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

I’m Watching You …

When I was at R/GA, I hired this brilliant planner called Joel.

It was weird how we met because it all started at a Google Firestarter meeting I was talking at.

At the end of my presentation, it was opened up to the audience for questions.

I couldn’t see who was asking anything as the lights from the stage were shining straight into my eyes. Anyway, there was one question that shone out from the rest of the questions of the night – basically challenging the London bubble of planning – and while I didn’t know who asked it, I wanted to find who did to say I liked it.

Alas I never found out who did.

A few days later, I got a message on LinkedIn from the person who asked the question.

His name was Joel.

I invited him for a coffee later that week and suddenly the person who asked the best question of the night was asking the best questions of the day.

But what made them extra good was he wasn’t doing it to show off or stand out, he was doing it because he was interested in the topics and interested to hear my perspective.

We talked about his background, his ambitions and then he did the one thing that almost guaranteed I wanted to hire him.

He called comprehensive school, ‘big school’.


I hadn’t heard that since I was a kid in Nottingham and immediately I loved Joel for it. Because for all the time he had spent in London, he had not lost his Bradford realness … and then it became clear why he asked the question about the London bubble, why he was asking questions why culture rarely reflected how marketing department express it and why was the ad industry more interested in convenience than authenticity.

How could I not hire someone like that?

So I did.

And he never disappointed because apart from being culturally, creatively and strategically talented – with an obsessive focus on what life is really like for people, especially outside of London rather than the cliched, London bullshit a lot of marketing likes to portray – his greatest trait was he always wanted to learn.


Now don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t always the model student … he would push back, he would challenge, he would question … but what he doesn’t know is that was when I was the happiest working with him, because it meant he was believing his words rather than just following others.

And while we always have to be careful we don’t blindly think whatever we believe is the right answer, having confidence and conviction in your gut and your talent is an often underplayed, undervalued, under-encouraged skill in a strategist … which is why I was so happy to see when I left R/GA, Joel had a mug made with my face and my words on it.

Not because he missed my ugly face and lack of vocabulary, but to remind him to trust his smarts, his instincts and his authenticity … but never to be a prick about it.

If I was proud of him before. I am even prouder of him now.

Some Scams Might As Well As Have A Neon Sign On Them, Flashing Scam …

Just like great PR is never seen.

And great conspiracies, always feel plausible.

Great scams should never let you doubt their validity.

Yes, I know a while back I wrote that Bernie Madoff had said that success is as much down to the individuals greed as the scammers ability to appear legitimate … but fundamentally, if something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

Which is why the ad above is probably the criminal equivalent of infant school.

Let’s face it, you don’t call yourself ‘Mystery Shopping’ if you’re going to tell everyone what they’re getting and the likelihood that SONY would allow an external company to promote to all and sundry that you can play on their yet-to-be-released new gamer machine is – and I appreciate I may be being a bit cynical here – ABSOLUTELY ZERO!

On the bright side, it does show clients that as professionals in communication, adland is much better at manipulating people than criminals. Or at least amateur criminals.

So at least we have that going for us. Ahem.

Sorry, you’re going to have to up your game.

Or at least not make such stupid, basic mistakes.

Wait for all the consultancies that will now approach criminals with proposals to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Now they’re definitely not ‘amateur’ criminals.

And You Thought The Mouldy BK Burger Ad Was Provocative …

The fast food industry is having a hard time.

As tastes change and a more healthy lifestyle becomes more desirable, it is getting more difficult for them to operate as they once did.

While some brands are evolving their offering – like McDonald’s – others are taking a more pragmatic perspective.

The most famous, recent example is the BK Mouldy Burger which ignited all manner of debate – often with people quick to say it won’t work without anyone actually knowing what the goal of the work actually was.

Well in South Korea there’s a burger company that makes BK look positively innocent.

It’s not just how they used Supreme to inspire their logo in a way Uncle Martian would be jealous of.

Nor is it their audacious copyright infringement of famous cartoon characters to talk about themselves.

And it’s not even their proud claims of being ‘100% Beef Meat’.

No … it’s none of those, it’s their utter confidence of their product over their competitors.

Take a look …

Amazing eh?

Not just the aggressiveness … but the choice of words.

Linking the words ‘burgers’ and ‘shit’ makes a mouldy burger look positively appetising.

Then there’s the fact it’s in English.

When I lived in China, there were a bunch of stores that used English in their copy.

Sometimes it was for the audience it was targeting.

Sometimes it was because they thought it made them look ‘sophisticated’.

But a lot of the time – as I think is the case here – they did it because it enhanced their ‘authenticity’.

Given burgers are very American, I feel their idea was that by using English and being aggressive in their tone, they encapsulated the American spirit and as such, could say their burgers were authentic.

Of course, given Burger King and McDonald’s are also American slightly undermines that idea, but hey – it doesn’t seem they really put too much thought into how they came across.

I must admit, when I saw it, I couldn’t help feel it was like a Viz fake-ad from the 80’s.

Viz – for those who don’t know – was/is an English ‘adult-humour’ comic.

Years ago, I approached them about starting an ad agency.

They said no, which still disappoints me as not only were their spoof ads brilliant, but based on both Billionbox and BK’s recent work … there’s more and more brands seemingly trying to copy their style but without the brilliance, clarity, humour or memorability as them.

I Am The Badge Industries Best Customer …
April 16, 2020, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Agency Culture, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Mischief, R/GA

For some weird reason, I like badges.

I should point out I don’t mean I like wearing them … but having them made for me.

And I don’t mean because I’m some sort of egotistical pervert – not typically, anyway – but because I’m a bit of a prick.

In some ways, it all started because of a sticker.

Or should I say 600 of them …

Remember when I left Wieden+Kennedy and hid them throughout the agency and venues where we used to hang out?

That moment of mischief – which is still being discovered – set off a bit of bomb in me and suddenly having customised shit made for my colleagues became a thing.

There was the stickers to the wonderfully talented Jorge – simply because I thought he looked like the handsome actor in the movie ‘Love Actually’.

Then there was the first badge.

For Zaid.

Which I had done because I was experiencing some sort of delusional tiredness at 4am – stuck in a horrible room in a snowed in hotel in Boston.

Then I made stickers for Otis – in his genuine Chinese fighter pilot helmet – before making some more badges for everyone at Deutsch when I left the US.

Of course, when I started at R/GA … I thought the best way to introduce myself to the team was by having a set of stickers made that communicate my philosophy on planning that they can vandalise their slick Apple Macs with.

And then I decided to up my game by having some pencils made.

Initially it was for my R/GA mob … just because I thought it was fun.

Then I decided to be an asshole and get Sam and Mike some individual pencils – all aimed at taking the piss out of Sam, mainly because he is a Spurs fan.

Which leads to this …

A few months ago, the wonderful Megan came to join the team as a connections planner – also known as a comms planner in the industry.

She’s smart, creative and horribly lovely.

Or so we thought.

Because over the weeks, we have seen a new side to Megan reveal itself.

A cheeky bastard, suffer no fools side.

I love it.

Recently we were in a meeting with an another agency and they presented their ‘model for working’.

It was absolute pants, so you can imagine my joy when Megan snorted loudly at it in front of everyone.

Or the guy from a consultancy who had literally repackaged Byron Sharp’s work as his own, but was using it completely out of context.

I turned to see what Megan thought of what he was saying and it was the best ‘disgust’ face I’ve seen in ages.

Hands behind head.

Face looking like it was being violated with the worst smell in the World.

It was quite frankly, wonderful – especially when she uttered the following words …

“So what you’re saying is basically the same as Byron Sharp isn’t it?”


So proud I needed to commemorate the event with this …

That’s right, Megan’s own ‘what the fuck is this shit’ face … on a badge.

To be kept forever.

She is so grateful. She just is hiding it well.

Very, very well.