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


The Best Thing To Happen To America Since The Invention Of The Hamburger. Probably.

For all the shit America is going through and – let’s not forget – creating for itself, it’s still a pretty awesome country.

The warmth we have receieved from people has been amazing.

Kindness. Consideration. Welcoming.

To be honest, it’s more than we’ve experienced in any of the other countries we’ve lived in – at least in terms of the speed we got it – and so once I got over my initial skepticism, I really started to embrace it.

Of course there’s some things I’ll never get used to.

Not using a ‘u’ in so many of their words.

Calling it soccer instead of football.

Actually using the word “Y’all”.

High-Fiving.

But in most cases I’ve been able to get past it mainly because I’ve chosen to ignore it.

A big part of my ability to do that has been due to the amazing lifestyle LA has given my family.

I have to say, living near the beach, with almost daily sun and cleanish air is an amazing thing to have.

It’s probably as close to paradise as you can get.

However there is one thing I can’t deal with.

One thing I cannot ignore.

That’s right, it’s Otis developing an American accent.

Worse, a Californian accent.

Saying “Mom” will never be acceptable.

Ending the alphabet with “zee” can never be tolerated.

Which is why at the end of August I’ll be leaving Deutsch and on the 5th September, we will be leaving America to go and start a new life in London.

No, that is not a joke.

OK, blaming it on Otis’ American twang is, but the reality of our impending move is not.

It’s definitely not been an easy decision …

The thought of taking my family away from paradise so soon after we got here is horrible.

The thought of moving Otis away from his beloved Elodie breaks my heart.

The thought of saying goodbye to so many people who I now regard as friends, is horrible.

But, for a whole host of reasons, it’s the right thing to do.

More than that, it’s something we’re looking forward to doing.

OK, I admit, when we were thinking about the idea, there were a few moments where I went through a range of emotions I didn’t know were there.

Or said another way, a whole range of emotions I’d obviously been doing a good job of keeping hidden deep down inside for years and years.

Part of it was a sense of guilt about moving ‘home’ after my parents had passed away.

I kept thinking that if I was going to go back, why didn’t I do it when they were alive?

Of course there were many reasons for it – reasons my parents both knew and encouraged – but underpinning them all was this belief I was never going to move back to the UK.

Except I am.

And while it’s been over 24 years since I last lived there – so it will probably feel like a totally new place – I’m excited about it, even though insane stuff like brexit is [allegedly] just around the corner.

Part of this is that I’ll be living in London for the first time in my life. [As opposed to just commuting there]

Part of this is because I’ll be physically closer to my beloved Paul and Shelly than I’ve been in over 2 decades.

Part of it is because it is another chapter of adventure for my wife, son and cat.

Part of it is because I will be closer to my Mum’s sister – my Aunt – in Italy.

And part of it is for what I’m going to be doing, which I’ll talk about another time.

But all that said, I’m incredibly grateful to Deutsch, my [new/old] colleagues and friends and Los Angeles for giving me an experience that has been an honour to experience and enjoy. I’ll write a proper goodbye to them all soon, but what they need to know is they made a huge impact on me and my family.

Both good and bad, hahahaha.

When Jill, Otis, Rosie and I came here, we never imagined we would leave so soon, as demonstrated by the acquisition of houses and cars and a whole host of electronics that will only ever work on US power supplies [the most epic garage sale will be happening soon], but – as we all know – sometimes life gets in the way of our best laid plans and when that happens, it’s better to embrace it than fight it.

So to everyone who has made our time here so memorable, thank you … we will miss you, even if you won’t miss us.

Or – more specifically – me.

London. I’ll see you soon.

Start making your excuses to avoid me now.

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I Love This Photo …

… not just because I’m with a couple of mates I love and respect.

Nor is it that the angle of the pic means my physical horribleness – especially compared to their disgusting beauty – is partially hidden.

It’s because they’re two super-senior leaders, who got to where they are because of their talent and authenticity.

They also happen to be black.

Karrelle Dixon is the Managing Director of Wieden+Kennedy Portland.

Jason White is the Global CMO of BEATS.

Of course the colour of their skin shouldn’t matter – just like it shouldn’t matter what gender you are or what sexual preference you choose – but tragically it still does.

Especially in America.

To get to the top is an amazing achievement for anyone.

To get to the top while remaining authentic to who you are is something truly special.

To do all that and be a person of colour … well, that’s the highest accolade of all.

Of course I hope for a time where this isn’t news – it is just normal – and while neither of them should have to have the additional burden of being a role model, they are and, if I’m being honest, they should be because if you want to model yourself on anyone – regardless of your heritage or background – it’s them.

Smart as shit.

Charismatic as Clooney.

Total natural born leaders.

Tireless in their passion.

Focused on making the best work of everyone’s lives.

A real and proven desire to help young talent come through.

[In both cases, they have personally helped me help people I thought were bursting with talent but were not getting the breaks I felt they had earned, let alone deserved]

In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact I can consistently beat them at table tennis, they’d be perfect.

But the fact is, Karrelle and Jason are still anomalies in this business – and while that should not underestimate the impact they will have on people of colour who previously had little or no role models for believing they could get to the top – it’s also why I’m a bit conflicted with Adcolor’s Future program.

Let me be clear, this is not about Adcolor specifically.

They are an amazing organisation who have done more to promote diversity in the industry than anyone else, not to mention for longer than everyone else.

Their mission has always been to create a community of diverse professionals who support and celebrate eachhother and they have an incredible track record of doing just that … giving people of colour a real chance in an industry loaded with hurdles.

For hurdles, read ‘senior white men’.

And this is why I’m conflicted.

You see recently a couple of my colleagues applied to get in their Future’s program. They are talented, smart, passionate colleagues… who happen to be people of color, but sadly they didn’t get in.

Let me be clear they were OK with the decision.

Disappointed, but OK.

And I can say the same too.

Despite their talent, maybe they didn’t show how good they are in the way they needed to.

But here’s the bit that bothers me.

You see instead of being told what/where they went wrong … how they could improve … they were just told ‘no’.

Now I’m sure there’s a bunch of reasons for the limited response – for example. maybe they’re inundated with requests – but for an organization committed to helping people of colour move forward, a simple ‘yes or no’ seems counter to that commitment.

It feels like they are judges instead of coaches.

Deciding someone’s fate instead of helping it rise.

Now I fully appreciate I am not aware of all the facts.

I also appreciate that Adcolor as an organization is very open and transparent.

But I would have loved it if the people behind their Future’s program had given my colleagues some advice about what they could have done better with their submission, because the fact they wanted to belong to a group who wants to improve the industry means they’re already showing traits adland badly needs to embrace.

But lets be honest, success for people of colour should not just be down to Adcolor.

Nor the inspirational achievements of Karrelle and Jason.

We all have a role to play.

And that goes beyond just talking about it, but doing things about it.

One of the things America has taught me is that if you don’t act, you’re complicit in keeping things the same.

I’d love to think I have always acted on this issue – not just because I’ve spent so much of my career living in nations where I was a member of the [privileged] minority – but that’s how I was brought up.

By that I don’t mean it in a we need to give everyone a chance sort-of way, but in a ‘everyone is equal even when we’re different’ sort-of way.

And while the only way we’ll find out if I’m full of shit is if we ask the people of colour I’ve worked with – both in America and around the World – if I’ve fought for them and shown my belief and faith in them, there’s one thing that is absolutely not open to interpretation …

Diversity makes everything better.

It allows different experiences, understanding and cultural references to open up possibilities and opportunities for everyone and everything. From creativity to culture. Commerce to the potential of creating real change.

But it does even more than that.

It can take our industry to places we might never see or experience without it.

Let’s be honest, our industry has been predominantly shaped by white males.

Hey, some of them have done a brilliant job. I’m not knocking them – or anyone who is white or male – I also happen to be one.

But imagine the possibilities if we let people who had different backgrounds, different experiences, different frames-of-reference to have a go.

Finally we might get to some genuine new thinking in the industry as opposed to the usual old ideas with a different name.

I know for a fact, all my years living in China/Asia made an astounding difference to how I think and who I am. Differences I still embrace and rely on to this day.

[Here’s a talk I gave in Australia on this: Part 1, 2 and 3 ]

And unlike many of us white guys, people of colour [not to mention members of the LGBT communities] have always been generous with their brilliance, talent and kindness, which given all the shit they have had to – and continue to have to – deal with, that makes them the sort of leader we’d all benefit from working with and for.

Put simply, every single person in adland should be pushing, embracing, celebrating and making room for diversity.

Not because it is ‘the right thing to do’ – even though it is – but it might be the only thing that can save adland and make it truly matter again.



Nothing Today …
July 4, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, Anniversary, Comment

… or tomorrow.

You can thank America’s independence for your peace.

But don’t get too comfy, I’m back on Friday.

Comments Off on Nothing Today …


Half Way Mark …

How the hell is it June already?

It literally seems like two minutes ago that I was making that epic Christmas ‘Baywatch’ special with my best mate Paul.

You don’t know what I’m talking about?

Weird, as it was a Youtube phenomenon, with an amazing 38 views as of the time of writing.

Oh well, here we are … 6 months into 2018, how has it been for you so far?

I’ll tell you how it’s been for me after I’ve seen how many presents I receive from you on my birthday – which happens in just 12 days time.

Subtle aren’t I?

And yes, this may well be the worst post I’ve ever written.

Well, I could say that if I hadn’t included the ‘career car crash’ film in the post. With it, I think it’s fair to say it absolutely is the worst post I’ve ever written, and that is saying something, especially when I compare it against the iPod singing, Scorpions disaster.

[Which was all your fault Marcus]

Anyway, after all that horror, I wish you a good weekend and if it has deeply disturbed you, remember if I’ve been able to have a semi-decent career with this alarming lack of judgment, you’re going to be just fine.



More Proof The World Has Gone Mad …

So recently, for reasons I don’t quite understand, the Screen Writers Guild of America and a division of the US Government asked me to give a presentation on how writers can attract foreign investment.

My entire deck is the picture at the top of this post.

After I explained what I was talking about – which was basically this [especially #8] – we watched the documentary, ‘Exporting Raymond’ which, for me, is still one of the best documentaries anyone looking to work overseas can watch to understand the differences in culture, on both a macro and micro scale.

Actually, it’s worth watching even if you’re not going overseas … or if you’ve been there, done that – especially if it was Russia or China – so to give you a taste, the trailer is below.

Apparently it went down so well they are trying to get the star of the film, Phil Rosenthal, to come to an event where I will interview him.

WTF?!

I was going to write that if this happens, Mr Rosenthal is going to realise working in Russia was no where near as hellish as being interviewed by me and then I discovered he’s worth $200 million, so my concern for his wellbeing kind of went out the window.

That said, as much as I experienced a lot of weird things in China, being asked to do this talk – and the possible subsequent Q&A – is right up there in terms of madness.

Living overseas. The gift that keeps on giving.



A Year Is A Long Time In America …

So today marks a year of being in America.

Or said another way, a year away from China.

It’s been a very interesting time for me … with a bunch of ups and downs.

Ups … in terms of the lifestyle my family get to enjoy and the people I now get to call colleagues and friends.

Downs … in terms of the state America is in and the way America is behaving.

Not just as a nation, but in the beliefs and habits that have infiltrated the working environment for so many people.

But all that aside, I still feel a deep sense of privilege that I get to have this experience.

The fact I’ve been able to live in different countries, experience different cultures and make a decent living out of it is something I will always be massively grateful for.

Of course part of this is because I’m white and male … and while I can’t change that, I can try and make sure those opportunities are available to those who aren’t either of those things.

Which has been one of the best things about being in America.

The massive wake-up call I had to the realities other people face.

Of course I wasn’t blind to it, I have seen it – and reacted against it – in every country I’ve lived, but the things I’ve seen and experienced in my short-time in America has been both confronting and enlightening.

Seeing how so much of white America deals with issues relating to African American and Latino rights – even when they’re in support of racial equality – proved to me that just saying stuff ends up being nothing more than compliance with established rules and behaviors.

It shames me to admit that it took me some time to realise that, but it’s absolutely true which is why I’ll always be grateful to colleagues like Maya, Chelsea and Bree for taking me to this point and place.

In all honesty, I don’t know how long we will be in the US.

It could be a year, it could be years … I’ve never gone to countries with a ‘time plan’ … but what I can say is the experience has been quite profound for me. OK, not in the way China was – in fact I still feel more Chinese than Western in many ways – but in terms of helping remind me who I am, what I value and what I am capable of doing or being.

You see, when I was in China, I heard murmurings that some people only saw me as someone for the Asia market.

While I absolutely love/d that part of the World and enjoyed having to relearn everything I thought I knew, I found that rumour annoying given I’d worked in a bunch of markets prior to China and in my role at Wieden, had worked with global clients for global markets all the time.

But rumours have a way of slowly getting into your head and while I do not deny there has been a bunch of stuff I’ve found weird/strange/annoying and plain fucked-up about working in America, seeing my department embrace their voice, their opinions and their beliefs and turn that into ideas, points of view and creativity that has made some people feel very uncomfortable has truly put a smile on my face.

That doesn’t mean I feel we are anyway done – far from it – but seeing change and, from my perspective, growth has been hugely rewarding.

Of course there’s no magic formula to it …

From a personal perspective it’s about being open to what you don’t know and having the willingness and curiosity to keep learning and improving. From the departments perspective, it’s just setting a direction, defining the standards we are all going to live up to and then giving everyone the time, space and backing to explore, fuck up and be vulnerable, which is why in the journey to this point – which includes the choices and decisions I’ve had to make to deal with the situations and circumstances I’ve come to face – it’s acted as a really valuable reminder of who I am, what I believe and what I still want to achieve.

So thank you America.

For what you have done for me and what you have done for my family.

I don’t know if I’ll ever love you like I love some of the other countries I’ve lived in, but if you sort out the shit you don’t want to talk about, then you’ll truly be an incredibly special place. And even though I don’t think that can ever happen – at least to the extent it needs to happen – I’ll forever be grateful for the experience you’ve given us living here … even if you’re giving my son an American twang.



What Agencies Can Learn From Otis’ Kindergarten …

So Otis goes to this amazing hippy kindergarten school near where we live.

It’s a co-parenting school which means that the parents have to help with the schooling of the kids, not just with the funding.

It follows a very specific philosophy defined by the founder and it’s a place where kids learn through expressing their creativity.

They even have a ‘mud room’ for the kids to cause mayhem when it rains.

Put simply, we love it.

A few weeks ago, we went there on the weekend to help decorate it during spring break when I came across these 2 signs in the school …

I love them.

It sums up everything we adore about the school.

It captures exactly why Otis feels it’s a safe and happy place for him to explore.

It also addresses something I have been looking into for a while, which is the lack of outlet American men have to express their feelings.

Everything is built on acting tough.

Crying is for wimps.

Hell, even the bars are full of sports TV’s basting out scores, which means people don’t have the quiet to talk to one another – something I had growing up in England that actually encouraged the sharing of feelings and emotions. Albeit often wrapped up in banter.

The macho pride that seems to underpin so much of American male society feels like it’s still the 1950’s … which is why I love that this school doesn’t tell kids to ‘stop crying’, but asks what is wrong and then sympathises with their predicament which remarkably, helps them stop crying far more quickly and in a more positive way than any shouting would ever do.

Now imagine if companies operated by the same ideals.

Listening.

Valuing.

Caring.

Developing.

Oh I know those words appear in a million mission statements, but we all know they’re often used more as an illusion than an action.

In the bid to build office ‘culture’, so many organizations forget it’s not just about what you say – or even what you do – it’s the practiced beliefs that defines what everyone values, which is why companies could learn even more from this school than my dear Otis.