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


Money Over Morals …
December 2, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Apathy, Culture, Death, New Zealand, Youth

A couple of days ago, a New Zealand research company – one used by a huge array of big business here – gave a speech to a broad marketing audience and said the concept of ‘tall poppy’ was dead.

They had the audacity to say this the day after Jake Millar committed suicide. The arrogance to say this when they reside in a country that continues to have one of the worst – if not the worst – youth suicide rates per capita on earth.

There are many reasons that contribute to the terrible suicide rate, but ‘tall poppy’ is, without doubt, one of them.

A significant one of them.

The biggest open – yet oppressed – secret in the country.

So to that company, I want to say this.

You are not just complicit to the problem, you are playing an active role in it.

By making statements like that, you’re placing all the blame on the people who felt they had no other choice. You’re telling parents their kids situation & context didn’t exist. You’re telling NZ, they can continue to look the other way. You’re telling the friends, family and colleagues of 26 year old Jake Millar, pictured at the top of this post, that the media who revelled in getting the nation to celebrate his business failure – and then attached all manner of additional negative personal narratives to his name = are blameless.

Do you realise what you’ve done?

Do you understand the implications of your actions?

You’ve just told the nation they can carry on as they are. That their perpetual and persistent judgement and abuse is simply ‘banter’.

How fucking malicious of you.

Be grateful I’m not calling out your name because what you did is shameless.

But let me reassure you, we will be chatting and I’ll be reminding you of your responsibility to the truth, not to making money from reinforcing a cultural narrative of denial.



When You Destroy Their Hope, You Destroy Their Will To Keep Trying …
November 30, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Apathy, Colenso, Culture, Death, New Zealand, Youth

A 26 year old Kiwi killed himself yesterday.

That’s him in the photo at the top of this post.

His name is Jake Millar.

Of course the press refer to Jake’s death by saying ‘he died’ … due to some twisted logic about not wanting to encourage more people to die by suicide when that strategy has obviously failed given NZ continues to have one of the highest death by suicide rates for youth per capita in the world.

And what was the probable cause of Jake’s terribly sad decision?

The joyous pile-on the press did on him for having his second business fail.

They accused him of terrible things.

Theft. Arrogance. Exploitation. Purposefully ignoring – or devaluing – the amazing success this young man had achieved prior to this situation.

Hell, he felt he had to move to Kenya to be able to get away from the judgement and sniggers.

And even that wasn’t far enough away for him.

NZ is in danger of robbing kids of their right to try. To fail. To explore. To dream.

The ramifications on the future of NZ for acting this way is huge. But not as much as it is on the youth of the country.

For a nation that loves to talk about being ‘pioneers’, we are openly and actively oppressing that spirit under the guise of ‘staying humble’. It is nothing of the sort. It’s control and fear.

New Zealand is a brilliant, amazing, beautiful country.

I feel truly honoured and grateful to be able to live here with my family.

But this continual situation, is nothing short of a national disgrace.

In March, Colenso bring out a book about the lack of hope youth feel living here, following interviews with kids all across NZ.

It’s utterly terrifying … scarier than pretty much all the places I’ve lived before and done this work before.

But what makes it even worse is it won’t come to a surprise to anyone.

Not really. Not if they’re honest, rather than being culturally complicit.

I’ve been in this country 8 months and it has been as clear as day to me.

A lot of people don’t like me saying that. They think I should shut up and be grateful to be here. In fact I’ve faced a bunch of abuse for talking about it.

Yep … rather than be angry at this terrible, on-going reality, some have chosen to be angry at me for talking about a situation everyone knows but few talk about. Especially in public.

I’ve been told I should keep quiet. That I don’t know enough about the situation. That I am unaware of all the things contributing to the situation or the ways the country is trying to change the situation.

And they’re right, I don’t know enough.

I’m trying to learn as fast as I can, but I don’t know enough.

But I tell you what I do know …

This country has a terrible youth suicide rate.
This country has a terrible Maori suicide rate.
This country has a terrible farmer suicide rate.

And for all the solutions in place, they are either not enough or not working well enough.

I’m not speaking out because I want to cause offence.
I’m not speaking out because I think it makes me look smart.
I’m speaking out because I am thankful to this country for the generosity it has shown me and my family and I want to repay that gift by actively trying to help address a situation that cannot continue to be overlooked or brushed under the carpet as some sort of inconvenience.

Thankfully there are a great many people in this country who are speaking up. Who are doing things to try and ensure no kid will feel they have no other choice they can make. Who listen rather than judge.

But we need more.

We need the government to deal with the situation, not be political about the situation..We need the media to write about the situation, not be complicit to hiding it – or worse, igniting it. And we need companies in NZ to stop demanding conformity and encouraging individuality.

That’s not going to solve the issue, but it will likely help it. Because the youth are amazing when they’re backed, encouraged and supported.

Yes they will make mistakes – like we all make mistakes – but they’re not trying to destroy anything or hurt anyone so why the hell are we doing exactly that to them?

It may not be intentional.
It may not always be overt.
But it’s happening. Jake Millar is living proof of that..

There will be a lot of people talking and writing about the tragic loss of Virgil Abloh.

Please don’t let that drown out the name and loss of Jake Millar.

You can read more about him here and I offer nothing but my deepest condolences to Jake’s family, friends and colleagues – past and present.



A Badge Of Honour. Kinda …

For some reason, I like having badges made for my colleagues.

Or anything a bit daft.

Of course, it started with the stickers I had made when I left Wieden.

600 of the buggers, hidden throughout the office – and buildings of interest – which they’re still finding to this day.

Then there was the packing tape of Jorge and the guy who is in Love Actually – which is a massive compliment even though he thought it was a huge pisstake.

Then there were the Zaid badges, made and bought on a snowy night in Boston.

Then my leaving Deutsch badges.

Followed by the pencils for Mike and Sam.

And the ‘don’t mess with me’ badge for Meg … after watching how disgusted she was at a presentation she had to attend.

Thanks to COVID, apart from the ‘you’re a twat’ sexual harassment badges we had made and sent to men who had made inappropriate comments to women in the workplace, I’ve been nothing but mature.

Until now.

Lizzie is in my team.

She has many qualities.

She’s fiercely smart. An incredibly talented, multi-instrument playing, musician. Community soup maker.

Basically, she is everything I’m not … but there’s one quality that she has that shines above even those bright lights.

She can see a dark side in everything.

I don’t mean in a depressing, mean, nasty way …

Nor do I mean in a hurtful, inconsiderate, selfish way …

I mean that in certain circumstances, she sees the worst case scenario in things.

Of course, she will claim she is simply being a realist – and there is a lot of evidence to suggest she’s right.

For example, when lockdown happened, we were having a bet on when we’d go back to work.

Most said early October, a few early November … but Lizzie swooped in and said,

“We won’t be going back till the new year”.

We laughed at her, until we didn’t and realized she was right.

Again.

Damnit.

Which is why I decided to commemorate her insightfulness with this ….

And while some may say this is not the nicest thing a boss could do for a colleague, I see it a bit differently. To me, I see it as an investment in my team – an investment at the price of my sons inheritance – which means I’m basically boss of the year.

Sadly, that year in 1953.

Happy weekend.



Nothing Shows You Care Than When Things Are Shit …

Just like HR is often about protecting management from their people rather than the other way around, the same can be said for customer service.

Of course, no one says that, but there’s far too many examples of companies stating the importance of their customers, and then using their customer service department to completely undermine them.

As I’ve written before, real customer service is demonstrated when things are bad, not good.

Let’s be honest, when a company can spot a sale, the full charm-offensive is on display.But when things go bad … oh, that’s when the truth is often revealed.

The irony is that this is the exact moment you can create a level of loyalty that can last a lifetime.

I’ve talked about the time VW came good after my brand new Golf GTI had the gearbox collapse and the turbo blow up … and I’ve found another example of a brand making something bad, a little bit better simply because they looked at things from their customers perspective and acted accordingly.

Isn’t that amazing?

Considerate. Compassionate. Personal. Helpful. Generous.

At the worst of times, a company has found a way to not just solve a problem – but help relieve some of the pain, that wasn’t even of their own making.

If a pet food company can do that – with their relatively low priced product – then any company should be able to. But many don’t. Not because their staff don’t want to, but their bosses won’t let them.

Years ago I worked with a consultant called Geoff Burch.

He was a beautiful maniac.

What made him great was he challenged management to live up to their responsibilities – both to their companies reputation and their employees ability to be successful.

We were working on an Italian car brand together and at the client briefing, the CEO said the call centre staff were offering too many benefits to appease dissatisfied customers.

Geoff asked why they were dissatisfied and the response was their were reliability problems.

Quick as a flash, he replied:

“Maybe you need to realise your responsibility to your employees is more than just a desk, a roof and a paycheck, but making a product that is fit for purpose. I can’t help a company who wants to blame others for the faults they have created and protect”

It was incredible.

And while there was a very awkward atmosphere in the room after that outburst, the CEO – after what seemed like a lifetime – acknowledged he was right.

To be fair, it helped that Geoff had an incredible reputation, but he wasn’t saying anything truly revolutionary, he was simply saying ‘reputation is based on what you do, not what you say’.

And while that should be plainly obvious, it’s amazing how few companies still don’t get that. The companies who think making a few dollars more today is more valuable than a lost customer tomorrow.

Seriously, the way some companies operate, it’s like a bloody ponzi scheme.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you should ‘spend your way’ into customers hearts.

This is simply about valuing your customers perspective rather than purely seeing the World through your own.

Which is, unsurprisingly, the true definition of customer service.



If You’re In The Communication Industry, Know What You’re Communicating …

I know if you’re in the publishing field, times are tough.

I know that you have to resort to attention grabbing tactics to get readers.

But recently Adage – one of our industries most well-known media outlets – did something that was as equally ill-conceived as the time Campaign put Nigel Farage’s shit-eating grin on the cover of their magazine.

What am I talking about? This.

Talk about clickbait.

Blatant, unashamed, clickbait.

And I say that because the actual article was more about what some ‘experts’ were suggesting is happening rather than what the headline was screaming for all its worth.

But that’s not the real issue.

Nor is it the talking about cannabis microdosing … putting aside the fact [1] it’s illegal in some countries and [2] there’s medical evidence to suggest cannabis can have terrible consequences on certain individuals … accepting it is a minority and there are also many benefits, including medical.

Look, I don’t care what people choose of their own freewill – unless, of course, it directly affects the wellbeing of those around them.

I don’t judge, question or degrade those decisions.

My problem is an international industry magazine purposefully chose a headline that communicates if your work environment is causing extreme stress because of the intense pressure being placed on you … then it is on you to deal with it.

YOU.

I literally don’t give a shit if the article was talking about people microdosing, coffee drinking or baked bean eating … they should not be placing the burden of responsibility on the employee, they should be challenging the behaviour, expectations and actions of the company they are working for.

It’s hard enough to attract and retain talent in this industry as it is, without having our industry magazine telling the world, ‘it is a stressful job and it’s on you to deal with it’.

We all make mistakes. I hope they learn from this one.

For their sake. For our sake. For the future of the industries sake.