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


If You Are Uncomfortable Talking About Race, It Means You Are Comfortable With Racism And Are A Shit Planner …

So last week, I was invited to talk at GroupThink’s planning conference.

I like the people there and said yes.

Originally I was going to take people through an old presentation because I didn’t really have much time to write something specific for you. They were OK with it and so wrote it into their program.

Then the situation with George Floyd happened.

Following so shortly on the heels of other racist motivated murders, like Ahmaud Arbery – who was murdered in cold blood by a father and son while out jogging.

At this point, quite frankly, the idea of doing a presentation on strategy seemed so utterly pointless.

So 2 days before the day of the event, I wrote something new.

Something that was about why Black Lives Matters is the only thing that really matters to me right now.

How the ad industry HAS to change.

How the ad industry may talk a lot about diversity and inclusivity but its actions are racist.

I’m not saying that is their intention or that they even realise it, but it’s racist.

And I’ve been complicit in that.

Again, not intentionally, but still done it.

Anyone who is white has … because we’ve let our privilidge create a gap between our actions and our self awareness.

Finally, I talked about 6 things people could do TODAY to make a positive difference to any person of colour … whether that’s through education, responsibility, judgement or action.

Now I must admit I was scared to write this presentation.

Not because I was worried it would make people feel uncomfortable, but because I’m a white male who has had every privilege going and the last thing I wanted to do was come across as if I was claiming to be an expert on this matter or whitesplaining anything.

Which is why I didn’t write the presentation.

I co-wrote it.

In addition to capturing some of the lessons I learned from the brilliant people of colour I’ve worked with and known over the years [which is a lot given how long I spent in China and Asia], the main bulk of the presentation was put together – after seeking their permission – with the irrepressible, wonderful and take-no-shit-from-anyone-especially-me … Maya Thompson, Breanna Jones and Chelsea Curry.

I’ve written and talked about them a lot.

They changed my life.

Literally.

I genuinely believe I can never thank them enough, but one way I try is to take on the issues I should have taken on years ago but thought not being racist was enough.

It isn’t.

So here it is … it’s my usual picture rubbish, but hopefully the bits that are there will make sense to everyone.

The real presentation starts at page 28, the previous slides were linked to the talk I was going to give so I could lull people into a false sense of security so they would get comfortable before I talked openly, emotionally and plainly about an issue that should be the focus of every human right now, but isn’t for a whole host of unimportant or self-serving reasons.

Should anyone want to know more about the presentation, please get in touch.

But most importantly, please act.

Black. Lives. Matter.

Slides 1-5: Just introducing me and why I am happy to be invited to present.

Slides 6-10: How the standard of work being created is generally very poor and how we are all contributing to it in terms of the things we are talking about. Which isn’t the standard of the work and sounds more like us trying to be clients than people valuable to clients.

Slides 11-23: Insights matter because people matter and if you want to make work that is intriguing, interesting, provocative and fresh, you have to care about people, culture and subculture or you’ll get nowhere.

Slides 24-27: I talk about how I was going to talk about the wonderfully crazy project we’ve recently done in China and how understanding sub-culture made building something specifically designed to look like ‘future Mars’ was perfectly sensible but ….

Slide 28: I need to pause the topic of the talk because frankly, the events of the past week have really upset me – specifically the reaction of many agency leaders – and I want to talk about something that matters more to me.

Slides 29-31: Black Lives Matter. There’s many lives that matter, but right now – for me – Black Lives Matter is the only one that matters.

Slides 32-34: Lived around the World, eventually moved to America and then met 3 brilliant women who changed my life. Maya Thompson. Chelsea Curry. Breanna Jones.

Slides 34-39: This is how they fundamentally changed my life for the better by helping me see how blind, stupid and complicit I’d been and then [with some values my Mum taught me] the journey we went on – and still go on – together.

Slides 40-49: Announce this deck has actually all been co-written by Maya, Breanna and Chelsea. Three main reasons for this. I don’t have credibility, I don’t want to come across as whitesplaining and I want any advice I give to be genuinely valuable to people of colour, not a white persons interpretation of what is valuable.

Slide 50: How my industry is racist. Doesn’t want to be. But is. And I use a recent ‘challenge’ put out by Cannes as an example. For the record, they launched a competition on how to attract more diversity into the industry and gave a media budget of £100,000. That’s right they were committing an amount of money most agencies would spend for dinners during Cannes for a topic that they claim is hugely important to them. They don’t intend to be racist but they – like the whole industry – is acting in ways that are.

Slides 51-58: What we have to do to stop being a racist industry including letting go of everything we thought we knew and starting again.

[Please note slide 54: Lots of people say they’re ‘colour blind’. By which they mean they claim they treat everyone the same. The point of this slide is that while we should absolutely treat and value everyone the same, we should do this in a way that acknowledges individual backgrounds and beliefs. Not doing this can result in one of 3 things. [1] We treat everyone the same but based on our definition of what ‘same is’. Which is often white, which means we expect people of colour to adapt to us and our standards. [2] We generalise groups for our convenience, so we call [for example] everyone who is black, “black” … ignoring the vast range of backgrounds, beliefs and nuances they could have BECAUSE PEOPLE OF COLOUR DO NOT ALL COME FROM THE SAME PLACE!!! Or [3] because of being ‘colour blind’, you see everyone the same [which we don’t, let’s be clear on that] so you end up making the same work for everyone thinking it will be resonant with everyone. It isn’t. See how Rihanna highlighted this when she launched her Fenty cosmetics and simply added colours for African American skin, fucking up the big cosmetic companies who had ignored this for decades]

Slide 59-60: Highlighting when you start from scratch it can work, because my son Otis is living proof of it. He has lived in 3 countries and loves them all equally, while accepting and respecting their individual differences.

Slide 61: If you need a commercial reason for why Black Lives Matter [and if you do, you’re a prick] it’s because people of colour can make this industry great again because on top of all influential culture being born from black culture, people of colour understand nuance, values, struggles and humanity better than anyone as they have to deal with this shit every day.

Slide 62-63: Thank you to all the people of colour who helped co-write this presentation – especially Maya, Chelsea and Breanna – and justice for George Floyd.



The Last Month Of 4.0 …

So today is June 1.

In 11 days, I wave goodbye to my forties and enter a decade that seems impossible for me to fathom.

50.

FIFTY.

Seriously, how did this happen?

I still remember sitting on the hill outside Erica’s newsagent with my best mate Paul around 1978, when we worked out that in the year 2000, we would be turning 30.

But here we are, 11 days from 50.

[Though it’s 15 days for Paul, who will LOVE those 4 days where he can bang on about how he is a decade younger than me … though he will also moan that my present for him isn’t like the full page newspaper ad I got him when he was 40, but a Forest shirt signed by all the members of the 1980 European Cup team. Asshole. He knows about this present as I bought it for him years ago so I’m not ruining anything for him. But I still have a surprise for him. Oh yes.]

Turning 30 bothered me a bit.

I was totally fine with becoming 40.

But 50!

I’m both bricking it and utterly casual about it.

And while there are some practical reasons for the shitting myself part – health, work, life in general – the fact of the matter is the older I get, the better my life has become.

I totally get the privilege of that statement, I don’t take it for granted at all, but it is definitely true.

Personally, professionally, emotionally …

Sure there have been some bumps along the way – some terribly hard and emotionally destructive ones – but looking at the big picture, the reality is my life has generally been on an upward trajectory.

Now even I know that it can’t keep going like that forever … but it doesn’t mean I have to stop trying.

The fact is, the older you get, the more you discover …

From what you like, what you don’t … to what you didn’t know and what you want to know.

And what makes it even more amazing – and annoying – is that every step you take, in whatever direction, reveals a whole host of other possibilities you would like to explore and investigate.

The problem is time is now officially, not on your side … so there’s a point where you have to accept you won’t get to try, play, experiment with all you want to do, so while that might put some people off, it kind of makes me want to try and pack more in.

And I am … because on top of work, Metallica, the school with Martin, I’ve already agreed to do a couple more projects that are intriguing and – frankly – ridiculous.

But there’s another reason for this attitude and it’s because my Dad died at 60.

Death is something I’ve talked a lot about over the years – mainly due to both my parents passing away.

I’ve talked a lot about the importance of taking about it, but I must admit, I’m scared of it.

I’m in generally good health, but fifty is still 50 and my Dad still died just 10 years on from this age.

Now of course it doesn’t mean I will … and I’ve come to this completely unscientific view that I should live till I’m at least 71 because if you take away my Dad’s age of dying [60]from my Mum’s [83] … that leave 23 years. Halve that … add it to Dad’s age … and voila, I will live till at least 71.

But then that means I only have 21 years left.

TWENTY ONE.

That’s nowhere near enough.

My wonderful little boy is only 5 for fucks sake. 26 is way too young to lose your Dad … hell, that’s even younger than I was when I lost mine.

Years ago, an old boss I looked upto said that if you can’t feasibly double your age, that is when you know you are – at best – middle aged or – at worst – the last stage of your life.

Well I suppose I can still feasibly double my age – even if it’s against the average age of death for a man in the UK [79.2] – but the reality is where I’m going is shorter than where I’ve been.

But shorter doesn’t mean less interesting.

And arguably, I have more exciting things in my life now – both personally and professionally – than I have ever had.

It also helps I am insanely immature with a desire for mischief, experimentation, creativity and adventure.

And I intend to fill it up with even more.

Fortunately I get that from a number of sources.

My wife.

My son.

My job.

My other jobs.

My friends.

My mind.

A while back, Pete said something I found pretty profound.

He said the narrative of strategy tended to focus on the importance of curiosity when discovery is far more valuable for driving the standard of the work you create and the adventure you go on.

Now I’ve written a lot about how I hate when planners talk about curiosity – as if they’re the only people who have it – but I really, really like that idea of the hunger for discovery.

I absolutely have that.

I owe so much of what I have to that.

The countries I’ve lived in. The people I’ve worked with. And most importantly, the family I am fortunate to have.

So while I enter a new decade, I will continue to live like it’s the old one.

Not in terms of dressing like I’m younger than I am – mainly because I have always dressed like I live in 1986 – but with the hunger, ambition and desire I’ve always had.

I genuinely believe my best work is still ahead of me.

Truly believe that.

And the goal of this decade is to achieve some of that while discovering new things that make me believe even better work can still lie in my future.



Nothing Brings You More Down To Earth Than A Naked Bum Dance …

So I’ve been doing this advertising job thing for 30 years.

THIRTY.

And in that time, I've had the huge honour and privilege to work with amazing people around the world and do work that has achieved a certain level of fame and notoriety.

Because of that, I have been invited to speak at conferences all around the World … rubbing shoulders that frankly, I should have no right to.

The point of all this is that I've done quite a lot and achieved quite a lot.

Believe it or not, this is not a humble brag, in fact it's about to be a public humiliation.

You see a few weeks ago, while working from home, I was on video conference with a very senior member of NIKE's global team.

They were talking about some stuff, and realising I didn't have a notepad, I nipped downstairs to get a notepad.

When I came back, my client told me Otis had came in, done an impromptu naked bum dance at the screen, then ran out giggling.

To top it off, they said, “… and your son is still more professional than you”

Fortunately this client has known Otis since he was born so he found it funny – as would anyone really – and the meeting carried on as before.

Anyway, as I found this amusing, I put it on Twitter and LinkedIn as ‘the perils from working from home with a 5 year old’.

Within 3 days … THREE … it had achieved more views and shares than literally any conference, presentation, talk, blog post or tweet I’ve ever written.

In fact, it probably comes second to all of them combined.

ALL. OF. THEM.

Doesn’t matter if a talk of mine had been online for 10 years.

Beaten.

Didn’t matter if I’d written an occasionally topical blog post or tweet.

Beaten.

In 3 days, my sons naked bum dance had trounced all of them.

As of the time of writing, on LinkedIn alone, that single post has been read over 190,000 times, been shared 347 times, had over 3000 people approve it, had 100 comments and ignited over 220 different people – from big CEO/CMO’s to law firms – to ask to join my ‘network’.

Yes, my sons naked bum encouraged people to want to connect to me.

What sort of weird bastards are they?

[Of course I said yes, beggars can’t be choosers]

And while I can use this story at every birthday or celebration that Otis has for the next 30 years, nothing has highlighted how utterly futile my career has been than this.

Parents are said to always want their kids to go further than they have achieved.

Well he’s done it already.

At age 5.

Good job I love you with all my heart Otis.



Rainbows Make Everything Better …

When Corona happened and we were all asked to stay at home, the first thing I thought about was the impact it would have on Otis.

It was bad enough he wouldn’t be seeing his friends for god knows how long, so the last thing I wanted was for him to start thinking the outside and people in general were dangerous.

All this led to an idea about creating a storybook to help kids understand the situation … help parents talk about it in a way that wouldn’t be scary and maybe let everyone ask questions or talk about things without freaking each other out.

A small team, predominantly Ed, James, Igor, David, Dre, Becs and Anna came up with the story, the design, the visuals and the animation – while all in individual quarantine – and 10 days later, From My Window was born.

To be honest the inspiration for all this came from the way Sesame Street handled the death of Mr Hooper – one of the human lead characters.

When he died the producers didn’t know what to do.

Do they recast the role? Do they explain his departure as the character moving away? Do they say he quit or just retired?

Instead the writers and producers decided to create an episode that taught their young audience about the difficult topic of death – not just because they felt that was the best way to respect the character, but because they assumed many kids in their audience may have experienced a loss of a loved one and this could help them better understand what it means and find some inner peace.

The episode was written by the shows head writer and aired on Thanksgiving, 1983. Even now it is regarded as having set the standard for dealing with difficult topics on children’s television and remains the highest rated episode in the shows history.

You can read more about it here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Hooper

While ‘From My Window’ obviously is not Sesame Street, we hope it can help kids maintain their love for the outside and help parents deal with a situation they never could have imagined would ever happen to them.

From My Window is available for parents to read with their kids [on a smart phone or tablet] at www.frommywindow.rga.com and includes a colouring-in book. The animated version – like the one below – is also available to enjoy here.

I have to say the animated one – below – is my favourite because all the voices are from kids of parents from R/GA London.

And yes, Otis is in it … he makes his debut at the end, when he takes the story on from the beautiful rainbow … which is appropriate because he drew the one at the top of this post.

I’ve got to be honest, I love we did this. I hope in its own small way, it helps. We know it won’t change the world but it may help your kid to keep looking out the window and see wonder and excitement.

No posts till Tuesday because of the Easter holidays. Enjoy the break. Stay safe.

www.frommywindow.rga.com



Remember, Newton’s 3rd Law Relates To Emotions, Not Just Actions …

OK, so now we have got over the fun and frolics of yesterdays April Fool post, I want to bring it back to something serious.

Recently we decided we would have a day where Otis could make all the decisions.

He immediately went for it big time by asking to go to a local builders cafe for breakfast, where he ordered chips, drank a Coke Zero and watched Paw Patrol on his iPad.

You can see him in the photo at the top of this post.

Living the dream.

Anyway, I mentioned this on Facebook when someone I’ve not met but vaguely know wrote:

“We practice ‘good choices’ day, you should try it”.

Now while I was sure it had come out more condescending than intended – this person does have form in being judgemental from their self-appointed pedestal – and Jill decided to inform him of this.

She replied:

“You don’t know me or my son.

Your comment comes across as judgmental and condescending and makes me uncomfortable because it implies my son was making ‘bad’ decisions.

Perhaps if you did know us you would understand our parenting style more and that we aim not to use words like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because of their unfortunate side effect of creating shame.

Decisions are just decisions, and I believe that kids need space to make a whole variety… nobody makes ‘good’ decisions all the time and I want him to grow up knowing that that’s ok, normal and part of life.

Perhaps your comment really was just about sharing what you see as a fun idea, but your way of expressing it missed the mark…”

As I am sure you will all agree, that was a pretty awesome response.

But more importantly, it highlights how we are attempting to bring up Otis.

Coming back to England has been wonderful, but the one thing that has surprised us is the pretty draconian approach to instilling certain qualities into our kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it’s being done for good reason, but the overt shame/reward approach bothers us. A lot.

There are many reasons for it – and of course, each to their own – but this poster sums up the one we fear the most.

This situation applies to all.

Not just kids … but family members, friends and colleagues.

What’s worse is this tends to stick with people.

It is one of the elements that has driven so many of the Corporate Gaslighting stories.

I get situations can make us angry.

I get people can do stupid things.

But when your approach to correction is shame, you’re trying to improve the outcome of one thing through the destruction of another.

You might not mean it.

You might not want it.

But you are doing it.