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


Saying You Care Means Nothing If Your Actions Show You Don’t …

One of the things that has shocked me since coming back to England is the amount of gambling that goes on here.

Not just in terms of people actually doing it, but brands trying to get people to do it.

It’s everywhere.

Football shirts. High Streets. Apps. TV shows.

I know it shouldn’t really shock me as there has been so much written about it in the papers, but the sheer volume has blown me away.

Another thing that has blown me away – for equally bad reason – is the way the gambling companies are trying to portray themselves as good citizens.

That all their ads say, ‘When the fun stops, stop’ – or some variant of it – might sound like they care, but apart from the fact there’s countless stories of them actively encouraging people who are demonstrating the have a problem with gambling to keep going, it makes no sense.

Because the moment you realise gambling has stopped being fun, you’re pretty likely to be in the grip of addiction.

Or said another way, it’s too late.

Once upon a time, I was in that place.

I was young and the amount of money we’re talking is minute … but I was in a full-on addiction to fruit machines.

I was still a student and working part time as a pot washer, and within seconds of receiving my weekly pay packet, I’d be feeding all of it into a fruit machine.

Occasionally I would win big (£25) but most of the time I’d spend my weeks earnings within minutes – leaving me without a penny.

Now I’m lucky, I was able to stop – mainly because credit was not readily available back then, because if it was, who knows what shit I would have got myself into – but I can still remember how much I hated myself when I lost but how excited I was when I was about to begin.

And yet, despite knowing what I was doing to myself, I was unable to stop myself for months.

While I would not wish that on anyone, it was a hugely valuable lesson.

It taught me I have an addictive personality and helped me to manage what I do and don’t expose myself too.

Sure, I buy a shitload of pointless gadgets, crap t-shirts, guitars and Birkenstocks. But it’s also why I haven’t tried any alcohol since my last taste 34 years ago, why I’ve never tried any drugs and why I never tried smoking – though that one was easier, as I’ve always hated the smell.

I do believe that people have to take some responsibility for the decisions and actions they take – but addiction is something we have to accept, skirts the rules of logic.

You become helpless and need controlled.

And given the impact certain addictions can have on people is loss of health and/or loss of livelihood and family … having a note in small letters at the end of an ad that has spent 29 of the 30 seconds celebrating the excitement and glamour of gaming – and then puts all the burden of managing addiction on the victim – seems pretty shit.



Corporate Gaslighting Is Still On Fire …

Hello there …

Recently I spoke to a couple of people who told me about the experience they were having at work. Or should I say the bad experience they are having at work … and when I told them about Corporate Gaslighting, they looked at me as if they had literally found safety.

Unsurprisingly, this is not only because they were enduring the slow, systematic destruction of their confidence by a bad boss. but were being made to feel this was all their own fault.

While there are quite a lot of stories on the Corporate Gaslighting, it has not had many new stories come in.

I get it, it’s hard and scary.

But what I will say is this.

Not only is everything totally anonymous – and if you ever change your mind, I’ll do whatever works for you – the reality is sending in your story has 2 really tangible benefits.

The first is you feel a release in letting it out.

Part of the horror of being made to feel worthless at work is you keep it to yourself.

Of course you do, you’re made to feel you’re the failure so why would you ever want to tell anyone that.

That pressure can be hugely debilitating so letting it out not only helps you breathe again, it helps you start being in control of your situation rather than having that situation control you.

Second is your story will help others going through it.

Everyone who has written in has expressed their gratitude to read other stories like theirs.

It helps them know they’re not alone.

It’s not them.

It isn’t right.

So if you – or anyone you know – is facing this horrific situation at work with a bad boss, can you please point them to theytriedtokillmebuti.live … because even if they don’t want to submit their own story, reading others might help them feel they can get out of this, and for that alone, it’s worth it.

Thank you.



I’m In A TV Ad …

Well that was quite a week.

Otis is doing OK.

He’s feeling much better and we’re hugely relieved.

Even though the risk of kids suffering severe health issues due to corona is very small, seeing your child not well is always hard – made 10,000 worse with the media all revelling in making it sound like the bloody plague.

That said, it means we are in quarantine for another fortnight, but them so is the whole country.

Fortunately Jill and I don’t look like we have caught anything, but then it’s a 2 week incubation so who knows.

On the positive, if I do, it will mean I’ve hit the virus jackpot – which is something to be proud about. Maybe.

So back to the title of this post.

Scarily, it’s entirely accurate.

To be honest, I’ve been in quite a few ads in my time.

Blackcurrant Tango.

Triple J.

Even a Nike spot.

But never have I been one of ‘the stars’ … but I am now.

Take a look at this.

The best bit is this ad was seen by someone in Portugal who was as shocked to see me in it as I was when to find myself in it. Though I note they used a photo that doesn’t really show my face … which is obviously very wise indeed, but not quite as wise as it would have been to not invite me to talk with Mr Gladwell in the first place.

Which was going to be my long way of saying this is the last post for a week but Corona Virus screwed with the conference so now you will see me on Monday.

And you thought the effects of Corona couldn’t be any worse!



Everyone’s A Critic …
March 23, 2020, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Corona Virus, Family, Jill

After a week of listening to me in ‘work mode’, Jill said my job consists of me having lots of conversations where I ask one of 4 questions …

“What’s the creative opportunity?”

“Are you excited by this?”

“Where’s your energy at?”

“Why are we being so nice?”

So as much as I thought there were certain enjoyable byproducts of working from home’ due to corona … mainly that I get more sleep, I travel far less and spend much more time with the family … now I’m not so sure.

Suppose it’s revenge for the Jillysim blog I set up years ago.

God knows how she’ll review me by the end of this week.
____________________________________________________________________________________

Update:

So last night Otis got a fever.

He has been quarantined for the last 2 weeks with a nasty cough so this fever – which falls within the 2 week incubation period of corona virus – has caused us some concern.

While kids are thankfully, much better placed for recovery, we will be keeping a close eye on him – and ourselves – so this is the last post for a few days.

See, corona virus isn’t all bad after all.



I’ve Started A Cult. Apparently …

Another day, another post about my love of China.

So a few months ago I was there for the opening of a clients latest venture.

You should all check it out because it’s a luxury fashion mall THAT LOOKS LIKE MARS!

Literally.

It was specifically designed to feel like you are on a space station on another planet.

It features everything from luna modules to robot sheep to video screens that look like skylights that show you in outer space.

It is utterly mad and yet truly amazing.

A place that is like no other I’ve seen anywhere else in the World.

But then, without wanting to sound a corporate toadie, the client is like no other I’ve met anywhere in the World … even when I was living in China, which tends to have a lot of brilliantly ambitious folks than anywhere else I’ve lived.

I have to do a post about him soon because not only is his influence on the fashion world almost unparalleled – and I am comparing him to people like Anna Wintour in that statement, let alone the heads of Gucci, Prada and countless others – but in the time I’ve worked with him, he has taught me to look at strategy in a completely new way.

Given I’ve literally been working in this discipline for more years than you care to mention, that’s pretty amazing … so I am sure you would find him pretty fascinating too.

Anyway, as part of the project, I was interviewed about what we have been doing for him and how we have worked together.

I talked about how much I love China and how much of an honour it is for me and us to be able to go there and help with a once-in-a-lifetime project. This may sound like I was a total crawler, but the fact is it’s all genuine.

We have been allowed to influence and shape at the highest level – strategically and creatively – and that’s been amazing, especially when there have been times you’ve disagreed with some of the things they wanted to do.

That’s hard for companies to hear at the best of time, but when it’s the billionaire founder of an international fashion group, that’s a whole other level of sensitivity and yet he has been nothing but open to us because he knows we’re not doing it for any other reason than wanting him to win better.

And when you’re talking about creating Mars on earth, ‘winning better’ is going to be crazy fun, whatever way you look at it.

But back to the interview.

So off we head to China for the opening.

It was packed with press and celebrities.

Billionaires mingled with paupers – errrrm, me – fashionistas rubbed shoulders with fashion disasters – errrrm, me again – so imagine their surprise when the start of the official opening included this …

Yep … that’s me.

Yep … that’s my interview.

Yep … no one understood why I was there or what I was saying.

I’d love to say I was all cool, calm and collected, but I – along with my colleagues – were pissing themselves laughing.

It was madness and awesome all at the same time.

I didn’t know whether it was like a remake of the classic 1984 Apple ad. or my attempt to be the leader of a Birkenstock cult … but it was like nothing I had experienced in my life.

Which is another reason I love this project and miss China.

Because when you are working with someone who believes anything is possible – and has the drive to make it happen – the journey is equally as much fun as the destination and I feel massively fortunate to be on it.

Even if there are people all around the World asking themselves …

“Who the fuck was that old guy in the camo Nike hoodie?”



If You Know Who You Are, You Don’t Have To Say Much About Yourself …

A while back, I wrote about a chef we met on a research project for Tabasco, who said something that had a big effect on me …

“The more confident the chef, the more simply your dish”.

I love this.

It captures so much in so few words.

As you will be able to tell from this blog, I find it hard to be succinct in pretty much everything and anything I do.

I spend ages thinking about things … what is important, what isn’t, what might be that I haven’t thought about yet and what I just want to try to see what comes out the other side.

This is incredibly annoying for almost everyone. Including myself.

But after I’ve messed about with it all and got an idea about where my energy lies, I can eventually get things down to their bare essential – by which I mean reduce it down to the most important thing I need others to understand and feel.

I must admit, I used to give myself a really hard time on how long this process took – especially when I could see others pull it off in the blink of an eye – but the reality is it takes a lot of hard work to be simple and rigour means what you do is right rather than just fast.

I say all this because I recently came across Apple’s marketing philosophy from 1977.

Look at that.

LOOK AT IT!!!

One page. One single little page.

Now I know some will claim it is simplistic.

Or it features words that people may not get, like ‘impute’.

But when you read it – which at one single page, means you definitely will – you quickly understand the 3 essential values that the brand stands for, believes in and values.

They give a fuck about their audience.

They are brutally focused on what they do.

They place great value on how they communicate themselves.

But there’s a couple of other things.

One is they openly talk about ‘creativity’.

To do that in 1977 is amazing.

To do that in 1977 when you are in the computer business, is almost unheard of.

But what I like is they link creativity with professional.

Because not only does it mean Apple don’t see these as being mutually exclusive – which was definitely not a commonly held belief back then, maybe even now – but it’s a clue to the work they want to be known for.

Not creativity for creativities sake, but how they look at the world.

What being professional looks like to them.
What the values of being professional means to them
What the word professional represents in terms of how you live and act.

And given they placed huge importance in understanding their audience, it meant they could do work that moved away from the typical suit and tie, business communication of the day and make work that spoke human to human … acknowledging the creativity in all of us and talking about human values not just corporate efficiency.

And if that wasn’t enough, there is one more thing I love about all this.

They talk about how, if they do it right, their customers will feel about Apple and their products.

Not a bunch of words … but emotion.

Of course this is all very obvious, but there are way too many clients who try to define the exact words they want people to play back to them.

Generic … overly-defined … corporate-talk … words.

It’s as if their bonus is linked directly to the quantity of words a focus group plays back to them.

Which is probably the exact reason why they do it.

But Apple in 1977 didn’t follow that path – and still don’t – because they, like NIKE and countless other brands who have a huge influence in culture, appreciate the simpler you are, the more powerful you become.



Proud To Be Chinese …

As you all know, I lived in Asia for a long time.

And as much as I loved it all, the time I loved most were my 7+ years in Shanghai.

Of course there were moments that were challenging – but that happens wherever you move, even if it’s just down the road from where you have always lived – but without doubt, I can categorically state it was one of the absolute best times of my life and I still miss enormously.

Part of this was because I was in China at a time of great change … where the country was starting to realise its own potential and power. Because of this, I got to witness the character and creativity of the culture came together to start creating something new … exemplified by the ‘coming out party’ of the Beijing Olympics to the rest of the World.

Part of this was because I was working at Wieden+Kennedy at a time where the business World had woken up to the importance of China as a market. What this meant was I wasn’t just part of work that I still feel immensely proud of, but my team had direct exposure to a level of client that few people ever get, with an opinion that has rarely been so valued.

Part of this was because of the people and places I got to meet, go to and work with. In almost every case, everyone was generous with their opinion, compassion and hospitality. In many ways, it is the place where we felt we were part of a real community – where everyone genuinely had everyone’s best interests at heart. The impact was so great on me, that I did a presentation in Australia on how living in China had made me a better person, let alone a better professional. The impact of those years still influences and drives me today.

Part of it was because of this guy …

I am so proud he was born in a country I weirdly regard as ‘home’.

And I am so so happy he feels the same way.

It’s for this reason he wanted to wear this top to school recently.

The symbols are the Mandarin characters for China – or more specifically, Zhōng Guó.

China has been going through a tough time.

Not just because of the Corona Virus, but because of the incredible prejudice being shown towards it and their people.

I get its scary and people aren’t really sure what to do about it … but I must admit I have found the open hostility shown towards it unbelievably offensive.

How the Chinese government have reacted to this situation has been unprecedented – in fact I doubt any other nation would ever react with such pragmatism.

Yes, there have been mistakes, but compared to the terrible way they handled SARS, they have learned their lesson and are actively doing all they can to stop the spread under incredibly complicated situations – exemplified by the fact they basically banned all travel during Chinese New Year when that is the very moment where 300+ million people go back to their homes across China to celebrate with their families.

And how did the World try to help?

By banning and being outright hostile to the people and country.

The paranoia has been incredible.

People claiming to be frightened of Chinese products.
People claiming to be frightened of Chinese services.
People claiming to be frightened of Chinese people.

The bit that upsets me most is that even now – as they are closing their borders to all – the narrative towards the Chinese is aggressive and fearful … which is very different to how they have reacted to other countries going through it.

Why?

Is it because of a language barrier?
Is it because of a lack of awareness?
Or is it because of an inherent prejudice towards China and their people?

Look I get no one wants to go to a place suffering with a dangerous respiratory virus and I get borders of nations needed to be protected [as they should be always] but at a time of struggle you would expect some compassion.

That governments have shown open hostility to a country and its people who they need for their own financial wellbeing is incredible – yes, that’s you America – and they should be grateful that China as a nation does not like conflict, because if the tables were turned, I don’t think other countries would be responding in the same way.

But whatever happens, I will always love and visit China and am grateful to the country for so many things – the main one being that my wonderful son Otis was born there.