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


Down The Rabbit Holes …

So we’ve recently had some interns join the Deutsch planning mob.

They’re smart, passionate and enthusiastic as hell.

Far smarter than I was at their age. Arguably, smarter than I am now.

So I met up with them to see how they were going and they told me how they were getting to grips with things because initially, it was so overwhelming that they found themselves going down a lot of rabbit holes.

I get it, it was super daunting to me when I started too but the one thing that concerned me was their belief that rabbit holes were a negative.

As I pointed out to them, if they don’t go down rabbit holes, then they’re no use to me.

Rabbit holes are an essential part of the planning process.

Not just in terms of exploring possibilities to tackle the problem you have been given … nor to pressure test the strategy you have identified … but to also reveal if there is are more interesting ways to tackle the problem than you may have originally considered or identified.

Rabbit holes are as much about opening possibilities as they are closing them which is why if you don’t embrace them, all you’re doing is screwing yourself – and the client – over.

Sure, focusing on what you think the client will buy may get you quicker approvals and client compliments, but allowing your brain the space and time to wander can help you get to somewhere new … somewhere exciting … somewhere that allows creativity to take you to places no one saw coming … places that will attract rather than chase … and even if you don’t end up somewhere more interesting than where you started, at least you can be sure the strategy you’re recommending has been pushed and prodded, which is why I passionately believe rabbit holes aren’t a waste of time, but a key deliverable of what we do and have to do.

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The Freaks Move Us Forward …

When we think of the people who are pushing society forward, who do we tend to think of?

OK, so a lot of that is dependent on your personal context … but in general, I would say we’d tend to think of scientists, technologists and – occasionally – politicians, to name but a few.

And while I totally agree with that, I think so much of the things that move culture forward are the freaks and the outsiders.

They might not get the credit.

They might not get the acclaim.

But so much of what ends up becoming the mainstream is created by the people in the shadows … those who didn’t follow the rules or expectations of others because they either didn’t know what they were or weren’t in a position to ever stand a chance of achieving it.

The misfits are the ones who can make the biggest differences.

Not because they know how to break the rules, but they don’t know what the rules are.

For the record, this does not make them rebels.

Rebels is something in the eye of the observer, not the beholder.

These people simply see the World differently which shapes why they do things differently.

They’re the people adland should be embracing more of.

Yes, I know it may mean they’re harder to work with.

Yes, I know clients may question what they are offering to their business.

But the power of creativity starts with how you think and this is exactly why we should be embracing them.

One of the best people we ever hired used to be a kids bed designer at IKEA.

Another was a pig feed salesmen.

Both of them had absolutely no idea what advertising was beyond the executions they see every day.

And yet both of them were brilliant for exactly this fact … because they were able to use their unique creative talent to develop ideas I doubt anyone ‘trained in advertising’ could ever achieve.

Don’t get me wrong, being trained in the craft of advertising is vital – and there’s amazing people who can do amazing things that outsiders, or anyone else for that matter, may never achieve – but I fear we are in danger of becoming an industry of ‘production line thinkers and doers’ and that’s why we need to embrace those who play outside the lines of the creativity because without them, we’re getting far too neat and tidy in our responses to challenges.

Now I fully appreciate holding companies and clients may think ‘neat and tidy’ is a wonderful thing – it means greater efficiency, accuracy and profitability – but that’s short-term thinking, because in a World where competition is more intense than ever, creativity may be the only legal means a company has to counter heritage, distribution and budget and the only way we can ensure our creativity works it’s best is if we embrace the people who don’t follow the rules because they don’t even know what they are.



Never Apologise For Your Emotions …

I cry.

I cry a lot.

I cry at films.

I cry at memories.

I cry at just how much I love Otis.

Now I appreciate that’s not the sort of thing you should admit, but that’s what I want to change.

I get why it happens.

From the moment we are kids, we are told not to cry.

To be fair, it’s less to do with any sense of parental embarrassment and more to do with parents hating seeing their precious child being upset, but in my opinion, it’s still wrong.

But it gets worse.

Especially for little boys.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard a Dad tell their little man who has fallen over …

“Big boys don’t cry”.

I totally appreciate they’re not saying it to be mean, but I can’t help but worry for what we are teaching the men of tomorrow.

Especially in America.

I was lucky, I was brought up in a household that didn’t try to hide emotions.

I was taught it was healthy and was encouraged to express how I felt.

Now I know that was pretty rare, but fortunately for everyone else, there was the local pub.

The pub was more than a place for drinking, it was a place for men to express their feelings.

Sure, they did it through banter and jokes, but it was where you could reveal your feelings and fears to other men in an environment that was, ironically, none threatening and none judgemental.

I have no idea if that’s still the case but I know in America it’s not.

Here, you don’t go to a bar to talk, you go to a bar to sit with other men and watch sports.

There appears little outlet for men to express their feelings which means either the pressure of situations add up to unbelievable levels or the response to situations is disproportionate or overly aggressive and confrontational.

OK, so not everyone is like that, but until we teach our children – and especially our little boys – that crying is actually the act of someone strong rather than weak, then we are going to continue stopping people knowing how to navigate the challenges and frustrations that fill our lives. Or said another way, we’ll be stopping our kids from being able to be as good as they can be … which is a crime no parent wants to ever be accused of doing.

Which is another thing we could all learn from the values taught at Otis’ school.




The NHS Put The Great In Great Britain …

The NHS is 70 years old this year.

While that is a remarkable age, it blows my mind there was a time when it didn’t exist.

The story of its foundation is a remarkable one … one filled with foresight, fight and a governments desire to raise the standards, dreams and potential of an entire nation.

Whether we will ever see something of such audacious good from a government anywhere in the World is debatable.

Obamacare may have come close, but thanks to America’s blinkered fear of socialism [despite having one FBI for example], it means its potential has been destroyed by that criminal, also known as The President of the United States of America.

And all the Republican sheep.

But back to the NHS.

Despite having not lived in England for 24+ years, it’s been a quiet partner throughout my life.

Helping me deal with some of the best and worst times of my life.

And even though there was a time I grew to despise walking along the corridors of the QMC hospital in Nottingham, I was always grateful for it … because it ensured the people I loved weren’t allowed to fall through the cracks at their greatest hour of need.

The NHS has saved my parents life, saved my sight, looked after my dear Paul when he’s undertaken acts of complete stupidity, taken care of my son when he came down with an illness [despite not yet having a British passport] and ensured my parents were given dignity in their final days … it is the single most important and valuable institution the UK has.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have lived all around the World and while there have been a number of occasions where I have needed the urgent and serious attention of Nurses and Doctors, I’ve paid heavily for that service.

Of course I’m grateful for all they did for me – they were excellent – but I was also in a privileged position where I could afford to pay for it which is why the NHS is so important because the reality is, everyone deserves the right to being looked after, not just those with a healthy bank balance.

Countless UK governments have tried to undermine or strip away the NHS … seemingly ignorant to the fact it’s one of the few things that is the envy of the World and should be treasured, not pillaged.

So to everyone who has ever worked for or fought for the NHS, thank you.

You deserve so much more than just a nations gratitude.



Quality Control At A Glance …

Remember, the more confident the marketer the less messages they demand.



The Magic Of The Past …

Recently I bought Otis a Viewmaster.Yes, the old-school, red plastic, binocular thing where circular slides transport you to different places and Worlds.

When I was a kid, I bloody loved it.

I remember traveling around the World via Viewmaster.

The first time I saw the Taj Mahal was on there.

The first time I visited America was on there.

The first time I watched wild animals in their natural habitat was on there.

Of course this was a very long time ago, so it was probably more because of nostalgia than anything else that I wanted Otis to have one.

And you know what … he loved it.

Despite being a fully fledged member of the digital age, that piece of old school – with no virtual reality, moving pictures or interactivity – captured his imagination.

He told me stories about all the fish he went swimming with.

Who all the dinosaurs were and what they were doing.

And how all the wild animals were friends and liked playing in dirt.

Don’t get me wrong, the technology of today is an amazing thing to help kids learn and explore, but the beauty of Viewmaster – like the beauty of all great igniters of imagination, from books to even the odd ad – is that it allows people to impose their own will on the images and stories they see and hear … allowing them to go to places only they could ever imagine.

In essence, igniting others imagination allows them to ignite possibilities in things that are all around us and for me, that’s super exciting and why I’m so glad a toy created in 1942 still has a valuable role the lives of kids in 2018.



That Friday Feeling That Lasts A Whole Week …

So next week, I’ll be in Hong Kong.

For the whole week.

Yes, that means absolutely no posts whatsoever for the next week.

But to make sure you don’t get too happy, I’m going to leave you with one final post.

This is about the importance of mistakes.

Now I appreciate the word ‘mistake’ is often viewed as a negative, but I have a very different perspective on them.

Mistakes create standards.

Mistakes open opportunities.

Mistakes reveal who we can be.

OK, so depending on the mistake, some people may feel very differently about the positive effects of them, but in my experience big, small, life-changing or just momentarily ridiculous … they all have a benefit as long as you go into them and come out of them with the right attitude.

In short, if you’re making mistakes for any other reason than trying to do something great, you’re wasting everyones time and effort.

Making mistakes out of laziness or stupidity doesn’t help anybody, especially yourself. But doing it because you went for awesome … had a desire to push boundaries … wanted to see what other possibilities are possible … then each one of those mistakes should be celebrated and embraced by all.

Unless, of course, you’re just doing things for personal and selfish reasons then you’re a bit of a dick.

But that aside, this attitude is especially important in relation to being able to come out of your mistake with dignity and sanity intact.

Dignity and sanity are big words.

You can’t bullshit those.

For me, the only way you can walk out with either is if you went go your mistake with a clear reason for doing it and come out with a real learning from having done it.

That’s it.

And while others may never understand your reasoning, if you are clear on your motivations going in and your learnings coming out, then what others may call a ‘mistake’ may be one of the most important and valuable things you can ever do … something that has the power and potential to change, shape, reveal and create every new path you take from here on in.

Dan Wieden used to call this ‘fail harder’, he was right because whatever anyone says, mistakes matter.

See you in a week …