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


Whoever Said Crime Doesn’t Pay Hasn’t Heard Of McKinsey …

Monday.

God it’s hard isn’t it.

If this is the point of the week where you have the most energy, how the hell will you be feeling on Wednesday?

Well I’m going to help you with that.

I’m going to give you a surge of energy that will see you through.

And that energy is going to be created through anger.

Remember last week how I wrote about McKinsey and their moral compass free attitude towards making cash?

That they thought nothing of putting in proposals that allowed their client to continue killing people as long as they made money?

Well, I guess there was a small chance that someone could say it was all a mistake. A misunderstanding. A misquote.

OK, so no one really thinks that, but I may have been willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

OK, I wasn’t … because there was no way they ‘made a mistake’.

McKinsey doesn’t make those.

Every single thing they do is deliberate.

Everything.

Thought out. Considered. Evaluated. Proposed.

Their driving force is optimising profit. For themselves as much as their client – especially as they never execute what they recommend to clients. Implication free advice … morally, ethically and, in some cases, legally.

And why am I being so harsh?

Because of this:

Nothing highlights McKinsey’s knowledge of what they did – and what they didn’t do – than shredding files in relation to their client.

A long time ago there was a book called The Corporation. In it, the author argued that corporations are basically psychopaths on a relentless quest for money and power.

It’s literally why McKinsey are in business.

Who else would want to work with a company that charges huge amounts for work they don’t execute that encourages illicit or even illegal behaviour? And yet so many of the companies that work with them go on about their ‘purpose’, their ‘focus on the community’.

While there are exceptions, Joel Bakan – the author of The Corporation – was generally absolutely correct in his judgement.

When Arthur Anderson was caught shredding the files of the illegal work they did for Enron, their reputation was so tainted that they went bankrupt. That McKinsey continues to walk around like the Masters of the Universe should make you furious.

Absolutely furious.

And with that, you now have the energy to get through your week.

You’re welcome.



McKinsey. Psychopaths For Sale.

I’ve written about McKinsey in the past.

From the talk I did at their conference where I took the piss out of the, through to the infamous tweet I sent about that incident through to my begrudged respect that they are able to charge so much money for things they will never get their hands dirty in executing.

And while I am fully aware that they have some incredibly smart people in their organisation, the organisations ruthlessness towards capitalism highlights they have almost zero moral compass.

Oh they talk about their values.

They go on about their commitment to purpose and integrity.

But the more and more I did into the organisation, the more I find codes of conduct that should be regarded as criminal rather than respectful.

I’m currently reading Empire Of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe about the opioid crisis – specifically OxyContin – created, aggressively marketed and exploited by the Sackler family.

It makes for horrific reading.

The way the family lied, denied and did all they could to separate themselves from the horror they created – blaming the victims and inventing terminology ‘pseudo-addiction’ to separate themselves from blame.

And what’s this got to do with McKinsey?

This.

McKinsey … the value driven, purpose driven company of integrity.

More like, the money driven, moral free, promoters of human misery.

I appreciate many people value what they do.

I appreciate they have done good things for companies in the past.

But if an organisation is OK with putting forward a proposal that basically ‘buys’ companies to continue selling a product that is killing hundreds of thousands of people [current estimate is 500,000 in the US alone with many more addicted] then at what point do companies start to realise that eventually customers will start questioning them.

We all make mistakes.

We all have put forward ideas that stretch boundaries.

But I don’t know anyone who has suggested – let alone put in a proposal – that allows people to die so a client can make more money.

And they say adland has problems …



Listen To Yoda …

while back I read an interview with film director, voice of Yoda and countless muppets and expert puppeteer – Frank Oz.

It was a beautiful interview … a story of friendship, loyalty, creativity and compassion, so I urge you to read it … but there was one thing that really stood out to me and it was this:

Now it’s fair to say it’s no longer just corporate America who don’t understand the value of the things they’ve just bought. In some respects, we see it every day from clients who dictate and demand changes to a piece of creativity that an experienced professional has custom made for their specific situation … right through to companies who blame talent for circumstances and situations that they were directly complicit in creating and encouraging.

As I see it, the problem is three fold.

1. People judge output without any appreciation of how it happened.
2. People wildly overestimate their own talent.
3. It’s easier to look like you’re doing things than doing things.

None of these should be a surprise.

It’s why we tend to lavish our attention on individuals who are associated with ‘results’ rather than recognize the people around them who made it possible. It’s why we talk about wanting to follow similar paths to others but dismiss the pain, hardship and conflicts they endured to get there. It’s why companies build in-house creative departments without understanding the importance of objective viewpoints that lead to the work they want to replicate. It’s why people dismiss what others have done despite never having done anything of note themselves. It’s why companies talk about the importance of experience but see them as an expense. It’s why industries talk about D&I but don’t change the situations and contexts that make it an issue. It’s why companies talk about teams but have departments of exactly the same sort of people. It’s why companies become obsessed with proprietary processes even though the work and results it produces is nothing special. It’s why many consultants tell you what is wrong but never take responsibility for making it right. It’s why someone I once worked with on an airport project said – no word of a lie – “why don’t we push out the architects, because we could do a much better job”, despite the fact he wasn’t an architect and our role had little to do with it.

I could go on.

And on and on and on.

The reality is we’re all complicit in some way.

And the irony is if we learn to value what it takes to get the results we want – rather than simply focusing on the speed, power and control of ownership – then we’d all stand a much greater chance of achieving the things we want.

Or said as the wonderful Lee Hill once said to me …

Hire well.
Pay well.
Brief well.
Value well.
Trust well.

Have a good weekend.



Don’t Practice What You Preach …

Brands.

Bragging about their importance.

Their unquestionable dominance.

Their ability to solve everything you’ve ever wanted.

Their purpose to help humanity stop making fuck-ups.

Shame they miss the point when it comes to their day-to-day behaviour.

Like this lot … starting with the unsliding doors, Sliding Doors company.

Oh, it’s not just one store. It’s here too.

And here’s another.

Not quite the same as mopping is different to vacuuming, but close.

I know … I know … it’s a small thing.

But when brands act like they are the most important thing in people’s lives, then it becomes a big thing.

A big thing that makes people laugh at them rather than with them.

Don’t get me wrong, brands have importance.

What they do has – despite what some say – significance in people’s live.

But until they accept the role they really have in people’s lives and that they aren’t the be-all and end-all for human happiness/status/success/value/perfection … then they’ll keep being called out for their hypocrisy and stupidity.

No one expects perfection.

No one minds mistakes.

But they do like honesty … and until brands are as good with that as they are with amplifying their ego, they will never reach the adoration – or respect – that they aspire to have.



Who Is Fooling Who?

Being old, I’ve done more than my fair share of judging awards.

I enjoy it.

Yes it’s a major investment in terms of time, but when you come across an absolutely devastatingly good submission, it’s worth every second.

However it is also fair to say that over the years, there have been some real painful experiences. Either in terms of average papers being seemingly entered into every category in a bid to increase the odds of winning something or papers that have such a strong scent of scam, even Ray Charles can see how suspect they are. [Sorry Mr Charles]

I always laugh when I come across those. Specially at the agencies submitting them … because while they obviously think they are geniuses – or the judges are idiots – the reality is they’re wrong on both counts.

But here’s the thing, people can slag off awards all they like, but they matter.

For Colenso for example, they’re important.

We’re a small agency on the other side of the planet and being able to show our creativity and effectiveness is vitally important to keep demonstrating our validity to attract global clients.

But – and it’s a big but – it only works if its real.

And that only works if all the winners around it are also real.

Now I appreciate that different clients have different needs and budgets.

I appreciate different markets have different cultural traits, behaviours and media.

I absolutely appreciate some entries use a language that is not their native tongue.

And I think that is all brilliant – though I also think none-native English speakers are at an immediate disadvantage and the award organisers should be looking at ways to change that.

However, if you need to write 8456738585463 words to explain your problem or your idea or your insight or your results … you’re not helping yourself.

Nor are you if you are using the pandemic as your strategies main adversary – often followed up with the words, ‘how do we grow in an era of the new normal?’.

Of course I am not doubting the pandemic has caused havoc among categories of business all over the world. It’s definitely happened to me too. But if we don’t explain what the challenge is – how it has affected behaviour or values or distribution or competition or anything other than it ‘made things more difficult’ … then it’s as lazy as the time I judged the Effies in the US when Trump came to power and the opening line of 85% of all submissions was:

How do we bring a nation divided together?

[My fave was when a whisky brand used that as their creative challenge. HAHAHAHA]

I take the judging seriously because I want the awards to be valued.

I want the awards to be valued because I want the industry to be valued.

And I want the industry to be valued because I want clients to win, creativity to win and the people coming up behind me to have a chance of taking us all to better and more interesting places that we’re at right now.

And I believe they can if we don’t fuck up the chance for them.

I get awards are nice to have.

I get they can drive business and payrises.

But if we keep allowing bullshit a chance to shine – and let’s face it, we have time and time again – then all we’re doing is fucking ourselves over.

I’m fine with failure.

In fact I’m very, very comfortable with it.

Especially when it’s because someone has tried to do something audacious for all the right reasons … because even if it doesn’t come off, it’s opened the door to other things we may never have imagined. There’s even real commercial value to that.

But when agencies create, hijack or exploit problems to just serve their own means – then fuck them. Maybe – just maybe – if they did it at a scale that could make a real difference, you’d be prone to encourage it. But when it’s done to achieve just what is needed to let the creators win an award … then frankly, the organisers and judges have a moral obligation to call it out.

Asia gets a bad wrap for this. And over the years that has been deserved, but I can tell you no market is immune. Hell, I’ve even seen some in NZ recently – or one in particular – and what made it worse was it wasn’t even any good.

But as rubbish as that example was, at least it didn’t stoop to the levels we have seen previously.

Let’s remember it’s only 4 years ago an agency WON MAJOR AWARDS for an app they said could help save refugees on boats by tracking them in the sea … only for them to then claim – when later called out – that the app was in beta testing hence the information being sent back to users was not real.

Amazingly ignoring the fact they didn’t say that in any of their entry submissions and if they had, they wouldn’t have been eligible for the awards they entered in the first place.

Creativity can do amazing things.

Advertising can do amazing things.

But we fuck it up when we put the superficial on the podium.

Of course, this is not just an agency problem. Clients are also part of this. Because if they let agencies do what they are great at rather than treating them as a subservient production partner … maybe we’d not just see more interesting work, but even more interesting and valuable brands.