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


Love Works In Strange Ways …

So good news, this might be the last post for 2 weeks.

TWO.

Though don’t get too excited because it might only be one.

Either way, you have lucked in as it’s definitely the last post of the week because today I’m in Paris and then on Wednesday, I’m off to Lisbon so I can speak at a conference.

Hahahahahahahaha.

I must admit, I still find it hysterical that people want to hear me talk about anything. Especially given all my ‘material’ is available for absolutely nothing on this blog.

Well, if ‘loss of brain cells’ is absolutely nothing.

And yet I do enjoy talking at conferences …

I like the process of trying to think of something interesting to talk about for the audience.

Working out the best way to get the message across without falling into the deadly presentation paralysis.

Then adding the stories that will either make the audience semi-like me, think I’m a cheeky bastard or just plain hate me.

I say all this but I bet the only reason I do get invited is to be the court jester to the audience – and given the wonderful Mr Weigel will also be at the same conference – I’m even more sure of this fact.

But what it means is I’m away till Monday so with that I want to leave you with a delightful story I’ve just heard about.

In the early 80’s, Queen worked with a German producer called Mack.

He was quite revolutionary for the band – helping change their sound and way of recording – which meant they were one of the few artists who went into the 80’s stronger than when they were in the 70’s, culminating in some of their biggest ever hits.

Another One Bites The Dust.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

Under Pressure.

Radio Gaga.

I Want To Break Free.

Unsurprisingly, Mack got very close to the band and asked Freddie Mercury to be his eldest sons godfather. And it’s to this background I read this story from Mack about what happened on his sons birthday.

Have a read, see you Monday and here’s a link to the video being talked about below.

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Professional To The Core …

For reasons I don’t understand – but I do like – I occasionally get asked for my opinion in industry magazines.

While I absolutely take what I do seriously, I have realized that if I was to compile all that I’ve said that has been printed, I would look a bit of a maniac.

For example, there’s this. Or this. Or even this.

And just recently I was asked ‘what Star Wars character would I be’ and this was my answer …

But here is the thing …

While many may think I do this because I need psychiatric help or have a career death wish, there’s another reason behind it and it’s about comfortableness.

You see when I was a youngster in the industry, I was surrounded by super-smart, super-senior people who were full of opinion, personality and provocation.

While I didn’t agree with everything they said, they helped me realise that ‘just because you take your job seriously, doesn’t mean you have to take yourself seriously’.

What this did was let me feel comfortable in taking to any of them about any madcap idea I had … let me talk to clients about subjects that may otherwise seem ‘off limits’ and let me work with colleagues without thinking it made me look weak or incapable.

In essence, cheekiness has enabled me to do – or be part of – things that I may not otherwise never have been able to do.

From work I’ve been a part of … clients I’ve worked with … agencies I’ve worked at and countries I’ve lived in.

Now of course, mischief is in my bones so it wasn’t exactly hard … but being encouraged to embrace my truth rather than oppress it had a huge benefit to my career and so while a bunch of what I say and do is because I’m a bloody idiot, there is a part of it that is intended to create the space and atmosphere to enable my colleagues and clients feel comfortable with being vulnerable … whether that’s expressing their ideas, their fears and ambitions or simply realizing that if I can have a career while still being a sweary fool, then they – with all their talent – surely can.

You might think this is a load of bollocks – and I totally understand get why – but it’s true.

The future of adland is not going to come from more processes, it’s going to come from more people being able to express or explore their ideas without fearing they will be judged, shot down or ridiculed.

And if you think that’s a dramatic statement, just go on twitter and see how the masses react to any idea that challenges the belief system they have bought into, even though they know for a fact that the very small amount of people who succeed – which are mainly white men – are generally the ones who reinforce the cliche rather than push or break them.

Happy Monday.



You Can Do Whatever You Want As Long As It Is What We Want You To Do …

When I first came to London, I signed up for Zip Car.

To be honest, the process was a nightmare, but I thought it would be useful.

Was it?

Well, put it this way, we ended up buying out own car.

I’m sure Zip is useful for many people, but part of the problem for us was that there just weren’t many cars close to where we lived. What this meant was that if we wanted one, we probably would need a taxi to get to-and-from the car, which kind of defeats the purpose.

The reason I am saying this is that I just saw this ad for them on the tube.

While there were many things I found a bit bizarre about the ad – specifically the fact you’re sitting on the tube but it’s telling you to get a taxi – the bit that got me the most was in the body copy, where they say …

“… leave our car wherever you leave your inhibitions”.

And then, via the ever-useful *, they clarify this with the additional …

“… just make sure you leave your inhibitions in the ZipZone”.

So in essence, they’re trying to position themselves as the enabler of the spontaneous spirit but then have terms and conditions that mean you can only live that way if you’ve thought through your actions.

Or said another way, they want you to plan your spontaneity.

Idiots.



Moments To Be Grateful …

As most of you know, a few months ago I wrote a post about how I had experienced the slow, systematic destruction of my confidence by bosses who had an inherent need to feel in control.

Of everything.

The post caused such a stir that it led to me starting the Corporate Gaslighting site.

While the majority of the hundreds of people who wrote to me were to scared to have their story put online, there are countless examples of management bullying that people have experienced and made to feel was their own fault.

Recently I worked on a project with an incredibly talented creative called Alex Holder.

One night, while sitting together trying to work out how to deal with a particularly difficult situation, we started discussing office bullying and bad management and found we had both experienced it in different guises.

While we both got out of our situations and have been able to move forward, we also know that is not the case for everyone and I told her about Corporate Gaslighting.

She was incredibly supportive of my endeavor and said she wanted to help.

To be honest, many people say that – and while I don’t doubt their intention – often things get in the way of them doing that.

But not Alex.

First of all she sent me a bunch of articles she had written linked to the subject.

Then she pointed people she knew in my direction.

But recently, she has written an article on the subject for Grazia magazine and ensured TheyTriedToKillMeButI.Live was name checked. [See Below]

I am insanely grateful for her support and for doing this.

Not because it legitimises what I am trying to do but because it raises awareness of the issue and hopefully will help someone experiencing this treatment to know they’re not alone, it’s not their fault and there are people ready to help.

Huge thank you to Alex – and Grazia Magazine – it means more than you know.

[You can read it more clearly here]



Society Is Growing Kids Faster Than Battery Hens …

One of the things that is a beautiful nightmare for parents is watching the speed of their children grow up.

At each stage of their development, you think they have reached ‘peak perfect’ and you want them to stay that way forever … but you can deal with their growth because they bring an even more delightful element into their behaviour and, as a byproduct, your relationship.

It’s utterly, utterly magical.

That said, it still doesn’t stop the fact it all happens in the blink of an eye, so while you want to always encourage their development, you just wish it would slow down a little.

The reason I say this is that I recently read about a graphic designer was so appalled at the cover of a young girls magazine, that they decided to release what they thought it should be.

Now I must admit, my first impression to this story was that the graphic designer was probably a self-righteous individual who wanted kids to grow up in the same conditions as they did.

That was until I saw this …

The original cover of the magazine is on the left, their version is on the right.

I’m going to ignore their cover – because you can read how it came about and the story behind their idea, here – however the magazine they redesigned is a real magazine and, according to their own website, supposedly stands for:

Girls’ Life (GL) magazine was founded in August 1994 (yes, we’re ancient, we know) by Karen Bokram. Since then, GL has grown from a 23-year-old’s pipe dream project to a best-selling and award-winning platform for tween and teen girls.

Tweens and teens.

An incredibly impressionable age.

Now look at that cover.

Look at those story headlines.

Now I appreciate I am an old, white male … but they seem to place huge subliminal pressure and expectations on young women.

Wake Up Pretty.

Dream Hair.

Fashion you need to own.

Boyfriends.

If young women want to explore any of those things, then that is wonderful, but I wonder how much of it is because they are being made to feel that way rather than being something they are naturally interested in. Of course, there is something wonderful about learning to develop and grow … but this seems less about personal growth and more about playing to stereotypes – and advertising dollars – so that they can then be judged by broader society.

Of course parents have a big role to play in managing the environment their children play in, but at a time where the World is finally waking up to fighting the prejudice, oppression and stereotypes women have had to face for centuries, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve this when the World they are surrounded by continues to push an agenda of compliance … especially when they’re titles supposedly designed for the betterment of young women.

Of course this is not limited to content for young women, young boys also have stereotypes of behaviour and aspiration shoved down their throats that are unrealistic and add incredible pressure to their development.

I get children will always grow up too fast for parents, but it is scary how even that isn’t fast enough for media outlets.

What makes it worse is so many of them say their ‘purpose‘ is to inspire brilliance in their readership.

Girls Life specifically say their role is ‘dedicated to informing, inspiring and entertaining girls around the globe—and that includes everything from starting your business (we LOVE spotlighting smart, successful teens) to putting up with periods to styling a personal look you’ll love’.

Which is why I look at the Graphic Designer who screwed with their cover and say ‘well done’ … because I now realise what they did was not act like a judgmental parent, but simply show Girls Life how their cover should look if they are serious about what they claim they represent.



Laugh In The Face Of Authority …

Redundancy is horrible.

It happens but that doesn’t stop it being horrible.

You feel discarded, worthless, devalued.

Even if you know it is absolutely none of those things and you’re just a victim of circumstance you can’t escape the feeling you have been singled out.

It’s even worse when companies approach it as “business, not personal”.

I appreciate that there are countless legalities that you have to jump through but while it might be business for the company, it is always personal for the individual being let go.

That doesn’t mean you want to receive any sense of contrived compassion but you do want to feel respected as an individual.

I remember being let go once and then told that because they knew my visa would mean I’d have to leave the country in 28 days – they would happily delay telling the authorities for a month [to allow me more time to find a new job] but – and it’s quite a big but – if I sacrificed the residency payment I was legally obliged to have been given.

Pricks!

[Though it gave me the resolve to start cynic so it wasn’t all bad – but absolutely no thanks to them]

Anyway, the reason I am writing all this is because I read a story of someone in NZ who was being made redundant who dealt with the situation in a unique way.

Not only did they ensure they owned the situation but they also ensured it was the company letting them go who felt the awkward ones.

It all started when the individual was told they were being let go and informed they could bring someone to the meeting for support.

Who did they bring?

A partner?

A parent?

A colleague?

A lawyer?

Nope … a clown.

A bloody clown.

You can read the story of my newfound hero here … even though when I first heard the story I thought it was the agency who brought in the clown to try and make the mood lighter.



What You Can Learn About The Danger Of Assumption From The Original Woodstock Festival …

One of the things I do when I first get a brief is try to see the creative opportunity.

Where we can make the biggest and most interesting difference.

Changing something.

Pushing something.

Destroying something.

However the reality is that in many briefs, this isn’t always clear – mainly because so many are written from quite a transactional perspective, designed for an agency to ‘answer it’, rather than use it as a springboard for bigger, more powerful and more sustainable impact.

And that’s why the best thing you can do is ask questions.

Explore.

Prod.

Challenge.

Not just in terms of who authored the brief, but the people who are responsible for what comes out of it.

There are some people who think this approach has the potential of alienating clients, but in my experience it has quite the opposite effect. People in power regard this as a demonstration of someone who gives a shit … someone who wants to help them achieve the best outcome in ways that can best serve their business. Ideas they may simply never have seen or considered before.

And that’s exactly why I do it because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t know the level of the clients ambition … their desire for change and impact … and without that you can’t possibly see the creative opportunity you have in front of you and you may go down a path that leads to nowhere because you have made assumptions that simply aren’t true.

Don’t get me wrong, we all need new business to survive – let alone thrive – but my point of view is that if people aren’t excited or clear on what we are looking to do, then it either leads to a painful journey with painful work at the end of it or just mistrust and quite frankly, I haven’t got time for either of those in my life.

So what’s all this got to do with the title of this post?

Because I recently read an article on the famous Woodstock festival and was reminded – from a comment by Tommy James from the band, Tommy James and The Shondells – how dangerous ‘assumption’ can be.

And who is Tommy James from Tommy James and The Shondells?

Well, this might tell you why you haven’t heard of him or them …

Don’t assume the person communicating with you has total clarity on their situation.

Don’t assume the people around you have total clarity on the situation.

Just don’t assume.