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

It’s Not What You Can Create, But Why You Are Creating It …
October 23, 2013, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

Apple are copping a lot of shit at the moment.

If you read the press, you’d think they were Blackberry rather than one of the most influential – and profitable – companies on earth.

Sure, things may not be as progressive as they once were, but then innovation tends to slow down when a category becomes more mature.

Now I know what you’re thinking …

“But Samsung are continually bringing out new features and functions”

… and I’d be forced to agree with you …. however I recently read an interview with Jonathan Ive and Craig Federighi that, for me, had a lovely perspective on how they view the whole ‘innovation race’.

“It’s not just about new features, but also the deep layers of integration that goes into each one. There are so many problems that have to be solved to enable one big idea. We don’t start with 10 bits of technology that we try to find a use for so we can add them to our features list”.

OK, so you could argue that it’s in their interests to say that, but then Federighi added something that I think gets to the crux of the matter:

“New is easy. Right is hard.”

I love that. I utterly love that.

I also think it’s a good definition of what’s wrong with adland.

In our quest to look interesting or relevant [mainly to our peers], we tend to chase new when what we should be looking for, is right.

Of course, ‘right’ is relative – and in no way am I suggesting we should stop looking for ways to continually push boundaries and possibilities – however one of the reasons business continually questions adlands value is because we often give the impression we’re more focused on doing stuff that makes our peers stand up and applaud rather than creating stuff that inspires and encourages society to act in ways that have genuine commercial value for our clients.

In other words, whereas so many focus on trying to be cool, the truly influential are obsessed with creating clever because – as the guys at Apple say – anyone can do new, it’s doing – and executing – what’s right, that’s right.

Manners Are More Powerful Than Menace …
October 22, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

When I started in this industry, there was a guy I worked with that was simply horrible.

I don’t mean talentless, I mean horrible.

He was rude to his team … rude to his colleagues and – on occasion – rude to his clients.

I watched him thinking, “what a dick” and while his actions undoubtedly got results, I saw that his team feared him rather than wanted to work for him … which meant that as soon as they had learnt everything from him – or had an offer from another company who viewed working for this arse as a great foundation in the industry/discipline – they were off.

I was lucky I never worked directly with him or for him, but I remember one day watching him shout at a colleague for some ridiculously small thing, and vowing I would never, ever be like him.

Now, if I’m honest, some people would claim I failed in that goal.

They would say I am a grumpy bastard who is petty and particular about all manner of things.

And – if I’m being honest – the only people who can truly answer this are the folk who have worked with me or for me … however as much as I admit that I can be a fucking prick to people who have a massive title but [1] can’t even achieve the basic standards expected of someone in that position &/or [2] have no interest in taking any responsibility for what they have to do/encourage, I would hope I am not someone who is basically always looking for a fight.

Anyway, that’s by-the-by, because that’s not what I want to talk about.

Being a head of a department is hard.

Yes, I know you get more money and benefits, but that doesn’t mean the job is easy.

Very rarely do you get trained for it and then, when it happens, you suddenly find yourself thrust into a position where you are always copping someones shit.

Your team mates stop being your team mates and start expressing/demanding their personal needs and wants.

Your managers stop being your managers and start placing more expectations and responsibility on you.

Your clients stop being your clients and start holding you responsible for more than you are responsible for.

In short, you can become a cat litter-tray for everyone’s needs, wants, demands, tears, fears and tantrums.

Hey, I’m not criticising anyone, I was/am definitely guilty of it and I expected my bosses to ‘sort it out’ because at the end of the day, no one will look out for you as much as you.

Now dealing with that is part of being a boss … however how you deal with it dictates how you will develop your team and that’s why I subscribe to this point of view:

While I understand why the guy I used to work with felt ‘being a dictator’ stopped all the internal issues and arguments that can consume your day, the fact is, it also opened a can of worms he never knew existed.

The fact is, you don’t have to be mean to people.

You don’t have to be objectionable for the sake of being objectionable.

You shouldn’t tear someone down just because you have the power to do so.

Encouragement and support are not evil words.

Letting people discover their own ways, styles and mistakes is not dangerous or stupid.

In fact, it’s those things that help people develop and grow.

It makes them better at what they do.

It makes your job easier to do and best of all, it makes you look good.

But that doesn’t mean you have to act like Paula Abdul.

Being encouraging doesn’t mean relinquishing standards or boundaries.

Not just because if you do, people will try to cross them time and time again … but because part of being a boss is about setting a direction, vision and goal that everyone wants to be committed going after.

Being the head of a department means walking along a really thin tightrope.

Dangerous, scary but ultimately amazing and fulfilling – especially when your team grows and develops and then moves on to do things that they never imagined they could be doing. That’s just sheer bloody awesome.

And that’s why one of the best bits of advice I ever got was that you should always be enthusiastic, positive and eager to help, listen and get involved … but never be to the point where someone can take advantage of your generosity or miss out on their own development and experience, because in an industry where reputation is everything, the best way to build it – apart from doing great work – is to do no harm, but take no shit.

Some Monday Motivation …
October 21, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

For some reason, people ask for my advice on a whole bunch of stuff.

No, I don’t know why either – unless they want to find out what I’d do and then do the opposite, which sounds quite a good idea.

As I’ve said before, I will never tell people what to do, because apart from having no right to do that, ultimately, we all have to take responsibility for our own decisions [and mistakes, hahaha] … which is why, despite having written a bunch of posts on how to survive – and sometimes thrive – this industry:

+ Career advice from a dummy.

+ Comfort is the enemy of progress.

+ Don’t wait until you’re spoken to.

+ Actions speak louder than mission statements.

+ It’s called a brief for a reason.

+ Does fitting in meaning mean tuning out.

+ Choose your boss, not the agency.

+ We need more imperfect solutions.

… I still say, as Mr Zappa endorses, the best advice is to never listen to anyone’s advice.

I’m The Winner. Of Losing.
October 18, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

I work in an industry where it appears the underlying objective is to be recognised as brilliant, creative, successful or wise.

I understand why … not just because it helps convince clients to trust our judgement, but because it is also one of the most effective ways to get a better job with better money.

Of course it doesn’t always work, because I know many very brilliant people who aren’t getting the breaks they deserve, but that’s another post for another day.

Anyway, when I was much, much younger, I would read magazines like Campaign, and just marvel at the brilliance of the people being interviewed.

They were bright … sharp … forward thinking.

They had opinions and viewpoints that would make you think.

Challenge your pre-conceived ideas.

Make you re-evaluate what you had done and what you could do.

And while I know I often use this blog to slag off certain people in the industry who are either [1] pretentious tossers and/or [2] experts at repackaging the obvious – or old – and trying to claim they’ve just created the Universe, there are still many, many people’s opinions that I follow closely … like Northern, Gareth or Martin, to name but a few … and they continue to make me feel in awe of their brilliance while also making me feel an utter failure and fraud.

So imagine my surprise when I opened the 40th anniversary edition of Campaign … yes, the magazine I started reading when I got in this industry … and saw me in it.


There I was alongside some of the industries greats – who were all talking about the impact of the industry, the re-emergence of Asia as an economic powerhouse and the role and future of advertising.

Except I wasn’t in it for that, I was in it for this:

Yes, I am basically being awarded a prize for being the biggest loser in adland.

But you know what, I love it.

No, I really do.

Not [just] because I’m a publicity addict … not [just] because it shows I’m growing old disgracefully … but because I work in an industry that not only affords me a life I have no right to live, but also still lets me have fun.

Of course, some people mistake my stupidity for not taking things seriously – and while I appreciate some of the stuff I say or do may encourage that point of view – the fact is I care passionately about what I do, who I do it with and who I do it for.

No seriously, I really do.

While I appreciate business doesn’t take adland seriously enough these days, it’s not because we people aren’t being ‘serious’ enough in their tone and manner, it’s because the industry likes to talk about what they do, rather than what their clients need.

So yes, I like to have fun, but rather that than be one of those folk who walk around thinking ‘smiling’ or ‘laughing’ is a sign of weakness.

Well that’s my [sad] excuse and I’m sticking with it.


Anyway, I want to thank Campaign magazine for their accolade, I am genuinely touched. Not only did it make me laugh out loud, you rated me ‘higher’ than my wonderful old boss, Chris Jaques, which is amazing given you used a photo where he wasn’t wearing his trademark white shirt and blue jeans, which should have automatically put him in pole position.

So as you were so nice to me, here’s my gift to you.

Yes, it’s another stupid photo of me to add to your collection.

Feel free to use use it against me at some point in the future*.

I know Mr Wieden will.

* Acknowledging you’re all way too smart to visit my rubbish and see this photo in the first place … though not so smart to eradicate all mention of me from your fine product forever and a day.

How One Letter Can Ruin Everything …
October 17, 2013, 6:03 am
Filed under: Comment

Attention to detail.

We all say it, but so few do it.

And yet it is so important … not just because it’s basic manners, but it’s because it shows you care.

I used to go mental if I saw a blown lightbulb in the agency because to me, it conveyed to clients that we were slack … and if we couldn’t sort out our office lighting, then why should they trust to us to make sure we’re on top of every single detail of their business.

I know that might sound like a massive leap and I know shit happens … but quite frankly, I do not believe basic mistakes should ever occur.

Anyway, the reason I say this is because I recently saw a headline in the Daily Mail.

A headline about an utterly tragic story.

A headline about an utterly tragic story where one letter – ONE LETTER – was incorrect and undermined everything.

OK, so it’s the Daily Mail – also known as the Daily Fail – but seriously, how the hell does that happen.

I’ll tell you. Slackness.

If I was the editor, I would call in the team and tear strips off them.

Not just because it’s a ridiculously stupid mistake, but because the parents – who have to come to terms with the fact their 2 children are dead – would be utterly devastated.

Sure, they may never see it. But that’s not the point.

For me, standards are what you keep regardless of the consequences – it’s not something that you change in relation to what you think you can get away with.

Unless you work in finance.

Daily Mail, you’ve reached new depths. And that’s saying something.