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


Chapters Aren’t Just For Books …

So I have some big and exciting news. Well, it is for me …

On May 10th, I leave Wieden+Kennedy.

In addition to that, on May 16th, I leave China.

Given both have been my home for the last 7 years – one of the longest periods of my entire adult life – that means this is very big thing for me and I won’t deny it is bitter-sweet.

I’ve had an incredible time and leave with a bunch of memories, stories and learnings that I can honestly say will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Of course, I’ll miss so many things – the people, the culture, the colleagues the clients and the holidays* [ha] – but I still have a lot I want to try and experience and that just wasn’t going to happen if I stayed.

In addition, I need a place where my son can go out and play.

China is an amazing country, but the pollution means there have been too many days where he’s had to stay inside and that just isn’t what I want for him growing up.

That is very hard for me to admit, because I truly love and respect this country and would never want to speak bad of it because I’ll forever be grateful for how it embraced me, educated me and helped me thrive.

As for Wieden … well they have been awesome. 

I thought I would stay at W+K forever but unfortunately, we’re a very flat structured, relatively small company, so there’s just not that many options easily available for someone like me. Everyone tried to make it work but as I have no desire to be an MD and feel I’ve achieved everything [and more] that I set out to do in Shanghai – and that I was asked to do in Shanghai – I came to the realization that for me to keep growing, I had to try something different.

That said, there is absolutely no doubt that I have enjoyed one of the most exciting and fulfilling times of my professional career [so far] but right now, I need to go and try some stuff that takes everything I have learnt – from Wieden and beyond – and mix it with a bunch of new experiences and lessons so I can see what happens in a totally different environment and situation.

I’m very excited about that but I’ll always be super thankful for the chance Wieden gave me, especially because they never asked me to be anyone else other than myself.

Even when it annoyed the fuck out of them.

To have done 7 years in the best agency in the World, in one of the most amazing countries in the World with some of the best clients in the World is an incredible honour.

To have earned their trust enough that they asked a planner – a bloody planner! – to start and run their creative talent incubator, The Kennedys, is extra special.

But to have them say you’ve done a good job and you should go and explore but never rule out coming back, shows how special – and mental – they are.

And they are. Very, very special.

And mental.

So what next?

Well, I’ll announce that soon however what I will tell you is I’m swapping one country with an evil government regime for another.

That’s right, I’m moving to America.

To LA to be precise.

I swear this is not purely because I can get away with wearing Birkenstocks the whole time.

But it helped make our decision.

I’ll reveal all soon, but I’m very excited about this next chapter in life.

It will hopefully challenge and teach me a bunch of new things while offering my family the sort of environment they absolutely deserve to enjoy – and I’m incredibly grateful I have the chance to do this, especially at this point in my life.

But it’s even more than that.

You see my parents always said they wanted me to live a life of fulfilment rather than contentment and if they knew their only son was going to have experienced life in America, Europe and Asia, they would be super-proud.

As I get older, I realise what is becoming more important for me is less about how high up the career ladder I go [though, as Harrison Ford said, I won’t undervalue all the work it has taken to get me to my current position] and more about how varied my life experiences are.

This move is another step to fulfilling that … or it will be when it happens. Until then, you’ll have to put up with business as usual, which basically means more ranty rubbish blog posts.

Onwards …
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* For the record, given many of you think I’ve done nothing over the past 7 years except go on holiday, you’ll be ecstatic to know I’ll be leaving Wieden just before I was going to be having my 6 week paid sabbatical. I guess you could call it ‘holiday karma’.


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Never Trust A Brand That Talks About The Future …

Hello there.

Not that you asked, but yes – I did have a good birthday thank you very much.

I didn’t get anything stupid [which for me, means awesome] but it was lovely.

Jesus, how old do I sound!

Talking of old, I recently came across this …

Believe it or not, this photo is not all that old.

But what I love about it is that huge sticker declaring it to ‘never be obsolete’.

That’s some big claim.

It’s also a massive pile of bollocks.

Given the alleged breakthrough by Canadian company, D:Wave, all computers may soon be obsolete so for some company to suggest their 90’s PC Tower would be able to withstand decades of focused innovation and technological breakthrough is both massively misguided and massively misleading and anyone who fell for it deserves all they got.

But the other thing this photo did was remind me of the ‘stickers’.

Oh my god, back in the day, every computer had them.

Little logos explaining either what the machine claimed to do or the manufacturer of some of its components.

And people fell for it, because we didn’t know better and we were looking for some reassurance we weren’t being taken for a ride.

Even when they put a massive fucking sticker on it claiming ‘NEVER OBSOLETE’.

God we were gullible fools weren’t we and while I’d hope we have got past that, the fact is I know we haven’t.

Sure, the tech industry have started moving away from sticker pollution, but there’s a whole host of brands in a whole host of categories that have started taking it on. Just look at any car ad these days and it seems they have more logos on the page than words… which is why it seems this video is the perfect way to sign off this post.

Microsoft may no longer as bad as they once were, but it seems a lot of brands are still forgetting that confidence in your product is about what you don’t say, rather than what you do. By all means use channels to explain the benefits of your product … hell, you can even talk about who has been part of it’s development … but when it comes to the actual product, be focused and make it glorious.

I will go and lie down now.



What Pollution Looks Like …
May 19, 2015, 6:25 am
Filed under: Comment, Pollution

The words China and pollution are often unintentional bedfellows.

Especially in Western media.

That said, without doubt the level of pollution here is much, much higher than many other countries, however I would also say that the level of pollution is more limited to cities rather than the country as a whole.

To be honest, I found the situation far worse when I lived in Hong Kong than I do living in Shanghai – though I appreciate that was driven by industry in Guangzhou, which was re-affirmed by the fact that when there was a national holiday in China, the weather in HK was amazing – but the fact is, now I’m the proud father of an awesome little boy, my awareness of air quality is even higher than it was before.

[If you’re in China and are interested in the air quality, you should download Airpocalypse … an app designed by my old planning colleague, Tom]

Anyway, the reason I say this is because a photo came out that showed the differing weather conditions over a period of a year.

Some caveats.

1. Not all of the ‘dark skies’ are pollution, some of it is just shitty, rainy skies.

2. This was done in Beijing, which has much, much, much worse pollution than Shanghai.

3. There is no additional caveat, I just like writing things in groups of 3.

I’m not trying to defend China/Beijing’s pollution … it’s bad and needs dealing with.

Even the government realise this. In the old days, pollution was just viewed as a negative byproduct of economic growth but now, they’re seeing the implications of this attitude and are responding by spending enormous amounts of money [they’re already the biggest investor in green tech] to try and change it. Not – I should add – just because they recognise the negative effects it’s having on their people’s health and their countries reputation … but because they still need to keep the engine of their economy burning and they have to find a new way to do it that won’t ultimately undermine their progress and development.

So yes, it’s because of self interest, but then, what isn’t where governments are concerned.

But there’s a bigger reason for writing this.

The fact is much of what the West write about China is skewed with prejudice and ignorance and so this picture – while bad – is to serve as a reminder that rather than blindly believe what is written in the newspapers or the internet, look into the facts and the context because then you’ll end up with a much clearer picture of what’s really happening.

Even clearer than a Beijing skyline.