Thursday, September 17, 2009

What You Say Matters!

It's often said of people who've worked in advertising for long enough that after a while you tend to believe your own advertising. As my favourite littigator often tells me,"What is it about you PR people, don't you do anything real?"

I can sympathise with these sentiments. I've spent the better part of my life in the marketing communications industry - 8-years of work experience, many years of family members in the industry and now, to make matters worse, I've started something with a girl in the ad sales business. All I can say is that it's hard to know what's grounded in the business because you're constantly dealing with trying to invenet new realities for other people and if you do enough of something it becomes real to you. In a way, the industry is about inventing value for yourself. You know a lawyers value because you really need him or her in court. You know an accountants value because the books need to be done. But how do you know that you know the value of the marketing communications professional? We as an industry are good for the image but how do you know we're enhancing your image (by the end of month report we write you.)

One of the ways in which we invent value for ourselves, is by telling you that, it's not about what you say but how you say it. We can say it right for you and that can make things go so much more smoothly for you. Which to a certain extent is true. I like to think of a Mad Magazine sketch, where daughter comes home and says, "I'm pregnant." Everyone screams. However in the next scene she says, "You guys will be the envy of your friends - everyone will say you're SO YOUNG to be grandparents." Everyone smiles.

All this is true when things are going well. Nobody likes bad news and the last thing the product development people who have spent the last year or so in R&D want to hear is they're product sucks. We, the marketing communications people have developed a somewhat dangerous understanding with the clients that we can somehow, through some magic find a way to make your product or service shine and sales soar.

It's taken a military man, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mike Mullen to cut through the myth when he criticised a comunique on the "war on terror." The Good Admiral pointed out that, "Too much energy is spent on communicating our actions and not enough on considering what our actions communicate." The admiral is right. Communications is a powerful tool and communicating correctly makes allot of difference to getting things done. However, you cannot communicate lousy things into good things.

Let's apply Admiral Mullen's logic to the Middle East conflicts. The politcians of the Obama administration want to "communicate better" with the Muslim world after so many years of "miscommunication" by the Bush Administration. On paper this is fine rethoric and a welcome change. In reality this is pointless. You cannot communicate a bombing that killed a few civilians into a happy event. You have to look at the bombing itself and act from there.

Likewise with marketing communications. Advertising as both David Ogilvy and Bill Burnbach pointed out, "Cannot invenet a prodcut advantage." In fact advertising can ruin a bad product faster because more people will know about it.

So, what do we, as industry professionals need to do? I think GE's former CEO, Jack Welsh said it best - discover "Candour" when we deal with our clients. We should fight to be part of the product development process rather than just communicators of the prodcut itself.

What you say does matter! You cannot create product advantages that don't exist through communications. Marketing communications professsionals will never know the client's business as well as the client and one cannot expect an outsider to know the brand as well as the brand owner.

However, one needs to be able to look at clients and tell them honestly that they're approach or their product will have problems in the market. Clients don't pay for fancy drawings and ideas. They pay solutions to problems and if one finds that there is a problem in product or service, one should not be afraid to say so. A client that cannot accept this, is not a client worth handling.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Glory: Glory: A Few Less Ayrabs, Spicks and All That for the Bush Administration

Am currently in the slow but steady process of recovering from spraining my back. The pain has been excrutiating and it limits my mobility. Although I only had to walk with the help of a cane for a single day, I'm not as sprightly as I should be.

However, life is such that there are things to write about and thanks to two more Americans in Asia, I have another topic - Obama versus Bush. As with all things political, opinions on the subject can be very devisive and the journalistic/legal ideal always says that one should be "Objective," and able to separate the personalities from the jobs. Lawyers for example often defend people they personally find repulsive because they are bound by a higher ideal namely the idea that even the most repulsive criminal needs a voice in court. Journalist are bound by ethical considerations to hear ALL sides of the story.

I am not a journalist or a lawyer, though I deal both groups on a frequent basis and while I admire the ability to remain "Objective" in situations that require you to get emotionally involved, I'm thankfull that I don't have to be objective in allot of what I do. Opinions may be like arseholes (everyone has one) and like arseholes, you can tell allot about a persons level of education by their opions, especially in the area of politics.

This is especially clear when you deal with people who think that "Obama is MUCH WORSE than Bush II." Let's be clear, this is an opion and people are entitled to hold their opions but when such a statement is made, we have to wonder what forms the basis of this opinion.

For the record, I think President Obama has dissapointed. Part of it had to be expected, the expectations people had of him on inaugural day were unrealistic and bound to happen. However, the President has to be responsible for the dissapointment he's caused. He acted fast to order the closing of Guantanamo Bay for example, but ordering it and seeing that it gets done are two different things. Somehow, actually removing this insult to America seems less interesting than telling people you want it done.

Then there's the Middle East. He gave a fabulous speech explaining America's position to the Muslim World. There were plenty of quotes from the Koran, which touched his Arab host. He even made some right sounding noises about making peace between Israel and Palestine. However, rethoric is meaningless if not turned into reality.

Since that wonderful speech in Cairo, Israel's Ethically-Challenged Prime Minister, Binyamin Nethanyahu has ordered even more constrution of settlements in the West Bank - a direct violation of every peace treaty signed (The 2001 Sharm Al-Shiek Report headed by Former Senator Mitchel found that there was a direct link between suicide bombings and the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip). The World's "MOST POWERFUL" Man has merely been "concerned." By contrast, Egypt has lost the opportunity to lead UNESCO because some of it's diplomats made "Anti-Israeli" remarks. Is anyone surprised that the Muslim world is saying "F* O" to American rethoric on the subject of making peace in the Middle East - It's merely worrying that Israel is actively provoking confrontation but something is actually done if the Muslim and Arab world say that Israel is less than perfect.

President Obama will have plenty more opportunities to screw-up. The American government is already in gigantic deficits trying to support wars and stimulate its capital starved economy. The President is also opening a can of worms with healthcare (though he is right to try to do something about a system that's clearly failing most Americans), that traditionally screws up American politicians.

So, yes, Obama has dissapointed and has plenty of opportunity to really fuck up the nation and the rest of the world. But not exactly sure how anyone can even suggest that the "House Nigger" in the White House is doing a worse job than the "Fag" before him.

Seriously, what did the Bush II Administration do for America and Americans. We got a few trade deals signed, I suppose and few African nations got to play host to the Cheerleader. I suppose you could say that you got more "safety" from terrorism because America invaded and occupied a country based on lies and deception.

Does anyone really care about American troops? I can't see how a sane person can say that their former Commander-in-Chief, George W did. I don't call fabricating evidence to send young men to die caring for them. How can you call sending troops into a possible life-endangering situation with inadequate support, care for your troops? I guess Donald Rusfeld and Dick Chenney thought it was acceptable but then again, I don't them or their loved ones near the front line.

How much did the Iraq War, the key legacy of the second Bush Administration cost America. Let's see - 4,000 troops and many more crippled and scared for life, and a couple trillion dollars of American Tax Payer's money - not that the American tax payer gets a bonus if the war turns into an economic success.

But then again, who really gives a shit about the American tax payer? According to George Bush II, the only ones that mattered were nice honest guys like Ken Lay of Enron, which is why they got tax cuts and breaks. Really, who gives a shit about a couple of Niggers in the slums or Spiks crossing the Rio Grande?

I mean, we could all see the real value of American tax payers to the Bush II Administration when Hurrican Katrina hit. A few wops, niggas and hicks drowned and "Brownie was doing Heck of a Job."

Or should we talk about the Patriot Act, which allows the government to spy on citizens and arrest people at randome for "Un-American" remarks. Why is it that when the Thai's have Le Majeste Laws to prevent criticism of King Bhuminphol (Who actually cares about his people), we call it a violation of freedom of speech but when the Patriot Act prevents criticism of the way the "war on terror" is fought, we call it safety.

Forgive me for being ignorant but I'm not sure how fucking up American people by sending their sons to a war with no justification worse than trying to reform healthcare? Yes, Obama is spending lots of money but it's aimed at trying to keep Americans in jobs, which is a darn sight different from spending it on a war with no direct benefit to the people who voted for you?

Then again, I suppose the crowd that think "Obama is MUCH WORSE THAN BUSH II," don't mind the loss of human life and the violation of their precious civil liberties if it means the world will have a few less Ayrabs, Spiks and what nots.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Could I have been harsh?

The subject of my recent blog entry told me that he had checked out this blog and found it to be cool and suggested that we might have lunch. Therefore, I've had to ask myself if I was harsh and perhaps unfair on him in my last blog entry. Being a failure of a human being, I'm not yet inclined to be maganamous and conceed that I might have been wrong about him, only time will tell.

However, I have to make it clear to readers of this blog that I am not against America and Americans or any Caucasians per se. My life was blessed by the presence of an American who was an Asia - my stepfather, Lee, who played a vital role in my formative years. Thanks to him, I managed to see Europe and many parts of the States. I've grown-up as one of the few of my generation of Singaporeans who appreciates the fact that places like America and even Briton are not one country but many with, each with their own unique culture and heritage.

Leaving aside the travel, I bless Lee for showing me that fatherhood was not just a biological process. I grew up with basking in his fatherly love, which is something that I've come to realise, particularly in my dealings with the former PGFNB is a precious commodity. My natural father wasn't a regular presence in my life during my formative years but thanks to Lee, I never felt the poorer for it.

Another American that I have to thank for making my life better is the late Granny Joan, mother of my former stepmother, Nora. Unfortunately, Joan had to die young (in her early 70s) but for the brief moments she was a part of my life, she blessed it with her tremendous capacity to love. Joan even extended her "Grandmotherhood" to my friend Joe when he was a student in Indiana. I think having a place in Chicago that would welcome him, made life in Indiana so much better for Joe.

Americans for the most part are wonderful and kind hearted people. Their innocent belief that the rest of the world wants to be like them is born out of a desire to share something, which for the most part is good.

The same can be said of the Brits or at least the Brits of the older generation, the generation that won a world war that they were not expected to win. I'm with Lee Kuan Yew when he describes the British of the 1940s as one of the most civilised people on earth. Unfortunately, that generation is dying out and what you get are holigans, though I must give my British friends credit for making me see the demise of this decency has yet to die off completly. My Indian readers should note that the average Brit has decency - it was the average Briton who protested against the reality TV show "Big Brother" when they saw the late Jade Goody engaging in "Racist Bullying" against Shilppa Shetty.

I also salute the British Military. Modern Britain functions primarily on forign labour - so much so that one of the worst insults has to be, "You Work Like an Englishman." While that may be true of the rest of the country, it is definately not true of the British Military. You have Generals like Richard Danton who speak up against their political masters in favour of their men and you have formations like the SAS and SBS that win military conflicts by winning over the local people. The Malayan Campaign is classic example. SAS troopers won over the local population and stopped the communist from taking over through a "hearts and minds" campaign. They brought medicines to remote communities and helped the local people discover a better life. The locals in turn helped them route out the communist.

Hearts and Minds was not an overnight success but it proved to be more cost efficient and placed the Brits in a better position to negotiate the peace. Compare that with American military campaigns - you get lots of fire power thrown at the most remote of areas in the hope that the other side gets the idea that it's just easier to lie down and die. Iraq is a good example - they steamrollered Sadamm's army thinking they'd be welcomed with open arms. The locals cheered them for getting rid of Saddam and then proceeded to pick of GI's one at a time and the most awkward times.

Today, I have no desire to go back to either the USA or UK or to visit Australia. I cringe whenever someone suggest going to London for a holiday. I've had enough of shoddy but very expensive infrastructure. I mean, I used to live in swanky Soho, which stank of piss - not something you'd find in Geylang. I also shudder when any of the three groups suggest business meetings or offer jobs - it's usually a session for mental masturbation and for you to do the work (including the thinking) and they take the money.

As such, my entries give the impression that I am dead set against Caucasians, particularly the Americans, Brits and Australians. This is not true, I am aware of the innate decency of Americans, Brits and Ausies - I merely don't show my appreciation to the good guys as often as I vent against the crap that ends up in the rest of the world.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Dieu Dieu Dieu and it's Whatch Fuckin Doing Motha Fucka

Had quite an interesting evening, where I think I actually got to let my baser instincts shine through. No I didn't get laid, in fact the lady who was my host felt quite hurt by the reactions towards two of her friends who were "Citizens of Caucasia." I remember correctly, one of them was from Boston and the other was not quite from a hick town but somewhere which escapes me.

Actually I was OK with the two guys until the lady host decided that we should all go to a Karaoke lounge that she had a free gift to. Suddenly you got to see the true colours of the two gentlemen, who were supposedly educated but decided to act like spoilt teens waiting to get laid from a five and dime hooker. I'm actually OK with that type of behavoiur if it comes from the navy boys. These guys do put their lives on the line everytime some faggot in the White House decides to look for his testicles in the Middle East. If they want to get laid, I'm all for them having their fun.

What I can't stand are young executives who think they're there to actually improve the lives of the Yellow and Brown People. OK, if you want to pick up a few Sarong Party Girls, that's your busieness, someone has to take care of the slums but for God's sake, please don't even pretend you've got anything to offer me.

I should even be fair to one of the boys. He actually found the balls (a rare commodity in an American Expat) to sing in Mandarin and he actually read a few Chinese words, which is a bit more than what I can do when it comes to what should be my mother tounge (My folks speak to me in English and my Dad's mother tounge is actually Cantonese)

But then after a while, he got irritating and so I proceeded to treat him like....well shit. He'd try and say something to me in Mandarin to impress the ladies and so I just insulted him in Cantonese to which my host "felt hurt," and decided that I had hurt in my hurt.

That may be the case but I was proved right. The Gentleman in question decided to leave quietly and stick the ladies with his tab. Well done....another sign of how Asia has a habit of importing bad rubbish from the West.

Was I boorish? Perhaps I was but if you asked me to do it again, I would, only this time, I would do it in English so the bugger would understand every word of what I was saying.

I don't know but I think it's reaching a silly state of affairs when Singapore Chinese girls are taken back when I tell them I have allot of Muslim and Indian friends. The lady who felt hurt by what I said of her White American friend was shocked by the fact that I told her I have Muslim friends, whom I make it a point of following their fasting rituals when I'm in their presence (I don't fast during Ramadan but if I'm with any of my Muslim friends I won't eat or drink unless they do).

My Muslim friends are for the most part fun to be around and reasonably educated. Most importantly collecting payment from Muslim clients has never been an issue. I'll always remember being told of former Saudi Ambassador to Singapore, Dr Amin Kurdi - "If Kurdi SAYS you will be paid, then you have nothing to worry about. " That took place three-years ago but I remember that. I mean I think it speaks volumes about a man when those smaller than him revere his words. Say what you like of Saudi Arabia and the Arab and Islamic world but working with Dr Kurdi showed me a world that believes in the concept of honour.

Likewise, the same has been true of my Malay and Pakistani friends. Sure, they don't have the pockets of the Saudi government but even then, I am properly taken care of when I deal with them. Again, this gives me a powerful impression of what it's like to deal with the Muslim world. One Irishman who had lived in the Middle East remarked, "The Koran is a guide to morality and honour."

So I am taken back when modern, educated Singaporeans look at me with shock that I would have Muslim friends. I seriously wonder if the lady who was hurt by my remarks about her Caucasian friend would have felt the same way if I had spoken about a Malay or an Indian.

Yet the same people who are surprised that I have Muslim and Indian friends get hurt or suspect I'm wierd when I don't give Caucasians (particularly Americans and Brits) any respect. Why should it be so? Are these people beyond the rules of normal behaviour? I think not. The American fellow didn't even have the decency to say goodbye to the group that treated with more than his fair share of respect. He may not have liked me personally but the very least he could have made an effort to say good bye to the ladies who had treated nay even revered him. But then again, what do you expect from the nation that voted for Bush and Chenney not once but TWICE.

But then again, I'm wrong to say that because the Americans I know are not like that. I remember being lost in San Francisco and people were rushing out of their homes to help me. So, it's not correct to say that I don't like Americans. I can't help but be touched by Americans when I think of the people who opened their doors to me.

So it's probably something about Caucasians who come to Asia and the developing world that turns them into grade A shit? I'm wondering what it is because the Americans are I know are not like what you see here - lots of hot air but money (or balls to back up their actions)