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


That Was The Year That Was …

So this is it, the last post of 2019.

Congratulations, you made it.

Yes, I know it’s early given there is still a couple of weeks to go in the year – including the inaugural R/GA London Planner Pie-Off – but despite what you may all think, I’ve had a big year and quite frankly, I need a rest from here as much as you do.

When I look at 2019, it’s been pretty good.

Of course there have been a few sad events – my dear Aunt Silvana dying and Justin’s wonderful wife, Ella – but overall, things have been positive.

Even the Beijing Hotel incident was amusing.

But most of all, the fact my family are good, healthy and happy makes it a good year, especially when you think of all the changes that have happened in our lives.

For Otis in particular, he has embraced all of it like a champion and watching him have his first day at ‘proper school’ made me feel incredibly emotional and very, very proud.

Quite frankly, the fact we have managed to stay in the same country for over 12 months is something we feel like celebrating – but not as much as my bank managers is doing – and we’re super excited that we have bought our first family home, even if we’ve not yet moved into it and it meant saying goodbye to the home I spent the first 25 years of my life in.

In fact ‘settling in’ has been a great plus of 2019.

We have a house, cars, some friends and finally feel part of a community … I’ve got to be honest, it’s a lovely feeling … and while I know there will be other changes in our life at some point in the future, this is a time I’m eternally grateful for.

There’s other stuff I’m grateful for too …

Without doubt, doing the Warc talk at Cannes with Martin was a wonderful highlight.

We were quite nervous about it but it seemed to have gone down well and I will always remember it and for that, we owe a debt to the wonderful Mercedes – Martin’s fiancé – who told us to get on with doing our school because she was sick to death of hearing us talk about doing more things together.

Love you Mercedes! And Martin. But more Mercedes.

Another thing – which is a bit weird, but seems to have helped some people – is when I wrote my post about being bullied at work. The response was phenomenal which led to Corporate Gaslighting. And while the amount of stories people are sending in – or agreeing to have published – on there has reduced, I know it has helped some people and I am happy I did it and will continue to do it.

Then there’s the fact I’ve been able to spend a bunch of time visiting China.

I love that place. In fact I would regard it as my ‘home’, despite having left there over 2 years ago.

To be able to spend so much time there and be energized by the city while connecting to new – and old – clients, has been magnificent.

Talking of returning to old things, having Otis’ beloved Elodie visit from LA was awesome.

Seeing them fall into their old, caring friendship was wonderful.

As I have said previously, taking him away from her was one of the hardest things about leaving LA – and while I know distance makes things harder, technology has obviously allowed their friendship to continue, which is the best ad for tech I can think of.

While I understand being emotional about Otis and Elodie being back together, I was surprised how emotional I felt when I went back to LA – especially when I visited Otis’ old kindergarten – but I suppose even the shortest time living in a place, leaves its mark on you.

There’s a bunch of other stuff I’m grateful for this year …

Nottingham Forest … for actually making me start to believe again.

I know it will end in tears, but it’s a nice feeling all the same.

There there’s the Brian May Guitar I bought after only 35 years of waiting.

Seeing Rod Stewart and Concorde were nice, as was getting a comment from Queen producer, Mack, and his son on the post I wrote about Freddie Mercury going to a birthday party dressed in the outfit he wore for the ‘It’s A Hard Life’ video.

That the gods of metal, Metallica, decided to extend the project that I’m doing for them for another THREE YEARS was a major plus. To be honest, I’m still not sure what I’m doing for them or if they like what I’m doing for them, but it keeps Otis in free Metallica t-shirts, so it’s worth doing.

I also got a bunch of new people in my life that I did not know previously.

From the brilliant students at the Brixton Finishing School, to the talented – but totally bonkers – creatives of Dayoung, Mike and Sam and not forgetting the wonderful Joel, Erika, Amar, Megan, Ed and Hannah who all stupidly decided to become members of the delightfully talented gang of planners at R/GA.

Before I end this utterly boring – but important [for me] post, I just want to say thank you to 3 more people.

First is the wonderful Paula Bloodworth not only got engaged – to a man from Nottingham no less [hahahaha] but she got asked to move to Portland to run strategy for NIKE globally at Wieden.

She will be brilliant.

More than people know – and they already know she will be brilliant.

I have had – and have – the great privilege of being able to call Paula a friend. I’ve worked with her, argued with her, laughed with her and caused havoc with her and through it all, her talent and humanity has shone through.

Wieden are very lucky to have her. Nike are very lucky to have her. I am very lucky to be able to call her a friend.

Second is the brilliant Severine Bavon.

Sev has been a part of my team from the beginning and this month she leaves us to strike out on her own.

Not as a freelancer … but to start a company that offers a new model for creativity and strategy for agencies and clients.

I’ve said many times that everyone should start their own company at some point and I am incredibly thrilled and proud that she is going to do just that.

Of course I’m going to miss her.

She’s brilliant, tenacious, smart and a million things I am not.

But I believe a bosses job is to help their people go on to bigger and better things. Bigger and better things they may never have imagined. Bigger and better things where they are chosen for who they are not just what they do.

And while I don’t think I did anything specific to help Sev make this decision, I have a vested interest in watching her do her thing and cheering her as she does it.

Which she will.

Sev, thank you for everything … believe in your talent, follow your gut, burn everything down that stands in your way.

So that leaves the final person … and as usual, it’s anyone and everyone who has written or visited this blog.

Ranting. Arguing. Swearing. Complaining. Caring. Debating.

It’s all meant a lot to me and after this length of time of writing basically the same 5 posts over and over again, I don’t take it for granted that you pop by and pass on your wisdom/insults.

I hope you all have a great festive season and may 2020 be epic.

Hopefully not as epic as I hope mine will be, but epic all the same.

I’m off to Australia for some sun and warmth and I’ll see you on Jan 6th cold, miserable and wondering how the holiday season passed by so fast.

Ta-ra.



When Media And Messaging Go Stupid …

So I’m away tomorrow so this is the last post of the week.

I know … what an early gift eh?

Well let’s see if you still feel that way after you’ve read it.

So recently – in the Fulham Broadway tube station – I saw this …

I know, it’s an innocuous little ad.

Harmless even.

What on earth could I find wrong with it?

Well a lot really,

Let’s start with this ad being in Fulham Broadway Tube Station.

I don’t know if any of you have see that station, but it’s this:

Yes … it’s on a street.

A busy street.

A busy street with no waterway conveniently located.

At least no waterway located within a few minutes walk so you could change your choice of transportation.

Why?

Why spend money on that?

Yeah ,., I know someone will say it’s because passengers from Fulham may catch another tube in a place where a ‘Thames Clipper’ is possible, but come on, if that’s the case do it in the fucking station where that is likely to happen.

But then there’s the actual ad.

I absolutely loathe ‘best kept secret’ type messaging.

Apart from the fact it is ensuring all the customers of Thames Clipper who may actually think it is the best kept secret are now about to be inundated by new passengers stealing their seat and general calmness of commute [because yes, advertising does work] this doesn’t tell you in any way WHY it’s the best kept secret?

Is it the tranquility of the trip?

The speed of the journey?

The price? [Let me tell you, it’s definitely NOT the price]

The timetable?

The locations you can get to?

The views?

The history of the buildings on the embankment?

The seats?

TELL ME, JUST WHY THE HELL IS IT LONDON’S BEST KEPT SECRET?

There are so so many different ways they could have handled this campaign … beautiful, inventive, charismatic ways … ways that could have made someone think twice about the darkness of the tube or the traffic jamming experience of the bus … ways that would have given the Thames Clipper a personality that out charmed even TFL … but no, instead they went with a poster of an old, white male who looks like he works in the city using a quote that says absolutely nothing about the experience in places where you are literally miles from being able to engage with it even if you wanted to.

Thank God I’m not here tomorrow, because I need a lie down.



Why My Wife Is Perfect For Me …
October 3, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Deutsch, England, Jill, London, Love

A few weeks ago, the lovely Leigh – a planner I worked with at Deutsch LA – came to London.

It was wonderful to see her and we caught up on a bunch of gossip.

As normal, I took an instagram of her and titled it,

“Everyone in the restaurant is wondering what the hell she is doing with me”.

Sure, it was a bit self-depreciating, but it also was true.

Or at least it felt that way to me.

However, later in the evening when I checked the post, I saw my wonderful wife Jill had left a comment that managed to both add and remove various paranoia of mine with a comment so evil genius, that it makes me want to marry her all over again.

Nice one Jill … ignoring the fact way too many friends liked it.



Spare A Thought For R/GA …

That’s quite the post title isn’t it?

Well it’s for a simple reasons because a year ago today, I joined them.

Poor fools.

What’s worse for them is that I don’t intend on going anywhere – which means I’m going to be here longer than the last gig I had.

There’s a bunch of reasons for that …

I am learning.

I am being challenged.

I am doing things I find interesting and exciting.

I am doing things I have literally never done before.

From the future of reading to the future of fashion to the future of the future. Kinda.

I am dealing with people who see the World completely differently.

I am working with a bunch of wonderful people from a huge range of disciplines.

I am – as usual – working with an incredibly brilliant gang of talented planners.

[They can be a bunch of dicks, but nothing the threat of lunch with me can’t sort out]

But even more than all those wonderful things is one stands out the most …

Everyone has been nothing but kind and generous to me and ‘my ways’.

From messing with the planning approach to adding some chaos to the creative process to letting me give a talk at Cannes with Martin Weigel for our little hobby company, every single person – from the very, very top – has been incredibly supportive.

Now I know that being yourself shouldn’t be a big thing, but after some recent experiences – and hearing so many terrible stories on Corporate Gaslighting – I realise it’s not something everyone gets to enjoy and so to be supported and encouraged despite my “unorthodox, immature and annoying ways”* means I am incredible grateful to everyone for giving me the space and environment to be who I am.

So despite putting me on planes so often I can only presume they’re trying to give me DVT, I want to say thank you R/GA … I just really, really hope you don’t fire me this afternoon because not only will Jill, Otis, Rosie and our bank manager [rightfully] beat the crap out of me, this post will have been a massive waste of corporate toadiness.

Till next year …

____________________________________________________________________

* A genuine quote from Mr Nice Guy, George Byrant from many years ago.



You Can Do Whatever You Want As Long As It Is What We Want You To Do …

When I first came to London, I signed up for Zip Car.

To be honest, the process was a nightmare, but I thought it would be useful.

Was it?

Well, put it this way, we ended up buying out own car.

I’m sure Zip is useful for many people, but part of the problem for us was that there just weren’t many cars close to where we lived. What this meant was that if we wanted one, we probably would need a taxi to get to-and-from the car, which kind of defeats the purpose.

The reason I am saying this is that I just saw this ad for them on the tube.

While there were many things I found a bit bizarre about the ad – specifically the fact you’re sitting on the tube but it’s telling you to get a taxi – the bit that got me the most was in the body copy, where they say …

“… leave our car wherever you leave your inhibitions”.

And then, via the ever-useful *, they clarify this with the additional …

“… just make sure you leave your inhibitions in the ZipZone”.

So in essence, they’re trying to position themselves as the enabler of the spontaneous spirit but then have terms and conditions that mean you can only live that way if you’ve thought through your actions.

Or said another way, they want you to plan your spontaneity.

Idiots.



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.



A Glimpse Into Past Normality …

Following on from yesterday’s post about Concorde I thought I’d post a sign I saw hanging in the ‘food preparation area’ of an old British Airways plane …

The fact smoking was once allowed on planes is amazing.

The fact they had to remind staff not to smoke while preparing food is mind-blowing.

But they did … because back then, having staff not smoke while preparing food was classed as ‘hygienic’, regardless of the fact being stuck on a plane with cigarette smoke working its way through the cabin at 30,000 feet was not.

Thank god those days have changed …

And that’s the thing with history, you often look at it and wonder, ‘what the hell were people thinking?’ but then you look around at the state of the World today and you realise we’re still making stupid decisions.

Whether it’s brexit or the rise of nationalism, millions of people are making decisions as stupid as allowing smoking on a plane.

Or smoking in general.

Of course, this is ultimately fueled by individuals who claim to be acting in societies best interests but are really getting the masses to act in ways that suit their own personal agenda … be it for money, fame or ego.

There’s an old proverb that says ‘those who forget history are destined to make the same mistake again’. Personally I think that needs updating to “those who only remember the bits of history that suit them are destined to lead us all into the shit”.

People will claim this is democracy, but it’s not really.

Apart from the fact anyone can win anything if you lie through your teeth, true democracy requires EVERYONE’S opinion to be heard. Maybe it’s time we follow Australia’s lead and say it is a requirement that everyone votes on issues of national importance. Maybe if that happened and people still voted for Brexit [albeit with issues that were true rather than fear mongering] the country would be less broken apart.

It won’t happen. Too many people with power and money will make sure that’s the case … and that is why anyone who still thinks we live in a democracy better not complain when decisions go against them.

Sorry, I got ranty there, I’m just so angry someone like Boris Johnson has got what he wanted regardless of the cost to everyone else. He and his cronies should be charged as enemies of the country … which may happen once everyone see’s the damage a No Deal Brexit has on their everyday life.

Oh, before I go and have a lie down … a little message to Dave.

Mate, I know today is a hard day for you. As usual, we are all thinking of you and will give you a call later.

Big hugs.