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


Full Service History, A Few Semi-Careful Previous Owners, Needs A Bit Of Body Work But The Engine Is Tuned To Put A Smile On Your Face As You Hold On To The Edge Of Your Seat …

So if the title of the post didn’t give you a clue.

And if the photo above didn’t make what this post is about, obvious.

Today is my last day at R/GA.

Sadly my role has been made redundant. Thanks a lot COVID!!

And while it’s sad, I am glad it’s a senior, white, male who is being impacted rather than someone young or female or a person of colour who are often the ones who get hit first across the industry.

But while there will plenty of things I’ll miss, the biggest will be my team.

I’ve always been so lucky with the planners I’ve worked with and this lot are no exception.

They’re great. A talented bunch of creative fools who made me laugh, debate and rethink stuff every single day.

They were an honour to work with and they will continue to be epic in all they do.

They better be, because I’ll be watching them. Closely.

So thank you Lachlan, Nic, Rach, Anna, Joel, Amar, Erika, Laureen, Bassot, Ed, Megan, Nicole, Divya, Arda, Amelia, Severine, Marissa, Insa, Toby, Ben … and the others who helped make my time – and the gang – so much fun, including Anne, Valia, Eduardo and Michael.

So what next?

Well there’s a bunch of things.

We bought a house which we still need to move into.

I have my projects with the Metal Masters I need to deal with.

And I recently got an assignment with the Chilli’s, by which I mean the band rather than the food – which will be fascinating. Or headache inducing. I’ll let you know which, later.

Then I’ve registered a company I now need to work out what the hell I’m going to do with. I’ve got some ideas and I’ve even got some backers, but I owe it to my family to give it a bit more thought rather than just run full-speed to wherever my excitement orders me to go.

But for right now, all I’m going to do is take a couple of weeks off to enjoy being with the family and no zoom calls – which means you also get a week or two off – so all that leaves me to say is thank you to R/GA for the adventure and the airmiles … my team for their brilliance and their trouble making and … my wife, son, cat, clients and mates for their love, support and sarcasm.

Last thing.

Let’s be honest, these situations suck.

If people had the choice between having a job and not, the job is pretty much always going to win, especially at my age.

However not only am I absolutely fine, I’m strangely optimistic.

There many reasons for this, but the main one is the last time this happened to me, it resulted in some of the best times of my career.

From starting and selling cynic and Sunshine to then working at Wieden+Kennedy and R/GA through to living, exploring and working all around the World.

Or said another way … when my role was made redundant, it was instrumental in helping me do stuff at the highest levels of creativity, culture and client all around the World.

From helping launch brands like Spotify in Japan to partnering with NIKE to create sport culture in China to inspiring Virgin Atlantic to build an airport lounge that people want to miss their plane to stay in to finding ways to redefine the rules of luxury which led to SKP-S building an experience specifically designed to look/feel like life on Mars to helping Metallica do all manner of weird and wonderful stuff from connecting deeper with fans to opening new ways to connect with the band. And a bunch of other stuff, from the small to the huge to the ridiculous.

I absolutely, unapologetically, love this stuff with all I’ve got.

Now whether any of this can happen again is anyone’s guess, but it is possible … and given the challenges and competitive nature of the world today, I feel my history of provocative and intriguing creativity to help brands around the world define their position in culture – and business – still gives me a strong and valuable role to play.

I guess this is all my convoluted way of saying if you’re an agency or a company – anywhere in the World – who is ambitious to grow or change or reimagine who you are or considering new markets [ie: Asia/China] or stuck on a mindfuck of a problem or want advice on building a cohesive, potent strategy gang or just want to win better … then give me a shout, because whether it’s about leading something, collaborating on something or just chatting about something … I’m going to be officially available for all of this very soon and I’d bloody love it.

Right, now my Gwyneth Paltrow Oscar speech is out the way, see you in a few weeks.

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Lucky 13 …

So today, Rosie is 13.

THIRTEEN!!

Yes, she’s slower than she was.
And definitely more bad tempered.
But overall, she’s in pretty awesome nick for someone who was once a Singaporean street cat.

Of course, part of this wellbeing is she got the best adoption ever.

Her life, since that day we got her back in 2007 has all been first class.

Not just in terms of the life she has gets to enjoy – which has seen us do all manner of things, from building her penthouses for the home to importing her favourite snacks – but also in the fact that she has lived in 5 countries and has entered each one in pampered luxury.

Hell, I even did freelance jobs just to ensure she moved to countries in more style than any other pet could dream of.

And you know what? I don’t begrudge a second of it.

Since the moment we got her, she’s given us nothing but joy.

OK, there have been a few headaches …

When she almost strangled herself to death with an elastic toy.

When she was so dehydrated they thought she might die.

When I turned down an amazing job in New Zealand because immigration wouldn’t let us bring her due to being based in China.

And when she broke my lamp and my X-Box all at the same time and I wanted to kill her.

But overall, she has been nothing but an absolute joy … which is pretty amazing when you remember she’s a cat.

Let’s be honest, cats are assholes.

They are the masters of manipulation.

They can become the cuddliest bundle of fluff when they want something and can be the coldest fuck when they don’t.

And yet you come back for more because you want their acknowledgement … which only encourages them more.

Which is why they end up thinking they can sit wherever they want because they think everywhere is theirs.

They’re not our pets, we’re there’s … and I hope we have many more years of being her servant because while many may regard her as an animal, I see her as family.

So happy, happy birthday my dearest Rosie … and to sign off I thought I’d show you a video I made when I was running The Kennedys.

I had given everyone an assignment to ‘make a video on their smartphones about a family member and their dirty little secret’.

I could have done one about Jill.

I could have done one about Otis … even if he was months old.

But no, I did it about you. THAT’S how much I love you.



Nice Guys Don’t Always Finish Last, But They Always Suffer Pain …

I recently watched the Netflix documentary on Bobby Robson.

While I had followed his career as a manager – especially during Italia ’90 – I didn’t know many of his life’s details.

He had always come across as a kind, considerate man … maybe too kind and too considerate … but given his achievements in the game, it’s fair to say it worked for him.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the documentary, there were two things that really hit me in it.

The first was the people who went on camera to speak about him.

I’m not talking about his lovely wife and son, but football elite like Sir Alex Ferguson, Mourinho, Shearer, Lineker and even Gazza.

All to a man, talked about his character … integrity … compassion and humility.

For that to happen means you had to be something special.

But it’s the second part that led to the title of this post.

You see Bobby Robson went on to manage Barcelona.

Apparently he had previously turned them down twice due to his loyalty to the teams he was managing before, but on the 3rd ask – he said yes, even though it meant he had to follow in the footsteps of the great Johan Cruyff.

To be honest, this added a huge additional amount of pressure on him and fans were initially very skeptical about his tactics and style of play. But he won them, because he showed he loved the club and the region, he desperately wanted them to win and he conducted himself with nothing but compassion and dignity.

And this all turned into some iconic achievements and actions …

He brought Ronaldo to the club and turned him into the most famous player of his generation.

He won the Copa del Rey, Supercopa de España and European Cup Winners’ Cup all in one season.

He offered to pay part of his salary to cover the cost of his assistant manager, Jose Mourinho as he wanted him there so much.

He turned down approaches from other clubs because he loved Barcelona and wanted to honour his contract.

And then, just as he was ready to use that season as a launchpad to achieve even more, he discovered the Barcelona chairman only ever planned for him to be manager for one season.

ONE.

Like a buffer manager between Johan leaving and the next dynasty of Barcelona.

Imagine discovering that.

That you’re only seen as a ‘stop gap’.

To make it worse, they weren’t going to get rid of Bobby, they were going to ‘move him upstairs’.

Oh I am sure they thought that was a sign of respect, but it was anything but … especially with how they did it.

You see the manager they brought in was Louis Van Gaal.

Without doubt, an excellent manager … but not only was it a smack in Bobby’s face, they made Bobby attend his unveiling.

Like attending your own funeral.

And while I accept Van Gaal wanted to assert his arrival to the press, the way he did it was both arrogant and disrespectful … especially given the manager he was taking over – a manger who neither failed or was fired – was sitting to his right.

While Bobby was too nice to say anything, his face said it all.

But here’s the thing, Barcelona – or at least the top management – couldn’t care a less.

They got what they wanted.

And by keeping Robson onboard, they had – in essence – bought his complicity.

Or so they thought.

I’ve experienced these kind-of situations in my time.

Albeit a very loose version of these situations.

Being hired because we thought the client valued what we did and how we did it.

Then discovering it was really about PR because their intention was to make us complicit. That they deemed all the experiences and viewpoints we could bring to them, as unnecessary. Because they just wanted to be seen to be doing something without actually doing anything.

And that reveal was horrific.

Initially written-off as ‘teething problems’ before realising it’s fundamental problems.

And while money can make you temporarily complicit, in the hope you can find a way to make it work, if someone is not transparent from the start, it means you can never get to a better place.

And that’s when you discover that regardless of how much money a client – or a job – is paying you, it’s never enough.

Not because you want to be disgustingly rich, but because you determine your value beyond money, but the work you do and the people you do it with and for.

Some out there will never understand that.

They evaluate success with the money they have. Or the groups they are a part of.

But some will.

The ones who remember that what you have isn’t as important as how you got there.

Anyone can win, but only the best want to win well.



A Half Century Of Beautifully Ridiculous …
June 16, 2020, 5:15 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Birthday, Comment, Daddyhood, Emotion, Family, Friendship, Jill, Love, Loyalty, Otis, Paul, Shelly

I know I’m on holiday and there should be no posts this week, but today – like yesterday – is a moment that needs to be celebrated, even if I’m not around.

June.

1970.

2 amazing things happened.

The first was I was born … hahahaha.

But the second occurred 4 days later, when Paul Hill popped out.

Though some of you in Nottingham will know him as the Frothy Coffee Man.

Since that day, we’ve basically been inseparable.

From discovering we lived on the same street – at least initially – to going through every school class together, every drama and hardship together and every exciting adventure together.

From kindergarten to college … divorce to death … mortgage to marriage … we’ve always been together.

Always.

And now my parents have passed away, he is the person I’ve known – and who has known me – the longest my life and that might be part of the reason why I genuinely regard him as family.

Hell, I haven’t bought a full page ad in a newspaper for anybody else … and that includes my wife and son!

I don’t know what it was, but we just clicked from the second we met.

A bond that has remained to this day.

And I genuinely mean a bond.

Even when I spent 25 years away from the UK, Paul was always my best mate.

We could go a month without talking – or a year without seeing each other – but the moment we were back together, whether in the flesh or on the phone, it was there.

The bond.

Solid as all fuck.

Like no time had been between us.

Now if you ask my wife, there is one thing that defines this … our immaturity.

You see, while life has changed for both of us, when we’re together, we return to being cheeky, mischievous 10 year olds.

OK, some of that is because Paul has done some momentously stupid things that makes me cry with laughter … and some of it might be that we have a lifetime of memories and experiences we’ve built up … but generally, when we’re together, we get younger.

Or more precisely, act younger.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am that our wives put up with it.

Just like I can’t tell you how happy I am our wives adore each other.

But there’s something even better than that, and that’s how Otis talks about his odd-parents.

Having my son see my oldest friend and his wife as part of his family is such an amazing feeling.

Maybe part of this is because Paul and Shelly don’t have kids of their own …

Maybe part of this is because Otis has spent so much time with them …

Maybe part of this is because Paul acts younger than Otis …

But whatever the reason, I am so happy he see’s ‘Uncle Paul and Auntie Shelly’ as being important in his life because I want all of them to know how important they are in ours.

To reach 50 with my best friend is a wonderful thing.

I would love to just sit down and talk about all the things we can remember together.

And while I could do that today – when I go to see him – it would take a long time.

But there are some things that stand out to me …

From him ALWAYS picking me as the ‘dog’ in the song ‘Old McDonald’ … so all the kids in kindergarten would smack me on the head.

To the time he came back from a family trip to Hong Kong with the first digital watch I’d ever seen with a calculator in it.

When we bumped into each other in LAX, not knowing our wives had spent 6 months secretly planning a trip for us all to go to Vegas and renew our vows with an Elvis impersonator.

That year he came back from the school 6 week holidays about 10 feet taller than when he left.

When we stayed up all night in Sheffield so we could get to the front of the stadium to see Queen – only to learn they weren’t coming and we got Five Star instead.

To Mr One Eye, Round Table Christmas Tree, shoes on the wrong feet, the girls at Glens, BMX petition, the ‘Jessops’ mirror, Duchess, the ‘Denmark’ incident, wheelie competitions, a coach reversing up his parents driveway at midnight, Rock City on Friday night, Bangkok Shakes tours, sawing my finger off, his insanely large appendage, Passport to Pornland …. he has been involved or connected to every single event in my life.

Good. Bad. Happy. Sad. Big. Small. Fun. Stupid.

And yet in all this time together, we have only ever had one falling out.

One!

And all I can remember is that it was about a local radio DJ who had committed murder.

God knows what we disagreed on but all I know is we were waiting for the number 45 bus to take us into town from Greythorn Drive … we had an argument … and I walked off in a huff.

I think I rang him the next day in tears to apologise and he was like, “what are you apologising for?”.

And that’s him.

Kind. Generous. Stupid. Lovely.

The reality is, Paul and I have a friendship based on enjoying life rather than worrying about it.

That doesn’t mean we are immune from pressure, troubles and hardship.

We both have had – and will have – situations that have been challenging and devastating to us. And when they happen, we are there for each other. But when I think of my relationship with Paul, I think of happiness.

That I still think that 50 years down the line is both incredible and testimony to his character.

I am proud of who he is.

I am proud of what he’s doing..

I am proud I get to call him my best mate.

Happy birthday beautiful.

Can’t wait to see you.

Here’s to the next 10.

Rx

_________________________________________________________________________________

Oh hang on, I’ve forgotten the best part.

As you know I’m a sentimental fart.

When Paul turned 40, I wanted to get him something that would show him how much I adored him and so – as I mentioned earlier in this post – I bought a full page ad in the Nottingham Evening Post newspaper.

The ad is the picture showing Paul at different stages of his ‘development’.

What’s funny is the paper then interviewed me to find out more about my ridiculousness gift and for some reason, they kept referring to Shelly – his wife – as ‘second wife, Shelly’.

They even printed it!

Fortunately she took it in good humour, which is handy as I then bought her mugs and tea towels with it proudly emblazoned on them.

But 50 is a whole different age …

So while I wanted to get Paul something that celebrated his birthday milestone and showed how much I love him … I wanted it to be more subtle, more respectable, more in keeping with people of our age.

So I got him this … I hope he like it, it took me an age to edit it all together

Happy birthday big fella.

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Happy Birthday Jill …
June 15, 2020, 6:15 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Attitude & Aptitude, Birthday, Comment, Jill, Love, Otis

Yes, I’m on holiday.

Yes, I know I am not supposed to be writing any blogposts.

But today – and tomorrow – are exceptions, because it’s special people’s special days.

Starting with today, where it’s my wonderful wife’s birthday.

I am conflicted about it.

I love that we are growing old together.

I love that we have memories together.

I love that we have ambitions together.

But I hate how quickly it’s all going.

I am so grateful for all she is in my life.

For all she’s done … supported and encouraged.

I just wish it wasn’t happening so quickly.

For all the horror of COVID, it has been very special for me.

I get the privilege in that statement, but to be with Jill … to spend more time with her than maybe I have ever spent has been incredibly special.

Of course I wish it wasn’t at the huge cost that it has been for others, but I do look at this period as one I will remember for the worst and best of reasons.

Happy birthday my love.

You’re wonderful in every way.

You make everything better, including who I am.

I love you.

So much.

Rx

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