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


Some People Light You Up More Than The Sun …

When we lived in LA, Otis met a little girl called Elodie.

Quickly they became inseparable.

While I didn’t write too much about them – though I did here – anyone who knew us in LA will know how deep their connection was.

To help you understand, here’s some evidence.

It was so beautiful. They protected each other, looked out for each other and – as much as a 3 year old can – loved each other.

In all honesty, the hardest thing for me moving from America was breaking the friendship Otis and Elodie had, so I was utterly thrilled when she and her Mum came to visit us in London in 2018.

While there was a hint of nervousness when they first saw each other, within minutes they were back to their old selves.

Now I don’t mind admitting that what has helped is Elodie’s Mum and Otis’ are best mates – so they stay in touch even if they didn’t want to. But what’s wonderful is it’s not ‘just staying in touch’ … it’s two people who share something special.

The same energy.

The same compassion.

The same – albeit shortly lived – history.

Which leads to the reason for this post.

A couple of weeks ago, Otis was playing Roblox when Elodie’s Mum facetimed Jill.

Now you have to understand Roblox is Otis’ god.

HE LOVES IT.

When he’s in the Roblox world, we basically have lost him to it.

But then he heard Elodie’s voice and immediately put his iPad down, ran to his Mum’s phone and started nattering away.

Talking about what they were doing.

How old they were.

Playing daft games that made them giggle.

Then they showed each other their cats.

Then their feet.

Then Otis showed Elodie around his new house.

His new bedroom.

And Elodie showed him her garden.

And it went on and on and on for ages.

Seeing and hearing 2 kids who have been in different countries for over 2 years – which is half their life – reconnect with the force as if they had never been away was absolutely beautiful.

Life for many people is a bit shit right now.

There’s not much good news out there … especially with insane politicians trying to make it worse for all of us.

So I’m just going to leave you with a photo.

A photo of Otis talking to his beloved Elodie and hopefully that smile on his face … and the back story I’ve just written about … will remind you it’s not all doom and gloom out there.

And while it can’t change your own challenges and situations, it will hopefully put a smile on your face.

Like it did for me.

Have a good weekend.




Charging For Your Creativity Doesn’t Make You Evil …

Of all the blog posts I’ve written over the years – and let’s face it. there’s been loads – there’s been a few I have constantly referred to.

One is Harrison Ford’s the value of value.

The other is Michael Keaton’s if you’re an employee, you’re still a business owner.

If you hadn’t worked it out by now, both are about ensuring you are not just paid for your creativity, but paid fairly.

You’d think that was obvious, but so many people seem to have forgotten that … including the creative industry, who have decided their value is better placed on the process of what they do rather than what they actually create and change.

Insanity.

But underpinning this is the creative person’s insecurity.

Somewhere in our psyche is the belief that if we charge money for what we create, we’re not being truly creative.

That we’ve sold out.

That we are imposters … capitalists in creative clothing.

Now there is an element of truth in all of this – because the moment you are working for someone else’s dollar, that someone has some influence over what you create. But that’s not unique to the creative industry. Nor does it mean you are selling out on your creative integrity by accepting payment for what you do.

Please note I said ‘payment for what you do’.

That does not mean we should be ignoring the needs, ambitions and goals that our clients want us to help them achieve, but it is acknowledging we should also be paid well for the creativity, craft, experience – and unique way of looking at the World – that goes into creating the work that allows us to achieve their needs in ways others can’t.

The reality is as much as many – especially in the creative industry – like to suggest money is the enemy of creativity, it’s not.

It can allow us to do amazing things.

Break new ground.

Explore new possibilities.

But more than that, while it may be differing amounts, we all need money.

And – to a certain extent – we all want money.

There is nothing wrong with that, just like there’s nothing wrong with being paid for what we do.

The real question should be how did we earn it and what did we do with it when we got it.

That’s how you can judge a persons integrity, not the fact you got paid for what you did and the talent you invested in it.

Sure, struggling may sound romantic in a Hollywood movie, but few of us want a lifetime of that and who can blame them!?

I still remember when Lars Ulrich of Metallica copped all manner of shit because he was the face for recording artists fighting against the role of Napster on the recording industry.

The insults he copped.

The distain he was thrown.

And all he was doing was trying to protect the value of his – and millions of other bands – creativity.

Why was that wrong?

Was it because, at that stage, he was already wealthy?

Is there some sort of rule to say that there is only so much you’re allowed to make before creative people need to shut up and be grateful for what they’ve got?

And what is that amount? No doubt, somewhere between ‘enough to live but not more than the rest of us’.

However somewhere along the line, society has decided to reposition creatively minded people as idealists … naive or even weak. Ignoring reality so they can wank-off on some self indulgent project that only interests them.

Which is total bollocks.

Apart from the fact I’ve never met a creative who isn’t insanely focused on the challenge they’ve been given – even if they have a very different opinion on how to get there to the client or the rest of the agency – the fact is we’ve now surrounded them with 10,000 different types of ‘strategist’, with 10,000 different opinions and agendas … which forces the conversations to be more about the importance of a discipline than the actual potential of the work.

And don’t get me even started on the fact a lot of these new forms of strategy are either [1] not really new or [2] not doing actual strategy, but executional management!

However all that aside, the reality is in all this, creative people have to take a responsibility for the situation they find themselves in.

Or, potentially even more specifically, the people who are training and developing them.

Because they are complicit in maintaining the belief your creative value and integrity is somehow linked to not being ‘diluted’ by payment. Which, when you think of it, is utterly ridiculous given value is created by what others will pay for it.

Schools … universities … agencies … everyone has an obligation to change this.

Not just for the future of their students or employees, but also for their own value.

Appreciating the economic value of what you create and what that creates is not dirty … it is the opposite of that.

It’s purity.

It means you have power in the conversation.

A right to fight for what you believe rather than what is convenient.

Creativity comes in many forms but right now, the form of ‘engineering’ is winning.

Where it’s less about what could be created and more about how you create something that has already been defined. Worse, something that has already been done.

So if you’re in the creative industry or thinking about it or know someone already in it.

Or, alternately, if you’re a teacher involved in the arts – or any subject for that matter – or careers advisor or a parent of someone who is in, or wanting to be in, the creative industry … then please read this article by Alec Dudson [the founder of Intern] because in it, he explains why ‘the economic value of creativity’ skill still remains largely absent from creative education … the impacts of that omission and, most usefully, how you can change it.

Creativity can change outcomes, possibilities and culture.

It has played a pivotal role in every great brand, product, idea and invention.

To devalue that is insane.

But not as insane as the people capable of creating it, also being complicit in it.

Know your worth. Charge your worth. Build your worth.



Management Is About The Small Moments, Not Just The Big …

This is an old photo, but it’s from the rehearsals Metallica did with Lady Gaga for the Grammy’s a few years ago.

But this is not about them, it’s about the 2 men circled.

Please meet Peter Mensch and Cliff Burnstein … the bands loooooong time managers.

In fact, they’re more than that, they’re the most successful music management duo in the history of the industry.

The artists they’ve managed and nurtured over the years is incredible … from breaking Def Leppard’s career with Pyromania and Hysteria to guiding the Chili’s through some of their most challenging times to developing Muse into global superstars … they can lay claim to being behind a lot of the music and artists that define so many of our lives.

But it’s Metallica they’re most famous for … having been with them since 1984.

EIGHTY FOUR.

36 years!!!

Having any band stay together that long is amazing.

Having them still be a contemporary force in culture – rather than a nostalgia act – is incredible.

Having them able to consistently sell out bigger and bigger stadiums all around the World is madness.

Having the same management team for the entire journey – through thick and thin – is nothing short of astounding.

And while there are many reasons for that, I think this picture sums it up.

Mainly because they’re there.

At a rehearsal.

They could have outsourced it to other members of Q-Prime,

They could have said they will only be at the major events.

But no, they’re there … still in the thick of it while also knowing when to stay the hell out of it.

For me, this is management …

Wanting your team to win and demonstrating it through your actions not just some vapid words that say, “we care”.

It’s something we could all learn from, because let’s be honest – we’ve all seen managers who don’t operate this way.

The ones who are first to leave.

The ones who change your work without telling you.

The ones who ensure they’re in the spotlight rather than letting you shine in it.

To paraphrase ‘a dog is for life, not just Christmas’ … management is measured by the success your team achieve, not you’.

I am lucky I get insulted by them every week. Hahaha.



A House Of Brands Or A House Of Cards?

Yes it’s real.

Yes, it has been out for at least 4 months.

And yes, there are so many things I could say about it … but I’m relying on you do it for me.

I will say this however …

When I worked on Old Spice at Wieden – which was only for Asia and had little to do with the great work from Portland – we were adamant that while the creativity should be allowed to explore all manner of mad worlds, the packaging/fragrances had to communicate stability because otherwise there was the danger the whole brand would look like one giant joke.

Or said another way …

The product had to allow madness around it rather than try to compete with it.

I’ll leave it there, over to you …



Proof Comedy Is All About Timing …

Just as the UK Government announced the second wave of COVID rules – ie: work from home and stay at home, despite the fact a couple of weeks earlier, they had announced go to your offices and go out and eat and drink with people – I saw this ‘ad’ on Twitter.

Comic timing genius.

Maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe it’s not ridiculous after all.

Maybe it’s designed to inspire Brits to visit their country when the Government do their next u-turn on thinking again.

Or maybe it’s an example of the brilliant ‘direct to consumer’ targeting we hear so many companies go on about.

But if that’s the case, I would suggest they made a mistake targeting me, because surely the individual they should be talking to is Dominic ‘I visit castles’ Cummings?