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

Flying Backwards …
March 31, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

It’s Monday, our favourite day of the week.

But don’t get too downhearted, because as I said on Friday, I’m currently flying back to Singapore which means this is all I could be bothered to write for today.

Consider it my gift to you.

The bad news? It all goes back to normal tomorrow.

And by normal, I mean terrible. But you knew that already.

There is some even worse news … at least for me.

You see I’ll be flying to Singapore on a Boeing 777, the same plane that tragically went missing recently.

Worse, I’m also flying back on a 777, on pretty much the same route, at pretty much the same time as the lost MH370 and I have to admit, it’s freaking me out a little bit. I know there is absolutely no reason to connect the two situations, but my brain is still making me think about it – which shows how we are ruled by our emotions.

That said, it’s not as bad as the time I was flying from Rio to Paris on Air France when I read in the paper that the black box of the Air France plane that had crashed on it’s way to Pairs from Rio, 2 years earlier, had finally been found.

There I was, hurtling through the air at 30,000 feet when I realised that I was on the exact flight, airline, route and time as the one that had crashed a few years earlier. I went to the toilet a lot that flight, especially after every bump of turbulence.

For someone who flies a lot, I seem to have a lot of incidents on planes … from being accused of being a stowaway to standing on an elderly Japanese man’s testicles to being woken up by a drunk Irish woman scratching my face for supposedly kidnapping her husband. I suppose if my incidents are those rather than ones requiring international rescue, I’m OK with that.

Jesus, I’m making myself a nervous wreck, so until [hopefully] tomorrow …

Love Stays, Even When It’s Gone …
March 28, 2014, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Anniversary, Comment

I’ve just realised today would have been my parents 50th wedding anniversary.


For some reason, this has really affected me.

When I rang my Mum to tell her I was thinking of her, she replied poignantly …

“Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be”.

This breaks my heart, because apart from the fact my Dad did die too early, I don’t want my Mum to ever suffer sadness or pain and yet there are some things, I am powerless to stop.

So to my Mum and Dad … happy, happy anniversary, I love you both so much.


Comments Off on Love Stays, Even When It’s Gone …

Before I Get Reported To HR And Fired, May I Remind You All That It’s The Thought That Counts …
March 28, 2014, 10:00 am
Filed under: Comment

The last time I wrote a post about Rodion, I sort-of embarrassed him.

Not because I said something bad … on the contrary, the words I used were filled with love and admiration … however the photo I used to accompany the piece was potentially a bit inappropriate.

As it’s his birthday today – a big birthday – I’m going to learn from that mistake by simply wishing him a wonderful day and thanking him for everything, because I respect him to death as this photo demonstrates.

Have a wonderful day big boy.

Please don’t smash me in the face with your large weapon. Boom Tish.

Coming To Terms With Reality …
March 28, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So for the past few days I’ve been back in Singapore.

I lived here for 4 years, from 2005 to 2009 and I have to say I loved it.

Some of that was because of the job. Some of that was because of the newness of it all. A lot of that was because of the people.

Sure, there were some things that got on my nerves, such as the rigid red-tape, the odd times where you were exposed to unbelievable cultural pettiness and the overall fear mentality … but they were small prices to pay for the chance to live in such a vibrant society.

Hell, they gave me permanent residency, let me sit on the governments ‘education’ council and allowed me to get married there so I’ll never, ever diss it too much because it gave me wonderful times, experiences and lessons.

However being back is always bitter sweet now.

I’m lucky a lot of my old friends are still here, despite many having left and of course, they have still have my beloved Funan Electronics Mall – where I have a never-ending choice of ridiculous gadgets all in one place – but stepping back into this wonderful country feels very strange to me from an emotional point of view.

I’ve written about this many times [for example, here] but maybe this time it’s stranger.

You see I always had this belief that I may move back to this city at some point in my life, but now I am coming to terms with the fact that is very unlikely.

I don’t know why that surprises me because I’ve learnt from a couple of terrible experiences to ‘never go back’, because nothing is the same as it once was and for a sentimental fool like me, that always leaves me feeling fucked up. But the fact is, it has surprised me because in all likelihood, my next move will not be to Singapore, but somewhere else.

Of course I don’t know where ‘somewhere else’ is and even though I have a couple of thoughts, the fact is there’s a high likelihood my time in Asia is coming to an end – at least a temporary end – and that’s sad and strange.

Yes, I know you should always be excited about the future and I am … but I love this part of the World, it has been incredibly good to me and has given me a chance to experience things that are beyond my wildest expectations but I don’t feel I have repaid my gratitude as much as I should or want to.

Of course there may still be time as I doubt my circumstances are going to change in the next six months at the very least and as much as I love Singapore – I utterly adore Shanghai – but as I walk around the streets of this place I once called home, I can’t help but feel a pang of sadness which – if I’m being honest – is extra pathetic given I fly back Monday morning.

Happy weekend.

Why Skin Whitening Cream Is A Crime Against Humanity …
March 27, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

For years, I have stated that one of the things that deeply bothers me about Asia is the prevalence of skin whitening creams.

I hate them.

I hate them for the reason why women feel they must use them.

I hate them for the reason why companies make them.

I hate them for the negative message it continues to promote to hundreds of millions of women throughout Asia.

You see in this part of the World having white skin is more than just about ‘a look’.

It’s not like in the West, where – ironically – tanned skin conveys health and wealth.

Here, the implications are far more, far reaching.

You see in Asia, there is the belief that darker looking skin means you come from a heritage of working in the fields.

The poor.

The lower-class.

The workers.

And there is the belief that if you don’t take action against it, it could have huge implications on how your life – and how your future families life – could turn out.

Now I appreciate you may think this is ridiculous and people should just get over it, but in a culture where myth and legend dictate so much, these are exactly the sort of beliefs that undermine confidence and hope.

And this is why all these skin care companies have jumped on this issue.

Rather than fight against it, they love keeping the women of Asia in their cultural jail.

Hell, even Dove – the brand that talks about being happy with who you are – are in on the act.

I remember at an awards judging last year, I had a major row with a senior Unilever marketer [a male] and their agency MD [also a mle] about this very issue and apart from denying Dove had any skin whitening product [which they do, as you can see here, not to mention the countless other skin whitening products Unilever produce as you can learn more about here] they tried to mock me for my my ‘exaggerated’ concerns.

Of course I understand that if they admitted to it, they would have to accept responsibility for it and no corporate toady employee is going to do that so I simply left them with the message that they either don’t give a shit about women – which must be terrible if they have a daughter – or they’re simply incredibly ignorant about what is really going on in this part of the World and they should fire their research agency immediately.

I’ve been desperate to work with a cosmetic brand ever since I got to this part of the World so I could encourage them to take the issue on, but alas, the opportunity hasn’t arisen for me yet … so instead, I would love anyone who works with a client or agency that makes or promotes skin whitening products to sit them down, show them this video and ask them to think about what they they’ve done.

Every day they have the chance to release women from their cultural prison cell.

Every day they choose profit over their soul.

Shame on them.

The Dangers Of Selective Understanding …
March 26, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

A few weeks ago I wrote how ignorance is more than bliss, it’s the shortest route to doing something amazing.

I fully stand by that view, however it is also important to remember that while ignorance can take you to places you may never otherwise have seen, I also highlighted how it is intelligence and rigour that helps you decide – and define – whether you should commit yourself to that opportunity or if you need to throw it away and start again.

In other words, you can’t have one without the other.

To a certain extent, they’re co-dependents and without understanding that, you will never realise what you – or an idea – could actually end up being.

I say this because I hear far too many people quoting stuff that they obviously don’t really understand.

A while back I made a comment about their being no rules to planning.

While I stand by that view … I’ve had that comment played back to me a bunch of times by people who seem to ignore – or forgot – that I also said having no rules wasn’t an excuse for slack standards, self-indulgence or lack of rigour.

Same with a presentation I made on the importance of generalists.

Unlike what some people seemed to think, I was not devaluing the role and importance of specialists [would you like to be operated on by a ‘generalist surgeon’???] nor was I celebrating people who simply have a lot of interests.

Liking a bunch of stuff doesn’t make you a generalist, it makes you a human.

When I talk about generalists, I’m talking about people who have had life/work experiences that transcend ‘casual interaction’ … people who have been involved in a whole range of situations, disciplines and industries … people who have gained a level of knowledge and experience that gives them the right to contribute, evaluate, cross-reference and judge with a level of informed substance and objectivity.

Without that, then all we’re doing is allowing subjectivity to determine outcome – and while there is a time and a place to involve ‘intelligent naivety’ into the process – it should never be allowed to have ultimate decision making power.

[For proof, see some of the rubbish companies invest millions in, just because of the comments from a focus group]

Of course I understand why people do this.

As Paulo Coelho said, ‘People only hear what they want to hear’, so anything – that on face value – suggests someone has a unique quality that has high commercial value, is going to be quickly and blindly embraced … but that does not mean it’s right or validates that attitude or behaviour.

This is why I wrote a post saying planners need to stop behaving like politicians because if you only hear what you want to hear and you have no desire to challenge, learn and grow from your inevitable mistakes, then you’re going to have to learn the hard-to-swallow truth …

If You Listen To Me, You’re Mental …
March 25, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So a while back, I got an email from a friend of mine who works with students.

One of the things he said was that when he speaks to young guys who are interested in advertising, he’s started to notice that they do not want to be planners [or designers, or art directors etc] … the want to be like Faris, Gareth and me.

No, apparently that is not a joke, even though it is.

A massive, shiny, ugly, joke.

OK, I admit, when I first heard about this, I kind of flattered.

Then, after about 2 seconds, I was genuinely appalled.

Flattered, because being associated with those two is a huge compliment [even though they won’t feel the same way] plus it’s always nice to hear others think the things you do or think are interesting or appealing.

Appalled, because the last thing anyone interested in advertising should do is listen to people in advertising.

Especially people in advertising who are paid to talk rather than do.

OK, I’m being a bit harsh on myself, because like the other guys, I’ve always tried to do shit rather than talk/write about it – even if this blog might make it appear differently … but regardless of all that, the fact is there’s a bunch of people out there who are far better to learn from and listen to than me.

Oh Jesus, this is all coming across like a humble brag isn’t it.

It’s sooooo not to sound like that. I blame being English – or at least being half English – because we’re not good at talking about ourselves in positive terms and when we do, it always comes across as clunky and awkward.

Anyway, the other thing that bothers me is that I worry some people forget that to get to this position [whatever that position is] you have to have paid your dues for 20+ years … doing and putting up with all manner of crap.

And before people question why they have do that, it’s not because that’s what gets you promoted [it doesn’t] it’s because that mental, frustrating, annoying shit also gives you experiences and knowledge that helps you see the bigger opportunities … not to mention equips you with the skills that let’s clients have confidence in your plans.

You see being able to ‘see the dream’, is only part of the challenge. Being able to show how you can execute that given they will have short-term needs and wants is also vital.

It’s not a case of telling them to scrap everything and start again, it’s about showing them how they can achieve the bigger goal without jeopardising their shorter-term business requirements.

Of course there will have to be some sort of sacrifice or implication in your strategy – if there isn’t, then it’s not a strategy – but it’s vital you appreciate all the things the client needs to consider rather than just fixate on the idea you like.

And that’s why I think it’s good to start at the bottom.

Some of the things I did for the first 10 years of my career were horrific.

Hell, some of the things I do now for my career are horrific … however as much as I love the idea of not having to do them, I know there’s a point where some part of it will come in handy, where the experience gained will allow me to say/do/explain/consider something that can be the difference between potential and reality.

Oh god, this is all coming out like shit.

All I’ll say is:

1. Don’t dismiss the importance and value of starting at the bottom.
2. Always experiment to find your own style & approach.
3. Get inspired by people outside your own industry and discipline.
4. Work hard.
5. Realise trust is the most important word in business, not talk.
6. Starting your own business will teach you more about everything in half the time.
7. Don’t listen to anyone advice, especially mine.

Right, I’m going before the abuse starts.