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

Rushing Towards The End Of Oblivion …

I can’t believe that tomorrow, we will be in the last month of the year.

Given we have basically all been confined to working in our homes, doing the same thing over and over and over again … it’s amazing how quickly this year has seemingly gone.

Of course, while our lives have been in arrested development, everything around us has been changing at a rapid rate.

From a personal perspective, in addition to the constant stream of dramas revolving around COVID-19 and the US elections, I experienced being made redundant, buying a new house, moving into the new house, seeing Otis go to a new school he adores, being asked to work on some of the most weird and wonderful creative projects I’ve ever had the opportunity to work on [for ‘clients’ I never dreamt I would get to work with], set up the adventure that is Uncorporated, mess about with the minds of procurement departments and enjoy the joy of being offered a job at one of my absolutely favourite agencies in the whole wide World, Colenso … which all combined to ensured life felt it was still rushing forward even though so much of my physical life stayed exactly the same.

Not that I didn’t love my physical life staying the same because it was basically the best bits of my life delivered in ways I had never really experienced them before,

Being with my family every single day.
Enjoying breakfasts, lunch and dinners with them.
Hanging out. Playing. Spending time just in each others life.

So while acknowledging the utter privilege I have in my life that let’s me be able say this – and acknowledging the fact that because my parents have sadly passed away, I did not have to deal with the emotional pressures and challenges of looking after elderly family members when you could not see them – I can say 2020 has been one of the best years of my life.


And while I look at 2021 with excitement, there is also a feeling of sadness this year is going to soon end because there’s been many things I have discovered, enjoyed and experienced that I either never knew, didn’t realise or just didn’t want to end.

I totally get I may be the only person who thinks this way – though my best friend Paul probably agrees – but that’s how I feel.

I know I am in a position of great fortune.

I know many are in very different situations.

But whatever your circumstances … I hope the final month of 2020 lets you feel either a hint of optimism for what could be ahead or grateful for the lessons this year has revealed to you. And if you can’t and are worried about it, then please get in touch – because while I can’t promise I can change this for you, I can promise I’ll listen and help you create the conditions that could increase the odds of making it so.

Have a great week.

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Challenger Brands That Challenge …

I’ve been very fortunate in my career to work with challenger brands.

Some were overtly challenger … some were more in terms of their internal attitude and approach … but in all cases, they were up for a fight and were happy to take it straight to the competitor they wanted to play against.

Now forcing people to pick a side is not a new strategy … it’s been around for ages.

From religions to rock bands to sport to almost everything in-between.

And while some of the challenger brands I’ve worked with over the years became the beast they were created to slay, what united them all wasn’t just their ambition, but their dedication to doing something that fundamentally challenged the convention.

I’m not talking about an ad that said they were different.

Or a single product ingredient that claimed they were different but were still exactly the same.

I’m talking about a fundamental, distinctive alternative to what has been there before.

From features, to behaviours, to values to standards to design.

All in commitment.

Shit or bust.

Now we have a lot of brands today that claim to do that and be that.

Brands that go direct to the customer.

Brands that offer their services on the internet.

In the majority of cases, they’re not real challengers.

They might like to think they are.

The people who led the change probably are.

But having an internet bank that claims to be different but offers exactly the same products and services – albeit with a ‘cool name and choice of ATM card design’ – is not challenging much.

Nor is the 15th razor/toothbrush/haircare company who go direct to their customers.

They’re definitely an alternative, but they’re not a challenger.

In fact, given in many cases, they offer no distinctive element to their product or service to build something bigger than simply supplying razor blades/toothbrushes/haircare products to people at the lowest rate possible, all they’re doing is commoditising themselves to oblivion.

No, challenger brands don’t enter the market with an attitude of ‘minimal viable product’ – which basically translates to “we’re interested to see if it works, but if it doesn’t – no biggie”, they enter it with fully focused, fully engaged commitment.

You can read a lot about these in Adam Morgan’s brilliant book Eating The Big Fish … though, because of when it came out, it only refers to a challenger brands from a certain period of time rather than the ones of the modern era … whether that’s Tony’s Chocolonely, Fenty, Fortnite or even Greta.

But the reason I’m talking about this is because of that picture at the top of the post.

The iconic ‘we try harder’ announcement by Avis.

Maybe the first example where marketing embraced being a challenger.

We forget how impactful this campaign was when it came out in the 60’s.

Back then, the industry was all about superlatives … the biggest, the most successful, the most loved etc etc.

For a brand to come out and say, “we’re not the first choice”, was a big thing.

But this was not a mere marketing trick, Avis did indeed have big ambitions and knew that the only way they stood any chance of making it was if they indeed, ‘try harder’.

From making sure every car was washed before it went out.

Checking that the glove boxes and – because this was the 60’s – ashtrays were emptied.

Customer service people trained to help, not just take your money.

Not having to wait for ages to get given your rental.

All sounds the standard now, but back then? No way.

And on top of that, they then ran ads telling people to complain if they found the experience didn’t match the promise … because they never wanted to be seen as having the passive attitude of a number 1 brand – where their goal is to protect their revenue rather than reward their customers.

Which leads to the point of this post.


Yep, it’s a continuation of the We Try Harder campaign.

Though, calling it a ‘campaign’ cheapens it, because it was their purpose. I don’t mean that in the wank way it is being used today. At no point were Avis saying. ‘We Try Harder To Make The World Better’. No, this was all about them trying harder for them. Which is not only more believable, it had a genuine benefit to the people who used them.

Which leads back to the ad.

Specially, the ad that features the President of Avis’ phone number.

So you can complain.

Directly to them.

Imagine that today?

You can’t can you, because not only do companies – including Avis – give customers who wish to complain the absolute runaround with endless email forms, faceless processes and protocols – all while claiming this is a more ‘helpful and efficient’ process for their customers – but because you don’t feel many companies are really trying harder at all.

Now it’s all about efficiency.

Removal of friction.

Basically making you do it all yourself but charging you as if you weren’t.

Now I have to admit, I don’t know if this ended up being the real President of Avis’ phone number … even though I really hope it was … but I know this ethos drove that brand to continued growth for decades.

Sadly, at some point, it went from purpose to a tagline and then Avis as a cultural force was done.

Which is the big lesson for us all.

Because while few would ever start a company to be like everyone else, the reality is many end up doing just that.

And while we hear people all talking about being the next Apple or Nike, they have to understand you don’t get there with a playbook, you get there with a singular focus on what you believe, what you value and what you are going to destroy to create.

Maybe Social Media Needs To Become A Full Contact Sport …
November 26, 2020, 7:30 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Culture, Digital, Diversity, Social Media

I am part of the last generation who experienced life before the internet while also being able to embrace it as an integral part of our life.

It has been amazing and as an [over]user/sharer on pretty much every platform out there, it’s fair to say that I am a big advocate of it.

However things have been changing.

Maybe it’s due to the hell of 2020.

Maybe it’s because we live in such political times.

Maybe there’s simply more pricks out there these days.

But it’s not nearly as nice as it once was.

It’s been happening over some time, but the warm, supportive nature of the mid-2000 blogging community has definitely gone.

I loved that time.

It actually was a community rather than just a bunch of people being on the same platform.

And while people disagreed with each other, there wasn’t the spite you see today.

OK, sometimes there was – but when it happened, the community united to stamp it out.

The attitude was ‘by all means have a different point of view, but maintain respect for the other person views as well’.

It was self-policing … a community who openly opposed anyone who was being toxic towards another, or being condescending or desperate to not just ‘be right’ but wanted to ensure the other person looked foolish to all around them.

But that’s the environment we have on social media most days.

All social media … from Twitter to Linkedin and everything in-between.

Sure, sometimes the internet reveals it can be a community again.

United for something good or meaningful.

But sadly that’s now the exception, overtaken by a bunch of arrogant, condescending, self-righteous pricks.

Who are mainly men. White men.

Who are happy at the destruction of another.

Ridiculing them.

Humiliating them.

Of course trolls have been out there since the earliest days, but we are witnessing a new breed. They’re not the people who we can easily dismiss as vicious fools simply seeking attention.

No, this lot are much harder to spot.

Because they’re able to be personable one second and destructive the next … leaving a stream of people confused and broken from the experience of the interaction.

Broken in terms of who they are.
Broken in terms of what they believe.
Broken in terms of thinking they can contribute.

The ‘I-am-better-than-you’ attitude is everywhere.

It is social bullying of the highest order … where groups form around cults of personality and feel it is OK to ignore pleasantries, debate or reason and feel it is perfectly acceptable to revel in trampling on another.

No one – or very few – would ever dare do that to someone face-to-face and yet they think this is perfectly acceptable behaviour on social platforms.

Well it isn’t.

We have enough hate and anger in the World without us happily adding to it.

And while some may say, “it’s only a small minority doing it”.

They’re confusing the small minority who do it all the time with the large majority who do it some of the time.

And while I appreciate we can all make mistakes or have a bad day – and those so people can show incredible compassion towards others at certain times … the fact is, when we fail to acknowledge our bad behaviour – whether through embarrassment or arrogance – we are showing others it’s OK.

To not care about others.

To think our views are superior views.

Which is why we should maybe all practice something Jill has told me since we got together.

Never do or say anything to someone you wouldn’t do with your significant other next to you.

Because if you do, you can’t complain when you’re punched in the mouth.

Love Hurts …

Once upon a time, I worked with a very talented creative from Mexico called Jorge.

He is the most amazing conceptual designer that I’ve ever worked with.

His history of work is incredible …

From the Coke Side of Life stuff to the Oreo Wonderfilled campaigns of the past.

Hell, I even wrote about some of his work before I even knew it was his work.

Everything he does has a strong sense for distinctive design and sophisticated craft.

He is also the person behind that picture at the top of this post.

Yep, a picture of a cover of a book about how much of an asshole I am.

And while I appreciate I can definitely be one, he isn’t calling me this because we didn’t like working together.

OK, so sometimes we argued, but generally we were a great team.

Hell, there are some meetings that have gone down into folklore. Or at least for us.

So why has he drawn that picture?

For one simple reason … I think he is a handsome bastard.

Actually, he’s not just any handsome bastard, he looks like that handsome bastard in Love Actually … Rodrigo Santoro.

This guy …

Look at him!!

How gorgeous is that.

OK, that’s not him, but it’s as good as being him.

Plus he’s charming too. OK, he can definitely be a bit of a prick [just ask his wonderful wife] but overall, he’s pretty awesome.

Anyway, because I thought he looked so much like AN INTERNATIONAL MOVIE STAR, I wanted to celebrate the fact … so I started getting some things made with his and Rodrigo’s face on it.



Packing tape.

That’s quite the compliment isn’t it?

Hell, I spent my own money on celebrating his face.

But did he like it? Did he bollocks.

He hated it.

He loathed it.

He felt it was an affront to his dignity.

To his talent.

Hence the book he made for my last birthday.

And while I get his point, it’s always the beautiful people who complain about being attractive isn’t it? Just like it’s only the 40 year olds who say “40 is the new 30”.

Try having a face like a dropped pie and a modicum of talent.

Yeah … try that Jorge and still be upset someone thinks you’re great.

Let me tell you. It doesn’t happen.


And while I accept this post is a bit weird and may have a lot to do it being written at 4 in the morning while feeling utterly delirious, I am choosing to claim – and will stick to this argument, even if forced to appear in a court of law – that it proves something else.

Something the industry has always suspected, but never been able to confirm.

Creatives are weirdos. Thank god.


I am so sorry Jorge. But at least I know Ana will find if funny.

A Conversation About Living. And Failing.

A few weeks ago, my friend – Philippa White, the founder of TIE – spoke to me about my life.

While many would say that is the single worst idea anyone could have, Philippa – for reasons that still escape me – thought differently.

TIE – or The International Exchange – is an amazing thing.

They link people from the commercial world [from big organisations to people from BBH and W+K] with social initiatives around the world, providing unique opportunities that will transform the lives of both parties.

It’s an absolutely amazing organisation and the people who have done it talk about how it has had a profound affect on their lives – for the experience they had, the realisation that their skills can benefit people in different ways that they ever imagined and the lessons they learnt about what they’re good at, what they want to be good at and the future they can now envision for themselves.

I have not done TIE, but Philippa and I bonded when we met over the power of overseas experiences and learning and for some reason she wanted to talk about my journey.

We cover a whole lot of topics, from family to friendship to failure and while it may only be interesting to those looking for a cure for insomnia, if you’re looking for development, growth and having more meaning and value from your life … I can assure you TIE is definitely going to be of interest to you.

Thank you Philippa. Thank you TIE.

You can be disappointed by it here.