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


Wieden Keep Spoiling Me …

So a while back I wrote how Wieden Amsterdam sent me a bloody pottery Birkenstock clog for no other reason than being nice people.

Well, that and the fact they probably couldn’t think of another soul – past or present – who would want it, let alone love it.

So a week or so ago, I got another package from Wieden, but this time the Tokyo office.

And what was inside it?

Well it wasn’t a bomb, it was this …

Yes, it’s a bloody bright pink, Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo frisbee.

And why did they do it?

Well, because they’re bloody lovely people and – I presume – because I live by the beach.

If I knew I’d be getting all this stuff when I had left them, I’d of done it ages ago.

But in all seriousness, this – and the other stuff I’ve had from them [and lets not forget NIKE too] – shows why those hippy buggers that were born in Portland are so special.

Sure, they’re the best in the World at what they do.

Sure, they are smart as hell and creative as shit.

But they’re more than that.

They’re amazingly kind people who happen to also be obscenely talented.

In fact I’d say it’s in exactly that order.

Throughout their offices, it’s filled with genuinely great people … people I feel honoured to know, let alone thrilled to have once worked with.

[And a couple of assholes, but I won’t let them ruin it for me, especially as they’re going to get found out eventually, ha]

I can tell you this, as much as I left there making some of the best work of my life, I’m even happier I left there with some of the best mates I could have.

Thank you to my friends in Tokyo … especially Mr Rowe … you’re all ace and I miss you.

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Building A Positive Office Culture Is Easy …

There is so much written about building an office culture.

There’s been books written on it.

Films written about it.

And consultants earning a fortune from it.

And I get it, because a good office culture is bloody important.

In the past I thought it was just about the people in the organisation rather than the organisation itself … but thanks to my experiences at HHCL, cynic and Wieden, I realise it’s as much about what the company stands for and how it behaves as it is the people they hire.

But recently I saw something that boils it all down to a very simple essence.

An essence that would mean those books would become pamphlets … those movies would become ads and those consultants become unemployed.

And why? I hear you ask.

Well, because the answer is simply this …

Can you see it?

It’s 4 words.

DON’T. BE. A. DICK.

OK … OK … I appreciate this might appear hypocritical coming from me, but that’s all it takes.

Don’t be a dick means respecting your colleagues.

Don’t be a dick means respecting everyones standards.

Don’t be a dick means respecting that everyone is trying to get to a good place.

Don’t be a dick is the simplest articulation of how to build a positive office culture.

Not just in terms of pleasantries.

Not just in terms of togetherness.

But in terms of the work you do as an individual and as a group.

It’s easy to get.

It can apply to every person in every situation.

It defines the standards of behaviour you should expect and give … from personal interaction to collaboration to making work.

It’s bloody brilliant.

So next time someone asks if they should hire a consultant to improve the office culture, just look them in the eye and say, “Don’t be a dick”.



A Picture Releases A Thousand Emotions …

It’s Monday.

I know that’s pretty shit for all of us so I thought I’d do something nice for a change.

OK, I’m not really doing any of it … my son is … but if it affects you 1/1000th in the way it affected me, it will make your day a little sweeter.

Otis has a friend called Elodie.

Her parents – by pure chance – are English and we met them at our kids school.

Elodie adores Otis.

And Otis adores Elodie.

They operate at the same speed and frequency and while there’s the odd moment where one of them goes slightly off the rails, their affection for each other is obvious.

A few weeks ago we were all at the beach to celebrate another kids birthday [this is my life now]

Living so close to the beach is a real privilege and even though both kids are there most days, they still act like it’s their first time.

Anyway, we were there for Jack’s 3rd birthday and in-between birthday cake and opening presents, I saw Elodie and Otis walk to the gentle tide.

As they chatted to each other, I followed them from a little distance to give them space to continue playing in their own World when suddenly they did this …

There are many beautiful things in my life that have taken my breath away, but this was one of the most powerful.

Innocent.

Heartfelt.

Friendship.

Which is why as much as that lone surfer in the distance may believe they are riding upon life’s purest joy, I would like to say to them they are wrong and point them to the embrace of my son and his dear Elodie.

I think they would acknowledge I am right.

Happy Monday.

Thank you Otis and Elodie.



Silent Sexism …

I need to rant.

You see I’m totally fucking over subtle sexism.

Don’t get me wrong, I am over overt sexism as well, but this subtle shit is doing my head in – especially in ads.

On face value, it’s nothing.

It almost feels normal in fact.

But when you stop for a second, you see the little digs.

The references to women loving shoes.

Or the colour pink.

Or some other cliched, sexist bullshit … like doing anything for doughnuts.

Oh they’ll say it’s “all in good fun”.

Or “… it’s not meant to be real, it’s advertising”.

They’ll claim you’re being too sensitive or that you “can’t say anything these days”.

Implying there was absolutely no other way they could approach the task they were given.

As if we’re bloody idiots.

And while some simply don’t get it – having spent their life living in the bubble of another era – deep down they know.

Or at least suspect.

The reality is they just don’t want to admit it.

Even if that’s just to themselves.

So they say this shit. Write this shit. Produce this shit.

And many will let it pass.

Mainly because they’re not paying close attention to the ads.

But it still seeps in.

Leaving it’s message.

Not the one the client wanted, but the one the old, conformist, sexist guys did.

And that’s why I think it’s the most dangerous sexism of all because when it’s done quietly, it affects slowly … creeping into the ears, eyes and minds of those who are exposed to it, while those who are aware of this shit, hear it like a scream.



In The End, The Only Things Worth Doing Are The Things That Might Possibly Break Your Heart …

The title of this post is a quote from the novelist Colum McCann.

And he’s right.

Over the years I’ve received many emails from people wanting to get into planning and asking if getting a job in account service might be the way to do it.

And every single time, I’ve replied with the words, “it might be, but don’t give up on getting a job in planning first”.

I know it’s hard to get into planning without any experience.

And by experience, I mean planning.

I’ve never subscribed to this point of view – in fact I still take great pride in the fact that while I was at Wieden, I only ever hired 3 people who’d been planners before, preferring to fill the department with people I found smart, interesting, mischievous and creative but still living a life rather than embracing the comforts, cliches and limitations of the advertising bubble lifestyle.

Of course not everyone is like that – hence the 3 planners I hired who had been planners previously – but in China, there was definitely a conformity to the discipline that I was desperate to break.

Which is why I was very cool with hiring juniors.

People with no experience in the discipline but a history of doing interesting things.

Now I’m back in the Western World, it seems that people are more reticent to do that.

Not all of course, but many.

Maybe it’s because clients want people who know their industry on their account.

Maybe it’s because agencies want people they can tell clients have experience in their industry.

Maybe it’s because no one has the time to train people anymore.

Whatever it is, it’s not a good thing for the industry – or the discipline – and it’s certainly not a good thing for those who are interested but never get a shot, which is why my advice to them is this …

You may end up discovering you don’t like planning.

You may end up discovering you’re not good at planning.

You may end up discovering your career is nothing like the one you hoped for.

But don’t give up. Not yet.

Don’t take no for an answer too easily.

Or look for short-cuts.

Not just because Colum McCann is right when he says the only things we should chase are the things that may break our heart, but the reality is nothing easy is really worthwhile.

Not in the long-term anyway.

And hey, if I can do it, then there’s more than a good chance you can too.

So keep trying. Keep learning. Keep pushing … because focusing on what you might gain is much more powerful than thinking about what you might lose.

Good luck.



Why Process Can Kill Potential …
January 24, 2018, 6:16 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Chaos, Comment, Creativity, Culture, Cunning

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big believer in chaos theory.Not, as you may be shocked to learn, because it validates my global-scale disorganization, but because I firmly believe chaos lets you create what order can’t.

Hell, I even based the whole of The Kennedys on this concept.

Anyway, while for some – the idea of this is basically professional kryptonite – there are others out there who believe in it’s power. One of the best is economist and journalist Tim Harford who wrote the brilliant book, Messy on the concept.

Of course, I am not advocating that all process is bad.

Hell, if I’m having an operation, I want the surgeon to follow the rules as carefully as they can … but the fact is, they only got to those rules because someone, at some point, decided to ignore the rules to explore what else is possible.

Hence my belief is that process is fine if we remember what we’re trying to achieve, but the moment the process is more important than the outcome we seek … then we have our priorities all wrong.

So as 2018 is still relatively fresh – I thought I’d leave you with 15 minutes 32 seconds of chaotic inspiration. Enjoy.



Consequence Purchase Strategies …

A few years ago I wrote about the brilliance of supermarkets.

Not in the sense that it offers a one-stop-shop to get all your food requirements, but in how it combines products that you don’t think should go together, but do.

I called this romantic notion strategy but the reality is it’s simply understanding either the breadth of a persons character or the requirements of a particular audience.

To be honest, I’m underselling both those approaches because while it may appear obvious, it’s scary how few companies – and agencies – make those connections and yet the result of them is genuine brand differentiation, true audience connection and incremental sales.

Well I recently saw another area that supermarkets are great at and that is spotting implications of a particular purchase and offering remedies.

OK, so this is not so new – but whereas places like Amazon offer ‘similar purchase alternatives’ [under the banner of, ‘people who bought this also bought this’], supermarkets offer real product partners as demonstrated by this Asda in Derby.

Yep, some headache pills in the booze section of the store.

Not a massive leap, but simple and effective and – arguably – far more noticeable and inviting than expecting people to go to the medicine aisle and buy them without any prod.

It’s amazing how often we forget the most obvious approaches in the quest of being smart … which ironically, shows how un-smart we can be.

The only thing I’m trying to work out is whether this says more about the customers who shop at Asda or the people who live in Derby.