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


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.



Fempowerment Fails …

Years ago I worked on the shampoo brand Sunsilk.

I know. Me.

A bald bloke.

Hahahahahahahaha.

Back then, it was in a two brand fight for dominance with Pantene.

They went back and forth trying to get one over the over.

Apparently the brands had legally agreed how each one could show the ‘shine’ of the hair they washed in TV ads. A slight deviation that allowed each one to build their own distinctive look.

Back when I was on it, albeit for 2 mins, Sunsilk was a big, mature brand.

A powerhouse.

So you can imagine my surprise when I saw this:

What in gods name is that?

What is it?

It’s like the worst Barbie ad I’ve ever seen.

An ad that claims to ‘rethink’ pink but doesn’t really rethink anything.

Oh they may think they are, but the people behind this need to know you can’t just say pink now represents possibilities, future, strength and shiny [gotta get those haircare ad cues in there, even if it makes even less sense to the premise of the ad] … you actually have to make it mean that.

It’s a commitment.

A focus.

Acts beyond advertising.

So sadly, when you make an ad so bubblegum it looks like the bastard love child of the movie, Legally Blonde and a packet of original Hubba Bubba, you’re not really going to convince anyone.

On the positive, they cop out by saying ‘pink is whatever we make it’ and so I would like to tell the people at Unilever and Sunilk they did exactly that, because they have made pink brown.

Shitty brown.

Am I being mean?

Yep.

But then this is a multi-billion dollar company who has profited by putting women across Asia in cultural jail by promoting white skin as the right skin … used COVID to maximise profits for their antiseptic products and continually used stereotypes to promote it’s products … so I don’t have much sympathy for them.

Especially when they’re now trying to connect to young women by saying ‘pink’ is powerful while using all the same tropes, styles and themes that means what they’re actually communicating is ‘pink is the same old girly cliche they’ve been profiting from, for decades’.

There’s some absolutely incredibly talented people at Unilever.

Including some very good friends of mine.

There’s also some brilliant systems and processes within the organisation.

Sadly, there’s also a blinkered reliance on some questionable research methodologies, which results in a lack of self awareness so they end up with work like this.

They have done some brilliant work in the past.

Some truly brilliant.

But – in my opinion – not so much right now. Made worse with the sort of underlying messages that undermine people rather than elevate them.

If it wasn’t for their huge distribution and pricing power, it would be interesting to see what would happen to the brand.

But the thing is I want them to do well.

I want them to make work that changes and positively impacts culture.

They’re a huge spender on advertising.

They have the ability to change how culture feels and how the industry is perceived.

A Unilever that does great advertising is a Unilever that will have positive knock-on effects in a whole host of other areas and industries.

I’d even be willing to help them – for free, for a time – if their starting point was about building change through truth rather than their messed-up, manipulative version of purpose.

However given they made this ad after saying they wanted to stop the stereotypes in their advertising, it appears their view of reality is more blinkered than a racehorse.



More Than The MD, But The Boss …

This is Angela.

Her official title is the Managing Director of Colenso.

But actually she’s the boss.

Not just because of how she is sitting, but because of how she operates.

Leading without dictating.

Encouraging without patronising.

Liberating without restricting.

The great, great thing about Angela is that for all the experience and success she’s gained, she is open and hungry to let the energy, ambition and values of youth to keep shaping and changing where we are going.

Angela’s strength is she wants everyone to win.

She opens the door to opportunities for talent to run in and do their thing rather than closing it behind her so she can have all the power.

But then female leadership has always seen winning differently to a lot of men.

Progress for all rather than power for one.

And before certain men start spouting their sexist shit at me like they did when I wrote about how more female leadership will give the industry a real chance to grow, I appreciate not all male leaders are like this.

But a hell of a lot are.

And – if you look at Corporate Gaslighting and/or read Zoe Scaman’s brilliant, brave but totally unsurprising Mad Men and Furious Women – many of them are doing stuff … and are being allowed to get away with stuff, often by companies that talk about their commitment to their staffs wellbeing and mental health … that is a fuckload worse.



Excuses For Complicity …

Adland – and most companies for that matter – love to talk about their commitment to diversity and inclusion.

And while they tend to be most vocal about it when there is a global news story that highlights the racism and oppression People of Colour experience EVERY SINGLE DAY, I do believe it is something many companies care about.

The problem is, very few seem to be doing anything other than caring about it.

No change.

No new decisions.

No policy shifts.

Recently I saw a poster advertising a conference in Australia about Africa.

This was it …

Notice anything?

Yep … a conference in Australia about Africa without a single Person of Colour being represented. Not one.

A conference in Australia about MINING in Africa without a single Person of Colour being represented.

[Though someone who saw it suggested the conference organisers may try and suggest the blank speaker space could classify as a Person of Colour]

Now I appreciate mining is hardly the most ethical industry, but even then the lack of representation shocked me so I tweeted about it saying this was a perfect demonstration of how much companies still had to learn about D&I.

“Surely no one could disagree” I thought …

Oh yes they could.

Rather than just go, “that’s bollocks”, some people tried to defend it … accusing me of having no context.

My 2 favourite comments were this:

“Let’s not jump to conclusions. I personally feel after a 2-second Google they have their intentions in the right place – well apart from the plundering of natural resources, but that’s a different outrage post. If anything they are guilty of crappy comms and maybe BBDO in Oz (or Africa) might like to say G’day?

“As organisers of Africa Down Under (ADU), Paydirt Media acknowledges the comments on social media and the interpretations which may be drawn by the advertised preliminary line-up for the in-person element of this year’s ADU,” the organisers said in a Twitter thread.

“As the premier forum for Australia-Africa business relations, ADU has always strived to ensure its programme is truly reflective of the diversity of African mining. In 2019, the last event before the pandemic, the programme featured 24 African presenters and 15 female presenters. “Ongoing travel restrictions mean we will be unable to welcome our African-based colleagues in person this year but once the full programme – including virtual participants – is released we are confident balance will return.

“We look forward to announcing participants from the African continent – including Australian-based African diplomats – in the coming weeks.”

And then this one …

Are these specific companies spouting anything about diversity and inclusion though?”

Right there is the typical corporate response to these things.

Protecting the company behind it.

Suggesting you are jumping to conclusions.

Saying that they’re good and this is a misunderstanding.

Yeah … yeah … if I’ve heard it all before, imagine how People of Colour must feel.

Which is why my responses were as follows:

“This is the sort of excuse churned out year after year to justify acts like this. A conference about Africa without a single Person of Colour as a speaker is not about difficulty, it’s about complicity, so maybe you’re looking at it from totally the wrong perspective.”

and for the second comment …

“Ahhhhh, so you’re saying companies that don’t talk about D&I don’t have to care about it which is why it’s fine to have an all white speaker group for a conference on Africa. Is that your point?”

I know people make mistakes … but this is not one of those, this is a deliberate act. There is no excuse for this. They can say they asked hundreds of People of Colour to be a part of the even and they said no – it still won’t wash. Because even if that was true, it would surely suggest there was something wrong with the whole premise of the conference if people from Africa didn’t want to be part of a conference in Africa.

“But maybe there aren’t many People of Colour working in the mining industry based in Australia, Rob?” I hear a prejudiced, white privileged individual ask.

And while I don’t know the answer to that, I do know if that’s the case, why are there so many bloody white people working in the African mining industry based in Australia?

It’s all bollocks.

And what is worse is the justification some people try and give this shit – with special focus on the organisers and their desperate attempt to look like they have tried really, really hard to make it more inclusive. Despite NOT ONE Person of Colour being included as a headline speaker.

As I wrote a while back about female leadership, change doesn’t even require white people/men to give up their seat … they could just make room for someone else to join them, but apparently even that is too much to ask.

We all are complicit..

We can all do more.

We all need to do more.

Hell, when white supermodels can use their privilege to create space for People of Colour to win [not just be seen, but win] the least we can do is exactly the same.

So to the people who will claim what I’m doing is promoting ‘woke cancel culture’, I would respond with this:

1. Yes I am.
2. Being referred to as woke is not bad as it means you have compassion for others.
3. You are the problem and you’d better be prepared for me to push back with the same energy you have adopted over years to maintain your privilege and power.

Anyone who defends this sort of shit is insane.

There is no excuse for it.

Ever.

Even having 5 People of Colour on that huge poster of faces would be too few, so to take the side of the organisers for NOT HAVING A SINGLE PERSON OF COLOUR is an act of prejudice.

You may not relate to being called that.

You may not accept being called that.

But your actions reveal it … because nothing says privilege than thinking your experience is everyone’s experience.



Nothing Shows Respect Like Letting Someone Argue With You …

A career is a funny thing.

I mean literally, as a concept – it’s quite bizarre.

The idea of working in one industry and hoping to move up a fictional ladder and somehow hope that by the time you’re pushed off it – and we’ll all be pushed off it at some time – you’ve built up enough reputation or cash to keep you going through till the bitter end.

Hahahaha … Mr Positive eh!?

Anyway, by hook or by crook I’ve somehow managed to have what I’d call a career.

Admittedly, I fell into it – but overall, I’ve had a pretty good one.

I’ve worked at some amazing places.
I’ve got to live literally all around the World.
I’ve met people who have literally changed my life.
I’ve been part of work that still excites me years later.
And somehow, I’m still doing all those things, which is insane.

But as wonderful as all that is, one thing I am particularly proud of is how many of my old team mates are now at some of the most highly regarded creative companies in the World doing all manner of interesting things.

Of course, I had little to do with it – it’s all their talent – but the bit that makes me proud is that they are forging their own careers based on their own ideas and their own opinions and their own voice.

About 2005, I realised how lucky I had been with previous bosses.

All of them encouraged me to find my own voice rather than duplicate someone else’s … and while that often got me in trouble, they never strayed from their path of encouraging independent thought.

Now I appreciate a lot of companies say this, but this wasn’t some PR bullshit they could spout in a magazine, they lived it – openly and actively welcoming, encouraging and igniting debate.

And they never ‘pulled rank’.

It was always a discussion of equals – which was one of the most empowering and liberating professional feelings I ever had.

It showed trust. It showed respect. It showed value.

And even though I’m an old fuck who has done OK in my career, I still get that same feeling when I am working with others who embrace the same value.

As much as rockstars and billionaires may have a reputation for demanding diva’s, I can honestly say the ones I’ve been working with have been amazing in welcoming opinion. They may not always like what is said, but they always value why it has.

And that’s why, when I saw a shift in planning from rigour to replication … challenge to complicity … and individuality to impotency [driven by the global financial crisis of 2008] I realised the best thing I could do is encourage my team to be independent in thought, voice and behaviour.

I should point out this was not selfless. By having great creative and cultural thinkers in my team, they would help make even better work and that would have a positive effect on me too.

I know, what a prick eh.

And of course, I acknowledge not every planner was following the replication path. Nor was every agency. But it was definitely happening and arguably, this is why Australian planners have risen in position more than those from other nations [ie: Tobey head of planning at Uncommon, Paula global head of Nike planning at Wieden, Andy head of planning at Wieden Portland, Rodi, head of strategy at Apple South East Asia and Aisea MD at Anomaly LA to name but 5] because – as much as the Aussie government may like to say they suffered – the country was largely unaffected, which meant training continued, standards continued, creativity continued.

So while there was a bunch of other values we continually encouraged and practiced, the desire to develop independent thinking, openness and debate were a real focus of mine and have continued to be.

Whether I was successful is up to the people who had the awkwardness of dealing with me, but I distinctly remembering being in a meeting at Wieden in Shanghai after Sue, Leon and Charinee had just challenged a bunch of things we had just talked to the agency about.

One of the global team was there and said, “they’re very outspoken”.

And while normally that could be read as a diss, it wasn’t … it was more of a surprise because many people in China – especially the young – tend to keep very quiet, especially in front of people who are at a more senior level to them and this mob had gone to town.

To which I replied, “I know. It’s a wonderful headache to have”.

And it was.

And it is.

Which is why I will continue to believe the best thing any head of planning can do is encourage independent thought and respect for debate and rigour … because while it can creates moments where it’s a right pain in the arse, the alternative is far more disagreeable.

Have a great weekend.