Monthly Archives: March 2009

Sri Lankan Shaving Cream…

After 7 blissful days in Sri Lanka, I’m back in the land of high speed internet connection. Foregoing the delights of The Fortress for the charm of the Holloway Road may take a few days to get used to…but as the old adage goes…”there’s no place like home”…

It was definitely  a trip for relaxation and I only ventured from the hotel perimeter a couple of times for bare essentials… namely, curry on the beach and some shaving foam! Getting away from home always offers the opportunity to make comparisons between things that we frequently don’ think about… Just picking up some shaving foam raised quite a few interesting thoughts (interesting for me anyway!)

Here is a picture of the shaving ‘foam’ in question. I was concerned that my English had been misunderstood and that a cure for five o’clock shadow had been mixed up with a form of erectile dysfunction (well, if it’s good enough for Pele!).


'A Vigorous International Masculine Fragrance'

'A Vigorous International Masculine Fragrance'



Fortunately, despite the bizarre name of ‘morning pride’, this turned out to be a very premium shaving cream for about a 50th of the price of designer shaving creams you might pick up in London. I loved the description on this cream…

‘A vigorous international masculine fragrance……Morning Pride-The easy way to look better!

The use of the word ‘international’ was interesting – the yearning to be as western as possible prevalent in all the communication I saw for every product in Sri Lanka. In fact, every advertisement featured very western looking people. The use of the term ‘masculine’ was in direct contrast to the Metrosexual advertising that we see for products such as these. Very much in keeping with the ‘Old Spice’ advertising of yesteryear. 

Whilst ostensibly quite old fashioned in many ways – it was quite interesting to note that visually there was no image of a man shaving…or shaving foam…or any real reference to the act of shaving. instead, there was simply the face of a clean shaven man. This focus on the emotional reward of the cream demonstrated a product truth and was in many ways far more sophisticated than the traditional product descriptor that I would have expected.

The most interesting element of this shaving cream though was in the small print. At the end of the tube was details of the products marketing. This product was marketed by

‘J L MORISON SON & JONES (CEY) LTD 620, Biygama Road, Pethiyagoda, Kelaniya, Sri Lanka

This was different from the manufacturers name and address and got me thinking about what would would happen if this was the case in the UK. Can you imagine every Lynx can featuring the name of BBH…or bottles of Smirnoff featuring JWT’s name? Imagine if a client lost an account and their name was still on 1,000,000 products. Would you see cases of agency loyalty play a part in consumer decision making? And would an agency suffer if there was a scare on a product that they had developed a campaign for. Quite a few interesting thoughts to be had…

Advertising spaces were the other big difference. People had erected huge wooden boards along the roadside with mobile phone numbers (including English ones) scrawled across them that invited people to call if they wanted to use them for advertising. It was quite an entrepreneurial approach and got me thinking about how this could work in the UK. Think of all the people who own properties on busy thoroughfares in densely populated areas of London. It would be interesting to see if there was an opportunity whereby people could sell the use of the sides of their houses, the walls of their houses etc as advertising spaces. These guerilla advertising spaces could provide people with additional streams of revenue for no work…all for a fraction of the cost that the likes of JC Decaux etc charge…

It just shows that wherever you are in the world, there are nuggets of ideas that can be relevant to what we do…

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The velorution will not be televised…

The sun is shining in London town. After possibly the coldest winter in memory, there are signs of a feel good factor emerging…Whilst the global recession may not be coming to an end, at least we’ll all be able to enjoy being unemployed basking in the sunshine! You always know that summer is coming when the journey into work gets busier with cyclists. I rode in for the first time in a while having given my bike a check up at this great store round the corner from Engine towers. It’s completely different from your usual Evans Cycles or Cycle Surgery and sells totally unique looking bicycles. It’s called Velorution and I think it’s great. I think of it as selling more a way of life than a mode of transport – although they are both obviously inextricably intertwined… I found this blog on London Cycle Chic which I think is really smart too.


I love the idea of cycling being intertwined in our way of life – for London to be like Amsterdam with people of all ages and sizes getting to where they want to go on bike. As such, I really enjoyed finding out about Alex Bogusky and his cycle sharing scheme. When Bogusky from Crispin, Porter and Bogusky fame moved the firm from Miami to Boulder, they saw an opportunity to make a difference by getting a few cars off the road and introducing a bike sharing scheme . The result of their endeavours was a campaign called B-Cycle. B-cycle looked at the introduction of bike sharing to Paris (Velib) for inspiraton. 20,000 shared bikes in the streets of the most spirited city in the world changed the face of Paris – overnight. CP&B partnered with health care company Humana, whose vested interest in health and exercise made them an ideal collaborator, and then tapped Trek, longtime client and friends of the agency, to design the bikes.

Start the velorution...

Start the velorution...


So how did it work? Well, they designed a system that collates the bikes into sleek solar-powered stations. Trek designed a custom one-size-fits-all bike that’s extra-rugged and handles repairs through their dealer network. To ride, you simply swipe use your B-cycle membership card to release the bike and you’re off.

So, that is all very interesting… But now we come on to what I think is definitely the best bit. Bogusky reckons that a large city requires $1.8 million a year investment to maintain it. Paris’ Velib system is actually manged by outdoor advertising company JC Decaux and funded predominantly  by would be billboard advertisers. Bogusky thinks this program is even more sustainable because their bike system is made for ads: The front basket of the bike is a TV sized surface ideally suited to brand messages. Plus, as it is new, they are sure to attract more attention than conventional media sites. They think they’ll be able to give away the first hour and a half of rental free to encourage people to use it…What a result that would be…

 I think this is a great model whichever way you look at it – either from the point of view of an advertiser or a consumer. I love the fact that advertising sustains an initiative designed to enhance the lives of people in a city. It was great cycling in this morning. there was a genuine sense of community with people talking to oneother at traffic lights. Give me an early morning endorphin rush over yet another tube crush any day of the week. We need a similar system in London now…

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Scotland v Ireland @ Murrayfield

It’s been a busy few days up here in Bonnie Scotland. I’ve been working up here for The Famous Grouse around their sponsorship of the rugby again. The event we put on went really well, and some of the ambient stuff that we did around the area looked really cool. I’ve said it before but sometimes the stuff that people really remember is the small stuff that has  a great thought behind it. For example, we created branded crash pads like the ones that you might see on a try post – for all the lamposts on the route from Edinburgh town centre to the ground:

Lamp post crash pads

Lamp post crash pads

Things threatened to not go so well at 07:00 when we had a call from the polic saying that all our whisky had been stolen. Fortunately, a few trips to the cash n carry and 17 cases later, we were back on track. The day was a roaring (or should that be raucous success). Kilter provided the soundtrack with modern ceilidh music and whisky cocktails with ginger beer and Appletise got everyone in the spirit for the rugby game…

It was a tight game but Ireland won in the end. Its now a battle to avoid the wooden spoon for Scotland.

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Ruud Van Skittlerooy – Skittles & Football

Over the last couple of weeks, there has been an incredible amount of debate about the new ‘Skittles’ campaign. The general consensus is that it is a total rip off but it certainly got me thinking about a few things… I think that you can definitely tell most people who are writing about communications on blogs are planners because I, as an account handler, have quite a different perspective from a lot of what has been written.


In order to communicate my thought process, I’ve decided to look at sport. In sport and in football in particular, success is governed by the finest margins. Sportsmen are continually looking to economise their performances or seek legal advantages to bolster their teams chances. One would think that after 100 years of playing, there would not be anything left to learn, but there is. Some attempts to innovate are effective once or twice before opposition teams learn to snuff them out, whilst other attempts live for longer and even become entrenched in the game. Here are a couple of such examples:


Johan Cruyff was one of footballs great innovators. As well as being one of the finest readers and passers of the game, he also perfected a move now known as the ‘Cruyff Turn‘. To perform this move, Cruyff would look to pass or cross the ball. However, instead of kicking it, he would drag the ball behind his planted foot with the inside of his other foot and turn through 180 degrees and accelerate away outside a defender. This move had never been used before but is now used in pretty much every game you might see in any division of football around the world. It allows a player who has sufficient skill to pull it off, the chance to accelerate away from the opposition.


Van Skittlerooy

Van Skittlerooy


Ruud Van Nistelrooy was a very different player to Johan Cruyff. He was also Dutch but that was where the similarities ended. A penalty box player, his game was all about finishing…applying the final flourish to a move or simply capitalising on a mistake. It wasn’t just capitalising on mistakes that he was good at though. Van Nistelrooy also capitalised on the uncertainty around the off side rule with regard to what was considered being ‘active’ in play. He changed the way strikers played by standing in off side positions throughout a pattern of play before coming back onside and scoring goal after goal. He was the first player to do this…and this is now a common occurrence amongst strikers.


So…two types of innovation that have been replicated on countless occasions by individuals other than by whom they were created by. Indeed, these are two types of innovation that afforded an individual an advantage over another person, and, one could argue, have probably been used at the expense of Cruyff himself or against Van Nistlerooy’s team.  So, what is the reaction of those who understand football best – the pundits, the ex players, the managers – the people who are akin to the planners in advertising? Their reaction is that the execution is what matters – not who came up with the original idea.


In the Skittles instance, the original concept was fantastic but this was applied to an agency website not a brand. It takes bravery on the part of the client and pragmatism on the part of the agency to go ahead with such a campaign. By using the technique, there is a tacit acknowledgment of it’s worth… and a nod in the direction of the creator. It’s easy to see that Modernista! Have done very well out of this campaign!


So, imitation remains the most sincere form of flattery…


One of the most concerning things for me reading peoples reaction was how much mutual back-slapping there seemed to be and how little breadth of opinion there was from such a wide range of people – particularly people who are supposed to be so open minded and creative. There seemed to be a desire for ideas to be kept to those who invented them rather than those who can execute them effectively…The Modernista! Site was innovative, exciting and different…but the Skittles campaign was the bridge between niche and mainstream allowing more people to see and enjoy this special thought… It’s important not to judge everything on where the thought has come from – but more importantly where it is going…

Milestones, memes and misattributions

Today was something of a milestone for my new blog. Today, was the first day that I received a comment! And, it wasn’t a comment from one of my best mates, or my mother. No, it was a comment from the guy that came up with the term ‘intellectual blitzkrieg’ that I wrote about in my very first post.

When I first saw that he had written, Iwas immediately concerned I had tried to claim something he had written as my own…but fortunately I hadn’t…I just liked the sound of it. Here’s what he said:

“I came up with the phrase (see my account here:, and have been quietly tracking its flourishing on the internet. About three-quarters of earlier articles about Trimble et al. made use of it, that reduced to about half after the simpler (and far less descriptively accurate) ‘human google’ became the choice epithet. It eventually got attributed to Jeremy Paxman on the BBC website, which was soon corrected, but this lead to a lot of sources, including newspapers, copying-and-pasting it as his remark in their own accounts. I’m interested in Dawkins’ ‘meme’ theory, and it’s been fascinating seeing this meme grow, mutate with a misattribution, and eventually be competed against by an alternative phrase. I’m very glad you like the phrase. When I hit upon it, I wanted to give a sense of the fact that you are beaten back by a relentless tide of ultrafast answers, and that is happily exactly the effect it had on you as a reader. I originally used it to describe the whole team, but it fits their captain just as well. The full phrase, which was again intended for the whole team, was ‘relentless juggernaut of intellectual Blitzkrieg’.

This sums up the reasons why I think it is good to have a blog. It opens up communities far wider reaching than those we can be privy too in every day life and encourages thought, debate and participation. It also creates streams of thought that lead into other streams. I love the fact that the meme mutates through misattribution. Think about how often that happens and then original meanings are lost forever, all due at one point to one misapplication.

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I’m working with a guy on a brief who used to be the advertising manager at Nike. I was talking to him about some of the ads that he has worked on and it left me reminiscing about my favourite Nike ad – Parklife. I loved this ad because it had ian Wright who was an Arsenal legend…but it really also summed up a period of time in Britain…it was a time that felt ever so slightly out of control..and lots of fun…

I saw this post below which made me laugh…


It’s so abrupt…

“we don’t even get a summer anymore”

and is a proper example of when people say ‘it wasn’t like that in the old days’. trust me..anyone who says that was busy moaning then as well!

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Stable Vs Spectacular (Failure?)

I’m caught in 2 minds today and I just don’t know which way to go…

Is it more important to lead with the head or the heart? Although my natural demeanour tends to be more risk driven-  there is a part of me that always manages to pull it back at the end. The end result is that my life has stability: I have a mortgage on a nice flat, I have a secure(ish) job with a reasonable salary and I have an altogether nice life. It’s nice but it’s not spectatcular. I make a difference (hopefully) to those close to me and my family etc…but this is a realtively close group. I don’t affect a huge amount of people.

I’d quite like to make more of an impact. I think I’ve got some quite big ideas and thoughts that I would like to tell people about…but at the last minute i’m afraid of taking that final step off the precipice…taking the leap of faith so to speak. I guess that’s the dilemma – when you try and jump across a canyon – you can either make it to the promised land or end up splattered all over the rocks at the bottom. I’m trying to work out in my mind whether its better to try something and risk total failure (or achieve total success) or settle for unspectacular stability…

God, I hate the idea of settling…and I also hate the fear of failure

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The Running Man

Few bits and pieces that have been floating around my mind today…

Social Networking & The ability to communicate

Came across this on twitter this morning. Its in reaction to something that I briefly touched upon earlier in the week regarding the impact of social networking upon peoples minds. The (in)famous brain woman, Lady Greenfield said that people speding loads of time in virtual worlds were losing their ability to communicate in the real world.

This provides another argument that says that for too long, too many of us have assumed that people who excel in virtual worlds are useless in physical worlds….and that there is evidence that the super-communicators in the emergent generations actually spent more time face to face with their friends than the rest of the population. It certainly makes sense that people who are interested in technology probably have greater levels of intellectual curiousity which probably also manifests itself in greater desires to spend more time communicating with other people in the ‘real’ world. This article makes the great point that:

“When Generation M, the mobile multitasking multimedia millenials, spend time online, they’re not sacrificing face time with their friends and family.

They’re sacrificing TV time. And advertisement time. And everything else that goes with it. Particularly when you compare them to earlier post-TV generations.

So they’re going to do what we never managed to do enough of. They’re going to choose what they do in their leisure time. Choose whose recommendations they trust. Choose whom they spend time with. Choose who they share their intentions with. Choose.”

I think this is a great point…

Martin Amis and Jade Goody:

Yesterday my mum said that the whole Jade Goody episode was like a Martin Amis novel. I’d never thought of it like that – but you couldn’t have written this script…  “Borne out of reality TV and ultimately dies on it”

It got me thinking about how we are getting closer to scenarios like ‘the running man.’ – that dodgy film with Arnie from the 80s. Watching Jade die is like the ultimate voyeuristic TV  programme and is not far removed from the running man, where people tune in, essentially to watch convicts being killed. Now, no-one wants to see Jade get killed but this deep seated voyeurism is getting pretty dark…

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Edinburgh Rugby Weekend

This weekend saw me take in the sights of Edinburgh…
A lot of the sights involved me looking through the bottom of a glass but it was certainly lots and lots of fun. I was up there working on The Black Grouse (a new product from the makers of The Famous Grouse Whisky) and leveraging their ongoing association with the Scottish Rugby team. One of the very few good things about a global recession is that agencies have to be more creative and operate within lower budgets to deliver solutions that get people talking about brands. There wasn’t a huge amount of budget to play with for the Scotland vs Italy game – but hopefully, what we manged to do rasied awareness of the new product ‘The Black Grouse’, (which tastes bloody good…especially mixed with Coke and a slice of orange)
We created the first ever mobile bar in Scotland which had the Scottish flairing champion on it, did a series of projections around Edinburgh and then did more traditional sampling activity around the entrances with staff and jetpacks ensuring everyone got in the swing of things pre match…
Here’s the projection…
A Guerilla Grouse

A Guerilla Grouse

And here is our mobile bar!
If ever in Edinburgh, I would really recommend this place – Tiger Lillies – It’s based on George Street and does amazing cocktails. They were absolutely rammed and the food wasn’t as good as it was last time but is still very nice. We’re all booked in for the next trip up on the 14th! As well as Tiger Lillies, we checked out Opal Lounge which was lots of fun but a complete sweat box and full of the Italian Rugby Team.
The downside of being in Scotland was missing the Arsenal game on saturday. Thank god for this Stoke goal – we just about still have a chance to grab a CL spot – but our young players need to pull their fingers out their arses. They’ve got the trust of a manager who has been a legend but is now being made to look like a fool by a group of payers who have shown themsleves to lack the mental fortitude to compete at the top level….
Finally, a TED video that I mentioned drunkenly on saturday night – I think this is inspirational stuff and well worth revisiting…
And courtesy of Tass, a video extolling the virtues of ‘Donk’. Tass says that the characters are real. I don’t believe him but I hope they are because this is really incredibly funny!
Right – Onwards and upwards – work is aplenty
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