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


It’s Been An Honour …

After 7 years, today is my last day at Wieden+Kennedy.

Just as traumatic is that in 6 days, it will be my last day in China.

Or said another way, it will be my last day living in Asia-Pacific after 22 amazing years.

There’s honestly too much to say.

Too many memories to write about.

Too many people to thank and talk about.

So instead I’ll just say it has been the time of my life.

An amazing, spectacular, wonderful adventure both personally and professionally.

From marriage and babies to being part of work that defined World Cups and Olympics.

Wow.

It’s absolutely fair to say I will miss every bit of it but I’ll take the memories because it means I had the experience and for that I am truly grateful.

Now, because we’re in the middle of mad moving mode, this blog will be on a little hiatus for a few weeks.

Probably about a month. [Though we all know there’ll be the odd post here and there]

On the bright side, when it’s back – probably sometime in June, in time for my birthday [ha] – you’ll get to read posts that won’t just be about planning, but how I don’t understand how to make anything in America work.

I honestly think I’m going to find it harder to acclimatise to America than I ever did to China.

Hell, I can’t even order a cup of coffee without getting confused about their cup sizes.

So with that I want to sign off with a few little thank-you’s.

The reality is a huge amount of people made my time here amazing, however there’s some who had an even bigger influence and I want to call them out because the adventure I had – and am about to embark on – literally wouldn’t have been possible without them.

My wonderful planning team. Past and present. Every day was a genuine fucking honour. The awesome Kennedys. It was seriously the professional highlight of my last 12 months. Thank you. And that definitely includes you Juni. Kel Hook. For hiring me. You changed my life and I’ll never be able to thank you enough. Jason White. Thank you for supporting me even when I caused destruction. John Rowe. For being brilliant in every possible way and making my time at W+K Tokyo so good, I never wanted to leave. NIKE. I know that might sound corporate toady, but as I have nothing to gain from saying it, it means it is true. 99.7% of every person I met or worked with at Wieden+Kennedy worldwide … whether they are still here or long gone. Martin Weigel. You’re a cantankerous, warm hearted, brilliant man. Just propose to Mercedes and get on with it. Whiteside. Because you’re awesome and funny and humble and deserve so much and yet are happy with what you have. Clare Pickens. I love you. I literally fucking love you. [But stop cutting your hair because it makes you look shit] Sandi Hildreth. For being awesome and gorgeous and loving the same sort of rubbish music as me. Claudia Valderrama. For looking out for me even though you told me I was a “pain in the ass”. W&W, Azsa, Arlene and Max … for making sure I stay excited – and in awe – about the birth of amazing ideas. Gerber, for somehow – and I’m not sure how – influencing me to get tattoos. I came here with none, I leave with not enough. Simon Pestridge. Thank you for everything. In many ways, you changed my career and opportunities. You’re more than a great client, but a friend. Kim Papworth. For that talk that was totally worth the wait. Luhr. For being Luhr. Stech. For making your 6 months here, the most exciting 6 months for me full stop. David Terry and Paul Colman for trying really hard to be ‘alpha-males’ but actually being fucking sweethearts. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. Joe Staples. He won’t understand why, which is why. MJ. No, not Micheal Jackson or Michal Jordan, but Matthew Jung … for being a phenomenal Nike and Converse client who backed us to do the best work we can do every-single-time. Karrelle. For pretending to still be British when he’s basically American. Steve Tsoi for still welcoming me to the table even though I never made life easy for you or your team. Scott Silverman. You had nothing to do with China, but if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have had the chance to be here. Chris Jaques. You also had nothing to do with China, but if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have had the platform to show others what I could do. What I could be. Dan Wieden. For not actually firing me even though you said, “You’re fired” every time you saw me. And starting a place that is so special amongst special companies. Xiaoli. For everything you have done for us, but most specifically for the love and care you have shown my son. China … for being so important to global business that you gave me access and exposure to the sort of senior leadership few in the World will ever get to experience. The amazing, warm, slightly crazy people of China. I will absolutely miss everything about your unique ways. Except the spitting and the plane delays. And finally – and most importantly – my beloved Jill, Otis and Rosie. Without you guys, none of this other stuff would have mattered.

OK, the Gwyneth Paltrow bollocks is over … and to prove it, have a look at this.

Do you know what it is?

That’s right, it’s one of the 600 stickers I have had made that I have spent the last 5 weeks hiding throughout the refurbished Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai office. And I mean ‘throughout’ … including various W+K hangouts, like Baker & Spice, Jamaica Blue and Little Catch.

That should make their life a pain in the ass for a few years.

It will be like I’ve never gone.

And with that, it’s time to go.

It’s been a lot of fun. Time for an adventure in LA. God help us all.



The Joy Of Age …

Growing older is a pain-in-the ass.

Even if your mind is still young and active, your body is losing its energy and gaining a bunch of aches and pains.

Is it any wonder so many people spend so much money trying to pointlessly fight it?

But there are some advantages to age.

One of them is not giving a fuck anymore.

I don’t mean that in the sense of not caring about people or progress or learning. I mean it in the sense of realising how little of the stuff we passionately believe are important are actually important.

And to me, this is enlightening and liberating all at the same time.

It enables you to see what can actually change stuff.

What can actually make a difference.

Of course, being old doesn’t automatically mean you have this ability – just like being young doesn’t automatically disqualify you from having this ability – but without doubt, experience gives you an ability to see through the clutter and bullshit and that is most definitely a gift.

Over the years I’ve written this blog, one person I’ve constantly referenced is Sir Ken Robinson … more specifically, his incredible TedTalk about creativity.

One of the reasons I love it so much is that he helps us see all the layers of bullshit we have added to the education system.

Layers that ironically undermine kids ability to learn rather than enhance it.

Well recently I saw another speech that asks us to question stuff.

Stuff we think is important but could be more of a hinderance.

However instead of coming from a very funny academic, it comes from a very funny comedian.

John Cleese.

Now of course this shouldn’t come as a surprise because as I wrote a long time ago, comedians have incredible insight, however what Cleese offers is more than that … he challenges us to consider how much we undermine our potential by allowing things we think are important to interfere with the things that really are.

And while this brilliant stream of consciousness explains the importance of clarity and creativity, he gives us something more than that.

He reminds us that getting old might not be as bad as we may often think.

As long as we live a life of experiences rather than comfort.

Which is another lesson worth remembering.



The World Hasn’t Gone Mad, It’s Gone Ridiculous …

A week today is my last day at Wieden, so what I’m about to write shouldn’t matter. But it does.

You see, last week I received an email from a rather well known publisher.

A publisher of books.

They wanted to ‘have a chat’.

So obviously I was kind of intrigued so I called them and do you know what they said …

THEY WOULD LIKE TO MAKE A BOOK OF MY BLOG POSTS!

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah!

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Despite the utter stupidity of that suggestion, I am not going to deny my ego was well and truly stroked … which is why they brought me down to earth when they added “We don’t want all your posts, just the ones where you have something others will find valuable to read”.

Putting aside that with that filter, it’s going to be more pamphlet than book, I still find it rather exciting and can only assume their business model is built on the belief that people will pay a couple of quid to get to the few posts that are worth reading rather than spend hours traipsing through shite looking for them.

Hmmmmmn, not the best investment argument I’ve ever heard.

But here is where you come in.

You see I’ve been asked to choose the 100 posts that I think are valuable.

I know, 100. Talk about being optimistic.

Anyway, if this goes ahead, they want to pitch it as a business book [I swear I’m not making this up] … which I assume means less posts about my best friends penis size and more about businessy-stuff. I’m pretty sure that down the line, I’ve written a few of them – whether it was on strategy, creative briefs or recruitment – however in the unlikely event there’s a post on here that you remember as having some value, could you let me know because I sure-as-hell don’t want to spend months going through 10+ years of rubbish only to realise there’s nothing on here that I actually like anymore.

Ta.



Vanity Drives Insanity …

A little while ago, I wrote about how technology scared me.

It wasn’t because Facebook had served me an ad suggesting I may like to buy a Queen t-shirt that states I was born in the month of June … it was because it was hideous, even for me.

However recently, I was exposed to something even worse than that.

Something that technology was to blame for.

This …

OK, so these things are meant to be a bit of mindless fun … but imagine if you were Barack Obama or Chris Evans.

Would they think it’s ‘mindless fun’?

Mindless, maybe … but fun?!

Even if the technology behind this ‘game’ is simply randomly grabbing 2 celebrity photos and claiming the enquirer is a combination of them, it’s all a bit dangerous.

Yes, I said dangerous … which I openly admit, is a very over-the-top statement, but it’s my blog so I’ll call it what I want.

Oh yes.

Ahem.

So back to the point of the post …

You see there are a huge amount of people who are forever looking for evidence of their specialness and they adapt their reaction to news and events to suit.

A horoscope announcing the World will recognise your contribution to civilisation?

Met with a sense of positivity or – at the very least – hope, even if you try laugh it off to your mates. Trust me, if you’re reading it out for others to hear, there’s a part of you that believes it. Or wants to believe it.

A horoscope announcing this is a week where you will reveal yourself to have failed?

Met with a sneer and swear words.

The thing I found funny about this ‘which celebrity are you most like’ thing, was how many people did it and posted the results.

There were just as many people despairing about what was given to them as there was humble bragging.

The despair was written in a way where you felt the person was asking their friends for reassurance that they weren’t really a cross between Lassie and Britney Spears whereas the humble braggers wrote with a tone that tried to convey they’d found the whole thing hilarious while actually being smug their true spirit had been recognised by an online ‘game’.

And that’s why I love what I do … because while many think it’s all about listening and watching, I feel it’s about understanding and interpreting because so much of what we do is driven by what we are trying to hide [even from ourselves] rather than what we want to reveal.

As I’ve said many times, we’re all hypocrites and these shit Facebook things have a wonderful way of revealing it.

[But I really do think I have Chris Evans/Obama qualities. In my case, I’m positive it’s all true]



Can Anyone Miss Home This Much?

Despite being half Italian, I identify myself as British.

And I love my country.

I do.

I know I don’t live there, but it is still somewhere very precious to me, both for my memories and my friends.

My Britishness affects quite a lot of what I do and how I do it.

Even to this day, if I see ‘bangers and mash’ on a menu, I’m going to have it.

It doesn’t matter if I’m in London, Shanghai or Vietnam … it’s going to go into my gob.

And when I do go home, I absolutely adore stocking up on old favourites.

Monster Munch crisps.

Double Decker chocolate bars.

Kebab Cob Special from Nick the Greeks on Radcliffe Road.

Of course it’s not just food that makes me feel British, but I mention this because I recently got served this ad on Facebook.

Look, I get how nostalgic food can make you feel.

And yes, I appreciate how irrational our emotions can be.

But seriously, who the hell would be nostalgic for beef stock cubes.

Especially pretty shitty beef stock cubes.

Suddenly I don’t feel anywhere near as sad as I thought I was.

___________________________________________________________

PS: If you want to get a taste for British regional ‘cuisine’ – as well as good old fashioned banter – check out the comments in this awesome article about the Wigan ‘pie sandwich’.



It Takes A Lot Of Work To Keep The Fizz From Going Flat …
April 21, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Creativity, Culture, Design

A long time ago, I knew the guys who started the design company ATTIK.

They had the sort of rollercoaster ride that made everyone involved in it, feel alive by scaring them half to death.

While this article is old, there’s tons of great advice in it for companies … whether new or old.

Having gone through a bunch of highs and lows with both Cynic and Sunshine – and a load of others to be honest – there’s so much of what they say that I absolutely relate to, whether that’s never letting the hustle stop to always being connected to what’s happening at the edge, rather than letting yourself be comfortable with the middle.

Or as they say it …

“It’s like retiring from football and ten years later expecting to play against younger guys, it wasn’t the way to go.”

Read it, I’m pretty certain you’ll enjoy it.



Little Things Make The Difference …

In Asia, hand cleanliness is almost an obsession.

People even eat their sandwiches and burgers with knives and forks to avoid having to pick them up.

OK, so maybe that’s the case everywhere and I’m just showing my common Nottingham roots … but I still find it fascinating.

Everywhere you go, there’s hand sanitisers.

I’m not just talking in hospitals, I’m talking restaurants and all sorts of other places.

Recently, I saw this on my wife’s bag.

Yep, it’s a portable hand sanitiser.

But I’m not saying this because it highlights how long we’ve been in Asia, I’m saying it because making a product that can attach easily to a bag is an act of simple genius.

For a culture that doesn’t want to just wash their hands, but have them truly germ free … this little idea has big appeal.

Sure, there’s other products on the market that do a similar thing, but having something that attaches to your bag gives a peace of mind that wipes hidden in your bag, just can’t do. Plus being permanently on display helps advertise the brand to all who see it. Nice.

I’ve said for a while that I feel designers are doing things in more interesting ways than ad agencies and ultimately that’s down to one simple difference of approach.

Designers want to solve problems whereas ad agencies want to communicate problems.

Not all agencies are like this.

Not all agency employees are like this.

But right now, the design industry is kicking our ass and I swear it’s because we are holding on to remuneration models that reward ‘the old ways’ rather than finding ways to get paid for what we are truly capable of if given the freedom to do it.

[That and the fact adlands creative department hiring policy is still primarily based on art and copy rather than embracing different types of creative people/thinkers/doers]

We will have to wake up soon, otherwise the bullshit we churn out for Cannes – that we claim is ‘creative problem solving’ will become the benchmark for our standards and when that happens, we may as well pack up and go home.

But I have faith it can be done, if only because I saw The Kennedys Shanghai consistently solve problems in imaginative and innovative and intriguing ways for 9 months.