Haiku to a shoe


We met in San Francisco, right by Union Square, in the summer of love 2003. We’ve had laughs and tears. Rain and shine. And we will always have the memories.

But. This is it. We have reached the end of the road. C’est fini. For real this time. All I can say is: I don’t regret a thing.

I must remember
you are rubber and nylon
Autumn is here now


The problem with digital is that they don’t understand analog


Image: Don Solo

Richard Huntington has done it again. He’s delivered another razor sharp post on Adliterate, this time about “digital” agencies standing with their pants down in the midst of what they assumed would be their hayday, the recession. Well, it didn’t quite turn out the way they had imagined – they weren’t quite as much the taste of the future and “traditional” agencies weren’t quite as much the whiff of the past as those charming lads had predicted.

Which makes me want to make a fairly obvious point: you don’t know jack just because you know flash. The world is still very much analog and it always will be. That is, if you – which is very useful – employ the communication theorist Paul Watzlawick’s meaning of the words “digital” and “analog”. Digital is the direct, conscious, verbal component of communication. Analog is everything else: visuals, sounds, gestures, body language, the non-direct, the non-conscious, the emotional, the irrational, the poetic. That which is said between the lines. That which is not articulated yet clearly communicated. That which makes humans human. So if you think the world is merely about ones and zeroes, cost-effective clicks and forward-leaning rationality, think again.

It also made me think of this old post. Ah, there’s nothing like patting oneself on the back.

Advertising, Planning

If Paul Feldwick is God, where is his following?


Image: darylfurr

The first time I read Paul Feldwick’s “Exploding The Message Myth” over a year ago I thought it was absolutely brilliant and my sentiments perfectly echoed those of Scamp – the planner hater – when he exclaimed “Is Paul Feldwick God?”.

Then, just the other day I stumbled across it again. And this time I got depressed.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s still brilliant. But what depresses me is that no-one seems to be putting his thinking into action. In the overwhelming majority of cases we’re still doing advertising in exactly the same way we’ve done it for the past fifty years, as if knowledge of human behavior, decision making, communication and what have you hadn’t evolved one bit.

What’s even more sad, is that what I’m whining about right now was the starting point in Feldwick’s piece, too. He asks why so few people in marketing act on the new learnings made in neuroscience and psychology in recent years, and offers a scorchingly insightful explanation:

“The answer I think is we can’t really respond to a new theory until we are prepared to acknowledge and to criticise our existing theory. The problem is, most people in marketing and advertising (and I worked in an ad agency for over thirty years) don’t really believe that they have a theory as such. They think that what they do is just common sense.”

Common sense. How I despise that phrase. It used to be common sense that the world was flat and that women shouldn’t vote. “Common sense” is nothing but short-hand for “don’t bother, we already know everything there is to know, now let’s go burn some books”.

Anyway, back to Feldwick. His argument can be summed up thusly:

  1. What makes people buy a brand has very little to do with a rational process based on a comparison of selling propositions.
  2. Therefore, the effect of advertising has very little to do with messages being transferred from sender to receiver.
  3. Instead, it has a lot to do with associations (to the brand) and relationships (between brand and consumer).

So, to quote Scamp, “no more briefs about hops and barley and shit”. The brief should be built around the desired associations, not around propositions, product benefits and information.

Still, it almost always is. Which makes me wonder why.

Is it because we are ignorant?
Are advertisers and ad agencies stuck in an old theory, and don’t even know it?

Is it because we are lazy?
Do we in fact know, or at least suspect, that advertising doesn’t work the way we thought, but figure it’s too hard to change our approach? There’s a lot of vested interest in research methodologies and work processes built on the old theory.

Is it because he is wrong?
Or could it be that Paul Feldwick is wrong? That advertising first and foremost is about transferring messages, information and product benefits?

Very confusing. So confusing, in fact, that I’ll stop right here and sleep on it. G’night.


Oh, and then there’s that little nuisance called the real world

The other day when I wrote the post about Johnnie Walker I completely forgot something that was pretty big on the net a couple of months ago when “The Walk” was released, namely this:


Image: Kilmarnock Standard (but why does everyone look so happy?)

Yes, you remember it correctly: Diageo, the owners of Johnnie Walker, accounced they will be closing down the historic Johnnie Walker plant in Kilmarnock. Bad business, bad timing or bad luck? Or just another case of the marketing department leading a life of their own, ignorant of the connected world we all live in now where it’s getting increasingly harder to play make-believe and hope no-one notices?

(Thanks for reminding me, Peter!)


Is Johnnie Walker really where advertising is at?


Image: jpeepz

There’s walking and there’s talking. Robert Carlyle is doing the walking and there’s not much you can say about it except that he does it brilliantly.

Then there’s the talking going around in creative circles that “The Walk” is da shit. The best film of the year. A clear Cannes winner. Get-down-on-your-knees-and-worship material.


First of all, isn’t it just plain old celebrity endorsement, no matter how well made? Robert Carlyle is as cool as they come and he’s the reason the film is watchable. Would it have been as heralded had it starred any old Scotsman? I doubt it.

Secondly, I don’t get the whole five-and-a-half minute thing. I was under the impression it was made for earned media, i.e. the net, for people to pass around. But then BBH pulls it from YouTube “due to a copyright claim”…? Surely they must know that kind of behavior is pointless since once it’s out, it’s out? And wasn’t the whole idea with the film that people should, umm, watch it? Very confusing.

Maybe it’s a good ad. Maybe it will get a few clueless people to jump on the Johnnie Walker wagon. But is it new? State of the art? Exciting? Interesting to anyone outside the ad industry? I love BBH; they’ve always been one of my top three favorite agencies. But this time around I have to agree with Miko:

“It is lovely. It is boring. Kind of like a long walk in the country.”

Advertising, Random

The most stupid thing an agency can say


Image: morbuto

The client needs to be brave.

They have to take a chance. They have to risk it. The have to be daring. They have to be prepared to go out on a limb.

Christ. I don’t know why we keep obsessing with clients having to be brave. Ok, I admit I used to say it and think it myself a long time ago but since then I’ve grown older. Or wiser.

Demanding, arguing or even expecting that a client should be brave is more often than not just a bad excuse either for a bad idea to begin with or for bad salesmanship. And when I say salesmanship I mean it in the most revering sense of the word, i.e. the ability to explain to a client why the proposed solution will add value to his or her business.

But most of all it’s a complete lack of empathy. Which is sort of disturbing in a tragi-comical way since empathy is supposed to be our forte; one of the things our clients pay us for is that we claim to understand better than they do what the target group thinks, feels and does and, hence, how the communication should be planned and executed.

Well, when we’re selling ideas the client is the target. And we behave like spoilt children.

Because, as we all know when we spend more than five seconds thinking about it, there are some pretty compelling reasons most clients are not, will not and perhaps should not be brave:

  1. They aren’t paid to be brave. They’re paid to deliver results.
  2. Most organizations don’t reward being brave or, in a more appropriate way of putting it, risk-taking.
  3. Being brave is not in human nature. Avoiding risk is.

So before reverting to the “argument” that a client should buy our whacky, revolutionary, bad-ass idea out of sheer bravery, maybe we should take a look in the mirror and ask ourselves why we don’t make a habit out of proposing ideas we’ve never thought of before. Or why we don’t quit our day job and write that novel we’re dreaming of. Or open that Cat-Stuff-O-Rama store. Or get a Mohawk. Why we aren’t more “brave” ourselves.

We need to start seeing the bigger picture and imagine what it would be like to be in our client’s shoes. And if it were our money. And our careers on the line.

Because, at the end of the day, most people are only human.

Disclaimer: This blog post was written by someone in a dark state of mind. Sorry.