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

Never Phone It In …

Yes, it’s a photo of Freddie.

But this is not just a tribute to him … well, not really.

The reason I love that photo is the intensity of performance.

The bulging vein. The closed eyes. The focused frown.

This photo was taken from their concert in Montreal, on their 1980/81 ‘The Game’ World Tour.

In fact, it was taken 10 years to the day before Freddie died.

But what I love about the photo is that despite Queen having been touring for years – and that concert coming at the end of an 18 month tour – he’s still bringing everything to the moment.

No short-cuts.

No lacklustre performance.

Just a show designed to leave an audience blown away.

I say this because one of the easiest mistakes agencies make is getting bored of their work before an audience is bored of it. A tiredness of going through the slow process of client acceptance. A hunger to move on to the next thing. Excitement of other opportunities that allow a fresh start.

And I get it. I get it A LOT.

But while playing a concert to 50,000 adoring fans and selling a campaign to a bunch of people in suits is pretty different … passion goes a long way in winning both parties over.

So while things should not take as long as they often do to get over the line … making sure you bring your commitment, focus and passion to meetings can go a long way at winning the audience over to your way of thinking.

And if that doesn’t change things – or worse, you see no desire from your audience to be part of something great – then maybe that’s when you need to adopt another Rockstar trait … which is get on the tour bus, speed out of town, never look back and go find an audience who value you – and will reward you – for being at your best.

Not All Heroes Wear Capes …

… but all idiots do idiotic things.

Yes … I know it’s daft.

Yes … I know it was potentially different.

But my god, these are the stupid things that makes this industry fun.

The weird, the wonderful, the daft and the ridiculous.

I get it – it’s unprofessional and immature – but it also connects and unites. Reminds people they’re not in a corporate job. Gives you memories that you still smile about years later.

I’ve seen, experienced – and probably engaged – in a bunch of stuff that represents this.

OK, there’s some I regret – and a couple I can never, ever tell – but the reality is no one ever got hurt and those moments helped create an environment where everyone felt there were no limits to what was possible.

Hell, one of those stupid moments led to an idea where we created a rollercoaster inside a house in Shanghai for Heineken.

And while I appreciate a bunch of you who read this will see it as some bullshit attempt justify acts of stupidity, seeing a plaque made for someone who swallowed a coin creates a much more inspiring and memorable place to work than the the painfully efficient, contrived and soulless, multi-agency brand buildings favoured by so many these days.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Probably me.

Nothing Says Privilege Like …
June 28, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Comment, Corona Virus


A pandemic that will live in history for centuries.

Hundreds of thousands dead.

Millions ill.

Job losses … income losses … educational impact.

And the woman who made – and sold – a candle that smelt like her vagina thinks eating bread was her lowest point???


While this news could be a great ad for a baker who wishes to celebrate the ‘comfort food’ credentials of their loaves, this is the sort of tone-deaf, white privilege bullshit that explains why Los Angeles is called LaLaLand.

While being fucking nuts is not exclusive to LA, they definitely over-index in it. As does anyone who buys anything from Gwynnie’s GOOP ‘health company of lies’.

A Beautiful Land With Troubles Hidden In The Shadows…
June 25, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Comment, New Zealand

I really enjoy living in New Zealand.

It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people.

And the generosity shown towards me and my family is bordering on breath-taking.

But it’s not perfect.

The image the World has from the outside is not quite what is going on in the inside.

There’s huge inequality.

There’s a big chasm between different cultures.

There’s massive limitations on how youth can express themselves.

And while there are some genuinely good programs – and many, many brilliant people – in place to try and bridge that gap, it exists and it’s surprising how little is talked about it.

One thing that has genuinely shocked me is the attitude towards suicide.

Specifically youth suicide.

Per capita, it has one of – if not the worst – record in the World.

More people die because of suicide here than die in car crashes.

Let that sink in for a second.

And what makes this statistic even more shocking is the attitude that you can’t – or shouldn’t – talk about it. Not openly.

Hell, the media even have restrictions on being able to report it.


Apparently the belief is reporting stories on people who have died because of suicide could encourage more people to do the same.

No … that is seriously what is being claimed.

And even if that were true – which it isn’t – the fact remains New Zealand is already number 1 or 2 in the World [depending on the year] for youth suicide so that means that approach isn’t working so maybe the focus should be on understanding and dealing with the issues that encourage this to happen rather than brush it under the carpet as if it will all go away on it’s own.

What makes this even more insane for me is the government have shown – through its actions in terms of COVID and terrorism – that open dialogue is an incredibly powerful way to gain knowledge, strength and an ability to heal.

OK, so this terrible situation has been happening for way longer than the current government have been in power – and I love Jacinda – but you’d think if anyone would tackle this issue with humanity, openness and compassion, it would be the current PM and her government.

From my early observations, there are some major issues for youth here.


A lack of options and opportunity.

A society that – because of its distance and smaller economic power [due to its relatively low population] – can grow old rather than grow up.

Which all means youth are left with a few options.

1. Conform.
2. Escape.

While conforming is probably not that appealing [is it ever for younger generations?] escape has its issues too.

In the past, one of the ways people expressed this was their ‘OE’ … their overseas experience, where they would go to different countries around the world for adventure. But with COVID having put a stop to all that, we now have a generation who see a future that has – for all intents and purposes – either had the brakes placed on it or been mapped out for them.

Now you could argue all youth face this, and maybe they do, but being part of a small population … about as far away from everyone else as you can get … with less overseas investment than other nations [for reasons detailed above] … means life for many young adults here has less choice, change or opportunity than people in other countries get.

And while you may not think that should matter or you think there is enough here for anybody to be happy … when you’re young and the internet lets you can see the possibilities other youth in other countries are able to enjoy each and every day, the feelings of isolation – physically, mentally and emotionally – that lie within become exponentially intensified.

You may write that off as entitlement.

But it’s not.

It’s a slow crushing of hope.

At an age where you should see everything as possible, for some in NZ, the opposite is true. But you are meant to still be grateful for it because you’re in beautiful NZ – which IS beautiful in more ways than just landscape – but when you’ve grown up here, you might not recognise it because to you, it’s just normal.

It’s an issue that needs discussing.

It’s an issue that needs attitudinal change.

And even if some people want to kid themselves suicides aren’t happening – instead choosing to believe a disproportionate amount of NZ youth just happen to die young – the reality is if they don’t deal with it, then the future of the whole country will be affected.

Youth will leave for their ‘overseas experience’ and just not come back.

Youth will choose alternative lifestyles to embrace and follow.

Youth will see gangs as offering a more exciting future than the one they have.

And while I could be accused of scaremongering, the reality is six hundred and fifty four people died of suicide last year and with few talking about it – or able to talk about it – it may communicate to those in fragile positions, that their country doesn’t care about whether they live or die or count.

I appreciate someone who has not been in the country for long should probably keep their opinions to themselves. I also appreciate this could be read at someone complaining about a country that has very kindly let his family come here to live.

But neither of these views would be right.

I say this because I love this country.

I say this because I am grateful to this country.

I say this because I’ve met people who I know care deeply about this issue.

I say this because NZ has its shit together on so many things the rest of the World need to learn from and follow.

I say this because I want NZ to prosper and grow and believe youth have the ability to help make that happen if they’re allowed to explore and express their ideas – good and bad.

I say this because I’ve lived in many different countries and the situation here is unlike anything I’ve seen, bar maybe China in 2007.

I say this because 654 people died by suicide last year.

Six hundred and fifty four.

I love you NZ, but we need to deal with this tragedy, not pretend it doesn’t exist.

A Reminder About Humans To Everyone Dealing With Humans …

No matter how well planned you think you are.

How detailed you’ve been.

How many case studies you’ve watched.

How many focus groups you’ve sat in.

How logical your argument is.

People will always do what works for them, not works for you.

So think about that next time you try and claim your comms plan/user journey is a true reflection of how all people engage with brands and make purchase decisions.

For the record …

I get the role and value of comms plans/user journeys.

I have no issue with them. In fact they can make a real difference to the work.

Where I get pissy is when they’re presented as ‘fact’ rather than a guide. Acting like they represent how ALL people behave – while ignoring factors like personal situation and circumstance as well as competitive activity.

Of course this attitude of ‘unquestionable, unbendable, superior intelligence and logic’ is prevalent in many planners … probably driven more by clients wanting certainty and consistency than personal ego … however by refusing to acknowledge we’re dealing more in frameworks than blueprints, we’re not just undermining our discipline and inadvertently placing barriers on new approaches and experiments, but ultimately selling generalised convenience rather than personal intimacy which means it’s set up to be average from the outset.


As I said to a client recently about insights …

They’re not perfect.

They’re not infallible.

They’re not all encompassing.

But when done right, they increase the odds of good things happening because they reveal the ridiculous truth behind people’s beliefs and behaviours … and I swear if we all adopted this attitude towards what we do, we may just end up making things that are more interesting and more effective as well.

We won’t. But I just like to think we might.