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

A Year Is A Long Time In America …

So today marks a year of being in America.

Or said another way, a year away from China.

It’s been a very interesting time for me … with a bunch of ups and downs.

Ups … in terms of the lifestyle my family get to enjoy and the people I now get to call colleagues and friends.

Downs … in terms of the state America is in and the way America is behaving.

Not just as a nation, but in the beliefs and habits that have infiltrated the working environment for so many people.

But all that aside, I still feel a deep sense of privilege that I get to have this experience.

The fact I’ve been able to live in different countries, experience different cultures and make a decent living out of it is something I will always be massively grateful for.

Of course part of this is because I’m white and male … and while I can’t change that, I can try and make sure those opportunities are available to those who aren’t either of those things.

Which has been one of the best things about being in America.

The massive wake-up call I had to the realities other people face.

Of course I wasn’t blind to it, I have seen it – and reacted against it – in every country I’ve lived, but the things I’ve seen and experienced in my short-time in America has been both confronting and enlightening.

Seeing how so much of white America deals with issues relating to African American and Latino rights – even when they’re in support of racial equality – proved to me that just saying stuff ends up being nothing more than compliance with established rules and behaviors.

It shames me to admit that it took me some time to realise that, but it’s absolutely true which is why I’ll always be grateful to colleagues like Maya, Chelsea and Bree for taking me to this point and place.

In all honesty, I don’t know how long we will be in the US.

It could be a year, it could be years … I’ve never gone to countries with a ‘time plan’ … but what I can say is the experience has been quite profound for me. OK, not in the way China was – in fact I still feel more Chinese than Western in many ways – but in terms of helping remind me who I am, what I value and what I am capable of doing or being.

You see, when I was in China, I heard murmurings that some people only saw me as someone for the Asia market.

While I absolutely love/d that part of the World and enjoyed having to relearn everything I thought I knew, I found that rumour annoying given I’d worked in a bunch of markets prior to China and in my role at Wieden, had worked with global clients for global markets all the time.

But rumours have a way of slowly getting into your head and while I do not deny there has been a bunch of stuff I’ve found weird/strange/annoying and plain fucked-up about working in America, seeing my department embrace their voice, their opinions and their beliefs and turn that into ideas, points of view and creativity that has made some people feel very uncomfortable has truly put a smile on my face.

That doesn’t mean I feel we are anyway done – far from it – but seeing change and, from my perspective, growth has been hugely rewarding.

Of course there’s no magic formula to it …

From a personal perspective it’s about being open to what you don’t know and having the willingness and curiosity to keep learning and improving. From the departments perspective, it’s just setting a direction, defining the standards we are all going to live up to and then giving everyone the time, space and backing to explore, fuck up and be vulnerable, which is why in the journey to this point – which includes the choices and decisions I’ve had to make to deal with the situations and circumstances I’ve come to face – it’s acted as a really valuable reminder of who I am, what I believe and what I still want to achieve.

So thank you America.

For what you have done for me and what you have done for my family.

I don’t know if I’ll ever love you like I love some of the other countries I’ve lived in, but if you sort out the shit you don’t want to talk about, then you’ll truly be an incredibly special place. And even though I don’t think that can ever happen – at least to the extent it needs to happen – I’ll forever be grateful for the experience you’ve given us living here … even if you’re giving my son an American twang.

19 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Congratulations on making a year America, I know your could do it.
In seriousness, this is an honest post. I know how much you loved China and I know how some misinterpreted that as you being too China focused but your talent makes a difference everywhere your America in the raw book proves. The longer America can keep you here the better it will be and the happier I will be.

Comment by George

Trump’s election made Campbell’s presence less traumatic. Not because the president is worse but it prepared us for how bad things could get.

Comment by DH

Thanks mate … while I wish there was more stuff that I could feel good about myself for doing [from a work perspective] there’s definitely some. The biggest being the growth of the team even more than AITR, mainly because I see AITR as a byproduct of the teams belief in their own ability and voice rather than the cause of it.

More to come. A lot more. [Hopefully] Hahahaha.

Comment by Rob

Nice post. Would love to hear from your WK and Deutsch colleagues what they think of a year with and without you. Now that would be a post worth reading.

Comment by DH

There is a very good reason why I would not want to do that … the main one being I don’t want to hate myself. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Everyone knows that.

Comment by DH

Only a year? Feels like decades. Though I am sure your newer colleagues will feel like it’s been even longer.

Comment by Bazza

For the record Rob, anyone who pitched you as a China only planner were projecting their insecurities on you.

Comment by Bazza

I’ve just been supportive of Rob. Please don’t hate me Andy.

Comment by Bazza

Your are very very ill.

Comment by DH

You’re right Baz. 100%

Comment by George

To read someone with your reputation and experience be vulnerable is important. You have never had a problem with being honest but it enables others to feel comfortable with addressing their insecurties either to themselves or others. America is lucky to have you.

Comment by Lee Hill

Hahahaha … that’s very kind Lee. I don’t know about my reputation [unless you mean it in the negative sense] but I do believe that if you are honest about how you feel, you end up being in a better place for it than if you try and hide it and front it out. At least for me.

Comment by Rob

i dont like defending you campbell but i hate small minded fucks pissing on you even more. did you really hear people say you were only good for china? how the fuck do they explain your success at all the places you lived before then? unless they say it was down to me, the fuckers dont know what theyre talking about and i bet none of them have lived outside their own country. fuck them. fuck anyone who speaks down to people to hide their own inadequacies. the only thing they have on you is youre a planner from nottingham with fucking shit fashion, music and money sense.

Comment by andy@cynic

I was getting quite emotional reading this until I got to the end where you pulled yourself back from the edge. I’m very impressed and – for 94% of the comment – touched.

Comment by Rob

just to be clear campbell, i wasnt defending you, i was just pissing on every other fucker.

Comment by andy@cynic

and if america can vote in trump theres fuck all chance it can sort itself out as a nation. got to rely on the people and 50% of them are racist fuckers. doomed.

Comment by andy@cynic

I have faith. But it won’t be easy.

Comment by Rob

My career in advertising was better and more empathetic because I had a mentor like Rob.

I worked in an agency in Syd who hired me at 18 to run reception, empty dishwashers and hand out mail. Rob joined via a merger and he was the first person in the company to say to me “If you want to be a strategist, I’ll help you, come work with me”. That was 18 years ago and he even had hair then. I’ve gone on to be a strategy director in agencies in NY, SF and Syd. I’ve never once forgotten the person that Rob is and the mentor and boss he no doubt is to those in his current agency dept.

The difference with Rob is that he gives a shit that you realise your best-self and that commercial creativity pours out of your brain. Unlike most strategy heads I’ve worked with, Rob’s motivation is to make everyone better, rather then make himself look awesome.

This comment got sappy and I apologise for it. I love Rob’s self-deprecating rants but beneath it all is a loyal, genuinely caring person and there aren’t enough of them in our industry today (comms marketing)

Enjoy your American adventure Rob, it’s going through a tumultuous laundry cycle from a cultural POV but it will remind you of your values and what you deem important in life. From your post today that’s already playing out.

Comment by barrymow

Leave a Reply