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


When Love Turns To Apathy …

You might just be getting over the shock of yesterdays post, where I showed the world I was wearing shoes.

Real shoes.

Proper, proper shoes.

Well hold on to your hats because it’s going to get worse.

As many of you know, I have had a long, long, long, long, long time love affair with Taiwanese restaurant, Din Tai Fung.

I have been there so many times.

Literally hundreds.

The food is amazing.

The service is amazing.

The whole thing is amazing.

It’s the first restaurant I took my son to.

It’s the first restaurant we went to when we moved to LA.

It’s the first restaurant I looked forward to going to when we moved to the UK.

Now, to be honest, the food wasn’t quite the same in LA compared to China/Asia.

Don’t get me wrong, it was nice … but some of the ‘classics’ had been adapted to American tastes.

A bit sweeter.

A little less spicy.

But I could deal with it because apart from the free soda refills, it’s Din Tai Fung and that’s all that matters.

OR SO I THOUGHT.

You see when we moved to London, the restaurant had not yet opened.

In the 3 months between moving here and the doors opening, I had told everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – how this was going to change their life.

Well, we went … and I was right, it did change my life.

FOR THE WORSE.

I know … this is possibly even more shocking than the Birkenstock situation.

You see, while they had food that was on all their menus around the World, it was a poor imitation of it.

Worse, the sizes were smaller … it was less well cooked … it was served by people who were severely lacking in the kind, seamless service I had come to expect and a shedload more expensive.

As you can see from the receipt, a meal for my wife, 4 year old son and me was over £100.

ONE HUNDRED POUNDS.

No booze … no excessive amounts of ordering … and yet it cost about twice as much as my biggest ever order in China and trust me, that was a huuuuuuuuge order.

Now I get London is more expensive than China.

I get people in London may not have a frame of reference for what Din Tai Fung should be.

But it utterly destroyed me.

I went in their with such high hopes and came out disappointed and dismayed.

OK, so they have just opened and may still be having teething problems … but sadly, I doubt that is the real reason. As in the fashion with many companies trying to duplicate the success of one thing, they tend to focus on the ‘big things’ to copy and completely miss – or ignore – the small.

The details that make the big things sing.

While I’ll give them one more chance, the reality is I fully expect I won’t be back until I am back in Asia and while that might not sound a big thing, the fact they have lost such a massively loyal customer should be of concern to them.

Sadly I doubt they’d even care.

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Goodbye Mr Gee …
January 18, 2019, 7:30 am
Filed under: China, Chinese Culture, Death, Empathy, Insight, Marketing, Media, Planners

When I first moved to China, I heard of this ad man who was highly regarded for his authentic insight into Asian culture but without the smug arrogance shown by so many of his peers.

His name was Ian Gee.

A few years later, I had the pleasure of meeting him when we were both invited guests on an episode of the now defunct, Thoughtful China.

Unsurprisingly he stole the show with his smart comments delivered in his understated charismatic way.

Despite his brilliance making me feel even more of an imposter than I normally do, we hit it off and while we only met in person that one time, I was thrilled we stayed in touch – often instigated by comments he made on this blog.

Sadly today I heard from his son that Ian passed away yesterday from cancer.

Few people knew he was ill because he kept it to himself as he didn’t want it to define him.

He need not of worried because lots of people know he was a kind, generous, humourous, intelligent man with unwavering and unapologetic standards for doing what was best for the work, the people around him and the culture he represented … and anyone who tried to shortcut or short-change had better watch out.

It was a true privilege Ian.

Comments Off on Goodbye Mr Gee …


If Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery, Is Duplication The Equivalent Of A Marriage Proposal?

So today was supposed to be the APSOTW results, but I’m still waiting on one more bit of feedback. I really, really hope that will come in soon so we can put everything out next week.

Sorry.

Fortunately, I can fill this post with something else …

Not as good – or as wanted – as the APSOTW feedback, but pretty mind blowing all the same.

When I lived in China, there was an unspoken rule that if a company did something successful, there would be hundreds of copycats in the blink of an eye.

I wrote about this a bunch of times with possible this one being the finest example of it.

Well, while it hasn’t happened quickly and it’s only been copied once, it has come to my attention that a planner in China has paid me the ultimate compliment by blatantly copying my old blog header [designed by Jill] for their own thing … including the name of it.

Take a look at this …

I suppose I should be offended but I think it’s bloody fantastic … though I do worry about the ramifications for this persons career.

Not because someone who is paid to have original thought has shown they would rather steal, but because to openly and publicly associate with Queen, Birkenstock, Nottingham Forest and me is basically ruinous.

This is not the reason why I haven’t mentioned their name in this post – though if you work in advertising in Shanghai, you might recognize this senior positioned, big named agency planner by her face – it’s because their posts are way better than mine [even they draw the line at copying them] and I don’t want to lose the last 3 people on here who come along to insult me.



Happy At Home …

So it’s 2 months since we’ve been back in England and I have to say it’s been great.

Sure, the weather isn’t like LA.

Sure, finding a home and unpacking was a pain-in-the arse.

Sure, catching the tube is not like driving my beloved Audi to work.

Sure, I’m shocked at how bad the service is in restaurants and how many people smoke.

But all that aside, things are great.

There’s a bunch of reasons for that …

The first is my family are all together and well. Even Rosie, the moaning cat.

Seeing how brilliant Otis has adapted to his new environment [again] is inspiring, even though it has highlighted how much of an American twang he picked up in our time in the US.

To move home is a traumatic experience for anyone.

To move countries is often too much for people to even contemplate.

So to have moved home and country, 3 times when you’re only 3 years of age – and still be happy, positive and curious – is an incredible achievement and one that makes me even prouder of my wonderful little boy.

That said, we’re very mindful he is still trying to find where he belongs … find other kids he can form a connection with … so our job in these early months is to help him feel as settled and secure as we can, but so far, he’s handling it far better than we could ever hope, even though he did exactly the same when we landed in LA after Shanghai.

What a kid.

Another reason we’re enjoying things in England is that there’s an incredible familiarity to how things work.

Sure I’ve not lived here for 24 years and Jill is Australian … but we both have spent a huge amount of time here over the years so there’s a comfort in knowing how to make things happen. It’s allowed us to acclimatise to the new environment far quicker than we have in other nations while still feeling the buzz of excitement of being somewhere new.

Sure, there’s nervousness about some things we’ve never/rarely had to deal with before.

The school system and how insane that is here.

The inability to be confident a tradesman will turn up as promised.

The high price of public transport [which is still low, but comparatively high to say, China]

But all that is offset with the incredible culture that surrounds us, the friendliness of the people we’ve met and just being in a place where we can see ourselves for a good length of time.

Oh, and chips, mushy peas and gravy.

God, that’s magic right there.

But one other thing that has made things so great is work.

I’m really enjoying myself.

I have an incredible team full of smarts and opinions.

I have a huge array of colleagues full of creativity and provocation.

I have a bunch of clients full of fascinating challenges and ambitions.

I’m learning.

I’m being challenged.

I’m [hopefully] contributing.

There were a bunch of reasons why we moved countries – both personal and professional – and while no place will ever be perfect, I’m pretty shocked at how much I am enjoying being back in England given I never thought I’d ever move back.

I still wish I could nip up to Nottingham to see Mum and Dad.

I still wish Paul and Shelly lived down the street not 2 hours away.

But as much as I’ll always be a cynical bastard, I’m pretty happy right now and I’m sure that is as shocking to you as it is to me.

So on this bombshell of positivity, I wish you a good weekend and let you know that the APSOTW results will finally be out next week.

Ta-ra.



Still Annoying People …

So it’s nice to know that despite starting my second new job – in my second country – the stickers I left around Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai are still being discovered.

I’ve been told there’s a couple of people there who think it’s a joke that has gone too far, but apart from the fact Mr Wieden himself has done far, far worst [delivering the post on a horse, for example] and the whole premise of W+K is creative [I know, that’s a pretty big call to justify them] they’re going to get really frustrated when they realise there’s still hundreds of the bloody things still to be found.

This makes me so happy.

So very, very happy.

Cue: Evil Laugh.



Hanging On To The Past …

I appreciate I am the last person who should be writing a post with a title like this one, but recently – when I was in Hong Kong – I saw this billboard …

Now I get that once upon a time, HK was indeed a gateway to China and … in some categories, like law and, to a degree, international finance, it still has a significant role … but China is not this closed off country anymore, in fact I could argue it’s more commercially minded than HK so it seems this is the worst headline you should use to try and attract clients.

Without doubt there’s a role for advertising in HK airport for people traveling to China – especially Chinese tourists – but it’s not because they don’t have options there, hell they have more options that any other place in the World, it’s that you might help them want your option more than the countless others they’ll have available to them the moment they land.



It’s Nice To Be Hated …

A few weeks ago, I woke up to the photo above appearing on my phone.

The 2 people are both ex-planners of mine from Wieden and I admit it was nice to see them.

Then I realised they were never at Wieden at the same time – and even though they’re now both bigwigs at Apple – I suspect there reasons for getting together [and making sure I knew about it] was more to talk shit about me than to discuss the launch for the next iPhone.

Eitherway, I’m as proud as fuck about them and for them … and not just because I’m hoping for freebies.

As I’ve said many times before, I believe the role of a boss is to help develop your people so when they leave, they get a better job than they could ever of hoped for.

Of course, they have to do all the hard work.

They have to want to see where their potential could take them.

But by pushing them, developing them, giving them opportunities to grow and just overall helping them believe in their talent and where it could take them beyond where they currently are, you have a chance to play a small role in creating their future.

And that’s why, seeing David and Rodi lead Apple strategically across the entire Asia region [and for some perspective, just the iPhone business in China is bigger than the entire NIKE company worldwide] makes me so happy.

Not for what I did for them.

But what they did for themselves.

Now please give me the new iPhone or I’ll ask Baz to fire you.