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

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.”


Was The Office A Documentary?
August 24, 2017, 6:20 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Culture, England, Entertainment

The Office.

No, not the American rubbish, the original British classic.

God, what a show … hysterical, cringeworthy and with something that anyone who has ever worked in an office, would relate to.

Then there was David Brent.

Good natured but utterly delusional.

A terrible manager who thinks he’s a brilliant manager.

While there were elements of his character that I am sure viewers recognised in their bosses, you would never imagine one real-lif person could
contain all those traits.

Well, that’s what I thought as well until I watched this old video of English cricketer, Ian Botham.

It’s 16 minutes long … but if you need an added incentive to watch it, here’s one of the amazing quotes Mr Botham says to a TV audience of students.

“People don’t realise there are more deer in this country now than there were in days of Henry VIII. Fact.”

Sit back. Enjoy. Cringe.

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.

Simple Advertising Is Great Advertising …

I’m 46.

I’m a husband.

And a father.

I supposedly hold down a senior job at a highly respected company.

I have responsibilities … mortgages and a bunch of other things ‘older people’ should have.

And yet despite all that, when I saw this ad for Hot Wheels, I totally got what they were saying.

Oh Hot Wheels.

When I was a kid, they were the toy cars to have.

Matchbox made the practical but Hot Wheels made the sexy.

The daring.

The souped up.

The ‘fuck, that looks cool’.

Kids who were good at maths would play with Matchbox but kids who could play the guitar would have Hot Wheels.

I must admit, I am shocked at all this emotion coming out of me despite the fact I haven’t bought – or played with – a toy car for at least 36 years. And that’s why I love this ad so much, because in an instant – and without showing any product whatsoever – I get it.

I totally get it.

Given this ad appeared on a motorway, I am assuming Hot Wheels actually want to target people like me.

Their goal being to awaken my memories of their brilliant toy cars and introduce my kids to them.

It could be because a while back I read Hot Wheels was a billion dollar company under threat.

Not from other toy car competitors, but because parents didn’t know how to play toy cars with their children. Especially Mum’s with boys.

[Don’t call me sexist, this is what they said]

Whatever the truth is, this ad worked for me.

It not only reminded me how much I loved Hot Wheels, it made me want to play with them with Otis. Which all goes to show that while the features of a brand can be copied, it’s spirit and values are always unique.

Taking The Piss. But In A Really Good Way …


Yes, I’m going there.

It’s an issue that most brands in this category, approach with caution.

Actually scrap that, they approach it with clinical rationality.

Of course, some try and break the ‘taboo’ by doing something very different … but most of the time, it’s done more for the ad agencies ego than the good of the brand or audience.

However I recently saw an ad – even though it’s 2 years old, but they decided to re-run it during Donald Trump’s press conference yesterday [how’s that for once-in-a-lifetime blog relevance!] – that did it very differently but very well …

Sure, you could argue it’s a fusion between the old Heineken ‘Man Of The World’ ads … mixed with a dash of ‘The Most Interesting Man In The World’ campaign for Don Equis and a splash of Old Spice, but it’s bloody lovely.

Also bloody lovely is the line “I’m a man of a certain age” and the premise that “when you’re used to being in control it’s hard not to be”.

While some may say this sort of thing is easier when you have a client who makes a product that needs to stand out and break free from category stereotypes … my experience on brands most people would kill to work on, tells me that I bet this was still a challenge to pull off.

But they did pull it off and they did it with relevance to the product, category and audience … which is to be massively applauded.

It might not entirely break the taboo, but it might crack it …

Lovely insight. Lovely line. Lovely execution. Well done to all behind it.

History Repeats Itself …

So a while back I went to see Queen with Adam Lambert.

The last time I saw them, Queen were made up of the original four.

It was also the last time the original 4 would ever play live together.

Of course at the time, I didn’t know that was going to be the case – though rumor says Freddie did, even if the rest of the band weren’t yet aware – however despite only 50% of the band being on stage, it was still exhilarating to watch.

It was also a bit weird … because rather than see them in Europe, it was in China.

And rather than see them with my best mate Paul … it was with my wife [and a bunch of Wieden folk]

That might not seem that strange to you, but it was mental for me because the situation was the absolute opposite of that mad summer in 1986 where my parents, reluctantly, let me follow them on their tour.

I must admit, when I walked into the venue, I was nervous for the band.

This was the first time they had ever played China and the venue – an 18,000 seater – was only 10% full.

Of course I knew people would come in as the lights went down and if they really hadn’t sold many tickets, they’d have cancelled the show … but I felt some kind of responsibility given I was a fan from England living in China and wanting their first impression of this amazing country to be a good one.

Of course I shouldn’t have worried because as the lights went down, the stadium was packed – to the seats high, high, high in the rafters – and that made the whole night even more wonderful and emotional for me.

The band was brilliant.

The sound was brilliant.

The lights were brilliant.

And Mr Lambert was brilliant.

Sure, he is no Freddie, but he is an amazing singer with perfect levels of campness that did the songs, the show and Freddie … incredible justice.

But the real reason it was emotional was because the moment they hit the stage, they momentarily transported me back to being 16 … where I was on the cusp of entering a life full of adventure and possibilities.

Of course I hope I still have a lot more adventures and possibilities to come [more of that in a few months] but that doesn’t change the fact these concerts represent significant bookends of my life.

One where I was about to start my journey. One where I am its midpoint.

And I don’t mind admitting that when they came on stage, I found myself crying.

I know, it’s pathetic, but it was less about seeing a band that I love with all my heart [though it has a bit to do with that] and more a reminder that despite all the wonderful and sad things that have happened in my life over the past 30+ years, they were still there.

My friends.

My confidents.

My escape.

To paraphrase the great Bill Shankly, some say music isn’t a matter of life or death.

They’re right, it’s way more important than that.

I Have No Idea Why Business Doesn’t Take Adland Seriously?


The song that launched a thousand comments. None of them good.

Hakuhodo Singapore

Using the power of mandatory wackiness to explain they’ve moved offices.

Mindshare Europe

Taking a song about working hard for the money and showing they’re doing anything but that.

BBDO China

Highlighting the sexism of adland is alive and well. And yes, this is apparently a real video from people in the agency, but – as I understand it – not from the agency.

Ogilvy Greece

Showing that sometimes, honouring someone is actually killing them.

I wanted to put up the pitch video of Leo Burnett Sydney, simply because Todd Sampson – a man I am not very keen on – looks a tool, but they have removed it from the internet with the same efficiency and effectiveness as the CIA black ops team.

I also had Y&R Shanghai’s recent video of them singing/murdering Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ as part of their 30th birthday celebrations. However I stupidly put it on Facebook and tagged someone I know who was in it, which meant they could see what I was up to and quickly took it down. I’m gutted because it was an excellent piece of credibility suicide.

But putting all that aside, there are also videos that show why society might not take business or government that seriously either.

First of all, a genuine classic, where Bank of America execs take U2’s song ‘One’ and repurpose it to celebrate the take over and integration of financial organisation MBNA.

Part of me likes it simply because it must have utterly fucked off Bono for both musical and moral issues.

[Ignoring the fact Bono is one of the biggest champagne socialists on the planet]

And then – saving possibly the best for last – the utterly brilliant [for utterly bad reasons] Singapore Media Development Authority ‘rap’.

Even after all these years it brings a smile to my face.

Of course, it also makes me cringe like a David Brent music video but as comedy goes, it’s sheer gold.

Look I think it’s great when agencies and companies are excited about what they do, but these videos have nothing to do with that … they’re all contrived and cynical attempts to try make others think they’d be fun to work for or with.

Except it doesn’t work, because mandatory wackiness doesn’t fool anyone. Except the mediocre.

I have no idea why ‘song and dance’ has become the format to express your ‘human side’, but I can’t help but think that if you have to do this to show how much fun you are, you’re not doing your day-to-day job correctly.

Seriously agencies and companies. Stop it. Just stop it.

You’re not just embarrassing yourselves, you’re actually undermining a whole industries credibility.

Who the fuck will want to pay a premium for someone they’ve seen sing and dance like a one-legged drunk?

Worse, you all have some incredibly talented people in your organisations. This sort of stuff makes them want to die rather than to do the best for you.

But – and it’s a huge but – if you absolutely have to do it, then have the good grace to do it in private rather than use it as some not-very-well-disguised sales pitch … either for your company or for your corporate toadiness.

To paraphrase someone who once said something very unkind about Billy Joel’s and Christie Brinkley’s daughter, you all end up looking like you have the ‘face of her father and the voice of her mother’

And if anyone thinks I’m being a dick for showing companies at their worst, then I give you this as a means of compensation.

Trust me, if you thought what you had seen before was bad, this will kill you.

PS: If you know of any more agency shame videos, I’d love to see them, Ta.