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


Hello America …
May 23, 2017, 10:32 pm
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, China, Comment, Family, Otis

I have good news and bad news.

The good is this post does not signal the full return of this blog.

The bad is I have still written a post.

Before I begin, to everyone who entered the APSOTW … we’re close to having consolidated feedback and it will [hopefully] be posted in a couple of weeks. Huge apologies for the delay, but with the move – and the usual ‘herding sheep’ – it’s taken longer than I would have liked.

As for the move. Well, after an incredibly emotional goodbye we – Jill, Otis, Rosie the cat and myself – got to America unscathed.

I have to say it was weird having Rosie on board with us – hearing her meow – but given how quickly she acclimatised to her new surroundings, it obviously was a much better experience for her than the other times she has flown in the cargo.

We have been here just under a week and while it’s been rather hectic – organising social security numbers and driving tests and looking for places to live, not to mention enduring some rather extreme jetlag – it has been pretty special.

Not just because we got to spend time together exploring our new surroundings, but because we had family visiting America so we got to hang out with them too.

But more than that, everyone has been super nice to us. Everyone.

Strangers, government officials, [soon-to-be-new] colleagues … people have gone out of their way to make us feel welcomed.

Even the immigration officer was nice when we entered the country and that literally has never happened to me before.

There is a little park near us where we have taken Otis on a number of occasions. Every single time, a different family have come up to us and said hello and offered to help with anything we need. Even if they’re just saying it – and I don’t think they are as they gave us their phone numbers – I’ve got to be honest, it’s pretty lovely.

And don’t get me started on how amazing the community-run, hippy, mandarin-speaking, creative-focused pre-school is …

Of course it’s early days so I know I’ll find stuff that drives me fucking insane [like the whole tipping protocol] but when I see the smile on Otis’ face as he runs along the beach, I know that as much as I love – and miss – China, this was the right thing to do for my little family.

So of course, now I am in a new country, I need a new blog header and as you can see from above, Jill has worked her magic again.

Or should I say, worked her imagination.

Though after 6 days in LA, I must admit I have grown to have a bit more respect for Mr Hulk Hogan, because how anyone can have a body like that when every place serves food in quantities that would be too much for an elephant, is anyone’s guess.

I miss you China but I like you LA.



Zàijiàn My Beloved China …
May 16, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, China, Chinese Culture, Comment, Love

I know I said there’d be no more posts for a month, but I leave China today, so deal with it.

I’ve said all I want to say about how wonderful and magical a time I’ve had here.

If you’re ever given the opportunity to visit or work – do it – it will change your World.

To sign off, I want to leave you with a little film.

Every day – for the past 7 years – as I walked to work, I would stop off at Starbucks at The Centre building in the Former French Concession.

Over the years, most of the time directly outside the window where I would be supping my latte, I would see all manner of people doing all manner of things … from walking dogs to undertaking rather interesting approaches to exercise.

There were a few people in particular that always seemed to be there and I started videoing them and adding music to their routine.

It’s important you know I never did this to mock them – far from it – I did it because they were part of the reason my 7 years in China was utterly wonderful and I will miss them – and the country – more than anyone could ever imagine.

Goodbye Shanghai. Hello LA.

Comments Off on Zàijiàn My Beloved China …


It’s Been An Honour …

After 7 years, today is my last day at Wieden+Kennedy.

Just as traumatic is that in 6 days, it will be my last day in China.

Or said another way, it will be my last day living in Asia-Pacific after 22 amazing years.

There’s honestly too much to say.

Too many memories to write about.

Too many people to thank and talk about.

So instead I’ll just say it has been the time of my life.

An amazing, spectacular, wonderful adventure both personally and professionally.

From marriage and babies to being part of work that defined World Cups and Olympics.

Wow.

It’s absolutely fair to say I will miss every bit of it but I’ll take the memories because it means I had the experience and for that I am truly grateful.

Now, because we’re in the middle of mad moving mode, this blog will be on a little hiatus for a few weeks.

Probably about a month. [Though we all know there’ll be the odd post here and there]

On the bright side, when it’s back – probably sometime in June, in time for my birthday [ha] – you’ll get to read posts that won’t just be about planning, but how I don’t understand how to make anything in America work.

I honestly think I’m going to find it harder to acclimatise to America than I ever did to China.

Hell, I can’t even order a cup of coffee without getting confused about their cup sizes.

So with that I want to sign off with a few little thank-you’s.

The reality is a huge amount of people made my time here amazing, however there’s some who had an even bigger influence and I want to call them out because the adventure I had – and am about to embark on – literally wouldn’t have been possible without them.

My wonderful planning team. Past and present. Every day was a genuine fucking honour. The awesome Kennedys. It was seriously the professional highlight of my last 12 months. Thank you. And that definitely includes you Juni. Kel Hook. For hiring me. You changed my life and I’ll never be able to thank you enough. Jason White. Thank you for supporting me even when I caused destruction. John Rowe. For being brilliant in every possible way and making my time at W+K Tokyo so good, I never wanted to leave. NIKE. I know that might sound corporate toady, but as I have nothing to gain from saying it, it means it is true. 99.7% of every person I met or worked with at Wieden+Kennedy worldwide … whether they are still here or long gone. Martin Weigel. You’re a cantankerous, warm hearted, brilliant man. Just propose to Mercedes and get on with it. Whiteside. Because you’re awesome and funny and humble and deserve so much and yet are happy with what you have. Clare Pickens. I love you. I literally fucking love you. [But stop cutting your hair because it makes you look shit] Sandi Hildreth. For being awesome and gorgeous and loving the same sort of rubbish music as me. Claudia Valderrama. For looking out for me even though you told me I was a “pain in the ass”. W&W, Azsa, Arlene and Max … for making sure I stay excited – and in awe – about the birth of amazing ideas. Gerber, for somehow – and I’m not sure how – influencing me to get tattoos. I came here with none, I leave with not enough. Simon Pestridge. Thank you for everything. In many ways, you changed my career and opportunities. You’re more than a great client, but a friend. Kim Papworth. For that talk that was totally worth the wait. Luhr. For being Luhr. Stech. For making your 6 months here, the most exciting 6 months for me full stop. David Terry and Paul Colman for trying really hard to be ‘alpha-males’ but actually being fucking sweethearts. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. Joe Staples. He won’t understand why, which is why. MJ. No, not Micheal Jackson or Michal Jordan, but Matthew Jung … for being a phenomenal Nike and Converse client who backed us to do the best work we can do every-single-time. Karrelle. For pretending to still be British when he’s basically American. Steve Tsoi for still welcoming me to the table even though I never made life easy for you or your team. Scott Silverman. You had nothing to do with China, but if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have had the chance to be here. Chris Jaques. You also had nothing to do with China, but if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have had the platform to show others what I could do. What I could be. Dan Wieden. For not actually firing me even though you said, “You’re fired” every time you saw me. And starting a place that is so special amongst special companies. Xiaoli. For everything you have done for us, but most specifically for the love and care you have shown my son. China … for being so important to global business that you gave me access and exposure to the sort of senior leadership few in the World will ever get to experience. The amazing, warm, slightly crazy people of China. I will absolutely miss everything about your unique ways. Except the spitting and the plane delays. And finally – and most importantly – my beloved Jill, Otis and Rosie. Without you guys, none of this other stuff would have mattered.

OK, the Gwyneth Paltrow bollocks is over … and to prove it, have a look at this.

Do you know what it is?

That’s right, it’s one of the 600 stickers I have had made that I have spent the last 5 weeks hiding throughout the refurbished Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai office. And I mean ‘throughout’ … including various W+K hangouts, like Baker & Spice, Jamaica Blue and Little Catch.

That should make their life a pain in the ass for a few years.

It will be like I’ve never gone.

And with that, it’s time to go.

It’s been a lot of fun. Time for an adventure in LA. God help us all.



A Look Back At 7 Years …

As I have 2 days left of working at Wieden, I thought I’d put up some of the films [some are case studies because I can’t find the actual spot online] that I’ve either had something to do with or happened on my watch while at W+K Shanghai.

To be honest, there’s loads more – including 3 campaigns that haven’t come out yet, of which one is particularly exciting – but I appreciate how indulgent this post is already.

So with that – and in no particular order – here we go …

Converse Lyrics

NIKE Mr Sun

Fiat 500 La Vita E Bella – with thanks to my Mum

NIKE Temple Of Deadly Quickness

P&G Best Job

NIKE Find Your Greatness

Jeep Built Free

Jordan Winning Moment

Heineken Curiosity Pays

NIKE Epic Step

Spotify Japan Music Changes Us

As I said, there’s a bunch more stuff I could put up, but when I look back at this – especially in relation to where China/Asia advertising traditionally sits – I nod and, to paraphrase Phil Knight from the W+K global credentials film, say “It’s not bad”.



The Final Countdown …

So I feel this week is where I start walking across the bridge from where my life has been to where my life will be.

In the next 3 weeks, my life is going to change quite a bit.

On Wednesday, I stop working at a place I have loved.

Less than a week later, I stop living in a home, in a city, in a country that I have loved.

A place where my son was born and where – in many ways – my life changed forever.

Then thanks to timezone madness, later that same day, my entire family – wife, son, cat – arrive in Los Angeles.

A place that feels a trillion miles away from where we have been.

A place that we will be calling home.

While I don’t start work for another 2 weeks, there will be so much to sort out.

Bank accounts … phones … cars … a home … while ensuring we create the time to explore and discover our new surroundings as a family.

And then, just 3 weeks later, I officially start my totally new and exciting adventure.

Wow, that’s a lot of change in a very short time … but apart from the fact we’ve done this sort of move countless times before [albeit without a child in tow] it feels exciting.

OK, so there’s also a bunch of headaches we have to contend with … and the reality is we won’t be able to truly feel ‘settled’ until we have a home, with all our furniture inside and a basic understanding of how everything operates in LA … but as I mentioned before, to have this opportunity at my age is one I feel truly fortunate to have, so as long as we’re together and happy, we can deal with most things.

But I’ll tell you something that didn’t make me happy.

HSBC.

Yes … I know I’ve written about them many, many times before and if I was sane, I would have stopped working with all their offices rather than just the ones in China and Australia … but I didn’t, so I accept some blame for what I am about to whine about.

So when you move to the US, one of the biggest obstacles to settling there is that you need a good credit rating.

Everything – and I mean everything – is dependent on you being seen as ‘financially credible’.

Without a good credit rating, you will find it hard to get a place to live, a car, a credit card … you name it, you’re screwed.

This issue is only magnified if you are new to the country because not only do you start with zero, it takes a hell of a long time to earn it.

But then I got told HSBC – the World’s local bank – could set you up with a US bank account and the credit history you had earned in one country, could be transposed to America.

Result.

So I call up HSBC in Hong Kong and ask them if they can do it.

“Of course we can sir, it only takes about 10 days”.

I was so thrilled that I didn’t quite hear what they said next.

“… you just have to come into the branch to discuss it”.

I quickly woke up and enquired if they meant ‘any HSBC branch’.

“Oh no sir, you have to come to the branch you opened the account”.

I told them that might be difficult as I lived in Shanghai so was there any alternative – like going to a Shanghai branch instead.

“No”.

That was their response. No.

I asked if they could check and call me back and they said they would.

They didn’t call back.

I went through the whole thing again.

Same answer.

Could you check and call me back?

They said they would. They didn’t.

In the end, I had to fly to HK to get them to do it.

Yep, I had to buy a ticket so I could get on a plane and fly 2 hours just so I could go to the brand and hear them me “Why do you want to open an account in the US?”

How I restrained myself from saying “Because I want to launder all my ill-gotten gains and apparently you’re good at that, I do not know …

OK, so it wasn’t as bad as the time ANZ Bank in Australia made me fly from Singapore to Sydney so I could given them a cheque to buy a bloody house, but it’s up there.

Was it worth it?

Who the hell knows … I guess we’ll find out in a week, but for a bank that has continually acted illegally, I find it laughable they’re such sticklers for protocol on relatively small matters, but not nearly as laughable as their claims that they’re the ‘World’s Local Bank’.

Look at that, I haven’t even moved to the US yet and I’m bitching.

There’s hope for this blog yet …



The Kennedys Wish Me A Goodbye That Is Much Nicer Than I Deserve …

So this is my last Friday at Wieden Towers.

That’s it in the photo. With the storm clouds circling overhead.

While I’m super excited about my next chapter, the fact is I’m a sentimental sod, so I’ve been spending the last few weeks trying to take in everything around me so I’ll remember it when I’ve gone.

Part of this is because I spent 7 years here … so the ties are very strong, however the other part is because I know I will never live here again.

I know you should never say never … but I’ve gone back to live in a country that I’ve previously resided in, though I must admit, China is the one where that realisation has hit me the hardest.

That said, I will come back for visits.

Not just because I am fascinated to see the incredible changes that I know will occur, but because I want to show Otis where he was born and where he spent his first few years of life.

Now as you all know, I started and ran The Kennedys Shanghai this year.

It was a great honour for me. Not just because it is something this office has talked about for 12 years, but because I am a planner and being entrusted to develop Wieden’s creative talent incubator was a great honour.

As I’ve written before, I gave them all manner of shit in their quest to find their creative voice … and while they took it all with [relatively] good grace, they recently presented me with a video they’d made that was designed to get to my very core.

Not because its mean, but because it’s bloody lovely.

Those cunning, beautiful, evil bastards.

Given they waited till the very end to give this to me, it appears they subscribe to the belief ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’.

I’ve obviously taught them well.



The Joy Of Age …

Growing older is a pain-in-the ass.

Even if your mind is still young and active, your body is losing its energy and gaining a bunch of aches and pains.

Is it any wonder so many people spend so much money trying to pointlessly fight it?

But there are some advantages to age.

One of them is not giving a fuck anymore.

I don’t mean that in the sense of not caring about people or progress or learning. I mean it in the sense of realising how little of the stuff we passionately believe are important are actually important.

And to me, this is enlightening and liberating all at the same time.

It enables you to see what can actually change stuff.

What can actually make a difference.

Of course, being old doesn’t automatically mean you have this ability – just like being young doesn’t automatically disqualify you from having this ability – but without doubt, experience gives you an ability to see through the clutter and bullshit and that is most definitely a gift.

Over the years I’ve written this blog, one person I’ve constantly referenced is Sir Ken Robinson … more specifically, his incredible TedTalk about creativity.

One of the reasons I love it so much is that he helps us see all the layers of bullshit we have added to the education system.

Layers that ironically undermine kids ability to learn rather than enhance it.

Well recently I saw another speech that asks us to question stuff.

Stuff we think is important but could be more of a hinderance.

However instead of coming from a very funny academic, it comes from a very funny comedian.

John Cleese.

Now of course this shouldn’t come as a surprise because as I wrote a long time ago, comedians have incredible insight, however what Cleese offers is more than that … he challenges us to consider how much we undermine our potential by allowing things we think are important to interfere with the things that really are.

And while this brilliant stream of consciousness explains the importance of clarity and creativity, he gives us something more than that.

He reminds us that getting old might not be as bad as we may often think.

As long as we live a life of experiences rather than comfort.

Which is another lesson worth remembering.