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


Start The Week On A High [Score]

So a client of ours has an arcade machine in their reception.

I say ‘game’, but it’s much more like a social definer … separating the haves from the have nots.

Any minute of the hour, you see people congregating there to test their gaming chops.

Pushing themselves to be better.

To rise up the ranks.

To be the eventual champion.

Except when I walked into that clients building, a new sheriff was in town.

Sure, I looked a bit knackered.

Sure, I am more ball shaped than athlete.

Sure, I made sure every meeting was as short as possible so I could play on that machine.

But as you can see from the picture above, I proved that in the field of sports it’s not how you look, it’s how you perform and I performed like the crap arcade game champion I truly am.

Let this achievement give all old dogs out there the belief that 2019 isn’t a year they need to learn new tricks, but to simply challenge the whippersnappers to games that don’t matter and they don’t care about.

Which means this post is ultimately a strategy lesson on repositioning.

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Humanity From A Calculator Company …

So how was your first week?

I don’t mean being back at work, I mean reading this blog.

Depressing wasn’t it.

Well I want to leave you with a little bit of positivity.

As many of you know, my Mum helped develop the calculator that is pictured above.

It’s one of the reasons why I’ve continued to use the one she gave me for the past 35+ years.

That – and the fact I’m crap at maths – so ended up using it more to type 55378008 than work out any trigonometry challenge.

Or basic addition.

Anyway, to my mates, it’s as identifiable towards me as my Birkenstocks – even though when I was at school, they took the piss claiming it was as big as one of the BBC Micro Computers we used in class.

Sadly, when we were moving to London from LA, the stupid movers broke it.

Not just interns of it not working, but in terms of cracking the actual case.

I was very sad, because – like the Braun Bedside Clock – it was something that was a real connection to my parents, so I wrote to Texas Instruments on the off-chance they could fix it.

Unfortunately they said any attempt to repair it could cause more damage so instead they’re sending me a mint condition, new-old one as a tribute to my Mum.

I cannot tell you how happy and thankful I was to hear this news.

I cannot tell you how much I love the people at Texas Instruments.

A company that makes office tech showing more heart than companies that claim to be in the people business.

They didn’t have to do that.

They could have just ignored my email altogether.

But they didn’t, they listened and they tried to help.

We could all learn from this. Especially companies who claim to be in the people business.



You Can Tell How Proud Someone Is By How They Act …

I’ve written about my best mate and his new venture, Frothy Coffee.

Well a few weeks ago I went to Nottingham to see him and I have to say, it made me so happy.

Not just because he’s doing really well or even how he’s doing it – though some of his ideas would put big agencies to shame [offering dog biscuits and water so dogs get used to stopping at his stall so their owners end up buying a drink] -but how he is between customers.

The way he cleans.

The way he tidies.

The way he looks around to make sure everything is right.

The way he prepares for what might be coming up.

The way he makes warm, welcoming comments to people passing by.

He loves it.

Every single thing shows he absolutely loves it.

And you know what?

That feeling is infectious.

You want to have a coffee at his place.

You want to have a chat and even a sit down.

He pulls people in and suddenly strangers start chatting.

The love and pride he has in his job translates to something special … something as warm and welcoming as his drinks.

Everyone should feel this way, but not everyone does.

Many dream of starting their own thing, but few do it.

And to them I say they should go and see the Frothy Coffee man, because when you see the pride and joy Paul has doing his own thing, you’ll realize that no amount of fear can stop you wanting to feel that fulfilled.

I’m so happy and proud of you Paul.

[And you Shelly … the best YTS assistant I’ve ever seen]



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]



Messing With The Beat Of My Heart …

Today my wonderful little boy, Otis, turns 4.

Four. How is that possible?

It literally seems yesterday I donned a mask of the Queen [her Royal highness, not Freddie and the boys] and asked the doctor who delivered him, to photograph us.

Sadly that is not a joke and here is the proof …

And yet, despite that inauspicious start to life, he has approached all that has come his way with a wonderful sense of energy, optimism, happiness and curiosity … from seeing his Dad fall apart when his besotted grandmother died when he was just 3 months old to moving to 3 radically different countries in his first 3 years of life.

I love him in ways I can’t describe.

I often find myself flicking through thousands of photos of him while I’m sat on the tube.

Watching him literally grow in-front of my eyes … and I don’t mind admitting there have been occasions where I’ve had tears in my eyes.

Not out of sadness, but just out of how much I love his face.

No wonder no one wants to sit next to me.

He has been one of the greatest things in my life from the moment he was born.

While Jill was pregnant I was focused on trying to plan for the unknown …

How much would it cost?
How would it affect our life?
How will we cope with all he will need?

And then the moment he was officially out in the World, none of that mattered …

It was all about him. And us. And how our lives had suddenly become immeasurably richer and more loving.

I’m embarrassed to admit how naive I was as to how good being a father would be.

I always liked the idea of being a Dad, but never really understood the impact it would have on me. I assumed the relationship would be built more around ‘responsibility’ … and while there is a big part of that, it’s way, way more two-way than I assumed.

I learn from Otis.

I experience life with Otis.

I re-evaluate what is important because of Otis.

He is literally the best part of me.

Of course a big part of that is because his wonderful Mum has had an extraordinary influence on how he is turning out … but he is still the best part of me.

I wish my parents could have met him. I know for a fact they would adore him.

Not just because he’d be their first grandchild, but because of how he is approaching life …

Curious. Happy. Cheeky. Compassionate. Eager to learn, play, experiment and laugh.

I love him with all I’ve got.

Every single part of me absolutely adores him in ways I can’t properly describe.

When he climbs into our bed and pushes his way into the middle of us at some ungodly hour of the night, I often turn around, see his beautiful face resting peacefully and feel the happiest I have ever felt.

Family.

My family.

All together … including the cat.

I know this won’t last forever … there will be a day when he doesn’t climb between us, and while I will finally get a good nights sleep, I have to admit I’ll miss it.

These are very special times, but I know I’ll only truly appreciate just how special when they’re not happening anymore.

Because the irony of being a parent is your job is to help them live without you.

Where they don’t rely on you.

Where they develop their own interests and social circle.

Where you become the person they visit occasionally rather than see every single day.

Where their relationship with you fades in importance as they create their own families and life.

That’s part of the twisted wonderfulness of being a parent and one I don’t mind admitting that I’m dreading and excited to see.

But even when that happens, I know that whenever I see him or hear from him or even think of him, it will mess with the beat of my heart, because he is – and always will be – everything to me.

So to my dearest Otis … happy birthday.

You bring so much joy to me and your Mum.

You’re perfect to us.

Never forget that.

Love you.

Rx



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.



Don’t Blame The Insight, Blame The Person Claiming It …

So a few weeks ago, the very lovely Neil – of Only Dead Fish fame – invited me to talk at Google Firestarters on insights.

This is a subject I’ve written and talked about for years, so it was right up my alley … and yet, despite that, I ended up writing a presentation where the underlying insight appears to be, ‘don’t ask Rob to write presentations on insights’.

For reasons I’m unsure of [though I think ‘fill this blog with something before the end of the year’] I thought it might be good to put it up here for others to look at/abuse. However, as it’s my usual ‘picture, no words’ presentation style, it probably will make little sense … but if it’s any consolation, that’s how the people who heard me give it, thought too.

If you want the general theme of the deck, it’s insights are important because culture is important … and if you know how the culture around categories think, act, operate and interact, then you have information that not only lets you create work that feels born from inside the culture, but can open doors to new possibilities.

Oh, and the bit about the Titanic is that I’m amazed this discussion is still going on because we all know insights matter, it’s where we’re getting them from and how we’re using them that is key. And yet – as an industry – we like to debate the things that we know matter and ignore the fact the majority of the work that’s being put out is an exercise in how to bore the fuck out of everyone with insanely and inanely rational communication.

And yes, I blame clients as much as planners and agencies for this.

It’s like they have forgotten that no one cares about what they care about and the job is to make them give a damn – and the most powerful way to do that is to use creativity in wonderfully mad and chaotic ways because [as Mr Weigel says, both in public and in my presentation] you can be as relevant as hell and still be boring as fuck.

The Henry Ford slag off is simply that he is well known for saying that if he’d asked people what they wanted they’d say a faster horse and my point is, if someone said that, any half decent planner should be able to workout they’re trying to say they want to get from point A to point B quicker than they currently are able.

And if that isn’t an amazing brief, then I don’t know what is.

Anyway, if you want to see the deck, including one of my favorite ever slides – the pic at the top of this post – click here: Firestarters

Enjoy … if that is the right word. Ahem.