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


Don’t Be Like Them …

One of the problems I have with adland is their belief that they must resemble the client.

Not just in terms of the client’s business, but in how they speak, dress and act.

They’re wrong.

The whole point of an agency is to be objective.

Of course to do that means you have to know the business.

Have to know the agendas and goals of the individuals and the company as a whole.

And have to know the competitive and social landscape.

But our skill – beyond making work that captures the imagination that makes the business work – is to see the World differently to our clients while being totally aligned to the goals we’re all working towards is.

I’m hearing more and more companies forgetting this.

I’m hearing of more and more situations where people are being evaluated less on the work they do and more on how they present themselves.

Literally.

I cannot tell you how angry and upset this makes me.

Putting aside the fact that people should be allowed to be themselves – especially in the creative industry – the fact is, if you only have people who think like you and agree with you, then you end up in a situation where your value is basically diminished and the role of the agency is nothing more than simply an extension of the marketing department.

Contrary to what you think, this is not my attempt to justify how I dress.

I know I have a ‘unique’ approach to fashion, but it’s not because I want to be noticed, it’s because I have a ‘unique’ approach to fashion.

It’s who I am.

It means I am comfortable in my own skin.

It means I will be utterly honest to my clients and colleagues.

That doesn’t mean I’m always right, but it does mean I’ll always be honest.

It also means my clients are judging me on the work I do, not the clothes I wear.

Which is exactly as it should be.

Sure, first impressions count but in my experience, good clients place far more value on first interactions because they understand they’ll never get anywhere great if all they do is surround themselves with people who think, act and see things the same as them.

As one of my old senior Nike clients once said to me …

“Middle management don’t like to be challenged because they want to keep things the same. Senior management want to be challenged because they want to keep things improving”. 

Of course not everyone acts or thinks like that – and often there are reasons for it that are due more to company culture than individual beliefs – but in his particular case, if we weren’t pushing or challenging his beliefs or ideas then he would question why we were there, which is why he was one of the best clients I ever worked with and learnt from. 

Advertisements


When You Stop Being Paranoid, You Stop Being Competitive …

Back in 2007, Forbes magazine ran this cover …

2007 is also the year Apple launched the iPhone, a product – lets not forget – that was ridiculed by Nokia executives.

While hindsight is 20:20, you can see why they were skeptical.

Here was a computer company entering a category they had absolutely no heritage or expertise in.

A computer company who only a few years ago, was on its knees after launching a plethora of badly thought-out products.

But while those are, on face value, two fair perspectives … they were blinkered to the changes that were going on both in tech and society.

Blinkered or arrogant.

The irony of business – especially our business – is that it needs a healthy dose of confidence and paranoia.

Confidence to be secure in what it believes in.

Paranoia to never let them feel settled with where they are.

The moment you think you’ve made it, you can be pretty sure you won’t be there for long.

When I was at Wieden, I could always tell who had the potential to be there for the long haul by their attitude.

In essence, those who thought getting the job was the achievement were not going to last.

Not always, but generally … because Wieden’s brilliance isn’t just about the work it produces, but the belief of what creativity can do and the ambition to see where it can be taken.

It’s similar to what I believe made Apple so powerful back in 2008.

Ambitious.

Tenacious.

Restless.

Relentless.

Stubborn.

Naive.

… and, of course, paranoid.

Not in terms of who gets there first – though that is always in the back of their mind – but who gets to do it best.

And that’s why I love hiring people who have a point to prove.

A chip on their shoulder.

A dirty little secret.

Because in a World where the smart people can perfect what we already have, it’s the freaks who change where we go.



Proof Amsterdam Is Full Of Drug Taking Loons …
October 11, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Agency Culture, Culture

A few weeks ago, the MD of Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam – the insanely smart, kind and horribly handsome – Blake Harrop sent me a cryptic note saying he needed my home address.

OK, it wasn’t that cryptic because he basically said, ‘can I have your home address’ … but it was still a bit weird. And lovely.

To be honest, I’d forgotten about it until I came home late and found a package marked “sculpture” on the dining table.

Despite thinking it was quite likely to be a letter bomb, I opened it up and found this …

Yes, I know it’s fucking hideous, but it’s also beautiful because it’s a clog that has been carved to look like a Birkenstock that is also an iPhone stand.

That’s right, if I was a one-legged weirdo, I could use it to hop outside ANNNNNNND store my iPhone in it.

But that’s not the total mad thing – though I accept the fact this this actually exists, is pretty bonkers – it’s the fact it was a present from the very lovely nutters at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, specifically planning amazeballs Maria and the wonderfully brilliant ECD, Eric.

Why?

Because they are beautiful people and have utterly alarming taste. Or should I say know I have utterly alarming taste.

Anyway I absolutely adore it and it is another reminder how special Wieden is as a company, partly because of who they have in the company …, even if to most folks out there, this would be a declaration of war or the most insulting way to say you didn’t get the job.

Thank you my beautiful fools over in the dam, I love it.



I Am Just Sharing An Article Because That’s What You’re Supposed To Do On Social Media …
October 10, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Advertising, Agency Culture, Comment, Marketing, Marketing Fail

I don’t know if the article I’m linking to is true.

To be honest, it doesn’t matter if it is or if it isn’t, because I have no opinion on the matter.

Definitely not.

The only reason I’m sharing it is I have been called a social media whore in the past and this is my attempt to ‘upgrade’ myself to a social media escort.

The fact the article has some vague link to the industry I work in is purely coincidental, but as we’re here, I feel there are 3 things I should add:

+ I worked for WPP on 2 separate occasions.

It is a huge organization full of great companies and smart, talented people.

In my time there, my overall experience was generally positive.

+ WPP have done nothing illegal.

Immoral perhaps – given one of their agencies also did this anti-gun campaign – but not illegal.

+ While I appreciate that a corporation has a legal obligation to make money for their shareholders, a companies ‘values’ means nothing if you don’t live by them.

For the record, these are WPP’s values:

WPP & its operating companies have as their core values honesty, integrity & respect for people. These core values determine the way we approach business & they define the principles in which we expect our people to behave in the conduct of our business.

It will be interesting to see what happens with this story.

Or should I say, it will be interesting to see what happens next with this story.



(M)adland …

So I’ve been asked to speak at a McKinsey conference.

No, I’m not exactly sure why either.

Anyway, while they want me to talk about creativity, my goal is to cause debate and conflict among these highly paid, process driven, business brains which is why my presentation will be called, “You Wouldn’t Understand …” and I’ll be focusing on the magic of chaos.

Now I’m under no illusion the audience will regard me – and the industry I represent – as a bit of a joke, which is why I will do my usual 8 Mile strategy of owning all the prejudice and negativity they could throw against me so I rob them of their ammunition and force them to listen rather than judge.

And that’s where I need your help.

Of course there’s a bunch of stuff I could say, but I’m interested in things that go beyond just the process or thinking of creative development, but the ridiculous ways adland conducts it’s business.

To start you off, I want to leave you with a quote from a friend of mine, a new business guy at a super-successful agency’ that said this to me:

“I will travel miles to talk about myself to someone for free”.

When you see it like that, it’s pretty insane … ignoring the fact many management consultants do exactly the same thing except they call it a ‘business audit’. [Though to be fair to them, they then charge a fee that makes this sort of cold-calling pay for itself]

Anyway, any other suggestions or examples will be very, very welcomed and remember, you’re fighting for creativity here. And my personal vindictive satisfaction.



Why Nike Win …
July 18, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Agency Culture, Creativity, Empathy, Nike, Wieden+Kennedy

When I left Wieden+Kennedy, my stupid lovely clients at Nike decided that instead of having a party to celebrate me going [which they probably did later] they would give me a present.

Now that is nice in itself, but when you receive a custom made cigar box guitar featuring little symbols that represent me as a person … from my Birkenstocks to the Forest logo to the Owl that represents my Mum, well that takes things to a whole different level.

I shouldn’t be surprised by their generosity because they’ve shown over and over again that they give a shit about people who give a shit about sport, but given [1] I’m hardly the most athletic of souls, [2] I support Forest, a team who challenges the definition of sports and [3] I gave them nothing but pain and attitude for 7 years [which I was reminded of on a daily basis] … this gesture goes beyond anything I could ever hope for, let alone imagine.

I am a firm believer that you can tell a lot about people – and companies – by the way they treat others when there’s little in it for them and what NIKE did for me explains why I feel it was an honour to work with them and why I genuinely hope to do it again one day.

Thank you Swoosh folks, you are a bunch of wonderful fools.



Does Adland Know What Innovation Actually Is?

A long time ago, when I first moved to Shanghai, I wrote a post about how I felt China practiced what I called practical creativity.

Now while their has been significant improvement in the attitude towards innovation over the past 7 years – especially in terms of using technology to make life more convenient – the ‘functional’ element of creativity still exists.

Recently I saw another example of this.

Except it’s older than the stuff I used in my original post.

And it’s not true … more a story that grew into legend.

But that aside, it reinforces my point that there seems to be a major difference between the attitude of commercial creativity in the West and the commercial creativity in the East and both could do with taking a bit from each other.

Funny eh?

And while the true story behind the development of the ‘space pen’ is quite different to what is stated in this article [it was more a product of marketing than conquering the universe] the issue it raises is what adland seems to value in creativity.

Would ‘using a pencil’ be seen as successful in industry awards?

Probably not.

Even in Effies, I question if anyone would bestow anything on it other than ridicule.

But the pen might … with the right case study video attached, detailing the struggle to reinvent writing or some other headline worthy statement.

And that bothers me because commercial creativity will always start with the mind and if we ignore that in favor of the eyes and our egos, then we will be walking even further away from developing the ideas that I know we are capable of making that can fundamentally impact culture and commerce.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to try and push what is possible … but when you’re over-engineering a solution for no other reason than trying to win an award, then you should get fists in the face rather than applause.

Maybe Andy was right.

Years ago he told me the reason why judges at awards often favour scam is because it satisfies their ego to be associated with ‘ideas’ that allegedly push what is possible … even if it’s not real or effective.

Which is why most of the ‘innovation’ ideas that are awarded in advertising shows never gets to see the light of day.

Remember Peggy?

I rest my case.