Happy birthday Dad.
Today you would have been 76.
The last time I saw you was when you were 60 … so I would love to sit down with you and talk about the last 16 years.
All the stuff I’ve done, all the mistakes I’ve made, all the dreams I still want to fulfil.
And I know you’d be full of questions … constantly stopping me mid-conversation to ask about something I’d view as trivial but you’d see as important because it would help you understand the journey, not just the highlights.
But you’d be fascinated by it all.
Where I’ve lived.
Where I’ve gone.
Who I’ve met.
And as much as I know you’d love whatever ridiculous gadget I’d got for your birthday, you’d regard this conversation as the best gift of them all.
It would be for me too.
And I know that you would love to look into Mum’s eyes and say how proud you are of her for how she has lived since you’ve been gone.
That you’d want to tell her how thankful you are for how she looked after you, even though we always knew from your eyes and hugs.
And you’d be telling her all this while gently holding and caressing her hand.
And I would remember when I was very young, I came into the lounge from the back of the house and saw you and Mum on the sofa – watching television while holding hands – and I said “stop being so silly”.
And I’d think what a fool I was.
Because I’d give anything to see that again.
And I know Mum would too.
And I know you’d be secretly happy that I have tears in my eyes as I type this.
You’d be sad that I was sad, but happy that you are still so much in my heart and mind.
And you are.
Every single day.
I miss you Dad.
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What a woman.
Actually that’s bollocks, what a person.
I first met her in a dodgy cafe in Amsterdam in 2010.
For some reason we hit it off immediately. Of course, when I say ‘for some reason’ I am obviously referring to the shock that she seemed to enjoy my company because it’s obvious I would enjoy hers.
Anyway, apart from being whip smart, she’s stupidly lovely, utterly charming and generous to a fault … both in her time, her viewpoints and her willingness to help.
Every time I’ve met her, I’ve come away feeling energised for the experience – and frankly I am basically a platonic groupie.
Jesus, this is more Gwyneth Paltrow Oscar Speech than a Gwyneth Paltrow Oscar Speech … which is probably more embarrassing for her than it is for me.
Anyway, the reason I am writing this is because of two things.
The first was that I recently re-watched her interview on Junior Planner [a wonderful little series co-run by a ridiculously lovely guy called Ben] that was full of genuinely meaningful advice for someone starting out in a planning career.
The other was this:
Yes I know it’s just a nice turn of phrase.
Yes I know it could be a remake of the classic Churchill quote.
But that’s not what makes it good … it’s the fact that Katie can articulate a point in a way people don’t just understand – but actually feel – and for all the pseudo-intellectulism bullshit that planners desperately try to claim they have, real smarts are when you can get people outside the industry to come on the journey with you.
For me, there’s a bunch of planners who have forgotten what success is.
Too many are focusing on being intellectually victorious, rather than emotionally resonant … and the point is, if you’re desperate to show how clever you are, you’re actually showing you’re not very smart.
So here’s to Katie … one of the best people out there, who also happens to be one of the best planners out there.
Thank you for the inspiration and please reassure your husband, I’m harmless.
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… I would ask him why he wrote this line in his song Bicycle Race:
“Jaws was never my scene and I don’t like Star Wars”
… but appeared on stage with this guy:
These are the things that keep me up at night.
I’ll be here all week. [Sorry]
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No … it’s not that they’re both past their heyday.
Nor is it that they’re both living on past glories.
It’s not even that they were much better with their old team mates around them.
It’s this. And for some reason, I find it utterly beautiful, albeit in a wonderfully ramshackle way.
There’s something about a crowd singing that gets me every time.
It is – for me – the musical equivalent of how I feel when I watch a movie or documentary about triumph over adversity.
Over the years, I’ve been in many situations where I’ve been there when it happens.
A football match.
Where – intentional or not – the crowd take over and lift the arena with song.
And I always stop when it starts and look around the venue with open eyes and open ears.
For me it’s almost spiritual.
I know that sounds utterly wanky, but it’s true … and I am sure that’s part of the reason some people find going to Church such a special experience. Hell, I’m an atheist and I find hearing a choir in full song in a cathedral utterly hypnotising.
But the thing is, whether you experience it or partake in it … the end result is always positive.
That feeling might only last a few seconds, but the energy of that shared moment affects everyone and transcends everything.
Worries … pressure … pain … they all momentarily disappear and everything feels alright.
It’s audio prozac and creates a moment you remember forever.
Which is much better than most ads will ever achieve.
Even after being researched to within an inch of their life.
Probably because emotions make people feel much better than rational arguments.
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Of course, it’s driven by fear and misunderstanding [not to mention hypocrisy, given everyone demands cheaper products and higher share returns] but that still doesn’t excuse the shit they keep heaping on this magnificent country.
Yes, madness and pain exists and yes – like every other country on the planet – there are some terrible, terrible people who live here … but that doesn’t mean every person, company or product in China is created with the sole intention of disrespecting or destroying other people’s lives or livlihood.
Anyway, the reason I say this is because Leon – of Method Planning infamy – recently sent me this sign from a construction site:
I’m not sure if any of you can read mandarin so let me translate for you.
Please be aware of safety. If you’re in an accident, somebody else will sleep with your wife, beat up your kid and spend your pension.
Now I know that can sound like massive fear-mongering – and to a degree it is – but everyone here who has seen it has found it amusing … not because of it’s ‘honesty’, but because of the cheeky way they’re getting people to appreciate the importance of safety.
And before anyone say’s they shouldn’t need a sign to tell workers to look after themselves … I would like to point out that most construction sites in the Western World have signage reminding people to be conscious of safety standards.
Anyway, the reason I post this is because, in some small way, this sign sticks two fingers up the prejudice of Western media.
While they keep printing articles that try and brainwash Western culture into thinking this country doesn’t care about standards or people or emotion, this kind-of-says otherwise.
China has many issues, but fundamentally it’s an amazing place filled with amazing people so rather than base your opinions on the mad ramblings of the Daily Mail – who have probably never even been here – come and visit for yourself because as Northern said, if you want to understand culture, you have to play in the jungle not in the zoo.
Last thing, I know today will be an especially tough day for Dave – not to mention Andy – so I hope it goes OK. Or as OK as it can be. Thinking of you both … and not in a bad way for once.
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So I recently got an email from a client who said he’d read an article I’d written about digital advertising.
To be honest, I couldn’t even remember writing it – but having cast my eyes over it, what is interesting [at least to me] is that it seems my viewpoint may still actually have a modicum of relevance, despite the fact it came out 3 years ago.
Please note that while I fully acknowledge I have a ridiculously sized ego, I’m not saying this because I’m trying to big myself up – oh no – I’m saying it because it’s a sad indictment on how many brands and agencies use digital.
Or more specifically, how unimaginative many brands and agencies are when it comes to using digital.
Anyway, here it is … I’d be interested to hear what you think, especially the people who are serious digital folk, not the ones who simply have it on their business card and use terms like ‘social engagement’ and ‘viral strategy’ over and over again.
TURNING A MEDIUM INTO A GREAT
Recently I was misquoted as saying “Digital is too hyped”.
Accident or not, that bothered me a lot.
Not because I work for a company that proudly and passionately believes in the power of digital. Not because I live in a country – China – that uses digital on a scale that is hard to comprehend. But because it was wrong.
While I’m no digital expert – I have been surrounded by it in one form or another for 35+ years and involved in it for 18 … seeing it metamorphosize from ‘new media’ to ‘media’ to ‘a part of life’ and I have been very vocal about how pervasive, persuasive and powerful it can be.
Let’s be honest, digital has infiltrated our lives in ways other mediums can only dream about. It is now the only thing that can continuously and consistently get around the ‘personal firewalls’ we’ve placed in our minds to filter out all the unwanted messages and noise that surround us.
Like [bad] ads.
That’s power and influence.
That’s wonder and amazement.
The issue I have – and the single word that was missing from my quote that would have made everything alright – is “BAD” digital is too hyped.
The stuff that doesn’t reflect the audience.
The stuff that doesn’t add value to people’s lives or clients commercial objectives.
The stuff that’s done for the ego of the client rather than the meaning of the audience or the brand.
The stuff that is trying to brainwash rather than engage, delight, inspire, motivate and empower the audience.
The stuff that feels like it was done with the same approach as banner ads in the mid-90’s.
The stuff that’s been done by people who think as long as its on digital, it’s alright.
The stuff that thinks good digital marketing is different to good marketing.
The stuff that confuses quantifiable with effective.
You see good digital needs work.
It needs meaning and understanding … meaning and understanding of people that goes beyond just their digital and social media habits.
In my mind, some people get too focused on the next big thing and forget that it has to do something that adds value and meaning to the audience and the brand.
Don’t get me wrong, technology is an amazing thing, but in marketing terms, it’s not what it is, it’s what people can do because of it.
There are countless examples of brands that get it right … commercially sound, creative digital ideas … but sadly there’s also a number of hyped up stunts, whose goal appears to have been to attract some PR for what has been made rather than what has been achieved.
Digital is still a relatively young medium and yet it’s already infiltrated many people and cultures lives – and while I question how some people approach it, there’s a ridiculous amount of stuff that gives a glimpse of what it is and what it can be – and that should be hugely exciting for all of us which is why I believe it it so important to always approach digital with the highest of standards and meaning, because if we fuck it up, we’re only fucking ourselves.
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I saw a statistic recently that said every year, 22 million people visit the theatre in London which is twice as many who attend Premiership football matches.
Or said another way, 21,999,000 more than see Forest each season.
Of course, when you take into account the size of the television audience – both domestic and international – as well as the revenues generated by footie, the reality is thespianfest is no comparison to the English national game, but the point of this post is that even though many people say ‘perception is reality’, the other way of looking at it is ‘perception can make you blind to other opportunities’.
Anyway none of that really matters because I just wanted an excuse to show this video of Stuart Pearce walking down the tunnel of his first match in charge of the current Forest team.
Even though being a football manager is basically a game of ‘how long will you survive’, he will be able to look back on this day and know how much he meant to some people … which at the end of that day, is something we all would like to know we achieved.