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


A Badge Of Honour. Kinda …

For some reason, I like having badges made for my colleagues.

Or anything a bit daft.

Of course, it started with the stickers I had made when I left Wieden.

600 of the buggers, hidden throughout the office – and buildings of interest – which they’re still finding to this day.

Then there was the packing tape of Jorge and the guy who is in Love Actually – which is a massive compliment even though he thought it was a huge pisstake.

Then there were the Zaid badges, made and bought on a snowy night in Boston.

Then my leaving Deutsch badges.

Followed by the pencils for Mike and Sam.

And the ‘don’t mess with me’ badge for Meg … after watching how disgusted she was at a presentation she had to attend.

Thanks to COVID, apart from the ‘you’re a twat’ sexual harassment badges we had made and sent to men who had made inappropriate comments to women in the workplace, I’ve been nothing but mature.

Until now.

Lizzie is in my team.

She has many qualities.

She’s fiercely smart. An incredibly talented, multi-instrument playing, musician. Community soup maker.

Basically, she is everything I’m not … but there’s one quality that she has that shines above even those bright lights.

She can see a dark side in everything.

I don’t mean in a depressing, mean, nasty way …

Nor do I mean in a hurtful, inconsiderate, selfish way …

I mean that in certain circumstances, she sees the worst case scenario in things.

Of course, she will claim she is simply being a realist – and there is a lot of evidence to suggest she’s right.

For example, when lockdown happened, we were having a bet on when we’d go back to work.

Most said early October, a few early November … but Lizzie swooped in and said,

“We won’t be going back till the new year”.

We laughed at her, until we didn’t and realized she was right.

Again.

Damnit.

Which is why I decided to commemorate her insightfulness with this ….

And while some may say this is not the nicest thing a boss could do for a colleague, I see it a bit differently. To me, I see it as an investment in my team – an investment at the price of my sons inheritance – which means I’m basically boss of the year.

Sadly, that year in 1953.

Happy weekend.



Nothing Shows You Care Than When Things Are Shit …

Just like HR is often about protecting management from their people rather than the other way around, the same can be said for customer service.

Of course, no one says that, but there’s far too many examples of companies stating the importance of their customers, and then using their customer service department to completely undermine them.

As I’ve written before, real customer service is demonstrated when things are bad, not good.

Let’s be honest, when a company can spot a sale, the full charm-offensive is on display.But when things go bad … oh, that’s when the truth is often revealed.

The irony is that this is the exact moment you can create a level of loyalty that can last a lifetime.

I’ve talked about the time VW came good after my brand new Golf GTI had the gearbox collapse and the turbo blow up … and I’ve found another example of a brand making something bad, a little bit better simply because they looked at things from their customers perspective and acted accordingly.

Isn’t that amazing?

Considerate. Compassionate. Personal. Helpful. Generous.

At the worst of times, a company has found a way to not just solve a problem – but help relieve some of the pain, that wasn’t even of their own making.

If a pet food company can do that – with their relatively low priced product – then any company should be able to. But many don’t. Not because their staff don’t want to, but their bosses won’t let them.

Years ago I worked with a consultant called Geoff Burch.

He was a beautiful maniac.

What made him great was he challenged management to live up to their responsibilities – both to their companies reputation and their employees ability to be successful.

We were working on an Italian car brand together and at the client briefing, the CEO said the call centre staff were offering too many benefits to appease dissatisfied customers.

Geoff asked why they were dissatisfied and the response was their were reliability problems.

Quick as a flash, he replied:

“Maybe you need to realise your responsibility to your employees is more than just a desk, a roof and a paycheck, but making a product that is fit for purpose. I can’t help a company who wants to blame others for the faults they have created and protect”

It was incredible.

And while there was a very awkward atmosphere in the room after that outburst, the CEO – after what seemed like a lifetime – acknowledged he was right.

To be fair, it helped that Geoff had an incredible reputation, but he wasn’t saying anything truly revolutionary, he was simply saying ‘reputation is based on what you do, not what you say’.

And while that should be plainly obvious, it’s amazing how few companies still don’t get that. The companies who think making a few dollars more today is more valuable than a lost customer tomorrow.

Seriously, the way some companies operate, it’s like a bloody ponzi scheme.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you should ‘spend your way’ into customers hearts.

This is simply about valuing your customers perspective rather than purely seeing the World through your own.

Which is, unsurprisingly, the true definition of customer service.



If You’re In The Communication Industry, Know What You’re Communicating …

I know if you’re in the publishing field, times are tough.

I know that you have to resort to attention grabbing tactics to get readers.

But recently Adage – one of our industries most well-known media outlets – did something that was as equally ill-conceived as the time Campaign put Nigel Farage’s shit-eating grin on the cover of their magazine.

What am I talking about? This.

Talk about clickbait.

Blatant, unashamed, clickbait.

And I say that because the actual article was more about what some ‘experts’ were suggesting is happening rather than what the headline was screaming for all its worth.

But that’s not the real issue.

Nor is it the talking about cannabis microdosing … putting aside the fact [1] it’s illegal in some countries and [2] there’s medical evidence to suggest cannabis can have terrible consequences on certain individuals … accepting it is a minority and there are also many benefits, including medical.

Look, I don’t care what people choose of their own freewill – unless, of course, it directly affects the wellbeing of those around them.

I don’t judge, question or degrade those decisions.

My problem is an international industry magazine purposefully chose a headline that communicates if your work environment is causing extreme stress because of the intense pressure being placed on you … then it is on you to deal with it.

YOU.

I literally don’t give a shit if the article was talking about people microdosing, coffee drinking or baked bean eating … they should not be placing the burden of responsibility on the employee, they should be challenging the behaviour, expectations and actions of the company they are working for.

It’s hard enough to attract and retain talent in this industry as it is, without having our industry magazine telling the world, ‘it is a stressful job and it’s on you to deal with it’.

We all make mistakes. I hope they learn from this one.

For their sake. For our sake. For the future of the industries sake.



The Fine Line Between Entrepreneur And Parasites …

By now, everyone will have heard about Squid Game.

It is – if not already – Netflix’s most watched show.

Ever.

There’s many planners who are writing ‘thought pieces’ on why this happened … but at the heart of it, it’s a greatly entertaining – and incredibly dark – story, with brilliant production values topped off with fantastic characters and acting.

Over the past few weeks, there’s been all manner of news stories coming out about the impact the show has had on broader culture … from sales of white, slip-on Vans – that feature in the show – going up 7800% right through to their instagram going up from 410,000 to 16 million in a matter of weeks.

That said, my favourite ‘proof of impact’ is this insta from one of the stars on the show:

But none of this is the point of this post, the point is related to the picture at the top of this post.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve just been seeing more and more brands – and agencies, specifically TBWA – exploiting the success of Squid Game for their own benefit.

Worse, the vast majority of these brands and agencies have absolutely nothing to do with the show – or Netflix – whatsoever.

Now I shouldn’t be surprised … this sort of thing has been going on for donkey’s years. However, whereas once ‘hijacking’ was a new and exciting way to get ahead of the pack and drive awareness and attention … this approach has now become so expected that any element of ‘surprise’ has gone.

In fact, the overall impact of this act is either seen as desperate or just ignored.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

If people are willing to forgo their laziness for a second, they can look for ways where what they are ‘borrowing’ adds to the culture of the community rather than just stealing from it.

Better yet, they could collaborate with the people who actually created the idea and make something even bigger for culture to enjoy.

But that rarely happens because we live in an industry where speed is seen as being better than substance and stealing is viewed as being more valuable than building … and while there are short-term ‘benefits’ to that approach, all it does is continue to destroy the value of creativity … which is ironic, given all of these approaches are feeding off the power, value and influence of it.

There’s a saying that says ‘genius steals’.

While I know where it came from and what they were trying to say with it … it’s obvious that term is no longer valid.

Lazy pricks, steal.

While finding ways to help our work – and our clients needs – will always be important, if we want to be taken seriously, let’s be the creators, not the parasites..



If Companies Want To Know About ‘Agile’, Ask My Son …

3 different nationalities.
4 different countries [In 4 different continents]
5 different homes.
4 different schools.
Two major long lockdowns.
All of this in just 6 – but soon to be 7 – short years.

And yet despite all that change … all that waving goodbye and learning to say new hellos … he remains a happy, curious, cheeky and compassionate kid.

And while he loved his life in China, America and the UK … he is blossoming in NZ.

Sure, some of that is because he has been able to get back into some sort of routine, meet new friends and play with other kids his own age – at least until Delta struck and he got locked down with his parents for weeks on end – but it’s more than that …

Outdoor life is a way of life here.

Being outside is no longer a conscious choice.

The line between indoors and outdoors is now very slim.

No need to change clothes. No need to wear shoes. Spontaneity is allowed to flow which – let’s be honest – is exactly how a kid should be able to live their life.

I’ve lived in similar environments before … in Australia and America for example … but whether it’s because I’m older or now live in a bloody treehouse or have a kid of my own, I appreciate it so much more.

Watching him be able to run around outside is a real privilege.

Of course, for people born here, that’s a normality … but I have lived in environments where that’s not the case, which is why even seeing him watch his iPad in the sun is something I don’t take for granted.

We cannot discount the importance of being able to play outside, but sadly many governments and councils seem to.

Viewing it as ‘a favour’ rather than a fundamental right.

Playing outside helps kids in so many ways.

Bond … learn … imagine … express … play … explore … compete … respect.

It’s not a ‘waste of time’, it creates a deeper foundation for life.

An ability to think outside of lines and others definitions.

Giving kids an environments where they can be outside is basically an investment in a countries future.

A nation of curious, interested, healthy people.

But not everyone gets this.

Some actively try to stop this.

Often people of immense privilege who either associate outdoor life as something for either the elite or the rough.

Fortunately NZ does not see it this way.

They revel and celebrate it.

They have the best parks I’ve ever seen in my life.

Parks made to enjoy and encourage kids to push their boundaries.

A new discovery of what you’re capable of with every visit.

And while for most kids it’s about developing, for Otis it’s also about grounding.

A place he can feel is his.

A connection to where he lives in a way he’s not had before.

Because while he is young, I do not underestimate what he has been through.

Fuck, there’s people I have worked with who have literally freaked out when asked to move office desks … and yet here’s my kid, who has moved countries, homes and friends and still embraces the possibilities of every situation.

So much of that is down to his brilliant Mum who has helped that change happen in the most comfortable, seamless way … but it still requires a mindset to look at what you’ll gain rather than just what you lose.

And while I know one day I’ll no doubt be dragging him off for another adventure somewhere else on the planet [but don’t worry, it won’t be for ages. Probably] I want you to know that I love you from tip to toe and let you know I’m so, so proud to be your dad.

Thank you Otis, you’re a little legend.