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


So Much For Planners Having All The Smart Thinking …

One of the things that has always bugged me about planners is that some think they’re the only ones who are curious enough to see the World in interesting ways.

I’ve written about how much bollocks it is – not to mention how much it pisses me off – but in this world of social, it feels we are seeing more and more of the interesting points of view coming from outside the discipline than in it.

More than that, it feels we’re even seeing more and more of the interesting ideas coming from outside the industry than in it too.

From Rihanna creating make-up foundation that is suited to African American skin as well as white through to meme creators – such as Unchisenpai – questioning what is considered cheating in a world of global competition.

[Though their observation on how we came up with the word ‘boob’ is genius]

Now I appreciate that some of this is less to do with the talent in the industry and more the limitations placed on us by clients – though how that came about is another discussion for another day – but in an industry that is seemingly talking to itself more and more [see: planner twitter] the rule to creative inspiration remains the same:

Look for those who are doing or thinking interesting things rather than those who just know interesting things.

The things I’ve learnt from my time with China, Metallica and The Kennedys have been monumental in terms of seeing what creativity truly is, what it can do and what it can be.

It’s also helped me have a deeper understanding of how to nurture it, protect it, encourage it and liberate it.

This is not meant as a diss to adland.

I love the industry and accept it has been amazing to me.

I’ve learnt – and continue to learn – so much from the many amazingly talented and generous people who work, or have worked, within it. I detest how much the industry has been undermined and undervalued by so many when – given the freedom to do what it does best – it is capable of achieving equally incredible things.

This is simply a reminder that some of the most interesting expressions of creativity – and commerciality – exist outside of our bubble and if we continue to close ourselves off to it, or think we’re superior to it, then we’re literally limiting ourselves in terms of seeing and understanding what creativity can help us create, build and change.



Happy Birthday Dad …

Today would be my Dad’s 82nd birthday.

That means he’s been gone 22 years.

In a few years, I will have lived longer without him in my life than in it.

Yes, I know that he is still in my life, but I just find that fact so hard to deal with.

I live in fear that one day, I will only think of him when a significant date occurs.

That he will become a figure of my past, rather than my present.

Of course I don’t believe that will really happen, but to be coming up to the point where I will have spent more of my life without him in it, is really tough to take.

What’s worse is he died just as my life was getting started.

The only thing he knew – mainly because he and Mum pushed me to continue with my plans, despite his stroke – was that I moved to Australia.

While both my parents missed me so much, they were adamant I had to go.

I had planned it for a long time.

They saw it as an opportunity and an adventure for me.

And they also – and rightfully – knew that if I didn’t go, I’d never go.

Of course there was nothing wrong with where I was.

I loved – and continue to love – Nottingham. But both my parents knew the possibilities for me outside of my home city were probably bigger than were in it, and they just wanted me to have a chance of exploring what it could – regardless what turned out.

That’s unconditional love.

A level of support and encouragement that – now I am a father – takes my breath away.

Oh the things I wish I could talk to my Dad about.

The adventures – good and stupid – I’d love to discuss with him.

I think he would be proud. He might raise his eyebrows at a few things, but I think he would be happy with the choices and decisions I’ve made.

He would love to meet Jill.

He would be delighted to meet Otis.

He would be thrilled to know my friendship with Paul is still rock solid.

He may even be happy to meet Rosie – the most well travelled cat in the universe – despite never really liking cats.

And when I was to tell him that journey to Australia led to me living in countless other countries – including Shanghai – he would be so happy.

He always found China fascinating.

Part of it was because back then, China was still an unknown quantity.

A huge place that was kind-of invisible to the World.

For me to have lived there … had for his grandson to be born there … would be a topic of conversation for years.

And I would love it.

Watching his eyes twinkle with curiosity.

Watching his brow wrinkle as he processed my responses.

Watching his smile as he held Otis and said, “Ni Hao” as if a local.

Oh Dad, I wish you were here.

What I’d give for one more conversation, one more hug.

What happened that night in Hong Kong is still etched in my heart … but I want more.

I’m greedy, but you were gone too soon.

For you, for Mum and for me.

Happy 82nd birthday Dad, I know none of us believed in God, but I do hope one day we can have that conversation.

Love you.

Give Mum a big kiss from me too.

Rx

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It’s Not Just What You Say, It’s How You Say It …

I have always loved pitching.

I love the drama, the nervousness, the tension, the creativity.

I also love that it’s a chance to reinvent how the agency is seen every single time.

Because of this, I’ve always embraced using a pitch to try new ways to present your work.

I’ve done a lot of stuff over the years.

Some has – without doubt – been an unmittigated disaster, but far more often, it’s been successful.

Not because we’ve used gimmicks or theatre, but we’ve found an interesting way to get our point across without [hopefully] repeating what every other agency they’ve seen has said.

Some of my favourites have been when we won the launch of Disneyland Shanghai when we were the 18th agency to pitch and I had inadvertently insulted the head of procurement when I accidentally wrote ‘retards’ instead of ‘regards’.

Mind you, they got their own back when they fired us after 2 years – and just before some truly amazing work was going to be made.

Then there was the time we won the SONY global business based on a photo I’d taken of a sign they had in their HQ.

It was an arrow pointing to the right to show you where reception was … and I used that as the basis for our pitch which basically said SONY spent so much time looking at what their competitors were doing, they’ve forgotten the need to forge their own path.

And then there was our winning pitch to Virgin when they were going to start their F1 team.

The reality was they were unlikely to ever win a race – or maybe even a point – given the gulf in investment and technology between them and their competitors.

So our strategy was to model themselves on tennis player Anna Kournikova … because even though she never won a grand slam, she was one of the most recognised, supported and wealthy tennis players in the tournaments.

That was fun.

But recently I found a photo that reminded me of a time we were pitching for BEATS by Dre.

I was at Wieden Shanghai and we had a meeting to talk about the China market.

Instead of a presentation about culture or music or fashion, I had one slide that said, “If You Don’t Define Who You Are, Someone Else Will’ and then I gave them all a set of the fake headphones that are the photo at the top of this post.

And we won.

Some say what we did was ballsy … but it wasn’t really.

When you realise the client is going to be sitting through a bunch of meetings that often say the same thing – or worse, just talk about the agency rather than the client – you realise having a strong POV that can form the foundation for work that will resonate with culture is the most sensible thing you can do.

Of course it takes just as long to come up with that as it does writing the 1000 page decks of boredom, but when it comes to delivery … it not only helps you stand out, it helps ensure they remember your point of view rather than get confused with countless pitches that talk a lot but say nothing.



And You Thought The Mouldy BK Burger Ad Was Provocative …

The fast food industry is having a hard time.

As tastes change and a more healthy lifestyle becomes more desirable, it is getting more difficult for them to operate as they once did.

While some brands are evolving their offering – like McDonald’s – others are taking a more pragmatic perspective.

The most famous, recent example is the BK Mouldy Burger which ignited all manner of debate – often with people quick to say it won’t work without anyone actually knowing what the goal of the work actually was.

Well in South Korea there’s a burger company that makes BK look positively innocent.

It’s not just how they used Supreme to inspire their logo in a way Uncle Martian would be jealous of.

Nor is it their audacious copyright infringement of famous cartoon characters to talk about themselves.

And it’s not even their proud claims of being ‘100% Beef Meat’.

No … it’s none of those, it’s their utter confidence of their product over their competitors.

Take a look …

Amazing eh?

Not just the aggressiveness … but the choice of words.

Linking the words ‘burgers’ and ‘shit’ makes a mouldy burger look positively appetising.

Then there’s the fact it’s in English.

When I lived in China, there were a bunch of stores that used English in their copy.

Sometimes it was for the audience it was targeting.

Sometimes it was because they thought it made them look ‘sophisticated’.

But a lot of the time – as I think is the case here – they did it because it enhanced their ‘authenticity’.

Given burgers are very American, I feel their idea was that by using English and being aggressive in their tone, they encapsulated the American spirit and as such, could say their burgers were authentic.

Of course, given Burger King and McDonald’s are also American slightly undermines that idea, but hey – it doesn’t seem they really put too much thought into how they came across.

I must admit, when I saw it, I couldn’t help feel it was like a Viz fake-ad from the 80’s.

Viz – for those who don’t know – was/is an English ‘adult-humour’ comic.

Years ago, I approached them about starting an ad agency.

They said no, which still disappoints me as not only were their spoof ads brilliant, but based on both Billionbox and BK’s recent work … there’s more and more brands seemingly trying to copy their style but without the brilliance, clarity, humour or memorability as them.



Is Michael Jordan The Best Brand Guy In The World …

Jordan.

Basketball. Baseball. Movies. CEO. Icon.

As careers go, that’s pretty impressive.

But what is even more impressive is his competitiveness.

When I was working on his brand, we heard so many stories about this.

His relentless quest to succeed.

His insane focus and drive.

Of course, a lot of these tales have now become folklore as they became the backbone to many of his – and his brands – most famous ads … with ‘Failure’ probably being one of the most well known of them all.

And while it would be easy to brush all this off as marketing hype, the reality is they all represent Jordan at his core – his ability to reframe better than almost anyone – because he can one see one thing … the power in competitiveness.

Note this is different to winning.

Winning may be the goal, but how you get there is by being competitive.

This means you never take anything for granted.

This means you practice with the same intensity as if you’re in a game.

This means you don’t give an inch, regardless who the competition are.

This means you commit to being your best before your feet even hit the court.

It’s this approach that led us – when I was at Wieden Shanghai – to making a film in China to help kids see competitiveness as a good thing.

You see in China, while everyone knows the sheer amount of people there means you have to be competitive to stand any chance of getting ahead, culturally it is not seen as a good thing to openly talk about your ambitions.

Not because it’s a communist country – though there is a bit of that – but because it’s a country that likes to talk about harmony.

The ability to be balanced and together.

This meant kids were conflicted between acting with grace while feeling the pressure to be get ahead and we saw this tension as the perfect opportunity for Jordan – a man and a brand, built on performance – to help kids see the beauty in being competitive.

Not at the expense of destroying others, but the commitment to always be your best … never resting, never being satisfied, never losing the hunger to win.

And while some may think that is pretty one dimensional … I prefer to see it as believing in your ability to make a difference.

That with hard work, you can be noticed.

You may not win everything.

Hell, you may not win anything.

And the only guarantee is you will face challenges and hardship.

But with commitment, you can – at the very least – make it difficult for the ones who think their victory is inevitable.

And that in itself, is often the best victory of them all.