM and you should get the stock while it's lounging at an eight year low. But maybe it's an idea. Mind you, the last time I made a stock tip (Nokia) it was less than successful!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It Takes An Olympic Village...

Interesting study being undertaken by Britain's O2 Network on the potential impact of the Olympics and workers in London - it seems to be a gentle encouragement to let workers work from home during the Olympics.

On the whole I think we all need a re-think on how, and where, we work. However, I do think they're missing one small point. The survey on habits and attitudes was taken Q1 2012 and yet I have a sneaky suspicion that 'behavior' during the Olympics might be different from that pre or post Olympics.

Maybe it's just me, but if people were encouraged to stay home during the World Cup I hardly think a report conducted 6 months prior to the World Cup would be indicative of people's eventual behavior.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Grand Old Party

Nice POV from the New Yorker on the rationale behind some of the comings and goings of the Republican Party...

“Parties want to be optimally extreme,” Zaller says. “They are like the frequent air traveller who believes that if he never misses a flight he is getting to the airport too soon.”  This dynamic may help explain the ups and downs of the Republican primaries. Backing Mitt Romney is like showing up four hours early and sitting at Cinnabon; backing Rick Perry would have been like arriving at Newark International in the early evening for a flight that left LaGuardia at noon. And maybe, just maybe, backing Rick Santorum is like getting on the plane right before the doors close.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012

Why war correspondents live in more dangerous times

Robert Capa's last photo before being killed in 1956

I was listening to an interview on some such channel following the sad death of Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik and it struck me that wars aren't necessarily getting any more dangerous (likely with more high tech weaponry, the opposite is true) but maybe being a war correspondent is, and, as with many things, technology is to blame.

The general rule for war correspondents is (and I'm likely paraphrasing) to 'never be out of touch'.  Back in the days of Robert Capa, technology added up to a Leica M6 and an army field radio, so being 'in-touch' really meant being in a platoon with soldiers and other people.

Fast forward to today. Being 'in-touch' means having a satellite or cell phone or a laptop or an iPad. Any of these things, puts you immediately in touch with your editor or head office from pretty much anywhere on the planet. As such, gone is the need to be embedded with an army or a fighting force - and with it the protection it provides. These days, a war correspondent can go it alone, with no net and no back-up.

The sense I got from listening to the people who knew Marie Colvin was that she wasn't crazy, she didn't have any kind of death wish, nor was she trying to live out some kind of hung ho "I'm a war reporter" image. She was careful, pragmatic and serious. And yet, there she was in a building in Homs, with no backup, support or safety net. Fifteen years ago, she would not have been there; her editor would not have allowed it because, without mobile technology, there would have been no way to report!

Today, it's different, and she paid the ultimate price because it is. I'm not sure how interesting this post is to people, but it just struck me all of a sudden how technology has changed this niche career so much for good and for bad.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


"He's the foremost intellectual in the Republican party the way Gene Simmons is the foremost intellectual in Kiss" 

Bill Maher

The 1% of the 1%....

In Forbes, he's described as 'self made'. I don't know much about Russia, but being worth $ 4.4bn and owning this $340,000,000 yacht (currently lounging in Singapore's harbor) hardly sounds like 'self made' - when you consider he's 38 and made his money in coal and fertilizers. That would be conquering two big categories in an 18yr career from Russia - a market not known for it's 'self made' entrepreneurs. Anyhow, nice boat, and at least he had the class to have Monsieur Starck design it for him. Mr Melichencko, welcome to Singapore, please spend some money while you're here, ideally not at Sheldon Adelson's casino as he might simply give it to Newt 'colony on the moon' Gingrich for his ill thought through presidential campaign - which would be amusing, but a terrible waste of good old fashioned ill gotten gains.