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


It’s Been An Honour …

After 7 years, today is my last day at Wieden+Kennedy.

Just as traumatic is that in 6 days, it will be my last day in China.

Or said another way, it will be my last day living in Asia-Pacific after 22 amazing years.

There’s honestly too much to say.

Too many memories to write about.

Too many people to thank and talk about.

So instead I’ll just say it has been the time of my life.

An amazing, spectacular, wonderful adventure both personally and professionally.

From marriage and babies to being part of work that defined World Cups and Olympics.

Wow.

It’s absolutely fair to say I will miss every bit of it but I’ll take the memories because it means I had the experience and for that I am truly grateful.

Now, because we’re in the middle of mad moving mode, this blog will be on a little hiatus for a few weeks.

Probably about a month. [Though we all know there’ll be the odd post here and there]

On the bright side, when it’s back – probably sometime in June, in time for my birthday [ha] – you’ll get to read posts that won’t just be about planning, but how I don’t understand how to make anything in America work.

I honestly think I’m going to find it harder to acclimatise to America than I ever did to China.

Hell, I can’t even order a cup of coffee without getting confused about their cup sizes.

So with that I want to sign off with a few little thank-you’s.

The reality is a huge amount of people made my time here amazing, however there’s some who had an even bigger influence and I want to call them out because the adventure I had – and am about to embark on – literally wouldn’t have been possible without them.

My wonderful planning team. Past and present. Every day was a genuine fucking honour. The awesome Kennedys. It was seriously the professional highlight of my last 12 months. Thank you. And that definitely includes you Juni. Kel Hook. For hiring me. You changed my life and I’ll never be able to thank you enough. Jason White. Thank you for supporting me even when I caused destruction. John Rowe. For being brilliant in every possible way and making my time at W+K Tokyo so good, I never wanted to leave. NIKE. I know that might sound corporate toady, but as I have nothing to gain from saying it, it means it is true. 99.7% of every person I met or worked with at Wieden+Kennedy worldwide … whether they are still here or long gone. Martin Weigel. You’re a cantankerous, warm hearted, brilliant man. Just propose to Mercedes and get on with it. Whiteside. Because you’re awesome and funny and humble and deserve so much and yet are happy with what you have. Clare Pickens. I love you. I literally fucking love you. [But stop cutting your hair because it makes you look shit] Sandi Hildreth. For being awesome and gorgeous and loving the same sort of rubbish music as me. Claudia Valderrama. For looking out for me even though you told me I was a “pain in the ass”. W&W, Azsa, Arlene and Max … for making sure I stay excited – and in awe – about the birth of amazing ideas. Gerber, for somehow – and I’m not sure how – influencing me to get tattoos. I came here with none, I leave with not enough. Simon Pestridge. Thank you for everything. In many ways, you changed my career and opportunities. You’re more than a great client, but a friend. Kim Papworth. For that talk that was totally worth the wait. Luhr. For being Luhr. Stech. For making your 6 months here, the most exciting 6 months for me full stop. David Terry and Paul Colman for trying really hard to be ‘alpha-males’ but actually being fucking sweethearts. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. Joe Staples. He won’t understand why, which is why. MJ. No, not Micheal Jackson or Michal Jordan, but Matthew Jung … for being a phenomenal Nike and Converse client who backed us to do the best work we can do every-single-time. Karrelle. For pretending to still be British when he’s basically American. Steve Tsoi for still welcoming me to the table even though I never made life easy for you or your team. Scott Silverman. You had nothing to do with China, but if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have had the chance to be here. Chris Jaques. You also had nothing to do with China, but if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have had the platform to show others what I could do. What I could be. Dan Wieden. For not actually firing me even though you said, “You’re fired” every time you saw me. And starting a place that is so special amongst special companies. Xiaoli. For everything you have done for us, but most specifically for the love and care you have shown my son. China … for being so important to global business that you gave me access and exposure to the sort of senior leadership few in the World will ever get to experience. The amazing, warm, slightly crazy people of China. I will absolutely miss everything about your unique ways. Except the spitting and the plane delays. And finally – and most importantly – my beloved Jill, Otis and Rosie. Without you guys, none of this other stuff would have mattered.

OK, the Gwyneth Paltrow bollocks is over … and to prove it, have a look at this.

Do you know what it is?

That’s right, it’s one of the 600 stickers I have had made that I have spent the last 5 weeks hiding throughout the refurbished Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai office. And I mean ‘throughout’ … including various W+K hangouts, like Baker & Spice, Jamaica Blue and Little Catch.

That should make their life a pain in the ass for a few years.

It will be like I’ve never gone.

And with that, it’s time to go.

It’s been a lot of fun. Time for an adventure in LA. God help us all.



Given Brexit, I’m Shipping Australian Crims Back To England …

So today another one of the planning team leave.

Yes, I know, it’s only been a couple in a couple of weeks since the last one … but [I think] that is entirely coincidental.

That said, this one is only semi-leaving … because while she is going from Wieden Shanghai, she is ending up at Wieden London.

And will continue to be working on NIKE.

Yep, I’m talking about the one and only, Paula Bloodworth.

Oh Paula …

Despite being Australian … a wannabe cool kid … incredibly picky about her food and occasionally a princess … I am going to miss her.

To think it’s only been 2 years since this is mindblowing

We have done an incredible amount over that time … stuff we can feel very proud about for many, many years to come.

Not just work, but other stuff too.

In the 2 years of being here, I’ve seen the best and worst of her and she has seen the best and worst of me.

From my son being born to my Mum passing away … and through all of it, she has been kind, considerate, loyal and caring.

For someone who likes to pretend she has a ‘tough exterior’, the reality is she’s a fucking sweetheart and by embracing that, I believe she leaves even better than when she came.

And that’s impressive because she was fucking good when she started.

While I am sure she won’t miss the Australian banter … the oily food … the prying into her personal life … the bad instagram photos that I constantly took of her … I do think she will miss this place.

Maybe not as much as I will when I go, but a little.

[Please note, the photo in this post is not one of the ‘bad ones’ … I felt I owed her a ‘nice one’ as a gesture of goodbye-goodwill. Besides, all the nasty ones appear in the video below]

And she should because in the short time she was here, she achieved an incredible amount and so she can look back on this fascinating time in her life and career as one where she came, she saw and she conquered.

Paula I am going to miss you … especially the bitch and gossip-fests … but I know I cannot stand in the way of an Aussie who needs to make their cultural pilgrimage to London to live in Earls Court.

So now you are Paul Colman’s problem. And I’m very jealous of that fact.

Thank you lovely. Be brilliant.



Waving Goodbye To Singapore’s Most Dangerous Weapon …
October 28, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Culture, Experience, Management, Planners, Planning, Ros, Wieden+Kennedy

So today is a happy/sad day for me because I wave goodbye to my wonderful colleague Ros.

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with Ros for the last 2 years and I can honestly say, every day has been memorable.

OK, so part of the reason for that is that apart from being very talented and passionate, she is one of the most inappropriate people I’ve ever met … and let’s face it, I know a hell of a lot of inappropriate people.

Even more shocking is she is from the land of ‘nice’ … Singapore. What the fuck?!

And yet, despite her incredibly tasteless jokes, her excellent range of swearing and her ability to start a client presentation with the words, “don’t judge us before you’ve heard us” … she is a fantastic human being and a wonderful planner who everyone – even the clients she [cheekily] berates – love.

I’ve adored every moment I’ve either worked with Ros or watched Ros in action and nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing her continue her exploration of what she is capable of doing and being. Even more so that she’s taking her fiancé – and Wieden colleague – Hiro with her.

[The man I saw her sheepishly walk out from behind a bush on Wieden’s rooftop garden with]

So to 72&Sunny Amsterdam, look after her … and by that I mean don’t turn her into a happy, positive person because apart from the fact that would mean you’re into ’brain washing’, it would also mean you’re stopping her be as brilliant as she can be.

Thank you for everything Ros, I’m super proud and excited for you.



Insight Dogs: What Planners & Location Scouts Can Learn From Pooches …
April 1, 2016, 6:25 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Culture, Cunning, Innovation, Insight, Planning

One of the things I love about being a planner is that it allows us to do stuff in the name of ‘investigation’.

Recently we worked with a client in the fast food industry.

They had approached us because in addition to wanting communication, they wanted help with where to locate their stores.

Given the incredible cost of real estate in Shanghai, they didn’t have the funds to support being located in ultra high traffic areas but they obviously didn’t want to be so hidden away that people couldn’t find them.

Retail location is an art.

It may sound easy, but there are so many factors to consider.

In fact, having sat down with our client over a number of weeks, I’d now say ‘the potential for passing trade’ is one of the least important criteria.

Anyway, we were exploring possible locations when someone talked about the importance and influence of scent.

Our clients product emits a very distinctive and appealing smell and it seemed mad to us that we hadn’t thought about how this may help us with our challenge.

Could scent act as ‘directions’ to our store?

Could scent pull people away from our competitors store?

How far could our scent actually travel?

It was this 3rd point that we found the most interesting because it had implications on how far we could be from major traffic areas and yet still attract customers.

But here was the problem …

While the client was pushing us to explore new places for their stores to be located, we would need to do it in a way that justified this new approach to their board of directors.

And this is where the planning madness came in.

To find out the ‘reach’ of our clients product smell, we turned to someone who had the most sensitive nose we knew.

Meet Sam.

Sam is a beautiful 4 year old brown labrador who spends his days walking around Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport checking suitcases for food.

Yep, Sam is a Police pooch.

Sam was hired [we paid him in treats and we paid his handler in cash] to tell us just how far our clients food could be smelt from.

Yes, dogs have far more sensitive noses than humans – and Sam’s was more sensitive than most – but doing this would [hopefully] allow us to identify the ‘peak distance’ we could be from high–traffic areas.

OK, so I know using sniffer dogs for things other than finding food or drugs is not new – and we knew there was a very good chance this could all collapse in a heap – but having seen how prostitutes and priests had helped us solve some very complex client challenges, we were excited about trying out a new hypothesis, not to mention being very relieved we had a client [and a dog handler] who were willing to let us experiment with it, which is why we went at it at full force.

Over 4 weekends, Sam and his handler were taken to different high public traffic areas of Shanghai.

Before he arrived, members of our planning team [Paula and Carina] took samples of our clients products and walked from the initial drop-off, out towards the back streets.

I must admit, things did not go as smoothly as we hoped.

Sam would sometimes get distracted by other smells and people had a nasty habit of wanting to pat him which caused him to lose the scent … however after multiple attempts, we were able to prove that our clients food scent would travel an average of 430 meters.

That might not sound a lot, but that 430 meters meant our clients average retail space costs could go down from 46,000RMB to 27,000RMB per week … a saving of 42%, which over 15 stores would mean an investment saving of over 285,000 RMB [US$43,000] a week.

A WEEK!

Now of course it wasn’t just a case of finding a location 430 meters away from major thoroughfares and opening a store – if only it was that simple – but what it did do was open more possibilities of retail location for our client, which meant their initial capital investment could go significantly down without major implications to their ‘audience attraction’ potential.

Win Win.

All this shows the importance of finding out what your clients real problem is … because when you do that, it not only allows you to be more focused in your solution, it liberates the way you can achieve it.

And when it lets you turn sniffer dogs into ‘planners with retail location capabilities’, how can you not be excited by that.

And if you believe any of this, you need to be bitten in the neck by an Alsation.

Though I doubt you did fall for it because, let’s be honest, it’s not vey good this year is it.

Certainly not as good as Method Planning.

Oh well, there’s always next year.

Happy April 1st.



Planning Planning …

So recently the nice folks at Miami Ad School sent me an email saying that as it is the 10th anniversary of their Account Planning Bootcamp, they would like planners around the World to give their perspective on 2 questions:

1. How has strategic planning changed through the past 10 years.

2. What is coming next.

I’ve got to be honest, I don’t really like these sorts of questions – mainly because I feel they attempt, consciously or not, to make the planning discipline appear aloof and exclusive when the reality is, we’re only successful when we help others be successful.

That doesn’t mean planners aren’t creative … nor does it mean we are only good for writing bloody presentations … however we will rarely see the full potential of our ideas if we don’t bring others along on our journey and let them take it to places better than we imagined.

I’ve said it before, but I see too many planners who think their job is about being intellectually victorious as opposed to being emotionally resonant and creatively inspiring so the last thing I want to do is propagate the ‘rockstar’ bullshit that some still regard as asprational.

So I answered each question like this.

1. How has strategic planning changed through the past 10 years.

It’s gone from the shadows into the spotlight.

This is great news, but let’s be careful, because planning should never be the star, it should always be the stage for great things to happen upon. [I know, terrible analogy. Apologies]

2. What is coming next.

I wish I knew. I could make something up but the fact is, there is no pre-determined destination … where it goes is up to us, so let’s not fuck it up.

____________________________________________________________________________________

I don’t know what the other planners asked to answer these questions said – and I’ll be very interested to know – but for me, I am hoping to hell they’re not encouraging planners to believe they are the ‘brains of advertising’, because as my Dad said … if you say you’re intelligent, then you’re not really that smart.



Why Toyota Camry Is More Delusional Than Sepp Blatter …
February 25, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Cars, Crap Campaigns In History, Insight, Planning, Unplanned

Late last year I wrote a post about the horrendous advertising Toyota are doing for their Camry in the US.

I talked about how it was attempting to be deep and meaningful, only to be undermined by a crap execution, especially when it’s for a model of car that is renowned for its sensibleness. I don’t mean that in a negative sense … but from the perspective that it’s a solid, reliable automobile and trying to ‘sex it up’ ends up alienating rather than inspiring.

Well, as you can see from the pic above, Toyota don’t give a shit about what I say [and who can blame them] because it appears they’re persevering with this car crash of communication.

What is it with Toyota ads and balloons?

Is it because they are both full of hot air?

And why have the owners seemingly happy to be walking towards a balloon that looks like it’s fallen from the sky?

Probably for the same reason they’ve walked off and – judging by the lit instrument panel – left their keys in their car with the engine running.

Who are these people?

I’ll tell you who they are, they’re bloody idiots.

Bloody idiots with a sexual fetish for hot air ballooning.

And what is it with that headline?

“It’s The Stops That Inspire Us To Go”.

What?

WHAT???

Apart from it being some z-grade Yoda bollocks, the fact is you can see the cars GPS is on so the happy-go-lucky couple featured in the ad aren’t some spontaneous couple, going wherever life takes them, they’re a couple of balloon groupies who planned … PLANNED … their trip.

In fact I’d go one step further.

They’re a couple of balloon groupies who chose to drive to a remote part of nowheresville to pollute the clean air with their bloody car fumes.

I wanted to say this is a perfect example of why focus groups are dangerous, but the thing is, I don’t think even a research model designed to ensure communication is bland and meaningless could have approved this.

But then, if not them, who … because the alternative is even more scary.

What’s going on Toyota?

When you say ‘Let’s Go Places’, do you mean ‘go to the bottom of the advertising barrel’?

Seriously, you’re better than this.

Your agency is better than this.

And humanity certainly is better than this.

Sort it out, because this cannot be working for you.

Toyota Corolla: For balloon fetish, air polluting fools who leave their keys in the car. With the engine running.



When Boring Tries To Be Interesting. And Fails.
December 2, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: Cars, Comment, Crap Campaigns In History, Insight, Planning, Unplanned

I like Toyota.

Well, I used to like them.

When they had the Celica, MR2 and of course, the Supra.

It helped hide the fact they also made cars that made beige Volvo’s look exciting.

Like the Toyota Corolla.

Sure, it’s a perfectly good car.

Practical. Drives well. Strong reliability. Fair resale value.

So why the hell do they insist on trying to sex-it up?

I know buying a car is probably the second most expensive purchase you’ll ever make so you need to feel good about what you’re buying, but trying to make an accountancy conference feel like a Motley Crue aftershow party is always going to end up making you look a tool.

And yet so many car brands continue down this path.

Which gets me back to that Toyota Corolla ad.

OK, to be fair, they’re trying to be less rock star and more deep and philosophical, but it’s still bullshit isn’t it.

“Find who you have not yet become”

What? WHAT?

What’s that even mean?

Forget the rubbishness of that 3rd division Yoda statement, what about the fact they don’t see the irony of combining people lighting sky lanterns that float gently in the air with beauty and grace and calmness with a gas guzzling car that pollutes the air everywhere it goes?

And why the hell are they lighting sky lanterns?

And why did the owner of the Corolla park in the middle of the road?

What if all those lanterns land on the house at the top left of the picture and it catches fire?

How is the fire truck going to get there and save the occupants if the road is blocked by some selfish Toyota Corolla owner?

And they have the audacity to end the ad with the line, ‘Let’s Go Places’.

I’ll tell you which place you should go … to the local jail where you will probably meet the marketing team who asked for this contrived, passive piece of rubbish … which achieves the rare feat of alienating both the folks who choose a car as a reflection of their ego and the folks who want a car that offers quality and reliability rather than hype and hyperbole.

You know, the people who would actually find the boring reliability of a Corolla exciting.

Sometimes we try so hard to be different when just telling the truth is the most refreshing approach available to us.