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


It Seems I Am The Fine Line Between Famous And Infamous …

How is your 2018 going so far?

I know it’s still early days – but is it looking good or bad?

Well, if it’s looking positive, I’m about to ruin it for you and if it is looking dodgy, I’m going to help you solidify your opinion.

Why?

Well, a few weeks ago, a nice guy called Paul McEnany asked if he could interview me about my career.

While I’m sure his reasoning for his request was to help planners learn what not to do, my ego said yes even before my mouth did … and while the end result is the bastard love child of rambling randomness and base-level swearing, it’s the perfect way to justify your pessimism for 2018 or to ensure your optimism for the new year doesn’t get too high.

So go here and errrrrm, enjoy [if that’s the right word for it, which it isn’t] and after you’ve heard my crap, listen to the brilliant interviews with people like Gareth Kay, Russell Davies, Richard Huntingdon, Martin Weigel and the amazing Chris Riley because apart from being hugely interesting and inspiring, you’ll get the added bonus of [1] undeniable proof I’m a massive imposter and [2] the knowledge that if I can have some sort of semi-successful career in advertising, you certainly can.

You’re welcome.

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How To Tell You’re Getting On …
January 19, 2018, 6:14 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Culture, Daddyhood, Fatherhood

In December, I went to more Christmas parties than I have done in years.

That’s not because I’d suddenly become popular – oh no – it’s because you didn’t really have them in China, mainly because the only role for Christmas was to extract cash from expats who were missing home than to celebrate the actual occasion.

Anyway, there was one week where I was out till 3am on two consecutive nights.

I know … I know …

What made it even more amazing is that on both following mornings I had to be up at 5:30am which meant I had a total of 5 hours sleep over 48 hours.

Once upon a time I would have been fine with that.

Well, maybe not fine – but I could have managed. But this time, I felt like I had literally been run over by a truck.

So much so that when I went out for lunch with an old Wieden [NIKE] colleague that weekend, I apparently spent so much of our time telling him how knackered I was, that he sent me this.

Nice huh?

Prick.

Which all goes to explain why the thing I look forward to the most at weekends these days – after doing my fatherly duties of running around an insanely energetic 3 year old for a few hours – is sleeping rather than partying, which also explains why this post from 2014 is even more relevant today than it was then.

Have a great weekend.

Zzzzz Zzzzz …



When It’s Unfiltered, It Might Leave A Nasty Taste In Your Mouth But It’s At It’s Most Authentic …

When I first joined Deutsch, I wanted to understand what the hell was really going on with American youth so I sent 3 of my team – Maya, Armando and Leigh [along with Sarah, a photographer and supported at HQ by the wonderful Kelsey] – backpacking across the US to spend about a month in some of America’s most opposite cities.

Specifically the richest/poorest … fastest growing/shrinking … most/least diverse.

No nice hotel rooms.

No fancy travel.

Just a month hearing and learning from America in The Raw.

As you can see from this little text exchange below, it left a mark on the guys …

In all seriousness, while they loved there were some things they saw and went through that challenged them deeply on a personal level. So deeply, that I honestly believe they have all come back changed for the experience.

And yet overall, what they found was a nation full of young people who wanted their country to be the one they had been brought up to believe in.

A country that lets anyone succeed.

A country where everyone was equal.

A country where it led by taking on the big challenges and issues and crushing them.

Now of course, you could argue America was never really any of these things – just a master of PR – but that aside, the country they have found is not the country they want and so the way they are approaching their life is basically one of survival.

And what do I mean by survival?

Well in essence, it’s how they can cope with what’s going on until it stops.

Their overall view is “I can’t control the future, but I can control the present”.

And while their behaviour is expressed in multiple ways, we believe they fall into 4 distinct territories …

Protect: Keep safe what you have and don’t risk anything to get what you want.
Disguise: Define your relevance by the topical things you want to associate with.
Escape: Physically create a [momentary] world you want to live in.
Fight: Push against the unfairness you face.

Of course it’s way more complex and complicated than that – and we have spent a lot of time exploring and uncovering the influences, attitudes and behaviours that drive it and define it – but it does seem those 4 lenses are consciously and subconsciously influencing how people are starting to behave.

In all honesty, this adventure has been fascinating – not just in terms of understanding what is starting to happen, but how the issues of race or equality are reaching points where you can feel major change is on the way. Whether that change is instigated by government or the people is still anyones guess, but what we know is that it won’t be able to be swept under the carpet as easily as it has in previous years.

They won’t let it, especially with the current administration doing all it can to prod and provoke them.

The implications for society and business are huge – both in terms of positive change and negative potential – which is why we have created a [coffee-table] book and a presentation and – when we get some breathing space – a short film to truly define and explain what we heard and discovered. But as much as all those things are exciting, the bit I love the most is my team have given a voice to those who are rarely heard in the purest and most unfiltered way you can get.

There’s a lot of things I’ve done in my career that has made me proud.

This is most definitely one of them.

_________________________________________________________________________

If you’re interested in seeing/having a copy of the ‘America In The Raw’ book, let me know. I can’t guarantee we can accommodate everyone, but we’ll try.



If You Give An Inch, They’ll Take A Mile …

I’ve written a lot about clients who go to agencies and then tell them what they need.

Or – as the brilliant George once said – go to the doctors and prescribe their own medicine.

Well recently I saw a photo from the MD of 72 Amsterdam – the brilliant, beardy and cat-loving, Nicolas Owen – that I think deals with the issue in the best way I’ve seen …

Now I appreciate that in the ‘real World’, most companies who offered this sort of pricing structure would cave in to the pressure of a potential paying client but the thing is, the moment they do, they’re not just losing cash, they’re literally devaluing themselves.

That might sound dramatic, but it’s true.

As many of you know, I’m doing some work with a rather famous rock band.

During the conversations, I asked their managers how they made so much money from consulting for other bands.

They said, “They’re not paying us for our time, they’re paying us for our 30 years of experience and knowledge”.

OK, so they truly are pioneers in their field … but that confidence in their abilities and value made such a big impression on me.

It shouldn’t as I’ve written about this a ton of times [like here and here for example] but when you look at how we – in the communication industry – handle ‘negotiations’, it seems our starting point is fear rather than confidence, which puts us behind before we’ve even started.

Of course, part of that might be because we know another agency would sell their grandmother to make a dollar, but then the question is why would we want a client who so obviously devalues what we do?

Now to be fair, our industry is great at undermining ourselves.

From scam at Cannes to charging more for process than creativity … so much of what we do sends a signal to clients that we are a servants rather than experts, which is why I like the image from Nicolas so much, because at least they seem to understand that if they’re going to get dictated to, they’re going to make more money from it. At least in theory.

There’s a reason Wieden, Droga etc charge a higher premium than most agencies, because they value the work.

Maybe it’s time the whole industry did that too …



My Dad Is In The Music …
January 16, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Anniversary, Attitude & Aptitude, Dad, Daddyhood, Death

So today is the 19th anniversary of my Dad passing away.

Every year I write how this time between him passing and now blows my mind because while in some ways, it does feel long ago, in others it feels relatively recent.

I’ve been having a number of conversations with people about death recently.

People who have lost loved ones and are struggling to cope.

And to them all, I tell them it’s OK to feel that way.

It’s normal because the situation is terrible.

I tell them how it took me until the last week of my Dad’s life to come to terms with the fact he was dying and then a subsequent 10 years to come to terms that he had gone.

I don’t say this because I want them to think they will feel this way for years – because there’s a good chance they won’t – I say this to let them know they’re not weird, or wrong or bad for feeling and thinking these things.

And while I wish the reasons for me knowing this didn’t happen, they did and I feel grateful that I’m able to acknowledge my Dad has taught me as much in his death as he did in his life.

That’s quite a gift when you come to think of it.

It means he’s still with me even though he’s been gone for 19 years.

And while I would still do anything to see him and talk to him – especially as so much has happened in the time he has gone that I’d love to hear his perspective on – I’m so, so happy the memories I have of him are now the joyous ones rather than the hardship he went through in his last few years.

One of those memories is from 1984.

I know it was that year because it revolves around the launch of Queen’s ‘The Works’ album.

Oh I was so excited. It had been a couple of years since their last album – the much maligned ‘Hot Space’ – and the reviews said this was a return to form.

Paul – my best mate – and I had been debating what the songs would be like based on the titles we had read in the Fan Club magazine and all we wanted to do was get our hands on that piece of vinyl.

Then some good news … our local radio station, Trent FM, were going to give away the album to the 10th caller on the rock show that night.

I went home and laid out all the albums on the floor in front of me – sure they were going to ask a question relating to one of their songs.

As the time for the competition came, I got more and more excited.

I tuned the stereo to 96.2FM, ready to pounce.

The question was asked, “What year did Queen write Bohemian Rhapsody?”

I knew this. I KNEW THIS.

As the DJ started playing a Queen song, I dialed the number as quickly as I could.

Engaged.

Urged on by my watching parents, I pressed redial [my Dad LOVED telephones so we always had the latest, ha] …

Engaged again.

And then, as the Queen song faded out, I heard the fatal words from the DJ that they had a winner and it obviously wasn’t me.

Gutted. Absolutely gutted.

Zoom forward the next day and I came home from school.

I came into the lounge and was preparing to watch a bit of TV when my Dad asked if he could listen to a song of his.

[The stereo was in the lounge with the TV]

Of course I said yes, and while Dad was playing with the record player, I just faffed about doing something.

But then something strange happened.

Rather than the expected operatic tones coming out the speaker, there was a drum rhythm … a semi-recognizable drum rhythm … THE DRUM RHYTHM THAT FORMED THE START OF RADIO GAGA!!!

I’m guessing the look of confusion on my face forced my Dad to hold up the album cover of Queen, ‘The Works’.

OH. MY. GOD.

Dad – and Mum – had bought it for me.

An impromptu present because they knew I loved that band with all my heart and was sad I didn’t win the competition from the night before.

It might have honestly been the first time my Dad had ever bought a popular record, but I ran up to him and gave him a huge hug and a big kiss on the cheek.

“Enjoy it” he said … and with that, he walked out the room, leaving me to bathe in the music of my favorite band.

Now don’t get me wrong, my parents were very kind and generous to me … but we never really had much cash to splash, so while they did all they could to make sure I didn’t go without, the things I got most from them was love, support and encouragement.

But here I was with an album.

And it wasn’t even my birthday.

Talk about feeling like you’ve won the lottery.

I remember that day as if it was yesterday and even now, when I listen to that album, I feel a sense of warmth from it … a sense of togetherness and love.

And it’s for that reason I’ll be listening to the album today, because I want to have that feeling again because while my parents ensured I felt their love to last a lifetime, you can always do with more.

I miss you Dad.

I miss you so, so much.

I would give anything for one day to just talk to you.

Discuss all that has happened. Discuss all that is going on in my head. Introduce you to my family. Take you to your garden.

Hold you hand and kiss your head.

It might be 19 years, but I miss you like it was yesterday.

You were the best and I’m glad Mum is with you so you are no longer alone.

Love you.

Rx

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History Repeats Itself …
January 15, 2018, 6:20 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, Anniversary

Today is a national holiday.

It’s Martin Luther King day.

A day to celebrate the life and achievements of this great man.

And yet America seems to be heading back to those terrible times of prejudice and discrimination.

Not all America, but enough of America.

Which is why Donald Trump better not be taking today off, because it’s obvious by his actions and beliefs that he wants those times back. Then again, it’s hard to take a day off when you’re already playing golf everyday.

Everyone in America should re-watch Martin Luther King’s most famous speech …

Not just to remember and honour his brilliance, but to realize America is currently heading backwards not forwards.

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Lessons From The Past For The Future …

It’s the last day of the first week of blog posts for the new year.Congratulations, you’ve survived.

So I thought I’d end the week on a positive.

No, a real one.

You see there was recently read a Linkedin article asking people what piece of advice they would give to their children.

Obviously this is a big, big question because ultimately, there’s so many things you could say and want to say.

But then I realized the advice I got from my parents is still probably the best advice I could give.

Advice that not only prepares you for the life ahead, but prepares you to get the most out of what is there and who you are – which, when you come to think of it, is probably the best advice of all.

So with that, I pass onto Otis what my beloved parents passed on to me.

+ A life of fulfillment is more enjoyable than a life of contentment.

+ Be interested in what others are interested in.

+ Make your own mistakes not someone else’s.

I might not have managed to do them all, all the time, but those pieces of advice have helped me enjoy a life that – let’s face it – I don’t deserve to have, which might be the one thing I’ve done that my parents would be the happiest about.

So to Mum and Dad – thank you – you might not realize it, but you’ve given your grandson one of the most valuable bits of advice he’ll ever have.

Have a great weekend.