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


Genuinely The Last Regular Post For A While …
June 25, 2010, 5:30 am
Filed under: Comment

… and when you’ve read it, you’ll realise it’s not because I’m moving to China, but because I’ve alienated myself from the planning community.

So I’ve been doing this advertising lark for a lot of years.

Twenty one to be precise, and even though I’ve been blessed with working for/at/with brilliant and highly regarded agencies/companies … I’ve had more people contact me to say ‘Hello’ since it was announced I was off to head up planning at Wieden’s, than pretty much at any other point in my career.

Now of course when I started in adland, the World ran on steam … a billboard was the local post office notice board and twitter was something birds did so it’s fair to say technology has played a big part in spreading the word [not to mention my smug-as-fuck one man advertising campaign, ha!] … however whilst I love meeting/talking to new and interesting people, I have to admit I find it funny that now my name is associated with the words ‘Wieden + Kennedy’, I’ve suddenly become sort-of popular* when in every other aspect, I’m pretty much the same person – with the same values, attitude, philosophies & views – as I’ve always been.

So to my point.

One of the problems I have always had with adland – and planners in particular – is that they tend to judge/value others more by the company they keep that what an individual say’s or [preferably] does … which is why the people who tend to get the ‘fame’ are the ones who sit in the cool shops, even though often, the planners most deserving of praise are the guys who do great work with less glamouress clients in less cool surroundings.

I wrote about this a while back … detailing why I rate Northern so bloody highly … but the thing that is really bothering me is how little debate really is going on in our industry.

I read blogs, magazines, tweets and while there is a lot being talked about, there’s not much actually being said … quite often it’s nothing more than new packaging of old theories.

What’s caused this to happened?

Well I have a theory ….

First there’s this fucking terrible movement to position planners as Rock Stars.

ROCK STARS!

PLANNERS?

Who the fuck came up with that shit … oh yeah, a planner.

Apart from the fact planners aren’t rock stars and – given our job is to understand people, everyday people, shouldn’t be rock stars – its creating an atmosphere that the annointed ones should never be challenged.

When you factor in the power of technology to distribute and spread messages, you can see why some people are fearful of voicing their alternate opinion for fear of being instantly and universally chastised.

But the thing is, I actually don’t know if many planners do have dramatically different opinions to the Keith Moons and Keith Richards of planning.

Why?

Well this leads to my second point and that is that we have started to believe we’re geniuses. Not just geniuses but invincible geniuses.

We can make everything better … absolutely everything … and anyone who disagrees with us is wrong.

Earlier this week I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about shit fashion and implied a planner could have made it better … and to be fair, I honestly believe that … however I would lay money that they’d be a whole host of planners [not the ones on this blog, you obviously have no desire to be seen as cool if you come to this blog] who think they could do better than anyone else they were pitched against.

Fashion designer?
Better.

Window dresser?
Better.

Retail expert?
Better.

We have started to be a discipline having one dimensional conversations … talking about subjects that make us feel important and clever with people who make us feel relevant and cool … when for all intents and purposes, the discussions taking place have minimal impact and influence on the everyday lives of the very people we’re paid lots of money to understand, engage and motivate.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of clever and great people in adland – but in my experience, the ones who are the smartest are the ones who know they DON’T know it all, so go out and get alternative views and experiences … not just from colleagues in the agency, but people in the real World.

I’m not talking cool photographers … DJ’s … painters and skaters – though sometimes that may be the case – but DR’s, teachers, salesmen and prostitutes.

And you know why this works for them?

Because they hear perspectives they’d never of thought of … views they’d never consider … issues they couldn’t imagine and so when they combine that with their natural talent and intellect, they can question the supposed set-in-stone theories, they can argue the latest planning trend and they can make bigger, better and greater things happen … bigger, better and greater things interms of creativity, loyalty and profit.

Of course I’m hugely proud and excited that I’m going to be working at such a great agency within a couple of weeks, but I have to say I’d hate to think someone agrees with me just because I work at Wieden so if I could suggest something for any young planners out there, look away from adland for your inspiration and education and aim to create your own destiny rather than follow someone else’s just because they [1] work at a great agency and/or [2] they’ve been labelled a fucking rock star planner.

Ooooooh I feel better now that’s off my chest.

To be honest it’s not really captured what I wanted to say or what I thought I wanted to write about … plus it’s all over the place and missing some key sections I really wanted to cover – but it’ll do – it’ll have to, I’m writing this late and I need to go to bed.

For the record, I should point out that the reason why I find this blog so enjoyable is that when the insults are over, we have a good debate and it tends to also involve the brilliance of Lauren, Peggy, Marcus and John – who as none adfolk – ensure we can’t go too far up are own arses which is why this blog will be back soonish. [Sorry!]

Right some house-keeping.

1/ Today is my last day at Sunshine – and so I want to say a big ‘thank you’ to everyone and wish them all the best with whatever they get up to in the future. It’s a short ‘bye’ as I’ve already said my formal thing but I still wanted it to go on record.

2/ I don’t know how I’ll do it, but I’ll try and get the results of the Head & Shoulders A[P]SOTW assignment up sometime next week . however if that doesn’t happen, it won’t be my fault, it’ll be the couple of judges who’ve not pulled their fingers out and given me their feedback, hahaha! Eitherway, the results will be out soon and hopefully you’ll find the feedback helpful and valuable.

OK, that’s it . apart from the couple of blog posts I’ve pre-written, this place will be on limited operation until I’ve sorted out a place to live and the China firewall, so until then enjoy the peace.

* NB: my version of being ‘sort-of popular’ would still be your version of ‘social-leper’



Escalator To Heaven …
June 24, 2010, 5:50 am
Filed under: Comment

Despite saying this blog would be set on ‘pause’ while I got sorted in China, I’ve still managed to churn out a steady stream of rant bollocks over the last few weeks.

The good news is that this Friday, I will be internet access denied until we move to China and even then, you will have a few weeks grace as I try and get things up and running so apart from the couple of posts I’ve managed to pre-write for the next week or so, you’ll be free from me for almost THREE WEEKS!

That’s the good news … the bad news is that until then, you’ll have to put up with this post.

Stairs.

We see them everywhere ….

In houses, offices, shops and streets.

Wherever you look they are there … leading you up or taking you down … except it dawned on me that basically for the last 5 years, I’ve not had to use them at all.

Since 2005, I’ve lived in single story apartments that have always had lifts to take me up to my floor.

And for work … I’ve always been based in buildings that have had escalators and elevators to help me get where I want to go.

Also, because the last few years have been predominantly spent in Singapore/HK – countries built for convenience – the majority of my destinations have been served with transportation that has not needed leg power to get where I want to go.

Now I appreciate this might not make much sense but a couple of days ago I realised the Wieden office in Shanghai is a magnet for stairs and the apartment we’re looking to rent has 3 floors, so my relationship with stairs is going to be reignited whether I like it or not … and that pleases me because as weird as this may sound, I think stairs are brill!

Not only do they help you get where you want to go, but they make you fitter too.

OK, so I am not saying climbing 13 stairs a day is the equivalent of a gym workout – but then I would guess the majority of people don’t go to the gym either – so if Governments want their subjects to be healthier and fitter people, why don’t they start taxing companies on how many lifts/escalators they use because in this profit obsessed World we live in, I would say they would rather take out a lift if it meant they could make an extra $2 profit.

FInally, I can’t wait to go into NIKE HQ for the first time – because if there was ever a company who should be anti-lift/escalator, it’s them.

OK, mental rant over, as you were …



There Might Be A Fine Line Between Fashionable And Fashion Victim …
June 23, 2010, 6:31 am
Filed under: Comment

… but last week, when I saw these dresses at ‘George’ [better known as ASDA Supermarket] I couldn’t help but think there was a new criteria, the fashion criminal.

Untitled

Look I know I have the dress sense of a blind Australian from 1982 … but seriously, how bad are they!

You think this post is bad?

Just think how awful it would have been if I’d decided to use the picture to write a post about how planners could use/adapt their skills to help George identify, understand & create designs that attract women.

Yes … imagine that nightmare.

Fortunately for you I can’t be arsed – but if you are a planner and think planning is only about helping create ads, then may I suggest you get out more, or better yet – don’t hang out with advertising people so much.



Campaigns That Cost The Earth …
June 22, 2010, 6:18 am
Filed under: Crap Campaigns In History

Yes it’s another post … sue me.

Look, it’s only short so don’t get your knickers in a twist, it’s not like I’m doing a proper come back like KISS or Tom Jones or – for you Aussies out there – John Farnham.

Right, do you remember my rant about Standard Chartered and their campaign egotistically entitled ‘Here For Good’?

I basically had a rant at the TV ad because to me, it was a load of contrived bollocks and I suggested that if Standard Chartered had to spend millions telling people how much they ‘cared’, it was probably because they’d done little for people to realise that through their day-to-day interactions.

Anyway, I’ve just seen their outdoor campaign and it would appear their whole campaign is another example of a brand adopting the stance of words, rather than action.

Have a look at this.

Untitled

Yes I know this is a bad pic of a bus, but I was in a taxi at the time, however I assure you their billboards are exactly the same … but can you see what the issue is?

Well, it’s basically that the ad has a coloured background … meaning they have had to use a considerable amount of ink to create each ad … ink that not only costs more financially [compared to using a plain white background] but also contributes more environmental damage than necessary.

[Yes, I know all advertising could be deemed as causing more environmental damage than necessary, but deal with it]

Infact, by using a black background, Standard Chartered couldn’t of chosen a more inappropriate colour for their new ‘we care about everyone and everything’ brand bullshit, but then they’re a bank so we should be used to their hypocrisy by now.



False Starts …
June 21, 2010, 5:49 am
Filed under: Comment

So I’m back in HK after a very lovely – if slightly manic – holiday, encompassing dramatic birthdays, World Cup dramas and some wonderful family time with Mum.

Of course Northerner has written it better than I could ever hope to do … but coming back after a break is a real bitter sweet feeling.

On the one hand, there is the sadness that your period of ‘routine free living’ [or should I say, work routine living] is over and you will soon be back in a situation that will make you question whether you’ve ever been away at all … whilst also there’s the comfort of being back ‘at home’ … where everything is relatively calm and in its right place and your mind can’t casually wander off to remind you the ‘holiday feeling’ is only temporary and those valuable days are passing by far too quickly for your liking.

Sure, weekends can sometimes give you a hint of that ‘it’s all moving to fast’ feeling … but it’s nothing compared to a holiday … a holiday that you have been looking forward to for far longer than just 5 working days.

I’ve written a lot about how the role of vacations have changed. For many, it’s no longer about discovery and exploration … now it’s about recuperation … and whilst we did a lot of interesting and new things in these past couple of weeks, ‘recuperation’ was most definitely the purpose of the break.

You see we’ve come back to a time bomb.

In just 10 days, our life in HK will be over and we will be on our merry way to Shanghai.

I don’t mind admitting there is a sense of apprehension in what we’re about to do …

Don’t get me wrong, I’m/we’re excited about what we’re about to do but as much as China is a fast developing nation – it’s definitely unlike any other place we’ve lived.

Naturally there’s a huge amount of positives and excitement in that … which is pretty much what attracted me to moving there in the first place … but this will be the first time I’ve ever lived in a place where I literally do not speak the language and whilst we’re starting our Mandarin lessons almost the day we arrive, that sense of being ‘blocked off’ is not pleasant.

It’s not so much that I won’t be able to communicate – there’s always rudimentary ways in the short-term – it’s more that I will miss out/not understand elements that gives each culture it’s own identity.

What I especially loved in the UK was listening to other people’s conversation and ‘getting it’. I don’t just mean understanding the topic of their conversation, but the little references that only made sense to someone who grew up in that country and at that specific moment in time.

I overheard someone in a pub talking about how his boss always talked to him like Ted Rodgers in 80’s crappy TV show ‘3-2-1’ … and I immediately knew what he meant. I like that and whilst I know I’m dreaming to think I’ll ever get to that level in China, I look forward to the day where my language skills and China cultural network are at a point where I am not always walking totally in the dark.

On the positive, I’ve been doing this sort of thing for quite a while so I have some ‘tricks’ up my sleeve that will help speed up the process – but China is an unbelievably complicated beast so I’m very grateful that I’ve got some awesome friends and colleagues there who can help fill in the blanks as I throw myself into things.

But back to being back …

So we had a great time … a seriously great time … but now that’s over and we have a shitload to do in the next 10 days.

You’d be amazed just how much has to be done when you’re moving country … it’s a minefield of red tape and pettiness but luckily I’ve done it enough times to realise that at moments like these, you don’t fight the system, you just go along with it even if it makes no sense at all.

When we first moved to Singapore the Government wanted me to get a letter from the British Embassey stating they were not against my relationship with Jill. This despite the fact I’d not lived there for 10 years and at that point, had never been there with her.

It made no sense but all pointing this out did, was create more hassle and complication because Singapore immigration doesn’t “do” common sense, it just does “what the process says”.

So the fact the Chinese Government wanted my original school results despite not being at school since 1986 didn’t matter … I dutifully got them for them … and the demand by the removal company to detail EVERY SINGLE THING WE OWN IN THE HOUSE, DOWN TO THE NUMBER OF FORKS, just caused my blood pressure to rise rather than my voice … and the thing is, it’s quite good for me because my natural tendency is to call a spade a fucking shovel and deal with the issue right there and then whereas this way, I have to show a modicum of calm and that has to be better for my health doesn’t it?

On top of all that, this is my final week at Sunshine.

I don’t know about you – but I always find leaving a company weird.

Of course you tend to leave a job because there’s an element/s that you’re not happy with … but that doesn’t mean you haven’t forged some truly deep connections with the people you’ve spent 12 hours a day with over the last few years.

For me, leaving a company is like splitting up with someone but wanting to maintain a relationship with their family and whilst that is [1] not always practical and [2] the worst analogy in the World … it’s going to be quite difficult because there’s some people there who genuinely mean the World to me and not seeing/working/talking to them everyday is going to make life a little less enjoyable.

So here we go … the week of hell … but you know what, life’s even sweeter when you’ve gone through some trials and tribulations so even though I’d rather be chilled out and watching the footie, the next 10 days are the corridor to excitement and discovery and for that, I [sort-of] happily accept the oncoming assault of shit.



Happy Birthday Paul …
June 16, 2010, 8:59 am
Filed under: Comment

So today my oldest and dearest friend Paul Hill turns 40.

I’ve known him since day 1 and throughout my 4 decades of life, he has always been there – good times and bad – making me feel loved, protected and never alone.

I know that sounds unbelievably gay [and I did once say if he was an attractive woman, I’d marry him] but he is an incredibly special and wonderful person.

Because 40 is a pretty significant age, I wanted to get him something special … something that showed him and told him how much he meant to me, how much I treasure his friendship, loyalty and humanity.

To be honest, it was quite hard to think of something because I wanted it to be unique – not something he’s had, or is likely to have in the future – so after much thought we [ie: me and Jill] came up with an idea we think is pretty cool, which is why if you buy today’s Nottingham Evening Post and turn to page 24*, you will find the following full page ad :

Pauls Ad

[Ignore the quality of the image, it’s a copy of a copy, the real thing is razor sharp]

To say I am excited to see his reaction is a massive understatement [it’s a bit confusing because I will have seen it by the time this post is up, however as I pre-wrote it, I didn’t know what it was at the time of writing] … though if he says he would have preferred the money, I’m going to shove it down his ungrateful gob, ha!

Happy Birthday my dear Paul … thank you for everything … you’ve done more than you’ll ever know, but don’t expect anything like this when we turn 50, this was strictly one-time performance, ha

*I know the day is almost over by the time you read this post, but I couldn’t risk him seeing it before he read the paper.

____________________________________________________________

UPDATE

So the Nottingham Evening Post found the whole thing so amusing that last night they did an interview with me about the idea and featured it on page 3 of the paper.

Yep … I guess that makes me Britain’s first Page 3 Male Stunna!

Fortunately their website doesn’t show the cheesy picture that accompanied the article but you can read it [along with the lovely comments] here.

Paul was absolutely gob-smacked.

I turned up [after buying all the editions from the local shop] at his work with a card and then casually dropped in that he should read an ad that is totally stupid. The smile on his face was sheer magic – even more so when he realised it wasn’t actually a mocked-up copy of the paper, but an ad that was going to appear in every edition of the day … but without doubt the best bit is the Nottingham Evening Post like the story so much, they are doing a follow up article tomorrow so we’re both being photographed later in the day.

It was expensive. It is ridiculous. But he is worth it and it’s gone better than I ever dared hope.

Happy Birthday Paul, hope the day continues to have [lovely] surprisies.



Happy Birthday Sweetheart …
June 15, 2010, 6:00 am
Filed under: Comment

DSC01816 In best ‘moody’ pose

I know the best present I could give you is a days peace, but sadly all I can offer is the promise of not moaning through every mind numbing minute of our visit to my version of [historical] hell.

You lucky lady.

Lots of love my wonderful wife.