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

The Best Monday Of Your Life. Unless You Live In NYC …

So the good news is this is the one and only post of the week.

I know … could today be any better?!

You see as you read this, I’m on a plane zooming my way to NYC.

I must admit I’m super excited about it.

Not just because I miss the rush of an intense city … nor because I will get to see friends who I miss very much … but because I’ll be doing two things that are going to be new to me.

One is I’ll be judging the final round of the North American Effies.

The other is that I’ve been invited to talk to design gods, Pentagram.

OK, so I’ve judged the Effies before and I’ve done more than my fair-share of talks, but what’s exciting to me about this is that it’s a totally new context.

The reality is American advertising is very different to the advertising I am used to, make and – to a certain degree – love.

It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just different.

More bombastic. More spell-everything-out. More leave-nothing-to-chance-or-interpretation.

It’s also much more rational and focused on driving immediate sales than creating a position in culture that builds sustainable brand value.

OK, not every brand is like that – and I also know many other markets are becoming more and more like this – but as someone who passionately believes in setting long-term directions, not to mention true culture driven ideas, it’s going to be interesting how I view the results versus some of my fellow judges.

As for the talk …

Well, we all know I can do that in my sleep, but I must admit I’m super excited to be doing it at Pentagram.

For those of you who don’t know, Pentagram are one of the undisputed gods of design.

Literally, one of the gods.

Given it’s not that long ago I was only using the IMPACT I must admit to being somewhat surprised they asked me to come talk to them about my perspective on design, but then I discovered it was less about me and more about the work I’m doing with a certain famous rock band which is why I felt the best way to handle the challenge is to only have 1 image and make that image truthful to what I am sure they’ll leave thinking about me.

Especially when they see my Birkenstocks.

So while I know it’s Monday and you’re probably not looking forward to the week ahead, I hope this post has helped offer you a glimmer of hope for the next 5 days. Unless – of course – you’re based in NYC, and then your week is even darker than you could ever have imagined.

See you next week …


Today Is A Holiday Because Of This Man …
February 19, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, Comment

It’s a national holiday today in America.

Apparently it’s ‘Presidents Day’.

Which means it’s a day to celebrate Donald Trump.

Personally the idea of that horrifies me, but hey – a day off is a day off – so as a law-abiding US resident, I will show my respect to the President we are ‘celebrating’ by leaving you with this video of his humbleness, respectfulness and consideration for others.

You’re welcome.

Donn. Rohn. Is. Gone …

When you start a new adventure – be it a new country or company – it can be daunting.

Of course no one starts a new adventure without there being a reason for it, but that still doesn’t mean you don’t find yourself being pulled into looking at what you are losing rather than what you could gain.

But good things can – and do – happen, of which one of them is meeting new people who make your new adventure more fulfilling and exciting.

One of those people is a guy called Donn Rohn.

I never knew Donn before I started at Deutsch. In fact on my first day at work, when I saw him, I thought he looked a bit of a dick, despite the fact a guy who used to work with him told me he was good.

But once I got talking to him, I realised almost immediately that it was only his walk that made him look an asshole [I’m serious, his walk is a cross between Dirty Harry and John Wayne] because the truth is, he’s as honourable a man as I have ever met in my life.

Defender of his team.
A leader not a manager.
Committed to doing the right thing.
Empathetic, passionate, a dry sense of humour that drives brilliantly evil turns of phrase … he’s just a great human being and that’s before I mention how great a colleague, friend, husband and father he is.

I say all this because he leaves us today.

As sad as that is – and it really is – he’s off to do something that will change the path of his life so I’m genuinely happy and excited for him and his family because they deserve nothing but good things.

While I would have loved our time together to be longer, I’m grateful I met him and even more that I get to call him a mate so while he leaves a huge hole behind – especially in his ability to rock ‘grandpa sweaters’ that take no prisoners [his leaving present is the picture accompanying this post] – he also leaves a legacy of how to be a good human in a business that often tries its best to destroy that in all of us.

Thank you for everything Donn, never change.


Wieden Keep Spoiling Me …

So a while back I wrote how Wieden Amsterdam sent me a bloody pottery Birkenstock clog for no other reason than being nice people.

Well, that and the fact they probably couldn’t think of another soul – past or present – who would want it, let alone love it.

So a week or so ago, I got another package from Wieden, but this time the Tokyo office.

And what was inside it?

Well it wasn’t a bomb, it was this …

Yes, it’s a bloody bright pink, Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo frisbee.

And why did they do it?

Well, because they’re bloody lovely people and – I presume – because I live by the beach.

If I knew I’d be getting all this stuff when I had left them, I’d of done it ages ago.

But in all seriousness, this – and the other stuff I’ve had from them [and lets not forget NIKE too] – shows why those hippy buggers that were born in Portland are so special.

Sure, they’re the best in the World at what they do.

Sure, they are smart as hell and creative as shit.

But they’re more than that.

They’re amazingly kind people who happen to also be obscenely talented.

In fact I’d say it’s in exactly that order.

Throughout their offices, it’s filled with genuinely great people … people I feel honoured to know, let alone thrilled to have once worked with.

[And a couple of assholes, but I won’t let them ruin it for me, especially as they’re going to get found out eventually, ha]

I can tell you this, as much as I left there making some of the best work of my life, I’m even happier I left there with some of the best mates I could have.

Thank you to my friends in Tokyo … especially Mr Rowe … you’re all ace and I miss you.


When It’s Unfiltered, It Might Leave A Nasty Taste In Your Mouth But It’s At It’s Most Authentic …

When I first joined Deutsch, I wanted to understand what the hell was really going on with American youth so I sent 3 of my team – Maya, Armando and Leigh [along with Sarah, a photographer and co-supported back at HQ by the wonderful Kelsey] – backpacking across the US to spend about a month in some of America’s most opposite cities.

Specifically the richest/poorest … fastest growing/shrinking … most/least diverse.

No nice hotel rooms.

No fancy travel.

Just a month hearing and learning from America in The Raw.

As you can see from this little text exchange below, it left a mark on the guys …

In all seriousness, while they loved it, there were some things they saw and went through that challenged them deeply on a personal level. So deeply, that I honestly believe they have all come back changed for the experience.

And yet overall, what they found was a nation full of young people who wanted their country to be the one they had been brought up to believe in.

A country that lets anyone succeed.

A country that cared for their own equally.

A country where it led by taking on the big challenges and issues and crushing them.

Now of course, you could argue America was never really any of these things – just a master of PR – but that aside, the country they have found is not the country they want and so the way they are approaching their life is basically one of survival.

And what do I mean by survival?

Well in essence, it’s how they can cope with what’s going on until it stops.

Their overall view is “I can’t control the future, but I can control the present”.

And while their behaviour is expressed in multiple ways, we believe they fall into 4 distinct territories …

Protect: Keep safe what you have and don’t risk anything to get what you want.
Disguise: Define your relevance by the topical things you want to associate with.
Escape: Physically create a [momentary] world you want to live in.
Fight: Push against the unfairness you face.

Of course it’s way more complex and complicated than that – and we have spent a lot of time exploring and uncovering the influences, attitudes and behaviours that drive it and define it – but it does seem those 4 lenses are consciously and subconsciously influencing how people are starting to behave.

In all honesty, this adventure has been fascinating – not just in terms of understanding what is starting to happen, but how the issues of race or equality are reaching points where you can feel major change is on the way. Whether that change is instigated by government or the people is still anyones guess, but what we know is that it won’t be able to be swept under the carpet as easily as it has in previous years.

They won’t let it, especially with the current administration doing all it can to prod and provoke them.

The implications for society and business are huge – both in terms of positive change and negative potential – which is why we have created a [coffee-table] book and a presentation and – when we get some breathing space – a short film to truly define and explain what we heard and discovered. But as much as all those things are exciting, the bit I love the most is my team have given a voice to those who are rarely heard in the purest and most unfiltered way you can get.

There’s a lot of things I’ve done in my career that has made me proud.

This is most definitely one of them.


If you’re interested in seeing/having a copy of the ‘America In The Raw’ book, let me know. I can’t guarantee we can accommodate everyone, but we’ll try.


History Repeats Itself …
January 15, 2018, 6:20 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, Anniversary

Today is a national holiday.

It’s Martin Luther King day.

A day to celebrate the life and achievements of this great man.

And yet America seems to be heading back to those terrible times of prejudice and discrimination.

Not all America, but enough of America.

Which is why Donald Trump better not be taking today off, because it’s obvious by his actions and beliefs that he wants those times back. Then again, it’s hard to take a day off when you’re already playing golf everyday.

Everyone in America should re-watch Martin Luther King’s most famous speech …

Not just to remember and honour his brilliance, but to realize America is currently heading backwards not forwards.

Comments Off on History Repeats Itself …

Proof I Live In A Place That Is The Truman Show Mixed With Pleasantville …

What I’m about to write will make you sick.

It might very well make you angry.

But there is something about Los Angeles I am finding hard to deal with.

Yes, I know it’s an amazing city and where I specifically live – Manhattan Beach – has a landscape that looks like this …

… and a local council who does this at Christmas …

… but the difference between Shanghai in terms of exposure to culture is very, very different.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s there … in many ways, there’s even more of it than in China … but the reality is LA is a series of small towns, 88 to be exact, so you have to actively go to different places to be immersed in the energy of culture whereas in Shanghai, the moment you stepped outside you were drowned in it.

In essence, where once I had to close my front door to stop the roar of culture enveloping me, in LA I have to open it to go find it.

And I’m finding that tough to deal with, because the energy I got from that madness in Shanghai literally energized me.

What makes this additionally difficult is because this is the first time I’ve worked in a place that isn’t in the heart of a city and so the people you tend to run into are either colleagues or people from the agencies around us … like MAL or 72.

Now I appreciate this is a first World problem and it’s not that hard to deal with, but when you are a single-minded believer that to do your job well, you need to be in the middle of cultural craziness – it means that for the first time, I have to actively make time to ensure I am in it.

More than that, I have to make time to make sure the people in my team have the time to stay in it.

Play. Explore. Learn.

And this leads me to the point I want to make.

In my short time in the US, it appears many agencies and clients value data more than culture.

Everything is talked about in terms of data points.

Strategy is created because of data points.

Work is tested for data points.

Now don’t get me wrong, data – if done properly and understood properly – is incredibly important.

More than that, it’s incredibly powerful.

And I’m fortunate I work with some people – and clients – who get that.

But putting aside a lot of what is out there is questionable or the interpretation of it is questionable … the reality is that this data only truly comes alive when it is injected and explored through the texture of culture.

What they think.

How they feel.

What they fear.

The stuff that elevates data from charts to creative opportunities.

The stuff that you only get by being in it, rather than reading it.

And that’s why it’s so important for us to be surrounded by the mess and noise of what is happening around us – not just in the spotlight, but also the shadows – because while it seems many think it is a waste-of-time, it’s the foundation for creating work that is born from the culture rather than is just a bad interpretation of it.