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

Sometimes You Have To Destroy Things, To Create Things …
May 10, 2013, 6:17 am
Filed under: Comment

For all the talk of openness, adland is actually pretty conservative.

We like putting people into boxes or saying ‘this is how things have to work’ … and while there are some valid reasons for that, from remuneration to the maintenance of standards, the reality is we haven’t really developed our approach to the same extent of other industries.

A lot of that is because despite all the tools, processes and [alleged] propriety tools, adland is still a people-driven business and result of the work – both creatively and effectively – is influenced far more by the people involved in the creative development than the process being adopted.

Now there’s good and bad in that.

Good, because if you have amazing, open-minded people that share beliefs – if not approaches – you stand a good chance that you will be able to keep creating awesome.

Bad, because if you have people who are closed minded and say ‘this is the way that you do things’, you end up creating category parity.

Sadly, there seems more in the bad group than the good.

This is not a case of me dissing people who have a wealth of experience – far from it, we need those people – however if their approach never evolves, never accepts people and society change, never appreciates that if you create work like everyone else it’s actually not doing much for the business, then they’re holding our industry back rather than pushing it forward … something, in my mind, we desperately need to do.

I was very lucky that I started at an agency that liked individual thought.

That doesn’t mean they were like liberal parents and met everything you said/did with applause – it means they were keen to discuss, debate, explore and – when they felt there was some validity to what you were suggesting/saying/contemplating, even if you couldn’t actually prove it – experiment.

For them, they knew that to keep moving things forward meant always inviting alternative opinions into the mix, not just keep the same group of established people in their self-contained bubble, regardless how experienced, smart and successful they were.

In essence they liked – and encouraged – weird to always be in the air, whether that was my suggestion we ask car thieves about what they think makes a car radio desirable [for stealing] to exploring what we could learn from forensic profilers in terms of understanding culture.

No, seriously.

To be honest, I gravitated towards this because quite frankly, this was how I was brought up by my parents.

They made me value knowledge and experience as well as breath of opinion.

I was told ‘freaks are interesting’ … ‘opinions are liberating’ … ‘experimentation is intelligence’.

Of course, I never realised this was different until I ended up working – for a very limited time – at an agency that was the antithesis of that.

Where I was told “that isn’t how we do things here”“that’s ridiculous”“you’re being naive” … and while they may well of had a point, it was destructive both professionally and emotionally.

Fortunately I got my own back when 15 years later, I was invited to speak at a conference and was able to say that everything I was talked about was based on what I had believed for over a decade … things that I had been previously criticised and ridiculed for suggesting.

Please don’t think I’m saying I was ahead of my time – far from it – all I’m saying is that some of the things that I now view as insanely important only came about because I was lucky enough to have some people encourage I explore the possibilities rather than have them dismiss it before it had a chance to be explored … which is why I hold those individuals in the highest acclaim possible and why I honestly believe anything I achieve in my career is down to them.

So what am I trying to say?

I suppose that if you’ve ever been told your beliefs and approaches aren’t right, don’t accept it. Sure, you might need to adapt it … sure you might need to evolve it … sure you might even need to change fundamental parts of it, but your weird can be your superpower and you should never forget it.

33 Comments so far
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Another great post Rob. I love “your weird can be your superpower” though that could also be because everyone loves to believe the people who once mocked the, just didn’t understand them. In other words, the sort of triumph over adversity story you openly admit to being addicted to.

That said, you definitely have more than the average persons share of idiosyncrities and you’ve managed to turn them into professional strengths so there is more to this post than simply reframing weakness and feeling good about them.

Comment by Pete

Professional strength? Is that a joke?

Comment by DH

Even I have to agree with Dave on that one. But thank you, the other stuff is very kind though your point about it all being linked to ‘triumph over adversity’ stories is something I hadn’t thought about and is somehow that has now ended up ruining it all for me. Ha.

Comment by Rob

For the record Ron, you definitely followed the tradition of keeping “weird in the air”. I admit I found it hard at first but now I feel I am missing out on something if everything is too stable or sensible.

Comment by Pete

Who is Ron?

Comment by DH

Nexus predictive text.

Comment by Bazza

It wasn’t a predictive text issue Baz, I was testing our new predictive naming feature and should Rob have a son, he should name it Ron.

Comment by Pete

That’s not because I’m weird, that’s because you were simply too straight.

Comment by Rob

This is a really long post to try and justify your love of birkenstocks, queen, crap gadgets and military shirts. Especially when you still fail to convince anyone.

10/10 for effort. 0/10 for success.

Comment by DH


Comment by Rob

I’ve just got a pair of Birkenstocks, thought I refuse to acknowledge that Rob had anything to do with this.

Comment by northern

This is the greatest news ever.

And as you well know, the finest strategies are when you don’t realise you’ve been sold to even though you’ve been sold to.

Comment by Rob

I would like to clarify I haven’t bought the sandals myself, they’re early Fathers Day present. I haven’t broken my not buying anything unnecessary pact just yet.
By the way, I’m sure you promised me a camo pair years ago, but there you go………………………..
Just to re-iterate. will never buy any Queen music, ever. Under Pressure doesn’t count, let’s face it, it’s really Bowie isn’t it.
In case you’re wondering why I’m wasting time here, I’m putting off re-hearsing for this afternoon’s pitch.
You would not believe the social media guru I’m going to have to present with.

Comment by northern


And given I know you love your Dad, I know you wouldn’t buy Birkenstocks if you didn’t appreciate their brilliance.

And Under Pressure is Queen. Sure it’s Bowie, but it’s definitely more Queen. Hell, they played all the instruments and everything.

Now tell me more about this [self proclaimed[ social media god!!!

Comment by Rob

They say the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. What’s frightening is many companies think the real definition of madness is doing different things to attempt to get a different result.

That’s why you and W+K are meant for each other Rob.

I can not think of any other agency of that scale that would embrace your approach and beliefs so fully anymore. That’s the saddest indictment on the decline of advertisings influence and attitude.

Comment by Bazza

In all honesty, I don’t think I’m ‘weird’. I know I have some eccentricities, but that’s far more related to cultural references than thinking or behaviour … or at least that’s my rationale.

To [badly] paraphrase John Malkovich’s speech in the legendary movie ‘Con Air’ …

You might think I – and my ways – are weird but I think the people who are supposed to connect to the everyday man and woman and yet have only worked in the advertising industry, only accept the opinions of their ‘industry leaders’, never go out and mingle with typical society, only spend time with the latest trends, regard anyone who looks in other disciplines for learning and inspiration as weak, believe life is based on how they live are the freakiest weirdos of them all.

Comment by Rob

Nice theory.Bears no relation to my reality.

Comment by John

In an industry obsessed with crafting a self-focused image of cutting edge cool and game changing intellectualism, your stellar career is living proof “your weird can be your superpower”. It might not happen as often as it should or for as many people as it should but it happens and that’s important because it helps keep the industry intriguing, inspiring and credible. Another very nice post Robert.

Comment by George

Stellar career? I take it you mean the fact that I got the chance to work with you. Showoff.

Comment by Rob

This is excellent Robert. Another very strong post. You’re getting in to your groove again after all your holidays.

Comment by Lee Hill

It’s a source of amusement how many agency folk act wierd with quirky clothes and eccentric office design, but deliver safe over and over again.
It’s not a lifestyle choice, it needs to be a mindset.

Comment by northern

Yep. In fact I’m convinced 95% of the hipster crowd are importers, wearing a “uniform” to try and hide the truth that they’re painfully average in every way. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that, but I still believe when you’re true to yourself, you are liberated and can push forward without worrying about what the other pseudo-cool set think.

Though I could be saying all this out of jealousy as I’ve never been cool. Infact I could be in a freezer and still not be cool. Bugger.

Comment by Rob

Freezer burn is never much fun

Comment by northern

Reblogged this on comandansmashing.

Comment by comandansmashing

So, I’m keen to know … who is responsible for holding back the floodgates of client or corporate conservatism. When you encourage young planners to take the risk and use their superpower, who backs them up – or who should. And what does that take?

Comment by Gavin Heaton

As long as what they’re saying is for the right reasons (which let’s be honest, is the minimum you should expect) I back them up. It’s my job and – to be honest – my duty because its not just for our clients benefit and potential, but my colleagues growth and knowledge.

Of course it helps we all work for a company that believes in provocation, pioneering and potential – but letting your weirdness still requires you to prove your view – saying it is not enough – so if people go to those lengths to validate their madness, the least we can all do is listen and give it genuine consideration. That’s my view anyway.

Comment by Rob


I know we all have our little roles on this blog, but I am gonna break character this one time to say this:
you where one of the few who backed me, when I told you why I am doing what I am doing, where I am doing it, which at the time meant a lot because.. the plan was utterly bonkers even by my standards..

good stuff..good man..

Comment by niko

That sounds awfully like a compliment Niko. Careful.

Comment by DH

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few. -Shunryu Suzuki

Comment by jwawoe

Yep, that’s why I’m a massive believe in nativity and breadth of experience. In other words, I like people who have lived a life rather than an advertising lifestyle.

Comment by Rob

And hello Jwawoe – if you’re who I think you are, I’m even more pleased to have a new commentator on here than usual.

Comment by Rob

I was told ‘freaks are interesting’ … ‘opinions are liberating’ … ‘experimentation is intelligence’.

Most agencies say this to attract talent, but once you’re in the agency and working you find out it’s the complete opposite. And when i say most agencies i mean 90% of the BDAs.

Comment by BJ

I love this article! Truth in every single word. Thanks, you made my day 🙂

Comment by Monika

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