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

How to ensure I’m never your boss …
August 10, 2012, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment

1. Send me a short email that basically says:

“I want to work at W+K, are there any jobs?”

2. Send me a long email telling me you’re the best thing since sliced bread and that I “need you” in my team.

3. Say you know all about China/Asian culture. Worse, say you know all about China/Asian culture despite having never even visited there.

4. Blame your company &/or clients for not having anything interesting you can show me.

5. Take all the credit for the work you’ve been a part of.

6. Tell me “you have learnt everything you need to know” in your current job, despite having only been in the industry 2 years.

7. Only talk about planning. Or advertising. Or planners. Especially planners.

8. Say you blend science with creativity despite having never studied science.

9. Talk about all the cool shit you know.

10. Act like you are entitled to work at W+K.

11. Say you’re not looking for a job and that you’re really happy and successful where you are – despite writing to me saying you want a job.

12. Never ask me to introduce/endorse you to one of my friends/colleagues at another agencies when I’ve never worked with you or seen anything you’ve done.

13. Please don’t ever – and I mean NEVER – use the term ‘digital ninja’ or ‘Rockstar’ in my presence, unless for ironic reasons.

14. Don’t show me a wonderful strategic presentation that ended up having absolutely zero influence on the final work.

15. Act like we’re best pals when I’ve never even spoken to you. I know I’m a fairly casual person – but my friends have earned the right to be cheeky bastards to me. You haven’t.

I hope that’s cleared up things because I know many of you live in total fear of accidentally ending up working with me.

In all seriousness, while I know I come from Nottingham, like Queen and wear Birkenstocks, the reality is I quite being treated with a bit of politeness and respect. That doesn’t mean you have to be subservient or overly formal … but if you act like your shit doesn’t stink, then you can be pretty sure I’ll inform you that it does.

But more than that, if you approach me in any of the ways I’ve listed above, then you’re demonstrating you don’t have – or at least aren’t showing – any of the attributes I hold most highly in a planner which means you will have basically failed the interview before I even had the chance to turn you down.

I know this post might make me look like a cock, but quite frankly, I don’t give a fuck.

I will happily try and help whoever I can.

I will happily spare the time for whoever wants it.

But as I believe the foundation of good planning is all about empathy, humanity & communication [mischief, ingenuity, opinion & action being the other traits] … then if you don’t relate to that, I’m the last person you should be talking to, let alone working with.

Rant over.


69 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Firm but fair. It’s the only way.

Comment by Chris

I tried at least 10 of those things and I still ended up working with you. What did I do wrong?

Comment by Billy Whizz

You dealt exclusively with Andrew and we trusted his judgment. You helped teach us a valuable lesson moving forward Billy. Thank you.

Comment by George

You know you’ve made it when the nicest man in advertising slags you off. Well done Billy.

Comment by DH

Correction. You know you’ve made it when someone from the “do no evil” happy factory slags you off.

That’s even more prestigious Billy.

Comment by DH

So what you’re saying is I was inspirational.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Interesting recruitment strategy you have there Robert.
Based on previous conversations, I believe you haved forgotten to mention a significant point. “Don’t approach me about a job if you have not made some effort to learn some aspects of Chinese and Asian culture.”
Am I correct? I should be, I would not want to pay someone a senior salary for junior knowledge.

Comment by George

Yes, that’s a very, very good point. I can’t believe I forgot to mention it given how often I bitch about it.

Comment by Rob

Just for you reference Rob, writing 15 different ways job applicants piss you off overshadows your “I’m happy to talk to anyone” claims.

Comment by DH

Just so you know Rob, being a cheeky bastard to you doesn’t mean we’re friends.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Just so you know, I don’t really care.

Comment by Rob

You’re not fooling anyone.

Comment by DH

That’s me doomed again, but I think you should have treated Andy’s request with a little more empathy.

Even if he didn’t push the key buttons of championing dire music and downplaying dress-sense.

Comment by John

You’re not doomed John, there’s still time to do one of those 15 pointers to be safe from working with Rob. Trust me, it’s worth doing. I spent 4 years working in his vicinity and needed 3 years of calm to get over it.

Comment by DH

Why the sensitivity about the term rockstar? Oh right. Forget I asked.

Comment by John

Point #16. Don’t talk to me about Rick Astley or Billy Ocean.

Comment by DH

Or the smiths, but for different reasons.

Comment by DH

Don’t forget that other 80’s has been, never was. Terrence Trent D’arby. Shit name. Shit songs.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I’m not biting …

Comment by Rob

I can hear you grinding your teeth from here.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Very droll John. Very droll.

Comment by Rob

I don’t know why some people call you grumpy. All firm but fair points though.

Comment by Bazza

It’s not about being grumpy, it’s about stopping people acting like fuckwits and missing out on opportunities they may deserve. OK, it’s a little bit grumpy as well.

But they started it.

Comment by Rob

You have to earn the right to be arrogant. You have. It appears the people who have been contacting you, haven’t.

Comment by Lee Hill

I should state I do not think you are being arrogant by the way. Earning the right doesn’t mean you have to be and underneath all your grumpiness, there is a kind and generous gentleman.

Comment by Lee Hill

Sssssssssh. It’s supposed to be a secret.

Comment by Rob

We both know who taught us that view.

As for having earned the right? I don’t think so – especially when the benchmark is Mr High Achiever.

Comment by Rob

You haven’t even earned the right to be left alone in a shoe store.

Comment by DH

That is a very good point. Nor a gadget store, fashion shop or iTunes account. No wonder no one would actually want to work with me, I’m not that keen on it either.

Comment by Rob

So many people think that you need to be arrogant to get into the industry. However ten minutes with us and they piss everyone off by acting that way.

To be honest if people approach you in those ways then they probably haven’t actually spent much time reading your blog or understanding how you work.

I bet Andy agrees with rule 7!

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

Andy used to ask this question to new candidates regarding how long they’d known their best friend. If it was less than 2 years, he would basically write them off because despite how he appears, loyalty was a massive thing to him and if he felt there was a flippancy in your human relationships, there was an issue in terms of teamwork. It was extreme, but he had a point and I suppose one of the other issues is people don’t want to earn their success, just get the shortcut to it.

I get it – totally – but being in a position of cred [based on your own views, not what you’ve copied from someone else: seems to result in a much better foundation for a career … even though I know there’s countless examples that prove this is not always right.

Comment by Rob

why did you not write this post in 2010…damn! been there, made a few of those mistakes, i am sure…
i am curious…what made you write this post this enlightening and amusing post?
the traits you mention if anyone has them that person is likely to good at many things…but they are rather rare…you must have a hard time hiring people…
what/who is a digital ninja?

Comment by swati

Just an amalgamation of a bunch of things Swati.

As for what is a digital ninja? Well, in my experience it’s someone who mistakes this industry about internal image rather than external substance.

Comment by Rob

i’d also add… digital ninja’s create word mashups to confuse clients into believing they are geniuses.

Scene 1
INT: A corporate boardroom

A bunch of white, middle-aged men in suits sitting around a table. They don’t wear ties because this is a “workshop” session. A half empty platter mixed sandwiches in the middle of the table. Many flip-charts attached to every wall with words scribbled on them. Lot’s of whiteboard markers and cards scattered around the table. The sound of a projector screen humming. On the screen, a venn diagram.

Client Guy 1: So…


… it’s an app?

Digital Ninja is at the front of the room dressed in ripped Diesel jeans with wallet chain, Gola sneakers and a vintage tee he bought at DUMBO Flea Market. He is 45 years of age. He never loses grip of the iPhone in his right hand and his blackberry (work supplied) in his left.

Digital Ninja (speaking with authority): Technically no but seen literally yes. What we’re proposing is to progress the campaign forward by fragmenting the user touch points into a series of optimised transmediumental experiences that will engage users across a variety of neurological brand impressions that have been built upon a number of years of exposure, creating brain links that are communicated through a portal we are calling the “Brandal”.

(silence in the room)

Client Guy 2: I think this is great. I can see this is something no-one else is doing right now.

Digital Ninja: You’re right, whilst others are doing similar things, including one of the my other clients I presented this exact concept to the other week, no one in your category is pushing it all the way as you will with the Brandal.

Client 3: What about Facebook? Will we be able to integrate the Brandal with that?

Digital Ninja (not sure): I’m sure we can.

Client 1: We should definitely arrange for you to present this to the NPD guys. I think they’ll see some benefits for their work too.

Digital Ninja: Sure, we can do another 6 hour workshop similar to this for another $5,000. I am available every day, strangely. We can call the day NPD Brandalisation Workshop.

Client 1: Brilliant. Let’s lock that in now with Mary and the team.

The clients all exhale, lean back in their seats and look around at one another, pleased. There is a real sense of excitement in the room surrounding the Brandal.

The Digital Ninja smiles and then activates his teleportation app on his iPhone as a way to exit the room in a ninja like state.

He moves clumsily to a corner of the room and hides behind a plastic plant.

The clients watch him do this but say nothing. They can actually still see him hiding.

The Digital Ninja waits there.

After a short while, the clients all look at one-another and decide the meeting must be over. They gather up their pens and folders and leave. Some take a few of the leftover sandwiches.

The Digital Ninja waits for everyone to leave the room and then switches off the projector. Another successful sell-in by the Digital Ninja!!!

Comment by Age

You haven’t written a comment in a long, long time. The last – if I remember – involved me, Sir Martin Sorrell and a parachute.

This isn’t as good as that but it is bloody awesome.

Thank you for ending an absolutely mental week on a high.

Comment by Rob

Age…this is beautiful, this in not a comment. it is art…i will never forget it…thank you

Comment by swatiti

*applauds Age*

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

very useful, looks like I’m doomed too.
Does the willingness to follow a ‘make cars’ and talk to strippers and hookers overide the mistakes laid out in your post?

Comment by northern

That overcomes all. Though turning down Andy was definitely a career limiting move.

Or do I mean career liberating???

Comment by Rob

As the vultures in the Jungle Book might say, “Aye, Don’t start that again”

Comment by northern

Who gives a *beep* about a career? And being successfull. It’s all bullshit. It does not make you happy. And a ‘career’ does not, on a profound level, make anyone else happy. There is absolutely no one in the business world to look up to. No. One. Dead or alive. And there should never be.
People have to respect other people regardless of their ‘status’ in life or whatever they have ‘achieved’. Let’s face it. What exactly have all these people and their shiny business careers achieved? Have they reduced suffering or have their actions and decisions increased it for life on this planet, even if the results will only fully unfold in the future. But I degress. Most people don’t even know how to spell respect. But why would they. Sycophant is enough.
To anyone reading this. Never say anything like this out loud. It would be the ultimate career suicide. Because you have to be ambitious and shit, of course. All about the right direction. Up!

Comment by Dang

“Never say anything like this out loud. It would be the ultimate career suicide”.

can we safely assume you are unemployed but morally superior to the rest of us who give a fuck about our career, because it reflects parts of us that we have the right (based on merit) to be proud of.

Because obviously you are walking your talk, hence you’ve killed your own career, right? right?


Comment by niko

You can assume all you want. I’m sure you have a lot you want to be proud of. Most interesting thing are these little balls of steel. I like how they reflect parts of me I could be proud of.

Comment by Dang

What the fuck are you on about???

Comment by niko

+1 Niko… i feel like I’m in the Matrix talking to the Merovingian. Why is it that “intellectuals” are always the worst at communicating with others simply + with clarity?

Comment by Age

Dang, are you agreeing with Rob’s view about treating others with respect or not? I originally thought you weren’t then after a couple of paragraphs I thought you were and then after reading Niko’s comment, I am not sure.

I’m not judging, just seeking clarification, though I disagree there is no one in the business world (alive or dead) to look up to or that a career is of zero value.

Being only defined by your job may be sad but there are people who have helped many others with their career and through their career and to say otherwise is foolish.

Comment by Pete

Career is not my focal point. Whether people have helped others with it or not, is neither. When it comes to respect, it’s all in my comment. Open to interpretation, of course. I don’t think I can further clarify. There is no need either, I believe. As with many things, the answers lie in yourself.

Comment by Dang

Is it wrong to say that I am still not sure what your answer is?

Comment by Pete

Hi Dang … how are you?

I’m not sure if you are slagging me off or not – and obviously you’re entitled to your opinion – but if you think I am asking people to be subservient to me, I’ve not explained myself properly because that’s the last thing I’d want … I just would like to be given a bit of respect, not for who I am or what I do [which I agree, count for absolutely nothing, especially in my case] but because I think all humans should be treated with a level of respect by others.

Anyway, I’d be interested to hear your comments.


Comment by Rob

I have no interest in slagging you off. Or anyone. If anything, it is actions and behavior. But fighting often comes at the price of poisoning yourself. And closing off the other. Though, actually, it is yourself, too. There might be times when that is the way to deal with things. For me, this is not it. I was not suggesting, just speaking my mind. Respect for people. Because they are. Realized or not.

Sucking up is no form of respect. It is disrespectful since selfish and exploitative. So is talking down. All on shallow grounds. Wasting time goes both ways. So, I agree with you.

Comment by Dang

Hi Dang, thanks for getting back to me. The bit I’m not quite sure of though is that it seems you’re suggesting that it’s better to either [1] do/say nothing or [2] simply remain passive to outside influence because that way nothing bad might happen.

Is that right or have I got the wrong end of the stick. Also, why does standing up for yourself mean bad things will happen? Good things can happen too. I’m just a bit confused and I’m really interested in making sure I understand your point.

Comment by Rob

I did not suggest that. But if you bring it up, I would – in the grand scheme of things, say yes to [1] and [2]. I’m long enough among the living dead to know that there are rules to the game you better live by. Standing up for yourself? Depends what that self is you want to stand up for. You have to function or you are bordering on being useless. “The less you are, the less you express your own life, the more you have, i.e., the greater is your alienated life, the greater is the store of your estranged being. Everything which the economist takes from you in life and in humanity, he replaces for you in money and in wealth; and all the things which you cannot do, your money can do. […] The worker may only have enough for him to want to live, and may only want to live in order to have that” (Marx). Mo Money, Mo Problems – Notorious B.I.G. As Erich Fromm paraphrased: Capital is dead; Being is alive; What’s more valuable. I am not a Marxist, by the way. Just the average intellectual.

Comment by Dang

Hi Dang, then I am very sorry that you feel that way because you’re potentially missing out on being able to do and achieve many amazing things – not just for others, but for yourself.

You seem to suggest that earning money is wrong but I would completely disagree. For me, it’s about how you earn it and what you do with it once you’ve got it … but the reality is money doesn’t just make the World go round, it can make many good things happen for people who would otherwise stand little chance.

Can there be more done?

Of course.

Is it wrong to only be focused on ‘wealth creation’?

In my mind, yes.

But being passive when your actions could help others seems as bad as people who only act in their own best interests.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it appears you’ve been badly burnt by someone in the past, but if you feel your view works for you, then who am I to criticise.

Comment by Rob

There is no need to be sorry. I am not missing out on anything. No worries. I am neither suggesting that earning money is wrong. I consider myself a liberal leftist, if I must, and if that helps to nail things down. It probably helps the confusion more. However, I am not a fan of philantrophy. No karma points there when wealth distribution is the issue to avoid suffering. But this is becoming a political debate. Not the right place. Also, I have not been badly burned. Just looking around is ugly enough.

Comment by Dang

You have some views that I find very interesting, it would be great to discuss them sometime simply because I am confused about your view that there is incredible unfairness in the World yet you feel individual actions to try and solve it – or at least alleviate it – aren’t good.

Maybe I’ve misunderstood [I’m good at doing that] but as I said, I’d welcome the chance to talk to you about it one day.

Comment by Rob

I am all for solving problems, not so much for alleviating, or streamlining them. What is good for a cause, might not be ‘good’ for an individual career. Depends very much on the environment. And in most cases I have seen, it’s being “caught in a f*cking web,” as Bill Hicks said. When the opportunity arises, I’m happy to talk. So long, I have to ensure I’m making some money to pay the bills. Thanks for the conversation.

Comment by Dang

i dont know who the fuck deng is but if theyre giving shit out, i fucking like them.

age. are you on fucking meths? keep it up, youre more enjoyable to be around.

campbell. nice to come back to a post where you’re being a petchulent bastard. makes me feel all fucking warm inside. i wont ruin it by reading all the other shit youve churned out while ive been winning the 2012 son in law competition because something tells me youve been taking advantage of my absence and been in full on wanker fucking planner mode.

no its not good to be back but i know youve all been pining for me like bieber groupies so selflessly ive decided to grant you with my inspirational presence.

now im going to shower in acid and drink some johnnie w to get the filthy feeling of this blog out my skin.

Comment by andy@cynic

Like you’ve never been away … except there was a mild compliment in there for me.

Comment by Rob

I really like your list of attributes for a planner.

I could argue that ’empathy’ and ‘humanity’ overlap a fair bit.
So I’d replace ‘humanity’ with ‘curiosity’ to make up the top three. If you’re not curious, you don’t question why things are they way they are. And acceptance isn’t a good place to start if you want to change things.

But I really love your inclusion of ‘mischief’. I’m a firm believer in fundamental boat-rocking, but ‘mischief’ implies doing it with an impish sense of humour. It’s probably a lot more palatable than simply telling clients they’ve got it all back to front and that’s why it’s fucked up!

‘Ingenuity’ also suggests more simple, elegant solutions than just ‘cleverness’. Cleverness for its own sake is what’s killing planning. Cleverness tends to lead to obscurity. And obscurity is death in communications. It seems to stem from insecurity, which itself is built on a failure to understand what planning is really supposed to be. It seems to be quite widespread – especially in China.

And it combines with other, more visible symptoms of superficiality: a shallow obession with personal style for planners, based entirely on Apple products, designer eyewear and the latest cult brand of messenger bag.

Don’t even get me started on planners as ‘rockstars’; Stanley Pollitt looked like Billy Cotton, for God’s sake! He wore a crumpled, navy blue suit liberally dusted with fag ash and dandruff. And he mumbled a lot, even in presentations. Not quite the image today’s young planners seem keen to emulate.

On a cheerier, less ranty note, if your keep your eyes open, you learn something every day. So, thank you for today’s little something.

Comment by Ian Gee

Hi Ian …

You’re right, empathy and humanity are similar but for me, the way they are expressed – at least for a planner – are quite different.

Empathy is the ability to genuinely feel the issues, thoughts & considerations going on in people’s minds and then being able to pass that on to others in a way they too can truly resonate with, as opposed to just hearing or seeing a bunch of words.

Humanity is the ability to try and drive ideas forward that can help the wider society as well as your clients business … something that I think Tesco’s ‘Computers For Schools’ is still one of the great examples of.

Of course they overlap, but I prefer that to ‘curiosity’ … not because it isn’t important, but because it’s a trait that lies within all, even though planners seem to like to indulge themselves in thinking they are the only ones who have it – despite the fact lawyers, police officers, surgeons, teachers [to name but a very few] have more of it and use more of it on a daily basis.

As for the other things, I’m glad you like them … maybe I’m just trying to legitimise traits I was once accused of having [and not always in a positive sense] but when I read what many planners claim are ‘the signs of greatness’, I worry that we’re fast running towards the apocalypse. But then I am an old man, so what do I know.

Comment by Rob

Re-reading your post, I realise that I am a victim of:

“a shallow obession with personal style for planners, based entirely on Apple products, designer eyewear and the latest cult brand of messenger bag.”

My only saving grace is my ‘personal style’ is more bin man than catwalk model. Will you forgive me?

Comment by Rob

I’ll buy your argument about humanity versus curiosity. Especially when looking for wider beneficial outcomes.

Back in the early 90s, I got Shell in Australia to launch a new ‘flavour’ of petrol with half the lead content, on the basis that older cars which still needed to use leaded fuel didn’t actually need as much as they were adding. Within six months of them introducing it, the levels of airborne lead pollution in Sydney dropped by 35%. (And they gained market share, so they were happy.) Still proud of my part in that.

And if you think you’re old, I’m in deep trouble! If Madmen reaches 1972, I qualify for a role as a junior art director!

The comment about style wasn’t aimed at you. Birkenstocks don’t really fit the bill, do they?

It was based on a planner from O***vy that I met in Tokyo a couple of years back. He had the lot, and looked like he came from a Swedish boyband via Silicon Valley. Eyewear, facial hair, clothing, big bag, Macbook Pro – the full ‘uniform’.

He was presenting a digital campaign idea to Unilever for Lux shampoo. And in true ‘digital ninja’ style, presented a massively complicated, three phase idea richly basted in techno-babble. All well and good, but it was for a campaign that had to be executed in the next two weeks, with zip budget. Poor bastard never stood a chance …

Comment by Ian Gee

Birkenstocks keep me real.

Or as real as a man in Birkenstocks can be.

Comment by Rob

To my mind planners should never be the rockstars. We are the producers turning a song into something that people will enjoy hearing. Or a bassist providing rhythmn and funk to a tune. Or some other musical metaphor. Just not rockstars. Never rockstars.

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

I like that you’re saying bass players can never be rockstars. That’s the best comment I’ve ever heard.

Comment by Rob

I exclude Phil Lynott from that as he sang and was a badass, and maybe Trevor Horn. But Sting, he is no rockstar.

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

Bill Wyman begged to differ: “Si, Si, je suis un rockstar!”

Maybe planners are more like drummers? (Those people that like to hang out with the musicians …)

Comment by Ian Gee

[…] venía la frase de Dan a la cabeza cuando leía un post de Rob Campbell, director de planificación estratégica en Wieden + Kennedy en Shanghai, en el que explicaba qué […]

Pingback by Jot Down Cultural Magazine | Give a damn

Leave a Reply