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So today is the last day I write this blog for over 2 weeks.
As I said on Monday, I’m off on holiday – and while I’m sure you find this incredible, given the amount of time off I’ve had this year – the fact is it’s true.
I leave tomorrow, return 9th December, then 2 weeks after that we have Christmas holidays then New Year holidays and then – literally a couple of weeks after that – Chinese New Year holidays.
And to think some people don’t actually want to move here. Fools.
Anyway, as it’s the last post for the next 2 weeks [and it will be, because Jill will kick me in the head if she so much as see’s me use any technology while we’re away] I want to leave you all with a bit of a sentimental post.
“Oh no” I hear you cry.
But I’m asking you to bear with me on this. At least for a little bit.
I was recently in another city for work.
I was sat at the desk in my hotel room, looking out at the bustling city as the sun was starting to set on a beautiful – if bitterly cold – day.
Some nondescript music was playing in the background when my attention was suddenly drawn to a Facebook message that had just come through.
I looked down and saw it was a message from someone I had literally not seen – or spoken to – for 19 years.
Now I need to give you a bit of background on this character.
Many, many years ago, I was in a band.
We were quite good, had quite a following and big things were expected of us.
Anyway, along the way, we acquired a bunch of mates who all helped us out in different ways.
Some with transportation. Some with publicity. Some just coming to every gig.
One of these mates was our bass players flatmate.
Despite being quite a bit older than us and having experienced a rather ‘textured’ life … he was a good man and really wanted us to do well.
Anyway, one day, I went to our bass players house only to find that his flatmate had gone.
He’d packed his stuff and left without a note.
He’d also left with one of my guitars.
It wasn’t an overly expensive guitar, but it was still mine.
I was obviously fucked off, but it was apparent he had bigger issues in his life so just accepted it was ‘one of those things’.
Zoom forward 19 years and here he was, messaging me via Facebook.
I responded warmly, because  I was genuinely interested to hear why he had got in touch and  despite the incident with the guitar, I had always liked him.
Within seconds, I got a reply.
It was an apology.
A request for forgiveness.
He said he had always felt terrible about stealing my guitar but he had found himself in trouble that required him to leave Nottingham in a hurry and to do that, he had to get as much money as he could as quickly as he could.
He wanted me to know this incident had always played on his mind and he felt he just had to reach out and say sorry and face the consequences, because he honestly felt he could not move forward properly unless he addressed this issue.
I read this email a number of times.
Over and over again.
He he was, a man of 50, pouring his heart out to someone he’d not seen or spoken to for 19 years about an incident that – while wrong – was relatively small in the big scheme of things.
I wrote back to him.
I said the only thing I was really upset about was that he hadn’t felt he could tell me about his issue so I could try and help. And while I’d of rather he’d not stolen my property, I knew he would not do it unless he literally felt trapped in a corner.
There was a big pause between me sending this and him replying.
When he did, it was short, but no less powerful.
He said, thank you. He said he was grateful for my response. He said the weight that had lifted off his shoulders was unimaginable.
This made me happy.
Sure, he’d made me angry when he stole the guitar, but the price he paid for this act was 19 years of slow, nagging, guilt … the worst kind.
Now I know you might think I’m going over-the-top with this given he’d managed to get through 19 years before making contact, but the fact is he did. He didn’t have to. He could of kept quiet because the chance of us ever running into each other was almost zero.
And here’s the thing, as good as he felt that he’d come clean [which I genuinely believe was more important to him than me forgiving him] I also felt good he’d admitted to it.
Sometimes in our work lives, we forget we’re dealing with people.
The pressure, the speed, the expectation results in us focusing on the destination, not the journey.
Tempers can get frayed, arguments can happen, tears can occasionally flow … it’s all shit to be honest, given it’s only a job and it’s only bloody advertising.
Which is why I think if you’ve done something wrong, it’s always worth holding up your hands to it.
Sure, sometimes someone thinks you’ve fucked up when you don’t – and that’s another thing altogether – however there are many times, where you know the way you acted or responded wasn’t right and yet you try hard to forget about it, or write it off as just ‘the way work sometimes makes us’.
But the thing is, you never forget.
And the ‘victim’ never forgets.
It niggles and prods away in the background and as much as you can try to act like it’s not bothering you, you know it does.
Which is why when it happens, it’s always good to come clean.
The respondent might not be as forgiving as I was with my ex-bass players, ex-flatmate, but after you’ve done it, you’ll finally understand why people say ‘honesty is the best policy’ because even if there are ramifications, the sense of emotional freedom you get can never be underestimated.
Though obviously the best thing is to try and not fuck up in the first place. That is an even better policy than honesty, so to speak.
I know the guy who took my guitar doesn’t read this blog. But if he ever does, I want him to know I always thought highly of him, but now I feel he’s even more of a good man.
See you in a few weeks.
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Have a look at this …
… hopefully you went to the very end and saw that rather than being an infographic for bad Hollywood movie cliches, it’s actually an ad for a film festival, summed up with the line:
“Watch Films, Not Movies – There Is A Difference”.
To be honest, I like the idea behind the execution more than the execution, but I like the line.
Maybe it’s because it’s planner wanky or maybe, as the owner of thousands of documentaries, it ‘speaks’ to me [ignoring the fact I love Hollywood schlock and Jerry Springer is a cultural beacon for me] but whatever the reason, it engages people who might not normally go to a film festival … thinking they’re inhabited by film students who sit around in stripy tops, playing with their beards and contemplating how to capture the darkness of civilisation within their parody comedy that they wrote when they were 5 years old or something.
And that’s just the women. [Boom Tish]
Anyway, I don’t often praise work on here and compared to many of the campaigns I’ve liked [like this or this], it’s probably the weakest – it’s certainly the ugliest – but I go on holiday in 2 days so I’m feeling particularly generous which is why I should go before I start to make myself as ill as you’re probably feeling right now.
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Quick question, how many people still use MSN Messenger these days?
I, as I’m sure a lot of you guys still do, have it on my computers – and my phone – but I never use it, preferring all manner of alternatives from WeChat and Skype to Whatsapp to something called ‘having a conversation’.
Anyway, I’d be really interested to know if:
1. You have it on your computer/phone.
2. Whether you still use it.
3. What is your main choice for instant messaging these days.
Don’t worry, this is not a ruse for me to find out your social media tools so I can quickly ‘friend’ you to stop looking like I’m Billy-No-Mates [also known as ‘Billy’], it’s a genuine question which I’d love you to answer, even though I know all I’ll get in return is abuse. Ta and Ta-ra.
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Following on from Friday’s post, I have another ‘moment of reflection’ I want to write about.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”, I hear you cry.
Well bad luck, it’s my blog and I can upset you if I want to.
The good news is that on Friday I go away again.
For 2 weeks.
Yes, you guessed it … I am on holiday.
If it’s any consolation, this is ‘proper’ holiday, not a Government mandated one.
Did that help?
No I didn’t think so.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that if you put up with this sentimental post … and a couple more this week … you’re then free from me for 2 weeks.
Seriously, I’ve been away so much this year that you’ve probably only had to endure 30 posts for all of 2013, so stop with your whining and let me get on with it.
So I have a bike.
A lovely, shiny, super nice bike.
One with pedals, not a motor.
I have always loved bikes.
Maybe it’s because I come from Nottingham – the home of Raleigh, where the Chopper and Grifter originated or maybe it’s because it was the first ‘vehicle’ that gave me my first taste of freedom – but I’ve always had a soft spot for them.
I say that, but after I learnt to drive, I never used a bike again, turning my back on my lovely BMX Tuff Burner in favour of a 950cc, D-reg, Ford Fiesta.
[Actually, I’ve just realised that the wheels on the Tuff Burner might explain why I ordered a special wheel for the bike I’ve just bought. It hasn’t come yet, but now, when I get it, I’ll always think of the BMX I feel guilty about tossing away in favour of a crap Ford Fiesta, with less than a 1 litre engine and only one wing mirror. Weird]
Yes, it’s THAT long ago.
Anyway, I recently this one made for me by the guys at WTF and I love it.
To prove how much I love it, I ride it every day – even though the roads of Shanghai are a total war zone.
Seriously, it’s insane … and ironically, I genuinely believe part of the reason for that is because of the good ol’ push bike.
You see cars are a relatively new phenomenon in China and so people’s frame of reference for ‘vehicle navigation’ is based bicycles, which means people think nothing of pushing their way to the front of queues or squeezing through narrow gaps if they sense they can keep moving forward.
Of course there’s other reasons, but I swear to god that’s part of it.
Anyway, I digress …
So I have this bike and I ride it every day.
When I get to work, it’s always a bit of a nightmare, because I have to get it in the lift, go up to the 4th floor then somehow activate the security key to open the door, while holding a coffee and not letting my bike fall … because it doesn’t have a stand and it somehow doesn’t like leaning against a wall easily.
For months, I’ve been using a method that involves shoulder barging or wheel pushing the door until literally a week ago, I went …
“Why don’t I just leave my bike on the floor, open the door, then pick it up again?”
So I did, and unsurprisingly, it works.
Now this would obviously be obvious to you, but to me, it was a revelation.
The irony being, as a kid, I thought nothing of riding my bike as fast as I could then jumping off to let it free wheel ahead of me, before collapsing in a dramatic heap.
I wasn’t doing it to damage it, I loved that bike, it was just part of what we did as kids.
Along side pulling wheelies.
And jumping over a bunch of people who stupidly were lying down next to a few bricks and a piece of wood that was acting as a ‘jump off point’.
OK, so this bike costs more than my Grifter or Tuff Burner put together, but the fact my brain had deleted the option of ‘leave my bike on the floor for a second’ really intrigued me.
Is it because I now appreciate the value of money?
Is it because I love that bike so much, I never want it to get dirty?
Is it because I’m just a sad, thick, bastard?
Well, let’s be honest, it’s probably the last option … but I also think it is about just having a more care-free attitude as a kid.
I know there’s nothing new in that statement, but when you actually remember the fundamental difference between how you once were and how you are now, it’s quite a shock to the system.
Most of the time we forget how we once acted or we craft our memories to not feel so silly. And of course, there’s many things we do now that are a million miles better than we used to be … but that freedom you once had was – with the benefit of hindsight – quite infectious and yet so few of us realise that until it’s either too late or we’re hit with a moment of adult ridiculousness.
Or that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.
Update: The wheel came. It bloody came. YES!!! What that means is my modern day BMX Tuff Burner is now complete. I know you couldn’t give a shit, but I love it – and given it is decidedly ‘old technology’, that is doubly amazing!
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I am not a fan of Real Madrid or Gareth Bale [even though he was – at one time – days away from joining Nottingham Forest] however I recently saw a photo of his reaction having scored his first goal at the Bernabeu and I have to say it blew me away.
Good isn’t it.
Yes, I know a lot comes from the angle of the photographer, but to me, he literally looks like he’s flying.
In that single photo, you see the explosion of both relentless pressure and unstoppable exhilaration.
When I saw it, in a weird way, it reminded me of when I was a kid.
I know … I know … playing footie on the fields of Greythorn Drive park, using jumpers for goalposts and playing with/against some friends from the estate where every game ended something like 21-18 probably doesn’t come anywhere close to the feeling of being the World’s most expensive footballer, playing for one of the World’s most loved and watched teams in one of the most competitive leagues in the World – but as I’ve never have played professionally, I wouldn’t know.
What I do know is the feeling of playing was great but the feeling of scoring was incredible.
Yes, even as a kid in a no-league game.
That sensation might have only lasted a second, but you knew you had done something important, something no one could take away from you.
You stood taller. You ran a little bit faster. You had that little more confidence.
It let you go into the next game with a slightly different attitude.
On one hand, the belief you had – even if it was in your own mind – a slightly better reputation than the one you had at the last game. On the other, it was the fear you wouldn’t live up to it and you’d slide back down the pecking order.
The easiest – and most obvious – way to judge this was how long it was before one of the team captains picked you to join their side.
Being in the last 3 was terrible.
Being the last 1 was disastrous.
If you were one of the first 3 or 4 to be picked, you knew you were wanted … you had people who believed in you … you have some chops.
That was great. That made you feel good about yourself.
But if you were in the bottom 3 of choices, it was totally the opposite.
You were like the ‘wooden spoon’ for the club that ended up with you.
And it was always ‘ended up with you’. You never felt picked.
If you were the 3rd from bottom, you were the best of a bad bunch.
Second from bottom and you were ‘at least better than the other one, but still a liability’.
Bottom and you were the booby prize … the ‘thing’ no one wanted and was basically shoved in goal because they believed they would be so good, you’d never be called upon and couldn’t fuck up their game.
I was in that situation more than once and I swear to god, Mr Bale probably was as well.
And that’s why that photo probably had such an effect on me, because it reminded me of those times as a kid where ‘success’ was not about getting stuff or being told stuff, it was when you felt a level of emotion that could only be expressed by jumping in the air and screaming from the bottom of your lungs.
Infectious success, as I call it.
Sadly, I don’t get that feeling anywhere as much any more.
Sure, there are moments, but it’s not the same and certainly not as often.
Maybe – and probably – it’s because I’m 43 not 13, but I miss it.
Though what I’m probably saying is I miss being 13, despite acting it most of the time.
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This is Thomas Harvey.
He works at W+K Portland and is a Southern gent.
No, that doesn’t mean he’s from London, it means he’s from the place where they talk slowly, say Sir and Ma’am after every sentence and like everything fried.
He’s a good man … and, sort-of like our Old Spice campaign, he can make you feel you are the man you wish your man was like.
That doesn’t make sense does it?
OK, let me explain what I am trying to explain …
Every year at W+K Portland, there’s a pie making/eating contest. It’s a lot of fun and mayhem and it helps raise funds and laughs for charity.
At this very moment, this event is happening.
Seriously, you can check it out by going here.
Anyway, because Thomas is a suit, he has no problem selling out his principals, so when you ‘sponsor’ him [he’s doing it for cancer research], he will show his gratitude by boosting your self esteem and basically letting you feel like you’re the man you wish/delude yourself you were like.
Don’t believe me?
Just look at the comments and eventually you will see what I mean.
Yes, this means he is a charity prostitute, but he’s a lovely charity prostitute.
[Did that clear up the confusion? No? Bugger!]
Anyway, for a small fee you can save lives and delude yourself you are loved and important, so head over to the W+K Pie site, click on Thomas’ name, make a donation, pay on Paypal and sit back and enjoy the attention and charm of a Southern gent.
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A while back, a headhunter in the UK got in touch and asked if I’d “like a chat”.
While I love W+K – and told them that – I said I also love chatting to people, so if they didn’t think it a waste of their time, I’d be up for it if they were.
So we sorted out a mutually agreeable time and made it happen.
I wish I hadn’t.
I can honestly say, the 30 minutes I spoke to her were one of the worst uses of my time ever.
Apart from the fact, her view of what great advertising was – and should be – was up it’s own arse, her response to having someone have a different opinion was downright rude.
And lets face it, where rude is concerned, I’m a master of it.
When I said I disagreed with her view that agency creativity and client commerciality are separate things – and then added the whole point of our industry is to help our clients prosper in some way – she replied with …
“You’re a true child of the Thatcher years”.
What an idiot.
Seriously, a fucking idiot.
Putting aside her ridiculous – and utterly wrong – statement, the fact is adland is in the commercial creative business, not the creative business.
It has absolutely nothing to do with political allegiance, it’s got everything to do with making a living.
It was at this point I informed her that it was 2013 and not 1983 and part of the reason our industry now had to contend with over zealous procurement departments and sceptical clients was because of the attitude she was peddling.
The conversation ended shortly after – very shortly after – but what really struck me was that if this was the sort of person our industry was relying on to help fill our agencies with ‘talent’, then for all the talk our industry likes to spout regarding ‘being business focused’, the fact is we have our heads in the sand even more than I feared.
Being commercially focused is not a bad thing.
Christ, it’s a great thing.
Money literally makes the World go round and allows you to do/fix things that might otherwise never get done.
The issue is always HOW you make it and what you DO with it once you’ve got it … and anyone who doesn’t appreciate that – or thinks it means you have to make ‘cliche driven, rationale advertising’ is part of the problem, not the solution.