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


April Fools Day …

Today is a great day.

Not just because it’s a day where mischief is actively celebrated, but because throughout history, there have been a number of great things that happened on this day.

For example today is the day Dan Wieden and David Kennedy officially opened W+K.

Yep, the best communication agency in history opened on this day, which means April 1 should be a day we’re all thankful for.

Then there’s the rumour that BBH started on the same day, but having heard about some Portland ad agency starting on the same day, they decided to say theirs started on the 2nd.

Again, BBH are one of the World’s best which is another reason why we should all be thanking the calendar gods for this day.

And remember, when I say ‘best’ … I don’t mean it in the past tense. Both Wieden and BBH’s brilliance is, as I wrote here, that they have been setting standards for over 30 years. Given we’re an industry that seems to celebrate ‘hype today, gone tomorrow’, that is definitely a reason to celebrate April 1st.

But it’s not all ad agency starting … there’s the fact that today is the day I wrote one of my favourite blog posts.

The one about method planning.

The one lots of planners and industry media seemed to think was real, which not only made me very, very happy … it also proved they don’t read all the way through my posts because I admitted it’s fakeness in the very last line.

So let’s acknowledge that April 1 is epic … but the reason to celebrate it today is because it’s the day the brilliant – but evil – Amelia, launches WorldWideWeird, a compendium of where culture, tech and creativity come together in the most beautifully mad ways.

There’s a bunch of reasons for this.

One is because it’s awesome.

Another is because there’s stuff going on in the shadows that deserves a much bigger audience.

But thirdly, it’s because too many agencies still fail to understand technology is a tool of creativity and in the right hands, it allows creativity to be expressed and wielded in ways traditional creativity could only dream of.

This is certainly not meant to discredit the traditional craft of communication – of course not, that can be utterly amazing in the right hands – but the reality is there are incredible possibilities when creativity is allowed to thrive outside the usual boundaries of adland and we want to celebrate those doing it … regardless of the scale, regardless if it fails and regardless if they’re just doing it for themselves.

WorldWideWeird will come out every month, but there’s an instagram that will be updated more regularly with any weird and wonderful that catches our eye … and as Amelia is the editor of it, rather than me, you can be sure it will actually be worth reading.

I’m excited what this could do … because my hope is it won’t be just be a place where people go for dinner party fodder, but a place that both inspires and scares people to get off their arses and start pushing the boundaries of what creativity can be … because frankly, as much as I love a lot of the stuff we as an industry put out there, I get quite annoyed when agencies are credited for innovation when all they’ve really done is slightly adjust the way they make the thing they’ve always made.

Sure, there is an argument that is innovative but for me, innovation is when you do something fundamentally different … try something utterly new … fail while attempting to do something groundbreaking … and I for one would like the industry to be more associated with that than simply reframing tradition with fancy PR.

That said, today is the end of my probation period at R/GA … so depending on how my review goes, World Wide Weird might be my swansong and Amelia’s platform for even greater glory.

You can subscribe to World Wide Weird here.

Our instagram can be found here.

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Did I Play A Small Part In Brexit?

One of my favourite bits of work is Blackcurrant Tango.

There’s many reasons for this …

It epitomised the brilliance of HHCL.

It ensured I could work for 10+ years.

I’m even in it [one of the idiots running down the hill]

But recently I watched it again, and while I previously loved it with all my heart, it now seemed to have more of a sinister edge thanks to the Brexit-ridden times we now live in.

To which I can only say, I’m sorry … it was only supposed to be a bit of fun about British pride and eccentricity. Little did I know 22+ years later, huge swathes of England, would literally go stark-raving-bloody-bonkers.

However on the bright side, I might be Nostradamus.

Happy Friday.



R/GA Get Me …

Starting a new job is always slightly unnerving.

You want to make a quick, positive impression but you don’t know how everything works so you often end up asking ridiculous questions just to work out how to get through the day. To make it worse, you know people are judging your every move and so you can often end up presenting a side of you that really isn’t you at the very time you need to be showing exactly who you are and what you can do.

So while I am still on my probation at R/GA, I was kind-of happy they said they wanted to take a photo of me so they could use it in some material.

The happiness wasn’t because I love my photo taken [would you with a face like mine?] it’s because by them wanting publicly acknowledge I work for them, it seems I’m doing OK.

I say ‘seems’, because this is the photo they have ended up using.

They took quite a few pictures.

Some are – even by my ‘hate myself’ standards – OK.

And yet they ended up choosing the most ‘mischievous, caught in the act of evil, I’m-going-to-fuck-with-you, prepare-for-hell’ photo they could find, which can only mean this is their way of telling me I have 3 months to convince them to keep me because right now, they think I am a bit of an asshole.

Unfortunately, this only makes me like them and respect them more.

Damnit.



When Marketing Goes Utterly Wank …

Look, I get the whiteboard marker business is probably low on most people’s priority.

I also appreciate that if you work in this field, you probably want to feel like you’re doing something special … different … worth while … at least on a bigger scale than simply enabling people to write/draw rubbish in boardrooms.

But – and it’s a huge but – I can’t help but think the people behind the name for this whiteboard marker have slightly lost the plot …

Friendly?

Chisel?

Are they stark raving mad?

I swear to god you would have to be the most coke-snorting maniac to come up with those names.

What’s so friendly about this marker?

Does it do the writing for you?

Does it make your scrawl suddenly look neat?

Do other whiteboard manufacturers make their product hold a knife against your throat?

As for chisel?

A tool designed to hit things that will leave their mark in stone forever is literally the opposite to a whiteboard marker in almost everyway.

Where did that come from?

Did they want to big-up their role and significance or is it their way to add a psychological element to their product in the hope it makes the middle management who use it think their scribblings is the second coming of christ?

I’d respect them more if they named it, ‘A RED PEN FOR BAD MEETINGS’.

Or even ‘THE LOOK LIKE YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING WITHOUT CONTRIBUTING PEN’ …

But a friendly chisel?

Talk about an oxymoron.

Chisel’s aren’t friendly. You have to hit them to make them do anything.

Calling it a ‘stupid chisel’ might be more appropriate which is why the name of this bloody whiteboard pen has depressed me more than being invited to a 6 hour ‘brainstorm’ led by a middle manager who thinks leading a discussion that no one will pay any attention to is a demonstration of their emerging power and influence.

And no, I am not going over-the-top over this issue one little bit.

Ahem.



It’s A Matter Of Taste …

Before I start, let me ensure your Friday is even better than if you were being bathed in a sea of Crunchies by letting you know next week there will basically be no posts as I’m going to be back in the good ol’ USA.

Now I’ve given you a deep sense of joy, let me rip that away from you with some bitching.

So I saw this ad for Kontor – a company that helps other companies find their perfect space.

Now I appreciate I have the style sense of an Australian [Boom Tish] but I must admit I am a bit confused regarding the image they’re using in the ad.

If it’s an example of an office environment they think is good, then I am afraid they’re badly mistaken.

It feels more like a hotel restaurant in any 3 star business hotel you can find across the US.

Or the Costa Coffee boardroom.

But if they’re trying to make it look like the sort of office environment a company would want to move away from … an office environment that Kontor can help them find … then I hate to say it, but it’s not bad enough.

Let me be a bit clearer …

Yes, it’s horrific, but in terms of an image for use in an ad on a tube, it’s no where near horrific – or nice – enough to make whatever point they want to make and so for the poor schmuck stuck on the tube looking at it, you end up wondering if Kontor have as bad taste as me both in terms of what they hate and what they love.



Childhood Happiness …

My son.

My cat.

A semi-tidy/messy bedroom.

Colour. Toys. Posters and Paintings.

Books to Dolls houses to Magnetic Blocks.

This photo makes me so very, very happy.

Not just because of Otis and Rosie – though obviously that is great – but as childhood photos go, I can’t help but feel this is how it should be.

Now, of course, this ‘look’ – excluding my son and cat – is often the sort of thing you also find inside ad agencies.

I remember an old boss telling me that when he took his kids to the office, they asked where the other kids were, because they thought it was just like their bedrooms.

And while it is easy to write this design approach as superficial or childish – I genuinely believe it can make a difference.

Being surrounded by an environment that celebrates and provokes creativity can only be a good thing, especially if you are paid to think creatively – however, like raising a child, it only works if that extends to what you expect from the people within it.

Frankly, if you create a creative environment you have to let them be creative.

You can’t do that and then create systems and processes that push people to conform to rules.

Creative culture can absolutely be aided by the environment you surround people with, but the reality is it’s ultimately driven by having a culture of freedom and encouragement, which is why it seems to me the nice environments of many agencies are more about the illusion of creativity rather than the celebration, inspiration and ignition of it.

Kinda like what I told Campaign magazine a few years ago …



Management Is Directing, Not Dictating …

One of the things that really shook me working in the US was how hierarchal it was.

Of course I appreciate not all companies are like this, but in my experience, there were a huge amount who were.

Where the person with the highest title won.

Regardless how right – or wrong – they were.

And what this led to was a bunch of talented people opting for the easier life.

Where they did what the most important person in the room wanted, because ultimately it meant they would have less stress and could go home on time.

Or realised their career growth was about managing up rather than being great.

I don’t blame them – especially those who had families to feed – I just found it sad and alien.

Sad … because I saw incredibly talented people being restrained and restricted.

Alien … because I had been brought up to see management as enabling people to make the best work of their life.

Directing rather than dictating.

Creating the time, space and energy to let your team craft the work not focus on the politics.

But in America, this didn’t seem to be the case … it felt it was much more about following orders rather than solving the challenge in the most interesting and exciting of ways.

I kind-of wrote about this before, but the reason I’m saying it now is because I recently read a book that reminded me of some of the things I saw and – to a degree – experienced.

A book that reinforced why I will always love Wieden – and now R/GA – because they were founded by individuals who value creativity rather than devaluing age.

The book I’m talking about is called “Disrupted: Ludicrous Misadventures in the Tech Start-up Bubble” and was written by ex-Newsweek journalist Dan Lyons.

It’s a humorous tale of his experience working for the tech/marketing company Hubspot and – without giving anything away – it’s a total shitshow.

There’s a bunch of reasons for it … but as I read the book, I couldn’t help feel that many of them were because of this hierarchal practice that I saw in America.

It’s definitely a book worth reading because apart from just being enjoyable, it is super informative in how Silicon Valley works.

Even more specifically, how the finance of Silicon Valley works.

But if that doesn’t tempt you, then maybe this will.

You see Dan Lyons – the author – was a hardcore, tech journalist and yet when he joined Hubspot, he found himself in the marketing department. After experiencing the industry first hand, this is what he had to say about the conferences we love to go to and talk at …

“Marketing conferences are filled with wannabe gurus and ‘thought leaders’ who work themselves up into a revival-show lather about connecting with customers and engaging in holistic, heart-based marketing … which sounds like something I made up but is actually a real thing that really exists and is taken seriously by actual adult human beings, which makes me want to cry.”

Harsh?

Maybe.

True?

Definitely.