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


Let’s Remember Creativity Can Be Much Bigger Than Making Ads …

Back in December, R/GA launched a piece of work that I genuinely love.

I love it for so many reasons.

It’s solving a problem.

It’s doing it in lateral, not literal ways.

It was expressed with craft, care and a point of view.

It went beyond the usual forms of communication, showing how creativity can push minds and possibilities.

I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.

Almost makes me feel positive and optimistic.

Now that is real creative effectiveness.

Enjoy.



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.



Goodbye Otis Inheritance …

Last year, when I joined R/GA, I wasted my sons inheritance by having an array of stickers made for the team.

Of course I did it under the guise of expressing our planning philosophy and approach, but really it was so they could cover their laptops in them like the vandals I wanted us to become.

Or something.

To be honest, even as tools towards hooliganism, they were still better than the stickers and badges I have had made previously. Even the one’s I did to say goodbye to America.

Well a year has passed and I’m still here [fools] so I thought I’d waste a bit more of Otis’ inheritance by having some old-school tech made for them.

That’s them at the top of this page.

To be honest, I’m still trying to work out the reason for them but I think it has a lot to do with basically being cheap as chips [go on, say it, “like me”] … so cheap in fact, that I had some made for a Mike and Sam – a wonderful creative team here – who have the misfortune of sitting opposite me.

And they say I don’t know how to win friends and influence people.



Anything Is Easy If You Don’t Want It To Last

I am unashamedly a believer in brand.

I know there is a huge amount of talk about its commercial value, but – like the talk about whether we need ‘insights’ – there is plenty of evidence to suggest it continues to drive companies growth and revenue.

And while there are accademics, like Byron Sharp, who have proven people are far less loyal than they claim, the fact remains that loyalty – whether emotional or transactional – has significant value in building sustainable success for a brand.

But here’s the thing many brand owners forget.

To stand any chance of loyalty from your audience you need to be loyal to them.

Continuously.

It’s not good enough to simply offer discounts and early access.

Sure, that can help, but audiences know exactly why you’re doing it.

Real loyalty – by which I mean there is an almost irrational connection to a brand – is born from brands acting in ways that prove why people should care and keep believing in you.

Behaviour not just words.

Progress over the comfort of repetition.

Authenticity not just chasing popularity.

Telling beautiful stories not just spouting facts or contrived ‘ads’.

As I said, there are some marketers who say none of this matters in a world where digital enables them to have ‘direct to consumer’ relationships at a fraction of the cost of brand building.

I get it. It’s quick and it can be powerful which explains why every day there seems to be a new company claiming it will disrupt the category.

But where they go wrong is not realising disruption without distinction [ie: brand building] doesn’t create long term sustainable value, it just creates new commoditization.

In such an extremely competitive, highly-pressured, fast moving world, I would argue that brand has never been so important to stand a chance of having a stronger future.

And while this might all sound hypocritical given I work for a company who is trying to invent the future of marketing – which includes building new ways to have D2C relationships for clients, finding new ways to interact with subcultures through digital and passionately believes in disrupting categories – the fact is we never do this without an obsessive focus on the authenticity of the brand and how we can help it create the future culture wants to follow rather than just exploiting the offers of the present.

For me, the real issue is we are seeing is companies wanting all the good bits of brand loyalty without much of the effort, for which I leave them with this story I heard when living in China.

The successful farmer plants their seeds and nurtures them in the knowledge that when it comes time to harvest, their crop is bigger and healthier. It takes time, but it is always worth 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.



Can Someone Help Me Answer This …
September 16, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, R/GA

Above is a photo of one of the members of my team, Toby.

Toby is Australian, talented and a good human.

None of this serves any point to this post.

You see I found the above .gif in my phone and I have no idea how it got there or what ‘subscribe nooooooooow’ refers to.

I could ask him, but he’s not in yet and, to be honest, I have a slight concern that he looks like he has been held captive in a terrorist cell and been made to do this which means he may not come in again for a long, long time.

I did think it could be for our WorldWideWeird but that’s Amelia’s baby so that doesn’t explain it … though she definitely has a dark evil within her, so you never know.

Any suggestions …

[Acknowledging a wealth of insults are about to come my way]



As Bad As Monday Morning May Be, At Least You’re Not As Bad As This …

Yes, that’s me.

It’s not totally random because a few weeks ago, the planning department at R/GA held an impromptu Elton John party.

Though I’m not quite sure why we did it to be honest.

Anyway, we went to town with it …

Elton glasses … Elton inspired drinks … Elton boa’s … Elton masks … even an Elton John impersonator.

I’m not sure which was my favourite part of fake Elton’s performance.

On one hand, it was pretty hilarious when he loudly announced through the PA system “Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Elton John to the stage” and then we saw the post room door [which was doubling as his dressing room] rattling madly as he tried to get out without realizing he had to press the unlock button.

Though – all things considered – I probably prefer the moment he ran out of Elton John songs and decided to start singing The Proclaimers. [See the video below]

But back to that photo …

While you might think the sight of me on a stepladder wearing an Elton John mask is the worst thing you can imagine, let me remind you of the time I wore a mask of the Queen for my first ever photo with my son.

See, nowhere near as bad.

That said, I acknowledge it is pretty tragic which means – in comparison – your Monday is far less horrific.

You’re welcome.