The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


You Wish Your Child Was Like My Son … Asshole
July 21, 2017, 6:10 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Family, Fatherhood, Love, Otis, Parents

That photo is of my son, Otis.

He is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

He is cheeky, curious, kind, loving, beautiful and absolutely full of energy.

Now I’m sure most parents would describe their child like that, but based on a situation we experienced recently, it seems even other parents would regard Otis’ energy as being at another level.

Maybe it’s because he was restricted from going out in China because of the pollution.

Maybe it’s because he’s just loves being with other kids.

Maybe it’s because he is excited and curious about life.

Whatever it is, he can make the Energizer Bunny look like a sloth – and while we love seeing him run around and laugh – some other parents view this as a fault.

A few weeks ago, he was running around while some other kids were sat on the floor. He wasn’t bothering them, but in his excitement, he accidentally fell onto another child.

The reaction of both this other kid – and their parent – was extreme.

They acted like Otis had attacked them, even though he got up and [remember he’s only 2 1/2] said sorry and patted the child on the arm as a way of apologising. [We did the same … apologise I mean]

Apparently that wasn’t enough, because the parent came right up and ‘suggested’ Otis should be given a 2 minute time-out as punishment.

Fuck you!

Who the hell are you to try and dictate how we deal with our son?

Who the hell are you to try and curb his enthusiasm for life?

It was an accident. If it wasn’t, he would have been reprimanded, but he’s a sweet, caring, happy kid and all he did was fall over because his energy was running faster than his little chubby legs could go.

But as much as this parent fucked me off, it taught me a valuable lesson.

Before, when parents saw Otis running around like a happy lunatic, they would say things like, “He’s got a lot of energy hasn’t he?” and I would respond with a World-weary sigh and say something like, “You have no idea.”

But now I don’t.

Now I look at the person and say, “Yes, isn’t it awesome”.

Because it is.

As is my son.

And I’m not going to help a stranger feel better about their self-declared parental expertise by putting him down.



Give Me Something To Believe In …
July 20, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

Over the years of this blog, I’ve written a bunch of stuff about ad agencies.

Good.

Bad.

Ugly.

But among the rabble, there’s been a few where I’ve celebrated when an agency has taken a stance about it’s own standards and beliefs.

There was the classic ad Chiat Day put out after losing a pitch.

Or the AMV internal memo that was sent out to stop forgetting the standards of work.

Or the ‘revolution’ manifesto that HHCL wrote when they were in their pomp, punk prime.

Or the time we destroyed cynic’s cash cow to allow us to rebuild the company we loved.

But what is interesting with all these things is they appear after they realized they’d undermined their greatest weapon – their creativity – in a bid to be more profitable or to win another client or to keep a present client happy.

No bitching about clients.

No throwing stones at the competition.

A moment of self-reflection that offered scary clarity.

Of course money makes the World go round, but the older I get the more I realize that the moment you don’t care how you get it or what you spend it on means the quality of work commences its downhill trajectory. And while that doesn’t mean an agency will go bust [there’ll always be clients who choose price over quality] it does mean they will see their greatest talent walk out the door. And then, when that happens, you have lost all your value and been reduced to ‘supplier’ status.

Over the years there have been agencies who have realized this and fought against it.

Not just the oldies that I’ve mentioned above, but some of the new and exciting like Droga5 and Adam & Eve.

And lets not forget my beloved Wieden+Kennedy who – despite the odd wobble – fight for their lives to retain their standards and values in all they do.

But the thing is few actually come out and say they realized they made a mistake anymore.

Everything is kept inside their four walls and the only way you know something happened is through the work they then go on to create.

To be fair, that’s probably the wisest response but there is something powerful in someone acknowledging their faults and how they are going to make changes that move them forward.

For me that honesty is liberating. Exciting.

The reason for all this is that I recently read an ad that Fallon put out years and years ago.

It’s different to what I’ve talked about in this post because it wasn’t about where they had fucked up, but more about who they were going to be, because this ad talks about their philosophy … a philosophy that was the foundation of some of the best advertising ever produced.

If they put that out today – even if I didn’t know anything about them – I’d want to work for them, because while the proof of the pudding is in the eating, we shouldn’t forget most people want someone or something to believe in.

[Read it properly here]



The Truth Is Hard To Find …

Many years ago, I was in a meeting where a client was using their ‘data’ to explain why they wouldn’t be going with our idea.

At the heart of the clients issue was the fact they felt the audience we were going to engage was too niche and they wanted to go as broad as possible.

Putting aside the fact you should never have a target audience of ‘everyone’ – not to mention the fact by targeting the core of a culture, you find they pull the broader culture up with them – what we hated was the client was [incorrectly] using data to hide behind their fear.

Up steps Andy.

“Have you ever used a prostitute?”

Unsurprisingly, the client denied this strenuously.

“That’s interesting …”, said my evil ex-colleague, “… because for the oldest industry in the World, I’ve never met anyone who admitted to using them.”

Of course what he was trying to say is that what people say, isn’t always what they really think or do – especially when there is so much evidence to prove it if you’re just willing to look under some rocks – and while we didn’t win that particular argument with that particular client, it does highlight an important point that I believe is becoming even more difficult today.

It’s hard to find the truth.

I don’t mean that purely in terms of just exploring it – though that’s fucking tough – I mean it in terms of the client often being unwilling to accept it or, more specifically, admit it.

OK, so part of our job is to find a way to make that happen however sometimes – and it feels increasingly so – there’s a blinkered approach to discussing truth, where the corporately agreed narrative is more important than the facts.

There’s a bunch of reasons for this … job security, insecurity, a lack of corporate diversity – both in terms of culture, lifestyle and opinion – and an attitude where middle management believe they are only empowered to say ‘no’ … but fundamentally, we are entering a period where the biggest thing holding a brand back is their reluctance to know who, and what, their audience are really about.

Oh they know the general stuff.

How much they earn.

How much they buy.

What their family consists of.

But get to anything where you understand how this audience thinks or does stuff … and it’s more bland than a James Blunt album.

“They like spending time with their family”.

“They don’t like cleaning, but it makes them feel they’re being a good parent.”

“Safety and security are important for them”.

Nothing highlights this like the recent election results we’ve had.

Brexit.

Trump.

May.

Sure, some people saw the signs, but the vast majority – with their traditional, designed-for-convenient-answers methodologies, chose to ignore them – preferring to stick to the pre-agreed narrative. And given I heard this quote by Geoff Norcott recently noted …

“Voting conservative is like buying a James Blunt album. You know for a fact millions of people do it, but you never meet anyone who admits to it.”

… it seems things haven’t changed that much from Andy’s observation.

Though I’d argue talking about James Blunt is worse than talking about prostitues.

But then I would say that wouldn’t I.



Why Nike Win …
July 18, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Agency Culture, Creativity, Empathy, Nike, Wieden+Kennedy

When I left Wieden+Kennedy, my stupid lovely clients at Nike decided that instead of having a party to celebrate me going [which they probably did later] they would give me a present.

Now that is nice in itself, but when you receive a custom made cigar box guitar featuring little symbols that represent me as a person … from my Birkenstocks to the Forest logo to the Owl that represents my Mum, well that takes things to a whole different level.

I shouldn’t be surprised by their generosity because they’ve shown over and over again that they give a shit about people who give a shit about sport, but given [1] I’m hardly the most athletic of souls, [2] I support Forest, a team who challenges the definition of sports and [3] I gave them nothing but pain and attitude for 7 years [which I was reminded of on a daily basis] … this gesture goes beyond anything I could ever hope for, let alone imagine.

I am a firm believer that you can tell a lot about people – and companies – by the way they treat others when there’s little in it for them and what NIKE did for me explains why I feel it was an honour to work with them and why I genuinely hope to do it again one day.

Thank you Swoosh folks, you are a bunch of wonderful fools.



New York’s Pain Is Your Gain …
July 17, 2017, 5:46 am
Filed under: Comment

… so there won’t be any post today.

Now that might be as good a start to the week as a national holiday.

Unfortunately for you, normal service returns tomorrow.

[Don’t worry Andy, Pete and Katerina, I’m in and out in 12 hours so you’re safe. For this time]



Does Adland Know What Innovation Actually Is?

A long time ago, when I first moved to Shanghai, I wrote a post about how I felt China practiced what I called practical creativity.

Now while their has been significant improvement in the attitude towards innovation over the past 7 years – especially in terms of using technology to make life more convenient – the ‘functional’ element of creativity still exists.

Recently I saw another example of this.

Except it’s older than the stuff I used in my original post.

And it’s not true … more a story that grew into legend.

But that aside, it reinforces my point that there seems to be a major difference between the attitude of commercial creativity in the West and the commercial creativity in the East and both could do with taking a bit from each other.

Funny eh?

And while the true story behind the development of the ‘space pen’ is quite different to what is stated in this article [it was more a product of marketing than conquering the universe] the issue it raises is what adland seems to value in creativity.

Would ‘using a pencil’ be seen as successful in industry awards?

Probably not.

Even in Effies, I question if anyone would bestow anything on it other than ridicule.

But the pen might … with the right case study video attached, detailing the struggle to reinvent writing or some other headline worthy statement.

And that bothers me because commercial creativity will always start with the mind and if we ignore that in favor of the eyes and our egos, then we will be walking even further away from developing the ideas that I know we are capable of making that can fundamentally impact culture and commerce.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to try and push what is possible … but when you’re over-engineering a solution for no other reason than trying to win an award, then you should get fists in the face rather than applause.

Maybe Andy was right.

Years ago he told me the reason why judges at awards often favour scam is because it satisfies their ego to be associated with ‘ideas’ that allegedly push what is possible … even if it’s not real or effective.

Which is why most of the ‘innovation’ ideas that are awarded in advertising shows never gets to see the light of day.

Remember Peggy?

I rest my case.



The Most Ridiculous Phone Management System In The World …

American companies – like every other country in the World – love automated telephone systems.

To actually get to speak to a real human, is harder than earning a PHD in astrophysics.

But what makes me laugh is how they try so so hard to make it sound like you’re talking to a real person when it’s painfully obvious you’re not.

However, in America, it has reached new heights.

I was organizing Direct TV and was having to repeat my answer to every question asked by the ‘automated human’ because it doesn’t understand British accents when – finally – it accepted my answer.

Imagine my surprise when immediately after, I heard the sound effect of a person typing.

Seriously, it was trying to suggest they were literally inputing my answer into their system.

If that wasn’t mental enough, the sound they used sounded awfully like a typewriter from the 1920’s.

Apart from the fact that a supposed high-tech company shouldn’t feel embarrassed about not using real people, if they really believe genuine human interaction is more desirable for customers than a computer, then HIRE SOME FUCKING HUMANS.

Another example where a consultancy has come in to improve efficiency and ignored reality.