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


The NHS Put The Great In Great Britain …

The NHS is 70 years old this year.

While that is a remarkable age, it blows my mind there was a time when it didn’t exist.

The story of its foundation is a remarkable one … one filled with foresight, fight and a governments desire to raise the standards, dreams and potential of an entire nation.

Whether we will ever see something of such audacious good from a government anywhere in the World is debatable.

Obamacare may have come close, but thanks to America’s blinkered fear of socialism [despite having one FBI for example], it means its potential has been destroyed by that criminal, also known as The President of the United States of America.

And all the Republican sheep.

But back to the NHS.

Despite having not lived in England for 24+ years, it’s been a quiet partner throughout my life.

Helping me deal with some of the best and worst times of my life.

And even though there was a time I grew to despise walking along the corridors of the QMC hospital in Nottingham, I was always grateful for it … because it ensured the people I loved weren’t allowed to fall through the cracks at their greatest hour of need.

The NHS has saved my parents life, saved my sight, looked after my dear Paul when he’s undertaken acts of complete stupidity, taken care of my son when he came down with an illness [despite not yet having a British passport] and ensured my parents were given dignity in their final days … it is the single most important and valuable institution the UK has.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have lived all around the World and while there have been a number of occasions where I have needed the urgent and serious attention of Nurses and Doctors, I’ve paid heavily for that service.

Of course I’m grateful for all they did for me – they were excellent – but I was also in a privileged position where I could afford to pay for it which is why the NHS is so important because the reality is, everyone deserves the right to being looked after, not just those with a healthy bank balance.

Countless UK governments have tried to undermine or strip away the NHS … seemingly ignorant to the fact it’s one of the few things that is the envy of the World and should be treasured, not pillaged.

So to everyone who has ever worked for or fought for the NHS, thank you.

You deserve so much more than just a nations gratitude.

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Everything Good Starts At Home …

As I’ve mentioned many, many times, my parents drilled into me the importance of living a life of fulfillment not contentment.

It took me a long time to truly understand what they meant by that, but when I did, it was a revelation.

It is behind so many of the decisions I’ve made in my life.

From moving to so many different countries.

Starting cynic and Sunshine.

Right through to – hopefully – being the father and husband my wife and son thoroughly deserve.

This last one is especially important.

Not just because I love them and want them to know my love, but because at the end of the day – if the things I’m doing away from them doesn’t ultimately benefit them, it’s a waste of time.

When I was a child, my Dad would tell me why it was so important to love the work you did.

His basic premise was that if you’re going to be away from your family so much because of work, you better be doing something you love because nothing would be so insulting than to be away from them doing a job you hated.

That has stuck with me and while I’ve never hated any of the companies I’ve worked for – I’m always aware that once I have more bad days than good [or, in the case of Wieden, more bad polluted Shanghai days, than good] it’s probably time to start exploring what is out there that intrigues me.

Now, through a bunch of luck, these changes have come with greater titles and responsibilities … and I’ve never minded that, but it’s also never been my core motivation. Not because I don’t have ambitions, but I’ve always found the greatest joy being part of something that creates something.

I used to say that if I was to come back again, I’d love to be an architect because that way I could do work that outlived me … then I had my son.

Being a Dad has been one of the most amazing experiences in my life.

I’m ashamed to admit this was not something I was truly aware of, initially.

But now, thanks to the brilliance of my wife, I am able to see that I have helped bring something into the World that will outlive me. Something that can [hopefully] be testimony to the values we value and the things we love but with a life all of its own … a life that can grow and be shaped by the possibilities in the future we may never get to witness.

Which is why as much as I want a career that continues to creatively challenge and excite me at the highest level, my most important ambition is to be a husband and Dad that is present, engaged and full of love and support for the people at home.

It might have taken my wife and son to help me truly appreciate that, but I know my parents would be happy that I finally got there.



No Wonder American’s Love Their Teeth, Their Dentists Are Like A Holiday Camp …

When I was a kid, a visit to the dentist was a thing to be scared of.

To be honest, it shouldn’t have because I had great teeth … but there was always that chance something might happen and that scared the hell out of me.

If further evidence of my dental naivety/good teeth was needed, when I finally did have to have some treatment – a wisdom tooth removal, when I was 14 – I was in utter shock that they were literally pulling the tooth out of my gob as I assumed they’d give my gums an injection and it would fall out.

The weirdest bit of all is that when you left the dentist, they gave you a sweet.

A SWEET!

Though now I think of it, it probably was their way of guaranteeing further business from you down the line.

And given how bad my teeth are these days, it seems that was a brilliant strategy.

Evil. Geniuses.

Now I appreciate when I was a kid, the World was a very different – and younger – place, but having just taken Otis to the dentist, I’m jealous how ace his experience is.

For a start the interior has been decked out in different animal themes.

From Giraffe’s to Panda’s … each room has a different theme to help kids feel they’re somewhere special and different.

Then there’s the video games for them to play in reception or – if they’re too young – a huge aquarium for them to look at.

But it’s when they are having treatment the real difference happens.

Not because there’s a video screen showing cartoons.

Or wireless headphones so you can hear the movie not the drill.

Or even the sunglasses so you don’t let the brightness of the dentist light affect you.

Or even the balloon [not sweets] they give you as you leave the building.

It’s the way they make sure they spend time explaining what each instrument is and what it does. Letting the kid hold it, hear it … get an understanding of what it does so it stops being a fearsome object of pain and simply a instrument of health.

Whatever stress they have is reduced.

They feel they’re in a safe environment.

A special environment.

With people who you won’t fuck you over but actually want you to have an exciting experience with a great result.

It turns a visit to the dentist from a scary experience to a positive one.

Even an awaited one.

All because they give the time and space for patients emotions and fears to be calmed, which gives them – and their parents – the confidence to let the dentist do their thing. That doesn’t just result in more efficient treatment but makes the parent feel OK about being charged an arm and a leg because their precious child had an experience that is the absolute opposite of what they feared they’d have.

Now I know creativity needs a place where chaos and curiosity is allowed to explore and wander – something we don’t get enough of at the best of times – but in terms of getting clients into the right frame of mind to allow agencies to do their thing without skeptical, questioning and damning eyes, adland could learn a lot from American Dentists.



When Product Descriptions Make You Feel Ill …

So I was in a supermarket recently when I saw this.

While I am a huge advocate of cleanliness and healthiness and I absolutely appreciate the cleaning properties of vinegar – I’m not sure if this is something I’d find appealing when looking for a product that I’m going to use on my most sensitive regions.

OK, two things.

1. I appreciate I WOULDN’T be using it on my sensitive regions.

[Sorry for that image]

2. Like Listerine [until they came out with the orange flavour, which is still madness personified] I get that some products need to leave you with an ‘ugly tingling feeling’ so you emotionally feel you have been cleaned. So to speak.

But seriously, is vinegar the sort of thing you’d want to use on yourself?

Maybe it’s because I’m a bloke – and an English bloke – but the word vinegar conjures up images of chips and while I would love to eat a bag of them covered in Sarsons [not that overpriced, poncy stuff] I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want my nether-regions to smell of them.

I wonder if that means this product isn’t available in the UK given vinegar’s strong association with dodgy food.

Actually I wonder if any normal person would spend this much time thinking about this subject?

Alright … maybe I’m a sad, weird freak but this product stopped me in my tracks, but that could also be because the naming is some of the weirdest I’ve ever seen in my life.

It starts off all nice and angelic with ‘Summers Eve’.

Oh that’s a nice name … it paints pictures of a beautiful evening sky, full of beautiful colours promising a bright tomorrow.

Then they throw in ‘Douche’.

OK, that kind of ruins the picture a bit because at best you think of someone you know who is a total idiot and at worst, you think of something a woman uses to clean her privates.

Then they double down with ‘Extra Cleaning Vinegar & Water’.

And with that, the beautiful evening sky has been replaced with the feeling of needles being jabbed where you never ever want them jabbed.

Seriously, that naming combination has to be the weirdest ever.

Surely they could have thought of other ways to talk about douche’s and vinegar given they’d come up with such an evocative product name.

But no. They didn’t which is why instead of Summers Eve, they should have called it Winter’s Worst and be done with it.



Signing Off One Of The Worst Years Of My Life With One Of The Best Things That’s Ever Happened To Me …

So this is the last post of this year.

Yes, I know it’s only the 11th December, but frankly, I can’t wait to see the back of 2015 and I need to spend a few weeks letting out all the angst of the past 12 months so I can start 2016 as I mean to go on.

It’s no exaggeration to say this has been one of the worst years of my life.

Of course, the main reason for that is my wonderful mum passed away.

Having a parent die is always going to be tough … but when that parent is so full of life and – after her operation – expected to blossom, it makes it especially hard.

Alas, things didn’t work out the way they were supposed to and the events of that day on March 9th, still haunt me.

The high hopes.

The precious time together.

The slow, almost torturous, delay in being told any news.

The creeping fear of what may be happening.

The battle between hope and devastation.

The realisation of tragedy.

The hell of loss.

That 5 weeks in England seems like another time. Involving other people.

Recently, I was sent a new credit card from my bank in Australia.

When I opened the envelope, there were 2 cards.

One with my name on it. One with my Mum’s.

I’d forgotten I had given her a supplementary card. Not that she ever used it – getting her to take anything from me was always a struggle – but there it was, with her name embossed on the front.

It affected me deeply.

It was something precious and sad all at the same time.

Despite having organised so many things following her death … things that honoured her legacy, respected her beliefs and gave me a sense of peace for the future … I still feel I haven’t truly grieved.

I need to. I want to. But I’m also scared to.

It took me 10 years to come to terms with my Dad’s loss.

He – nor my Mum – would not want me to experience that duration of pain again, but I feel haunted by her loss … reinforced by the numerous beautiful things my son does that I wish she could see, experience and share. But the fact is she died this year and it casts a dark shadow on how I will look at 2015 for the rest of my life.

But there is a but.

Despite living each day carrying a burden of loss and sadness, there have been moments of sunshine pushing through the clouds.

I find it amazing how the human spirit can still move forwards when you feel everything around you is collapsing.

At first, I almost felt guilty when there were things that I found filled me with joy – as if I was dishonouring my Mum – but I knew in my heart of hearts, it would be something she would want for me.

Despite the utter tragic reasons for it, one of the things I treasure from this year is that I got to spend 5 uninterrupted weeks with my wife and son and my best friend and his wife.

To have that period of time to spend with the most important people in your life is always a gift … to have it at your greatest time of need is almost divine intervention.

To be together – just hanging out – sharing, talking and being an active part of each others lives was something I will always treasure.

By having it … by feeling connected to it … it highlighted how much I miss that interaction. Don’t get me wrong, I utterly love my life and the fact I have lived around the World … but being able to just drive over to my best friends house with my family and just hang was something I feel I’ve not had for 20 years. I felt I belonged. That I was home. That I had come full circle.

And maybe that is why another of my favourite things from 2015 is when Shelly, Paul’s utterly awesome wife – and Otis’ “oddmother” [because we are not religious] – came to visit us in Shanghai.

She was only with us for 2 days, but being together reinforced how much I love her and Paul being close.

It’s brought up a lot of questions for me, things I don’t have the answers to yet … but I feel so lucky that they are in my life.

Talking of ‘in my life’ … another thing my Mum’s passing did was reconnect me to her family.

We were always a relatively ‘independent group’ … my Mum, Dad and me.

That doesn’t mean we had issues with the broader family, just we loved our independence.

But Mum’s passing brought them all into my life again, especially her Italian family … and reconnecting created a connection we have all embraced and nurtured and it feels good.

I cannot tell you how happy I am that Mum’s beloved sister, Silvana, got to hold Otis.

If my Mum tragically didn’t get to do it, I’m so, so glad her sister did.

And then there’s the other stuff that made sure there was a silver lining in a dark year …

Seeing members of my team reach new stages in their life and career … getting one of my colleagues to have a perm … somehow being recognised for being OK at what I do [not to mention, what I don’t do] … finally passing my teacher exams AFTER FIVE BLOODY YEARS … being given a level of support and compassion that reminded me just how special Wieden truly is … meeting old friends, travelling, laughing, feeling loved and cared for by people that stretched much further than I knew or deserved.

And that includes everyone of you who reads or even insults me on this blog.

But there’s 3 people that made sure this year had moments of happiness in them that transcend everyone and everything else.

Rosie my cat.

Jill my wife.

Otis my son.

Without taking anything away from all the people who helped ensure this year was not be as black as it could – or should – have been, those 3 protected, loved and cared for me during every bump in the road.

The big ones and the small.

From the worst moments of my Mum passing … to the hell of the legalities that death forces you to deal with … to the sadness of other situations occurring involving people I care about.

OK, so Rosie did it by being annoying.

Regardless how down I was feeling or sorry for myself, she would miaow as if she was the only one having a hard time.

And while I would never want to tell her this, her selfishness was kind-of lovely. It forced me out of my darkness to sort her out. It gave my brain an excuse to focus on something else.

The other person is my wonderful wife, Jill.

I have no idea – no idea at all – what I have done to deserve her, but I am so glad I managed to convince her I was worth having.

Her compassion, care and love got me through moments where I wonder how I’d cope without her. That may sound dramatic, but it’s true.

She makes me a better person. She makes the darkest days brighter and I can never thank her enough or show my love to her enough for what she means to me.

Thanks Jilly, you’re perfect.

And the last person is of course Otis.

12 months ago today, this little bundle of perfect came into the World.

Yes, my son is a year old.

Today.

A year old. Today.

That is bloody amazing.

[When you’re older Otis, click here for a birthday message]

A year ago, I literally had no idea what to expect … I was a mixture of nerves, fears and anticipation.

Nothing – absolutely nothing – could have prepared me [or should I say, would make me believe] for the joy this little boy has brought into my life.

Watching him grow has been one of the most beautiful and wonderful things I have ever experienced.

He has done far more for me than I have done for him.

He has made me feel a sense of pride and happiness I didn’t know existed.

Literally didn’t know.

He has shown me that the wonderful woman I married, is even more wonderful than I imagined.

He has made Rosie – that selfish, self-centred, pampered moggy – start to be a little bit gracious.

Sure, it’s only to him, but that’s a start.

He gave my Mum an energy and happiness that literally radiated out from her.

She sadly may never have got to meet him in the flesh, but he ensured the last 3 months of her life were filled with joy and pride.

For that alone, I can never thank him enough, but he did even more than that.

At my greatest time of need, he ensured I didn’t fall.

From giving me the most infectious smiles imaginable to the most delightfully inappropriate behaviour at the most inappropriately appropriate times … he made sure I always had hope and love to cling on to.

He has been a revelation.

I am so proud and honoured to be his Dad and I hope I can repay him for everything he has done for me in his first 12 months of life.

[Let’s face it, I probably can and will … especially if he starts developing the same tech tendencies as his old man]

OK … that has been a super long post.

Few – if any – will have probably read all of it, but this was done more for me than any of you, so I don’t care.

All that leaves me to do is say this.

To my beloved son, Otis … happy, happy birthday.

You are perfect in every single way.

Literally, every single way.

I am a better man for having you in my life.

Thank you my darling son, I love you so, so much.

To everyone else … every single one of you who was gracious and kind enough to care and be part of my year this year … I wish you a Happy, Happy Christmas.

Whether you gave me hugs, laughter or just a well-timed message, your actions meant more to me than you could ever imagine and I wish I could see you all in person so I could return the gesture.

I’m so grateful for all you did for me and I wish each and every one of you, nothing but happiness and the hope that 2016 is a stellar year in your life.

We all deserve it and I need it.

Have fun and make sure you tell everyone who needs to know, that you love them.

See you January.



Every Now And Then There Is A Product That Makes Me Excited, Inspired And Utterly, Utterly Jealous …
October 22, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Devious Strategy, Health, Human Goodness, Innovation

… well this is that product.

How brilliant is that?

I utterly love it. LOVE IT.

It works on so many levels it’s ridiculous … from friendship, play, health and life.

The fact adland – an industry that claims to be obsessed with creativity, but really is obsessed with making ads – bestows huge amounts of praise and awards for ‘solutions’ that have questionable purpose makes me feel a bit ill.

Hell, this is a football that could even make Nottingham Forest seem like they were doing something useful. For once.

Seriously, this should have been done – or at least backed – by FIFA, given all the shit they spout about trying to make the World a better place through football.

But of course, what they actually mean is that they can make their bank account a better place through football.

For more information on this brilliant idea can be read here.



This Is What Would Happen If Oprah Winfrey, The Puppets From Team America And Jenny Craig Had A Baby …
August 21, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Brilliant Marketing Ideas In History, Health

If you’re watching your weight – or just trying to be healthy – and you’re worried you might succumb to kebab and booze temptation this weekend, then you need to watch this.

No seriously, you do.

It’s better than every Jenny Craig type food expert put together.

It’s even better than our Weight Watchers ad and I loved that.

That’s how good it is.

I’m not waiting for how long it will be before some health company tries to get him to endorse their product.

For their sake, I hope whatever they want him to try and sell is good or he might stick an AK47 up their ass and pull the trigger.

Now that would make those late night advertorials worth watching.

Have a great [healthy] weekend.