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


Till Next Year …

So this is the final post of the year.

It’s been a big year for me and the family.

Then again, it was a big year for the family last year too.

However, whereas 2017 saw us leave Shanghai and Wieden+Kennedy – something that was truly emotional for all of us – 2018 has seen us go from sunny LA, working at Deutsch, living in a house by the beach and driving a custom made Audi to being citizens of cold and rainy London, living in a much smaller house in Fulham, working at R/GA [with some sprinkles of Metallica madness in-between] and traveling by tube to and from everywhere.

And we haven’t been this happy in ages.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things we definitely miss from our life in the US – people, the weather, Otis’ school, free soda refills and bacon mainly – but this move was right for us for a whole host of reasons, personal and professional, and we enter 2019 with the full expectation we’ll still be here when 2020 comes around.

I hope.

It’s funny, when I read the final post I wrote for last year, it is apparent that change was in our minds. We didn’t think that openly, but it seems it was there.

Of course, moving to a country and then leaving in just over a year is not the best thing.

It’s financial stupidity for one.

But these things happen and we are very happy for the amazing experience, though I must admit I’m even happier my wife, son and cat are still talking to me.

Fools.

But while our environment has changed, some things have stayed exactly the same.

Your ability to trash everything I write on here, for one.

And to you all, I say a huge thank you.

Sure, being told I’m a bad dressing, musically ignorant, gadget tosser every-single-day can get a bit tiring, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Because amongst the insults, there’s often pearls of gold in there.

Stuff that makes me think about things a different way.

Stuff that influences how I think about things I never thought about.

Stuff that just keeps me on my toes and interested about stuff.

And I love it.

I love that people come here and share a bit of their time and opinion with me.

Yes, I appreciate moving to the UK and still posting at 6am is screwing up the flow of the comments given the East Coast of America is asleep and can’t insult/join-in until much later … but the fact so many people still write makes me feel very fortunate.

While I have loved the ability to move countries and cultures so many times – and hope to continue doing it, just not for a bit – the reality is that is makes your friendship network difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very fortunate we have technology to keep me in touch with the wonderful people I’ve met in every country we’ve lived [whether they like it or not] and this year I got to catch up with people I’ve not seen in years – from Freddie to Paula – but there is something about having a level of constancy that makes you feel settled.

Bizarrely, this blog has provided me with a bit of that.

Even with people I have still yet to meet.

[Though I met Marcus and Neil Perkin this year and that made me so happy]

While I would never suggest I am your friend, you have been to me – in many ways and at many times, both at moments of darkness and happiness – and I want to take this opportunity to say thank you.

To all of you.

Even you Andy.

When I started this blog way back in May 2006, I never expected anyone to read it, let alone comment so the fact some of you still are – regardless that many Police officers would call it abuse – I’m grateful.

I’m excited about next year.

It will be big.

Not because we’ll be moving … or I’ll changing job … but new things will be entering my life.

From my beloved Otis starting proper school – which literally is screwing with my head – to the much-talked-about-but-not-much-actually-done Weigel/Campbell officially doing its thing in addition to the exciting adventures and exploits my wonderfully beautiful family, my bloody amazing friends and fantastic new planning team will get up to that will make me feel even luckier than I do already.

Being back in England has had a much bigger effect on me than I ever imagined it would.

I am grateful for it.

I am grateful for all I have.

I hope this holiday season and 2019 is one that is wonderful for you all too.

See you in a few weeks. [Yeah, don’t think you get so lucky to not have me come back]

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Majority Cruelty …

Given we’re are in throws of Christmas parties, I think this post is possibly very relevant.

A few weeks ago, I was at Liverpool Street Station when I saw this woman …

People were sniggering at her and I could tell she was getting upset so I went to her and said …

“Excuse me, I just want to say you look fantastic”.

Fortunately for me she didn’t call the police for breaking the cardinal London commuter rule of ‘DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS’, instead she said thank you and then explained she felt a bit silly dressed up for a Halloween party among all these business people.

I told her to ignore them because they were all dressed as depressing sheep to which she turned around, looked at a bunch of the people who had been looking at her and said – very loudly – “fucking sheep”.

While this may be one of the proudest moments of my life, it quickly turned into feeling slightly unnerved given I then got on the same train as the people she insulted whereas she went somewhere else.

But the thing is the way people were looking and acting towards her was horrific.

These weren’t drunken, young idiots, they were sober, middle and elderly business people … and yet they ganged up on her for their own amusement because she was dressed differently to them.

For someone to do that – even if they’re going to a party – is a big deal.

It is an act that makes them very vulnerable … they’re literally letting their day-to-day guard down and exposing themselves to the mercy of the mainstream so the last thing they need are a bunch of the majority showing no respect – or worse – downright distain at them.

We talk about wanting to encourage creativity and openness in the World, but we suck at it.

Whether it’s being part of at a creative review or watching someone dressed for Halloween … we need to start by accepting what they’re bringing to the table is very personal and showing it to others for their judgement makes them very vulnerable so whether we like what they’ve done or not, we should never just dismiss it just because it doesn’t suit our tastes.

Openness means being open to possibilities, not negatively judging with a smile on your face … so I hope Ms Colourfuljoyness went on to have an amazing night and may she wear whatever the fuck she likes going forwards.



Here We Go …

So here we are, the last month of 2018, and what a year it has been for me.

Started out in the sunny life that is Los Angeles and end it in the rainy life that is London.

From Deutsch to R/GA.

From Audi’s to the Tube.

From LA Din Tai Fung to the new London Din Tai Fung.

[Let’s be honest, I’d never of come if they weren’t here]

But I’m happy – very happy.

Sure, there’s a bunch of things I miss, but apart from the fact many of them will remain in my life for ever, the rest I can look back on as experiences I am fortunate to have had so I’m grateful I got to have them rather than sad I’ve lost them.

I know, who am I?

But all that is for a an even more boring post sometime in the next few weeks, so I’ll end this far-too-positive post with one of my new favorite songs, ‘Love Can Only Heal’, by Altered Bridge and the Slash band, Myles Kennedy.

I know you will think it’s bollocks – but apart from the fact that means you’re all a bunch of musical heathens who can’t appreciate the brilliance of a melancholy melody that’s orchestrated with a slowly building pulse of drama – you’re forgetting the alternative would be suggesting you listen to Queen.

Suddenly not so bad it is?

And it gets better … because for reasons that make no sense whatsoever, I’m going to be on my way to the US again by the time you read this. Which means you’re free from my blog rubbish till Thursday and given the following week is the final week of blog posts from me for 2018, you are exactly 7 posts away from ending the year on a positive.

If that doesn’t make you enjoy today, then nothing will.

Happy Monday.



You Can’t Change The Future If You Judge Them By The Old Rules …

So a few weeks ago I went to the premiere of the Queen movie, Bohemian Rhapsody.

But it was more than that … I went with my best mate Paul and was surrounded by 6000 Queen fans, the band and the actors from the film.

It turned a movie into a wonderful celebration of an amazing band.

To be honest, while Rami Malek is amazing as Freddie – as is Gwilym Lee as Brian May – the atmosphere from the audience was better than the movie.

To be honest, it was always going to be that way, but as a piece of my personal history – including the re-enactment of so many concerts where I was actually there – it was an amazing thing to be a part of.

Of course this movie is not going to change the opinion of anyone who wasn’t a Queen fan already. And even for them, it’s not going to tell them anything you didn’t already know … but what the movie has done is get the media to conversations with people who were part of the Queen history that previously, had rarely said much about it.

One of them is fashion designer Zandra Rhodes.

She was the person behind the look that – in many ways – defined Freddie and the story she tells in the interview is wonderful, especially the bit where she describes him as a ‘hidden revolutionary’.

Of course she is referring to him in this way because back then, Queen was just starting out, because the idea of Freddie Mercury ever being hidden is quite amusing.

But that is the thing we often forget … that new is always going to be uncomfortable and yet we judge those with new ideas by the standards of the established. Literally trying to kill new thinking before it has a chance to even catch light.

And that’s why we all need to be more open to the unknown and the unexpected.

See where it could take us before we tell it where we want to take them.

Because when we hear people or companies say they want to be like NIKE, APPLE, Freddie Mercury or countless others we forget that to get there took time, patience and letting go … of the old rules, the old expectations and the old answers.



Like Walking Across A Minefield In Clowns Shoes …

I have written a lot about scam in the past.

How it is destroying the credibility of our industry.

How the main culprits are the agencies behind the bland wallpaper we see each day.

How these scam places are devaluing the agencies who make amazing work for real clients.

Recently John Hegarty suggested that agencies found doing scam should be banned from award shows like athletes are banned from competing.

I absolutely love this idea.

I don’t think it will stop it happening, but it will severely reduce it.

But I’d go one step further.

Years ago Andy told me the judges of the awards are complicit in scam happening.

He said that they were so focused on being associated with great work, they didn’t care if it was real work.

I think he has a point which is why rather than just banning the agencies who do it, I’d ban the judges who award it.

Of course, the judges could say they acted in good faith and assumed the people behind the competition had evaluated it’s appropriateness.

And that’s fair, but the award competitions need entries and the horrid reality is that scam has paid the bills for many of them for too long so to expect them to rigorous in their validity might be a bit too much to hope.

But here’s the thing, scam isn’t even hard to spot.

Part of the reason for it is – as I mentioned – because it comes from agencies who are more known for their blandom than their pragmatsism.

The other reason is that in their quest to be provocative, the agencies often overstep the mark because they know judges love this sort of thing.

Have a look at this …

It’s about as perfect an example of scam you can get.

A visually driven idea [because unless the copy is in English, it will stop judges liking it]

A clear point of view.

Embracing topical events to make their point.

On face value, it all makes perfect sense – but apart from the fact that idea is as old as the hills – the use of a Muslim woman highlights the desperate attempt of the agency and creative team to be ‘award worthy’.

Sure, all the pictures reflect people following some sort of ‘ideology’ … but a skinhead walking away from other skinheads in a riot and a soldier walking away from other soldiers on their way to unleash war on some nation is very different to a Muslim woman walking away from a group of other Muslim women who simply appear to be Muslim women.

Talk about making a massive and insulting comment to women of the Muslim faith.

The implication that they are all blindly following an ideology designed to cause destruction to others – as seems the theme given the other executions – is both wrong and frankly irresponsible.

But who cares about that when there’s an award to win.

But then, those who enter the dark world of scam don’t care about anything.

Including thinking if their ‘idea’ actually is consistent or makes sense.

Name them.

Ridicule them.

Ban them.



Statements That Stick …

One of the things I love is building a planning team who is like a gang.

A bunch of intelligent misfits who all have unique ways of looking at the World but share a common philosophy in terms of what we want to do, change and impact.

I don’t care how people approach their challenges, I don’t mind if people aren’t the best of friends … but it’s important we have each others back and are open to offering opinion, advice and help if needed, even if individually, there is a healthy level of competition to do the best work of the team.

Of course, this is easier to achieve the longer you stay in a company as you can truly stamp your personality on the department but it’s not totally necessary … you just have to be clear in your beliefs, consistent in your actions and lead by example.

Now whether I’ve achieved any of this is something you’d ultimately have to ask the brilliant people who have worked with me at my previous agencies, but as I’ve started a new job at R/GA, I wanted to rally the team around a set of beliefs and language that can start unifying us more closely so I decided to make us all a set of stickers.

Yes, stickers.

I know … R/GA is an agency that wants to make the future … but apart from the fact we’re about creating stuff that comes from culture rather than ignores them, I have a new laptop that needs ‘customising’ so I thought stickers would be a perfect way to kill 2 birds with one stone.

With that in mind, each member of the team has received a set of the stickers above.

17 stickers that convey our philosophy on such matters as what we believe, how we work and what we want to do.

Some are obvious, some are maybe a bit more esoteric … but even if people absolutely hate them, at least I can say I’ve made something that truly has stuck – even if that is literal rather than philosophical – which, I’m sure you’ll agree, makes a pleasant change.



Saying What Everyone Wants To Hear Will Catch You Out In The End …

I used to know this person who everyone liked.

Always smiling. Always laughing.

They were the life and soul of every party.

But then, when I spoke to people who actually worked with this person, the response was kind of different.

The common reply was something along the lines of:

“They’re nice as a person, but working with them ….”

And there would be this pause as words they didn’t want to say out loud, were said in their silence.

What they were trying to say was the problem they had working with this person was they wanted to be popular.

Sure, we all want that to a certain extent, but this person was obsessed with it … to the point they would always give whoever they were talking to, the answer that person wanted to hear.

Never saying the word “no”.

At least to people who they felt were – or could be – important or influential to them.

And while that is fine in general – or private – conversation, it causes huge problems when it comes to making great work because different promises get made to different people which means everyone is working to different goals and expectations.

Worse, it means when shit hit the fan – which it always will – this person will constantly blame someone else for the issues rather than take responsibility for what has happened.

Of course this shouldn’t be a surprise because their focus was never really been about the work – despite what they might say in public – it was just about their personal relationships.

Look I get it … no one likes conflict.

No one likes to tell someone no, especially if you like that person.

But when you let your ego be more important than the work, everyone loses.

As I wrote before, to get to great work you’ve got to accept it will leave scars.

That doesn’t mean the teams need to work in an atmosphere of toxicity or aggression – far from it, you generally feel the joy the teams have had making great work – but it does mean the tough conversations have to be had openly and early to not just ensure expectations and standards are agreed by everyone involved, but to give the teams the space, time and safety to make work that is fearless and infectious.

Popularity seekers scare the crap out of me.

Sure, they’re nice to have a cup of tea with, but to work with them is horrific.

Not because they lack talent, but they lack integrity and like all relationships, if you can’t trust the person by your side, you can’t have a relationship that can lead to exciting and new places.

But if more evidence was needed, I’d say this.

Tough conversations may not be nice, but not only do they increase the odds of getting to great work … they build stronger trust, respect and relationship between client and agency.

Not having tough conversations may be easier, but I don’t know of any great work that has ever come from it. And eventually, that leads to relationship breakdown … because if there’s one thing I know about this business, when things go good – everyone claims ownership – but when things go bad, most clients tend to point the gun at the agency.