Wimbledon is upon us

I do love a good sporting trailer, but this Wimbledon animation by McCann London does nothing for me.  It’s all craft.  And wonderful craft too.  Credits:  Nexus Studios’ Smith & Foulkes – yes it’s dead clever animation.  But frankly, Sky Sports does it much better just by harnessing moments of passion and the noise of the crowd.


Close, but no cigar

The Football World Cup (I can’t bring myself to call it the FIFA World Cup, as we’re supposed to nowadays) should be a fantastic opportunity for brands. In particular, it’s a place to borrow the passion and energy of the thing we all get most excited about.  No, not street-fighting and British self-loathing; I’m thinking of the football.

In the past, Adidas had its moments but Nike was King of the World Cup ad – despite not being a sponsor – clever eh?  More recently Beats by Dr Dre has excelled.

But Beats’ new 2018 version is a big disappointment.  It has many of the elements: big names; check, cool track, check, flashbacks, flash forwards, check, underdog story; check …..etc and so on.  But no banana; you just don’t end up caring one way or the other.


There’s still time for someone to step in and save the day with a new blockbuster.  In the meantime, let’s just luxuriate in the sheer amazing-ness of the last Beats World Cup ad from 2014.



That’s better.

The Curse of Cassandra


At a conference recently, Jim Carroll, the former Chairman of ad agency BBH, talked about the ‘Curse of Cassandra’ which struck a chord with me.

He described how, years ago, he shared an office with a bright young strategist.  She consistently made excellent arguments, but somehow always failed to convince others.  Her thinking was good, but too often wasted.

As Jim put it:

“She was always right.  But she always lost”

This sort of thing happens a lot in advertising, where everyone has an opinion and the room is often swayed by the most passionate or the most domineering voice.  Or the Boss.

In Homer’s Iliad, Cassandra was the daughter of Priam, King of Troy.  Struck by her beauty, Apollo provided her with the gift of prophecy.  But when Cassandra refused Apollo’s romantic advances, he placed a curse, ensuring that nobody would believe her warnings.

It also echoes the work popularised recently by author Susan Cain, who writes about unlocking the talent of introverts, who are undervalued in today’s excessively competitive workplace.

At this point, I could go into the (many) strategies which the conference speakers described, to address the curse.  Largely by becoming more personally influential, by building our own personal brands and by using the same dark arts we would put into a marketing plan to sell the elements of that plan.

I could, but I won’t.

Because the implication is that we treat every interaction with colleagues as some kind of internal sales pitch.  And maybe that’s just how things are.  But I really don’t want that.

She is a thing of beauty, no?


Not the kit.

The press release, silly.

“The collection features a commissioned artwork featured on the jersey from underground street artist Hazul Luzah. The design, in his signature contrasting line-work and free hand geometric pattern, throughout the jersey … features a combination of White, Dazzling Blue and Maldives Blue. The jersey also features top shoulder bonded tape … and a button shawl flat knit collar. The socks feature an elasticated ankle zone”


Bliss.  As ‘The Fiver’ succinctly puts it: Porto unveil their third kit with a blizzard of nonsense.

Facebook traded my data, boo hoo

The recent outrage over Cambridge Analytica (CA) demonstrates perfectly how we have almost completely failed to grasp how the Internet works.

The scandal erupted because a ‘whistleblower‘ exposed how CA used data derived from Facebook to refine the targeting for the Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum.  CA was also influential in Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign.

The actual scandal concerns the sneaky way CA got its data from Facebook, via a Personality Quiz which contravened Facebook’s terms, but that has got lost in the general sense of shock that the details we post on Facebook have somehow become a traded currency.

To which, surely, the only sensible response is…. ‘no shit, Sherlock?’

The Guardian and The Observer broke the story after some admirable investigative journalism.


Furthermore, they promised to uncover the shocking truth……

  1. How data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica used people’s Facebook data for political campaigning.
    Read more from this series
  2. How Cambridge Analytica is connected to AggregateIQ — the digital agency used by the Vote Leave official campaign for Brexit.
    Read more

I bow to no man in my admiration for The Guardian, but, as scandals go, I’m afraid this just seems a bit flimsy.

What do people think Facebook does?  How does any online business, providing services ostensibly ‘free’, make money?

The oft-cited expression goes “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”

I recall many years ago, when Facebook was new and exciting and relevant to young people as well as the middle-aged, Channel 4 made a documentary in which they interviewed some excited early adopters of social media.  The first part of each interview consisted of the speaker expressing their love for Facebook, extolling its virtues in connecting us with friends and loved ones, making us better people, curing loneliness and generally making the world a better place.  The second part consisted in the interviewer probing around how these advocates thought Facebook made money and, more pertinently, what would happen to the personal information collected about them. Needless to say the very idea that personal data was the currency was appalling and simply not believable.

Many years later, you might have expected that the business model underpinning online businesses – we provide services and we use the data we collect to target you ever-more accurately – would have become widely appreciated.  Maybe even applauded?  After all, that’s how businesses provide ever better, more personalised feeds and more relevant products.

It’s not just the public who have struggled to get used to the idea that Google and others are trading our personal data.  As Forbes Magazine put it, at the time of writing in April 2018..

One of the scariest parts of this entire mess is that our governing officials, those who make our laws, do not have a fundamental understanding of how social media works.

Marketing people are watching this whole story with a mix of fascination and embarrassment.  After all, this – targeting people as accurate as possible by using the best data available – is very much what we do.

As the inimitable Mark Ritson put it:

On the Cambridge Analytica ‘scandal’: In the past two weeks I’ve had the same conversation with several senior marketers. The marketer inevitably says with a sheepish grin: ‘We’ve been doing this shit for years’

Some people will inevitably remain appalled and outraged – yawn.  However, this particular horse has not so much already bolted but rather it has left the stables, grown up, had a career, raised a family and entered a contented middle age.