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


Some Things I Love About England …
March 29, 2013, 6:04 am
Filed under: Comment

I love England.

Yes, I know I don’t live there and I am half Italian, but I love it.

Not just because my Mum is there or my friends or Nottingham Forest or kebab cob specials from Nick the Greeks on Radcliffe Road, I love England for a whole bunch of reasons, from the humour and quirkiness to the pomp and ceremony.

But recently, on my last trip a few weeks ago, I was reminded of another reason I love Blighty and it starts with a visit to my family Doctor’s.

So there I was, sitting in the waiting room of the local GP.

Despite having not sat in there for at least 15 years, it felt the same – probably because it was the same – with the same receptionist, chairs and magazines.

But then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a poster … a medical poster … and it made me fall even more in love with my homeland.

This was it:

Yes, it says the word poo.

Yes, it proudly refers to bloody and loose poo.

But that’s its charm.

Not because I’m some sort of freak sex pervert [ie: Chuck Berry. Allegedly] … but because it’s so utterly, utterly down-to-earth.

In this World of political correctness and professionalism, it’s very pleasing [at least to me] to see something written with absolutely zero pretense.

It’s not just very, very human … it’s also very, very British.

Forget all the buzz words.

Forget all the medical terms.

Let’s talk about good ol’ bloody & loose poo.

Brilliant.

God bless you England. It’s these things that make you wonderful and missable.



Is This The Worst Ad Of 2013?
March 28, 2013, 6:19 am
Filed under: Comment

Yes, I’m back. Did you miss me?

No, I didn’t think so.

Bastards!

Look, I know you think I get way too many days off, but it’s either to do with work or family … so it’s not like I’m sitting on my ass and living the dream.

Did that convince you?

Damn. OK, in that case, let’s get on with boring the shit out of you.

I always thought advertising was to attract, charm, intrigue and engage people.

Make them feel something positive towards the brand or product communicating to them.

Make them, at the very least, want to know more.

But it appears I was wrong.

Based on this ad, it’s to make sure people ignore it or, at the very least, ridicule it.

I have to say, they have gone to great lengths to achieve this.

From the utterly terrible ‘thermal effect’ of the photo to the most boring image for an ad ever created [seriously, why the hell would anyone be engaged by a picture of 2 women – one of which appears to think highly of herself when she shouldn’t – walking past some stiff, tall bloke?] to the decision to name a conference RIMS.

Throw in the fact the ad doesn’t explain what the conference is about or who it’s for – though I’m guessing rimming pervert aficionado’s might be the target audience – and it all adds up to an idea that makes Pizza Hut’s decision to launch a pizza flavoured perfume look good … and that’s one of the most terrible, stupid, atrocious ideas ever created!

So to the people who are responsible for this monstrosity – from the agency, to the organizers – while you will soon learn that not all publicity is good publicity, I have to congratulate you on producing the worst thing of 2013 which up until this point, I was sure was going to be awarded to my mate for the horrific mess he made of my bathroom after he decided to eat 9 different curries in one sitting.



Thank Mr Wieden & Mr Kennedy …
March 25, 2013, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

… because to celebrate Founders Day – which admittedly is a few days early – I, and all my colleagues, have buggered off for a couple of days for fun, frolics and drunkenness.

Well I say that, but we all know my version of the company getaway will be:

1. Drink diet coke.
2. Try to get my colleagues to acknowledge me.
3. Give up and go to my room to listen to Queen and watch some z-grade documentary.

But hey, a few days off work is still a few days off work.

Anyway, what this all means is that you get a couple of days rest from my blog rubbish – which is worth being a fan of W+K for, if nothing else.

See you Thursday.



The Real Reason Apple Is Failing …
March 22, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

No, this is not going to be a rant about their supposed lack of innovation.

How they seem to be obsessed creating products based on their eco-system, which means everything ends up being a derivative of the iPhone.

Nor will I talk about how Kickstarter seemingly is the place to go to witness glimpses of the future rather than Apple.com.

I’m not going to mention any of that because:

1. Too many unqualified people have said these sorts of thing already.

2. Apple are still doing incredibly well, thank-you-very-much.

3. Most companies would sell their grandmother in the blink of an eye to be as innovative & as successful as them.

4. I still buy their products in the bucketload.

5. My ex-colleague, Baz, is there and he’s ridiculously smart and he wouldn’t let things go on like that if they were truly that bad.

[Did you like how I used the Sir Martin Sorrell technique of saying what you’re not going to say so you can say it?]

No … what I’m going to do is explain why Apple are [allegedly] losing their momentum because of something entirely different.

Bad choice of partners.

Yes, I’ve said it … Apple’s taste in partners is going downhill.

OK … OK … I know they never let these things go too far down the road to end up hurting them, but the time, effort and cost that occurs because of choosing the wrong partner must have some negative commercial implications at some point.

What the hell am I going on about?

Well a few days ago I received an email from a recruitment company called Multimage.

This is what it said:

__________________________________________________________________________

Hi Rob

This is XXXXXX from Multimage, a headhunter.

Our company is expertise in sourcing high quality personnel for large multination corporation to fill in their executive and managerial positions.

This position from: Apple, based in Beijing, China.

Waiting your feedback and CV.

Any question let me know.

__________________________________________________________________________

Now putting aside the terrible grammar [which I sort-of can accept because they’re based in China], the obvious ‘cut & paste’ element of the note and the overall clinical coldness of the correspondence, it gets worse.

Much, much worse.

How?

Because the actual job they wanted to fill was for a ‘Cross Functional Producer’.

WHAT THE FUCK IS A CROSS FUNCTIONAL PRODUCER!!!

At what point did this person think I would be appropriate?

I don’t even know what a cross functional producer is or does.

In addition, when I looked at the ‘job requirements’, it said this:

+ Bachelors degree, MBA a plus.

+ Ability to work both at a strategic and executional level, often within the same hour.

+ Fluency in Mandarin and English is required, both spoken and written.

Fucking hell.

Apart from the fact I don’t have many O levels, let alone a degree and my level of English proficiency is only mildly better than my Mandarin, who the fuck ‘sells’ a job by saying you have to be strategic and executional – often within the same hour.

What the hell is going on at Apple?

Are they actually complicit in this sort of rubbish or simply a victim of choosing a bad recruitment firm?

Given the fact Apple are micro-managers of the highest order, I can only assume they approved this rubbish.

Terrifying.

But all that aside – which is almost impossible to do – the recruitment firm in question needs to take a long hard look at itself.

I don’t just mean for the bad impression they are giving about themselves [let alone their client], but for the utterly terrible process they have seemingly adopted to identify possible candidates … a process that clients are paying for because they’re under the impression this recruitment firm is ‘diligent and professional’ in their quest to identify the best possible talent for whatever specialised role they’re endeavouring to fill.

Despicable.

Seriously, based on this first impression, I don’t think I’d respond to an email from Multimage even if they were talking about a job as Angelina Jolie & Megan Fox’s vibrator so for their sake, I hope this is an isolated incident that they can learn from because if it isn’t, the implications and ramifications are scary. Not just for them, but for every client and candidate they deal with.

Now while I’m sure Apple would never see anyone put forward by Multimage unless they had the right credentials, they need to stop their partners getting away with this sort of shit because to me – not only is it terrible business practice [both in terms of cash and efficiency] it makes me question the quality and standards they are currently living by.

Over to you Baz.



Fuck Yoda, Listen To Marley …
March 21, 2013, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

I don’t know whether it was because I was fascinated by rhythm and melody or whether I just liked music that had shit lyrics, but when I was younger, I never really gave a damn about the words of my favorite songs.

Hell, even when I was touring with my band – Bangkok Shakes – I still didn’t know the lyrics to songs and that includes the ones we wrote … whereas my wife, who is a lot younger than me [but then, who isn’t!?] can quote lyrics to pretty much any song, even the ones she doesn’t like.

Mental.

Actually, what’s even more mental is that years later, I built a planning ‘process’ around song lyrics … of which my greatest moment was when I revealed to a bunch of young, hip, urban, NYC-based kids that the lyrics they’d chosen as best reflecting their feelings about life were by Twisted Sister – a band they’d never heard of and, when I showed them their picture and played them the song the lyrics came from [We’re Not Going To Take It], a band they never wanted to hear of again.

Anyway, maybe it’s because I’ve become more mature [doubtful] or that I recently interviewed my teen-nemesis Morrissey [also doubtful], but I’ve been noticing more and more how song lyrics capture insights better than a lot of researchers and – to a certain extent – planners.

OK, so not all song lyrics do this – in fact it’s probably the minority – but when they get it right, it’s pretty powerful stuff.

Am I telling you anything you didn’t know?

Of course not, this information has been obvious to everyone for fucking years … but fortunately this post isn’t about how slow I am to grasp concepts, it’s all a massive preamble to me talking about a Bob Marley quote.

Again.

Poor Bob.

Just recently, I came across this:

Maybe it’s because I’ve just come back from seeing my Mum – a woman that exemplifies this spirit – or maybe it’s just my long love affair with the whole notion of ‘triumph over adversity’ – but when I read that quote, it resonated with me on an incredibly deep level.

The reason I say my Mum exemplifies this attitude is that she has been thrown a number of curve balls in her life – curve balls that had the ability to literally undermine everything she believed, valued and cared for – and yet every time, she was able to overcome them, often by discovery a sense of strength, character and persistence that she didn’t know existed within her.

She is, quite honestly, an inspiration.

The reason I say this is because I recently met a planner who was completely – and absolutely – the opposite to this.

OK, I appreciate matching up to my Mum would be a tough act to follow – especially in the eyes of her adoring son – but this planner managed to make me angry almost within 5 minutes of meeting them.

Don’t get me wrong, they were perfectly nice, smart and charming … but that still didn’t hide the fact that for all their talk of being curious about life, everything they did – or didn’t do – was based on their desire to maintain the life and lifestyle they felt comfortable with.

What really set me off was when they said they were going to turn down a 2 month freelance gig in the Middle East because – “they didn’t want to be away from home for so long”, “didn’t speak the language” and – I shit you not – “it is too hot”.

Now, while I appreciate we all have different levels of comfort and acceptance, these excuses [and that is all they were] made me angry.

As I’ve said before, despite our repeated attempts to own the term, ‘curiosity’ is not something unique to planners.

In fact, it’s something that is unique to no one – it’s human nature – it’s just some use it more than others … and I’d argue planners feature pretty way down the pecking order compared to disciplines such as medicine, law and teaching to name but a few.

Now while I accept going to live in another country could be regarded as rather extreme [even if it’s just for just 2 months], going through life with the attitude of only wanting to engage with the things you’re comfortable with means you’re not only going to miss out on all the amazing things life is capable of giving you and showing you, but you’re also going to miss out discovering what you’re capable of achieving and being.

With that in mind, whenever you are faced with an opportunity – or a challenge – that makes you feel uncomfortable, I recommend you remember the above words of Bob Marley and go for it. And if they don’t inspire you, then I suggest you simply remember this awesome quote from Mae West:

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”



A Post From History …
March 20, 2013, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment

I’m writing this at 8am on Thursday, 21st February, 2013.

I know this isn’t the day it’s appearing on this blog, but let’s ignore that for now.

Last night, I couldn’t sleep.

Not because I’d consumed copious amounts of coffee the day before, but because I felt wired with energy.

OK, so maybe it was to do with the copious amounts of coffee.

But there were other reasons too .

On one side, I have a meeting in about 5 hours time that’s going to be ‘feisty as all fuck’ … something I’m actually very excited about, because it’s all for the right reasons and something that will [hopefully] lead to awesomeness being snatched from the jaws of conservative, fear-ridden, culturally-condecending defest.

On the other side, I have my trip with my Mum to North Poleland starting in 3 days and I just want everything to be awesome for her.

I know she’ll be happy with just the fact we’re all together, but she deserves the best of everything and I just want to make it happen.

So when I left for the office this morning, I felt very on edge … a combination of wired energy and sleep depravation … and then I stepped out to this:

I know what you’re thinking … WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT!?

Well, what it is, is a sign that after a long, cold, dark, bleak winter in Shanghai … spring is bounding towards me.

Blue sky.

Bitter wind replaced with a calm tranquility.

The suns golden glow gently warming up the grey pavements.

Suddenly Shanghai has become a better place to live.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Shanghai – and China – but I must admit, the winters here are pretty horrible. I know … I know … there are places with far worse winter months, but having spent 16 years living in sunny climates [places where winter meant 25 degrees instead of 35] living in a land where you might never feel the sun, let alone see it, is bloody hard to cope with.

First World problems eh!

OK, I know that makes me sound a petty, pampered Prince … but the fact is, I never realised how much the weather affected my mood but now I live in a place that genuinely has seasons again, I know it does – just ask my colleagues – ha.

But seriously, as soon as I stepped out from my front door and saw nature had put on a show for me … all the angst, nervousness, raw energy that was inside, slipped away to be replaced with a sense of positivity and happiness.

Yes, happiness … and I thought that was only possible for me if I had a gadget in my hand, some Queen music in my ears or some Birkenstocks on my feet!

[OK, so I had an iPhone in my hand because that’s what I took the photo with, but stop being picky … you know what I mean]

Of course, by the time this post is posted [ie: today] I’ll know whether this sense of optimism and happiness translated to me being successful in my feisty as fuck argument and North Pole holiday, but regardless of how they turn out [please, let them both be great!!!], the majesty of nature – that thing that is all around us if we just open our eyes and look up to the sky rather than down to our phones – made it a day worth writing about and that’s saying something for someone who recently got described by a client as “a tech groupie, prostitute”.

And yes, I do realise this is the most indulgent, hypocritical, z-grade Oprah post I’ve possibly ever written …

Sorry.

_______________________________________________________________________________

UPDATE: If you’re thinking this post wasn’t worth reading, I’ve now discovered it wasn’t even worth writing because I’d basically already said all this back in 2011.

Now I know how you must feel reading this rubbish.



Love Lasts …
March 19, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So I recently came across a wonderful love story.

A love story that needed just 3 minutes 37 seconds to convey all the emotions, history and experiences of two people’s lives together.

I should point out this love story wasn’t the contrived bollocks you read in Mills & Boon books nor the rose tinted bollocks you get from Hollywood – but a real, live, wonderful love story … full of happiness, pain, ups and downs.

In just 3 minutes, 37 seconds.

Before I get to it, I need to give you a bit of a background.

Two artists, Marina Abramovic and Ulay fell in love in the 1970s.

It was an intense relationship – where they spent all their time together, living in a van and performing their art wherever they found themselves.

However in the mid-80’s, they felt their relationship was coming to an end.

Rather than break up in an explosion of accusation and aggression .. they decided to end their relationship in flamboyant and dramatic style.

Each person went to the opposite end of the Great Wall of China – Ulay from the Gobi Desert, Marina from the Yellow Sea – and then walked towards eachother, all 2500km of it.

Eventually they met in the middle, where they gave eachother one last hug and then walked away … knowing they would never see each other again.

Told you it was dramatic.

Anyway, in 2010, Marina exhibited her ‘The Artist Is Present’ work at MOMA in NYC.

This consisted of her sharing a minutes silence with any stranger who sat in front of her.

Without her knowledge, Ulay arrived and this is what happened.

Isn’t that beautiful?

So much is said without being said.

OK, I know I’m ridiculously sentimental … but I just love that after almost 22 years, there was still an incredible amount of love and warmth between the two, maybe more than either of them ever imagined there would be or could be.

Of course I don’t mean it in the ‘in love’ sense, but in the ‘love and care’ sense.

Maybe this has something to do with the fact my dream has always been that the month before I die, I get to meet every person who has ever had a positive – and significant – impact on my life so I can say ‘thank you’ to them and ask how their life has been … or maybe it’s because I once experienced a semi-similar situation to the one Marina and Ulay went through.

When I was very young, I was in love with a girl called Helen.

We were at school together and though everyone knew I liked her and she liked me – nothing ever happened other than furtive glances, smiles and the odd bit of good-natured teasing.

Anyway, about 15 years later – when I was living in Sydney – I discovered she was there on her honeymoon.

I couldn’t let the chance pass, so I got in touch with her and not only did she remember who I was [thank god!], she wanted to catch up … so with a hint of nervousness and a dollop of curiosity, I set off to meet her and her husband [who I discovered was a guy we both went to school with]

She hadn’t changed.

Well, obviously she had – but her lovliness and beauty was still there.

Despite not seeing her for almost 2 decades, the warmth was obviously still there as well.

Not – I should add – in the ‘in love’ sense, but in the ‘care and love’ sense.

Anyway, I took them both out for a congratulatory dinner and half way through, her husband got up to use the bathroom.

It was then I took my chance to say something I had waited many, many years to say.

I told her how glad I was to see her.

I told her how I had always thought the World of her.

I told her how I had often wondered what she was up to.

I told her how she was one of the high points of my school days.

I should point I didn’t say this in a mass of emotions, I was very calm … in the way only a person who is [finally] at peace with who they are can be.

And you know what she did?

She grabbed my hand, burst into tears and repeated the words back to me.

All of them.

She was happy to see me.

She had always thought the World of me.

She had often wondered what I was up to.

I was one of the high points of her school days.

It was at this point her husband walked in.

I can’t imagine what he thought seeing his wife in tears, holding the hand of another man – a man he knew his wife had once liked because he was at school with us – but he was very cool about it.

And so he should be, because these weren’t the emotions of ‘long lost love’ speaking, but that of 2 people who had once cared deeply for each other, finally being able to express what they had held in for so many years.

It meant we finally ‘officially’ knew we had been important to each other and, more importantly, we would always remember each other because of that.

So while neither of us have ever seen or spoken to each other since, I feel that day we achieved connection & closure in the most beautiful of ways & for that, I am truly grateful.