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


Down The Rabbit Holes …

So we’ve recently had some interns join the Deutsch planning mob.

They’re smart, passionate and enthusiastic as hell.

Far smarter than I was at their age. Arguably, smarter than I am now.

So I met up with them to see how they were going and they told me how they were getting to grips with things because initially, it was so overwhelming that they found themselves going down a lot of rabbit holes.

I get it, it was super daunting to me when I started too but the one thing that concerned me was their belief that rabbit holes were a negative.

As I pointed out to them, if they don’t go down rabbit holes, then they’re no use to me.

Rabbit holes are an essential part of the planning process.

Not just in terms of exploring possibilities to tackle the problem you have been given … nor to pressure test the strategy you have identified … but to also reveal if there is are more interesting ways to tackle the problem than you may have originally considered or identified.

Rabbit holes are as much about opening possibilities as they are closing them which is why if you don’t embrace them, all you’re doing is screwing yourself – and the client – over.

Sure, focusing on what you think the client will buy may get you quicker approvals and client compliments, but allowing your brain the space and time to wander can help you get to somewhere new … somewhere exciting … somewhere that allows creativity to take you to places no one saw coming … places that will attract rather than chase … and even if you don’t end up somewhere more interesting than where you started, at least you can be sure the strategy you’re recommending has been pushed and prodded, which is why I passionately believe rabbit holes aren’t a waste of time, but a key deliverable of what we do and have to do.

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Social Media Reveals How Stupid You Are By Showing How Stupid You Think People Are …

Now I appreciate I am a social media whore and have posted all sorts of rubbish in the past, but even I would never do something like this …

I honestly don’t know who is the bigger idiot …

Nescafe for thinking this is a good idea.

The agency for coming up with this idea.

The couple – who occupy that unique space of un-influential, influencers – who decided to commemorate their engagement by selling their souls for a few quid and appearing in a social media post for an international coffee brand while pretending [1] it’s totally natural to commemorate your engagement by appearing in a social media post for an international coffee brand and [2] it’s totally believable to have a staged photo of you in bed, despite the fact there was a photographer in the room with you..

Some other questions are:

+ Why are they not looking at each other?

+ Why is he so, so, so brown?

+ Judging by how tensed up his arms are, just how heavy is that cup of coffee?

+ Why is he cradling his cock?

Seriously, this might be the most z-grade version of Hello magazine that ever lived.

Everyone involved in this – and I mean everyone – needs a bloody big smack in the head.



The Freaks Move Us Forward …

When we think of the people who are pushing society forward, who do we tend to think of?

OK, so a lot of that is dependent on your personal context … but in general, I would say we’d tend to think of scientists, technologists and – occasionally – politicians, to name but a few.

And while I totally agree with that, I think so much of the things that move culture forward are the freaks and the outsiders.

They might not get the credit.

They might not get the acclaim.

But so much of what ends up becoming the mainstream is created by the people in the shadows … those who didn’t follow the rules or expectations of others because they either didn’t know what they were or weren’t in a position to ever stand a chance of achieving it.

The misfits are the ones who can make the biggest differences.

Not because they know how to break the rules, but they don’t know what the rules are.

For the record, this does not make them rebels.

Rebels is something in the eye of the observer, not the beholder.

These people simply see the World differently which shapes why they do things differently.

They’re the people adland should be embracing more of.

Yes, I know it may mean they’re harder to work with.

Yes, I know clients may question what they are offering to their business.

But the power of creativity starts with how you think and this is exactly why we should be embracing them.

One of the best people we ever hired used to be a kids bed designer at IKEA.

Another was a pig feed salesmen.

Both of them had absolutely no idea what advertising was beyond the executions they see every day.

And yet both of them were brilliant for exactly this fact … because they were able to use their unique creative talent to develop ideas I doubt anyone ‘trained in advertising’ could ever achieve.

Don’t get me wrong, being trained in the craft of advertising is vital – and there’s amazing people who can do amazing things that outsiders, or anyone else for that matter, may never achieve – but I fear we are in danger of becoming an industry of ‘production line thinkers and doers’ and that’s why we need to embrace those who play outside the lines of the creativity because without them, we’re getting far too neat and tidy in our responses to challenges.

Now I fully appreciate holding companies and clients may think ‘neat and tidy’ is a wonderful thing – it means greater efficiency, accuracy and profitability – but that’s short-term thinking, because in a World where competition is more intense than ever, creativity may be the only legal means a company has to counter heritage, distribution and budget and the only way we can ensure our creativity works it’s best is if we embrace the people who don’t follow the rules because they don’t even know what they are.



The Final Countdown …

So today is the beginning of my final full month in America.

That blows my mind.

Without doubt I am sad my time here is coming to an end so soon – its been a great honour to be able to live here and meet so many amazing people – but by the same token, I’m genuinely excited to be moving back to my home country after 24 years away.

That said, part of the disappointment of leaving is I know I got to see and experience so little.

Sure, I’ve been to a bunch of places in my time here, but when you travel mainly for work, you never really get to get a feel for a place.

Yes, I have continued to do what I’ve always done in new cities [the follow up to that link can be read here] but that’s nothing like immersing yourself in the cultural underbelly of a place.

And that’s one of the main reasons I’m disappointed, because while America is a pretty fucked up right now and a lot of the industry here prefers easy over great, it is still an amazing country that I would have loved to have understood and experienced more of.

People, portions and lifestyle aside, there will be some things I’ll always take with me.

The realisation America’s version of a ‘compact car’ is a European 4×4.

The obsession people all have with ranch dressing.

The countries fascination with holidays and how they go all out for them.

The obsessive order people follow to get off planes.

The fact people say and write “Y’all”.

That checks/cheques are still a thing.

No one can talk about race, abortion, wealth, guns, racism. Ever.

That people are not at all comfortable with honesty and truth.

The hierarchy of corporate structures and how they work and are adopted.

The utter brilliance of The Cheesecake Factory.

Oh there are so many things … things I will take with me forever that will make me smile and frown for the rest of my days … but overall America has been very good to me and my family and for that, I will always be grateful.

Sure, the feelings are different to when I left China, but thanks to some of the people, experiences and work I was able to be a part of, I can leave feeling a better person than when I arrived, which – when you think about it – is the best way to leave anywhere.

I just hope some people will feel the same way.

At least the ones who now will always matter to me.

[Though I have a month to try and change that for them, ha]



Devil In The Details …

I appreciate me – and this blog – being back, constitutes the worst Monday ever, but deal with it.

Hong Kong was as it always is … busy, noisy, energetic, proud, flamboyant.

Fuck I miss Asia.

Well, I miss lots about Asia, but one of the things I don’t is the bullshit bank advertising.

Where every company tries to convey how prestigious they are and – as a byproduct – how aspirational their customers are, even though what they show is the sort of tacky success you tend to see in a z-grade reality show contestants house.

Case in point this stuff from UOB Bank.

Introducing Singapore’s first diamond embellished, metal card.

No, seriously.

What a load of bollocks.

But what does ‘diamond embellished’ even mean?

Is it that minute square in the card … to the right of the chip?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha, I think it is, because nothing says success like having a credit card with some cheap ass specks of diamond that even Ratners jewelers would turn their noses up at.

But it gets better …

By ‘better’, I obviously mean worse.

Because not only have they launched a credit card for the most insanely idiotic and egotistical customer on the planet – or at least Singapore – they’ve shown their true tacky colours by making one of the worst copy mistakes I’ve seen in ages to accompany the cards launch.

“For those who value exclusivity in its most extinguished form”.

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Dickheads.

I love it, because nothing says class and sophistication like a lack of basic language skills.

Now while I’d love to extinguish the people who came up with this card and who want this card, I think leaving things exactly as they are is a much better solution … because not only does it make the people at the bank look the sad, shallow, idiotic wankers they are, it also ensures anyone who pulls this card out looks the sort of pathetic, egotistical, insecure and unsophisticated asshole they truly are.

That’s what I call a WIN:WIN in my book.

I will always love and miss Asia with all my heart, but I will always hate the lazy, contrived, aspirational bullshit that the marketing departments of so many companies continue to peddle.



That Friday Feeling That Lasts A Whole Week …

So next week, I’ll be in Hong Kong.

For the whole week.

Yes, that means absolutely no posts whatsoever for the next week.

But to make sure you don’t get too happy, I’m going to leave you with one final post.

This is about the importance of mistakes.

Now I appreciate the word ‘mistake’ is often viewed as a negative, but I have a very different perspective on them.

Mistakes create standards.

Mistakes open opportunities.

Mistakes reveal who we can be.

OK, so depending on the mistake, some people may feel very differently about the positive effects of them, but in my experience big, small, life-changing or just momentarily ridiculous … they all have a benefit as long as you go into them and come out of them with the right attitude.

In short, if you’re making mistakes for any other reason than trying to do something great, you’re wasting everyones time and effort.

Making mistakes out of laziness or stupidity doesn’t help anybody, especially yourself. But doing it because you went for awesome … had a desire to push boundaries … wanted to see what other possibilities are possible … then each one of those mistakes should be celebrated and embraced by all.

Unless, of course, you’re just doing things for personal and selfish reasons then you’re a bit of a dick.

But that aside, this attitude is especially important in relation to being able to come out of your mistake with dignity and sanity intact.

Dignity and sanity are big words.

You can’t bullshit those.

For me, the only way you can walk out with either is if you went go your mistake with a clear reason for doing it and come out with a real learning from having done it.

That’s it.

And while others may never understand your reasoning, if you are clear on your motivations going in and your learnings coming out, then what others may call a ‘mistake’ may be one of the most important and valuable things you can ever do … something that has the power and potential to change, shape, reveal and create every new path you take from here on in.

Dan Wieden used to call this ‘fail harder’, he was right because whatever anyone says, mistakes matter.

See you in a week …



Peak Proud

So in a few weeks I’m doing a presentation on creative relationships.

I’m almost certain I’ve been asked so people can learn what not to do, but despite that, I asked an old client for a quote about what it was like working with me so I could include it in the presentation.

The picture at the top of this post is what he sent me.

I know it could be read as an insult, but either way, it makes me insanely happy … which may say more about me than it does about the quality of our old working relationship.