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


The Best Things Makes You Earn The Right To Enjoy It Rather Than Just Giving You It …

Television gets a bad wrap these days.

Out of date.

Out of touch.

No longer good.

But the reality is, we’re kind-of in a golden age of television.

There’s an immense amount of shows out there that are amazing … from documentaries like Netflix’s Schumacher to series like Succession through to mainstream TV channel shows like 24 Hours In Police Custody … even though the first time I watched the show, it was about a drug cartel who had been operating in the village we had just moved to in England.

What made it more amusing is that one of the criminals was called Robert, another was called Campbell and they drove a blue Audi … so when Rob Campbell – ie: me – arrived in Hundson with his family in a Blue Audi, the neighbours looked at me suspiciously.

Or should I say ‘more suspiciously’ than normal.

Now of course there have been a bunch of amazing shows over the years … amazing for their writing, acting and craft. Some went under the radar like Glenn Close’s Damages … some had instant critical acclaim, like The West Wing, The Newsroom and Mad Men.

But some … well, there’s a few that gain instant cult following but over time, get more and more recognised for what they did and how they did it.

The show, The Wire is one of those.

First broadcast in 2002, it’s a show that started small and then just grew in terms of the stories, context and issues it swallowed into its storylines.

It never felt fake, even if you came from a place that was a million lifetimes away from Baltimore, where the stories were based. There’s many reasons for it.

The writing is amazing.
The casting is perfect.
The acting is simply superb.
The craft and attention to detail is insane.
And they wholeheartedly embrace the ugly, inconvenient truths about racism, wealth and systemic racism that most shows – even today – do all they can to ignore or dilute.

And then there’s one more thing.

It has no musical score.

None.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have music. It does. But it is an integral part of what is going on at that moment in that scene rather than some incidental, indirect orchestration designed to inform the viewer how they should feel.

Similar to the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan – all you hear is what you would hear if you were actually in the place they are.

Nothing fake.
Nothing contrived.
All 100% raw and real.

What this does is create a very different experience watching the show.

There’s this conflict between feeling more directly into what you’re seeing while also giving you a sense of uncomfortableness. A nervous edge.

Things are not wrapped up in tidy bows.

Episodes don’t follow classic Hollywood tropes.

Details that can appear to mean nothing suddenly reveal their relevance weeks later.

And it’s for this reason I love the way Charlie Brooker – writer of Black Mirror and ex-TV reviewer for the Guardian – talks about the show in terms of ‘rewarding your attention’. It’s such a perfect articulation.

The Wire demanded you paid attention.

Demanded it.

Not in an academic explanation sort of way, but in terms of committing to it.

Watching everything going on.

Not just in the foreground, but the details all around the environment.

The streets.
The language being used.
The slight nods and movement.
The music being played by others.
The characters in the background..

Details someone from those streets needs to know to survive those streets …which is why viewers who paid real attention, were rewarded with something much bigger than what was just said on the screen.

It was a show that left you feeling you have gone through something.

Not watched, but truly experienced.

Experiences that stick with you. Change you. Question, consider, work-out, hypothosise and – to some degree – feel scared and pressured by.

While there is a lot of shit on the screen these days, TV isn’t dead.

In fact, in some ways, it’s never been more alive.

It’s just the best shows don’t want to give it to you on a plate, it challenges you to see if you’re worthy of watching it … of getting it.

And in our spoon-fed, superficial world, thank fuck for that.

In other news …

It’s a national holiday here on Monday so there’ll be no post on that day. Not because I like you, but because you’re not worth the effort to write one. Hahaha. Have a great weekend.



Unmotivation …

A while back I wrote about how some companies offer incentives and bonuses to their staff to try and boost morale when the reality is all the employees actually want is the company to act in ways they can be proud of and believe in.

Values.
Standards.
Behaviours.
Ambitions.

The most depressing part of this is that in many cases, the companies know this but just think it’s easier to try and ‘buy staff off’, than to change how they act.

But if you think that’s bad, there’s some who are even worse.

The ones who believe their staff will be inspired and impressed by any gesture the companies shows towards them … even if it is an act that shows how little they really think of them.

Acts like this …

Or this …

Seriously, what on earth were they thinking???

Even if they were giving away a bunch of bananas rather than a single one, it would still be bad … but a postage paid envelope, that reiterates this is a ONE TIME act of generosity.

Either the people behind these ‘gifts’ are evil or utterly delusional … which is why the best leaders I’ve ever worked for have been the ones who are transparent and honest, whether for good news or bad.

There’s something really reassuring of knowing where you stand. Where there is constant dialogue with where you’re at and where things are. That even in bad times, you know what is going on, what needs to change and some suggestions how to do it … because the person telling you genuinely wants you to succeed. Not simply to make their life easier, but to help make yours bigger.

While there are a lot of benefits to management, it can’t be denied it’s a tough gig.

You’re dealing with a bunch of moving parts all at the same time.

Egos.
Colleagues.
Team development.
Individual growth.
Client satisfaction.
New business requirements.
Company reputation and profit.
And then your own, personal satisfaction and growth.

In some ways, each of these moving parts can act as a barrier to the other being successful … and that’s when a manager can get into real trouble, because pressure means they can end up choosing what ultimately makes their life easier rather than what makes everything better.

Now I am not saying I am a great manager.

While I think I am OK, I definitely have my failings.

However over the years – and with some excellent mentors and role models – I’ve definitely learnt there are some ‘rules’ that I believe can help companies ensure managers create an environment where good things happen can happen, for the work … the clients … the individuals … the team … and the company as a whole.

1. Stop promoting people simply because that’s the only way to give them a pay rise.

This is more than just about managing staff cost ratios – or keeping salary bands in line – it’s the reality that some people are just much better at doing their specific job than managing other people doing their specific jobs. Often they know this, but feel they have to accept the promotion ‘opportunity’ to get the money they want. The great irony of this approach is it ends up costing everyone more in the long term. Because the promoted person ends up stopping doing the work that made them – and the company – stand out and other talented people leave, because they are being badly managed. Until the day the company realises their mistake and lets the person go who didn’t really want the job in the first place, but did it as it was the only way to get fairly valued for their talent and experience.

2. Stop thinking being good at the job means you are naturally good at managing

Being good at a job doesn’t automatically mean you are going to be good at managing others doing it. Not only that, being good at your job doesn’t mean your approach will – or should – translate to how the entire department operates. Sadly, too many companies don’t think this way. Instead they promote without consideration to the ways of the individual or the needs of the department and company. Of course, sometimes the reason for that is because it’s a way to ‘keep’ talent from going to another company or because doing it makes things more ‘convenient’ for the company when someone has resigned. What makes that approach even worse is they then place huge expectations and judgement on people so that when things don’t go exactly as planned, they start adding additional stress and barriers. The reality is you don’t make good managers through a title, you do it by giving them training and time.

3. Every level needs training

It doesn’t have to be formal. It doesn’t have to be academic. But it does have to happen.
Not just in terms of learning the company processes and org charts … but in terms of learning how to actually manage. What to look out for … how to engage … how to encourage and motivate. Not from a book. Not from an online course. But proper training with people who have done it very well rather than people who just hold the title. There are so many great managers who never got to realise that simply because they were thrown in the deep end and then kicked out because they weren’t given the support and time to train for their new position.

However I know the things I’ve suggested won’t be common, because too many companies see personal training as an expense and judge success as getting stuff done, regardless of the cost. Which is why after all the years I’ve had doing it, I still rely on 4 huge lessons I learnt from Dan Wieden and Chris Jaques.

+ When your focus is the work, every decision becomes easier.

+ Brilliant work sorts out almost every problem,.

+ Honesty and transparency is the greatest gift you can give someone.

+ The best way to stop complicity is to create an environment of openness and debate.

Sure, none of these are as easy as giving a banana or even a paid-return envelope … but I guarantee the positive effect will last a hell of a lot longer.



The Difference Between Interested And Committed …

I love Roy Keene.

I know people say he could start an argument in an empty house, but I have the upmost respect for him.

Not because he used to play at Nottingham Forest.

Nor because he has always spoken respectfully about at the City Ground … especially with the legendary Mr Clough.

But because he has always been utterly committed to what he does and what he believes.

The reason I find that worthy of note is because too many people confuse interest with commitment.

Interest means you will change when something else comes along.
Interest means you’ll take a shortcut when easier options become available.
Interest means you will priorities ideas that offer more popular possibility options.

But commitment is different.

Commitment is a stubborn, steadfast, obsessive focus on what is the most important.

No shortcuts. No distractions. No deluding yourself or others.

Many may find that annoying. Especially colleagues.

They’ll likely – probably rightly – read it as you making a judgement on their values and priorities. They may freeze you out or just question your sanity.

But commitment doesn’t mean you’re not open to new experiences or new ideas.

Nor does it mean you are out-of-date or a stick in the mud.

It simply means you’ll never let someone call you out for never giving your all to what you do.

You may make mistakes.

You may be seen as decisive or confronting.

But you’ll never be accused of not giving your all to all you do.

I’ve worked with a few people like this over the years.

All – without doubt – made me better in a multitude of ways.

And while I don’t deny they weren’t always easy. They were always worth it.

In a World where we celebrate the interesting. Let’s not lose sight of the importance of the committed. To make sure you know the difference, watch this. All of it. It’s brilliant.



The People We Have To Be Most Afraid Of Are The Ones Who Think They Are Strong …

I’m reading and hearing more and more people position themselves as some sort of elite force … because the pain, hardship and obstacles others face, didn’t affect them.

Except – as the tweet by Daniel above shows – it did.

It’s happening everywhere.

From that prick Piers Morgan claiming he is in someway responsible for the brilliant achievement of Emma Raducanu through to certain members of the marketing community who acknowledge there’s many barriers people face in the industry, but then add how they were still able to succeed … unsubtly insinuating their talent is so exceptional, they got to the top despite all the obstacles others say “holds them back”, conveniently ignoring the fact they’re white, educated to hell and privileged as fuck.

I’m over it.

There’s so many people out there who face challenges the majority of us will never appreciate.

Never understand.

And while that doesn’t mean the achievements of anyone should be dismissed, the assumption that everyone is playing by the same rules and contexts is total bullshit.

Which is why those who put others down by saying ‘they faced challenges and they turned out alright’ are missing the point … both in terms of the effect their actions and behaviours had on their wellbeing and the definition of what success has to be.

We’re all fighting demons and challenges only we know about.

So by all means be proud of what you’ve done, but don’t use that to then backhandedly dismiss the achievements of others – especially when they’re not really comparable in terms of context, category or celebration.

Past or present.

Have a great weekend.



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.