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


Donn. Rohn. Is. Gone …

When you start a new adventure – be it a new country or company – it can be daunting.

Of course no one starts a new adventure without there being a reason for it, but that still doesn’t mean you don’t find yourself being pulled into looking at what you are losing rather than what you could gain.

But good things can – and do – happen, of which one of them is meeting new people who make your new adventure more fulfilling and exciting.

One of those people is a guy called Donn Rohn.

I never knew Donn before I started at Deutsch. In fact on my first day at work, when I saw him, I thought he looked a bit of a dick, despite the fact a guy who used to work with him told me he was good.

But once I got talking to him, I realised almost immediately that it was only his walk that made him look an asshole [I’m serious, his walk is a cross between Dirty Harry and John Wayne] because the truth is, he’s as honourable a man as I have ever met in my life.

Smart.
Defender of his team.
A leader not a manager.
Committed to doing the right thing.
Empathetic, passionate, a dry sense of humour that drives brilliantly evil turns of phrase … he’s just a great human being and that’s before I mention how great a colleague, friend, husband and father he is.

I say all this because he leaves us today.

As sad as that is – and it really is – he’s off to do something that will change the path of his life so I’m genuinely happy and excited for him and his family because they deserve nothing but good things.

While I would have loved our time together to be longer, I’m grateful I met him and even more that I get to call him a mate so while he leaves a huge hole behind – especially in his ability to rock ‘grandpa sweaters’ that take no prisoners [his leaving present is the picture accompanying this post] – he also leaves a legacy of how to be a good human in a business that often tries its best to destroy that in all of us.

Thank you for everything Donn, never change.

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Give A Little Love To The People Who Think They Will Never Get Any …

As today is Valentine’s Day, I am going to write about love.

Not the rubbish peddled by the card and florists so they can charge a 100% mark-up on their usual prices because today is supposedly a ‘special day’, but the sort of love that shows you genuinely care rather than have been bullied into looking like you do.

The fact is, they’re more people on the streets than at any point in the last 20 years and it’s going to get worse.

While a lot of media likes to paint these individuals as thieves or con artists, the vast majority are good people who have simply fallen on hard times. This could be because of family, work or mental health – but they are good people and we can’t be allowed to forget that.

While it’s easy to avoid them, I have a little ask.

If you see someone who you think is having a tough time – and please know most don’t have the confidence to write a sign, let alone ask for help – just quietly go up to them and say, “I don’t want to embarrass you but I thought this might help” and then provide what you can.

A bit of money, some food or a [none alcoholic] drink.

Then simply walk away with no fuss or expectation of gratitude because I guarantee your small act will have made a difference, if only for the momentary interaction of human warmth that is hugely different from the invisibility and insignificance they experience every day.

As many of you know, this is an issue that is hugely important to me that I see getting worse every day. Any help, helps … from simply acknowledging their existence, to offering a little helping hand to doing something that can give them back some of the self-esteem that they thought they had lost forever.

I will be forever grateful to Virgin and Human_2 for helping me see how much a little gesture can make a big difference. If more people understood that, maybe they’d feel more comfortable reaching out when they see someone having a tough time.

Happy Valentine’s Day.



Technology Fucks With The History Of Rules …
February 9, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Comment, Culture, Insight, Marketing

It’s been a long week – I’m as tired of this blog as you are – so I thought I’d leave with 2 images that sums up how much technology can change the rules that society has lived by for bloody decades, if not centuries.

Hey, I know both are old, but at least they’re more fun than Tom Goodwin’s [albeit good] quote of ‘The world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. The world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. The most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate’.

First there’s this …

… and now this …

Well, I liked them anyway.

Have a great weekend.



Some People Never Learn Their Lesson …

Way back in 2008, the lovely people at PSFK invited me to speak at their Asia conference in Singapore.

While I had a lot of fun doing it, you’d think they would have quickly realised never to invite me to do anything again.

Well they managed to hold off for 10 whole years, but the lovely mad fools decided to ask me to do something again.

OK, so it’s writing an article on the Super Bowl rather than actually showing my face to a member of the paying public, but it’s still an alarming lack of judgement on their part.

For which I am truly proud.

Given how much rubbish there was out there, I could have written miles and miles of abuse, but the folks at PSFK were smart by limiting me to about 800 words, though that didn’t stop me writing a paragraph questioning why Queen would sell the use of their song ‘We Will Rock You’ to RAM Trucks.

Fortunately for you, they edited that bit out.

Unfortunately for you, they left the rest in.

Fools.

So to those of you who can’t be arsed to click on this link, here’s the post.
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In addition to being the pinnacle of American football, the Super Bowl is also one of the pinnacles for the ad industry. A chance for us to remind everyone what we can do. So with that, I’m going to write about three pieces of work I thought celebrated the highs of ad-land and three pieces that will require me to spend the next 11 months in therapy.

Before I start, I should say:

+ I’m cynical and British so I’m not the best person to write this.
+ I acknowledge it’s hard to make a Super Bowl spot that stands out for good reasons.
+ All ads require a lot of people to work very hard so when it goes bad, there’s a bunch of reasons for it and I assure you they’re all as disappointed as you. Or they should be.

Let’s start with what I think pushes the ad industry forward:

TIDE: It’s A Tide Ad

Thank you for being self-aware enough to acknowledge you simply make clothes clean.

And for doing it in a way that doesn’t just highlight the clichés of ‘the Super Bowl ad,’ but kinda-hijacks and owns all the ads that run after your spot.

For me, you won the Super Bowl.

AMAZON: Alexa Loses Her Voice

No one really needs reminding about Alexa do they? But hey, at least they had fun doing it and poked fun at themselves. Jeff Bezos might be a genius in many things, but no actor is going to worry his acting chops are going to take their job. Except, maybe, Keanu Reeves.

BUDWEISER: Stand By You

Let me be clear, I did not like this ad. At all. I felt it was contrived and patting itself on the back.

But the idea behind it—using their cans to distribute water to those in need—is very good and something they’ve apparently been doing since 1988.

It resonated with me more than the Stella Artois/Matt Damon spot, which has a similar goal, because not only has Bud been doing it without fanfare for a long time, it required them to do something beyond handing over a check.

I know I look a dick criticizing anyone who wants to help those in need but, like the Hyundai spot, you end up wondering if Stella is doing it because they genuinely want to help people or needed a platform to attract more drinkers.

It shouldn’t matter as people are being helped but it feels exploitative, which is why Bud wins the ‘social cause’ category of Super Bowl for me.

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Now for the ones I feel holding us back. Seriously, this was hard because there were tons of them. But some reached a lower bar than others, so with that…

MONSTER: You Deserve Better

What do you do if you’re a guitarist in Aerosmith and your singer is too busy making bad Super Bowl ads [this year, it’s Kia] to make a new album? You have a go too.

Joe Perry shouldn’t have bothered. Not just because his appearance is ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ short, nor because 99.76% of the overtly Gen-Z target audience wouldn’t know who the hell he is… but because the premise of the ad (in-ear headphones are crap) is about five years too late.

The ad ends with the line, “You Deserve Better.” They’re right, Joe does.

JACK IN THE BOX: Jack vs. Martha

There used to be an agency called Cliff Freeman. I loved them and tried to get a job there over and over again, but it never happened.

Part of the reason was because of their Jack In The Box work, which was genuinely mischievous, funny and memorable as hell.

This is none of those things. It’s not terrible—there were worse—but compared to their heyday with Cliff Freeman, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

NFL: Dirty Dancing Spoof

NFL players re-make the pivotal dance scene from the movie Dirty Dancing before a line appears that says, “To all the touchdowns to come.” I rest my case.

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I know I said three, but there’s one more I have to give an honorable mention to: that Scientology thing.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find a religion that runs a Super Bowl ad trying to attract members rather than use the cash to try and help those in need very, very strange. Even Stella Artois is trying to help the needy so maybe I’ll follow them instead.

Given the Super Bowl is such a momentous event—where the traditional rules of advertising arguably, can be broken—it’s just a shame that we continue to see the same three approaches each and every year.

I’m not saying funny celebrities, true Americana and/or political commentary don’t work, but if we’re going to show how our industry really understands how to connect with culture, it might be nice if we didn’t approach every year by producing a stream of 30 to 60-second TV ads when we have the technology and brains to develop ideas that can affect how millions behave, literally, as they’re watching the game.



Listen For The Quiet Ones …

The older I get, the more I realise how brilliant my parents were.

There are so many reasons.

They gave me all the love and support and encouragement you could ever want.

They gave me incredible advice for how to live my life.

They told me to go live my life when they could have asked me to stay at home with them.

But for all those things, there was one thing they taught me that I feel was even more important than all that.

You learn from everyone.

Everyone.

That didn’t mean I had to agree with their point of view.

Nor did it mean I had to adopt their point of view.

What they wanted me to understand was every person has a story and if you really listen to what they say, it can help you learn a bunch of things.

Not just in the practical ‘move ahead in life’ stuff.

But in the understanding of how life works and how everyone is trying to deal with it as best they can.

And that’s why every month – from about the age of 8 to the age of 16 – my Dad would bring a homeless person [or as they were called in those days, tramps] to our house for dinner.

The deal was they would get a hot meal, a hot shower and a nice bed for the night if they told me about their life and what they had learnt from it.

Given the work I’ve done with HUMAN_2, I imagine my Dad often received a negative response. Not because the people he asked liked the situation they were in, but because they had experienced years of false promises or – worse – open avoidance and so were deeply mistrusting of anyone who approached them. But regardless of that, my Dad kept doing it and I’m so grateful he did.

Well, I say grateful, but at the time I found it weird.

Annoying even.

But looking back now, I realise how amazing and important it was.

It defined who I am.

It shaped how I do my job.

It ensured I respect people by their approach to life rather than their possessions.

It embodied my Mum always told me “… to be interested in what others are interested in”.

It’s probably why I value empathy in a planner more than curiosity. Though that could also be because the way planners talk about curiosity makes me sick.

But even more than that, I distinctly remember hearing a number of the visitors we had saying thank you to my parents. Not just for the food/shower/bed, but for being valued and being given a chance to be heard.

Which is maybe why when we were setting up HUMAN_2, the goal wasn’t to simply provide money to the homeless, but to provide assistance to those who wanted to help themselves out of their situation but didn’t know how.

I say all this because I recently saw a notice about a local homeless guy in Manhattan Beach who sadly died.

It really struck a chord with me.

Not just because it was touching to see a community acknowledge someone who many would treat as if they’re invisible, but because in the last 2 words of their note, they said something that encapsulated empathy and compassion for humanity.

You see as much as we live in a World where media likes to promote worth and value by what we own rather than who we are and how we live, LA amplifies that superficiality by about a billion … which is why the authors last 2 words were so beautiful and so important.

I just hope gentle Artie knew it.



Favourite Days …

Can you remember some of your greatest days?

I don’t just mean the big ones, but the ones that should have been a ‘normal 24 hours’ but somehow turned into something different.

Better.

Seminal.

Jill recently sent me a photo that captures one of those days.

Yes, that’s me watching TV.

More specifically, watching Forest.

Live.

Playing Arsenal.

In the FA Cup.

Fallen giants versus FA Cup holders.

Championship team versus Premiership establishment.

Managerless versus longest serving manager.

And we won.

4-2.

FOUR BLOODY TWO.

More than that, we won in style … so much so that a blind Arsenal fan, who was at the game, expressed that he had finally found a positive to being blind because he didn’t have to see how much Forest bossed Arsenal on the pitch, but only hear it.

But as much as that is most definitely a big and memorable event, that’s not what made it seminal for me.

It’s that little head resting against my body on the sofa.

Yep, that’s Otis.

Watching the game with me.

His first ever football match.

Where his Dad’s beloved Nottingham Forest, won.

Now I appreciate this isn’t the same as when I was a kid and started watching Forest.

Back then, they were not just winning against the champions, they were the champions.

First of the league, then of Europe and beyond.

Their success cemented my love of the reds … taking it beyond just geographic loyalty and into more personal identity.

And even though they have fallen so far from those heady days – where they have had 26 different managers in the time Arsene Wegner has been boss of the gunners – I still love them and hope this match, where Forest secured an unlikely yet thoroughly deserved victory in front of a 3 year old living in Manhattan Beach, means he will love them too.

Maybe I’m being massively unfair on Otis.

Maybe I’m setting him up for a lifetime of disappointment.

But then, when you hear stories like this that come out of matches like that, it does teach you that the events of the past don’t have to dictate the events of the future if you commit to always doing your best.



Wieden Keep Spoiling Me …

So a while back I wrote how Wieden Amsterdam sent me a bloody pottery Birkenstock clog for no other reason than being nice people.

Well, that and the fact they probably couldn’t think of another soul – past or present – who would want it, let alone love it.

So a week or so ago, I got another package from Wieden, but this time the Tokyo office.

And what was inside it?

Well it wasn’t a bomb, it was this …

Yes, it’s a bloody bright pink, Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo frisbee.

And why did they do it?

Well, because they’re bloody lovely people and – I presume – because I live by the beach.

If I knew I’d be getting all this stuff when I had left them, I’d of done it ages ago.

But in all seriousness, this – and the other stuff I’ve had from them [and lets not forget NIKE too] – shows why those hippy buggers that were born in Portland are so special.

Sure, they’re the best in the World at what they do.

Sure, they are smart as hell and creative as shit.

But they’re more than that.

They’re amazingly kind people who happen to also be obscenely talented.

In fact I’d say it’s in exactly that order.

Throughout their offices, it’s filled with genuinely great people … people I feel honoured to know, let alone thrilled to have once worked with.

[And a couple of assholes, but I won’t let them ruin it for me, especially as they’re going to get found out eventually, ha]

I can tell you this, as much as I left there making some of the best work of my life, I’m even happier I left there with some of the best mates I could have.

Thank you to my friends in Tokyo … especially Mr Rowe … you’re all ace and I miss you.