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


Time Machines Suck …

I’ve written this blog consistently for 15 years.

FIFTEEN!!!

My god …

But it gets worse.

Because bar a few weeks of holiday, it is something that has been written every single Monday to Friday.

That means there has been over 3,900 posts of utter gibberish for over 780 weeks.

And as tragic as that all sounds, there’s an awful lot of people who comment on here who have been here pretty much all that time.

LOSERS!!!

Now, I have to say there are some lovely benefits to long term blog writing.

In some ways it’s like a diary … capturing what I was thinking or doing at any given time.

It also is a lovely way to see how my opinions and thoughts have evolved over time.

Plus there’s the hope that when I’m gone, Otis will still feel his Dad is close.

OK … OK … there are some posts I definitely DON’T want him to read, but there’s others I’d be glad for him to keep going back to.

Putting aside I basically write the same 3 or 4 posts over and over again … there is a lot of my life contained in these pages.

From getting married to losing my Mum to having my son.

Proper life-changing stuff … and that doesn’t even cover the moves to different countries, jobs and homes.

The best and worst of my life is detailed here which is why – despite all these big life events being sandwiched between endless amounts of shit – I still like it.

Occasionally I randomly click on a date and just see what I wrote.

Recently I did this and was reminded what a little shit I was.

OK, can be.

It’s this.

Yep, it’s the time I tried to auction off Martin Sorrell’s business card so people could send him stupid messages or texts.

On the plus side, I was offering to give any money to charity.

On the negative, I was working for WPP at the time.

If you think that’s stupid, there was the time I wrote a post featuring a photo of Sir Martin with a picture of Toad of Toad Hall under the caption ‘Spot The Difference’.

And the weird thing is that while I don’t agree with his approach to creativity, I do respect him. I have met him on a number of occasions and he was very, very impressive.

Though it’s fair to say that respect was only one way, Especially when there was an agency Q&A and I asked him ‘what do you spend all your money on?’

So Sir Martin … even though I know you would never read this blog [more proof you’re clever] I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for my stupidity. It was ridiculous … but if it’s any consolation, at least it wasn’t as bad as this.

I know … I know … this was a terrible post even by my standards.

So celebrate in the fact that tomorrow is Good Friday so I’m off till next Tuesday and you’re not going have to deal with any more of this shit till then.

I don’t know about you … but it’s the sort of news that makes you almost believe in God, doesn’t it.

Happy Easter, enjoy the sugar rush.



People In Glass Houses Shouldn’t Be Throwing Stones …

One of the things I hated when I lived in China was hearing people slag off the country for all manner of things.

While some of the accusations were true, the reality was China was not the only country that participated in such behaviour but people chose to ignore that.

Not that I’m defending what was going on, because even though I rarely saw any of it – in fact I saw more in the US and UK when I lived there – I knew it was going on.

However there were some claims that showed people didn’t know what the fuck they were going on about.

The amount of people who would come to Shanghai from America and say, “let’s do ideas that force the government to deal with the pollution crisis”.

They’d say it like they were the very first people to identify China had a problem with pollution – which is possibly the greatest sign of arrogance you could have. So we would tell them.

China knows there is a pollution problem.

They are actively fighting it.

They’ve been the biggest investor in green tech for decades.

Proportionally, they still pump out less pollution into the air than America.

In fact, up until the last few years, they pumped out less pollution than America full stop.

America had been doing that for decades.

And there’s parts of London with a higher pollution index than most parts of China.

Then they’d stop acting like they’re a superhero and start understanding their perspective had been driven by media bias not cultural understanding.

But there were some things that were accusations. The lack of respect for copyright being one.

Of course, it’s not just in China this happens, but it definitely happens there. A lot.

Even now, I still think Uncle Martian is peak-plagiarism … mainly because they didn’t just make replicas and sell them as originals, they created a whole new brand based on the intellectual property of brands including Jordan and Under Armour.

I say that because I recently saw another version of this.

Maybe not quite as bad as Uncle Martian, but pretty terrible al the same.

But not from China … so you can keep your prejudiced thoughts to yourself.

It’s that brand at the top of this post that looks awfully like this …

I am an enormous fan of Liquid Death.

I love what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

Not only are they the true embodiment of a cult brand – with some amazing cult behaviours, such as their $100,000 country club membership … or buy a slab of Liquid Death – they have made drinking water in public cool for men.

That’s something no other beverage brand has pulled off.

So while I am sure they would think someone ripping them off is a sign they’re doing something right, it’s also a sign some lazy, parasitic pricks are ripping them off.

Though as George once said when we once pitched an idea to a client who said, “but what if we just asked another agency to do your idea for cheaper?”

If you choose to go with someone copying someone else’s idea rather than the people who actually came up and created the idea, then you deserve all the disappointment and confusion you get. Including the lawsuit.



Belief Is Shown In The Weirdest Of Ways …

One of the great pleasures of my career has been working with NIKE.

What made it even more memorable is that I got to work with them in China … where the challenge and opportunity to develop sport culture was arguably their number one priority.

What it meant was their best people were there and their most senior global management were constantly there so I got to meet them, work with them, present to them and argue with them on a regular basis.

They were good.

As in proper good.

I still remember the first time I met the most senior of senior management and when back to Wieden and said, “Oh, I totally get why they are who they are”.

And I did.

They were incredible.

Sharp. Focused. Ambitious. Progressive and obsessed with culture, sport and creativity.

Then there was the time I met Rosemary.

She had just come to China from the US and I remember being in a meeting where I saw all the global guys go up to her, when normally you saw people go up to them.

I mentioned this to her when we were having a coffee later that week and she eventually admitted the reason they all knew her was because she had been Phil Kinght’s kids babysitter when he was starting the company and she had actually painted the swoosh on the first shoes they produced.

Amazing.

As was her knowledge of the brand.

The nuance, not the headlines.

Underpinning all of these people was a backbone of belief. A pride of who they are matched with a responsibility for where they were going. They were challenging, demanding and questioning … but you always knew it was to get to great rather than to tear you down.

Frankly I’d not seen anything like that, at that level, before – and being old – I had been exposed to some amazing people within organisations.

I will be eternally grateful to Simon and Steve who both invited me in to meetings and discussions I should never have been in … as well as them not killing me when I turned up in my Birkies.

Now it is fair to say, the brand – for all the success it continues to have – has faced some headwinds. Some are shifts in culture, some are shifts in internal culture.

And while there are many opinions and viewpoints flying about, there are many who say the company they are today is not the same company they once were.

Some of that is good, some … well, probably less so.

Too many amazing people have departed.
Too much focus on sales rather than sport.
Too great an emphasis on optimisation rather than progression.

But the great thing about Nike is they always come back.

Sure, some of the things – and people – that allow that to happen are no longer there, but it will be back because this is not the first time they’ve gone through something like this.

Whatever ‘this’ is.

And recently I saw a clue it was starting, bizarrely from someone at McKinsey of all places.

This:

Cool, isn’t it?

But not because of Adam’s interpretation of why it exists, but because it exists.

Someone did this.

Someone chose to do this.

And while there are a whole host of possible reasons why it happened, to me it’s a sign of a brand that still has people in there – beyond the few left I know/work with – who do what they believe is right rather than what their process now dictates they do.

At its best, Nike was always an infectious culture machine.

Making it. Championing it. Enabling it. Fighting for it.

I’ve not seen that as much as I once did.

Maybe, a txt.file is a sign I will.

I hope so.



It’s Not Just Phil Collins Who Survived Against All Odds …

A year ago today, Jill, Otis, Rosie and I left our beautiful family home – that we only had bought and moved into 6 months earlier – to get on a plane for the first time in over a year and fly to the other side of the planet to start a new life in New Zealand.

Now of course, because Kiwiland is so fucking far away from everywhere, it took us 2 days to get here which means we’ve not officially been here a year … but if you will excuse the early anniversary, it still something I wish to celebrate.

Despite having moved countries more times than anyone should be allowed to … the build up to this move was the most stressful we’d ever had.

Of course, the reason for that was bloody COVID … but with changing rules, changing flights and changing timelines, it felt like an impossible dream when we boarded the plane 12 months ago today.

Then there was the 2 weeks of quarantine we had in Hamilton.

While it was restrictive, it was actually an amazing way to settle in a country because whether we liked it or not, we were not allowed to do anything.

Normally when we land in a country, it’s mayhem trying to learn the areas, find a house, buy a car. But this time it was easy, mainly because – in a moment of madness – we had bought a house and a car when we were in England.

While that might sound mad, the car was easy because it was simply the latest version of the car I bought in the UK. Which was the same as I bought in the US. Even down to the colour.

As for the house … OK, that was bonkers, but sadly for our bank manager, that wasn’t the first time we’d done it.

But it all worked out.

Not just in terms of house and car, but life.

We’re settled.

Otis loves his school.
Jill loves we live in the trees.
Rosie loves she can watch birds all day.
I love the talented mob I get to work with each day.

Colenso has done some lovely stuff – but it’s only the start – but we’ve won some global business, awards and a bunch of friends [not to mention the odd bitter enemy] but even more importantly, is that I’ve lucked in with the people I get to work with each day.

What a top bunch they are … with a special mention for my wonderful team who are a bunch of beautifully opinionated, creative and interesting assholes.

Just as I like them. [Most of the time, hahaha]

In fact the only thing that has been horrible has been the timezone … which means when I’m doing my Metallica duty or Gentle Monster duty, it ends up being so early or late I could cry.

Actually, for the first few weeks I probably did in shock … but now it’s second nature and they’ve all been ace. Hell, even the 4+ months of lockdown didn’t dampen our spirit.

Sure, we had travelled half way around the World to end up back where we started … but COVID here was very different to COVID in the UK.

Here there was a plan with clarity and communication.

And while people here say there’s a bunch of stuff the government could have done better – which, in some cases, is fair – compared to what we experienced in the UK, it’s all A+.

While we know we won’t be in NZ forever, we do love it here.

We are so appreciative of the chance we have been given … even more so when so many Kiwi’s have found it so hard to come back. NZ has been generous, supportive, open and encouraging. Hell, not only did they let me meet Noel Edmonds, James Cameron and brilliant Jacinda, they even looked after us when we all individually found ourselves having to go into hospital. In terms of ensuring you can deal with the sadness of not seeing friends and loved ones, NZ did it with absolute bloody panache.

I hope in our time here, we are seen as contributing to the nation. We want to do that so much. Celebrate it. Honour it. And – where possible – help it. Not just so we can learn and know more about this special place, but so we can say thank you for letting us be here.

Happy [almost] anniversary NZ.

You might wish it hadn’t happened, but we’re glad it did.



A Boy Named Ben …

So I’ve decided to do a little thing every month where I write about a planner I love.

Full disclosure, the vast majority will be people I’ve worked with because I can then say honestly I know all their bad bits as well, hahaha.

Today I’m going to write about Ben Perreira.

I first met Ben when I moved to LA and worked with him at Deutsch.

Or at least I thought I did.

About 6 months in, he told me that he had written to me when on April 11th, 2014 … I put a post up on my blog asking if anyone was interested in working with me on NIKE at Wieden.

Embarrassingly I couldn’t remember him writing to me – though it was well over 3 years later by that point – but fortunately, I had apparently written him a very nice return email saying that while I liked what he was up to, I didn’t think he was quite what we needed at that moment.

As an aside, that is the job that led me to the brilliant Paula Bloodworth and so I don’t think anyone would feel hard done by losing out to her – given she’s one of the top 5 strategists on the planet. Probably higher than that.

But that doesn’t mean Ben isn’t amazing.

He is.

I liked him pretty much as soon as I met him.

And that’s quite amazing given he was a surly, petulant prick for our first few get-togethers.

Arms folded.

One word answers.

A lot of, “why would you ask that?”

But Ben’s problem was I’d seen that behaviour before.

When I joined Wieden, one of the people who would eventually be in my team, Rodi, was a carbon copy.

Same reaction.

Same responses.

And that was in the interviews.

But I soon discovered it wasn’t because they were assholes – well, not real ones – it was because they wanted to see if my standards were going to be high enough. If I was going to fight my corner or try to just be liked. To check if I was worthy of the gig and they may learn something from me or I was just a token figurehead who just wanted an easy life.

So when I saw Ben doing the same thing, I found it amusing rather than disturbing.

Which meant I just kept asking him more and more personal questions. Digging into his character before he could dig into mine.

Oh how awkward he found it. It was wonderful. Hahahaha.

Now you would have to ask him if I ‘passed’ his test, but he certainly passed mine.

Because what I soon learned – and loved – about Ben was he just wanted to do great things.

He didn’t want to take the easy path.
He didn’t want to just be liked for saying yes.
He didn’t want to simply churn out the same thing over and over again.

And I loved that.

I loved the questions and the debates we’d have.

I loved the way he dug into the business details to pull out the possibilities.

I loved the way he was a fundamentally good human, despite his dating escapades.

I miss Ben.

Not just because he’s disgustingly handsome, but because he’s a good human who happens to be smart.

He has high standards and wants people who have the same.

And if he feels he has that, he’ll go into any battle because he wants to make a difference.

Not just to the work, but the people doing it.

Lots of people will say that, but for him, it’s in his DNA.

In some ways, I imagine Ben was a natural leader from the day he was born.

He gives a shit about others.

He wants to see them succeed.

He won’t manage up simply for optics … and in the insanely hierarchal corporate structure of America, that’s not just rare, but beautiful.

Christ, the things I saw …

And yet Ben didn’t fall for that.

One or two others tried to do that shit, but never Ben.

In fact, I remember one day being told by someone my team were out of control.

Too full of opinions with too much desire to debate.

And when I said, “I know … isn’t it great!”, it was made pretty clear to me they didn’t share that perspective.

Hahahahahahahahaha!!!

Normally I wouldn’t feel proud about that.

I shouldn’t, because a planners job is to be a well-intentioned, pain in the ass.

Someone who pushes clients to be great not to be average.

But I found in America that wasn’t always the attitude.

I met far too many people there who told me “saying yes” – regardless of the ask – was far more valued by their managers than saying, “I think we can be better than this”.

I don’t know if Ben likes me.

I hope he does.

And if he does, I know the exact moment it happened.

He’d been in a huge meeting that had gone well.

The ECD sent an all agency email updating everyone on what had gone on and thanked Ben for [I think] ‘preparing the room for the meeting’.

I kid you not.

What was even more pathetic was I knew how much Ben had put into this.

How much blood, sweat and tears he’d poured into the project to give us a chance to make something great.

So I decided to respond with an all agency email reply.

Basically pointing out that as the planning department were apparently ‘so good at setting up rooms for meetings’ … if anyone had anything else they need us to do – from fixing a TV to washing clothes – just drop us an email and we’ll be there in the blink of an eye.

It didn’t go down well with anyone, except Ben.

And that’s all I cared about.

Because he’s smarter than he realises and kinder than he likes to admit.

I’m glad I didn’t miss out working with him when the Wieden gig didn’t work out.

I’m even more happy that he’s still in my life.