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


The Law Might Be An Ass, But It’s Better Than Being An Asshole …

I grew up in a family of lawyers.

Ethics.

Criminal law.

From defending Ozzy Osbourne to prosecuting members of the mafia, my childhood was surrounded by legal cases.

As the years passed, my father got a bit despondent about law.

He always felt it was about a quest for truth and justice – regardless of personal situation or circumstance – but saw how it was quickly becoming about cash.

Instead of solving issues, law firms seemed to be focused on keeping the problems alive as that ensured their high fees kept flowing in.

This might explain why there are now more lawyers than Police officers in NYC.

It’s a highly profitable business.

That said, I always loved the law and considered a career in it … until I realised I didn’t have the patience – or brains – to succeed.

Getting 2% in a maths exam pretty much confirmed that to me.

However, my upbringing had a huge effect on me in terms of right and wrong and that’s why the situation I’m seeing happening in adland in conflicting me.

On one hand I’m incredibly happy the predators are being identified, outed and held to task.

But I’m also conscious the way some companies/people/organisations are approaching the situation seems to be with one eye on how they look to the broader audience than being caring and compassionate to the victims who have been subjected to the abuse for so long.

It also bothers me when responsibility seems to stop at the abuser, not the people who enabled that abuse to continue.

Sure, sometimes the senior figures may have been in the dark, but it appears that is more the exception than the rule.

Look, if a company tells someone to leave, there’s obviously a reason for it.

But I must admit I’m finding it rather strange to see how some companies are publicly announcing they’ve let someone go – and specifically naming the individual – but using some ambiguous wording as to the reason why.

Maybe they are trying to offer some final professional respect to the person they’ve just let go, but if that’s the case, why name them at all given they must know the industry will automatically assume it was for some sort of sexual misconduct.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting we should feel sorry for anyone that has been dismissed for proven, serious wrong-doing, but I do think we need to ensure this situation is handled openly and transparently rather than trying to get some sort of popularity out of it.

And that’s why I’m conflicted, because criminal law is based on 2 principals.

The accuser is presumed to be telling the truth.

The accused is presumed to be innocent.

That’s why it’s so important to not taint the evidence – to ensure each element is given their own space and time to be explored – and while that fragile balance can, and has, been susceptible to manipulation and wrong-doing, it’s important it’s maintained so the victims can be helped and the wrongdoers can be held-to-task accordingly and appropriately.

As I said, I’m so happy to see the wave of change that is sweeping through society and giving a voice to those who have previously been silenced, but I do worry about some of the tactics being embraced by certain organisations because, ironically, they could give the guilty more ability to claim unfair treatment than they ever deserve and potentially get them out of properly paying for their misdeeds.

It’s why I love the #TimesUp movement as it’s designed to give financial and legal equality in the quest for truth.

By removing the advantage many have used to hide their crimes, we have a chance for lasting change. It’s not perfect but it’s better than throwing stones, even if you believe they are justified.

I think my Dad – and family – would be happy to see this.

Hell, they’d probably be passionately behind it.

I know I am.

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Resist The Pressure To Reduce Yourself To Others Standards …

Many years ago, I wrote a training guide called, How to ask questions without being a bitch.

It happened because a junior account service colleague at Wieden didn’t know how to get clients to acknowledge her and the questions she had.

This was not because she wasn’t good, but because of gender stereotypes.

Well recently, I had a similar experience, except this time it was a brilliant strategist that a mutual friend of ours had introduced me to.

In my time in LA, I’ve met a whole host of strategists and – as I wrote a while back – many have left me feeling indifferent.

But not this person.

She was more than one of the good ones, she was one of the best.

Sharp as hell.

Unique – yet well thought out – perspectives.

A genuine love of being creative in interesting ways.

Anyway, as we were talking, I said I’d be really interested in hearing – or reading – her perspective on the future of storytelling. For some reason, she said yes and a few weeks I received a great paper with a great perspective.

Except there was one thing I didn’t like.

“The surprising part of this was the fact that my mentor, a white man, erudite and well-known in his profession, cared about my opinion. To give you some background – I’m in my 30s, a mixed bag of races, city kid, raised by a single mom type through and through. I’m a decade into my career and this was the first time I was asked to share my perspective by someone that, for all intents and purposes, matters.”

I hate it.

I hate that this was the first time she felt she was asked for her opinion.

I hate it for the shit she has obviously had to put up with in her life.

I hate the baggage that has weighed her down.

I hate the low expectations she had been forced to endure.

I hate the bosses she’s had that have told her to follow orders rather than encourage her to find her own voice.

And while she finished her paper with a resolve to not let this shit quieten her ever again, I’m still angry that a great talent has had to put up with shit designed to keep her down rather than lift her up, which is why I ask her – and any other planner who relates to this situation – to embrace my paraphrasing of the advice comedian Michelle Wolf received when she was about to take the stage at the White House Correspondence’s dinner, at the top of this page.

Burn it all down.



Loyalty Only Works If It’s A Two Way Street …

So recently a friend of mine asked me for some advice.

OK, so that was their first mistake, but their question was one they felt I would have some perspective on.

[For the record, I asked her if I could write about this on here and she said yes]

So she’s worked at her company for 7 years.

It’s a good company – one of the best – and she has been rewarded with compliments and payrises.

Over the years, she’s been offered other jobs but has never seriously considered them.

Part of it is because she likes the work she does and who she does it with, the other is her most senior people keep telling her how important and valued she is.

But that’s all that is happening.

Being told rather than being given chances to grow.

Now I appreciate this is still better than many companies do, but now there’s an option on the table that she is genuinely excited about.

One that scares her in a good way.

Rewards her talent both in terms of responsibility, authority, pay and title.

And yet she’s hesitating.

Not because she isn’t excited. Not because she doesn’t like the company. But because she doesn’t feel she has “achieved what she wants to achieve before she feels she can move on” … and that’s what she wanted to talk to me about.

Now anyone who knows me will know I’ll never tell someone what to do. It’s their job to learn from their mistakes and choices. However one thing I do well is ask questions … questions designed to make the person think and get clarity at the same time. And the question I asked my friend was ‘what are you waiting to achieve before you could move on?’

It wasn’t a great surprise to learn that what she was talking about wasn’t actual work, but validation.

Now you could say that she had been receiving this through the compliments, but what she really craved was proof, not words.

Proof in the terms of promotion.

Proof in the terms of new opportunities.

Proof in the terms of new challenges.

I get that – I get that more than you know – but what it meant was she was basically a prisoner, because the longer they withheld the ‘ultimate proof’, the longer she would stay. It is – I imagine – somewhat akin to people who stay with an abusive partner feel. Desperate for approval so regard being abused/overlooked as something that is ultimately their own fault and they stay to try and ‘win them over’.

Now I get staying in a well-paid job is very different to domestic abuse and so if that analogy has hurt anyone, I apologise … but I told my friend 3 things she should think about.

1. When a boss continually compliments you but doesn’t promote you – despite continually, and undeniably, showing your worth – then what they actually mean could be ‘they want you to stay so they don’t have to deal with the shit when you go’. In other words, the compliments are designed more to help them than you.

2. If you have been consistently performing – and your reviews reinforce that – but nothing is happening, maybe you have to accept that their ambition for you doesn’t meet your ambition for you.

3. Lastly – and possibly, most importantly – if this situation has been going on for the last 2 years, how long do you give it before you decide the effort/investment you’re putting in is ultimately working against your bigger goals and potential?

A company that cares is a wonderful thing.

A company that says they care is a different thing altogether.

While it is impossible to help everyone grow in an organisation because – let’s face it – the higher you go, the less roles there are – you do deserve to know where you stand, if only so you can make the right decision for yourself.

Of course, that means you might hear things you don’t want to hear, but while being kept in the dark might help keep your ego in a pleasant state of delusion, it will ultimately bite you at some point in the future.

I don’t know what my friend is going to do and I appreciate change is scary but as much as loyalty is a very valuable trait, it only works if it’s built on honesty and is a 2-way street.



Sometimes Good Service Is About Everyone, Not Just Someone …

Following on from yesterday’s post this is about the return trip from London to Amsterdam.

This has nothing to do with British Airways [though I was very politely asked if I could put my hand luggage in the hold as the plane was full and I was happy to help] and everything to do with London City Airport.

Look, I fly a lot.

I have flown a lot for at least 20 years.

And one of the things I absolutely loathe is the X-Ray machine.

Shoes off. Belts off. All electronic items separated into a different tray.

It’s a pain. It’s even more of a pain than the treatment you get at the hands of American and Australian immigration.

But I get it.

It’s for our own safety.

It’s to keep everyone protected.

And while some airports have systems that seem to be designed for inefficiency rather than traffic flow, we always get there in the end – even if you get stopped to have your bag more thoroughly checked.

So on the day I was flying back to Amsterdam, the airport was pretty busy.

Because of that, the X-Ray machine was working overtime and there ended up being quite a lot of bags that needed an additional check.

The 2 people in charge of this were kind, courteous and – from my perspective – quick.

However it seems there a bunch of people who had a different view to mine because I saw this …

Now I get companies wanting to get a gauge on their audiences experience.

I even get companies being interested in their audiences specific commentary.

But to offer a presentation pad for people to write their comments on, in clear view of the actual staff, is either motivational evil, or team building ignorance.

Personally I thought putting a digital ‘rate your experience’ board there for people to press, was good enough … but that extra mile actually ended up being more about the impatience of some passengers than the quality of airport security.

I get us Brits like to complain, but this presentation pad is like the definition of passive aggressiveness and yet it appears people have forgotten WHY we have these things in place.

It’s for everyone’s safety.

It’s for everyone’s wellbeing.

It’s for everyone to be able to look forward to where they’re going.

Quite frankly, that pad really pissed me off … so I daren’t imagine how it must have affected the staff.

Should there have been more than 2 people allocated to double check baggage?

Maybe … but what pisses me off is the commentary isn’t about how they did, but how much the passenger felt put out.

Were any planes hijacked that day? Nope.

Were any planes blown up that day? Nope.

That means the people did their job well and so maybe next time people go to the airport, they remember ‘good service’ isn’t always about your individual expectations being met, but whether you can board your next flight with a greater degree of confidence you’ll get to your destination than if there wasn’t anyone looking out for you.



Microsoft Are Microgood …

Microsoft used to be the joke of technology.

Or maybe the ‘beige of technology’ is a better description.

Creating products for mainstream mediocrity.

To be fair, that perception was driven more because of their marketing than their technology … but it’s fair to say they were certainly lacking that slick sheen that turned other tech companies into Rock Stars.

But a change has been happening in Seattle over the past few years.

OK, less on the marketing side and more on the tech … but a change all the same.

Where other companies are trying to hype up small degrees of change, Microsoft have been trying to push a genuine innovation agenda. But not innovation just for the sake of innovation, but stuff that has a real purpose as demonstrated by their new controller for X-Box.

Now you may argue making a controller that helps those suffering from physical difficulties is a small market, but on a global scale I would imagine it adds up – especially when there is no real viable alternative out there. [Or one that I know of]

But that’s not the point here … it’s that they did it.

Even more than that, they did it with real understanding of the audience they’re catering to.

They spent time and money on producing a product that offers a genuine solution to people often ignored.

[You can see how this affected their process by going here]

For all the talk tech companies give about wanting to ‘help humanity move forward’, few do.

Or should I say, few do if it requires doing something that has a more ‘niche’ appeal.

Yes, I know some are doing stuff that we don’t know about, but to make a physical product specifically for this audience is a big deal … especially in this commercially obsessed World.

So well done Microsoft, this is brilliant.

Brilliant for millions of people who want to play but have been ignored.

Brilliant for showing the power of design to solve problems … again.

Brilliant at showing you use technology to evolve humans rather than devolve them.

Brilliant at being more innovative than your competitors.

Brilliant at making me feel more towards you than I have in years.

As I’ve said for years, products have done more to grow brand value than advertising.

Don’t get me wrong, advertising is hugely powerful and important, but it all starts from doing something good, not something average.

That used to be obvious. Sadly, I don’t think it is anymore.



What Agencies Can Learn From Otis’ Kindergarten …

So Otis goes to this amazing hippy kindergarten school near where we live.

It’s a co-parenting school which means that the parents have to help with the schooling of the kids, not just with the funding.

It follows a very specific philosophy defined by the founder and it’s a place where kids learn through expressing their creativity.

They even have a ‘mud room’ for the kids to cause mayhem when it rains.

Put simply, we love it.

A few weeks ago, we went there on the weekend to help decorate it during spring break when I came across these 2 signs in the school …

I love them.

It sums up everything we adore about the school.

It captures exactly why Otis feels it’s a safe and happy place for him to explore.

It also addresses something I have been looking into for a while, which is the lack of outlet American men have to express their feelings.

Everything is built on acting tough.

Crying is for wimps.

Hell, even the bars are full of sports TV’s basting out scores, which means people don’t have the quiet to talk to one another – something I had growing up in England that actually encouraged the sharing of feelings and emotions. Albeit often wrapped up in banter.

The macho pride that seems to underpin so much of American male society feels like it’s still the 1950’s … which is why I love that this school doesn’t tell kids to ‘stop crying’, but asks what is wrong and then sympathises with their predicament which remarkably, helps them stop crying far more quickly and in a more positive way than any shouting would ever do.

Now imagine if companies operated by the same ideals.

Listening.

Valuing.

Caring.

Developing.

Oh I know those words appear in a million mission statements, but we all know they’re often used more as an illusion than an action.

In the bid to build office ‘culture’, so many organizations forget it’s not just about what you say – or even what you do – it’s the practiced beliefs that defines what everyone values, which is why companies could learn even more from this school than my dear Otis.



Some People Need A Smack In The Face. With A Chair. Wrapped In Barbed Wire.
May 2, 2018, 6:10 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Culture, Equality, Men, Sexism, Women

Remember a few weeks ago I wrote about the lack of female CSO’s … at least in comparison to male … and the need to fight against it by over-compensating for it?

Well, while my point of view was generally well received, I did cop some flack for it – unsurprisingly from men – and yet when you see the shit kids get exposed to from a young age, I wonder how they can feel the current situation is alright?

More so, I wonder how they can feel it’s fine if they’re parents to women?

Above are 2 pictures from an airline ‘duty free’ magazine.

Boys get to dream of being pilots.
Women get to dream of being air hostesses.

How many parents want their kids aspirations to be limited by their gender?

Of course there’s nothing wrong with being a member of the cabin crew – but that is about personal interests not gender limitations – and the only way this situation will change is if we remove the barriers and limitations placed on over 50% of the population and make space and opportunity for them to fulfill their potential.

Not – as I said in my original post – because it will make the world ‘fairer’ or even more ‘equal’ [though they both good reasons to do it], but because by enabling the potential of women, we all will experience the benefits of the way they see the World … a way that is often built on being better for everyone rather than just themselves.

Which, let’s be honest, is the definition of true leadership.

But there’s another reason for doing this.

It will make men better.

There is a lot to be said for being challenged by someone who expresses their talent in different ways to you.

Years ago – 2006, to be precise – I wrote about how the creative tension in the band The Who, pushed them to demand more from the music they were creating – as well as the people they were creating it with. Some of this was because of their occasional hatred for eachother, specifically Townsend and Entwistle, and some of it was because the band was so talented they would take someones musical ideas to ‘places’ they never imagined and they didn’t want to get left behind.

In other words, the tension pushed them higher … and given for so long women have had to play the support act to men – not just in companies but, as the pictures above show, in kids fashion – I believe it would be far more than just women winning if companies made more space for them to be the headline act.