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


Qantas. Cultural Appropriation And Revulsion At The Same Time …

So recently Qantas launched their Perth-London direct flight.

This is definitely a game-changer for the air industry so I get why they wanted to celebrate it.

But Qantas being Qantas – as I’ve written about many times, such as here and here – couldn’t help but snap defeat out of the jaws of victory by reinforcing the past when this was a story all about the future.

Based on the picture above – taken at Heathrow Airport when they were about to embark on their maiden London-Perth flight – when Qantas say they’re the ‘Spirit of Australia’, they’re saying their country is about surfboards, kangaroos and what suspiciously looks like a white guy made up to look like an aboriginal.

All they need is a ball-tampering cricketer and Paul Hogan and they’ve completed the bad cultural cliche set.

For an airline that’s never suffered a catastrophic accident, it’s good to see Qantas PR are doing their best to ensure they still have plenty of other types of plane crashes to talk about.

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How Technology Can Help Protect Humans …

So this is linked to yesterdays post about AI/VR.

A friend of mine recently put up this poster of an idea he’s trying to get Amazon to do with their Alexa virtual assistant.

Basically he wants Amazon to allow people suffering from domestic abuse, to be able to set up a ‘safe word’ in Alexa.

If the word is ever heard, Alexa will automatically start recording all ambient noise and send it directly to the Police.

While I appreciate there are a mass of legal implications, it’s a simple, brilliant idea … designed to empower humanity rather than laziness.

The fact is was created by a planner, in an agency, makes me extra-happy.

I’ve written a lot about my frustration that too many agencies believe creativity only exists if you sit in the creative department – and while what they do is an amazing thing that can take ideas to even more magical places – they do not have the monopoly on creative thinking and this is additional proof of that. Better yet, my mate is not doing it for an award or some scam shit, he’s doing it because he gives a shit about humanity and has created an idea that could make a real difference to someone’s life.

Something we are all supposed to be doing but often end up just communicating.

If anyone out there knows someone of influence at Amazon, please can you show them this.




It’s Called Artificial For A Reason …

So this is sort-of following on from yesterdays post.

Specifically the last line of yesterday’s post.

The bit about AI/VR.

You see a few weeks ago, I was invited to speak on a panel about the future by Frog Design.

No, I don’t know why they asked me either.

Anyway, it was a great panel and I learnt a lot of stuff but where things got a bit sticky was when the subject of AI came up.

OK, I was the reason it all got a bit sticky, but that’s because I feel companies are approaching AI with the sole goal of enabling the lazy.

Yes, it’s still early days but automating the most common/basic of tasks feels such a waste of potential.

I get they have to get people used to things before they can push them to new things, but to focus on such mundane tasks doesn’t naturally push the industry to explore the bigger possibilities of it.

My suggestion was that I’d like to see it being used to take people to new places.

New opinions … thoughts … possibilities … experiences.

More inspirational intelligence than artificial.

When you ask for news headlines, it reads you how different news sources see the same story.

When you ask for a countdown, it plays you music you haven’t heard before until the timer is up.

When you ask for the weather, it tells you some places you can go to, to take advantage of the climate.

In other words, make you benefit from the AI beyond the fact it’s performing a function that saves you approx 0.3 seconds doing. Kind-of like the premise behind user-unfriendly tech I wrote about a while back.

Of course to do this means that they have to do more than just follow the data.

It means they have to add something to it.

Context. Insight. Humanity. Creativity.

Things that companies are seemingly valuing less rather than more.

To be fair, Amazon are trying to do this with some of the more quirky aspects of Alexa … but I still would like to see more being done, because not only does this add real value to the tech, it means brands have a chance to build additional value with their audience rather than sit back and watch their engagement get less and less.



All The Fun Of The Fair …
April 25, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

When I was a kid, I used to go to the annual ‘Goose Fair’ in Nottingham.

Goose Fair is, if memory serves me, the biggest and oldest fair in Europe and from about the age of 5, I used to go there – first with my Dad, then with my friends – to play on the arcade games, go on the rides and eat mushy peas out of a polystyrene cup.

I loved it and even now, if I find myself in England in the first week of October, I’ll make it a priority to go along, even though it isn’t quite as magical to me as it once was.

I say this because a few weeks ago, we took Otis to an old-school fair in LA.

It’s nothing like Goose Fair, it’s indoors for a start, but it has rides, games, prizes and food.

As you can see from the photos, he kinda-loved it.

Talking to him afterwards, it became apparent that it wasn’t just the lights, noise and fun that captured his attention but the ability to feel like he was in control of all that was around him.

I don’t mean that in terms of him getting me to pay for whatever he wanted to try, I mean it in the sense that he was suddenly able to explore activities and adventures that were normally off limits to him … either because of access or age.

Things like riding a horse.

Or a motorbike.

Or patting unicorns.

For him, the fair was less about igniting his imagination and more about stepping into a World of possibilities.

Maybe that’s what made me love Goose Fair when I was a kid and maybe that’s why it still holds a fascination with me today … because while I’m old enough to do pretty much whatever I like, a fun fair lets me do it with all the enthusiasm and freedom I felt when I was younger, without any concerns what anyone else will think.

In other words, the fun you get at a fair isn’t because of the rides, but because it let’s you live without the limits society places on us.

Sure, video games do a similar thing – but there’s something very different between physical transformation and just emotional – which is why it’s a shame so many of the fairs are closing down, including this one in LA, because as much as I love playing video games, there’s something far more infectious when you’re in it rather than just controlling it.

Which is possibly the best reason everyone should give a shit about AI/VR.



The Frothy Coffee Man Is Go …
April 24, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Agency Culture, Comment, Confidence, Culture, Fulfillment, Paul

Remember a while back I wrote about my best mate who was starting his own business?Well, he’s doing it and he’s being successful at it.

Of course I knew he would, and while there’s been the odd rough day – ie: when it snowed – he’s enjoying himself, which is more important than many people give it credit for.

Yes, I know money is important – and for some people, it’s about survival rather than lifestyle – but enjoying what you do is often overlooked in favour of the size of the pay cheque and I think that’s a shame because in my experience, enjoyment tends to keep you in a company for far longer than just a semi-decent salary.

And that’s why I find it amazing companies don’t really invest in culture.

Of course, part of that is because many don’t know what it really is.

Mistaking it for free food rather than a sense of belonging to something bigger, more important, more powerful.

But then, when a lot of companies will u-turn on their supposed beliefs in a bid to win a new account, I guess it’s not that surprising.

And that’s why I think Paul is creating something far more valuable than just a cash machine, but something that is an investment in his happiness and ability to forge his future, which is – at the end of the day – far more fulfilling than earning cash in a job you don’t like.

The amount of people I meet who say they don’t like what they do but don’t do anything about changing it.

I don’t mean just in terms of changing their job, but changing their approach to their job.

Look, I get it if your income is your families livelihood, but you’d be amazed how many of these comments come from people who just want to moan rather than change.

I get it … moving can seem daunting, especially if you want to move to do your own thing, but to them I say one thing …

Be more like Paul.



It’s Monday. I’m Back. This Blog Has Recommenced.
April 23, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Culture, Freddie, Friendship, Singapore

If you look at the title of this blog post, you know it’s the perfect storm of hell.

Sorry.

But you did have 2ish weeks of freedom, so what do you expect.

But I’m not a total animal, so I’ll ease you back into the hell that is this blog with this …

Yes, it’s a photo of me and Fredrick.

Yes, it’s when we got together in Boston a few weeks ago.

Yes, I’m wearing a crappy t-shirt with a cassette labelled ‘Metal’ on it.

No, he hasn’t changed a bit.

No, it doesn’t really ease you back into the hell of this blog, but I don’t care, as seeing him after almost 6 years was one of the highlights of this year, even if we’re still in the first half of it.

Expect even worse blog violation tomorrow. Happy Monday.



Greater Female Leadership Is About More Than Just About Equality, It’s A Chance For The Industry To Grow And Discover …

When you think of heads of planning, who are the names that come to you first?

Weigel?
Davies?
Kay?
Even – god forbid – Campbell?

I’m pretty sure that whoever you are, the number of male names outstrips the number of female names.

While there’s a number of reasons for this, one of the main ones is the simple fact there’s more men at the top of the planning tree than women.

Of course there’s some female leaders…

The brilliant Sarah Watson at BBH, the wonderful Amanda Feve at Anomaly Amsterdam, the incredible Lucy Jameson at Uncommon London, the fantastic Stephanie Newman at 72&Sunny Amsterdam, the epic Jessica Lovell at Adam & Eve, the awesome Emma Cookson at You & Mr Jones, the irrepressible Jess Greenwood at R/GA and the incredible Heidi Hackemer, now at the Chan Zuckerberg Institute, to name a few.

But it’s very few.

Even with the names I could have added – such as Mollie Hill at 72&Sunny Sydney to Deutsch’s own Lindsey Allison – it’s nowhere near enough … and it only gets worse when you look for people of colour.

What makes this more frustrating is there’s a ton of phenomenal planning talent out there who happen to be female who could/should be running departments but aren’t.

From personal experience, I could quickly throw out names like Paula Bloodworth, Kaichin Chang, Kelsey Hodgkin and Heather LeFevre – who did so much for the planning community with her planner survey and book – and while they are all senior, incredibly well respected individuals in their respective departments [though Kaichin is currently involved in another venture] none are formally leading their departments.

I know there’s probably a bunch of reasons for this.

Some may be valid, most probably not … at least not in terms of giving a clear, none-ambiguous explanation of why the planning community has so few female leadership in comparison to men.

Which can only lead to one reason.

Sexism.

Now I am not suggesting there’s an overt desire to hold women back, but the evidence suggests it’s happening.

I personally think one of the reasons is companies making candidates meet with loads of people throughout the interview process.

Given the law of adland-averages means most of the senior leaders that candidates will meet will be [white] men – and there’s a fair chance that at least one of them will prefer to work with a male rather than a female – that immediately places an additional obstacle for women to overcome compared to male counterparts.

Which becomes a thousand times harder if you’re a person of colour.

And this is where I get especially annoyed because this attitude is screwing over more than just female candidates, but the whole industry.

I’m not just saying this because I think there should be more female leaders – though there should – I’m saying this because I believe female leaders bring something to the table that is different from men.

Note I said ‘different’, not better. Or worse.

And what is this difference?

Well there’s a couple of things …

One is how men and women deal with situations.

While a great planner is a great planner regardless of gender or cultural background … having more women in positions of power will allow their approaches, perspectives and/or habits to come to the fore … approaches, perspectives and/or habits that offer a real alternative to the current, male-dominated and created way of doing things.

This will push us to think in different ways.

Take us to new places.

Encourage us to try new approaches.

For me, that’s very exciting but it can’t happen unless we put – or create additional space – for more female leadership while giving them the authority to make the choices they feel are the right things to do without barriers or hindrance.

And hey, even if their approach remains relatively the same to what’s been there before [though we never know unless we let it] we not only end up with a highly talented planners in leadership position … but ones who will also act as a role-model for young, female talent and that can only be a good thing, especially as, in my experience, women are not self-obsessed [like men] with ‘getting to the top’, but want to find better ways to do things. For everyone. Which is the sort of generosity that creates something special for all involved.

The second is a situation that occurred a few months ago.

Let me backtrack …

This week I will be going to Amsterdam to teach at Hoala.

While that is bad news for the people who have paid the course, it’s good news for you as this is the last blog post for 2 weeks.

TWO!!!

Anyway, a while back I got contacted by a number of women saying it was ridiculous than of all the lectures at HOALA, only one was female.

One.

I agreed but said that given HOALA was founded by a woman, I am sure there is some reason for it even if it felt a bit mad.

They rightfully pushed back on me.

They asked if I’d give my place up for a great female planner to take my place.

This left me in a quandary because I adore teaching this course and feel I have something that can be of real benefit for the attendees and yet their argument was pretty sound.

So I came up with an alternative.

While the course this coming weekend states it’s just going to be me, it’s not.

I’m flying over the brilliant Paula Bloodworth to join me in co-running the course.

For those who don’t know Paula, she is head of planning for NIKE at Wieden London.

She’s one of the people behind this.

Told you she’s ace.

Anyway, I had the great pleasure of working with her at Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai so I’ve asked Paula to co-run our session.

I want her to talk about her perspective … her challenges … her thoughts/ideas and approaches to moving the industry – and the women in the industry – forward.

I want her to disagree with me, question the attendees, question the way the industry is moving forward and what we can all do to help change it.

Not because I like conflict [though I kinda do], but because her additional perspective will help the attendees learn far more than if it was just me.

Or another male.

For the record, when I told HOALA, they were nothing but supportive and excited and have gone out of their way to make sure she will feel welcomed and valued.

As I knew they would be.

But my shame is that I needed someone to push me to do this.

Not specifically to get Paula to come with me, but to do something that showed my genuine commitment to improving equality.

There’s 3 reasons for this self-disappointment …

The first is my parents brought me up to see equality, something we’re trying to do with Otis.

The second is I’ve had the privilege of living and working in many countries so experienced first hand the benefits of cultural diversity as well as the dangers of racial/gender stereotyping – something I hope I actively pushed against and continue to push against. [Though you would need to talk to some of my ex-collegaues to find out if I’m full of shit]

But it’s the third reason that really pisses me off because I should have absolutely not needed any encouragement to act given the things I’ve seen, experienced, got very angry about and acted against in my short-time in America.

Watching how so much of white America deals with issues relating to African American and Latino rights – even when they’re in support of racial equality – has shown me that just saying stuff ends up being nothing more than compliance with established rules and behaviors.

I admit it took me some time to realise that, but it’s absolutely true which is why I’m genuinely grateful to the women who [respectfully] called me out and I hope my action shows how seriously I’ve taken your pushback.

It is also why I have full intention to do something like I’ve done with Paula whenever I’m asked to speak/attend a conference … even if that means I eventually don’t get asked to speak/attend a conference.

But let’s be honest, this is a small thing.

A very small thing.

The reality is real change can’t happen if we don’t make it happen or if we put limits on how senior female planning leads are allowed to tackle their job because all that does is create a different set of problems women have to deal with that can hold them back.

I had originally written that because of this situation, I will continue to give preference to hiring senior female leaders however an employment lawyer friend of mine ‘advised’ me to state I believe the industry has to give preference to hiring more senior female planning leaders.

Regardless of which way I say it, this isn’t because I want to stop male talent moving forward – that literally couldn’t be further from the truth – it’s because women are equally as talented and I believe the only way to create greater equality is to [momentarily] skew to increase the odds of change and while that may end up costing me a position in the future, it means I can look my son in the eye and tell him equality is not what you say, but what you do.

No comments on this post [though you can if you have a LinkedIn account] as I want to keep the abuse out. By abuse, I mean the people who will insult me for being away again as no one should argue with my view about more female leadership.

See you back on the 23rd.

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