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


Memories Of Mothercare …

I know it’s ridiculous to feel sad about a store closing … especially a store I hardly ever went in and when I did, it was obviously catered for women rather than men, but the news Mothercare has closed has made me sad.

I don’t know how many times I entered that store.

I definitely remember walking in the one in Victoria Centre, Nottingham, with my Mum when I was a very small kid … but I probably never entered another store until 40 odd years later when I was going to be a dad.

Ironically that was in Nottingham as well, even though we were living in Shanghai at the time.

But there’s a significant reason why this store means so much to me, because that’s where I found out I was going to be having a baby boy.

We were in the UK on holiday and my kind, wonderful wife wanted my Mum to feel part of the journey. Her idea to do that was to have a scan that would tell us the sex of the baby and have the doctor write it down, put it in an envelope and let my Mum tell us over a nice lunch.

That morning, before the scan, we were having breakfast and trying to come up with names. We were finding it much, much harder than we had anticipated and were pretty happy that if it was a girl, she was going to be named Eden, Edi for short.

Excited, we went off to a non-descript industrial park where Mothercare was. Inside the store was another company that could scan pregnant women and tell them the babies gender.

It was there my Mum saw her grandson for the first time. She was transfixed by what she saw on the screen. Not just because of who it was but because she had never seen a scan like that in her life. When she had me, it was all “find out when they come out” but here she was, sitting in a room with her son and daughter in law, watching her grandchild move around while still inside their Mum’s tum.

It was an incredibly moving moment for all of us and I will always love my wife for having that idea and always treasure that day.

And it’s for this reason I’m sorry to see Mothercare go.

I know there are a ton of reasons for its failure – but it’s also where I got to share a moment with my Mum that I’d never had before and will never have again. A moment that, were she alive, she would remember as clear as day.

A pivotal moment.

A moment where she got to witness the evolving of her family in front of her eyes.

A moment where the legacy of her and dad would forever continue.

But for me it’s something even more than all that. Because while we didn’t know it at the time, it was a moment where my Mum met Otis for the first time. The only time.

And for that, I’ll always be grateful to Mothercare and sad to see it go.



Speaking Doesn’t Mean Communicating …

A few weeks ago, I got to go to my beloved China.

While I was there, I met someone who gave me another reason to add to the millions of reasons why I miss living – and working – there.

Analogies.

Specifically the analogies people there use to make their point.

Above was was what someone said to me about the challenge facing their organisation.

Concise. Clear. Brutal. Poetic.

In a world of corporate bollocks, a lot of organisations could learn from this … because quite frankly, the bland monotone of their corporate speak might say a lot, but it communicates little.



Power Is Nothing Without Trust …

Management.

It can be super daunting because people feel it’s more about dealing with others shit than doing great work.

And sometimes it is.

But it doesn’t always have to be that way.

Whether I am a good manager is something my colleagues would have to tell you, but one thing I think I am good at is building a team. That’s not just down to who you hire – in some ways, that’s the easiest bit – it’s how you keep them all together while moving them collectively and individually forward once they’re in.

And for me, it comes down to one word.

It’s that one at the top of this post.

Trust.

Small word.

5 letters.

Means everything.

But one thing I was taught that has served me well is that trust is earned not just handed to you because of your position.

Yes, Hemingway said the best way to trust someone is to trust them – and I get that, because so much starts with the attitude you have towards someone – but as a manager, I believe the key to achieving it is to accept you start with none of it.

Which is why if you’re at a point where you could be taking on a management position and are either fighting against it or daunted because of it, let me tell you what has helped me.

When you take the job – regardless how well you know you team – don’t expect them to trust you.

It would be nice if they do, but even then, don’t take it for granted.

Earn it by proving it.

Keep earning it by continually proving it.

Be transparent, honest, consistent, constructive and supportive.

Oh, and for gods sake give a shit about what those you are responsible for, give a shit about.

They can deal with you fucking up.

If it’s your first management gig, they almost expect it.

But they need to feel you support them, back them and want the best for them.

That doesn’t mean you pander or creep, it just means they know you want them to succeed better than they thought they could by finding ways to develop their talent to be better than they thought they ever could.

Earn their trust by investing your time in their lives. Listen. Be honest. Give a shit. Talk to them. Make space for them to grow, be inspired, fuck up and fail. Not to mention for them to change your mind on things you thought you were certain on. Never let good enough ever be good enough – for you, for them and the work being created. Know what you don’t know so they can learn from someone who does.

Yes, you will still have to deal with their shit – and they’ll have a ton to give you over time – but they will repay you by making the best work of their lives because ultimately, you’ve created the environment that enables them to keep performing at their best in ways that are better than they ever imagined.

And that’s when you discover management isn’t all filled with darkness, but also with brilliant light.



The State Of Adland In [Another] Picture …

Yes I know I wrote about this just a few weeks ago … and this is my attempt to ease us back into working life … but the wonderful Mr Weigel misguidedly sent me a photo [he was jet lagged, so he forgot how stupid an idea this was] that highlights how the downturn in traditional adspend is having an impact on the entire industry.

This …

Let’s face it, when one of the best agencies in the World is diversifying to make some coin, it must be bad.

On the plus side, when my mates at Adam&Eve see this post and tell me to go “screw myself”, I’ll interpret that as them offering me a solution, not being angry. Perfect.



Heroes Come And Go But Legends Live Forever …

My god. It seems impossible.

You were the black mamba … the one with superhuman powers, how is this even possible?

And we must not forget the others who died by your side, including your young daughter.

You leave a billion fans with a billion memories crying a billion tears.

I’ll never forget how you showed your love to the obsessed young fans in China. It was the same kindness and compassion you showed to someone who didn’t know shit about basketball.

Me.

Maybe that’s why my favourite work with you was Mentu. Not just for what you did for young, Chinese players, but for making me truly appreciate just what you brought to a game I didn’t then understand.

I still believe the music we used was the perfect soundtrack to present your dramatic, distinctive elegance.

There are players famous to a team.
There are players famous to a game.
There are players famous to a country.

But there’s few who are famous around the world, whether that sport is played there or not.

You are one of the legends.

You will remain forever.

But your loss is a tragedy.

Comments Off on Heroes Come And Go But Legends Live Forever …


If You Thought Fragrance Ads Were Mental Before …

Fragrance ads.

They are a law to themselves. All whimsical romance or overt seduction expressed in contrived, theatrical and over-acted ways.

I get selling smell using visual mediums is hard, so wrapping it up in some sort of concept makes sense … except when every one of those concepts is the work of someone who is obviously off their face on coke.

Sure, some can be funny.

Those horrific, pretentious Gerard Butler ads for Boss ended up being comedy gold … and the recent Johnny Depp ‘Sauvage’ campaign – that was hijacked by the public – turned out to be an act of genius but in the main, we are exposed to a plethora of commercials that feature a beautiful actor/actress getting paid a fortune to destroy their credibility against a backdrop of an overly produced stage set, a contemporary – but utterly bland – sound track and unsubtle messages of shining bright etc etc.

However recently I saw something different.

Kinda.

Because while it follows the well-worn path of the fragrance category, the script, acting and production values are so low, you would expect it to be an ad for a ‘Everything For A £1’ shop not Emporio Armani.

To make matters worse, it seems the people behind the ad sold it to the client by saying …

“We are targeting 40+ couples who hate each other.

They yearn to go back to a time where they were together out of choice, not because they have a mortgage to pay.

A time where they hung our spontaneously, not because they have to do the weekly shopping.

To connect with them, we will tell a story of a young couple falling in love.

We will capture the intensity of a developing relationship where they are intoxicated with each other.

We will incorporate scenes from classic films or ads from their youth – from 50 Shades Of Grey and those old Nescafe Gold Blend ads from the late 80’s/90’s to the classic ‘cycle to the moon’ scene from ET … though it could be more BMX Bandits, it all depends on how much budget you give us.

In essence, we are not selling perfume, we’re selling marriage guidance in a bottle”.

At this point, I imagine you’re wondering what the hell I’m going on about … well ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls … sit back and all will be revealed …

But please have a bucket ready for the flow of vomit that will be coming your way.

50 Shades Of Grey/Gold Blend Inspired Bollocks …

ET/BMX Bandits Inspired Shite …



Back The Experts, Not Your Ego …

I’ve written about this – kinda – a long time ago.

As in FOURTEEN YEARS AGO.

It’s the situation where unless there is group consensus, nothing goes ahead.

Yes, I’m talking about that thing called democracy.

Now I’m all for democracy … even when it goes bonkers and votes in our current Prime Minister.

But when it comes to the issue of creativity, I am less inclined to support it.

You see creativity is pretty subjective … it is also pretty scary … so even though our industry is filled with highly trained, highly experienced, highly regarded experts in the field, the decision to make something often ends up being driven by a client asking themselves, “do I like it?”.

Actually, it’s probably not that and more, “will my bosses like it?”

Oh of course no one will admit that … they’ll talk about how their experience or their conversations with clients/colleagues/customers is influencing their decision, but more often than not the reality is they feel far more comfortable doing something that ‘fits in’ rather than ‘stands out’.

Fitting in is safe.

Fitting in doesn’t get the scrutiny.

Fitting in doesn’t upset anyone around you.

So we end up in a situation where many clients ignore the experts – the people who know how to capture the imagination of the public in a way that serves their clients best interests – and focus on what the people around them think.

Or said another way, their strategy to approval is to ensure they can mitigate blame rather than drive glory which is why they allow the decisions to be made by committee rather than by their personal commitment.

It’s similar to those marketers who let research make the decision for them rather than inform their decision.

It’s the abdication of responsibility.

Now of course not everyone does this.

There are some amazing clients out there … those who are clear in what they want to achieve and trusting in the experts who want to help them get there.

But it’s getting less and less which is why we are ending up in more and more situations where ideas are born from pragmatism, diluted through fear and then executed by committee.

And if you need more proof, here’ is a quote from Dave Trott …