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


The Wall Is Your Friend …

Many years ago, we were working on a NIKE project about inspiration for China.

China and sport had a weird relationship because it was either seen as a distraction to academic success or a ruthless and relentless act to achieve a pre-determined goal.

I still remember spending hours looking for any photo where we saw a parent or a teacher or a coach encouraging a kid doing a sport … but it was hard. Not because adults didn’t care about the kids in their charge, but because there was this attitude that encouragement encouraged laziness.

Tough love indeed.

But when we talked to kids who loved sport for no other reason than loving sport, the thing we found fascinating was how one of their great inspirations was a wall … or a court … or a park somewhere near where they lived.

This would be where they could kick, throw, hit, head or play against hour after hour … day after day.

This was where they could play without judgement or expectation … but with plenty of competition.

Because walls don’t get tired.

They don’t show sympathy.

They’re always ready to play.

We all have a wall.

They may look like others.

But there is one that is yours and yours alone.

For me, it was the wall of a Church opposite Erika’s sweet shop at the Top Shop.

It was up the road from my childhood home.

I would go up there every night over summer.

Sometimes by myself. Sometimes with friends.

And that would be the arena and the competition for all manner of games.

From playing footie with empty cans … playing cricket by throwing tennis balls as hard against the wall as we can to just practicing our skills of tennis or keepie-uppie. And then on a Friday evening – after school – a bunch of the kids from where I lived would gather by the field next to the church and play a massive game that drew all the girls from school to watch us.

That wall was a major part of my childhood. Of my love of sport. It helped me connect to where I lived, to the people who lived there and just what I wanted to do.

Sport was deeply entrenched in the place I grew up.

Not in terms of a formal team – though we had that and we also had Nottingham Forest doing well at the time – I mean as an outlet for kids to do shit.

Now I’m not sure if that is still the case.

We live in gentrified times.

Where noise is challenged with authority.

Where parks are placed on the outskirts of towns, not the centre,

Where sport is becoming more about the quest for fame rather than enjoyment.

It’s one of the biggest thrills of living in New Zealand.

It’s still an outdoor culture.

Otis has done more running around and visited more parks here than he ever did in the UK. Which has helped him meet more friends than he could ever have hoped to in his time here.

Given the year he had in lockdown, the impact on him has been huge.

And that’s why we should encourage sport to be played as much on the streets as in the parks and schools. Because sport adds to communities in ways that makes communities.

Let the wall be culture’s best inspiration and competitor.



It’s Not A Revelation When You’re Late To The Party …

I’m back.

And I had a great, great birthday.

Hopefully, so did Jill and Paul.

And to make sure you don’t feel left out, you also get a present – and that’s the present of only having 2 blog posts this week.

You’re welcome.

That said, my great birthday was ruined when someone sent me this …

What the absolute fuck.

I mean … come on.

H2H.

H 2 bloody H.

It’s a bit like when Mondelez announced they were all about humaning or something.

Why is this a big thing to them?

Who the fuck did they think they were talking to before?

What makes it even funnier is that it appears they don’t seem to realise what this announcement says about who they really are.

Imagine what clients or staff think?

“Hey, we have gone from looking at you as emotionless, automated, programmable bots to now valuing your emotional needs. Which we have created a framework, playbook and eco-system to manage seamlessly and profitably”.

And yet I bet they still call their customers, ‘consumers’.

While I’m happy that big brands are starting to understand that people are not simply walking wallets to bestow even more ‘bonus bucks’ on their senior management, I don’t hold out much hope their work will get much better given it’s 2021 and they’ve just worked this out.

Seriously, for all the knowledge, research and information so many big companies have at their disposal, it’s frightening how much of the basics they simply don’t even understand.



The Birthdays Covid Took Away …
June 10, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Birthday, Jill, New Zealand, Otis, Paul

So I’m not here today.

Or tomorrow.

Or Monday.

Or Tuesday.

Or even Wednesday.

I know … I’ve been at Colenso 5 minutes, and I’m already taking some time off. But you see, it’s my birthday Saturday. Then Jill’s on Tuesday and Paul’s on Wednesday and I want to put in the energy into them that Covid took away.

My birthday last year was a weird one.

The good bit was that I got to be with my beloved family – and Paul and Shelly made a surprise visit [that I know absolutely won’t be happening this year] – and my old, wonderful team at R/GA got me a goat for a present [really!] … but it still was very different to what had been planned.

We were planning on all going to Spain.

Having a party by the sea.

And while what I ended up having was lovely and special … it wasn’t in Spain or by the sea.

What also made my birthday reality even more different to the original plan was when I received an SMS from a couple of the senior management at work asking me to immediately deal with a pretty shitty situation.

Despite knowing I was on holiday and knowing it was my birthday, they still asked me to deal with something of their own making that – to make matters worse – could have been dealt with weeks earlier or days later.

But even that couldn’t ruin the day and given it’s been a year since that happened – and only good has occurred since then – I want to make sure this birthday is one where we celebrate it with all the attention, compassion and focus we wished for that original day.

Of course it won’t be exactly the same – especially as we’re now living in NZ whereas Paul is in the UK – but it is going to be one where we get to celebrate all being in a happier, healthier, more enjoyable and fulfilling place and as birthday presents go, that’s almost as good as getting a video from ‘the Hoff’.

So to me. My wonderful, brilliant, beautiful wife. And my best, best friend in the whole wide world. Happy, happy birthday.

Here’s to us and to you.

You make every moment and every birthday worthwhile.

I hope we will all be together again soon.

Love you all.



We Don’t Work …

I know the world has been affected by COVID.

I know most people are working from home rather than offices.

But … but … look at these results from WeWork:

I’ve written a lot about WeWork in the past.

I even worked with one of the founders in their early days at Wieden.

And there was even an occasion where they were talking to us at R/GA.

In every one of those encounters, I never understood why they referred to themselves as a tech company. Actually let me rephrase that. I did understand why they wanted to be seen as a tech company as it would mean their valuation would probably be even more ridiculous … but the way they talked about themselves in the early days – and the thing they were doing to make it real – meant they could still be something very powerful and influential if they’d just stuck with their path.

But they didn’t, which is why with Q1 results like that, it would appear their version of being a tech company was to be like Microsoft Vista.

Big hype.

But a terrible, terrible, terrible experience.

Which all goes to show that many in the investment community don’t make decisions on identifying new opportunities, but on being scared of being left behind.

Like most brand planning.



Why Tears Show Leadership …

A few weeks ago, in a supermarket in New Zealand, there was a terrible incident where a man entered a store in Dunedin and stabbed people.

While no one fortunately died and the assailant was apprehended, the reality is there were a number of people’s lives that were changed forever – specifically a number of the staff who were working at the Countdown store at the time.

Obviously this would be news anywhere in the world, but in New Zealand – a place where there is an overall feeling of safety and humanity – it’s a major story.

When the manager of the store – Kiri Hannifin – appeared on the nightly news … rather than present herself in the emotionless, beige voice of the corporate mission statement, she did something different …

She cried.

Not the fake tears of Matt Hancock … but real, raw emotion.

She was devastated her colleagues had been hurt.

She was distraught she felt she had let them down because as their manager, she believed her job was to protect them.

She was tormented that the pain of the tragic events would be felt by families throughout the community.

At a time where so many companies look at employees who express their emotions and feelings as weak or a pain-in-the-arse … the honesty of Kiri Hannifin was a welcome change, despite it being born from such a horrible reason.

In addition, the comments that accompanied her interview were almost entirely positive – which compared to the tsunami of hate that tends to follow good news stories in the UK and US – brought some hope from a tragic situation.

While I don’t know her, Kiri Hannifin appears to be a brilliant human and a brilliant manager. And Countdown – which is, let’s not forget, a supermarket – seems to value and employ people who value people.

So to all those companies who want to ‘connect’ to the public, maybe you need to hire more people like Kiri rather than faceless execs who are media-trained to within an inch of their life.