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

I’m Watching You …

When I was at R/GA, I hired this brilliant planner called Joel.

It was weird how we met because it all started at a Google Firestarter meeting I was talking at.

At the end of my presentation, it was opened up to the audience for questions.

I couldn’t see who was asking anything as the lights from the stage were shining straight into my eyes. Anyway, there was one question that shone out from the rest of the questions of the night – basically challenging the London bubble of planning – and while I didn’t know who asked it, I wanted to find who did to say I liked it.

Alas I never found out who did.

A few days later, I got a message on LinkedIn from the person who asked the question.

His name was Joel.

I invited him for a coffee later that week and suddenly the person who asked the best question of the night was asking the best questions of the day.

But what made them extra good was he wasn’t doing it to show off or stand out, he was doing it because he was interested in the topics and interested to hear my perspective.

We talked about his background, his ambitions and then he did the one thing that almost guaranteed I wanted to hire him.

He called comprehensive school, ‘big school’.


I hadn’t heard that since I was a kid in Nottingham and immediately I loved Joel for it. Because for all the time he had spent in London, he had not lost his Bradford realness … and then it became clear why he asked the question about the London bubble, why he was asking questions why culture rarely reflected how marketing department express it and why was the ad industry more interested in convenience than authenticity.

How could I not hire someone like that?

So I did.

And he never disappointed because apart from being culturally, creatively and strategically talented – with an obsessive focus on what life is really like for people, especially outside of London rather than the cliched, London bullshit a lot of marketing likes to portray – his greatest trait was he always wanted to learn.


Now don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t always the model student … he would push back, he would challenge, he would question … but what he doesn’t know is that was when I was the happiest working with him, because it meant he was believing his words rather than just following others.

And while we always have to be careful we don’t blindly think whatever we believe is the right answer, having confidence and conviction in your gut and your talent is an often underplayed, undervalued, under-encouraged skill in a strategist … which is why I was so happy to see when I left R/GA, Joel had a mug made with my face and my words on it.

Not because he missed my ugly face and lack of vocabulary, but to remind him to trust his smarts, his instincts and his authenticity … but never to be a prick about it.

If I was proud of him before. I am even prouder of him now.

19 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Who says one question can’t change your life.
Whether that’s for the better or worse is still being worked out.

Comment by Bazza

You think you’re the Brian Clough of adland don’t you?

Comment by Bazza

Brian Clough at Forest or Leeds?

Comment by George

If that was possible, which it isn’t, it would likely be Cloughy at the end of his career when he retired and Forest got relegated.

Comment by Rob

That doesn’t say much for all the people you hired does if.

Comment by George

Oh it doesn’t does it. Hahahahaha.

Well my hiring is vintage Clough – except for G-boy Michael – which was vintage stupid. And even then I blame you for meeting him first.

Comment by Rob

Just for your reference Rob, a prick can’t tell someone to not be a prick.

Comment by Bazza


Comment by George

You would know. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

So this is Joel. From what you have told me about what you’ve put him through, you’re fortune he hasn’t smashed it into your face. (Joel, in the event you read this, Robert has said nothing but fantastic things about you. He doesn’t say that about many people. He certainly hasn’t said it about me and we were in business together)

Comment by George

You’re alright George.
On occasion.

Comment by Rob

What occasion is that? Buying Andy birthday cake?

Comment by Bazza

The story that will never die.

Comment by Pete

Not my finest moment.

Comment by George

I like Joel and I’ve never met him.

Comment by Pete

Interesting. I think he likes you because he’s never met or heard of you.

Comment by Bazza

Stockholm syndrome.

Comment by John

poor bastard. wheres the geneva convention when you need the fuckers?

Comment by andy@cynic

I need to get one of those mugs to send to Rob. But it will be on a black kettle.

Comment by DH

Leave a Reply