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’.




The Shanghai Kennedys Graduate …

So last week – on Founders Day – we saw The Kennedys Shanghai graduate after 9 months of trials, tribulations and torture [their words, not mine]

What an amazing journey … for them as well as for me.

I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t really know what I was taking on when I agreed to launch The Kennedys – Wieden’s creative talent incubator – but it has proved to be one of the best decisions of my life.

It’s been amazing.

Actually that doesn’t do it justice, it has been one of the most rewarding, exciting and creatively fulfilling times of my career.

Seriously.

Seeing these guys use their creative talent to brilliantly solve an amazing array of radically diverse challenges was an incredible privilege but the work they created was only part of the reward, because I also got to see how their journey affected all of them individually.

Watching them discover – and start to believe – in their own, individual creative voice was brilliant.

Not just in terms of how it affected the ideas they came up with, but also in how they looked at every challenge given to them.

At the beginning of The Kennedys, there was a sense of cautiousness – a feeling of concern they might do something wrong – but by the end, they didn’t give a shit about what others may think and had the confidence to go full force with whatever they believed.

Of course to get to that stage wasn’t easy … and yet the way we did it was.

In essence there were 2 parts.

The first was we needed the guys to feel they were in an environment where they were safe to be vulnerable.

Our view was that if they ever sensed they may be laughed at, criticised or ridiculed then we’d never get them to explore or experiment with where their creativity could go.

To achieve this, we told them we would never say ‘no’ to their ideas.

We could challenge them … we could ask as many questions as we like … but we could never, ever tell them their idea ‘is wrong’.

The second part was to give the guys challenges that made them vulnerable.

Part of this was to prove The Kennedys was a safe place for them to express themselves without limitation, but the other part was we knew the only way they’d discover the power of their truth was if they experienced real vulnerability and came out of it unscathed.

To do this, the first 3 months of assignments were made up of self expression exercises … from making a film about how you felt when you were made to dye your hair white, to creating art work about eating a live octopus to writing a resume of all your failures and an incredible amount of things in-between.

Now, I’ve got to be honest, a lot of people – including The Kennedys – felt I only did this so I could satisfy my evilness, but that is not the case at all.

When you see the creativity in the work they created later in the course – such as the takeaway coffee cup that turns into a frisbee for a local cafe that attracts lots of dog owners … to the Superhero toothbrush glove that makes 5 year old kids want to actually brush their teeth … to the innovation behind a Nike Shanghai Marathon campaign [to name but a few] – I’m pretty certain it was their comfortableness in their vulnerability that got them to this sort of work.

Nothing sums their confidence like their final assignment.

We asked them to come up with something they could leave at Wieden+Kennedy that defined what they had learnt over the course of The Kennedys.

In a perfect world, it would act as a legacy for them as well as an inspiration for everyone in the agency.

It didn’t take them long to sum up their 9 months experience with this turn of phrase …

“The freedom of creativity”

I liked that. I liked it a lot.

Their belief that creativity was about freedom and that freedom meant that any challenge could be met in interesting and intriguing ways was almost the perfect outtake from 9 months of bizarre and wonderful.

And so what did they do with their freedom of creativity?

This …

Yes … it’s a Street Fighter arcade game, but not like any Street Fighter arcade game.

You see the guys decided to reprogram the machine so it featured them as the fighters and included all their experiences over the 9 months of The Kennedy’s.

The characters.
The locations.
The challenges.

They’re all in there.

Including me … where my ‘special move’ is the F-Bomb, and a Birkenstock comes down to destroy everything in its way.

Cheeky bastards.

Someone at Wieden Tokyo asked me to explain what it was like and I said the best way to describe it was South Park on speed and LSD.

Seriously, it’s utterly mental and chaotic and for that alone, it perfectly sums up the journey and spirit of The Kennedys, let alone the way they used creativity to solve the challenge in the freshest of ways. 

But while it is absolutely awesome … what’s even better is the effort it took to make it.

I’m not talking about sourcing the game or even re-programming the game – though they were difficult in themselves – I’m talking about what they did to make sure it was all perfect.

For example, to ensure they could match all the animation of the ‘fighters’, everyone had to take thousands of photographs of themselves – in front of a green screen – in various poses.

THOUSANDS!!!

Then they needed to photoshop it all.

And then animate it.

And that’s before we get to all the other stuff like the background scenes … the animated story sequences and the re-design of the game cabinet.

At Wieden we have this phrase Fail Harder.

It basically means that if you are going to fail, make it because you were going after an audacious goal.

A goal that few would ever dare to try because they would see the obstacles rather than the opportunity.

This game – which they only had 3 weeks to pull off – is the perfect encapsulation of Fail Harder.

Except they didn’t fail.

In fact, it’s so good, I asked them to make another machine so I can have one for home. 

I’m thrilled they said yes … Jill, a little less so. Hahahaha.

Portland might have their “Fail Harder” wall but Shanghai has their “Kingdom of Chaos” Arcade game.  

I am in awe of these guys, I truly am.

7 strangers.
Over 9 months.
Given 21 individual assignments.
Producing over 140 pieces of work.

I couldn’t be prouder.

I couldn’t be more thrilled.

I couldn’t feel more honoured to have been a part of it and to have these talented guys in my life … even if they don’t exactly feel the same way, ha.

Of all the great things I’ve done at Wieden+Kennedy, this has undoubtedly been one of the best.

I’d go so far as to say it has been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

So before I end this post, I’d just like to say a big thank you to the guys who helped make this a very special time in my life.

+ The Magnificent Seven … Carmen, Felix, Griet, Matteo, Meng, Quentin and Wenshu
+ Juni Zhu, the Patron Saint of Saints
+ Arlene Lu and Maxito, the dynamic duo and table tennis losers
+ Patrick Rockwell, also known as the fixer
+ Bryan & Yang
+ Azsa
+ Stone
+ Grainne
+ Nike
+ Boom Boom Bagels
+ Jill Barker
+ Paula Bloodworth, Northy and Marula
+ Yvonne … for never raising an eyebrow when we put in our weird expenses
+ Kim Papworth, Joe Staples and Richard Turley
+ John Rowe and Ryan Johnson in Tokyo
+ Blake Harrop, Alvaro Sotomayor and Judd Caraway in Amsterdam
+ Tony Davidson and Ryan Fisher in London
+ Vitor Abud in Sao Paulo
+ Wieden HR who didn’t say anything even when we made The Kennedys do very weird shit
+ Everyone at Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai
+ Everyone who was part of the Kennedys in Amsterdam, London & Sao Paulo
+ Everyone who applied for the journey
… and finally David Kennedy [and Dan Wieden] who let this thing happen because on April 1st 1982, you started a company that believed in the freedom of creativity

If you ever have the chance to be in – or part of – The Kennedys in the future, whether that is in Shanghai or any of the other Wieden+Kennedy offices, grasp it with both hands.

It will change your life.

It did for me and I’m pretty sure it did for the 7 guys who were our guinea pigs in Shanghai.



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.



The Giving Back Before I Get Fired Post …

I don’t really write much about ads we – as in Wieden – do.

Not because I don’t like them, but because I like them too much.

Of course, there’s been the odd exception where I’ve not been able to stop myself – like one of my all time faves, Born of Fire for Chrysler at the Superbowl a few years back – but all in all, I tend to keep the work we do to myself.

Well, today that changes.

I’ll admit one of the reasons is because I literally don’t know what to write about today and this is my ‘get out of jail card’, but the other reason is there’s been a bunch of work from us recently that I think it just wonderful and I just want to put it out there.

Sure, a couple of the spots are from NIKE … and while many people may think thats easy for us to do, the reality is that when you have worked with a brand for 30 years and manage to still do work that feels fresh and energetic, that’s a testimony to the people involved. From both sides.

But there’s also some work that you may not know of.

Work from Milka, Samsung and Southern Comfort.

Work that covers the whole spectrum of tonality and style.

But there’s two things that unite them all.

The idea. The craft.

When I see this stuff, I get excited. Not just because it’s lovely work, but because standards are being maintained and pushed.

Where many agencies have to resort to scam to get stuff like this out, we make it.

And for the record, I haven’t written this post because my annual review is coming up soon. That’s entirely coincidental. Ha.

So sit back and enjoy some of the work I feel excited to be connected to, even if in some cases, it’s purely because I work for the same company.

Let’s start with an epic singalong for Kobe’s goodbye …

Next up is the charming story of a little boy and a strongman for Milka …

From fairytale we now make turn, what may seem a small, incidental, functional feature into something interesting and – dare I say it – potentially valuable …

… and then we do it again, turning a mobile phone ‘low light camera’ into a badge for a night life well lived. Lovely stuff.

The last 2 – for some reason – I can’t add on the blog, so I’ll just give you the links.

The first is the magically farcical ad we did for Southern Comfort.

Check it out. Seriously, just check it out.

It’s so incredibly mental and I’m so incredibly jealous of it. And it worked its ass off … probably because it’s so ridiculous that it was exciting and refreshing for an audience who are bored to death of being spoken to [or should I say ‘at’] with contrived, patronising and self-serving messages of meaningless blandom.

And the last one is our LunarEpic Flyknit spot for Nike China … even though the link will take you to the English edit of the film.

Of course I’m biased but I love it.

I love it for a whole host of reasons, but most of all because it is something that is visually rich and interesting and feels more like a music video than an ad … and in a world of overly-worthy ‘manifesto’ style communication, it’s refreshing and intriguing – ESPECIALLY as there is some really great insight work that led to this execution.

That’s it … if this post doesn’t keep me in a job then nothing else will.

So enjoy them all and be rest assured, I’ll find something to talk about tomorrow.

[Sorry]



This Is Not An April Fools …
April 4, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Creativity, Culture, The Kennedys, Wieden+Kennedy

So today is a national holiday which means only one thing.

Yep, I’m on holiday again.

I know … I know …

But if you think that’s annoying, I’m going to be on holiday again on Friday.

And then the week after, I’m going to be in Tokyo again.

Which means there won’t be many posts this week or next.

But if you’re still kind of in shock at …

1. How lucky you are.

2. How I have managed to pull this off again.

… wait until you read this, it’s going to fuck your mind.

I’ll touch on it tomorrow. I have a feeling you’re going to have a lot to say about it.