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


There’s Still Plenty Of Time For You To Take Part In The Advertising Planning School On The Web Assignment …
September 14, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

… the entry submission is September 30th.

Good news, that’s over 2 weeks away and the whole of this weekend.

More info on the assignment is here.

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See The World From Another Persons Eyes … [APSOTW Assignment]

I know I said there’d be no blog posts till October because I’m busy moving countries [again]. but I thought I could use this ‘empty’ time to set a new APSOTW assignment.

Over the years we have covered all manner of subjects … from validating flag design to pitching new business to developing comms strategy to creating solutions to difficult problems.

But this time we’re going to do something different.

To be honest, it’s less about being evaluated on how you present your thinking and more an exercise on thinking.

Now the thing with thinking – especially thinking where advertising and creativity is concerned – is it rarely can be wrong.

Sure, people can have all manner of opinions on what you think… but it generally can’t be viewed as being fundamentally right or fundamentally wrong.

This is liberating – or should be – which is why I’m hoping as many people as possible will have a go at this assignment.

The actual deliverable is easy.

All you have to do is watch the below clip and tell me– based on what people are saying in the clip – what you think the brand could have said to make their audience care about shaving.

That’s right, all you have to do to take part in this assignment is watch a short film and then send me a single sentence.

That’s it. Easy eh?

OK, I’m not going to deny this is harder than it may first seem.

Part of that is because the clip is about African American men … so to succeed, you have to appreciate the context how African American men live in America.

The other challenge is you need to get your point of view into a single sentence.

That might sound super easy until you remember that single sentence has to also capture the context that makes your point of view so powerful.

[For a clue on how this could be done, click here … even though this example isn’t quite right as it’s based on having lots of additional information, which this challenge does not allow]

The reason for this challenge is 3 fold.

1. It will help your skills in reading subtext.
2. It will help you ability to write a provocative point of view.
3. It will help you make audiences want, or imagine, more from themselves.

As I said at the beginning, there’s probably no wrong answer to this assignment, but to win [and there will be a prize] you’ll need to see something in the conversations within the clip that you feel opens the door to a bigger, more intriguing, more exciting, more resonant point of view for the brand.

This is not about inventing something that isn’t there … this is about seeing something that is, but hidden in plain sight.

While the ultimate deliverable for this assignment is easy, your submission will be judged by some of the toughest, most experienced, most culturally authentic experts in their field, including – if I can convince him to publicly associate with me again – Jason White, the Global CMO of Beats.

So have a go, it will be fun and all you need to do is send me a SINGLE SENTENCE by September 30th to this address.

As I’ve said before, I believe the future of our industry will be built on developing ideas that are resonant with culture rather than trying to be relevant to them and hopefully this will help make that happen.

If you have any questions, please place them in the comments. Thank you.



Another Chapter Ends, Another Chapter Begins …

So today is going to be my last post for a while.

As you know, I’m leaving America and moving to the UK … and that all happens over the next 12 days.

Next week I say my goodbyes to Deutsch and then, 6 days after that, we move to the UK.

Because we have a bunch to do – from packing up to finding a new place to live – I need to focus on my family more than writing rubbish blog posts, hence while I endure a momentary period of maturity pain, you get to experience a momentary period of peaceful gain.

But don’t get too comfortable … it’s definitely going to be momentary as I’ll be back up and running on October 1.

Oh yes. Be afraid, be very afraid.

That aside, I have to say the last few weeks have been pretty hard.

Not in the sense of getting everything together for the move – though that is still an utter pain in the ass, despite the fact we have done it so many time – it’s just that the life in LA is pretty spectacular.

As I wrote once before, I’ve had better weekends in America than I may have had pretty much anywhere in the World and to say goodbye to that is hard.

Of course a big part of it is the amazing weather and that we had cars for the first time in 15 years [and trust me, after all I went through to get my car, saying goodbye to that has been a pain too] but the other key element is that LA is an outdoor city and to be able to spend so much time with my family in the fresh air has been an amazing gift.

Of course London will offer us alternative wonderful experiences, but that sunshine is a pretty addictive thing.

The other hard part is saying goodbye to people.

OK, not goodbye for ever – technology ensures that doesn’t have to happen – but goodbye in terms of seeing you each day.

All of my family have met people here who have become incredibly important to us.

Jill has made friends here that have become incredibly important to her. Friends that will stand the test of time and distance. Friends that have made my wife truly happy and supported … and for that, I send a personal big thanks to Emma, Zoe and Amber to name a few.

Otis is inundated with them – thanks to his magnificent school – but no one will be missed as much as his beloved Elodie.

To be honest, we’re not sure if he truly understands what moving to London means in terms of implications. While technology means he will be able to still see and talk to Elodie, it will obviously be very different. I have to say we’ve handled this move with him very gently. Even though he’s already moved from China, he’s only 3 years old so his World is both huge and small. To try and make him feel as comfortable as he can be, we’ve made sure his feelings have been taken into account at every stage of the process – from creating a book of all the things he has seen and done in LA to showing him pictures of the things he will see in London to asking him to help us decide where our new family home will be.

Despite having moved countries more times than I care to remember, the fact is I never left home until I was 25 and I remember how traumatic that was for me. For a kid of 3, it must be insane … which is why he needs to feel his family unit is stronger than superglue while everything around him is changing.

I wish I didn’t have to put him through this, but apart from it being linked to work [more of that at a later date], part of this move is because Jill and I [and even the cat, probably] want him to be somewhere he can build real, longer-term roots.

As much as we loved LA, it was never going to be our long term home.

It was/is great, but we just didn’t really have an emotional connection to the place because we came here for work more than anything else.

Sure, if we had stayed longer, that might have changed – but England offers us roots. A place with some deep connections thanks to my background and – to a certain degree – Jill’s.

We have old friends there. People Otis knows and loves. And while I don’t think England will be our last stop on our journey, I do think it will be a significant one … a place where my family can build real roots and my son can find someone who becomes as important in his life and history as my beloved Paul is to me.

That is our goal. That is what my family needs. That is something we’re excited about.

But moving on means leaving things behind and for me, I am going to be saying bye to a bunch of people that have become very important to me.

The weird thing about LA is that by the time we moved here, an incredible amount of old friends and colleagues had also moved here. In fact, it meant LA was the place where I knew more people than anywhere else in the World.

Madness.

And as much as I’ll miss those guys, I’ve gone through this with them before so they don’t get to fuck with my heart that badly a second time. However there are a bunch of new people who I am going to hate to say bye too.

From our wonderful neighbours Kim and Dave to the lovely Elena – who Otis adored and trusted in no time at all – to the people at Noah’s Bagel’s who kept giving me free coffee because they found my t-shirts ‘amusing’.

But in particular I want to say a big thank you to some folks who made my weekdays better than I deserved.

There’s a bunch of them, but in particular I need to single out the amazingly talented and beautiful Jorge, the always happy [despite my shit] Zaid, the ‘Bake Queen’ Dana, the brilliant, patient, supportive and precious BCG [you know who you are, what you did for me and how much you mean to me] and – of course – my planning team.

Having spent 7 years with an incredible group at Wieden Shanghai, I didn’t know how I’d feel working with a totally different bunch, in a totally different country with a totally different context in terms of planning and creativity … but I can honestly say, it’s been an absolute pleasure working with them.

They’ve been incredibly good to me.

Putting up with my ‘ways’ and embracing my approaches.

And while all of them have played an important role in pushing the department forward, I have to give a special thanks to Kelsey, Rachael, Maya, Leigh, Heide, Lani, Ben, Mitch and Armando [and Donn, who fucked off for a pot of gold and a Lexus] for simply putting up with me on more projects than anyone else without – as far as I know – reporting me to HR.

There’s a lot of talent in this team, talent that can push them – and the agency – a long way, so I hope they continue being mouthy, opinionated, curious fucks … because as we saw in our brilliant America In The Raw study/book … when you stand for something, it stops the masses falling for anything.

I hope they feel I made a difference.

I hope they feel they’re in a better place than before I arrived.

I hope they can see bigger possibilities for who they are and what they can achieve.

For me, that’s the most important thing, even though I wish I could have achieved more.

For them. For me. For the agency.

[Though I have to say, I’m particularly proud that I got the office billboard changed, hahaha]

In all seriousness, I feel I’m leaving America a better person than when I arrived – which is the best way to leave any place – and that’s why I’m so grateful to all my planning team for what they did for me and helped me do.

Honestly, there’s a bunch of people here I’ve enjoyed working with, but this is already getting into Oscar speech territory, so in the interests of boredom, I’ll end this post with this.

Thank you LA.

Thank you for giving my family an experience we will always remember and treasure.

Thank you for the friendships, the memories and the opportunities we got to explore and enjoy.

I will always be grateful for the time I spent here, however short.

I hope America sorts itself out.

It’s an amazing country that deserves better. Needs to be better.

To do that, it needs to stop fighting as enemies and start talking as friends.

I don’t know if that will ever happen, especially under the current regime, but a united America is a good America and I want everyone I’ve met here to have the opportunities they deserve.

It’s been an honour and a privlidge and we’ll be back … for a visit, if only to prove to Otis that once upon a time, he really did live in [lifestyle] paradise.

London … here we come.

______________________________________________________________________________

Oh hang on, there’s one last thing before I go.

I know … I know … this post is going on forever.

In the tradition of leaving companies with my indelible mark, the good people of Deutsch LA have received 2 things:

Every member of my wonderful planning department have been given a copy of the highly enlightening Ladybird Book Of Meetings [for future ‘self protection/preservation’ purposes] while the rest of the agency have been left with these highly desirable, culturally bold [Ahem!], future collector item badges/buttons.

I think it’s how they’d like to remember me.

Or should I say, how they will remember me.

Look, I know as horrible as these things are, they’re still less painful than the 600 stickers I hid throughout Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai, but then Deutsch only had to endure a year of my pain where the lovely folks in China suffered for over 7.

I’m so considerate with my nastiness.

Which is probably why that after all this, they still have to put up with me for 4 days next week.

Cue: Evil Laugh.

It’s been a memorable adventure so a big thank you for everything.

See you America. See you soon England.



Fathers Pride …
August 23, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Dad, Daddyhood, Emotion, Family, Mum & Dad

Dave Grohl.

One of the founders of Nirvana.

Founder of The Foo Fighters.

Drummer. Guitarist. Singer.

He’s the rock star everyone likes even if they don’t like his songs.

Permanently positive, continually upbeat with a dollop of mischievousness thrown in for good measure.

He cares deeply about his fans … whether that’s playing a festival in Italy after someone sent him a video of a bunch of musicians playing ne of his songs or just inviting people on stage to play with the band.

But there’s something not everyone knows and that’s how good a dad he is.

For example, come rain or snow, Dave Grohl takes his kids to school and picks them up again.

Every single day.

In his family wagon.

No glitz, no glamour, just as normal a family life that an international rock star can give his kids.

Of course, there’s the odd exception.

When his kids school was having a fundraiser, he played a private concert there with Paul Stanley of KISS and Sammy Hagar, ex-Van Halen.

However recently, he has started to introduce his kids to the wider World.

Not in some fame hungry way, but in terms of letting them express their own musical talent.

At a recent concert in Oakland, Los Angeles, he played back-up musician to Violet – his 12 year old daughter – as she sang Adele’s ‘When We Were Young’.

Putting aside her incredible voice, it’s the various looks of utter pride he has on his face as he witnesses his daughter invigorate a crowd with her flawless vocals.

I love how he doesn’t try to take the spotlight.

I love how he has a huge grin on his face when she hits the high notes perfectly.

I love how he knows her voice is better than his and he’s so proud of that fact.

I imagine it’s similar to how Robert Plant felt when he watched Heart perform Stairway To Heaven at the Kennedy Centre and realised he had done something that would outlive him.

I have to admit, it brought tears to my eyes.

I look at my precious boy – Otis – and wonder if that will ever happen to me.

Where I get to witness him express his passion, in some way. Whatever it is.

I hope so.

I don’t say that because I worry he might not have a passion, I say it because I worry I may go before he discovers it.

Being an older Dad brings with it a whole bunch of worries and insecurities.

I don’t regret it because I wasn’t ready for it before, but being 48 years old and having a father who died at 60, there is a nagging worry that I may only have 12 more years left.

Of course I know the age of my Dad does not mean that will be the age I die, but I worry …

I want to see Otis grow up.

Sure, there’s a big part of me that thinks he’s doing that too quickly already, but I long to see him do things that he is passionate about. I long to experience that uncontrollable smile as I witness my little boy do things he loves.

And that’s why the video of Dave Grohl and his daughter really hit me.

Because I know that whatever success he has achieved in his life as a rockstar, it won’t be as amazing as him seeing his daughter live her truth.



The Law Might Be An Ass, But It’s Better Than Being An Asshole …

I grew up in a family of lawyers.

Ethics.

Criminal law.

From defending Ozzy Osbourne to prosecuting members of the mafia, my childhood was surrounded by legal cases.

As the years passed, my father got a bit despondent about law.

He always felt it was about a quest for truth and justice – regardless of personal situation or circumstance – but saw how it was quickly becoming about cash.

Instead of solving issues, law firms seemed to be focused on keeping the problems alive as that ensured their high fees kept flowing in.

This might explain why there are now more lawyers than Police officers in NYC.

It’s a highly profitable business.

That said, I always loved the law and considered a career in it … until I realised I didn’t have the patience – or brains – to succeed.

Getting 2% in a maths exam pretty much confirmed that to me.

However, my upbringing had a huge effect on me in terms of right and wrong and that’s why the situation I’m seeing happening in adland in conflicting me.

On one hand I’m incredibly happy the predators are being identified, outed and held to task.

But I’m also conscious the way some companies/people/organisations are approaching the situation seems to be with one eye on how they look to the broader audience than being caring and compassionate to the victims who have been subjected to the abuse for so long.

It also bothers me when responsibility seems to stop at the abuser, not the people who enabled that abuse to continue.

Sure, sometimes the senior figures may have been in the dark, but it appears that is more the exception than the rule.

Look, if a company tells someone to leave, there’s obviously a reason for it.

But I must admit I’m finding it rather strange to see how some companies are publicly announcing they’ve let someone go – and specifically naming the individual – but using some ambiguous wording as to the reason why.

Maybe they are trying to offer some final professional respect to the person they’ve just let go, but if that’s the case, why name them at all given they must know the industry will automatically assume it was for some sort of sexual misconduct.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting we should feel sorry for anyone that has been dismissed for proven, serious wrong-doing, but I do think we need to ensure this situation is handled openly and transparently rather than trying to get some sort of popularity out of it.

And that’s why I’m conflicted, because criminal law is based on 2 principals.

The accuser is presumed to be telling the truth.

The accused is presumed to be innocent.

That’s why it’s so important to not taint the evidence – to ensure each element is given their own space and time to be explored – and while that fragile balance can, and has, been susceptible to manipulation and wrong-doing, it’s important it’s maintained so the victims can be helped and the wrongdoers can be held-to-task accordingly and appropriately.

As I said, I’m so happy to see the wave of change that is sweeping through society and giving a voice to those who have previously been silenced, but I do worry about some of the tactics being embraced by certain organisations because, ironically, they could give the guilty more ability to claim unfair treatment than they ever deserve and potentially get them out of properly paying for their misdeeds.

It’s why I love the #TimesUp movement as it’s designed to give financial and legal equality in the quest for truth.

By removing the advantage many have used to hide their crimes, we have a chance for lasting change. It’s not perfect but it’s better than throwing stones, even if you believe they are justified.

I think my Dad – and family – would be happy to see this.

Hell, they’d probably be passionately behind it.

I know I am.



It’s Nice To Be Hated …

A few weeks ago, I woke up to the photo above appearing on my phone.

The 2 people are both ex-planners of mine from Wieden and I admit it was nice to see them.

Then I realised they were never at Wieden at the same time – and even though they’re now both bigwigs at Apple – I suspect there reasons for getting together [and making sure I knew about it] was more to talk shit about me than to discuss the launch for the next iPhone.

Eitherway, I’m as proud as fuck about them and for them … and not just because I’m hoping for freebies.

As I’ve said many times before, I believe the role of a boss is to help develop your people so when they leave, they get a better job than they could ever of hoped for.

Of course, they have to do all the hard work.

They have to want to see where their potential could take them.

But by pushing them, developing them, giving them opportunities to grow and just overall helping them believe in their talent and where it could take them beyond where they currently are, you have a chance to play a small role in creating their future.

And that’s why, seeing David and Rodi lead Apple strategically across the entire Asia region [and for some perspective, just the iPhone business in China is bigger than the entire NIKE company worldwide] makes me so happy.

Not for what I did for them.

But what they did for themselves.

Now please give me the new iPhone or I’ll ask Baz to fire you.



It’s Monday And I’m Already As Exhausted As This …
August 20, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Goodbye America, Otis

Yes, that’s Otis and his mates coming back from a day at the water park.

I feel like that but I haven’t spent all day at the water park.

I spent all weekend organising stuff for our move to London.

Given how many times we’ve moved countries, this shouldn’t be so hard … but then, this is the first time I’ve lived in a country where all the electronics we bought here won’t work in the country we are moving to, so a bunch of American’s are getting the deals of their lives.

Not that I’m bitter.

Oh no.

I absolutely love seeing my money go down the bloody drain.

Yes, I know this is all my fault, but I’m choosing to ignore that right now, thank-you-very-much.