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


The First Is Always Misunderstood …

The photo above was taken by me in June 2006.

So sixteen years ago.

I found it recently in my flickr file.

I don’t know if I ever used it for a post.

I’m not sure where I took it – though I assume Singapore airport.

But I bet you I captured it because I found it weird to see someone playing games.
On their computer.
At the airport.

Remember, 2006 is way before the very first iPhone.

Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and Google Earth had only just started.

Shakira was number 1 with ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ and the first Cars movie had just hit the cinema.

And while gaming was huge – and handheld systems had been around for years – the idea of someone playing on their computer – at an airport – was obviously strange enough for me to take a photo.

But would we think that now?

Well, maybe the idea of needing a big-ass laptop to do it may still be considered strange – for totally different reasons than it was in 2006 – but the idea of someone gaming at an airport at all times of day wouldn’t cause a blink of an eye.

And here’s the point.

We – as an industry – are quick to kill new.

We write off different without any hesitation.

Believing if it makes no sense to us, it can’t make sense to anyone. Like we’re the fucking gods of everything.

And yet history has repeatedly shown new needs time.

Time to grow. Time to find its place. Time to find its energy.

From Apple computers to the internet to electric cars to gaming culture.

And while sometimes it may burn out, it’s worth remembering what a Fast Company journalist once said about reviewing tech.

“The biggest mistake is reviewing new tech against established tech. It will never win that because it’s not trying to be that”.

Which is why when you see new habits, beliefs or trends emerge that make little sense to you, it may be worth remembering before you pass judgement that it’s not them who have got it wrong, it’s possibly you who has misunderstood.

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Was He A Genius Or A Joker …
September 21, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Apple, Attitude & Aptitude, Authenticity

A lot has been written about Steve Jobs.

Hell, I’ve done a lot of it myself … however generally, everything said about the man is always about his genius.

That makes sense, because he was one, but rarely do you hear the human side of Jobs.

Sure, there’s his university speeches and occasionally his corporate ones, but there’s not often anything that reveals a sense of humour.

Now I’ve been told there were occasions where he definitely had one, but all I ever found ‘on record’ was his view on working with the designer, Paul Rand – and that’s more respectful dig than laugh out loud.

And then someone sent me a letter he wrote in the early days of Apple.

A letter that reveals his real sense of humour.

Smart. Dry. Slightly self-depreciating. Self aware.

Or at least I hope it is, because the alternative isn’t funny but terrifying.

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Details Details Details …

I know lots of people are questioning Apple’s innovation … but apart from the fact the rumour is they’re going to be launching all manner of exciting new things – from Apple glasses to Apple cars – the reality is many organisations evolve into something different over time.

Part of this could be because of technology.

Part of this could be because of a new interest.

Part of this could be because they’ve just lost their hunger.

But whether it’s brands like SONY going from innovation to perfection or Queen going from rock stars to entertainers, evolution doesn’t necessarily have to mean a bad thing.

I say this because we recently bought a new Apple desktop.

Please note I said BOUGHT … no freebies here. [Damnit]

Anyway, when it came we were struck by a couple of things.

First of all, the packaging was even more beautiful.

Let’s be honest, in terms of iPhone etc, while nice … their packaging has become far more simplistic, but for the desktop, it was a celebration of cardboard engineering.

Everything was beautiful and precise … you felt the effort and time that went into it, ensuring from the moment you opened the box, you felt you were getting something truly special.

A celebration of purchase, so to speak.

The second moment was the cables.

Jill wanted a yellow desktop and while everything was as simple and elegant as ever, the cable just captured the classic Steve Jobs ‘paint behind the fence‘ philosophy.

Look at it …

Having a yellow outer makes sense, but the fact they made sure that extended to the inside of the cable is something that just smacks of attention to detail.

No one will see it once it has been plugged in.

It probably wouldn’t even be noticed if they hadn’t done it.

But by making the effort, it not only stood out … they reminded us that what we have just bought isn’t simply a computer, it’s something that has been crafted by people who care about what they do.

It helps justifies the cost.

It reassures the quality.

It defines the brand and brushes aside the competition.

For all the modern approaches of marketing spouted left, right and centre … it’s amazing how simple things done extraordinarily well supersede all the approaches, techniques and buzzwords.

And while this is all possible because the company behind it is united by an idea, an identity and a set of values that defines who they are in definitive terms, anyone who says the little things don’t matter doesn’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.



Planned Destruction …
November 1, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Apple, Brand, Comment, Corona Virus, Death, Home

How the hell is it the 1st November?

It’s amazing that everyone saw 2020 as a year of insanity, but frankly, 2021 has more than lived up to the same billing.

Sure, we now have a vaccine.

Sure, the World is opening up.

But people are still dying and – if you’re in NZ – you have experienced another long lockdown, which makes you feel like it’s still pandemonium out there.

Add in the fact we were living in England at this point last year and now we’re in New Zealand … in a new house, with new cars and a new job, and you’ll understand why in many ways, 2021 has been equally – if not more so – crazy for us.

Talking of crazy …

A few weeks ago, Jill’s iPhone woke us up.

However this time it wasn’t by the alarm.

But with the smell of burning.

Have a look at this …

Yep, it basically caught fire.

No idea how or why, but it did.

Fortunately we woke up before it could get worse.

But nothing says ‘broken’ like an Apple logo in red.

Amazingly it still works.

OK, so some of the buttons are hard to see – and press – but generally it’s good. Well, I say good, if you ignore the huge burn mark on the screen.

Weirdly, someone I know had their iPad do exactly the same thing the day before … the day after Apple announced their new iPhones and iPads to the World.

Now I don’t want to start any conspiracy theories, but an iPhone that explodes for no reason is a pretty good reason to buy a new one.

Which is exactly what we have done.

My god, Apple are devious bastards.

And I – or should I say Jill – are proof a strong brand can make you do idiotic things.



Nothing Shows Respect Like Letting Someone Argue With You …

A career is a funny thing.

I mean literally, as a concept – it’s quite bizarre.

The idea of working in one industry and hoping to move up a fictional ladder and somehow hope that by the time you’re pushed off it – and we’ll all be pushed off it at some time – you’ve built up enough reputation or cash to keep you going through till the bitter end.

Hahahaha … Mr Positive eh!?

Anyway, by hook or by crook I’ve somehow managed to have what I’d call a career.

Admittedly, I fell into it – but overall, I’ve had a pretty good one.

I’ve worked at some amazing places.
I’ve got to live literally all around the World.
I’ve met people who have literally changed my life.
I’ve been part of work that still excites me years later.
And somehow, I’m still doing all those things, which is insane.

But as wonderful as all that is, one thing I am particularly proud of is how many of my old team mates are now at some of the most highly regarded creative companies in the World doing all manner of interesting things.

Of course, I had little to do with it – it’s all their talent – but the bit that makes me proud is that they are forging their own careers based on their own ideas and their own opinions and their own voice.

About 2005, I realised how lucky I had been with previous bosses.

All of them encouraged me to find my own voice rather than duplicate someone else’s … and while that often got me in trouble, they never strayed from their path of encouraging independent thought.

Now I appreciate a lot of companies say this, but this wasn’t some PR bullshit they could spout in a magazine, they lived it – openly and actively welcoming, encouraging and igniting debate.

And they never ‘pulled rank’.

It was always a discussion of equals – which was one of the most empowering and liberating professional feelings I ever had.

It showed trust. It showed respect. It showed value.

And even though I’m an old fuck who has done OK in my career, I still get that same feeling when I am working with others who embrace the same value.

As much as rockstars and billionaires may have a reputation for demanding diva’s, I can honestly say the ones I’ve been working with have been amazing in welcoming opinion. They may not always like what is said, but they always value why it has.

And that’s why, when I saw a shift in planning from rigour to replication … challenge to complicity … and individuality to impotency [driven by the global financial crisis of 2008] I realised the best thing I could do is encourage my team to be independent in thought, voice and behaviour.

I should point out this was not selfless. By having great creative and cultural thinkers in my team, they would help make even better work and that would have a positive effect on me too.

I know, what a prick eh.

And of course, I acknowledge not every planner was following the replication path. Nor was every agency. But it was definitely happening and arguably, this is why Australian planners have risen in position more than those from other nations [ie: Tobey head of planning at Uncommon, Paula global head of Nike planning at Wieden, Andy head of planning at Wieden Portland, Rodi, head of strategy at Apple South East Asia and Aisea MD at Anomaly LA to name but 5] because – as much as the Aussie government may like to say they suffered – the country was largely unaffected, which meant training continued, standards continued, creativity continued.

So while there was a bunch of other values we continually encouraged and practiced, the desire to develop independent thinking, openness and debate were a real focus of mine and have continued to be.

Whether I was successful is up to the people who had the awkwardness of dealing with me, but I distinctly remembering being in a meeting at Wieden in Shanghai after Sue, Leon and Charinee had just challenged a bunch of things we had just talked to the agency about.

One of the global team was there and said, “they’re very outspoken”.

And while normally that could be read as a diss, it wasn’t … it was more of a surprise because many people in China – especially the young – tend to keep very quiet, especially in front of people who are at a more senior level to them and this mob had gone to town.

To which I replied, “I know. It’s a wonderful headache to have”.

And it was.

And it is.

Which is why I will continue to believe the best thing any head of planning can do is encourage independent thought and respect for debate and rigour … because while it can creates moments where it’s a right pain in the arse, the alternative is far more disagreeable.

Have a great weekend.