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

Proof I Live In A Place That Is The Truman Show Mixed With Pleasantville …

What I’m about to write will make you sick.

It might very well make you angry.

But there is something about Los Angeles I am finding hard to deal with.

Yes, I know it’s an amazing city and where I specifically live – Manhattan Beach – has a landscape that looks like this …

… and a local council who does this at Christmas …

… but the difference between Shanghai in terms of exposure to culture is very, very different.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s there … in many ways, there’s even more of it than in China … but the reality is LA is a series of small towns, 88 to be exact, so you have to actively go to different places to be immersed in the energy of culture whereas in Shanghai, the moment you stepped outside you were drowned in it.

In essence, where once I had to close my front door to stop the roar of culture enveloping me, in LA I have to open it to go find it.

And I’m finding that tough to deal with, because the energy I got from that madness in Shanghai literally energized me.

What makes this additionally difficult is because this is the first time I’ve worked in a place that isn’t in the heart of a city and so the people you tend to run into are either colleagues or people from the agencies around us … like MAL or 72.

Now I appreciate this is a first World problem and it’s not that hard to deal with, but when you are a single-minded believer that to do your job well, you need to be in the middle of cultural craziness – it means that for the first time, I have to actively make time to ensure I am in it.

More than that, I have to make time to make sure the people in my team have the time to stay in it.

Play. Explore. Learn.

And this leads me to the point I want to make.

In my short time in the US, it appears many agencies and clients value data more than culture.

Everything is talked about in terms of data points.

Strategy is created because of data points.

Work is tested for data points.

Now don’t get me wrong, data – if done properly and understood properly – is incredibly important.

More than that, it’s incredibly powerful.

And I’m fortunate I work with some people – and clients – who get that.

But putting aside a lot of what is out there is questionable or the interpretation of it is questionable … the reality is that this data only truly comes alive when it is injected and explored through the texture of culture.

What they think.

How they feel.

What they fear.

The stuff that elevates data from charts to creative opportunities.

The stuff that you only get by being in it, rather than reading it.

And that’s why it’s so important for us to be surrounded by the mess and noise of what is happening around us – not just in the spotlight, but also the shadows – because while it seems many think it is a waste-of-time, it’s the foundation for creating work that is born from the culture rather than is just a bad interpretation of it.

31 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Would your opinion of data be different if you had got 4% in your exam?

Comment by John

good point, but the fuckers is right. every agency is obsessed with it because every client is too frightened to make a decision without it. maybe nike and wk but no one else uses data to fucking inform but to dictate. and then they wonder why all the work is shit and doesnt do much. wheres the fucking data experts then? wankers.

Comment by andy@cynic

True. But if he were walking the talk, shouldn’t he be living in South Central?

Comment by John

it would move all the gangsters out so not a bad fucking idea.

Comment by andy@cynic

he spent 7 years in fucking commie china. as much as id love to take the piss, hes paid his fucking dues. not with actual fucking work but living in fucking paradise. except it seems he would prefer compton. probably reminds him of nottingham.

Comment by andy@cynic

For what it is worth, Robert and I have a mutual friend who works as a bridge between the gangs of South Central and the Police. I know Robert asked him to take him to the worst areas (in daylight hours. Cop-out) and when a gang member told him to get out, the idiot asked if he could take his photo first. True story.

Comment by George

I did think about moving my family from Shanghai and going to South Central, but I didn’t feel the difference would be radical enough so we went to Pleasantville instead.

Joking aside, I know how lucky I am and the real reason we moved here was for my son and wife to have a lifestyle they deserved … outdoor, clean air … but I do feel isolated from the madness and while I can still know what’s going on, there’s a big difference between being on the inside [as I’ve always felt I have] and watching from the out and I’d like to find a way to change that.

Which are the words my wife hates to hear, haha.

Comment by Rob

fuck me campbell, youre only happy if youre whining.
the only fuckers who can complain about manhattan beach are the pricks who were there before you.

Comment by andy@cynic

It’s my best talent.

Comment by Rob


Comment by andy@cynic

You’re making the Deutsch guys excited you might leave. That would excite me unless you announced you were moving to NY. That would be terrible. For me.

Comment by DH

What will make it worse is I’d love to be there, but we won’t be. For now. [Cue: Evil Laugh]

Comment by Rob

Well 2018 is turning out to be horrible.

Comment by DH

Data strategists are the new digital strategists.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Is there any other discipline that has so many “specialists” in its ranks?

Comment by Bazza

Oh believe me, I know.

Comms. Data. Digital. Shopper. Brand. Media. Design.

Can’t be long before we have Keynote planners.

Comment by Rob

Your self awareness and willingness to express that is one of the reasons you are so good Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

one of the reasons hes a fucking whiny little shit more like.

Comment by andy@cynic

i’m fairly new to LA also. and i love it. i hear what you’re saying about having to go out and find the culture here. but that’s part of the fun. the exploration and expedition. for me, it makes those experiences more memorable and special. then i come home to venice which is a melting pot of culture and art in and of itself. i will say manhattan beach, while gorgeous, reminds me of a sleepy, florida beach town. it’s incredibly vapid, full of bros and has no real contributing factor to the true ethos of LA. if you’re looking for the lifestyle you describe, Venice and many other cities have that. but i would implore you not to generalize the entire city of LA based off one of its most “pleasant” areas.

Comment by trkw

In what way am I generalising all of LA?

The whole point of this post is recognising it’s diversity but – unlike other cities I’ve lived in – it has no true centre and so for the first time in my life, it means the energy and creativity of a city is not on my doorstep.

Did I choose to live in Manhattan Beach? Yes. But my point is I’ve recognised the loss and given it is hugely important to me and my job, it has had a major effect on me. For the record, Venice Beach is not nearly as melting pot of culture as you like to present. Sure there’s a lot more there than where I am, but there are far more interesting places so maybe you need to be the one who doesn’t generalise by one area.

Comment by Rob

you fucking bit. amateur.

Comment by andy@cynic

top fucking patronizing there trkw. good work.

Comment by andy@cynic

Thoughtful and constructive criticism of corporate culture in the so-called creative industries.

Comment by Meg Maggio

Well that’s another thing Meg.

And again, compared to where I’ve lived before, LA is far less about creativity than it likes to present itself. Culturally there is an abundance of it. Within the industry, far less. Of course not everyone is like that, but compared to Shanghai it’s more stiff than anywhere else. Especially having come from Wieden … chaos central, ha.

Comment by Rob

90% of the agencies in Shanghai exist in 3 buildings within 5 miles of each other (or they did until WPP moved). In SoCal, they probably wouldn’t fit within 50 miles of each other. It used to be different. In the 80’s, the agencies were either downtown or on Wilshire. Embrace the space!

Comment by Terry

True that most things in LA happen behind closed doors – which is why it’s a difficult city to enjoy without knowing it. That’s also what I love about it, there isn’t a single center of culture, and it lets plenty of expressions come to life in ways few cities can. That being said, because it’s closer to home, LA is a lot less exotic, and thus maybe feels less immersive than the craziness of China. Maybe the culture is there, it’s just not as noticeable to us…

Comment by Shann

I don’t want to speak for Robert but I think he recognises the culture is in LA, it is just not in every corner which he is used to. But then LA is not Shanghai which he needs to remind himself is the reason he came here. ; )

Comment by George

Compared to Shanghai I understand why you find the LA creative scene so different. What makes it harder is the film industry talks a big creative game but the real art scene is nowhere near the obvious spots, it’s in the back alleys and small communities. It certainly isn’t in Venice any more either. Once it was, but that’s gentrified compared to its peak. You made the move for Otis’ life and that’s brilliant but we all know you’ll be playing deep in the creative jungle. You can’t help yourself.

Comment by Pete

[…] just because I miss the rush of an intense city … nor because I will get to see friends who I miss very much … but because I’ll […]

Pingback by The Best Monday Of Your Life. Unless You Live In NYC … | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

[…] big part of my ability to do that has been due to the amazing lifestyle LA has given my […]

Pingback by The Best Thing To Happen To America Since The Invention Of The Hamburger. Probably. | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

[…] And that’s one of the main reasons I’m disappointed, because while America is a pretty fucked up right now and a lot of the industry here prefers easy over great, it is still an amazing country that I would have loved to have understood and experienced more of. […]

Pingback by The Final Countdown … | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Leave a Reply