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

The Dangers Of Selective Understanding …
March 26, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

A few weeks ago I wrote how ignorance is more than bliss, it’s the shortest route to doing something amazing.

I fully stand by that view, however it is also important to remember that while ignorance can take you to places you may never otherwise have seen, I also highlighted how it is intelligence and rigour that helps you decide – and define – whether you should commit yourself to that opportunity or if you need to throw it away and start again.

In other words, you can’t have one without the other.

To a certain extent, they’re co-dependents and without understanding that, you will never realise what you – or an idea – could actually end up being.

I say this because I hear far too many people quoting stuff that they obviously don’t really understand.

A while back I made a comment about their being no rules to planning.

While I stand by that view … I’ve had that comment played back to me a bunch of times by people who seem to ignore – or forgot – that I also said having no rules wasn’t an excuse for slack standards, self-indulgence or lack of rigour.

Same with a presentation I made on the importance of generalists.

Unlike what some people seemed to think, I was not devaluing the role and importance of specialists [would you like to be operated on by a ‘generalist surgeon’???] nor was I celebrating people who simply have a lot of interests.

Liking a bunch of stuff doesn’t make you a generalist, it makes you a human.

When I talk about generalists, I’m talking about people who have had life/work experiences that transcend ‘casual interaction’ … people who have been involved in a whole range of situations, disciplines and industries … people who have gained a level of knowledge and experience that gives them the right to contribute, evaluate, cross-reference and judge with a level of informed substance and objectivity.

Without that, then all we’re doing is allowing subjectivity to determine outcome – and while there is a time and a place to involve ‘intelligent naivety’ into the process – it should never be allowed to have ultimate decision making power.

[For proof, see some of the rubbish companies invest millions in, just because of the comments from a focus group]

Of course I understand why people do this.

As Paulo Coelho said, ‘People only hear what they want to hear’, so anything – that on face value – suggests someone has a unique quality that has high commercial value, is going to be quickly and blindly embraced … but that does not mean it’s right or validates that attitude or behaviour.

This is why I wrote a post saying planners need to stop behaving like politicians because if you only hear what you want to hear and you have no desire to challenge, learn and grow from your inevitable mistakes, then you’re going to have to learn the hard-to-swallow truth …

If You Listen To Me, You’re Mental …
March 25, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So a while back, I got an email from a friend of mine who works with students.

One of the things he said was that when he speaks to young guys who are interested in advertising, he’s started to notice that they do not want to be planners [or designers, or art directors etc] … the want to be like Faris, Gareth and me.

No, apparently that is not a joke, even though it is.

A massive, shiny, ugly, joke.

OK, I admit, when I first heard about this, I kind of flattered.

Then, after about 2 seconds, I was genuinely appalled.

Flattered, because being associated with those two is a huge compliment [even though they won’t feel the same way] plus it’s always nice to hear others think the things you do or think are interesting or appealing.

Appalled, because the last thing anyone interested in advertising should do is listen to people in advertising.

Especially people in advertising who are paid to talk rather than do.

OK, I’m being a bit harsh on myself, because like the other guys, I’ve always tried to do shit rather than talk/write about it – even if this blog might make it appear differently … but regardless of all that, the fact is there’s a bunch of people out there who are far better to learn from and listen to than me.

Oh Jesus, this is all coming across like a humble brag isn’t it.

It’s sooooo not to sound like that. I blame being English – or at least being half English – because we’re not good at talking about ourselves in positive terms and when we do, it always comes across as clunky and awkward.

Anyway, the other thing that bothers me is that I worry some people forget that to get to this position [whatever that position is] you have to have paid your dues for 20+ years … doing and putting up with all manner of crap.

And before people question why they have do that, it’s not because that’s what gets you promoted [it doesn’t] it’s because that mental, frustrating, annoying shit also gives you experiences and knowledge that helps you see the bigger opportunities … not to mention equips you with the skills that let’s clients have confidence in your plans.

You see being able to ‘see the dream’, is only part of the challenge. Being able to show how you can execute that given they will have short-term needs and wants is also vital.

It’s not a case of telling them to scrap everything and start again, it’s about showing them how they can achieve the bigger goal without jeopardising their shorter-term business requirements.

Of course there will have to be some sort of sacrifice or implication in your strategy – if there isn’t, then it’s not a strategy – but it’s vital you appreciate all the things the client needs to consider rather than just fixate on the idea you like.

And that’s why I think it’s good to start at the bottom.

Some of the things I did for the first 10 years of my career were horrific.

Hell, some of the things I do now for my career are horrific … however as much as I love the idea of not having to do them, I know there’s a point where some part of it will come in handy, where the experience gained will allow me to say/do/explain/consider something that can be the difference between potential and reality.

Oh god, this is all coming out like shit.

All I’ll say is:

1. Don’t dismiss the importance and value of starting at the bottom.
2. Always experiment to find your own style & approach.
3. Get inspired by people outside your own industry and discipline.
4. Work hard.
5. Realise trust is the most important word in business, not talk.
6. Starting your own business will teach you more about everything in half the time.
7. Don’t listen to anyone advice, especially mine.

Right, I’m going before the abuse starts.

Make Monday Matter …
March 24, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

So it’s Monday.


Another week of drama and bullshit.

Sat in your little beige cubicle.

Look up.

Look around.

Do you see what I see?

Yes, it’s a sea of beige, miserable faces shuffling between their desk and the photocopier machine.

Wouldn’t it be great if your life wasn’t like this.

That you had a day filled with energy, excitement and edge-of-the-seat nervousness.

Well, I’m going to make that wish come true.

No, honestly I am.

All you have to do is get out your credit card to buy your loved one a gift … a gift they will receive next Monday, so that you can have a start of the week like no other.

And what is this gift, I hear you cry?

It’s simply the most bad-taste, unromantic-pretending-to-be-romantic thing you will ever see and they will ever receive.

What I’m talking about is this:




And I thought those skinny leather ties from the 1980’s were bad.

Yes, I know some of the people that come to this rubbish weren’t even born then, but trust me, it’s true.

Unsurprisingly, I saw this ad in one of my heavy metal music magazines.

I love heavy metal, but even I must admit in terms of ‘fashion’, the genre lacks a certain something. Ahem.

Anyway, back to my promise.

Simply purchase this leather rose to be delivered to your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend next Monday and I assure you, this time next week you won’t be sat in your cubicle wishing your life would end, you’ll be running from a crazed loved one, wishing your life wasn’t about to end.

You can thank me later.

Have a toptastic week.

Scam Is A Four Letter Word …
March 21, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

To the agencies who do scam … win awards because of that scam … then hype themselves up as being “the best” because of that scam.

You might be fooling some people, but you’re not fooling the rest of us.

You’re tragic.

You’re part of the reason our industry has lost the respect of business.

The only thing worse is the industry accepts it.

Justifies it.

Say’s things like, “we’re showing business what we could do for them”.

It doesn’t.

You can’t show business what we can do for them when you decide on the problem, the solution and validate it’s success by the number of creative awards it achieved … creative awards given to you by people who have a vested interest in keeping the whole charade going.

Adland has a lot it can offer the World.

It can help business grow and helping society thrive.

It contains thousands of incredibly talented people who can genuinely make a lasting difference to millions of people.

But scam fucks over that talent.

Scam is about selfishness not selflessness.

Winning a bunch of little statues for fake work doesn’t make you a genius.

Winning a bunch of little statues for fake work doesn’t earn you respect from business.

At least not business that’s worth being respected by.

By all means do ‘spec work’ for a client that you think is good. By all means do ‘spec work’ for a client and enter it into awards … but have the decency to admit it’s a ‘showcase’ rather than something real.

If you do that, I’m cool with it being judged.

If you do that, I’m cool with it being awarded.

It means it’s being celebrated for it’s ingenuity and craft which might, just might, influence a client to change their mind about what they could do in the future.

Or better yet, create your own product and do work for that and show the World you’ll put your money where your mouth is, rather than leach off someone else’s hard work and risk.

But let’s face it, the companies who continually invest in scam don’t want to do either of that.

They want it easy.

They don’t want to run the risk their self defined ‘brilliance’ isn’t so brilliant.

The reality is the people who adopt that approach are lazy and delusional … however, it reaches a whole new level of insanity when they then go and promote the fact some businessmen named them über-influential on the basis they won more awards than any other agency – regardless of the fact that most of those awards were for campaigns whose legitimacy is highly questionable.

Aren’t they embarrassed about that?

Don’t they know that they’re claiming something that was built on illusion?

Surely if they’re that influential, their everyday work would be shaking up the whole industry and city. But no, it appears influential simply means any campaign that has won an award, regardless that only 10 people and a creative jury saw it.

Doesn’t anyone care about substance any more?

Is the industry that happy to keep the delusion alive?

Thank god for the real agencies who do real work of value, or our industry would be sinking faster than an American Idol finalists career.

99% Of Emergencies Are Caused By Procrastination …
March 20, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

Adland is a dynamic business.

Every day, something new is happening and to be honest, that’s one of the reasons I love it.

It has an unstoppable energy that can pick you up and take you on an unforgettable journey.

That said, there are times when that journey is utterly, utterly shit.

There’s a bunch of reasons for that … sometimes it’s a project is killed, sometimes it’s because there’s a difference of opinion and sometimes it’s because an emergency happens that needs all hands on deck.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know there are occasions where some out-of-the-blue event can occur that causes a whole tsunami of trouble. Maybe it’s a World event … maybe it’s a competitive move … maybe it’s some issue within the organisation … but what drives me utterly bonkers is when it’s just lazy management.

The worst of the worst is when you get a frantic call about something that needs doing at the 11th hour.

Something they have been sitting on for an age.

Something they should have – and could have – dealt with weeks ago, if not months.

It always starts the same way.

A phone call asking for help.

They explain they’ve just had something ‘thrust upon them’.

How it’s unfair.

How they’re so busy.

How they know you’re so busy.

And then – in the same breath – they demand its execution.

That no excuse will be a good enough excuse.

That whatever you are doing is not as important as what they want you to be doing.

Because their needs are higher than your needs.

Their business is more important than your business.

That their fee is dependent on your ability to not let them down.

It’s more than just emotional blackmail, it’s blackmail.

As I said, I’m not talking about emergencies that happen beyond anyone’s control or anticipation, I’m talking about those emergencies that happen because there wasn’t any control and absolutely zero anticipation.

Even then, I can accept these things occasionally happen.

One self-created emergency is just about acceptable.


Two self-created emergencies and you better hope to god you’ve accumulated enough ‘credit’ with your agency partners to have them want to help you out.

Three self-created emergencies and you’re demonstrating your lack of capability, not your agencies.

If you want your agency to be a good partner, you have to be a good partner to your agency.

Plan ahead.

Involve early.


We throw words like ‘partner’ and ‘trust’ around like they’re confetti but they’re hugely important and incredibly hard to attain.

They also take a hell of a long time to nurture.

To do that, it requires both parties to be on the same page, not one sometimes holding a carrot and other times a stick.

If you want proof of what a long-term relationship can do, you don’t have to go much further than look at the work we do for NIKE. Or BBH do for Johnnie Walker. Or even what Ogilvy do for IBM.

Some say long term relationships build apathy. I think it liberates possibility.

But it needs equality and understanding to do that, because without it, everything dies well before the partnership is made officially dead.

We may be a ‘service industry’ [though I am not sure I agree with that] but we’re not a subservient industry which is why I believe if you have a client who is continually spreading their mayhem because of their lack of responsibility or action, then the only way you can maintain your credibility is to remind them their emergency is not our priority.

PS: The words on the picture at the top of this post were told to me by my lovely MD [that’s not creeping, he really is lovely – it makes me sick] who said they appeared on a picture that hung above a school teachers desk.

Imagine being a kid in that class … especially a kid who didn’t do their homework.

It’s evil bloody genius.