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


Thank You For All The Things You Never Understood Or Accepted You Did …

news of The Queen – I was still shocked.

But while the Queen had been in my life for all my life, the loss of Dan – like Dave before him – was much more personal and emotional.

And while over the coming weeks there will be many stories about Dan Wieden that will all be amazing to read – from his brilliance to his humbleness – I thought I’d write about something else that made him special …

His ability to unite a culture while encouraging the individuality of that culture.

That’s an amazing thing to achieve. To build something united by the same passion and values wherever in the World you are located, but still be able to – encouraged even – express your individuality, even if it would be in conflict with what he would have chosen.

But then, when you got to know him, you realised he craved creativity, not conformity, and suddenly everything makes sense.

I have a bunch of stories about this brilliant man … and while the one where he held my hand and told me “never leave”, despite having just belly danced for him [long story] is one I love, this is probably my favourite.

For reasons I don’t need to go into, Wieden wanted me to feel some major love.

So one day, I got whisked from W+K Shanghai and plonked in front of Dan in Portland.

I think he was as surprised as me to be there, but we chatted about all manner of things … from why he thought it would be great for me to run The Kennedys [which was the highest compliment, given I was a planner] to how on earth he had managed to have offices in China, Japan and India – which still blew his mind.

After 45 mins, he asked if I fancied lunch.

Of course I said yes to which he told me to follow him as we walked to one of his fave local restaurants.

Nothing fancy. Just lovely.

We had an enjoyable lunch and he told me he was glad I was there. He even sounded like he meant it, haha. So when the bill came, I asked if I could pay.

He looked at me like I was a lunatic and asked why.

“Well …”, I said, “… my friends think you’re mad for hiring me so I want to get them back and paying for this meal is my way of asking you for a favour”.

[For the record, of lot of those ‘friends’ were regular contributors to this blog, when I allowed comments – which I miss. Damnit]

He looked me dead in the eye and replied …

“Should have known there’s no such thing as a free lunch. OK Campbell, tell me”.

So I asked if I could have a photo with him … but I wanted him to look like he was bollocking me, so I could show my friends and pretend he’d just found out they were right.

His eyes lit up.

“That doesn’t make much sense to me but let’s do it” … which explains the photo at the top of this post and why every single time he saw me from then on [and I mean EVERY time] he’d say, “I thought I fired your ass” … thankfully with his eyes shining their infectious, mischievous sparkle, so I knew I could come in the next day.

I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have so many brilliant people shape it, and Dan was one of them.

In many ways he changed my life. Certainly the trajectory.

That may sound huge, but the opportunities he gave me through the company he co-founded resulted in a life I never could imagine and will always be grateful for.

Dan was a legend.

Not just in creativity or advertising but in so many other ways.

From his ability to be a huge presence in any room but never make anyone feel small, through to his beloved Caldera, which helped – and will continue to help – so many who may not have had many chances to see what they can become.

But if you told him he was [and I did] he would wave you away, refusing to acknowledge or accept it.

[And don’t get me started on his reaction when he discovered people had W+K tattooed on them. Often as part of some founders day shenanigans. He literally couldn’t understand it]

So that just leaves me to say a huge thank you to you Dan. For everything.

Your legacy lives on through your work, your agency, your impact and the people who were so lucky to work for you and with you.

You probably would tell us to “stop talking horse shit and go make your own legacy” … and while I know we all try and do exactly that, it will all be the better for the time we learnt from you.

Deal with it Dan.

To his family, friends and W+K peeps past and present, I send you my love and deepest condolences.

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Hello LaLaLand …
September 23, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: America, Attitude & Aptitude, Colenso, Confidence, Creativity, Culture, LaLaLand, Metallica

For reasons even America doesn’t deserve, I’m going to be in Los Angeles – and SF – next week.

And while I’m supposedly there for working reasons [with he common thread being the letter M] – that’s not why there’ll be no posts until I return. Nor is it because I’ll be catching up with old friends or buying the latest Apple gear because I can’t be arsed to wait till it gets to NZ.

OK, there is an element of truth in that …

But the real reason is because I’ll be trying to work through the menu of my favourite restaurant there in the whole wide world.

The Cheesecake Factory.

A restaurant with a menu that is thicker than the bible and tastes that belong in the 1980’s.

Apart from Sammy’s [RIP] in Manhattan Beach that we would go to every Friday night … the Cheesecake Factory was THE restaurant for me.

Yes there’s your In & Out Burgers and your Taco/Tacky Bell … but nothing could beat the bad taste of a good meal at the Cheesecake Factory.

Though – ironically – I never did eat any of their cheesecakes.

It’s going to be weird going back to LA.

Yes, I popped in on my way to see Forest in the premiership final.

And yes, I went there when we were living in England – pre-pandemic.

But while my time in LA was not my favourite time of my life or career, there were a lot of brilliant friends I made and experiences I had – even the weird ones – which means I’m quite excited to be going over and reconnect to the things that made a lasting impression on me and the people who changed my life.

So I’ll see you when I’m back. Possibly having had a heart by-pass. Either way, if you’re in LA and want to catch up, you know where to find me.

See you in 10 days or so.

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Be Metallica, Not The Eagles …

I was recently in a client meeting where we had a discussion about ‘scale’.

The person in question was suggesting – as many do – that the only way to achieve it was to make sure you offer something for everyone.

Now there’s two ways you can do that …

Literally offer something for everyone or be so bland that you don’t alienate anyone.

And when we had this discussion, it reminded me of the Ferdinand Porsche quote that – paraphrased – reads something like:

“Be everything to someone not something to everyone”.

But it was early in the morning for me.

I was talking to clients in America.

So instead, I gave the worst analogy I may have ever used …

I pointed out The Eagles are the best selling American band in history.

That their ‘easy listening’ songs were designed to literally appeal to the widest audience possible. That their repetitive approach has been used to reinforce their position.

Or lack of one.

However the second best selling American band of all time is Metallica.

OK, I’m biased, but no one can say their music is designed for mass appeal.

Even their more ‘audience friendly’ albums still targeted a particular type of music fan. A fan that is anti-mainstream and anti-easy listening.

And yet Metallica’s fierce focus on who they are and what they believe – matched with their desire to continually explore and experiment with formats and approaches for their music – has resulted in them attracting ever bigger audiences rather than chasing them.

But its even more than that …

In the fickle, fast-changing world of music, Metallica haven’t just been able to maintain their credibility and authenticity, they have managed to still be seen as a contemporary band.

A band that is more popular now than they’ve ever been, while not changing who they are, what they believe or who they’re for.

I finished this rant off with the words:

“Be Metallica, not The Eagles”.

Fortunately, given I was doing this call at stupid o’clock, people let it pass.

However, while the analogy may be bollocks, the reality isn’t.

We live in an industry that is increasingly falling into rules of how things should be done.

And there are some – without doubt.

But we are in danger of ignoring the power of culture and creativity in favour of box-ticking and formulas and yet it’s the brands and bands like Nike, Metallica, SKP-S, Kanye, Liquid Death who not only hold – and set – the cultural attention and narrative, but continue to fast-track growth and profit compared to a category who blindly follow a system designed to play more to the ‘safety’ of the middle rather than the power and influence of the edge.

I’m not saying it’s easy.

I’m not saying it’s not without risk.

I’m not saying it happens in a smooth, straight line.

But when you do it well … when you know who you are, who you’re for and what you believe, it’s definitely worth it, against pretty much every metric you can measure it against.

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A Great Big Cup Of Shite …
September 19, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Colenso, Colleagues, Culture, Jill, Management, Otis

A few weeks ago, Otis told me I was wasting my money.

I asked him if he meant the breakfast I’d just bought him but he said it was everything I spent my money on.

I don’t know what brought on that exclamation – and he was laughing as he said it – but I looked him dead in the eye and told him I was much better than I used to be.

And I am.

Oh my god, the shit I’ve spent my cash on.

From remote control balls and robot dogs – lots of robot dogs – through to … well, stuff that cost a lot more than either of those gadget stupidity.

Even Jill told Otis I was much better, which I consider one of my life’s true achievements.

And that would be the end of the story had my colleague not had the shittest weekend ever recently.

Without going into too much detail, they discovered their toilet plumbing had decided to impersonate a fountain underneath their entire house.

A fountain of shit.

It was so disgusting and deplorable that even the professional shit specialist plumber announced, “For fuck’s sake mate” when he saw the photos sent to him.

I don’t mind admitting that I found this hilarious.

Please don’t mistake my laughter for revenge – I really, really like this colleague – but it was so horrific, that you had to laugh.

And laugh I did … everytime I told someone about it.

My family.

My friends.

They even walked in on me telling a client who had just flown in from Australia.

But I appreciate that while I found it funny … for them, it was no laughing matter.

Which is why I decided to make it up to them by buying them a present.

This …

Yep, they’re very own ‘shit cup’.

Not – as Jill first thought – a cup made from the shit in my colleagues garden [what sort of psychopath does she think I am] but a cup featuring photos of the shit in his garden.

Which is far more hygienic and thoughtful.

But as horrified as my colleague is, I’ve given them an even better gift.

Because the next time they see Otis, they can show him their present and tell him:

“Hey Otis, you’re right. Your Daddy does spends his money on shit. Literally.”

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If You Want Sustainable Success, Don’t Hold On Too Tightly …

Brands love to say they know their customers.

They love to go on about the research they do to ‘get’ the needs of the people who use them.

And some genuinely do. Looking to understand how people live not just how they use, choose or buy their brand or a competitive product.

But sadly this group seem far more in the minority these days … with the preference being to outsource research needs to a ‘for profit’ external partner, who are asked to provide answers to drive immediate sales rather than to build long-term understanding.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive fan of research, but I’m reading far too much that seems to be about telling the client what they want to hear rather than what they need to understand.

To be fair, that is also true of agencies as well, and so much of that is because a lot of companies have already decided what they want to do and say and they expect everyone else to fall in line with it. And I get it, in a quest to streamline process and maximise productivity, that makes perfect sense.

Except it doesn’t.

Because as George used to say ALL THE TIME, it’s like going to the doctor and prescribing your own medicine. And as much as people/brands may think they know what’s wrong, that doesn’t mean they know how to fix it …

Agencies and research companies should be paid for their independent thinking and approach to solving problems NOT paid to execute what someone else wants the solution to be. The great tragedy of brand communication these days is that somehow, independent thinking has been labelled as dangerous when the real danger is when there isn’t any.

When solutions are decided by financial hierarchy rather than expertise – and by expertise, I mean that in terms of what an organisation is actually an expert on, rather than what they think they are – you tend to end up with a pile of shit that then ignites a game of blame storming.

Here’s a perfect example of it …

Now I appreciate printer, photocopier, fax [?!!!] sales must be very difficult.

I get companies may only give them a second thought when they go wrong or run out of ink.

But … but … who the fuck approved this shit?

I mean, it’s bad enough they say they know what we need – which makes them sound like some sleazy office colleague – but then they come out with this gem of bollocks.

“Like twins who understand each other completely”.

What??? WHAT???

Apart from the fact it’s utterly, utterly pants. if they really had a telepathic understanding of ‘what we need’, surely they wouldn’t have to pay to have this shit printed in a magazine and they’d just turn up at their customers office with the requirements of their machine – even before their customer knew they needed it.

But that’s not the case because they don’t know their customers, they don’t know what they need and they sure as shit don’t know how to communicate to them.

I get people think communication and creativity is easy.

I get people think they know their customers better than anyone else.

I get they want everything to be as efficient as is physically possible.

But if anything should tell them what they think and what is true are very different, it’s rubbish ads like this. And while I appreciate this is especially bad, there’s a whole lot more expensive versions of this wherever you look.

Great creativity and research is born from independent thinking.

A desire to create value by giving you what you need not what you want.

Which is why companies who place greater value on what they can make their agency partners do – including how they do the job, how many people can do involved in job and how long they’re allowed to do if for – the more complicit they are when things are less effective than they could be.

I’m not saying agencies and research companies are perfect.

And they sure-as-hell aren’t all the same standard and quality.

But they’re much better when they can give you truth and possibilities than blind complicity.

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