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


Netflix DataFucks …

Let me be clear, I really like Netflix.

I like them for the programming they make.

I like them for how they reinvented themselves when they saw their business die with DVD’s.

I like them for putting craft back into content and arguably making this the golden age of telly.

[Yes, I said TV, because some research said Netflix was mostly watched on the old box]

But I digress …

There’s one thing I don’t like about them and that’s how they talk about data creating the show ‘House Of Cards’.

I’m not doubting data played an important role in their thinking, but the way some people talk about it, data was the whole reason the show was made, ignoring the fact that a team of talented and creative actors, directors, camera men and film crew were needed to actually bring it to the screen. But even more than that, House Of Cards had already been made by the BBC years earlier, so it was an ‘update’ rather than a brand new creation.

However the main reason I doubt that narrative is that if data had proved to be so successful, why haven’t they done it again … and if they have, why is there no show that has had the same level of impact?

Alright, there have been a few that have definitely captured cultures attention, but they seem to be more because they’re talking about an event that captured the World’s attention [Fyre Festival] or simply offered a show featuring a Hollywood star at a time where people were desperately looking for content [Sandra Bullock’s, Bird Cage, which came out at Christmas]

OK, I’m being pretty unfair as Netflix is pretty awesome, but I suppose I just get wary of people claiming data made their creativity happen when the reality is [1] it didn’t and [2] if it did, then there is a hell of a lot of content on that network that is a great case for not relying on it entirely.

Data has a very important role to play in almost every industry, but when you claim – and trust – it can do it all without needing the understanding, imagination and craft of talented and creative humans, then you’re about as blind as the people who fail to see Bird Cage’s ending was rushed, contrived and massively underwhelming.

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R/GA Get Me …

Starting a new job is always slightly unnerving.

You want to make a quick, positive impression but you don’t know how everything works so you often end up asking ridiculous questions just to work out how to get through the day. To make it worse, you know people are judging your every move and so you can often end up presenting a side of you that really isn’t you at the very time you need to be showing exactly who you are and what you can do.

So while I am still on my probation at R/GA, I was kind-of happy they said they wanted to take a photo of me so they could use it in some material.

The happiness wasn’t because I love my photo taken [would you with a face like mine?] it’s because by them wanting publicly acknowledge I work for them, it seems I’m doing OK.

I say ‘seems’, because this is the photo they have ended up using.

They took quite a few pictures.

Some are – even by my ‘hate myself’ standards – OK.

And yet they ended up choosing the most ‘mischievous, caught in the act of evil, I’m-going-to-fuck-with-you, prepare-for-hell’ photo they could find, which can only mean this is their way of telling me I have 3 months to convince them to keep me because right now, they think I am a bit of an asshole.

Unfortunately, this only makes me like them and respect them more.

Damnit.



When Marketing Goes Utterly Wank …

Look, I get the whiteboard marker business is probably low on most people’s priority.

I also appreciate that if you work in this field, you probably want to feel like you’re doing something special … different … worth while … at least on a bigger scale than simply enabling people to write/draw rubbish in boardrooms.

But – and it’s a huge but – I can’t help but think the people behind the name for this whiteboard marker have slightly lost the plot …

Friendly?

Chisel?

Are they stark raving mad?

I swear to god you would have to be the most coke-snorting maniac to come up with those names.

What’s so friendly about this marker?

Does it do the writing for you?

Does it make your scrawl suddenly look neat?

Do other whiteboard manufacturers make their product hold a knife against your throat?

As for chisel?

A tool designed to hit things that will leave their mark in stone forever is literally the opposite to a whiteboard marker in almost everyway.

Where did that come from?

Did they want to big-up their role and significance or is it their way to add a psychological element to their product in the hope it makes the middle management who use it think their scribblings is the second coming of christ?

I’d respect them more if they named it, ‘A RED PEN FOR BAD MEETINGS’.

Or even ‘THE LOOK LIKE YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING WITHOUT CONTRIBUTING PEN’ …

But a friendly chisel?

Talk about an oxymoron.

Chisel’s aren’t friendly. You have to hit them to make them do anything.

Calling it a ‘stupid chisel’ might be more appropriate which is why the name of this bloody whiteboard pen has depressed me more than being invited to a 6 hour ‘brainstorm’ led by a middle manager who thinks leading a discussion that no one will pay any attention to is a demonstration of their emerging power and influence.

And no, I am not going over-the-top over this issue one little bit.

Ahem.



It’s A Matter Of Taste …

Before I start, let me ensure your Friday is even better than if you were being bathed in a sea of Crunchies by letting you know next week there will basically be no posts as I’m going to be back in the good ol’ USA.

Now I’ve given you a deep sense of joy, let me rip that away from you with some bitching.

So I saw this ad for Kontor – a company that helps other companies find their perfect space.

Now I appreciate I have the style sense of an Australian [Boom Tish] but I must admit I am a bit confused regarding the image they’re using in the ad.

If it’s an example of an office environment they think is good, then I am afraid they’re badly mistaken.

It feels more like a hotel restaurant in any 3 star business hotel you can find across the US.

Or the Costa Coffee boardroom.

But if they’re trying to make it look like the sort of office environment a company would want to move away from … an office environment that Kontor can help them find … then I hate to say it, but it’s not bad enough.

Let me be a bit clearer …

Yes, it’s horrific, but in terms of an image for use in an ad on a tube, it’s no where near horrific – or nice – enough to make whatever point they want to make and so for the poor schmuck stuck on the tube looking at it, you end up wondering if Kontor have as bad taste as me both in terms of what they hate and what they love.



What If We’re Wrong …

One of the things that bothers me is how data [in marketing] has become law.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of data – or should I say, real data that has been amassed properly, read properly and used properly – but a lot of the stuff today is nothing more than small bits of information packaged to be big bits of information.

Worse, a lot of it has no texture whatsoever … designed to reinforce a position someone wants rather than to inform and enlighten on things you don’t know but would like to find out.

But even then, data is not infallible.

There, I said it.

Data is as good as the people who created it.

And yet day after day, I read about companies who treat their data like its god … even though you can see the flaws in their approach from 10,000 miles away.

From what they’re trying to discover.

To how they’re trying to discover it.

To what they want to do with it once they’ve got it.

No surprise then that so many then go on to report ‘lower than expected’ revenues.

I’m lucky that I work at a place with a progressive view of data, especially with the way we use our Ventures program.

But in addition to that, I work with an amazing data specialist.

She’s cheeky sod who is a bloody legend.

Not just for what she does but for what she pushes.

A believer in the role of culture not just habits.

But another part of her skill is that she knows what data does and what data doesn’t.

Data guides.

It heavily suggests.

It shines a light on important and essential behaviours.

It forces discussions about how best to approach situations.

But it rarely is undisputed, unquestionable, always certain, fact.

To be honest, I believe most people in the marketing field of data knows this but – as is the case with most things in marketing – we go around talking in certainties in an attempt to raise our professional standing when all it does is the opposite.

Hey, I get it, we see it being done in so many fields – from government to finance – but that still doesn’t mean it makes people believe what we’re saying, it just makes us complicit.

The reality is society is far smarter than we give them credit for. The only reason they let so much of this rubbish pass is because they literally don’t care what we say. They have seen so many facts that turned into fiction that they view what we do as literally a game … which is why, while data and strategy still play an important part in making creativity that helps brands move forward, the most powerful differentiator between ideas that culture sees and culture give a shit about is how interesting, intriguing and exciting it is.



The Definition Of Conflicted …

Otis is obsessed with a bunch of things.

His iPad.
Fail Army videos.
Transforming cars.
Bumblebee – the Transformer.

OK, so I accept I might be to blame for a couple of those things, but the fact is, he bloody LOVES them.

Given the evil that targets kids on Youtube – a lot from Youtube themselves – we have disabled the function on his iPad, but he has recently discovered the power of Siri.

He loves Siri.

Siri – like Alexa – is his friend.

By friend, I mean his servant … doing what he wants, just like his Mummy and Daddy but without the pushback.

Anyway, we recently heard him asking Siri for photos of Bumblebee, before we heard a frustrated sigh.

When we looked at what was going on, we discovered something that I am still conflicted by to this day.

You see Siri translated Otis request for photos of ‘Bumblebee’ as photos of boobies.

While it raised a smile on his parents faces, that’s a potentially dangerous mistake but where I am conflicted is that as bad as that is, Siri then said she couldn’t find any photos of boobies anywhere on the internet.

Nowhere.

WTF?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want Otis to be exposed to any of that stuff, but not only did Siri fail to understand a simple request, she also failed to deliver on her misunderstood request in a category that – arguably – is the most popular subject on the whole wide internet.

So while this proves AI still has a way to go to truly integrate into our lives, Apple’s kid security systems are safer than Fort Knox.

Or at least Facebook data.



Groundhog Day …

Happy 2019!

I hope you had a fantastic time with loved ones.

I also hope 2019 is a very special year for you all, for all the right reasons.

While I’ve been back at work for 3 days already – which were spent in bloody Miami – I have to say I had a wonderful time, even if I didn’t get as many gadgets as I hoped I would.

That said, I’m not making any plans for the year ahead.

I’ve seen too many best intentions get ruined before the end of the first week of a new year to fall into that trap.

But it’s fair to say I do have some hopes for 2019.

Some are professional, but most are mainly personal.

More than that, they’re personal because it involves people I love rather than for myself.

I know … I know … who the hell am I?

The reality is I’m doing OK.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still have a huge drive to go further, but right now, my hopes are for others for the year ahead.

Of course the main people I’m focused on is Jill and Otis.

In September Otis will start ‘proper school’ and we just hope he gets into one that follows the values his Mum and I believe in. We never realized finding a school for him would be so hard … but when you don’t want to go private, don’t want religious associations and don’t want the focus to be so academic his creativity is impacted, I guess it was never going to be easy.

So we have our fingers crossed and will deal with whatever happens.

Which is why I am also focused on Jill.

As much as Otis has impacted my life in so many wonderful ways, it’s Jill who will experience the biggest change once he goes to school.

It’s Jill who has stayed with him throughout his formative years.

It’s Jill who has spent the days with him every week, playing and educating and just generally looking after him.

Their bond is a beautiful thing to witness and I know she feels being a mother has been the most fulfilling thing she has done in her life.

So now what does she do when she leads him to the next stage of his life?

Of course there will still be loads they do together, but I want to give her the backing to find something that fulfills her, whatever that may be.

I know it won’t be the same as helping raise our bundle of energetic joy 24/7, but I am excited to see what she will do.

She is extremely talented, creative and compassionate – and while I know she doesn’t want to start her amazing cake company again – we have discussed some things that she is excited by and I’ll be backing her all the way for whatever she chooses.

I say this because I recently saw the photo at the top of this post.

It’s a photo of Queen drummer, Roger Taylor, looking at the Freddie Mercury statue he has at the bottom of his garden.

The statue that was on top of the London theatre when their musical, We Will Rock You, was performing.

I have to say, I found the photo very poignant.

Apart from the fact it’s wonderful he wanted to keep the statue of his old friend – I can’t imagine what it must be like to see it every day.

Does he look at it and think about all the amazing things they did together?

Does he look at it and mourn the loss of someone he loved like a brother?

Does he look at it and feel the sadness of memories he will never experience again?

Growing old has many benefits – including not giving a damn what others think of you – but it can also act as a bitter pill when the things around you … the things you brought into this world … start taking on a life of their own.

At these points you can either sit back and focus on the change or lean in and explore the possibilities.

For the past 30 years of my professional life, I’ve been fortunate to always embrace leaning in to the possibilities – possibilities that has seen me live around the World and meet an endless stream of wonderful, creative individuals.

While I have no intention of stopping that approach to living, I do want to make sure that in 2019, Jill gets the drivers seat because apart from her generosity in letting me do so much of the steering, the reality is she was the one who helped us navigate to where we currently are so I know by handing over the driving to her, she will go to somewhere wonderful and fulfilling and no one I know deserves it more.

She’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.

So happy 2019 to all … I’m excited to see where we all end up in the next 12 months, even if my blog posts will continue to bring the excitement of possibility down to a slow, painful crawl.