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


Nothing Brings You More Down To Earth Than A Naked Bum Dance …

So I’ve been doing this advertising job thing for 30 years.

THIRTY.

And in that time, I've had the huge honour and privilege to work with amazing people around the world and do work that has achieved a certain level of fame and notoriety.

Because of that, I have been invited to speak at conferences all around the World … rubbing shoulders that frankly, I should have no right to.

The point of all this is that I've done quite a lot and achieved quite a lot.

Believe it or not, this is not a humble brag, in fact it's about to be a public humiliation.

You see a few weeks ago, while working from home, I was on video conference with a very senior member of NIKE's global team.

They were talking about some stuff, and realising I didn't have a notepad, I nipped downstairs to get a notepad.

When I came back, my client told me Otis had came in, done an impromptu naked bum dance at the screen, then ran out giggling.

To top it off, they said, “… and your son is still more professional than you”

Fortunately this client has known Otis since he was born so he found it funny – as would anyone really – and the meeting carried on as before.

Anyway, as I found this amusing, I put it on Twitter and LinkedIn as ‘the perils from working from home with a 5 year old’.

Within 3 days … THREE … it had achieved more views and shares than literally any conference, presentation, talk, blog post or tweet I’ve ever written.

In fact, it probably comes second to all of them combined.

ALL. OF. THEM.

Doesn’t matter if a talk of mine had been online for 10 years.

Beaten.

Didn’t matter if I’d written an occasionally topical blog post or tweet.

Beaten.

In 3 days, my sons naked bum dance had trounced all of them.

As of the time of writing, on LinkedIn alone, that single post has been read over 190,000 times, been shared 347 times, had over 3000 people approve it, had 100 comments and ignited over 220 different people – from big CEO/CMO’s to law firms – to ask to join my ‘network’.

Yes, my sons naked bum encouraged people to want to connect to me.

What sort of weird bastards are they?

[Of course I said yes, beggars can’t be choosers]

And while I can use this story at every birthday or celebration that Otis has for the next 30 years, nothing has highlighted how utterly futile my career has been than this.

Parents are said to always want their kids to go further than they have achieved.

Well he’s done it already.

At age 5.

Good job I love you with all my heart Otis.



Love Works In Strange Ways …

So good news, this might be the last post for 2 weeks.

TWO.

Though don’t get too excited because it might only be one.

Either way, you have lucked in as it’s definitely the last post of the week because today I’m in Paris and then on Wednesday, I’m off to Lisbon so I can speak at a conference.

Hahahahahahahaha.

I must admit, I still find it hysterical that people want to hear me talk about anything. Especially given all my ‘material’ is available for absolutely nothing on this blog.

Well, if ‘loss of brain cells’ is absolutely nothing.

And yet I do enjoy talking at conferences …

I like the process of trying to think of something interesting to talk about for the audience.

Working out the best way to get the message across without falling into the deadly presentation paralysis.

Then adding the stories that will either make the audience semi-like me, think I’m a cheeky bastard or just plain hate me.

I say all this but I bet the only reason I do get invited is to be the court jester to the audience – and given the wonderful Mr Weigel will also be at the same conference – I’m even more sure of this fact.

But what it means is I’m away till Monday so with that I want to leave you with a delightful story I’ve just heard about.

In the early 80’s, Queen worked with a German producer called Mack.

He was quite revolutionary for the band – helping change their sound and way of recording – which meant they were one of the few artists who went into the 80’s stronger than when they were in the 70’s, culminating in some of their biggest ever hits.

Another One Bites The Dust.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

Under Pressure.

Radio Gaga.

I Want To Break Free.

Unsurprisingly, Mack got very close to the band and asked Freddie Mercury to be his eldest sons godfather. And it’s to this background I read this story from Mack about what happened on his sons birthday.

Have a read, see you Monday and here’s a link to the video being talked about below.



Down The Rabbit Holes …

So we’ve recently had some interns join the Deutsch planning mob.

They’re smart, passionate and enthusiastic as hell.

Far smarter than I was at their age. Arguably, smarter than I am now.

So I met up with them to see how they were going and they told me how they were getting to grips with things because initially, it was so overwhelming that they found themselves going down a lot of rabbit holes.

I get it, it was super daunting to me when I started too but the one thing that concerned me was their belief that rabbit holes were a negative.

As I pointed out to them, if they don’t go down rabbit holes, then they’re no use to me.

Rabbit holes are an essential part of the planning process.

Not just in terms of exploring possibilities to tackle the problem you have been given … nor to pressure test the strategy you have identified … but to also reveal if there is are more interesting ways to tackle the problem than you may have originally considered or identified.

Rabbit holes are as much about opening possibilities as they are closing them which is why if you don’t embrace them, all you’re doing is screwing yourself – and the client – over.

Sure, focusing on what you think the client will buy may get you quicker approvals and client compliments, but allowing your brain the space and time to wander can help you get to somewhere new … somewhere exciting … somewhere that allows creativity to take you to places no one saw coming … places that will attract rather than chase … and even if you don’t end up somewhere more interesting than where you started, at least you can be sure the strategy you’re recommending has been pushed and prodded, which is why I passionately believe rabbit holes aren’t a waste of time, but a key deliverable of what we do and have to do.



Rob Channels Jerry Maguire …

So a while back, someone asked me what I thought made a ‘good planner’.

To be honest, all I really remember is that they caught me on a bad day and so I kind of went on an all-out rant.

By pure chance I recently came across my reply and while I definitely sound a bit of a mentalist – not to mention I miss out talking about a whole bunch of stuff I believe is super-important, like empathy – there was a lot in there that I felt had some value, if only to open a debate about what our discipline is supposed to do and what it can be.

So with that in mind, here I rant …

__________________________________________________________________________

Planning is one of the most overused terms in the industry these days.

Everyone is now a planner … except in truth, many are either ‘packagers’ – taking the clients info and packing it into easily digestible chunks – or media people who tell you where to put your work based entirely on numbers rather than any true audience understanding.

Now I am not saying those folks aren’t important, of course they are, but for me planning is about ignition to bigger opportunities and possibilities.

For me, a planner understands 3 fundamental things:

+ What the real business problem is.
+ Who the core audience is.
+ What the creative opportunity is.

Those 3 things form the foundation of making things … things that don’t just solve the problem, but help the client have a sustainable position in culture that ultimately makes their marketing work harder for them.

Great planners care about creativity rather than advertising.

Care more about authenticity of a brand rather than marketing of a brand.

Want to uncover why people do stuff rather than just what they do.

It’s not about convenient answers, but ones that really understand the madness of how we all think and do and what we value and believe.

Of course when you’re spending billions of someone else’s money, the temptation to choose convenient, mass-acceptance answers is high and while that can get you results, breakthrough only comes when you resonate with culture rather than just try to be relevant to it.

The un-said.
The hard to explain.
The not easy to hear but it’s true.

It’s for this reason I always tell clients they shouldn’t focus purely on the methodology being used to uncover this stuff … but the person leading it, the people they’re talking to and the questions they are asking.

There’s a reason why a brand like NIKE is still at the top of its game after so long.

Sure, they have ups and downs along the way, but to still have that energy and pull 54 years after they were founded is remarkable.

Of course the biggest part of this is they make great products, have a focus on innovation, have incredible distribution and enjoy the benefits of their market power. But arguably, other companies can lay claim to doing this which is why I believe their ‘secret sauce’ is their commitment to the culture they believe in and are a part of. The culture of the athlete.

Everything they do goes through this lens.

Everything.

And that’s why their marketing doesn’t follow the usual strategic approaches of looking for ‘white space’ or ‘getting to as broad an audience as possible’, but to have a deep connection to the lives and minds of the athlete so they can bring the lessons to life in the most inspirational, yet deeply authentic way possible.

This approach dictates everything, including how they choose and use their agency partners.

From a planning perspective, I know I placed far more value on someone who has a deep love of sport and creativity than anyone who could talk process or methodologies because for me – and NIKE and Wieden and every other agency on their roster – their job was to inspire great creatives to do something audacious for a client who fundamentally believes in the power of their brand voice and sport.

All this highlights 3 things.

1. Great planning comes from truly understanding the core audience.

2. Great work comes from knowing how to be useful to the creative team.

3. Great brands differentiate themselves by their authenticity and distinctiveness.

I’ve written a lot about differentiation.

While the goal should always be to ensure your clients stands out from their competitors, if the approach is to ‘own’ a position that hasn’t been taken, then ultimately you’re letting your competitors dictate your future rather than deciding it for yourself.

For me, great brands embrace their truth in fresh and exciting ways.

They attract culture rather than chase it because they are the culture, not observers of it.

It means they are always moving forward rather than remaining stagnant.

It means they’re always relevant rather than fighting for it.

Planners play an important part in this.

But only if they remember the work is the key, not the ego.



Old Is Gold …

Yes I’m back, how happy are you about that?

Actually don’t answer that, it will only upset me.

So one of the things my parents taught me is to be interested in the things other people are interested in.

This bit of advice has basically been the foundation of my career.

By spending my time out of the office, out of focus group rooms, out of the marketing bubble … I’ve been able to meet people and hear stories that have had a huge impact on the work I’ve done and the opportunities I’ve had.

However there is one group that I’ve found has always been the most interesting.

The elderly.

I’m not saying that because I’m fast becoming one of them, but because they have reached a point where they’ve worked out who they are and what they like, better yet – as I wrote last year, they now recognise the things that are important versus the things they thought that were – the things that ended up undermining their potential.

The elderly – which for me, is basically anyone over the age of 65, even if they feel they’re 25 – don’t give a shit about playing the politeness game, they just answer things as they it.

Don’t get me wrong, there can be times where hearing their views and theories on life can be very scary indeed, but in this era of convenient soundbites and curated conversations, it can be liberating because as Barbara Bush once said …

“Never ask someone over 70 how they feel, because they’ll tell you”.