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


A Half Brit, Half Italian Who Spent 7 Years Living In China And Now Lives In America Starts Work At An Agency That Sounds Awfully Like A German Bank …

So as you know I have left China and moved to LA.

And, given I’ve written about it, you know the reasons behind the decision.

However I am also conscious I haven’t said where I am going. OK, so I know others have said where I’m going, but I haven’t. At least on here. 

Well today is the day, because today is the day I start my new job.

Actually I should say today is the day I start my main job because I’m also doing an on-going project with a rather famous rock band [ no, it’s not Queen] however I’m super excited to announce that as of this morning, I have become partner, chief strategy officer and official ‘new boy at school’ at American agency, Deutsch.

If you are based in the US, I’m sure you’ve heard of them but if you’re not, you’ll probably know them for this

To say they’re big is an understatement.

They’re huuuuuuuuge.

Massive clients. Massive office. Massive team.

Basically it’s the classic American cliche … everything is bigger in the US.

Now I’ve got to admit, there’s an element of their scale that makes me nervous … but that’s part of the reason I am so excited to be here.

When we were deciding where to go, I was very clear I didn’t want to do something that was similar to what I’ve been doing over the last 7 years. That’s not because I haven’t loved it – I’ve loved it almost too much – but because I couldn’t see the point of leaving a company I love if I was only go to end up at another company that wanted to be like the company I’ve just left.

What Deutsch offers me is the chance to play and learn in new areas.

Sure, it’s still advertising … but there’s a few fundamental differences from what I’ve been doing for the last few years.

1. I’m going to be a partner.

I’ve got to be honest, this was very important to me. I always want to grow and be challenged and one of the things I knew would be good for me was if I was given the additional – and official – responsibility for helping run an office.

Now you may think I had that at Wieden Shanghai – and I did, kinda – however the structure of the company meant that unless I become an MD [something I don’t want to be] I would always be an invited guest, never one of the hosts.

I should point out I knew this when I joined and I was always given the opportunity to speak up and speak out, however I believe there’s a point where responsibility without authority undermines your potential and ambition and ultimately, I wanted to see if I could make a bigger difference to a company or if I’m full of shit.

2. Deutsch are much more into using tech to solve their clients business problems.

This is almost going back to the way cynic approached things and I love that. However, it is not for the reason that I am sure Northern Planner will suggest … which is that I might be able to convince a client to let me make a moped or car for them.

In all seriousness, one of the things I really liked about Deutsch was their desire to forge their own direction rather than replicate someone else’s. That sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many places try and mimic Wieden without seemingly realising there’s only one W+K and they will always be the best in the World at what they do.

Deutsch’s ambitions feel more entrepreneurial and applied and I find that desire, fascinating.

3. I get to set direction for brands rather than translate someone else’s direction.

While I’ve worked around the World and represented massive regions of the globe, the reality is in most cases, I’ve been about translating someone else’s perspective on what the brand does/is. Someone who tends to work and live in America.

If I’m honest, I’ve never really found this a hindrance – especially in China, where the cultures was so different, so it was always fun to try and work out how to make things connect – but it will be nice to be at the real start of the challenge for once.

Of course there’s other reasons …

The partners are all great people who just happen to work in advertising.

I get to infect a new bunch of talented planners and hopefully make them even better than they thought they could be.

I have the opportunity to make my new team one of the most respected/hated/mischievous departments in the whole of North America. I find that idea really exciting and really infectious.

And then there’s the 2 big ones …

I get to give my family an environment that is healthy for them and we get to experience and immerse ourselves in a brand new culture. Again.

Those are worth their weight in gold … especially as we’ve found a Mandarin school for Otis so he can still feel a connection to the country he was born in and the country his father loves and will miss deeply.

[Oh, we also own and get to drive cars again for the first time in 15 years. I am embarrassingly excited about it … though driving on ‘the wrong side of the road’ is interesting … especially for all the other drivers in LA]

In fact the only thing I don’t like about my new job is that I’m called the Chief Strategy Officer.

I’m not that keen on that. It feels so cold. So exclusive. So disconnected to creativity.

But I get America loves its titles so it’s a small price to pay for the adventure.

So we will see what happens.

It could all go down in flames or it could be a fantastic adventure and for me, when those are the possibilities, that makes me massively excited.

So thank you Deutsch for the incredible opportunity, let’s hope you don’t regret it …

More posts in a couple of weeks when I’ve either [1] settled in a bit or [2] been fired.



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.



They’re At It Again …

I know … I know … you would think I am over the whole ‘pram marketing’ thing by now.

Not just because I’ve written a ton about it [here and here and here and probably many other places] but because Otis is 2 and doesn’t need one anymore.

But I’m not.

Not while they keep putting out bullshit like this …

Like everything iCandy do, there’s so much that just pisses me off.

Let’s start with the colouring of the ad.

Orange.

ORANGE.

Who the fuck would want an orange pram?

I’ll tell you who, the pricks who own a lime green Lamborghini.

Yeah, those folks who are so bloody egotistical that they make sure absolutely no one can miss them.

Having a supercar to nip down to the post office to buy some stamps isn’t enough.

They need it in a shade of vomit that means even blind people can see it.

But that isn’t even the most annoying bit.

Look at that claim.

ABSOLUTELY FUTUREPROOF.

Errrrrrrm, does it turn into a bike?

What about a car?

Or a house?

Does it turn into anything OTHER THAN A BLOODY PRAM?

No, no it doesn’t … but yet again, iCandy have spouted a load of marketing twaddle because they don’t want to be in the pram business, they want to be in the innovation business and while I have no doubt that to give a pram 30 different configurations is quite an achievement, it’s still a pram and the innovation isn’t that soddin’ innovative.

But hey, they won’t matter to the fools who buy it … the same fools, as we identified earlier, who buy a lime green Lamborghini.

Because to them it won’t matter if they never use any of the configurations available to them because the purpose of purchase is not to ensure their child is protected and comfortable while being transported between the gym and the chip shop … oh no … for them, it’s all about being seen by everyone around them and being able to bore their ‘friends’ with a list of the prams features they will neither use nor understand.

Once upon a time there was a famous advertising slogan for the telecommunications company Orange that said:

The futures bright, the futures orange.

Well, thanks to iCandy, we have an updated version of that.

The futures bright, the futures fucked.



WiFi Wickedness …

Just to make sure no one is under the mistaken illusion that this blog is topical, I wanted to bring your attention to something that happened way back in March 2016.

OK … OK … I know for this blog, that’s pretty topical, but let’s put that aside for now.

As I’ve discovered over the years, the car industry may be one of the most competitive industries out there and nothing highlights this more than at Auto-shows.

Seriously, it often appears the focus of the manufacturers is simply to out-do the competition rather than try to engage the potential owner.

Anyway, at New York Auto Show last year [yes, last year] Audi set up a bunch of free Wi-Fi networks and gave them names that highlighted the A4’s features over the BMW 328i.

And because people are always scrambling for free wifi at conventions like this, a huge amount of people not only saw it, but got educated by it at the same time.

Simple, smart, evil.

Of course, this isn’t a new thing, just a smart thing.

A deviously smart thing.



Perception Is Not Reality …
April 24, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Cunning, Insight

So I recently watched the movie, The Big Short, again and was reminded of this quote …

God I love it.

Apart from being funny, I love it because it’s true.

As humans, we are inherently hypocritical. Not because we are bastards, but because it helps us survive and give us self-respect.in this highly competitive world.

Because as I wrote here, general honesty is better than raw truth.



Samsung Are Right, Apple Do Lead The Blind, But Sometimes That’s A Great Thing …

A few weeks ago, I smashed the screen of my iPhone 7.

To say I was annoyed was an understatement, especially when I was told that all of Shanghai’s Genius Bars were fully booked for 6 weeks so the only thing I could do – if I wanted things to be sorted quickly – was to turn up at an Apple store and queue up for hours on end.

So I did.

I got up early and was at the store at 8am so I could be first when the doors opened.

And you know what, I’m glad I did because otherwise I would not have been able to see this …

“What’s that you ask?”

It’s a group of blind people being given access to the store before it opens so they can shop safely and comfortably.

It may seem a little thing to us, but it would be a huge thing for them.

As we saw with Asda doing a special open store for customers suffering with autism, the retail industry is miles ahead of most organisations in terms of customer understanding and service.

Not to mention being light years ahead of adland and their often embarrassing attempts to make a difference to culture. Though, to be fair, that’s because most of them are only doing it because they want to win an industry award [namely a Cannes Lion] than to actually make something that has any real benefit for society.



Let Them Learn, Don’t Teach …

As many of you know, I spent 5 years trying to pass a bunch of teacher qualification so I could one day be a lecturer at MIT.

It should have taken 2.

And while I [eventually] passed and have done the odd lesson here and there, the reality is I find the whole thing very difficult.

Part of that is because I’m a bit thick, part of that is because the students I’ve worked with are ridiculously smart [one is 21 and re-engineering the pace maker for fucks sake] … but the other part is that so much of the ‘higher education industry’ seems to be focused on teaching, rather than on helping students learn.

Of course, both of those are interconnected, but for me, it’s about the core motivation.

If it’s about ‘teaching’ … then your focus is communicating the curriculum within the time allowed.

If it’s about ‘learning’ … then your focus is on enabling the students to grasp concepts that they can then use with their own free will.

I am absolutely in the latter camp, which is why I’ve found MIT a bit of a struggle and why I’ve found The Kennedys such a joy.

Of course it doesn’t help there are systems in place where the students ‘grade’ the teacher.

Seriously, how stupid is that?

I appreciate there’s some bad teachers out there, but to give students the authority to pass judgement based on their experience is ridiculous.

Of course, in a perfect world they would be able to do this objectively, but as we all know, so much commentary these days is from a subjective point of view so you could be a great teacher who is given a bad grade by students simply because you didn’t give them the grades they desired because they didn’t warrant them.

Now I’ve made a distinction between higher education and more junior – but that’s not to say they don’t suffer the same issues – but the reason I write this is because of that article at the top of this post.

Despite the author inferring they found it educational and inspirational, I’m not sure that approach would be allowed today.

I appreciate it is fairly radical, but handled correctly, it not only helps students learn, but it opens a debate that would help them truly understand.

To me, that is what education is about …

Giving students the tools to challenge, destroy and liberate stuff … because if we don’t give them that, what hope has society to move forward, let alone stand up against those who wish to do us harm?