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

The Best Monday Of Your Life. Unless You Live In NYC …

So the good news is this is the one and only post of the week.

I know … could today be any better?!

You see as you read this, I’m on a plane zooming my way to NYC.

I must admit I’m super excited about it.

Not just because I miss the rush of an intense city … nor because I will get to see friends who I miss very much … but because I’ll be doing two things that are going to be new to me.

One is I’ll be judging the final round of the North American Effies.

The other is that I’ve been invited to talk to design gods, Pentagram.

OK, so I’ve judged the Effies before and I’ve done more than my fair-share of talks, but what’s exciting to me about this is that it’s a totally new context.

The reality is American advertising is very different to the advertising I am used to, make and – to a certain degree – love.

It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just different.

More bombastic. More spell-everything-out. More leave-nothing-to-chance-or-interpretation.

It’s also much more rational and focused on driving immediate sales than creating a position in culture that builds sustainable brand value.

OK, not every brand is like that – and I also know many other markets are becoming more and more like this – but as someone who passionately believes in setting long-term directions, not to mention true culture driven ideas, it’s going to be interesting how I view the results versus some of my fellow judges.

As for the talk …

Well, we all know I can do that in my sleep, but I must admit I’m super excited to be doing it at Pentagram.

For those of you who don’t know, Pentagram are one of the undisputed gods of design.

Literally, one of the gods.

Given it’s not that long ago I was only using the IMPACT I must admit to being somewhat surprised they asked me to come talk to them about my perspective on design, but then I discovered it was less about me and more about the work I’m doing with a certain famous rock band which is why I felt the best way to handle the challenge is to only have 1 image and make that image truthful to what I am sure they’ll leave thinking about me.

Especially when they see my Birkenstocks.

So while I know it’s Monday and you’re probably not looking forward to the week ahead, I hope this post has helped offer you a glimmer of hope for the next 5 days. Unless – of course – you’re based in NYC, and then your week is even darker than you could ever have imagined.

See you next week …


What We Can Learn From Tom Hanks About Working With Others …

OK, full disclosure, I don’t really like Tom Hanks.

Sure, I’ve enjoyed some of his movies but for some reason – maybe due to overexpose of his movies in my early 20’s – I think he has a face I want to smack.

But recently I read an article on him that changed my opinion of him.

To be honest, this ‘change my opinion’ thing is getting annoying.

First is was my ultra-nemesis, Morrissey – though he seems to behaving like a twat again.

Then it was Johnny Marr.

And now Tom Hanks.

Who next … Todd Sampson? That would literally make me want to kill myself.

Good job I know that will never, ever, ever happen.

But back to Hanks.

In the article, Hanks covered a huge range of subjects … the roles he’s taken, his approach to parenthood, the mistakes he’s made – it was all very interesting, vulnerable and honest – but the bit that caught my eye was this:

“I learned a long time ago that you don’t have to like the people you work with. If someone wants to be a dick, it’s OK, but if their dickishness means everybody else doesn’t get to work at their best level – if you being a dick means you’re going to encroach upon my process – there’ll be a slug fest in the parking lot. There will be words exchanged I’ve worked with men and women where I’m like, ‘Are we going to have to go through this again?’ And, well, yes, because that’s what’s called for. On rare occasions, people are insane – but those are really rare.”

The reason I like this is because one of the biggest issues many face in agencies is working with others.

OK, in the majority of cases, as Mr Hanks states, it’s all good – but occasionally you find someone who is especially difficult – not because they are pushing for the best work, but because they think they are the only one’s capable of doing the best work and don’t value anyone else’s contribution or process to get there.

In other words, they’ve become the office egotistical dick.

We’ve all seen them.

Prancing about like they’re gods-gift.

At best they’ve done something genuinely good in their time. At worst, they’ve only done something good in their mind.

What I like about Hanks advice is that it ultimately helps you work out when you should or shouldn’t act.

In other words, if the person isn’t affecting your standards negatively, then let it pass.

Life is too short and ultimately, your engagement with them is not going to achieve anything.

However if their actions are impeding the work you do to the standards you hold, then it’s time to strike.

I should point out that when I say ‘strike’, I don’t mean it literally, but the key point is that the moment you feel your process/standards are being limited because of this other persons actions or behavior, you need to speak up.

To them.


I wish I had known this earlier in my career.

When I think of all the energy and time I wasted taking on issues that were just annoying rather than damaging, I want to kick myself. But the good news is that working in advertising means I’ll be able to use this advice properly in the very near future.

And it’s important.

Not just because you should never let someone negatively impact your standards and process, but because – as fellow actor Michael Keaton pointed out – even if you’re just an employee, you’re still in charge of the direction of your career.

So thank you Mr Hanks. Damnit.

It’s Like He Was Talking About The Ad Industry. Or Pundits On China …
July 25, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Craft, Management

The older I get the more I realise that life is a battle between holding on to the things you believe in and allowing yourself be engaged and entertained by the things that challenge all you believe.

My Mum was particularly good at this …

She had an incredible ability to stay open minded to all that surrounded her … ensuring as she went forward in life, she was never left behind but also never walked away from things that time, experience and consideration had taught her were of real value.

But here’s the thing …

She never went along with what was happening simply because it was happening, she invested time in it to make sure she knew what it was, why it was happening and what it would mean for her.

I say this because I feel the ad industry has for years, chased after the newest new thing to appear relevant, without ever actually considering what to do with it to make it work for them.

In essence, it’s relevance by association.

Or worse, it’s about stealing from culture rather than adding to it.

I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve read a piece from someone in adland proclaiming they are geniuses when all they’ve actually done is repurpose something that has been in existence for years.

The irony of adland is that we talk about the future but we hold doggedly to the past.

Some of this is not entirely our fault – there is the small fact that the remuneration structure many clients insist on, is designed to keep things the same rather than drive innovation in thinking, technique and approach – but at it’s heart, many of the problems we face are problems we actively helped create, which is why unless we are willing to break the cycle, the only winner in this whole sorry situation will be Alvin Toffler’s credibility.

It’s up to us.

A Reminder Why Apple Are Special …

So Apple has had a lot of stick recently.

A lot of it has come from me.

However recently I was walking through the Shanghai Apple store when I saw this …

Yep, it’s a ‘how to use an iPhone’ class for the elderly.

Brilliant … almost as brilliant as these elderly people wanting to know how to use it.

I know I’ve said in the past how I admire Apple for developing an operating system that is so intuitive, that even babies know how to use it, but I also have to admire them for making sure they pay attention to their users at the other end of the age spectrum.

Of course, part of this is because the ‘younger audience’ segment has been well and truly exploited – but that still doesn’t take away Apple’s desire to help people – all people – get the most out of their product, without dumbing down their brand.

For example, unlike brands like Samsung and LG they never created a ‘smart phone character’ to appeal to kids – they just made their store experience accessible to kids.

Smart. Intelligent. Sophisticated.

The thing I’ve always loved about Apple is that while they want their products to be in as many hands as possible, they’ve never treated their audience like idiots. They appreciate that if you want to be respected, you better act in a way that can be respected.

While that message is obviously deeply ingrained with the product and retail folks, I would say their advertising team need a reminder – because apart from the odd moment of understated niceness [the recent photo billboard stuff for example], they’ve been acting like a total bunch of tossers. [Or, as this guys says, unendingly arrogant]

If it’s not an iPhone, it’s not an iPhone.

The only thing that’s changed is everything.

The funnest iPod ever. [OK, so it’s not for the iPhone, but it’s possible Apple at their shite-est]


On the bright side, I suppose it shows how powerful making a great product can be, because it sure-as-shit wasn’t the advertising that made people want to go out and buy that stuff.

How about that for an endorsement Baz? Well, if you ignore the ad slag-off.

Surely that qualifies me for a freebie when the iPhone 7 comes out. Ha.

The Yoda Complex …
January 18, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Context, Craft, Egovertising, Insight, Perspective, Prejudice

I once worked with a planner on an architectural project who suggested we should “fuck off the architects, because we could do this ourselves”.

While this guy was a delusional idiot, he was not – sadly – an anomaly.

I am getting increasingly frustrated by people who claim to have the answers to everything and anything when it is based almost exclusively on their own, clouded, personal perspectives.

They don’t care about the details … the issues … the nuances … the real problems … they think they can solve everything simply because their opinion represents every opinion, regardless how tenuous their knowledge or experience.

Sure, it is possible for some people to get so ‘lost’ in the details that they take you down dead-ends … but that doesn’t mean everyone is like that, so to have the attitude that you can blindly ignore people with specific knowledge and experience or that you don’t need to seek out greater understanding of the nuances of the situation because you think you know everything already, is – at best – naive and – at worst – the work of a destructive imposter.

Professionalism doesn’t mean you have to wear a suit and a tie and carry a briefcase to work every day, it means you have an inherent desire to do the best work of your life each and every time which means you can’t sit on your pedestal of delusion and prejudice with your eyes closed, ears shut but poisonous tongue very much alive.

By all means have a different point of view … but base it on the real issues and problems, not what you want the issue and problems to be.

Or instead of working for someone else, go start your own company and see how far you can go on your own. At least earn the right for your arrogance.

Happy Monday.

Packaging Adds Value …
December 8, 2015, 6:20 am
Filed under: Craft, Design, Packaging

OK, so this is hardly a new topic.

Any person who has ever bought an Apple product – be it an iPhone or a Macbook – appreciates how the packaging has been designed to enhance the specialness of ownership.

I call it the ‘ceremony of purchase’.

Of course, lots of brands have followed Apple’s lead … from Beats Headphones to pretty much every luxury watch manufacturer in the World, but recently, when I was in Amsterdam, I saw a company present their ‘cheap and cheerful’ [but not that cheap] headphones in a way that I thought was cute … especially compared to all the others that just had a photo of the product on a nondescript box.

Nice eh.

But it wasn’t just headphones they did it with, here’s their USB charging cable …

OK, so their logo design is a fucking disaster, but in the quest to stand out from the myriad of competitors, they realised one way they could do it presenting their product in a way that would attract and appeal to their audiences eyes and heart.

Simple. Clean. Effective.

My wife – an ex-packaging designer – has always said good design solves problems.

Where adland often needs complex presentations and reports to prove their campaign has been effective, great design often speaks for itself.

It’s something we could all do with remembering as we develop work.

And I include clients in that.

In other words, make the idea so good it can’t be denied.

If you need copious amount of words to explain why it’s right, it’s probably not right.

A Reminder That Print Advertising Can Still Be Brilliant As Long As You Want It To Be Brilliant …
December 4, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Audio Visual, Craft, Design

I must admit, I have a soft spot for print advertising.

Not the stock-photography shitty stuff you see 99% of the time, but the stuff that is distinctive, crafted and tells a story.

The stuff that is simple rather than simplistic.

The stuff that treats their audience with intelligence, rather than a bunch of retards

The stuff that stands out from everyone else because they’ve appreciated the importance of design, not just shouting.

The stuff that, if truth be told, was the backbone of British advertising.

There’s been a bunch of these ads over the years, but recently, it seems there’s been a lot less.

Maybe that’s because of the way designers and art directors are being trained these days or maybe it’s because of the economic marketing shift towards digital … but it’s probably got a lot more to do with the approach favoured by many marketing departments.

Sell the features, forget the brand.

This could be why one of the last print ads that I really loved was that British secret service execution … but recently I saw one that took me back to the glorious days of print.

Where an image said a thousand words.

And the words simply said enough to make you want to find out more.

And the best bit is it’s for a British company.

Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls … cop a load of this:

I love it.

Sure, you could argue you need to know what Bowers & Wilkins do for it to be truly effective, not to mention understand they have a product that looks like a Zeppelin balloon … but I’d argue you’re being too John Doddsy, and even he couldn’t fail to be impressed by the lack of copy in the ad.



Explains the product benefit without having to spell out the product benefit.

For me, it’s almost a perfect print ad.

One you can’t fail to notice and – more importantly – associate with a particular brand, which is something very, very rare these days despite the fact that’s what all work should try and do.

What with the SONOS logo and this, it seems it’s the sound companies who are leading the way in terms of brand building communication.

[Mind you, if you look at this old SONY ad, you could argue they always were]

So take a bow Bowers & Wilkins and your agency.

This is awesome. Just like your audio systems.