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


The Halfway Mark …
June 1, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Culture, Management

So today is June 1st.

JUNE 1st!!!

It seems like only 2 minutes since it was January 1 but here we are, half way through the year already.

It’s not been a bad 6 months for me so far, but I’m most excited about the next 6 months.

So much is – hopefully – going to happen.

From the amazing work we have on the table, to the holiday we’re going on to celebrate Jill’s big birthday, to finally starting my teaching at MIT, to officially starting The Kennedys … there’s a bunch of stuff for me to look forward to as we enter the second half of the year.

In fact the only downsides I can see are that it is my birthday in 12 days [because I doubt there’s a Raleigh Grifter waiting for me, let alone anything requiring wifi] and Otis will be hitting 2, which means he won’t be eligible for free flights anymore.

[Unless you’re willing to help me Lee. Cough Cough, Splutter Splutter]

Given how hard 2015 was for me last year, I needed this – but part of it is also because at the beginning of the year, I made a conscious decision to get back to some of the standards that have always served me well … standards that I had allowed to become a bit diluted as my mind focused on the terrible loss of my Mum.

Now I appreciate this post comes across as one massive humble brag – it’s not meant to be, but I suppose it is – but the real purpose of it is the importance of excitement.

Sure, you can argue a lot of it is down to your attitude towards life – and I agree with that – but it cannot be denied that the environment you live in has a lot to do with the attitude you develop.

I was – and am – fortunate that I have been continually supported by my parents, my wife and my friends.

It was only when I was older that I realised how fortunate I am to have this.

And it is this realisation that led me to my ‘management approach’.

I know the word ‘management’ and me sound ridiculous, but for some reason I’m in a semi-position of power and what has been massively important to me is to ensure my team can look forward with excitement.

That doesn’t mean I’ll pay for them to have holidays or buy them presents – though I do ensure they always have their holidays and they can rob me blind with coffee purchases – but it is about giving them a plan where they continually are given the space to explore, challenge and be challenged as well as the client opportunities that help them grow as well as shine.

Now of course you need to ask them if I’m full of shit or not, but as I’ve said many times, I see my job as helping members of my team to end up in situations where they get offered better opportunities than they ever could have imagined – opportunities where they have been chosen as much for who they are as it is what they do – and central to that is ensuring they believe the future is always more exciting than the past.

To do this requires a mixture of forward planning, clear objectives, undeniable support and big doses of tough love, but the reward you get is – hopefully – committed, loyal and more passionate colleagues who look at the future in terms of what they can do to shape it [and be shaped by it] than simply feeling work in one endless and relentless stream of monotony.

Of course it doesn’t always work out as you hoped, but my attitude is you can’t expect loyalty from your team if they don’t get it from you, which is why I believe that when you know the people who matter have your back it gives you the confidence to go further than you ever expected … and gives the people who had your back, a greater sense of reward and accomplishment than they ever could foresee.



Is The Only Thing Big About Big Data Is The Hype?
May 31, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Data, Insight

I am a big fan of data and information.

I am a firm believer it has incredible power inherently within it.

I am absolutely convinced – mainly because I’ve seen it and been a part of it – that when used correctly, it can liberate opportunity.

But despite this, I am also of the opinion it’s current position on the pedestal, is misguided.

To be honest, the reason for this is more because of how people are using it – or choosing what data they think is important – than the actual data itself, but like most things in life, when people look for convenient answers and rely on individuals who have either limited or myopic experience in their field for understanding what’s happening, the results can end up killing potential rather than releasing it.

But that’s just my opinion and I’d be interested in hearing yours.

Especially George, Pete, Baz and Lee … who I know interact with it at the highest levels and with the most qualified of all people.

Over to you …



One Step Forward, Four Hundred Steps Back …

I love China.

My time here has been one of the most exciting, interesting – and, I have to be honest, challenging – times of my life.

I will always love China and will always defend it from the prejudice they experience every day at the hands of foreign media and companies.

But there are some things here that I loathe. 

Things that does the country harm.

Things that don’t actually represent what the majority think and yet validates the prejudice that other countries feel.

I wrote about one of these things recently, with the launch of ‘sports brand’, Uncle Martian.

But last week something even worse happened.

This.

I have to be honest, the moment I saw the first scene, I feared I knew what was going to happen.

And then it got worse that I ever imagined.

Apart from being utterly disgusting and distasteful, it’s an total blight on China’s international reputation and – it pains me to say it – so it should be.

I cannot believe that a nation with such strong censorship rules allowed this through.

I literally cannot fathom it.

It’s stupidity at a level that is beyond comprehension.

And what about the poor black guy in the ad? How desperate for money or fame must he have been to allow himself to be in this shit.

And the other actors … what the hell were they thinking?

And don’t even get me started on the brand who actually agreed to putting this thing out.

[This is what they said about it, which smacks of someone freaking out they’ve been “caught” by global media even though it’s pretty obvious they thought this would be a quick way for a small brand to get big attention]

I’m literally struggling to make sense of it. But I guess that’s because there is no sense to this … it’s racism on a level that beggars belief.

I hope the people who made it … approved it and commissioned it are all named, shamed and made to pay the price of their disgracefulness because what they have just done is promote hatred as well as damage China’s international reputation.

Do I think those people will care?

Probably not because otherwise they wouldn’t have done it … but I hope the Government do.

I hope the hundreds of millions of citizens who don’t think like this do.

And I hope they show it through fines and product boycotting. [They’re already expressing their disgust through social media]

Look, I’m not going to deny China has racism within the culture.

Sadly, most countries do.

Ironically, I have always felt their worst opinions are aimed at others from Asian countries rather than those from the West. In fact a black friend of mine who lived in China, once told me he felt it wasn’t that China didn’t like black people, they just don’t like anything different and to them, he’s just different.

Of course that is no excuse for this shit nor does it make it any better.

Frankly I am devastated about this. Devastated that these attitudes still exist. Devastated there are people who don’t think it is wrong to make an ad featuring this as their ‘storyline’. And devastated China has just taken a backward step in the minds of many across the World.

I would love to meet the people who did this and commissioned this and literally smash them in the fucking face.

They’re beyond racist. They’re stupid.

But then, when a country that claims to represent the Free World can have a presidential candidate who is the antithesis of it, I fear stupid is winning.

____________________________________________________________________________

Just to make sure no one is stupid enough to suggest only the Chinese are racist, watch this …

Yes, I know it reinforces the misguided belief China just copies what others have done rather than create it’s own thing, but that’s obviously, not the point I want to make.

Racism is everywhere and unless we fundamentally deal with it, society is on the fast track to devolution. A good way to start might be to get everyone to watch this.

Then stop Donald Trump.

____________________________________________________________________________

PS: I found it fascinating than in the recent Austrian elections, the narrow loser – a far right candidate – took the loss with grace. Despite supporters claiming he had been cheated, he knocked that talk on the head. I don’t – and never will – support his viewpoints, but I respect his acceptance. Now if only he could do that beyond just an election result. Trump take note.



How To Get An Effectiveness Judge’s Attention …
May 27, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Awards, Comment, Context

So I’ve been doing a bunch of judging this year and while some have been great, a lot have been fucking terrible.

It is kinda scary what some people think represents effectiveness.

Seriously, if they were running their own business based on their effectiveness measures, they’d be dead in a week.

Which is probably why they’re not running their own business.

Now there’s a bunch of stuff that can be done to make a Judge take notice.

Of course there’s the usual.

1. Actually have a story that shows effectiveness.

2. Appreciate judges know all the ways people try to polish bullshit.


3. Understand you have to have done something different to convention or you can’t claim you were directly responsible for the effectiveness.

But there’s one more thing.

STOP OVERWRITING.

Seriously, the amount of times I have to read, re-read and then re-re-read to try and work out what is being said is incredible.

I get some of the submissions are from people where English is not their native language so they feel they have to write more in a bid to make sure judges really understand the points they want to make.

I also know that I’m a bit thick so take longer to get stuff that the average person.

But – and it’s a huuuuuge but – some of the submissions are ridiculous, using 500 words when 10 would do.

I get the desire to add emotion and texture to the case study, but when you’re asked to ‘describe the insight that drove the strategy’ and you take 3 paragraphs to explain it, it’s either a bullshit insight or you’re trying to hide something.

A bit of advice worth thinking about is what a chef told my wonderful colleague Maria when she was doing some research with chefs …

“The more confident you are, the more simple your dish”

What I’m saying is that if your submission is good, have the confidence in it.

Seriously, good things will stand out and so all you need your paper to do is provide the stage for it to shine.

Failing that, you can always throw in a weird quote to capture the judges attention.

Recently, someone wrote this in their entry …

“It is only when a mosquito lands on your testicles that you realize there is always a way to solve problems without using violenceā€.

No seriously.

I even wrote on the judging paper that this may be the best quote I’ve ever seen.

Sadly – for them – that was the only highpoint of their submission.

Anyway, I digress. Again.

Look, I understand we get excited about the work we do.

I understand we all want to explain the journey to get there.

But for gods sake, think of the context and environment you’re playing in.

When your competitors are bombarding judges with long and complicated explanations and charts, less will most definitely be more.

[I fully expect John Dodds to agree, given I’m basically saying ‘no one reads long copy’]



I Have No Idea Why Business Doesn’t Take Adland Seriously?

SapientNitro

The song that launched a thousand comments. None of them good.

Hakuhodo Singapore

Using the power of mandatory wackiness to explain they’ve moved offices.

Mindshare Europe

Taking a song about working hard for the money and showing they’re doing anything but that.

BBDO China

Highlighting the sexism of adland is alive and well. And yes, this is apparently a real video from people in the agency, but – as I understand it – not from the agency.

Ogilvy Greece

Showing that sometimes, honouring someone is actually killing them.

I wanted to put up the pitch video of Leo Burnett Sydney, simply because Todd Sampson – a man I am not very keen on – looks a tool, but they have removed it from the internet with the same efficiency and effectiveness as the CIA black ops team.

I also had Y&R Shanghai’s recent video of them singing/murdering Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ as part of their 30th birthday celebrations. However I stupidly put it on Facebook and tagged someone I know who was in it, which meant they could see what I was up to and quickly took it down. I’m gutted because it was an excellent piece of credibility suicide.

But putting all that aside, there are also videos that show why society might not take business or government that seriously either.

First of all, a genuine classic, where Bank of America execs take U2’s song ‘One’ and repurpose it to celebrate the take over and integration of financial organisation MBNA.

Part of me likes it simply because it must have utterly fucked off Bono for both musical and moral issues.

[Ignoring the fact Bono is one of the biggest champagne socialists on the planet]

And then – saving possibly the best for last – the utterly brilliant [for utterly bad reasons] Singapore Media Development Authority ‘rap’.

Even after all these years it brings a smile to my face.

Of course, it also makes me cringe like a David Brent music video but as comedy goes, it’s sheer gold.

Look I think it’s great when agencies and companies are excited about what they do, but these videos have nothing to do with that … they’re all contrived and cynical attempts to try make others think they’d be fun to work for or with.

Except it doesn’t work, because mandatory wackiness doesn’t fool anyone. Except the mediocre.

I have no idea why ‘song and dance’ has become the format to express your ‘human side’, but I can’t help but think that if you have to do this to show how much fun you are, you’re not doing your day-to-day job correctly.

Seriously agencies and companies. Stop it. Just stop it.

You’re not just embarrassing yourselves, you’re actually undermining a whole industries credibility.

Who the fuck will want to pay a premium for someone they’ve seen sing and dance like a one-legged drunk?

Worse, you all have some incredibly talented people in your organisations. This sort of stuff makes them want to die rather than to do the best for you.

But – and it’s a huge but – if you absolutely have to do it, then have the good grace to do it in private rather than use it as some not-very-well-disguised sales pitch … either for your company or for your corporate toadiness.

To paraphrase someone who once said something very unkind about Billy Joel’s and Christie Brinkley’s daughter, you all end up looking like you have the ‘face of her father and the voice of her mother’

And if anyone thinks I’m being a dick for showing companies at their worst, then I give you this as a means of compensation.

Trust me, if you thought what you had seen before was bad, this will kill you.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

PS: If you know of any more agency shame videos, I’d love to see them, Ta.



Don’t Know What You’ve Got Until It’s Gone …
May 25, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Daddyhood, Insight, My Fatherhood

One of the things I have always loved is sitting down to a good documentary.

Oh my god, I cannot tell you the joy I have felt watching hundreds – if not thousands – of them over the years. It also helps explain why I have over 3000 of them filling my house and storage units all around the bloody world.

However now I have a son – a super active, super happy son – it’s hard to even watch a commercial without interruption, let alone a movie.

So recently, when I was on a plane for a work trip, I shunned falling asleep [something I normally do even before the plane has taken off] and forced myself to watch an inflight film.

To be honest, the movie wasn’t that good, but the ability to sit there and be able to concentrate without interruption was a revelation.

I literally felt a different level of engagement and entertainment.

Of course, it helped that I also couldn’t use my phone – because normally, I would be on IMDB and getting info on what I am watching, while I am watching it.

For possibly the first time I understood what Jill means when she say’s she often feels I’m not fully present when we’re watching something together.

I used to think it was her way of saying, “Just fake being happy to watch a period drama with me” … but no, she meant I wasn’t going to get as much enjoyment out of our shared time together because I was allowing myself to be distracted.

But now I know.

Now I know that as much as I love my son … as much as I love my tech … there are moments where stepping inside a bubble is good for you.

Not just in terms of focus and calm … but in terms of enjoyment.

This should not be a shock to me.

Hell, I did something years ago for a hotel group based on this very issue, but I guess the real insight here is that nothing makes you see something like having it taken away from you.

Guess this means I’ll be finding a bunch of overseas work trips to be going on now. Ha.



Life Lessons From A Positive Pessimist …
May 24, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude

And with that positive statement to start the morning with – allegedly uttered by Kurt Cobain – the morale of that bleak story is to always go after what you believe in, because that’s much better than just wishing you did. Even if it all ends up in tears, failure and absolute rejection.

Because – as one of my favourite ever ads reminds us – at least you can say, “I have lived”.




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