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

Love Works In Strange Ways …

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


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.


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.


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”.

For The Perfect TV Dinner You Need The Perfect TV Dinner Pan …

As I’ve written many time before, society is going through an ‘immediate gratification’ phase.

Whether it’s turning to the internet or food delivery services or credit cards … we all want what we want NOW.

Doesn’t matter about the implications or the accuracy, we don’t want to wait for anything. Ever.

I say all this because yesterday, I received this in my mailbox …

Yep, it’s a TV dinner frying pan from a company called Amazing Pan.

To be honest, the name Amazing Pan is a bit of a stretch given all they’ve done is compartmentalise a normal frying pan so you can shove a bunch of different foods in it … but given I’ve never seen one of these before, maybe I’m being a bit harsh on their ingenuity.

OK, on the plus side it’s a product that is still encouraging people to actually do something rather than hand it to them on a plate [though, in a weird way, they’re also doing that as well] but who the hell needs a product like this:?

Seriously, how hard is it to use a few extra pots and pans?

What next … a tooth brush that doubles as a toilet brush?

Actually that already exists, or at least it did when I decided to teach my awful housemate when I lived in Wollongong, Australia.

Yes, I know I’m going to hell, but I work in adland so that was always guaranteed anyway.

Is The Smart Phone The Modern Version Of The Cigarette?
November 10, 2015, 6:20 am
Filed under: Culture, Smartphones, Social Commentary

Over the years, I’ve talked – hypocritically, given my gadget addiction – about societies obsession with technology.

How something that was created to serve us now rules us.

How we are all junkies to the power of the screen …

How we turn to it whenever we find ourselves with a minute of freedom … whenever we feel we are not being stimulated enough in the ‘real World’ … when we want to quieten our kids

When I was younger, I used to see office workers standing outside their offices, huddled around ashtrays, smoking on their cigarettes. Now, they are huddled around their smartphone … getting their fix through twitter, snapchat or tinder.

There’s a bunch of reasons for why this might be the case.

And no, I’m not talking about cigarettes being a filthy, dangerous habit – even though they are.

I’m talking about issues like social dissatisfaction … unemployment … the need to belong … loss of hope … the cult of celebrity.

Of course technology is also a wonderful thing – it has changed lives and industry in countless positive ways – I’m simply saying we are reaching a point where maybe we are losing sight of the brilliant things we are inadvertently giving up.

What’s frightened me is how Otis – from 5 months old – was captivated by the iPhone/iPad.

For someone who is a tech groupie, I had told Jill that I would rather we keep this stuff away from him – and we did – only for him to see them in the corners of the rooms … blinking at him, tempting him over with pictures and sounds.

The iPhone helped him crawl.

Sadly I’m not joking. He saw it on the end of our bed one day and willed himself to get to it.

The sound of accomplishment he made when he finally got his hands on it will always stay with me … both for good and bad reasons.

The other thing that has blown me away is how quickly he worked out his finger could make things move to his command on the screen.

How did he know this?

We had to develop that skill but for my son, it was natural.

You have to give Apple respect for creating a navigation system that a literal baby can use.

Fortunately he is more interested in the cover of the iPad than the iPad itself – and that’s important to me. Not just because it has been proven that overuse of smart devices actually stunts a child’s development, but because I don’t want him to spend his life with his head pointed down towards a screen, but up towards the wonders of life.

I say all this because I saw a photograph collection where the photographer had taken photos of families using smartphones and then airbrushed them out. By doing this, he highlights our obsession and over-reliance on a device that, for many, is creating a barrier to the World rather than a gateway to it. [See the photo at the top of this post]

Have a look. It’s brilliant and scary all at the same time and it might – just might – make you put whatever device you’re reading this on, down for a while.

[And let’s face it, if my writing hasn’t done that for you already, you have problems]

More info on the background to the project can be seen here.

Let’s Start The Week With Something Spectacular …
July 13, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: Peace, Prejudice, Social Commentary, Social Divide



Find yourself nodding.

[Especially if you’re one of the US Police force who thinks doing a commando roll into a pool party filled with black kids is appropriate behaviour]