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


That Was The Year That Was …

So this is it, the last post of 2019.

Congratulations, you made it.

Yes, I know it’s early given there is still a couple of weeks to go in the year – including the inaugural R/GA London Planner Pie-Off – but despite what you may all think, I’ve had a big year and quite frankly, I need a rest from here as much as you do.

When I look at 2019, it’s been pretty good.

Of course there have been a few sad events – my dear Aunt Silvana dying and Justin’s wonderful wife, Ella – but overall, things have been positive.

Even the Beijing Hotel incident was amusing.

But most of all, the fact my family are good, healthy and happy makes it a good year, especially when you think of all the changes that have happened in our lives.

For Otis in particular, he has embraced all of it like a champion and watching him have his first day at ‘proper school’ made me feel incredibly emotional and very, very proud.

Quite frankly, the fact we have managed to stay in the same country for over 12 months is something we feel like celebrating – but not as much as my bank managers is doing – and we’re super excited that we have bought our first family home, even if we’ve not yet moved into it and it meant saying goodbye to the home I spent the first 25 years of my life in.

In fact ‘settling in’ has been a great plus of 2019.

We have a house, cars, some friends and finally feel part of a community … I’ve got to be honest, it’s a lovely feeling … and while I know there will be other changes in our life at some point in the future, this is a time I’m eternally grateful for.

There’s other stuff I’m grateful for too …

Without doubt, doing the Warc talk at Cannes with Martin was a wonderful highlight.

We were quite nervous about it but it seemed to have gone down well and I will always remember it and for that, we owe a debt to the wonderful Mercedes – Martin’s fiancé – who told us to get on with doing our school because she was sick to death of hearing us talk about doing more things together.

Love you Mercedes! And Martin. But more Mercedes.

Another thing – which is a bit weird, but seems to have helped some people – is when I wrote my post about being bullied at work. The response was phenomenal which led to Corporate Gaslighting. And while the amount of stories people are sending in – or agreeing to have published – on there has reduced, I know it has helped some people and I am happy I did it and will continue to do it.

Then there’s the fact I’ve been able to spend a bunch of time visiting China.

I love that place. In fact I would regard it as my ‘home’, despite having left there over 2 years ago.

To be able to spend so much time there and be energized by the city while connecting to new – and old – clients, has been magnificent.

Talking of returning to old things, having Otis’ beloved Elodie visit from LA was awesome.

Seeing them fall into their old, caring friendship was wonderful.

As I have said previously, taking him away from her was one of the hardest things about leaving LA – and while I know distance makes things harder, technology has obviously allowed their friendship to continue, which is the best ad for tech I can think of.

While I understand being emotional about Otis and Elodie being back together, I was surprised how emotional I felt when I went back to LA – especially when I visited Otis’ old kindergarten – but I suppose even the shortest time living in a place, leaves its mark on you.

There’s a bunch of other stuff I’m grateful for this year …

Nottingham Forest … for actually making me start to believe again.

I know it will end in tears, but it’s a nice feeling all the same.

There there’s the Brian May Guitar I bought after only 35 years of waiting.

Seeing Rod Stewart and Concorde were nice, as was getting a comment from Queen producer, Mack, and his son on the post I wrote about Freddie Mercury going to a birthday party dressed in the outfit he wore for the ‘It’s A Hard Life’ video.

That the gods of metal, Metallica, decided to extend the project that I’m doing for them for another THREE YEARS was a major plus. To be honest, I’m still not sure what I’m doing for them or if they like what I’m doing for them, but it keeps Otis in free Metallica t-shirts, so it’s worth doing.

I also got a bunch of new people in my life that I did not know previously.

From the brilliant students at the Brixton Finishing School, to the talented – but totally bonkers – creatives of Dayoung, Mike and Sam and not forgetting the wonderful Joel, Erika, Amar, Megan, Ed and Hannah who all stupidly decided to become members of the delightfully talented gang of planners at R/GA.

Before I end this utterly boring – but important [for me] post, I just want to say thank you to 3 more people.

First is the wonderful Paula Bloodworth not only got engaged – to a man from Nottingham no less [hahahaha] but she got asked to move to Portland to run strategy for NIKE globally at Wieden.

She will be brilliant.

More than people know – and they already know she will be brilliant.

I have had – and have – the great privilege of being able to call Paula a friend. I’ve worked with her, argued with her, laughed with her and caused havoc with her and through it all, her talent and humanity has shone through.

Wieden are very lucky to have her. Nike are very lucky to have her. I am very lucky to be able to call her a friend.

Second is the brilliant Severine Bavon.

Sev has been a part of my team from the beginning and this month she leaves us to strike out on her own.

Not as a freelancer … but to start a company that offers a new model for creativity and strategy for agencies and clients.

I’ve said many times that everyone should start their own company at some point and I am incredibly thrilled and proud that she is going to do just that.

Of course I’m going to miss her.

She’s brilliant, tenacious, smart and a million things I am not.

But I believe a bosses job is to help their people go on to bigger and better things. Bigger and better things they may never have imagined. Bigger and better things where they are chosen for who they are not just what they do.

And while I don’t think I did anything specific to help Sev make this decision, I have a vested interest in watching her do her thing and cheering her as she does it.

Which she will.

Sev, thank you for everything … believe in your talent, follow your gut, burn everything down that stands in your way.

So that leaves the final person … and as usual, it’s anyone and everyone who has written or visited this blog.

Ranting. Arguing. Swearing. Complaining. Caring. Debating.

It’s all meant a lot to me and after this length of time of writing basically the same 5 posts over and over again, I don’t take it for granted that you pop by and pass on your wisdom/insults.

I hope you all have a great festive season and may 2020 be epic.

Hopefully not as epic as I hope mine will be, but epic all the same.

I’m off to Australia for some sun and warmth and I’ll see you on Jan 6th cold, miserable and wondering how the holiday season passed by so fast.

Ta-ra.



Qantas. Cultural Appropriation And Revulsion At The Same Time …

So recently Qantas launched their Perth-London direct flight.

This is definitely a game-changer for the air industry so I get why they wanted to celebrate it.

But Qantas being Qantas – as I’ve written about many times, such as here and here – couldn’t help but snap defeat out of the jaws of victory by reinforcing the past when this was a story all about the future.

Based on the picture above – taken at Heathrow Airport when they were about to embark on their maiden London-Perth flight – when Qantas say they’re the ‘Spirit of Australia’, they’re saying their country is about surfboards, kangaroos and what suspiciously looks like a white guy made up to look like an aboriginal.

All they need is a ball-tampering cricketer and Paul Hogan and they’ve completed the bad cultural cliche set.

For an airline that’s never suffered a catastrophic accident, it’s good to see Qantas PR are doing their best to ensure they still have plenty of other types of plane crashes to talk about.



When Brands Are Fucking Delusional …

OK, full disclosure, this is old.

OK, I know ALL my posts are old, but this is old even by my old standards.

I found this photo from an Australian supermarket in my emails and I still can’t quite believe a company would do this and not think people would find it insulting.

No, your eyes do not deceive you, Woolworths Australia thought it was a good idea to print point-of-sale material that laughed at the madness of spending $10 on a BBQ chicken, when theirs are only $9.88.

A saving of 12 cents.

A saving of 1.2%.

Look, I know they say ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’ but come on …

Do they honestly think someone who wasn’t going to buy a BBQ chicken will suddenly want one because they are saving 12 cents on it?

Or do they think someone who shops at another supermarket and wants a BBQ chicken will make a special trip to Woolies to save that 12 cents?

I literally don’t understand this.

And then there’s the fact that the cost of producing and distributing that point-of-sale probably added about 12 cents to the cost of those BBQ chickens, so all this means is Woolworths aren’t actually the fresh food people, but the foolish food people.



Is Innovation The Fast Track To Corporate Fucking Stupidity?

Over the years, I’ve written a lot about how so many of the great ideas I’ve seen have come from the minds of designers rather than adfolk.

Where so many in my industry look to create eye-candy, designers are approaching their task in terms of solving the clients fundamental problem in the best and most visually interesting way.

There’s a lesson for many of us to learn in that.

However it’s not all great for designers.

Like that Pepsi bullshit from years back, there’s still examples where designers are taking the piss more than a catheter.

For the latest example, may I present to you Vodafone.

Whether we like them or not, our lives are very dependent on the telecommunications industry.

Sure, we might not use their service to make phonecalls anymore, but our smartphone addiction means we need their data so we can instragram our food at every possible moment.

Now obviously the telco industry doesn’t like being seen as just a ‘service provider’.

Part of that might be because of corporate ego, but the main reason is likely to be that for them to grow, they need to be regarded as an innovation company … someone who creates the future as much as serves it.

Whether you think that’s bollocks or not is up to you, but the reason I’m saying it is because that’s kind of the explanation Vodafone used for creating their new logo.

“What new logo?” I hear you cry.

This one …

“No Rob …” you reply, “… you’ve made a mistake, that’s the old logo”.

Oh no it isn’t folks, that’s the new one.

No seriously.

I swear to God.

Oh hang on, I don’t believe in God … OK, I swear on my heart.

Still don’t believe me?

OK, if you want absolute proof, here’s the old logo for comparison.

“But … but isn’t that basically the old logo just with the colours inverted?”, you stutter.

Well, I would agree with that assessment however we would both be wrong because apparently it is a new logo and, when you hear how the people at Vodafone describe it, it represents a new dawn for the company and it’s role and goal in society.

Here’s Ben Macintosh, Vodafone Australia’s customer business director …

“The changes represent the company’s ability to ‘innovate for the future ‘and supply choice for customers. The wants and needs of our customers have changed, and with that we’ve changed too. We challenge the status quo and push the boundaries to give people something that they won’t find anywhere else.”

I swear to god this is not an April Fool.

This really is their new logo and Ben Macintosh really did say that.

Look, I get Apple generated billions in extra revenue by simply adding a small ‘s’ to their otherwise near-identical product but this is a whole different scale of idiocy.

For me, there’s only 2 possible scenarios …

Either the branding company [which, let’s be honest, is not a design company] are fucking delusional or Vodafone is.

Whatever the truth, if I was a shareholder in the former I’d be buying more shares in them for their ability to charge millions for taking 10 minutes to literally invert the colours of their clients existing logos and if the latter, I’d be selling my shares as fast as I could possibly get rid of the worthless bastards.

On the bright side, I’m about to make a fortune as a branding consultant and my 1997 copy of Microsoft Paint.



To My Beloved Otis. Always Run Towards Happiness ….

Following on from yesterday’s post, I want to talk about the dismay I feel about the Australian government asking for a referendum on whether gay marriage is acceptable.

What offends me even more than the fact this shouldn’t even be an issue is that when there are issues that should have input from the nation – from immigration to military intervention – the decisions are made without any level of consultation.

It makes absolutely no sense, unless the government think gay marriage is more dangerous than defending Australia’s shores.

Actually, they probably think it is.

One of the reasons this issue bothers me is that on top of everything else, my son Otis has an Australian passport.

OK, he also has a British and Canadian one … but should he wish to settle in Australia when he’s older, I want him to have all the rights heterosexuals have, which is why I hope, should he ever need reassurance, he see’s this message that I wrote about marriage equality a while back and knows his Mum and Dad love him and will always support him in his quest for happiness and fulfillment.



The Con Is Revealed ….

So as any poor, regular reader on here knows, I’ve been getting emails from APAC Insider magazine saying that Cynic was in the running for a Business Excellence Award in Australia.

Now while this is flattering, you’ll also know that Cynic legally closed their doors in 2010 so APAC Insider are basically a bunch of con-merchants.

Well, now I have unequivocal proof of it because – as I suspected we would – we won.

Yep, Cynic – a company that has not been in legal existence for SEVEN YEARS – has won a Business Excellence Award.

Now they may claim our excellence is in the fact we sold the company, but frankly, this would have been more believable if they’d not left a 7 year gap before bestowing us with their award.

But that’s all by-the-by because I know what you want to know what we won.

Is it a massive trophy?

Is it a huge cheque?

Is it a staring role at a lavish ceremony?

No, it’s this …



That’s right, our ‘prize’ is the chance to get a discount to advertise in their magazine.

A magazine that gives out prizes to companies that don’t exist anymore.

A magazine no one has heard of.

Oh hang on, they also give you a ‘digital certificate’ that you can put on your website. Oh that’s alright then … I mean, who wouldn’t want to advertise a bullshit magazine’s award on their website that basically say’s We’re a bunch of gullible fools.

I hate this company … I hate what they are trying to do to small business.

Sure, the small companies might have some blame to share if they do it, but as I wrote a while ago, when you’re just starting out, you are so desperate to feel you are moving forwards, you tend to grasp onto anything that feels like a positive step.

That’s what those fucks at APAC Insider magazine are exploiting and managing to get away with it.

But there is some good news because last week I received an email from them expressing their interest in being nominated for the International Magazine Publishers ‘Promotion of the Year’, so maybe they’ll be learning their lesson more quickly than we all hoped.

And I’ll be there applauding them when they get their moment in the spotlight.



When It Comes To Revenge, Be Like An Elephant …
February 5, 2017, 6:20 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Australia, Culture, Cunning, England

Annnnnnnnnnd I’m back.

Don’t worry, I’m not that happy about it either.

So when I lived in Australia, I worked with this guy called John.

I really liked him … he was smart, fun and an all round good chap.

Only thing was he really, really hated all things British.

Oh the banter we had.

In the end, we played a weekly game of pool and if I won overall, he had to fold up the Australian flag to just leave the Union Jack [ie: “get your shit stars off our flag”] and if he won, I had to salute it.

We did this for years and even though my ‘crowning moment’ was when England beat the Wallabies at the 2003 Rugby World Cup final [oh, how I loved wearing my England top the next day], he never missed a chance to piss on his countries Queen.

So imagine my joy when after 10+ years, he got in contact with me to say his niece was coming to Shanghai for a law firm and would I mind giving him my details so she has someone to contact if she gets in trouble.

To be fair to him, it absolutely killed him having to ask me … but he knew no one else and was forced to reach out.

Being the kind, generous soul that I am, I obviously agreed.

With just one condition.

This.

On Facebook.

Left for 15 minutes.

And the moral of the story?

Don’t fuck with petty half English assholes, with a memory for revenge.

Talking of elephants and revenge, here’s one of my all time favourite ads …