So, with the exception of Gareth, who's feedback will appear as a kind of epilogue in due course, I have the task of going last. Bugger.
That means it's a struggle to say anything that hasn't been said before and you've all probably lost interest by now. Oh well.
I need to apologise though. This post is late - after entries being on time and the kind effort of (most of) the judges to be on time - and I'm sorry. The last week has been crazy, not an excuse, a reason I hope.
First, there are the thankyous. Thanks to the judges for giving their time on this. But more importantly, thanks to the people who submitted their entries. Hopefully, you'll benefit from the direct feedback, but it's incredibly generous to give your time and expose yourself in this manner so that the others, who didn't, might benefit from the comments and pointers too. Seriously, I salute you.
Right, onwards. Here's my general feedback. At the heart of this project is a conflict. I've banged on before about the weakness of slavishly following proprietary planning processes, yet lo! I set out a distinct process for this one. Why on earth would I do that? Because this was never going to be an easy project. It flies in the face of most of the accepted wisdom in some of the, ahem, most respected organisations in this business..product or emotional benefit focus I mean. So I thought it useful to provide a guide to help and, hopefully, case studies that brought it to life.
Another reason was that, like it or not, we always have to tailor how we deliver our ideas to clients: the way they think about how brands work and their sign off process. Practising organising your thinking to help someone buy it is something you need to start doing.
So I was a little surprised that not everyone followed the brief. I don't mean following the process in a linear order, but making sure that you covered the main questions, so that my imaginary tick list was complete (you'd be amazed in pitches how many clients have a real tick list). First and foremost in any presentation, you need to be thinking about what your audience is looking for and tailor it to that.
With regards to presentation style, it really varied from the too succinct to virtual verbal diarrhoea. I wanted to see a clear story told in an inspiring way. There were wonderful examples of design, brilliant pieces of writing and, in places, crystal clarity. No one entry did it all in one go. What works for me, whether it's writing a document, preparing for a presentation or whatever is writing down the story first. Literally, the elevator pitch.Usually that means a one pager. Ever since I read Perfect Pitch I've followed the advice and organise it as Robert McKee suggests: The Inciting Incident that sets it all in motion, Progressive Complications, Crisis, Climax and Resolution. It works for me and is well worth a go. Once you have this, fleshing it out is easy, but you have that critical structure.
Now for the content. Specifically the approaches to cultural strategy. Every single entry has at least one gem of an observation, but it tended to feel that most of your efforts had gone into finding a category convention ( and done this brilliantly) which is critical of course, and less so the genuine tension tension in culture you could resolve...in many ways it felt like people were tapping into a mainstream trend to break a category convention rather than resolve real tension in people's lives. That said, nearly everybody showed a direction of thinking that was fresher and more thought provoking than 90% of what most planners would do and 100% fresher than existing category stuff. It just felt a little like piggybacking a trend at times, rather than repurposing something beginning to get momentum in culture that no one else has yet.
LIke I said, there were some fantastic observations about category conventions, some great directions about what was going on in mens REAL lives we could address, plus some great thoughts about what was going on in culture we could repurpose. But I never felt that that all that happened in one entry. I was also a little bit disappointed that so many approaches addressed a question about what masculinity should be about, when a more interesting question might be, WHY is shaving so tied up with masculinity and manliness, starting there might have got to somewhere very different.
The biggest category convention seems to be that shaving is tied up with masculinity - what else could it be about?
So well done all, but no one was perfect. Which is a relief since I bet the judges don't want to be ousted by the Young Turks just yet.
So to the entries:
Short and to the point. Interesting to focus on the category convention of the clean shaven guy...but I was looking for more than this, what it is it in life/culture this means/could mean? What's wrong with the clean shaven guy and the way brands focus on him?
The 'creative guy' is interesting but what's BEHIND this, what's the tension in men's lives championing the loose creative types could resolve? How and why could this be any different to Apple's 'tools for creatives'? I wonder if digging into further might have exposed something like the 'weekend hippy' - the young guy who hasn't come to terms with the constraints of adulthood yet. That night have got to a place that talks about shaving at weekends - or providing 'outlets' during the week.
Still, didn't entirely agree with other judges that encouraging blokes to shave less is a bad thing - most strategy doesn't change behaviour, it tends to change brand preference, and I wonder if providing 'cultural capital' to your audience might generate that 'switch' without actually making them shave more or less. Also, there night be all sorts of tactics for helping guys shave off a thicker beard, I bet shaving oil helps with that (just out of interest, I was amazed nobody dug into KOS heritage a little bit more, which the oil is the bedrock).
Independent art IS interesting and I can see how you might supply 'cultural trickledown' to guys with the interest but not the palate or the time and effort to seek it out, but you don't really show how you make it relevant to KOS.
So there's lots going on here but I wonder if you audacious attempt at striking brevity left out the story that would pull it together. Beautifully written manifesto, but the brief said it should inspire anyone in the KOS business and, to be honest, it's a little oblique.
On final point - I loved the idea of craven mediocrity- guys who want to be great but don't really have the chops (most of us then) would loved to have seen this developed more.
Points for actually following the process. I like what you do with the category- it's great to see challenger strategy applied. It's great for you to look for inspiration from other categories, but it worries me at this stage, as this category is already very functional to me, it just dresses it in emotional benefit bollocks.
I really liked where you were going, but you frustrated me by stopping short of looking at cultural conventions in the category. It felt like you were judging their ads not what what their content might really represent. The smug self satisfied guy is interesting but what is it about him you can bring meaning to and subvert? I do love that you go for inspiration from popular culture, bit ads.
For me though, your cultural tension misses a crucial point, you state the category doesn't connect with real guys, but you go no further. What is it about these fake men that might be made to piss guys off? This what I'm thinking at this point as your story unfolds and wanted you to push it further.
But I LOVE your manifesto I see how grown up mischief helps you play judo with Gillete. But you haven't shown why robomen are such a problem. You just say that's not what real guys are like- but what's wrong with out of touch images to aspire to? If they don't aspire to this image WHY NOT? You haven't said or I'm missing something.
So I'm frustrated becasue I thought what you were driving at with your Hangover/Mad Men references was great..something about the boiling tensions in men forces to conform, just waiting to explode. I would have loved to see how you would light the touchpaper.
On your executions,I wanted to see where you might show up to have maximum impact, where your 'tension' would be the most intense. The fashion store thought is interesting, but where and how could you be the most provocative?
Great start, you're wetting my appetite - the best presentations make the audience sit up and take notice from the first second. I like you getting quickly to the functional relationship with the category - shaving's a pain in the arse and part of a much wider ritual of pretending to be someone else when you go to work. This was really going somewhere. You really link the category to a wider issue in life.
Then you lose me.
Your solution seems to add to the problem in my view - getting a proper shave. That feels like an answer to a different problem, possibly the way men might yearn for the days when men where men, but you didn't lead to this and then, to be honest, you seem to descend into lots of functional stuff, which makes it feel like an FMCG planning deck of yore rather than a cultural strategy. A real shame because you started brilliantly.
I like your quote at the start, but be careful, if I had a penny for every planning presentation I'd seen that starts with a quote..and then the proverbs approach gets stale quickly and gets in the way of me understanding what you're trying to say!
The archetypes approach was great, it's a fresh way to look at what the category does/doesn't do. But I've got to be honest, I got confused. I THINK you're saying the world confusing for a certain kind of guy who thinks culture has left him behind - it wants him to be many, conflicting things when he just wants be himself, uncomlicated, dependable, nice. I really wanted this developed, but you don't really link it to why the category exacerbates this. I think you've found something really great to pursue, but you don't pull this through to relevance to shaving.
I'm thinking you're saying nice guys shave because it shows you care about the woman you love, and helps build the uncool, family driven life these guys want. This gets me back on track but then you bamboozle me with your process chart, which seems very different to the process laid out in the brief.
I work at it and tease out what I think you means, the category is about the alpha male, our men like the backyard life. I'm loving this - love, not lust, home to boardroom. I wish you'd made this clearer because it's great.
Also, really smart to start a conversation between men and women, since I bet a massive chunk of razors are bought by women for their partner.
I really wanted you to develop this more rather than muddy it with the 'shave because your partner prefers it', Gillete have done this and yes, you suggest a different wrapping, but it's rather old hat to tell men women prefer men to be stubble free. I really wanted you to push the 'backyard guy' who doesn't have to try too hard, or make the loving family man cool.
But you really needed to develop this a lot more. Because while the category doesn't champion nice guys (but I do wonder if the old Gillette the Best a Man Can Get did) culture does. From 'My Family' in the UK to the dependable Dad who seems to be the bedrock of US popular culture - sitcom, dramas even movies. I'll wager the VW Star Wars commercial is all about making family guys feel good about themselves.
Love your video manifesto though. So really great thoughts, but be clear and hone and really push your story.
LOVE your title, just love it. You get going quickly and a big tick for nailing category conventions swiftly. I think the 'macho ritual is an interesting springboard as it 'NASA 7 blade crap'...but what is the deeper cultural orthodoxy beneath this? I doubly wanted this because your analysis of the cultural mess that is men's vanity was great - the shift from looking good being once pansy, now pre-requisite. Within those archetypes, part of me wanted you to settle on one and challenge it - bondi beach guy? hpister? Which one?
But I liked you nailed it into simple cultural tension (not everybody did this!) - real world body image pressures v Hollywood's achievement over image.
I'm in a quandry though. You've said some really stimulating stuff, but I don't think you've linked the category behaviour to you cultural need--I agree the category shows an outdated version of what it means to be a man, but you haven't really showed how this links to the body image observations. I'd argue in many ways it doesn't since much of the category behaviour arguably says, forget all that nonsense, just shave well and it's job done.
Perhaps I'm being picky. I can see that it's probably enough to say the category doesn't accept that the world has moved and needs a new ideology in world where men's roles and self image are confusing. But you don't state this clearly enough.
I still struggle with your tension point. I'm not sure Hollywood says achieving is good. Your examples, geeks and slackers are very niche subcultures and I'm not sure either is about achievement. In my view, the geek thing seems to be about nice guys finishing first while Apatows slackers seem to be NON-achievers finally growing up.
All of this is really thought provoking though, wish you'd taken it to the next level and tied together more.
You don't take me with you the rest of the way though. The thought of guys who feel life makes it hard to get to where their old man got is great, but it's not really linked to what you've said before.
Then you manifesto is beautiful. I THINK you are really on about resolving the tension between men who want to live up to what's expected of them...looks, achievements, but it's hard in the face of realism about their looks and talents and the way women are winning in the schoolroom, workplace and culture at large.
You get to shifting the centre of gravity from success as perfection to character, wit and, well, being interesting. Comedy and Apatow's films make great source material, wonderful finish but I wish you'd taken me there rather than making me work so hard!
Top marks for art direction but you really need to take more time to write a lot less! Seriously, edit, precis, distil. Please!!!!!!!!
Nice distilation of shaving as the world of the classical man, nice how you show this is aout of step with blurred gender roles and how it leads to slacking and underachievement. This is great.
Really good observation that blokes are squandering more freedom and opportunity than they've ever had before.
But your Ivy League solution does't feel like the solution! I t felt like you were saying at first men need to start making life happen rather than waiting for it to happen to them. I like this, but I'm looking for a provocative call to arms to mobilise blokes in the first place.
I'm not denying Ivy league Man is a good idea, but it feels like in icon for men who have already decided to act, you need to convince them to get off their arses in the first place
I love that you've gone right into shave culture, not just brand culture. Your pace and style begin really well. Great tension I thought - the submissive man who does what he's told, leaving most men just getting angry and a great opportunity to embrace a much wider identity and all the possibilities that brings. Really good.
But your strategy suffers from lace of the pace and brevity in your first bit! I was really with you, but then I get less sure about 'good men' as a name for a target, it's not great when you're talking about men who embrace the best of where they've been and where they could go. 'Good doesn't encapsulate that for me!
But i LOVE the idea of the evolution of new generation, "One day we will all be like this' if feels like a grand vision, a shared goal.
I wish you had captured the essence of what that might be, but if feels like your solution is more about embracing the old than the new. I wanted to see more possibility.
Your manifesto was beautifully written but I don't think you've captured what your thinking could have been, it begins to feel like inspiring progress' which is a great, relevant idea for a male audience, except for the fact Johnnie Walker have already done it!!
Your post starts really well. That quote is a killer. I like how you boil the category down to 'success' and targeting 'men before they become men' is wonderful, in the face of the men in the category all too sure of who they are.
But then you go 'all planner' on me. It looks very clever but I want you to be clear and inspiring, I've sat through too many planning presentations that try and be too clever, be simply great. Please.
I'd be careful of using rebellious codes- from Levis to Pepsi it's the most pilfered approach to youth there is.
I don't you're actually saying this really, you're saying do as many things as you can, try stuff, decide what you like and who YOU want to be. I wish you'd pursued this further and linked it back to a credible role for KOS. You don't do this really.
I also wanted you to show me what kind of tactis KOS might use, and tbought showing up at universities wasn't really enough. Plus, what about the mllions of young me who DON'T go?
So, that's all the entries. I hope you can see that EVERY entry has moments of brilliance, but ultimately there wasn't one where there was a totally coherent, watertight cultural strategy. Don't be disheartened, you all did great...and better than most so called 'seasoned' planners. The level of analysis, instinct and overall thinking was great. But again, I urge you to think about your story and always try and dig underneath why what you've observed is important.
So who wins? I'm going to be controversial and say no one. Like I saidm everyone was brilliant in one place or other, some found some great cultural tensions but didn't really provide a credible solutions, others provided great cultural ideas but didn't really show what deep cultural need they were helping with.
There's a tie breaker round if you're up for it. 14 days from today I want you distill your thinking into a creative brief. Imagine your strategy has been signed off by the client. Imagine they've signed it off with some concerns along the lines of the above comments, but like where you're going and want to sign off a brief to put into creative. I want you to write a shit hot brief that will make any creative desperate to pick up their layout pad and start work on a big creative idea. The format is up to you - I'll supply reference of agency briefs if you need it.
Judging this time will just be done by me. It will be 30% based in how you develop your strategy and 70% based on a clear, succinct, inspiring brief.
Up for that?
Any questions, let me know. Any challenges to the feedback, likewise.
Off you go.