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

A Post From History …
March 20, 2013, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment

I’m writing this at 8am on Thursday, 21st February, 2013.

I know this isn’t the day it’s appearing on this blog, but let’s ignore that for now.

Last night, I couldn’t sleep.

Not because I’d consumed copious amounts of coffee the day before, but because I felt wired with energy.

OK, so maybe it was to do with the copious amounts of coffee.

But there were other reasons too .

On one side, I have a meeting in about 5 hours time that’s going to be ‘feisty as all fuck’ … something I’m actually very excited about, because it’s all for the right reasons and something that will [hopefully] lead to awesomeness being snatched from the jaws of conservative, fear-ridden, culturally-condecending defest.

On the other side, I have my trip with my Mum to North Poleland starting in 3 days and I just want everything to be awesome for her.

I know she’ll be happy with just the fact we’re all together, but she deserves the best of everything and I just want to make it happen.

So when I left for the office this morning, I felt very on edge … a combination of wired energy and sleep depravation … and then I stepped out to this:

I know what you’re thinking … WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT!?

Well, what it is, is a sign that after a long, cold, dark, bleak winter in Shanghai … spring is bounding towards me.

Blue sky.

Bitter wind replaced with a calm tranquility.

The suns golden glow gently warming up the grey pavements.

Suddenly Shanghai has become a better place to live.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Shanghai – and China – but I must admit, the winters here are pretty horrible. I know … I know … there are places with far worse winter months, but having spent 16 years living in sunny climates [places where winter meant 25 degrees instead of 35] living in a land where you might never feel the sun, let alone see it, is bloody hard to cope with.

First World problems eh!

OK, I know that makes me sound a petty, pampered Prince … but the fact is, I never realised how much the weather affected my mood but now I live in a place that genuinely has seasons again, I know it does – just ask my colleagues – ha.

But seriously, as soon as I stepped out from my front door and saw nature had put on a show for me … all the angst, nervousness, raw energy that was inside, slipped away to be replaced with a sense of positivity and happiness.

Yes, happiness … and I thought that was only possible for me if I had a gadget in my hand, some Queen music in my ears or some Birkenstocks on my feet!

[OK, so I had an iPhone in my hand because that’s what I took the photo with, but stop being picky … you know what I mean]

Of course, by the time this post is posted [ie: today] I’ll know whether this sense of optimism and happiness translated to me being successful in my feisty as fuck argument and North Pole holiday, but regardless of how they turn out [please, let them both be great!!!], the majesty of nature – that thing that is all around us if we just open our eyes and look up to the sky rather than down to our phones – made it a day worth writing about and that’s saying something for someone who recently got described by a client as “a tech groupie, prostitute”.

And yes, I do realise this is the most indulgent, hypocritical, z-grade Oprah post I’ve possibly ever written …



UPDATE: If you’re thinking this post wasn’t worth reading, I’ve now discovered it wasn’t even worth writing because I’d basically already said all this back in 2011.

Now I know how you must feel reading this rubbish.

Love Lasts …
March 19, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So I recently came across a wonderful love story.

A love story that needed just 3 minutes 37 seconds to convey all the emotions, history and experiences of two people’s lives together.

I should point out this love story wasn’t the contrived bollocks you read in Mills & Boon books nor the rose tinted bollocks you get from Hollywood – but a real, live, wonderful love story … full of happiness, pain, ups and downs.

In just 3 minutes, 37 seconds.

Before I get to it, I need to give you a bit of a background.

Two artists, Marina Abramovic and Ulay fell in love in the 1970s.

It was an intense relationship – where they spent all their time together, living in a van and performing their art wherever they found themselves.

However in the mid-80’s, they felt their relationship was coming to an end.

Rather than break up in an explosion of accusation and aggression .. they decided to end their relationship in flamboyant and dramatic style.

Each person went to the opposite end of the Great Wall of China – Ulay from the Gobi Desert, Marina from the Yellow Sea – and then walked towards eachother, all 2500km of it.

Eventually they met in the middle, where they gave eachother one last hug and then walked away … knowing they would never see each other again.

Told you it was dramatic.

Anyway, in 2010, Marina exhibited her ‘The Artist Is Present’ work at MOMA in NYC.

This consisted of her sharing a minutes silence with any stranger who sat in front of her.

Without her knowledge, Ulay arrived and this is what happened.

Isn’t that beautiful?

So much is said without being said.

OK, I know I’m ridiculously sentimental … but I just love that after almost 22 years, there was still an incredible amount of love and warmth between the two, maybe more than either of them ever imagined there would be or could be.

Of course I don’t mean it in the ‘in love’ sense, but in the ‘love and care’ sense.

Maybe this has something to do with the fact my dream has always been that the month before I die, I get to meet every person who has ever had a positive – and significant – impact on my life so I can say ‘thank you’ to them and ask how their life has been … or maybe it’s because I once experienced a semi-similar situation to the one Marina and Ulay went through.

When I was very young, I was in love with a girl called Helen.

We were at school together and though everyone knew I liked her and she liked me – nothing ever happened other than furtive glances, smiles and the odd bit of good-natured teasing.

Anyway, about 15 years later – when I was living in Sydney – I discovered she was there on her honeymoon.

I couldn’t let the chance pass, so I got in touch with her and not only did she remember who I was [thank god!], she wanted to catch up … so with a hint of nervousness and a dollop of curiosity, I set off to meet her and her husband [who I discovered was a guy we both went to school with]

She hadn’t changed.

Well, obviously she had – but her lovliness and beauty was still there.

Despite not seeing her for almost 2 decades, the warmth was obviously still there as well.

Not – I should add – in the ‘in love’ sense, but in the ‘care and love’ sense.

Anyway, I took them both out for a congratulatory dinner and half way through, her husband got up to use the bathroom.

It was then I took my chance to say something I had waited many, many years to say.

I told her how glad I was to see her.

I told her how I had always thought the World of her.

I told her how I had often wondered what she was up to.

I told her how she was one of the high points of my school days.

I should point I didn’t say this in a mass of emotions, I was very calm … in the way only a person who is [finally] at peace with who they are can be.

And you know what she did?

She grabbed my hand, burst into tears and repeated the words back to me.

All of them.

She was happy to see me.

She had always thought the World of me.

She had often wondered what I was up to.

I was one of the high points of her school days.

It was at this point her husband walked in.

I can’t imagine what he thought seeing his wife in tears, holding the hand of another man – a man he knew his wife had once liked because he was at school with us – but he was very cool about it.

And so he should be, because these weren’t the emotions of ‘long lost love’ speaking, but that of 2 people who had once cared deeply for each other, finally being able to express what they had held in for so many years.

It meant we finally ‘officially’ knew we had been important to each other and, more importantly, we would always remember each other because of that.

So while neither of us have ever seen or spoken to each other since, I feel that day we achieved connection & closure in the most beautiful of ways & for that, I am truly grateful.

Newton’s Law Of Motion 2.0
March 18, 2013, 6:13 am
Filed under: Comment

As I wrote a couple of years ago, every good thing has the potential of a dark side.

That doesn’t mean it should be stopped or banned, just viewed with the acknowledgement that those who speak loudest don’t necessarily represent either the majority or the truth.

Social media should be regarded as a starting point for exploration, not an end point for judgement … but sadly, in this fast-moving, instant gratification, convenience based society [encouraged by an ad industry that almost universally favours speed over quality, hype over substance and money over value] my views might be totally outdated.

Let’s face it, I am old, I am cynical and I am overly sentimental.

Planners Are Pathetic, Pointless & Other Words That Begin With The Letter ‘P’ …
March 15, 2013, 6:18 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Campaign Magazine

So there’s an age old debate whether planners are of any value to adland.

Despite being one for almost all my working life, I agree that there are a lot of things wrong with what modern day planning has become.

To be fair, this is less about the discipline and more about how some companies – and planners – work.

Sadly, too many view planning [and planners] as either a tool to charge clients incredible amounts for creating over–complicated, ultimately meaningless, powerpoint documents [mainly because they’ve sold the value of creativity down the river] or a license to act like they’re a cross between the second coming of Christ and Einstein.

And to those companies and planners, I say fuck you … because planning can contribute a lot to [commercial] creativity and all you’re doing with your actions is destroying its validity and credibility.

In my mind, our job is to perform 3 things:

+ Understand what’s really going on in the minds and heads of society. [Not the things they say, if anything, the things they’re not saying]

+ Identify the fundamental problem that we need to solve to liberate our clients potential. [Both now and in the future]

+ Stimulate, encourage & inspire our broader creative colleagues to be braver, bolder and more exciting in their response to the problem at hand.

That’s it.

Our job certainly doesn’t stop once the brief has been written … in fact, in some respects, that’s where it starts … and ‘planner’ certainly isn’t code for writing countless, pointless powerpoint documents.

Sure, writing and presenting is part of the job … but it’s purpose is to help drive better work, not encourage clients to be more closed-minded which is why I have this [admittedly stupid] view that if you write a presentation and people never refer back to it, you’ve contributed to the confusion, not clarity.

Anyway, a few months ago, someone wrote in to Campaign magazine slagging off planners.

Not just slagging them off, but character assassinating them.

OK, so some of the things they said were fair – at least in the context of the sort of planners who I think need a kicking [who in my book, should be called ‘Pretenders’ rather than ‘Planners’] – but I still was upset this sort of attitude was being expressed in such a condescending and generalistic tone.

Are some planners crap?


Do some planners add nothing except more obstacles?


Do some planners think they’re geniuses despite having never made anything other than a creative brief?


Do some planners confuse being interesting with saying [other people’s] interesting things?


Do some planners forget the creative teams are friends, not enemies?


Do some planners forget we are judged on the output, not the input?


But let me tell you, planners don’t hold the monopoly in that shit … there’s plenty of creatives, suits, MD’s and almost everyone in-between that have those same misguided, deluded, myopic opinions.

As do people in almost every industry from banking to policing.

So I decided I couldn’t let it pass.

Yes, I know it serves no purpose.

Yes, I know it won’t convince the doubters to change their opinion.

Yes, I know I am basically ‘biting’ to an idiots proclamations but, unlike research companies who seem to never stand up against idiots making a mockery of their industry, I think it’s important to fight for what you believe in when it is being openly challenged – even if you’re being challenged by a myopic fool who, for all I know, has only ever worked in a company that employs wannabe-geniuses who end up just writing complicated powerpoint documents no one reads to [1] justify their job [2] keep their delusions alive – which is why I wrote this:

Is it immature?

Errrrrm, of course it is – this is me we’re talking about – but daft views deserve equally daft responses so regardless of what happens, I feel I can look at myself in the mirror because I’ve stood up for what I believe … and as the old maxim goes, if you don’t stand for something, you might fall for anything.

Don’t mistake this post as my attempt to stoke the fires of Planners vs Creatives – it’s not and never will be because I respect, love & need my broader creative colleagues – if anything, it’s simply a rant against prejudice [& shit planners] which is why one of the best bits of advice I ever got was before you start questioning others, take a long hard look at yourself first.

Oooooh, I feel so much better after that, have a top weekend.

The Importance Of Stubborness …
March 14, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude

In some respects, we’ve turned into an entitlement society.

In terms of business – especially the service industry – it seems to have moved from ‘the customer is always right’ to the customer can be as demanding and descriptive as they want’.

In other words, the service industry has become the subserviency industry.

Earlier this week I wrote about what business can learn from Claridge’s hotel.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t talking about their incredible ability to satisfy their clientele’s needs and wants, I was talking about their stubbornness to maintain their standards, values and approach.

You see while their objective is to always give their guests the experience of their life, they believe it should be done to their standards, not necessarily what everyone else thinks it should be.

What this means is they have rules.

Yes, rules.

Loads of them … from only serving tea when they believe it is at the correct temperature to be consumed to insisting every diner must wear a jacket in their restaurant and countless in-between.

Now I appreciate to some, this sounds counter to ‘customer service’ … but here’s the thing, it’s their stubborness that sets them apart.

This doesn’t mean they want clients to leave unsatisfied.

Nor does this mean they’re closed off to new things or new possibilities.

What this means is that Claridge’s know who they are and what they stand for … not in terms of quoting some mission statement that sounds awfully similar to every other mission statement, but in terms of how they think and behave on an ongoing basis.

Now to some, that might sound like a stupid thing to do because the ramifications of that attitude could be that you alienate potential guests. However there is a counter point of view to this and that’s their willingness to sacrifice those customers who don’t appreciate what they do and how they do it, means it could attract others that do.

In other words they don’t ‘chase’ their audience, they attract.

They create feelings and experiences that not only create a powerful bond with the recipient, but become very hard for others to duplicate.

For me, stubborness and sacrifice are attributes that set great brands apart from all the others … and while many can talk about it, the truth – and value – is in the actions and behavior.

So why am I saying this?

Because I think adland is one of the industries that needs to remember it most.

We bitch and moan about how brands need to behave and then 9 times out of 10, do the absolute opposite.

We talk rather than do.

We chase rather than attract.

We bend rather than staying true.

And yet we have the audacity to talk about differentiation when in many cases, agencies are all the same, just with a different name above the door.

It’s too easy to say the agencies who do the best creative are the agencies who stand out the most, because whilst there is obviously a degree of truth to that, the reason they’re in that position is not just because they’ve been able to attract the best talent and the best clients … but because they’ve stubbornly refused to relinquish the values and standards they believe contributes to creating work of commercial & cultural significance, even if that means sacrificing the opportunity to work with rich clients who might not like what they do or how they do it.

When done in the right way and for the right reasons [not to mention, with the right proof], stubbornness and sacrifice aren’t signs of petulance, but awesomeness.