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


Talked Through Disaster …

Once upon a time, it felt like there were a lot of movies where a passenger on a plane had to step up and take control because all the pilots had fallen ill.

It would always feature a member of the flight crew discovering the Captain and co-pilot were sick or unconscious, followed by a nervous public announcement asking: “Is there a pilot on board?”

Eventually someone – typically an Alpha male type of man – would step up and the movie would then focus on the story of them being talked through how to land the plane … which they’d do without a loss of life and everyone, especially the glamorous female flight crew member, would fall in love with them.

Sometimes these movies were comedies – Airplane for example – sometimes something more serious, but that was the general premise of all of them.

Now there have been stories where this situation happened, or at least in terms of a passenger having to help land the plane annnnnnnd – as we learnt on the Netflix Fyre Festival documentary – you can learn to fly a plane through Microsoft Flight Simulator … but frankly, the idea of being thrown into a situation you have never been in before, with hundreds of lives at stake and a time limit for success to be executed is something that must be pretty much everyone’s worst nightmare.

Why am I saying this?

Well because I saw the lowest rent version of this situation recently.

Or, said another way, the ‘training wheels’ version of this situation.

This.

Yep, that’s a ‘be talked through your own haircut’.

Be TALKED through.

Not video. Phone.

Hahahahahahahaha.

And then they charge you $14 for it.

What if you have a complicated haircut?

What if you need it colouring and can’t tell if it’s right?

What if you end up spending hours talking them through the cut?

OK … OK … so it’s someone taking the piss, but as funny as it is, there may be people who would actually pay for this.

No seriously.

Not simply because of the state pandemic hairstyles got in – though obviously I wouldn’t know this – but because we shouldn’t forget, there’s restaurants out there who charge you a full restaurant price to cook your own steak on the BBQ.

I’ll never work out why some people think that is a good night out.

Sure you don’t have to wash up, but you do have to pay a lot of cash for something you could have done – for much cheaper – at home.

So you heard it here first. Next pandemic lockdown, invest in the phone haircut business. They will be the future … or they may end up as a z-grade horror movie on Channel 5.



After Winter, Life Grows Again. ( ‘A Year After Redundancy’)

A year ago tomorrow, I was made redundant.

Well, I was told the week before, but tomorrow marks a year since my last day at R/GA.

While I wrote a long post at the time about how positive I was about the whole thing – especially that it was happening to me rather than a junior or a woman or a Person of Colour who normally get impacted by these sorts of decisions – it still blows my mind how well things have turned out for me and my family.

Part of the reason I was so optimistic was because I knew I was going to shout about my redundancy from the rooftops. Hell, even the Guardian wrote about me doing it.

Despite what some on here may think, this was not because I wanted to appear in a national newspaper … oh no, it was for far more practical reasons.

The first was that the more people knew I was available, the more chances I’d have of being considered for work. I mean … come on. I work in advertising, what else was I going to do?

However the second – and possibly more important reason – was I hated how many people felt some sort of shame for finding themselves in this situation.

Shit happens – especially during a global pandemic – so to carry that burden in addition to all the other stuff they have to deal with must make the pressure they’re dealing with unbelievably destructive. I would not wish that on anyone … no one at all. And while I was treated fairly, what makes these situations even worse is that some companies actively encourage people they’ve let go to feel this way … simply because it encourages them to stay silent about what’s happened which lets the company act to clients and the market that everything is fine and dandy when it obviously isn’t.

So my thinking was that by owning my situation publicly, it may help burst this corporately induced shame and reinforce there is nothing to be embarrassed about … especially as the situation ultimately has nothing to do with you – and everything to do with them – even if some companies try to suggest otherwise.

But there was also another reason for my optimism.

Potentially a stupid one.

And that was the last time this situation happened to me, it led to one of the most fruitful and creative periods of my career and I wondered/hoped/mused if lighting could strike twice.

Despite turning 50 [rather than the last time, where I was 35] it amazingly did.

Now I absolutely appreciate how lucky I am.

I also appreciate there are a lot of factors that contributed to this luck.

From the openness of my family to move countries for the 4th time in 4 years … to the wide range of contacts I’d gained thanks to having lived all around the World … to the fact I’m a white male so ‘unfair advantage’ was baked into my career DNA from the very beginning.

But even with all that, the life I now live is in many ways – or at least in many parts – unrecognisable to the one I had when I was let go from R/GA a year ago

From the work I’ve done and do.
To the clients/bands/billionaires I’ve done it for and do it for.
To the immensely talented people I’ve worked with and work with.
To the country I now call home.

Hell, I even managed to get hired and fired by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in that time.

It’s bonkers.

And while I enjoyed my time at R/GA and am grateful for the experience, I’m happier now.

They probably are too … hahaha.

That said, I miss my gang.

Lachlan, Nic, Rach, Anna, Joel, Amar, Erika, Laureen, Bassot, Ed, Hannah, Megan, Nicole, Divya, Arda, Amelia, Severine, Marissa, Insa, Toby, Ben … and the others who helped make my time – and the gang – so much fun, including Anne, Valia, Eduardo and Michael.

What a wonderful bunch of beautifully talented misfits they were/are.

Always demanding … debating … provoking … and making me smarter because of it.

Then again … given all but a couple of them have moved to do other interesting, weird, infamous and famous things, it means that even if I was still there, they wouldn’t be.

Or maybe they would. [Cue mischievous laugh. Hahahaha]

But the point of this post is not just to celebrate a year since a weird day in July … it’s a reminder that life is always changing, moving, evolving and progressing.

However bad a situation may be, it does not mean it will always be that way … even if it feels like it is.

And if anyone worries they are the exception, I want you to know I am here to chat.

Not to convince you you’re wrong.

Or try to solve your problems.

But to listen.

Because not everyone has that and not only is that important … sometimes that’s the first step to getting stronger.

Not to self-reflect or gain enlightenment … but to vent, bitch, moan, complain.

The things some people try to make you feel guilty for wanting to express or think, even though the real reason is because it makes them feel uncomfortable rather than it being bad for you.

And it absolutely is not bad for you.

At least in small doses.

Because as we all know, the first thing you do to treat a scrape is to cleanse the wound … so if anyone thinks this would be useful to you, please know I would be happy to give you a safe space to be your worst without judgement or expectation.

Because the worst times don’t last.

They just feel they do.

So thank you R/GA, I will always be grateful for what you did for me.

Especially on July 10th 2020.

You can reach me here.



The Opposite Of Agile …

Look at this chart doing the rounds right now.

Look at it!!!

Do you know what it is?

Allow me to tell you …

It’s corporate fear culture disguised as a couple of million quid in fees for Deloitte’s.

That simple.

Hell, it even makes that utter insane Pepsi logo design process book look clear and simply in comparison. And let me reassure you, it was neither clear. Or simple.

Look, I get there’s a lot of complexity in this world.

I get that solutions often require a number of processes, skillsets and collaboration.

But come on … this is ridiculous, especially under the title of ‘agility’.

All it reminds me of is something one of my amazing mentors once told me.

He is an extremely successful businessman who has interacted with all manner of consultants at the highest level, so this is an informed perspective, not some bitter and twisted creative obsessed strategist.

“When a solution is more complex than the problem, then you’re not buying the answer, you’re buying the C-Suite’s annual bonus”.

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As an aside, I’ve written about a bunch of other brilliance he has told/taught me over the years, which you can read here.
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I look at that chart and keep thinking it’s basically a version of the board game Monopoly.

And then I realise that’s EXACTLY what it is, because it’s designed for you to keep paying Deloitte every time you pass go.

Or get lost.

It’s the ultimate selling tool.

Because not only has it been designed to put the fear of god into organisations about things potentially going wrong, it doesn’t necessarily have an output other than ‘business as usual’.

The last time they had something so powerful is when they made billions helping companies worried that the millennium bug would bring down their computer systems.

Of course, every few years they come out with something else to keep the money coming in.

Digital Transformation is one of the most recent fads, which my mentor [yet again] had an interesting take on:

“The C-Suite buy digital transformation because it sounds modern and progressive. That they’re moving ahead into a brave, new World. What they’re really buying is infastucture modernisation … designed to simply not leave them too far behind”.

Now it is important to note not all consultants are bad.

In fact, some are brilliant and fascinating. Red Associates are a particular fave of mine.

[You can read about them in more detail here]

And then there’s FNDR, with my old mate Nick Barham … who are doing interesting things and aren’t packaging it all into making a new logo or website to justify their fee.

However this stuff is ridiculous, and while we can point and laugh and say the people who sell this are charlatans and the people who buy it are idiots, the reality is they’re buying more of it – and for more money – than anything adland has done in decades.

But here’s the thing.

Anything is easy if you [1] don’t have to execute it [2] don’t care about the effectiveness and [3] only care about the cash.

Which leads me to something a mate of mine told me recently.

The difference between a liar and a bullshitter.

A liar knows the reality of a situation but changes/exaggerates the facts within the context of that to achieve their goal.

A bullshitter doesn’t care about truth, so will say whatever is needed to achieve their goal.

And with that, I’ll leave you to decide which one this chart belongs to.