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

How Not To Get A Job In Mainstream Adland …
March 27, 2007, 9:00 am
Filed under: Comment

Lipfird Twins

Following Marcus’ post about too many people mirroring their icons rather than expressing their own views … I got thinking and realised that while this industry talks about embracing varieties of opinion, in reality it tends to rely on ‘safe intelligence’ – which is possibly why so many people trying to get into the industry say what they think the person opposite them wants to hear, rather than what they truly believe.

And hey, who can blame them.

Even with my track record at some of the most recognised creative greatest agencies in the World, there was a period in my working life where I couldn’t get a job for love nor money … and without doubt, the main reason was because I expressed opinions that were dramatically different to the management of the agencies I was seeing. [I was labelled a ‘trouble maker’ – best compliment I’ve ever had!]

Sure it all worked out in the end because I started cynic [as opposed to selling out my principals and joining an agency with a ‘name’ but no vision] but there was a time where I got so despondent, I started regretting having only worked at ‘maverick’ agencies … when in reality what HHCL, Mother and Crispins had taught me was the importance of seeking, encouraging and embracing all forms of opinion – because with insight [and a chunk of intelligent bravery] you could move the culture not just the category.

Magnifying glass 

Anyway, for what it is worth, I thought I’d write about what I look for in a colleague and what I think we are expected to do as professional comms people. I have no idea if it will help anyone – and I acknowledge my ‘criteria’ may be quite different to what others seek – but I just want to encourage people to be true to themselves, not just the ‘trends’ being spouted by the planners in the blogging community.

From my point of view, there are 4 things more important than practical experience or excessive intellectualism [ha!]

1 Empathy [the ability to truly relate and understand the needs/wants/fears/loves etc of people – not just the specific consumer category]

2 Ingenuity [the ability to discover new ways to do/explore/prove/understand ‘stuff’]

3 Opinion [having one – preferably because of what you’ve done in numbers 1 and 2]

4 Action [doing stuff, rather than just saying stuff]

I like people who have lived life – not just a lifestyle – people who have experienced highs, lows, crap jobs, great jobs … stuff other than JUST advertising!  Of course academic knowledge of adland is valuable – but interms of relating to a Mum with 3 kids who survives on $100 per week, it can often be more of a hindrance than a strength.

We recently hired an ex-IKEA Children’s bed designer and made him a planner because he knew more about kids than any researcher or ad person we’d ever met. Sure he was nervous about joining because he wasn’t sure if what he said would be relevant – but our view was [and is] that he’d soon learn if he spoke bollocks [we’re not backward at being forward] and in all likelihood, he’d be teaching us really interesting stuff which is always a joy.

I should also point out I believe our job IS to make clients richhowever I believe success comes from understanding and appreciating the masses which is why I encourage my teams to always look for ways that can/will motivate people to act in our clients short AND long term interests [short term = sales / long term = brand value] whilst also adding some REAL benefit to them. My attitude is that motivating ideas are out there, you just have to have the ability to see them, understand them and action them.

At the end of the day, success in communication is about being relevant and resonant – which is why I like people who are human beings who happens to work/want-to-work in adland, rather than adpeople who happen to frequent in humanland

If you want to be a management consultant then go learn the a bunch of ‘business terms’, if you want to be a planner, then go and live life and then tell me what you know and think.

Power from the people to give it back to the people …

57 Comments so far
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thanks Rob, and you know why.

Comment by Age

This is a post that is close to my heart. It’s easy to cut and paste words. Not so easy to live by them.

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Comment by charlesfrith

Hi Robert! I have been faithfully following your blog ever since we had the collaboration between Professor Mark Chong’s (I owe him a big debt!)class and Sony. First, I would like to thank you for granting us that opportunity to be of a contribution towards a commercial project. It was definitely an eye-opener and it has pathed the way for me to learn more about strategic planning. I love the fact that you ascribe strongly to the power of observation where we could discover insights to connect with people on a “different” level, rather than just bombarding them ad nauseum with crap! You mentioned, a few times throughout different postings, that you like people who have lived life. Does that tend to have a correlation with age? For example, an older person probably has lived life more than a younger person? I am just perplexed at how one, without having an appropriate coressponding age, could convince another as having lived life? Does that mean, somehow, that younger candidates stand a lower chance for jobs slated in planning? Please enlighten. =) Thanks!

Comment by Darryl Fam

Hi Darryl, I’m sure Rob will reply, meanwhile let me take a crack at answering your query.

I work with Rob and am decidedly not old, so I think what Rob means by having ‘lived life’ is someone who has experienced more than one facet of life.

Even if you were only a teenager, the one who’s played truant failed in exams and come back to do well (or dropped out to do what he/ she loves), if you’ve spent his spare time working at Starbucks(may not be for the money) or volunteered time for a charity, or maybe had a hobby and went about convincing the university officials and actually created a club for it… I think you get the drift, he’s referring to people who DID things that were beyond their ‘scope’ as it were. So you don’t have to be old to be a planner (being bald apparently helps though, ha)

Comment by Hari

Hi Age … yes, I did think of you when I was writing this.

And Charles, please don’t think I am making myself out to be some revolutionary – far from it – at the heart of what I do is idealism: the desire to do what is right for the masses because I still believe that they can then make everything right for my clients. It’s about mutual admiration and respect, not one-sided arrogance and greed.

Finally Darryl, I think Hari has answered most of what I would say. Age [the number, not the blogger, ha!] has little to do with it – sure the older you are, the more experiences you could have had [but even that’s not a certainty] but it’s more about your attitude to life and how you go about living it.

I’m not suggesting I only would hire a teenage drop out who has been a drug addict and convicted criminal … just I like people who have tried stuff – things that have worked out, things that failed, things that seemed like a good idea at the time – travel, music, film, comedy, ANYTHING other than just living a life where the World was 50 feet square from where you sleep at night.

Does that help? Probably not …

Put it this way, Bazza – a planner who works for us – was especially appealing because at age 16, he decided he wanted to meet the CEO/Leaders of any company/organisation that was impacting his life. [He still can’t tell us why he wanted to do this, he just did]

Anyway, at SIXTEEN, he wrote letters to a whole host of people including Steve Jobs, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandella and Tony Blair … and you know what, he met them all.

Every one of them.

And they paid for his flight.

Then he got a job at Apple, as a global ‘insight guy’ … not because he said what Jobs wanted to hear, but because he said what Jobs was interested to hear.

Sure, that is an extreme view of living a life – but it is certainly a life less ordinary and his age had nothing to do with what he achieved, cheekiness and downright ‘balls’ was the conduit to his success.

Comment by Rob

That… is an amazing story, Rob. Wow.

Comment by Age

I so wish you hadn’t written WOW at the end of your comment – you’ll see why tomorrow, ha!

Comment by Robert

Excellent post building on Marcus’ equally excellent one.

Maybe the “lived life” aspect can be summed up by saying that it’s about living your own life as opposed to living someone else’s life. This means that you must hear (and learn to listen to) your inner calling and act on it, whatever it may be, wherever it may take you. Too many people today lead their lives guided by a sort of virtual template made up of the expectations they perceive society has of them. Sad but painfully obvious.

The Bazza story is really inspirational.

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

You’re so right Fred, it is about living your life – but having your eyes, ears and brain open to other people’s viewpoints and experiences so that you can broaden your mind [rather than copy their views] and form better opinions about what is going on in your – and everyone elses – lives.

As for Bazza … he’s South African so he is naturally bolshy, haha!

Comment by Rob

I like this post.

Comment by Marcus Brown

Does this mean I am cool?

Comment by Bazza

What Marcus said.

Comment by NP

Marcus, I am glad you like this post – though I have noticed you are becoming the man of few words … what is going on???

And Barry, you know I love you, but you met a bunch of heads of state, a consumer electronics visionary and a couple of popstars – it wasn’t exactly Jemma Jameson was it – so bad luck, you are still not officially ‘cool’ – just a top, smart bloke who is rather height challenged.

Comment by Rob

NP … are you THAT busy that all you can ever write is “What XXX said”?

You’ve used it so much recently, it’s becoming your trademark!

Anyway, I hope you are well – and I hope even more you start writing again because it’s a damn site more interesting than the 3rd division twaddle I keep putting out!

Comment by Rob

You’ve made me sound like a bloody dwarf.

Comment by Bazza

Had he met Jenna Jameson there’s no way in hell that I would want to take back my use of the word “wow”.

Comment by Age

You are not a dwarf Bazza … if you were, you’d be in a David Lynch movie rather than working for us!

Comment by Robert

Andy … on the other hand … HAS met Jemma [another one of his ‘would you like to be in an ad’ dinners] and I once spoke at SEXPO [the sex industries ‘business conference’ … my Mum was so proud] though I spent most of my time talking to the millionaire ‘film company owners’ rather than any ‘ladies of dodgy-repute’.

Just my luck … ha.

Comment by Robert

jenna jameson is a girl with big tits who gets her kit off – not worthy of wow. actually, maybe she is if “wow factor” is actually an indicator of old, tired, boring and way out of date.

Comment by lauren

I’ve got some mpegs that’ll make you say “wow!”


Comment by Age

Nothing, nothing. Everything is fine. What do you want me to go on about? I’ll go on about it. Jesus.

Comment by Marcus Brown

Age, that is single handidly the best reply EVER

Comment by Rob

Jemma may have fake boobies and get her kit off at the drop of a hat, but I’m sorry Lauren, you can’t call her old, her breasts were brand new just last week.

Comment by Pete

Rob, what’s your email?

Comment by Will

ha! nice one pete…

Comment by lauren

Hi Will …

… please don’t send it to the spam community, we already are the home for all their shite, ha!

Comment by Robert

youre the princess diana of advertising

Comment by andy@cynic

Better than being the Hannibal Lecter, Andy.

Nicer legs for a start!

Comment by Rob

Darn, wish i’d met Bazza now.

I agree with the sentiment, and I think thats why people respect you (all).

I remember in A levels, I helped to put on a charity event (a talent night for teachers). The girl organising it couldnt get anyone to sign up. So I made a poster which loudly stated that “Teachers were chickens” and put it up all over the staff areas…

Not only did it get a couple of people signed up, but it got teacher to actively help us organise is. It was so successful that we had to break fire safety rules, and people climbed on the roof to watch it.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Hi Rob, those words in my comments are the words for Apple’s think different commercial. I don’t know where you see greed and arrogance in them. They’re about principles. Principles gave me the courage to leave HHCL & Partners rather than hanging back two weeks for my yearly bonus. I’m sure you’d appreciate that.

Comment by charlesfrith

Now thats courage…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Well done Rob … it just needs insight and bravery to make things happen. Now when the hell is an agency going to come to their senses and let you do it on a bigger scale?


Hi Charles …

Please know I wasn’t saying the Apple ‘Think Different’ campaign had arrogance and greed in it … far from it … I just wanted to make sure people knew the comments I make on this blog are what I really, truly believe – it’s not me putting on some ‘persona of revolution’ to try and look abit cooler to whoever reads this blog. [I’m not very cool at all, I think we all know that!]

Apple had every right to take on a ‘revolutionary stance’ because in their category, what they thought/said/did was dramatically different to convention … however I don’t believe what I think is revolutionary at all … its just the industry has become so stale – so happy to follow the status quo – that anyone who questions what is going on is instantly deemed a ‘trouble maker’.

I guess the issue is that people who worked at HHCL in their heyday, feel differently about how to do stuff – and in todays climate, that means people can quickly categorise you as nothing more than a ‘Shock Merchant’ and I just wanted to make sure you knew my intentions were honourable.

Comment by Rob

Oh, and I totally relate to leaving your job before getting your bonus.

When I resigned from HHCL [to chase a woman I’d met all the way to Australia] Rupert Howell looked at me in total shock, with the main astonishment being focused on 2 areas …

1. Why would I leave my job and country for a woman who I’d only known 6 weeks. [Which was a fair question I guess.]

2. Why I would want to leave just a few months away from bonus time. [Which was another fair question I guess.]

However, unlike you Charles, principals weren’t the reason I left, it was raging hormones! ha.

Comment by Rob

Soon I hope!
I like to think I helped save the event by slagging off the teachers and making them feel guilty 😀

Rob: Was that woman Jill?

Funny really, as if Kevin Roberts said 5years ago what he said this month he’d be seen as a shock merchant; but now he just seems a bit behind.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I know some dubious things about Mr Roberts from when I worked at Saatchis.

Sisomo as a principle makes sense. Though it does strike me as being a little obvious.

Rob – you really chased a woman and quit your job? Nice.

Comment by Will

I moved to Germany because of a woman. Still here. Different woman now, mind.

Bloody Hormones.

Comment by Marcus Brown

I think thats what happened with his speech Will.

It sounded nice and polished and convincing, then 10 minutes later your brain goes, ‘hang on a minute…’

Comment by Rob Mortimer

No it wasn’t Jill … but I don’t regret it as it got me to Jill.

And we shouldn’t forget, Jill followed me to Asia after only knowing her a few weeks.

Mental …

As for Kevin Roberts – I am sorry, I hate his ‘Sisomo’ bollocks, mainly because it’s established common sense wrapped up in marketing hype which is exactly the same as LoveMarks and every other bit of rubbish he spouts.

[NEWSFLASH: Consumers control the brand. No fucking shit sherlock!]

Visionary? My mother has more vision than him.

Comment by Rob

Rob – exactly.

And I bet your mum makes a better cup of tea than him.

Comment by Will

She’s Italian … only coffee allowed, ha!

Comment by Rob

Isnt Sisomo a brand of coffee maker?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

No … I think they actually make Humble Pies.

Comment by Rob

Still, would be good to hear some more comments from the Cynic lot on my blog!

The more I get the more likely I am to be invited back!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Hello mate … just sent an email to the mob to get them to comment on your blog about FMS

Comment by Rob


Comment by Rob Mortimer

Oi Campbell. Less of the false modesty. What you write is great and you know it is.

Maybe I’m getting a bit lazy, but there’s not much to add to what you said.
I worked in place where you toed the line or else – so naturally I was, ahem, enouraged to leave.
I now work in a place that is neither cool, famous or has many brands most people would work on. But they let be be myself, I can fail in my own way – and I can walk into the MD’s office and tell him whay I think he’s talking bollocks.
That means quite a lot. That’s why your post was good.
Keep it up.

Comment by NP

Rob, I can’t think of a better reason than a woman for throwing it all in and upping sticks. Ironically I was trying to get the hell away from a woman at HHCL. On reflection I should have toughed it out a couple more weeks and scooped the lolly 🙂

Not everything you write on this Blog I agree with, but for frankness it’s the undisputed champ. Now that’s WOW refreshing if Coke are stuck for words. Reminds me of a much loved Liptons Tea campaign in Australia come to think of it. Refreshing honesty.

Comment by charlesfrith


That would make a great Coke campaign…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

NP – I really appreciate your comment and I’m not trying to be all modest, it means a lot because I think you’re a top, smart bloke and even when you don’t agree with my views [just like Charles and everyone else who comes here], I know you’ll tell me why that is the case and I really appreciate it.

My view is that a blog shouldn’t be some mutual-appreciation society, it should be a forum to express opinions / views / thoughts … and as long as it is done with the right intentions [unlike lifeinthemiddle’s ‘blogwash’ monstrosity] then all of us should be happy.

Finally … and you may not like this bit … I am glad you are happy where you are working, I am glad you feel you can be true to yourself, I am glad the dialogue is free and easy, I am glad that you are sort of ‘falling upstairs’ interms of developing your skills through instinct, experience and mistakes – I just feel you are someone who could make a massive impact wherever you work and I just wish you were at a place that gave you all those comforts whilst also scaring you [interms of learning] and exposing you to clients and issues that would allow you to shine on a brighter stage. I appreciate this is not maybe what you want … but this industry is devoid of talent [I literally am gobsmacked when I see the standard of International Adland Director] and people like you need to be brought to the front, because you’ve got something to say and people do actually want to listen.

OK, that might have come out patronising and it certainly wasn’t meant to be, I just want you to know I reckon you are far smarter than you probably think and I hope you continue to shine and challenge wherever you go.

Fuck, I think I’d better stop before you tell me to piss off. I do hope you take this in the manner it is meant because it is said for the right reasons AND because you disagree with me at times, ha!

PS: Charles, was the woman you were trying to get away from Lou?

Comment by Rob

I’ll second that.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

given you all but gave np a blowjob in your complimentary prose, i am assuming this is another person you want on the dd list! stop spending my fucking bonus.

Comment by andy@cynic

Judging by the comments of people on here, you’ll probably leave before your bonus to chase some strange woman to Iceland…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

In Andy’s case, he’ll rush off to avoid paying his allimony, ha!

And NP hasn’t even come back to the blog so all these compliments could be in vain. Typical. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Haha, Andy and his passport collection!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

No, I wont say her name, she was an Austrian creative. Massively intelligent, hip and creative girl but one flaw that I couldn’t tolerate, she knows what that is. Funny thing was they fired her after I bailed out. If only they’d BLEEDIN’ TOLD ME of their intentions. Ah well c’est la vie … 🙂

Comment by charlesfrith

So Rob, would making silly mistakes in life be considered as living life too? Hmm..F*** sounds familiar…

And seriously considering to be your “Live” testimonial for your students…:)

Comment by Angela

Angela, if that’s what helps you get past your ‘career mistake’, then that’s OK with me, ha. Now come back in from the cold.

Comment by Rob

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