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


Connections From History …

I first started being conscious of Brian Clough in 1978 when he took my beloved Nottingham Forest on a magical journey, the likes had never been seen before or since.

While I never spent any time with him, I can honestly say he contributed to a childhood that is bursting with memories and wonder which is why when I saw a letter he wrote from the year my adoration began, I had to get it.

I totally appreciate some might think this is stupid, but to me it’s a connection to my history.

A connection to where I grew up.

A connection to a place that still means so much to me.

When you’re just 8 years old, what Nottingham Forest did was make my formative football-fan years the most exciting, unifying and pride-filled years you could ever hope to have, and while the last 20+ years have been a total nightmare, no one can ever take those amazing memories from me because, as John McGovern, the Forest captain of the time, said …

“We were like one of those comets you see flying across the night sky. We burned brightly, but it was all too brief. But, boy, did we burn brightly for a while.”

So thank you Mr Clough, you were always with me but now you will always be near me.

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One Nations Tragedy Is Another Nations Humour …
May 9, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, Culture, England, History

One of the things that has always done my head in is how many American’s claim some sort of Irish descendency on St Patrick’s Day.

I don’t know why it bothers me so much, but it does.

This inner-boiling point reached new heights for me this year for 2 key reasons …

+ I now live here so get to see it first hand.

+ Trump is President, voted in by people who liked his ‘stop the immigrants’ message.

I’ve got to admit, I found it interesting watching so many people claim they were of Irish descent [when in reality, it was probably about 1/1000th Irish or that they once drank some Jameson’s whiskey] given the likelihood a great deal of them passionately want to stop any immigrants [read: anyone not white] enter the US … but hey, as we’ve seen with the gun laws, when America wants to, they can do crazy like few can do crazy.

Talking of crazy, have a look at this sign I saw outside an Irish pub that day.

Specifically, the last drink on the menu board …

Yeah … let’s all laugh at the drink called ‘car bomb’.

That’s funny isn’t it.

Something that killed so many people is a great way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think American’s would find it funny if a bar in London created a drink called 9/11 to celebrate July 4th, do you?

Yes, you can call it a bad joke. Or just plain ol’ cultural ignorance. But as I wrote years ago when the Borat movie came out, it’s amazing how people can laugh at human unpleasantness when it’s not about them and wrapped up in ‘humour’ to make the bitterness appear less ugly.



Photographic Planning: A Picture Tells A Thousand Presentations …

One of the best things about moving to America was that we were able to bring most of the stuff we had in storage around the World back to one place for the first time in over 15 years.

While opening boxes upon boxes of DVD documentaries was a bit heartbreaking given they are now all available online for free, there was some delight and one of those was getting my hands back on this …

Sign of the Times is a brilliant book by photographer Martin Parr.

Martin Parr is one of Britain’s most significant photographers, best known for his sharp eye and cheeky sense of humour.

Over his 30+ career, he has focused on capturing ordinary people doing ordinary things and because of this, he has become known as a social commentator and recorder of Britain’s finely nuanced class system.

In the 90’s, the BBC aired a documentary called Signs of the Times.

In some respects it was an early version of reality television … a fly-on-the-wall documentary that aimed to document the personal tastes of people in their British homes.

50 people were chosen from 2000 applicants with a real focus on capturing a diverse range of ages, races, genders and social backgrounds.

Anyway, from that show came the book and anyone who grew up in the 90’s in the UK who sees it will resonate with so much of it.

Not just in terms of the aesthetic, but the energy, values and priorities of the times.

I’ve long been fascinated with this approach – we even did a similar type of project at Wieden in Shanghai – because for me, it not only helps communicate who we’re talking to in ways others can truly connect to but – because of the contextual lens – it provides additional insight into how the audience lives and what they value.

It’s why it was so important for me to make a coffee table book of photographs from our recent America In The Raw study, because while some probably saw it as an indulgence – especially given you needed to see the accompanying presentation to truly understand what we found and what we think brands can/should do – my view is that without it, you can’t truly connect to the stories that shaped our thinking and then all we’ll end up with is a deck rather than the influence for change.



The Future Has Different Rules …

As I’ve written before, I didn’t go to University. I knew pretty early on that I didn’t want to continue my formal education.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t/don’t like to learn, it just means I find it far more powerful when it’s not in an academic environment.

I still remember telling my parents my decision and being slightly scared.

They desperately wanted me to go so I was worried they would see this as a slight on them – which is absolutely not what it was meant to be.

They asked for my reasons and when I told them, they said that they would support my decision as long as I applied in case I changed my mind.

So I did.

And I got accepted.

But I was still sure not going was the right thing for me, so my parents – while obviously disappointed – supported my decision and never brought it up again.

Looking back now, I feel that must have been very hard for them.

At that point, going to university was the fast track to a career and yet – as another act of their love and confidence in me – they pushed me to follow the things that genuinely interested and excited me and hoped it would all work out.

I’d say it did.

But now I’m a dad and while Otis is only 3, the thought of education looms large.

Would I do the same thing as him?

Of course I want to help equip my son in the best way possible for the life he wants to lead and one of those ways is to provide him with a good education. But the fact is I’m vehemently opposed to private education and while general access schools can be very good, the reality is private tends to offer better opportunities simply because of the funding and the facilities … which leads to an interesting conflict.

What’s best for my son versus what’s true to me?

Given Otis is so young right now, the decision will ultimately be mine and his Mum’s, but once he’s older, what do I do if he chooses a path I feel is not in his best interests.

Sure, it worked out for me, but the World was different back then and then I saw the ‘god’ instagram above – a sentiment that was absolutely reinforced by our recent America In The Raw research – and realised that by the time he has to make some choices, he will be far more aware of what he needs to do to increase his odds of success than his Mum or me.

But then I realised something else …

It’s not just about acknowledging their view of their World will be better than yours, it’s also backing your parenting.

When my Mum and Dad supported my decision, they were ultimately supporting how they raised me.

They believed the values and smarts they’d instilled in me were the right ones to enable me to make the right choices … and while I know they would have been there if it all fell down, that sense of confidence and belief probably enabled me to go to places I might otherwise not have done. Places I might not otherwise have felt I deserved to be.

And that’s why backing your team is everything.

Of course you have to instill values and standards into them, but once that’s done, you have to back them including what they think is right – even if you don’t – because if that doesn’t happen, you’re literally stopping their potential rather than liberating it.

Thank you Mum and Dad. Again.



The Beauty Of Madness …

Last week, Nike dropped an ad.

A 3+ minute ad.

THREE MINUTES, ARE THEY MAD?

Well yes they are because it’s the most magical 3+ minute ad you will see in a long, long time.

I know you might say I’m biased because [1] it’s Nike [2] it’s by Wieden and [3] my beloved ex-collegue, Paula Bloodworth, worked on it … but I’m not saying it for those reasons, I’m saying it because it’s sheer gloriousness.

Sport.
Culture.
Authenticity.
Eccentricity.
London.

You watch it and you are sucked in. You’re smiling, laughing, nodding, relating.

Whether it’s how outsiders see different parts of London to the madness some young athletes have to go through to be noticed.

There’s so much to love about it … though I have to say my favorite parts are definitely the female footballer, the ice-hockey player and the guy at the end on the bike who swipes the ball away.

Brilliant casting, writing, everything.

An ad that shows how great advertising can be when it’s injected with madness, authenticity and originality. Not to mention fun. Not in terms of what the ad is – though it’s full of that – but in terms of feeling how much fun everyone had making it.

An ad that not only shows the elasticity of NIKE’s brand voice, but their ability to be culturally authentic while staying true to who the brand actually is.

Right there is why Wieden is so fucking good.

It’s not just that they’ve made an ad people around the World will love – even if they won’t understand it all – it’s that they’ve made an ad that people in London will truly get.

An ad that is for them.

About them.

Bursting with all the swagger, humour and contrast that makes that city what it is.

I’m sure they knew they had something special at the very beginning but when it started actually coming together, they must have got super excited.

And nervous.

I remember going through all those emotions when we were creating Blackcurrant Tango.

But as I’ve said before, the best feeling in adland is when you think a piece of your work is going to be either amazing or a disaster

Nothing in-between.

Because it means whatever happens, it’s going to make a statement.

And this ad does.

Without doubt it is my favorite NIKE spot in a while [acknowledging a huge amount of them of late have been extra good] and I’m so happy for all my friends who were a part of it.

In fact the only thing wrong is when they say ‘Nothing Beats A Londoner’ when we all know a Nottinghamer can.

Ahem.



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.



Ricky Gervais Has Forgotten What Made Him Famous …
August 25, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Culture, Empathy, England, Entertainment, Relevance

So yesterday I wrote about The Office and how David Brent may – or may not – have been influenced by 80’s cricketer Ian Botham.

I love that show so, so, so much so I cannot tell you how disappointed I was when I watched the movie Life On The Road.

Now to be fair, Ricky Gervais said this was not meant to be an extension of The Office, but it did feature the character David Brent so it’s pretty obvious I’m going to make comparisons.

When I first heard of the film, it was like hearing an old friend was coming into town and the trailer definitely raised my expectations but when I sat down and watched the final film, I was left underwhelmed.

I should point out this was not purely because it wasn’t anywhere near as funny as The Office, it was because Ricky Gervais had fundamentally changed the character of David Brent.

As I wrote yesterday, the genius of David Brent’s character was that while he was a delusional, terrible manager … his heart was in the right place which is why the people around him, put up with him.

However in Life On The Road, Brent became a bit of a dick – highlighted by the fact the people around him openly hated him – which resulted in you having little sympathy for the character because his cringe-worthiness was driven by arrogance rather than misguidedness.

This slight shift in character changed everything … and while Ricky Gervais may argue that the desperation to become a Rock Star would result in you becoming a more aggressive character than trying to be a manager of a paper-merchants [in Slough], I can’t help but feel it’s because Gervais has become disconnected to normal life, that made The Office so amazing.

Of course, that is to be expected given he is a multi-multi-millionaire and has the lifestyle that is about as opposite to the one he had when he wrote The Office, which should serve as a great reminder that one of the greatest skills anyone can have is to know when to walk away.

Though when I wrote about the guys at ATTIK, they said it better when they said …

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