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


The Beginning Of The End Or The End Of The Beginning?

I cannot believe it is the end of June.

How did that happen so fast?

The problem with the year going so quickly is that so is my mortality.

When you’re in your thirties or forties … hearing someone has died at 73 seems centuries away, but when you’ve just turned 52, it seems like a week.

I’ve written how much turning 50 has affected me before.

From looking wistfully at photos of people who look a bit like my son, albeit much older … through to how much I love my wife … to finally appreciating a good garden … to talking about my career.

The reality is, if you’re still in adland at my age – or probably any industry – you definitely feel you’re approaching the end of your journey.

And you are …

That doesn’t mean you don’t have a shit-ton to offer or that you’re not doing exciting work … the reality is the industry has always valued ‘new’ over experience – or even creativity for that matter – so it’s just how it goes.

However from a pure ego perspective, it can still sting a little … especially when many of the people getting the acclaim have not done anything of note, other than play the self-publicity game very, very well.

Repeatedly shouting their reframed arguments, judgement on others work or modern takes on old behaviours and then – just as you’re about to turn into a bitter bastard – you realise that’s probably what the previous generation of adfolk thought about you and your mouth – and suddenly things look very different.

And as much as that revelation is a metaphorical kick in the face brings, it also is pretty liberating.

Because while it’s nice to be noticed – and there’s some people out there doing things that truly deserve to be because they’re trying to take the possibilities of creativity to new places, from POCC to Ivy Huang at Tencent to Mr Hoon Kim at Gentle Monster [and I know I’m biased given he’s a client of mine] to the usual suspects like Nils etc to name but a few – the reality is not being defined by your job or your title or your employer is far better for your health, happiness and creativity … and yet that is the opposite of what the industry promotes.

Your value is based on your title.
Your talent is linked to who you work for.
Your reputation is decided by how well known you are rather than what you’ve done.

I get it. I felt that way for a time. But it’s also a bit insane.
I cannot tell you how differently people listened to what I said when I was at Wieden than when I was at Cynic, despite that on many occasions, I was saying EXACTLY the same thing. It happens now with Metallica. People who wouldn’t give me the time of day before suddenly think what I spout has value because some heavy metal musicians treat me as their cat litter tray. But the reality is success is as much down to good fortune as it is talent – even though talent is still very important – so to play to what you think someone wants you to be rather than who you actually are only ends up undermining you.

You may not realise that till later, but at one point you’ll look in the mirror and know.

Let’s be honest, turning 52 is pretty pants.

Even more so when you find a photo of yourself at 22.

Yep, that’s really me … from my passport photo.

Hair, youth and serial killer stare.

But at 52 you ache.
You look older than god.
And you’re made to feel the industry you’ve pretty much given your working life to, is trying to leave you behind purely based on your age.

And despite me having so much fun and doing so much exciting stuff with bands, I still adore adland.

I may not like where it is going or what it now values, but it’s given – and continues to give me – so much and I’ll always be grateful for that.

And while my time in the industry is different to what it once was, it still gives me so much … with the latest gift being the realisation their issue with older people is their problem not mine.



If You’re Going To Be Arrogant, At Least Earn The Right To Be That Way …

Recently I saw an interview with a photographer, I vaguely know.

[By vaguely, I mean it, we had a couple of interactions that he would never remember]

His name is Gavin Watson and he’s been taking photos since his early teens.

He’s almost 58 now and over that time, he’s built an enviable reputation for capturing the raw beauty of subcultures people either don’t understand or fear.

The photo he is proudest of is this one …

He took it while on a tube in London.

I think he was 15 at the time and it’s of his mate, ‘Skinny Jim’.

FIFTEEN!!!

But that’s not what I’m writing about, it’s about some answers he gave in an article in The Guardian.

Have a look at this …

In 3 answers, it says all you need to know about him.

Sure, you may think he is confident and arrogant … some may even suggest he reveals some bitterness in his response … but you’d be missing the point, because when he says, “don’t expect fame unless you photograph stars – and that’s boring as fuck, he’s talking about earning his right to his place in the photography world.

Doing stuff.

Learning, practicing, grafting.

Through highs, lows, tough times, good times.

It’s important because the value of graft is losing its value in a world of short-cuts to fame.

I wrote about this a while ago – specifically the value of graft versus the evil of hustle – but in a World where ‘industry fame’ on platforms like twitter is viewed as an act of career achievement, we need more Gavin’s than those who say a lot, but have created little.



Nothing Reveals A Fool Like The Willingness They Have To Share Their Wisdom …

I know what you’re thinking, that post above is a joke.

Has to be, doesn’t it?

Probably posted by a comedian who did it to set up the premise of their act which is about how ridiculous it is some men who think they have the right to control, blame or judge women for their own tragic, delusional and illusional bullshit.

Except – as you guessed it – it isn’t.

It’s true. It’s bloody true.

And while I could use this post to highlight the bullshit of religion – and America’s religious right – I’m not going to.

Not because I’ve suddenly become mature, but because Owen has done it all on his own.

Instead, I am going to talk about the other thing he is demonstrating … something many people, religious or not, are doing … and that is confusing opinion for intelligence.

A long time ago, I wrote a post about a line that featured in the movie about Margaret Thatcher featuring Meryl Streep.

It was this …

“Everyone prefers to feel these days instead of think. Why is no one thinking anymore?”

Now I – as anyone who knows me, knows – am a big believer in ‘feelings’ and yet even I agreed with the point she was making in that statement.

And I think that’s kind of similar to the point about some people mistaking opinion for intelligence.

This belief that just because you think it means everyone should feel the same.

Acting like an all-seeing guru.

The Yoda’s, Yoda.

My god … the lack of self-awareness is incredible. But it’s not simply because these people live and interact in a very tiny bubble – surrounded like minded sheep – it’s also because they refuse to be open to the lives, contexts and considerations of others.

God, there were so many of these people in China.

Predominantly white, Western men … who would immediately think and act like ‘they knew best’, regardless that they’d never been to China or – if they had – had only interacted in Western contexts.

Oh the shit they’d spout …

The blinkered ignorance they’d spew.

From talking about twitter in a nation that didn’t have it … to saying Asian women would not buy expensive lingerie because they only buy things that show status to society to telling Chinese business people how to sell their products in China, despite it being their very first time in the country … you name it, I heard it.

I used to call it ‘the generosity of stupidity’.

And while it is easy to laugh at them – and people like Owen, with his misogynistic, sexist bullshit – the scary thing is they attract audiences and we’re to blame.

You see we think it’s so obvious they’re ridiculous that we don’t need to call them out on it. But the problem is, this feeds their belief they’re right and before you know it, they come out with tweets that suggest a women wearing leggings is an act of sexual temptation.

Worse, an act of sexual temptation that is entirely the woman’s fault, regardless of the fact they’re just wearing some leggings because they’re comfy or stylish or it doesn’t matter what the fuck the reason is.

Which is why I think we should all follow the advice of Peter Mensch.

Peter is one half of Metallica’s long-term managers and when I asked him what he thought his job was, he said this:

“I’m paid to tell them the truth. They might not like it, they might not follow it, but it is my job to ensure they know the reality of the situation they are going into, based on 40+ years of experience working at the highest, most demanding, most successful standards of music management”.

Or said another way …

When you meet people like this, if you don’t deal with them, you’re complicit to them.

And while some may say that is argumentative and aggressive approach, I’ll leave you with something my Dad used to tell his young lawyers about the importance of dealing with issues head on.

“Nothing shows respect like providing a client with inconvenient truth”.

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No post tomorrow as we celebrate the wonderful Matariki … so see you Monday.



Things On Pedestals Are Exceptionally Fragile …

I’m back.

Sorry.

Anyway, a little while ago, a respected marketing guru – a real one, not one of the self-appointed pretenders out there – wrote a post about the situation in Ukraine.

While what they were saying was right – ie: we should resist giving brands who actively choose to still trade with Russia, our time or money – the way they said it bothered me as it gave the impression people working for these companies – regardless of situation or circumstance – should focus on getting a new job.

I pointed out not everyone has the privilege, money or time to be able to do that – many are just trying to survive, even if they are against the war – so it might be good to mention that for both context and understanding.

The individual in question saw my comment and came back at me.

In their eyes, they were saying exactly that in their comment [they weren’t] … and then questioned why I would even raise this.

So I replied saying I was happy they didn’t mean it as I read it but it was because of how it read, that I commented.

To which they came back again …

This time they used a tone that suggested I was idiotic to question them because of their highly regarded status in the industry.

OK, so that last bit is my interpretation of their tone, but at no point did they show any understanding or desire to understand my point of view. They disregarded it immediately, as if being challenged – especially someone like me – was an outrageous act of impertinence.

At this point I showed a degree of maturity, because I could have said …

… the burden of responsibility for communication is on the author not the reader.
… we all make mistakes – even professors of marketing – so they didn’t need to get so upset.
… their response was so disproportionate, it was bordering on white fragility.

But then I realised I didn’t have to, because they kind-of said it all themselves.

There is a lot of talk about white privilege – and so there should be – but today I saw privileged white privilege. By that I who believe their level of education, status or wealth deems them to be untouchable due to being perfect.

Now don’t get me wrong, this person is very clever.

They have a huge amount of knowledge and experience and have built a platform that means they are heard and followed by many.

All brilliant.

However, as clever as they are, on this occasion they weren’t very smart.

Which gives us a good lesson to remember.

As much as we may not want to, we all make mistakes … but those who refuse to entertain the possibility of that happening often discover that they become the mistake.



Truth In Advertising …

Free newspapers.

Yes, they’re free.

Yes, they’re made of paper.

But news?

Most of the time I take them from the letterbox straight to the bin. And then I saw this …

A local, free newspaper that called itself ‘a rag’.

And do you know what I did?

I went and got it and then read it cover to cover.

15 years ago I talked about ‘unplanning’ … which is basically, the power of truth.

[Though in 2006, I also wrote a post about the commercial value of a single banana at Starbucks, so maybe the idea of ‘product loneliness’ had something to do with me picking up a copy of the paper. And you thought my posts were bad now, hahahahaha]

It was my reaction to an industry drowning under the weight of it’s own bullshit terms, techniques and approaches. Well you know what, it’s got worse.

So while calling a local newspaper a ‘rag’ is hardly a strategy … it makes more sense than so many of the strategy submissions I judged around the World over the last few years.

Oh my god the claims.

An item of food that reignited a culture.

A sales promotion that brought families together.

An alcohol company that inspires artistic diversity.

No … those examples are not a joke, they were real submissions … so with that in mind, a local, free newspaper that made a bloke pick up a copy, read it cover-to-cover then blog about it because they labelled themselves ‘a rag’, should be considered a Grand Prix winner.

Or in submission speak:

How a small plucky local, free newspaper become the most influential entertainment channel for international tourists.

Transformation. Disruption. Purpose. Blah, blah, fucking blah.

OK, I think I need to go and have a lie down … and lucky for you, it is going to last 4 days as I’m off to Melbourne so there’s no post till Wednesday.

You’re welcome.