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


Nursery Rhymes Ruin Lives …

A few weeks ago, I was in Australia.

As I was leaving I saw a billboard for a kids hospital.

Well, it says hospital, but it’s actually a charity that serves hospitals.

All hospitals are amazing, but ones for kids are incredible.

Helping those delicate tiny lives … often unable to understand or express what they are feeling … is basically nothing short of saintly in my book. It hits home even more as people on this blog – including myself – have had to experience the anguish of having a sick kid that relied on the brilliance of Doctors and Nurses as well as the miracle of modern medicine to help them come through.

Anyway, this billboard stood out for reasons beyond just the little baby being featured.

More for its name and logo.

Given it chose to name itself after a Nursery Rhyme character that couldn’t be put back together again [which is not surprising given it was being done by the King’s horses and men] it leaves me wondering if the consultants that came up with the name may need hospital treatment of their own.

Humpty might be a terrible name, but it’s a brilliant charity.

One that shouldn’t need to get donations to help other hospitals keep functioning and save lives.

But they do, so if you can donate, I know they would be grateful.



There’s Weird And There’s Adelaide Toilet Weird …
June 27, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Australia, Comment, Culture

A few weeks ago I found myself in Adelaide.

I didn’t expect to be there, but I was there.

It had been over 20 years since I had last visited, but in that time, its ‘unique’ reputation had remained intact.

A city of churches.

A city of serial killers.

A city that had a timezone 20 years behind society.

OK, so the ’20 years behind’ is unfair … but that’s not from me, it’s what the rest of Australia used to say when I lived there and I’ve not heard anyone change their tune since.

In fact a Qantas steward once got fired for saying this when their plane landed there:

“Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Adelaide. Please put your watches back 20 years”

Now you’d imagine Adelaide citizens would be up in arms with this sort of shit but they’re not.

The reason I was always told was because it means people stay away and they can enjoy their piece of paradise in peace.

And maybe that is exactly the reason.

But there may be another motivation … and that is the people of Adelaide are more ‘unique’ than anyone thought and just don’t want to draw attention to themselves.

What am I going on about?

This …

That photograph is from a bathroom inside the Adelaide airport.

I’ve spent a lot of my life in airports.

I’ve spent a lot of my life in toilets.

And I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.

Which brings me to my opinion on Adelaide and it’s cultural reputation outside of the city.

Because when you need a sign next to a urinal that states, DO NOT DRINK, that’s weird.

But when you need a sign next to a urinal that states DO NOT DRINK because it’s RECYCLED WATER – which suggests it would be perfectly acceptable to be drinking directly from a toilet if it wasn’t … that’s Adelaide weird.

No wonder I like this city.



Cowards Are Oppressors …

Many years ago, I did a campaign for Australian ‘youth’ radio station, Triple J.

Triple J was a government funded radio station, but what set it apart was that it had a mandate to play new artists, preferably Australian, who were definitely not part of the mainstream crowd.

Think John Peel, but Australian.

What I loved about them was how much they divided opinion.

To some they were hope. To others they were noise.

But as we delved deeper, it became apparent the people who thought it was noise were basically proud the followers of the mainstream. The focus-group designed. The beige and the blunted. The average.

Now I appreciate that sounds massively judgemental … but what I found interesting was how companies had basically messed with the meaning of average in a bid to make more cash from customers.

In the old days, average was an achievement.

The meeting point between quality and cost.

Democratisation.

Progression.

Access.

But now average wasn’t that at all.

It was mainstream mediocrity.

Designed for easy, passive appeal. Mindlessness. A strategy of making beige act like gold.

Which led to the point of view of the work: The enemy of average.

Directly targeting anything that had been designed to dumb down rather than lift up.

We got into all sorts of mischief …

From placing warning stickers on all ‘easy listening’ artists in HMV [that saw us being threatened with legal action] … to running ads during mainstream TV to tell viewers they’re being murdered by averageness … to images of mainstream mediocre products being placed in public toilets so you could literally piss on them. [Beige Volvo anyone?]

And while this may all sound madness – and this was the 90’s so tastes were very different – we knew the only way to attract more listeners was to ensure we did it in a way that made our existing fans see we were fighting for what we believe, rather than pandering to popularity.

The old reverse psychology trick.

And it worked because ultimately this was just an extension of who they truly were.

Stubborn, opinionated, mischievous, audacious and uncompromising.

A teen who was very comfortable in playing with the uncomfortable.

And what this did was help build the cult of the brand … helping Triple J enter a new phase of growth while never looking like they were chasing fame.

Of course, they’re not the only ones who have pulled this off.

Playstation did it … NIKE have done it … Supreme do it … but the key to pulling this off successfully is knowing who you are and knowing who you’re for and frankly, not many can brands – or agencies – say that, especially these days.

What makes this even more amazing is how many agencies and companies bang on about their authenticity and purpose … but the problem is they can’t see what they’ve become: a mediocrity pleaser machine.

Of course the signs are there if you just scratch the surface.

Generic, mass audiences.
An aversion for sacrifice.
A desire to remove any sharp edges or opinion.

And while many think making a brand as easy to buy is the greatest way to achieve success, the thing they need to remember is the future goes nowhere in the hands of cowards.



Back To The Future …

Brand experience.

An exciting and new discipline in the brand building space.

Except …

Before some of you had started work.
Before some of you were even born.
SRVT – better known as Sargant Rollins Vranken Tereakes – were not only talking about it, but also doing a ton of stuff with it as well.

Now they were an agency ahead of their time.

An exciting, creative and progressive agency.

One of the very best I had the pleasure of working at.

But still, 23 years have passed since the slide at the top of this page was part of their credentials, so can we stop banging on about experience like it’s the newest, new thing in marketingland?

All we’re really doing by talking about it in these terms is highlighting how slow we actually are.

Especially as many brands – especially in the luxury space – were doing it decades before even SRVT … and certainly better than the ‘lowest level of consistency’ format seemingly favoured and promoted by so many.

God, this week has got off to a positive start hasn’t it, hahahaha.



If Companies Want To Know About ‘Agile’, Ask My Son …

3 different nationalities.
4 different countries [In 4 different continents]
5 different homes.
4 different schools.
Two major long lockdowns.
All of this in just 6 – but soon to be 7 – short years.

And yet despite all that change … all that waving goodbye and learning to say new hellos … he remains a happy, curious, cheeky and compassionate kid.

And while he loved his life in China, America and the UK … he is blossoming in NZ.

Sure, some of that is because he has been able to get back into some sort of routine, meet new friends and play with other kids his own age – at least until Delta struck and he got locked down with his parents for weeks on end – but it’s more than that …

Outdoor life is a way of life here.

Being outside is no longer a conscious choice.

The line between indoors and outdoors is now very slim.

No need to change clothes. No need to wear shoes. Spontaneity is allowed to flow which – let’s be honest – is exactly how a kid should be able to live their life.

I’ve lived in similar environments before … in Australia and America for example … but whether it’s because I’m older or now live in a bloody treehouse or have a kid of my own, I appreciate it so much more.

Watching him be able to run around outside is a real privilege.

Of course, for people born here, that’s a normality … but I have lived in environments where that’s not the case, which is why even seeing him watch his iPad in the sun is something I don’t take for granted.

We cannot discount the importance of being able to play outside, but sadly many governments and councils seem to.

Viewing it as ‘a favour’ rather than a fundamental right.

Playing outside helps kids in so many ways.

Bond … learn … imagine … express … play … explore … compete … respect.

It’s not a ‘waste of time’, it creates a deeper foundation for life.

An ability to think outside of lines and others definitions.

Giving kids an environments where they can be outside is basically an investment in a countries future.

A nation of curious, interested, healthy people.

But not everyone gets this.

Some actively try to stop this.

Often people of immense privilege who either associate outdoor life as something for either the elite or the rough.

Fortunately NZ does not see it this way.

They revel and celebrate it.

They have the best parks I’ve ever seen in my life.

Parks made to enjoy and encourage kids to push their boundaries.

A new discovery of what you’re capable of with every visit.

And while for most kids it’s about developing, for Otis it’s also about grounding.

A place he can feel is his.

A connection to where he lives in a way he’s not had before.

Because while he is young, I do not underestimate what he has been through.

Fuck, there’s people I have worked with who have literally freaked out when asked to move office desks … and yet here’s my kid, who has moved countries, homes and friends and still embraces the possibilities of every situation.

So much of that is down to his brilliant Mum who has helped that change happen in the most comfortable, seamless way … but it still requires a mindset to look at what you’ll gain rather than just what you lose.

And while I know one day I’ll no doubt be dragging him off for another adventure somewhere else on the planet [but don’t worry, it won’t be for ages. Probably] I want you to know that I love you from tip to toe and let you know I’m so, so proud to be your dad.

Thank you Otis, you’re a little legend.