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


Best Of The Best Or The Least Bad?

Today I’m judging the Effies.

Oh awards …

I’ve written so, so much about them in the past.

Like here. And here. And here. And here.

I must admit, I am intrigued to see what they are going to be like in the UK.

Will they be a celebration of insightful efficiency or will they be like I experienced too many times in Asia, a stream of consciousness that just rumbles along till they think they have explained how they got to their idea and how they have proved it worked.

I guess we shall see later today.

I really, really hope they are good.

Not just because the Effies have always had a standard they’ve lived up to, but because it will give me faith the industry still has fight in it to do things right.

In my time in the UK, I’ve read a bunch of planning documents/portfolios/resumes that have been more about packaging.

Repeating a client brief in a way that has been ‘sexed up’.

Superficial.

Executional.

Literal.

There are a bunch of reasons for this.

Part of it is the lack of training agencies give their strategiests.

[Hence why we started the School of Strategic Arts]

Part of it is the huge amount of freelance planners out there who are doing exactly what they are asked because they are fighting for their livelihood.

And part of it is because of the client/agency remuneration deals which means planners are giving too little time to explore the best outcome to the problem they face.

Planning has a valuable role to play in effectiveness.

Planning has a valuable role to play in creativity.

But it needs to be allowed to do it to make it happen … so here’s hoping we see the best of what it can do today, because the Effies is not just important for the people who win, but for what the industry needs to get back to being.

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Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You …

So this post is about Queen.

The band, not her royal highness.

Do I need to call the Samaritans for you now?

Anyway, as many of you know I’m doing a weird, long-term, creative project with a famous Rock band.

As part of that, their management connect me to all manner of weird and wonderful people and recently, they arranged for me to talk to someone who knew Freddie Mercury.

I should point out, him knowing Freddie was not the reason they connected us up, but it soon became the reason for me.

I couldn’t let such an opportunity pass and so after our chat about the task in hand, I told him I was a huge Queen fan and that I’d heard he was a long-time friend of Mr Mercury.

I was over-the-moon when he started telling me some personal anecdotes about Freddie, but there was one thing he mentioned that particularly grabbed my attention.

According to him, part of Freddie’s brilliance was that he was a ‘high class problem’.

He used those exact words.

What he meant by that was Freddie would never allow his issues or ideas to be ignored or fobbed off – by band, management or record company – because they knew if he had a problem, he would not let it pass until it was discussed or dealt with.

The reason I found this fascinating is that we now live in a time where more and more companies value ‘colleague complicity’ above all else. Where anyone who has a different opinion – especially a different opinion to management – is seen as the enemy, even tough in many cases, the motivation behind the challenge is simply a desire to have a better understanding of the viewpoint or wish to help the company achieve at a higher level.

With that in mind, I think it should be the goal of everyone to be a high class problem. It might be hard, it might be met with resistance – but if you are doing it for the right reasons, it’s the right thing to do however, as Mr Mercury’s friend told me, you better have earned the right to be that way or you end up simply being a “dickhead diva“.



Groundhog Day …

Happy 2019!

I hope you had a fantastic time with loved ones.

I also hope 2019 is a very special year for you all, for all the right reasons.

While I’ve been back at work for 3 days already – which were spent in bloody Miami – I have to say I had a wonderful time, even if I didn’t get as many gadgets as I hoped I would.

That said, I’m not making any plans for the year ahead.

I’ve seen too many best intentions get ruined before the end of the first week of a new year to fall into that trap.

But it’s fair to say I do have some hopes for 2019.

Some are professional, but most are mainly personal.

More than that, they’re personal because it involves people I love rather than for myself.

I know … I know … who the hell am I?

The reality is I’m doing OK.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still have a huge drive to go further, but right now, my hopes are for others for the year ahead.

Of course the main people I’m focused on is Jill and Otis.

In September Otis will start ‘proper school’ and we just hope he gets into one that follows the values his Mum and I believe in. We never realized finding a school for him would be so hard … but when you don’t want to go private, don’t want religious associations and don’t want the focus to be so academic his creativity is impacted, I guess it was never going to be easy.

So we have our fingers crossed and will deal with whatever happens.

Which is why I am also focused on Jill.

As much as Otis has impacted my life in so many wonderful ways, it’s Jill who will experience the biggest change once he goes to school.

It’s Jill who has stayed with him throughout his formative years.

It’s Jill who has spent the days with him every week, playing and educating and just generally looking after him.

Their bond is a beautiful thing to witness and I know she feels being a mother has been the most fulfilling thing she has done in her life.

So now what does she do when she leads him to the next stage of his life?

Of course there will still be loads they do together, but I want to give her the backing to find something that fulfills her, whatever that may be.

I know it won’t be the same as helping raise our bundle of energetic joy 24/7, but I am excited to see what she will do.

She is extremely talented, creative and compassionate – and while I know she doesn’t want to start her amazing cake company again – we have discussed some things that she is excited by and I’ll be backing her all the way for whatever she chooses.

I say this because I recently saw the photo at the top of this post.

It’s a photo of Queen drummer, Roger Taylor, looking at the Freddie Mercury statue he has at the bottom of his garden.

The statue that was on top of the London theatre when their musical, We Will Rock You, was performing.

I have to say, I found the photo very poignant.

Apart from the fact it’s wonderful he wanted to keep the statue of his old friend – I can’t imagine what it must be like to see it every day.

Does he look at it and think about all the amazing things they did together?

Does he look at it and mourn the loss of someone he loved like a brother?

Does he look at it and feel the sadness of memories he will never experience again?

Growing old has many benefits – including not giving a damn what others think of you – but it can also act as a bitter pill when the things around you … the things you brought into this world … start taking on a life of their own.

At these points you can either sit back and focus on the change or lean in and explore the possibilities.

For the past 30 years of my professional life, I’ve been fortunate to always embrace leaning in to the possibilities – possibilities that has seen me live around the World and meet an endless stream of wonderful, creative individuals.

While I have no intention of stopping that approach to living, I do want to make sure that in 2019, Jill gets the drivers seat because apart from her generosity in letting me do so much of the steering, the reality is she was the one who helped us navigate to where we currently are so I know by handing over the driving to her, she will go to somewhere wonderful and fulfilling and no one I know deserves it more.

She’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.

So happy 2019 to all … I’m excited to see where we all end up in the next 12 months, even if my blog posts will continue to bring the excitement of possibility down to a slow, painful crawl.



You Can’t Change The Future If You Judge Them By The Old Rules …

So a few weeks ago I went to the premiere of the Queen movie, Bohemian Rhapsody.

But it was more than that … I went with my best mate Paul and was surrounded by 6000 Queen fans, the band and the actors from the film.

It turned a movie into a wonderful celebration of an amazing band.

To be honest, while Rami Malek is amazing as Freddie – as is Gwilym Lee as Brian May – the atmosphere from the audience was better than the movie.

To be honest, it was always going to be that way, but as a piece of my personal history – including the re-enactment of so many concerts where I was actually there – it was an amazing thing to be a part of.

Of course this movie is not going to change the opinion of anyone who wasn’t a Queen fan already. And even for them, it’s not going to tell them anything you didn’t already know … but what the movie has done is get the media to conversations with people who were part of the Queen history that previously, had rarely said much about it.

One of them is fashion designer Zandra Rhodes.

She was the person behind the look that – in many ways – defined Freddie and the story she tells in the interview is wonderful, especially the bit where she describes him as a ‘hidden revolutionary’.

Of course she is referring to him in this way because back then, Queen was just starting out, because the idea of Freddie Mercury ever being hidden is quite amusing.

But that is the thing we often forget … that new is always going to be uncomfortable and yet we judge those with new ideas by the standards of the established. Literally trying to kill new thinking before it has a chance to even catch light.

And that’s why we all need to be more open to the unknown and the unexpected.

See where it could take us before we tell it where we want to take them.

Because when we hear people or companies say they want to be like NIKE, APPLE, Freddie Mercury or countless others we forget that to get there took time, patience and letting go … of the old rules, the old expectations and the old answers.



Freddie And Friends …

Many years ago I worked with a Swedish planner called Fredrik Sarnblad.

I loved him.

I loved him for many reasons …

His brain.

His humour.

His creativity.

His friendship.

His unsatisfiable appetite.

We went through all manner of trials and tribulations together … from highs of convincing work to send us to Bali for a week so we could work on the SONY pitch strategy in peace [which, thank god, we won] to lows of being in Thailand with a client who spent all their time trying to undermine us in front of their colleagues. [which we, read: me, didn’t react to very well]

And while we’ve not worked together for over 11 years, Freddie was always more than an ex-colleague, but a real friend … exemplified by the fact that when we saw each other in Boston a few weeks ago – after almost 6 years apart – it was like nothing had changed.

My relationship with Freddie is different to that of many of my other friends.

One of those reasons is I’ve never made a highly inappropriate blog about the way they dress.

The other is that I can have really personal and emotional conversations about life with him.

That’s not to say I can’t with my other mates, it’s just I rarely do … but with Freddie, we always did and do. Talking about subject many people find uncomfortable but are true for all of us.

The reason this can happen is that Freddie is both self aware and in touch with who he is.

He doesn’t shy away from the big conversations because he knows that’s where life resides … the real stuff, not the things we use to distract us from dealing with the real stuff.

One of the things we talked about recently was happiness.

Initially it was in the context of family but it quickly evolved to the job we are paid to do.

Creativity.

We talked about what makes us happy, what frustrates us and what we can do to make things better … more fun … more interesting and exciting. We even talked about how we can work together again.

Well that conversation must have had a real impact on Freddie because weeks later, he quit his job and started his own agency.

To be honest, I think that’s a bit extreme … all he had to do was say he didn’t want to work with me again … but I’m super happy and excited for him.

I’ve written many times why everyone should experience starting their own business, but in Freddie’s case it’s a little different.

Don’t get me wrong, it will be amazing for him – but the real value will come from the companies that use him because he’ll not only make them better, he’ll make them discover what they are capable of being.

So congratulations my dear Freddie, I look forward to one day being one of your shitkickers …

Knock them dead …

You can find out what he’s doing and how he’s doing it here.



It’s Monday. I’m Back. This Blog Has Recommenced.
April 23, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Culture, Freddie, Friendship, Singapore

If you look at the title of this blog post, you know it’s the perfect storm of hell.

Sorry.

But you did have 2ish weeks of freedom, so what do you expect.

But I’m not a total animal, so I’ll ease you back into the hell that is this blog with this …

Yes, it’s a photo of me and Fredrick.

Yes, it’s when we got together in Boston a few weeks ago.

Yes, I’m wearing a crappy t-shirt with a cassette labelled ‘Metal’ on it.

No, he hasn’t changed a bit.

No, it doesn’t really ease you back into the hell of this blog, but I don’t care, as seeing him after almost 6 years was one of the highlights of this year, even if we’re still in the first half of it.

Expect even worse blog violation tomorrow. Happy Monday.



Let’s See If Absence Really Makes The Heart Grow Fonder …
March 13, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Comment, Freddie, Friendship

So by the time you read this, I’ll be in Boston.

Snowy Boston.

Snowy and bloody freezing Boston.

While I’m here for a meeting, the best bit is I’m going to see the absolutely wonderful Freddie Sarnblad.

I’ve not seen this man for 5 and a half years, and while he probably wishes it was a lot longer, seeing him is going to make Boston’s harsh weather seem like LA.

There’s some people you work with where you just connect on a deeper level.

Where close colleagues become real friends.

And that’s what he is to me, even if there has been years between our times together.

One of the best things about having lived in multiple countries is the fact you meet people you might otherwise never meet. And when you meet those folks in countries like Singapore – a place that is very transient for foreigners – it means you often meet up in totally different places than where you started.

I think that’s an amazing gift.

Something that lets you feel connected to the World in ways few ever truly get to realise, let alone appreciate.

Which is why these next couple of days are very precious for me, even if the weather looks like it’s straight out the movie, ‘The Day After Tomorrow’.

So because of all this, you get a couple of days off from reading my rubbish.

Enjoy it, because it will be back … unless Freddie still hasn’t forgiven me for this.

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