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


The Rise Of Keep The Problem Alive …

So I know I said last week was the last of the Rules By Rubin … but then I did also say there may be some more in the future.

Well consider this the future.

Shit isn’t it?

Don’t worry, it’s just for today and tomorrow then we go back to normal.

So just as shit. Sorry.

Anyway this is about the state of the creative industry.

Whereas once, it was filled with companies all wanting to create wonderful things to put into the world – regardless of their individual discipline or expertise – the emergence of consultancies has led to the industry now falling into 2 groups

Those who can’t help finding ways to put creativity out into the world in interesting ways and those who seemingly do all they can to never put anything out whatsoever.

While I sort-of understand the theory why agencies would like the idea of being like a consultancy, what I’ve found especially bizarre is that in doing that, they’re seemingly happy to dismiss making any actual creativity at all.

At first I was really confused how they thought they’d stay in business.

I mean, there are as many competitors as there are in adland.

Their entire model is designed around making actual creative work.

The lack of C-Suite engagement is more individual than entire industry.

Then I thought maybe I was completely wrong.

That they did want to make work.

After all, why else would their excellent strategists continually write 100 page decks filled with charts, ecosystems, frameworks and playbooks to every single client meeting?

Surely that is a sign of a company actually wanting to make something.

But then on closer inspection, I saw a lot of those decks had no creativity mentioned in them whatsoever.

And the conversation around audience was simplistic, generalist and utterly contrived.

In essence, they talked a hell of a lot but actually said very little.

“What the hell was going on?” I would ask myself.

And then on a cold night one Wednesday, I worked it out.

Those planners aren’t writing strategic decks, they’re creating remuneration landfill.

Thank fuck for the others.

The ones who know who they are.

The ones who push rather than pander.

The ones who create opportunities not wait for them.

The ones who run to the edge rather than run on the spot.

The ones who finish interesting things to start making more interesting things.



Losing Friends And Alienating People …

Many years ago, Toby Young wrote a book by the name of this post.

It was a journey through his bad decisions, bad timing and bad acts.

And while there was a lot of genuinely funny moments in it, you couldn’t help think he was a bit of a twat – which was confirmed with many of his later actions, decisions and behaviour.

I say this because recently I had a dalliance with someone who could best be described as Toby Young, without the humour.

Look, I work in advertising so I’m used to working with twats.

There’s actually a lot less of them than people like to think, but the ones who are there are generally stupendous at twatdom.

But this interaction was not someone I work with … it was someone on Linkedin.

Yes … Linkedin. The platform that is to community what Boris Johnson is to leadership.

Now even though this person and I are not ‘connected’, I do kind-of know him.

He was in Asia when I was there and had a reputation for grandiose statements that rarely could be backed up.

Anyway, I hadn’t heard about him or seen him for literally years, so I was surprised when a few weeks ago, he suddenly came into my life.

He did this by writing a comment under a Linkedin post I’d put up about one of the biggest mistakes a planner can make.

He asked:

What’s the difference between thinking and planning according to you? And is there a difference? And how do you see modern day account planning influencing business and corporate strategy which is really what CEO’s want to see – they’re not interested in ads or creativity unless its making them money?

I answered as best I could … saying I felt he was implying some planners didn’t care about the impact creativity had on the clients business, just their ego and if that’s the case, maybe he’s spending time with the wrong planners, clients and creatives.

In the blink of an eye, he responded with these 2 gems:

First this …

“I’m not implying anything- I’m asking a question. I be;lieve that’s valid on a social media platform. What I’ve foudn theough Experience s that sometimes it’s better to just answer instead of reading too much into it.”

[Spelling mistakes were his, not mine]

And then this …

“You really don’t get social, do you? You can’t be focused and social at the same time. I’ve been studying clinical psychology and the mind for 7 years. It’s two ends of the same frequency . Planners are focused (head) creatives are social (HEART). Open your heart my friend before a surgeon does the job for you. Good luck. You’re mucking around with someone with a lot of medical knowledge and experience.”

That second comment was bizarre.

Judgemental. Condescending. Patronising. Almost threatening.

I have to be honest, I was quite impressed. It’s been a long time since I’ve come across such a prick who can get so personal and so insulting so quickly.

But then it got weirder, because he then sent this:

Seriously, what the fuck?

From slagging me off to interrogating the most stupid shit [like my bloody camouflage background????] to then asking me to give him free information and advice so he can win a client and charge them money for his ‘help’.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because Linkedin is full of people who think they can just ask or say whatever they want as long as it benefits them. I’m sure we’ve all had headhunters contact us for names of people they should talk to – when they’re literally being paid by clients to know people who they should talk to.

But there’s something about this persons manner that pisses me off.

Maybe it’s the contradiction between acting superior but still wanting stuff.

I can’t help but feel he is someone who read Neil Strauss’, ‘The Game‘ [who also wrote Motley Crue’s, admittedly great, The Dirt … which tells you a lot] and saw it as a philosophy for how to live rather than the exploitative, manipulative and destructive book it actually was.

Part of me really wants to name and shame him.

If he’s doing that to me, what is he like to others.

Women. Or juniors. Or anyone to be honest.

But I won’t because who knows what he’s going through however – as I mentioned in my final response to him – for all his alleged expertise in clinical psychology and social platforms, he sure hasn’t got the faintest idea how to communicate with people.

So I’ll leave him be but if he does comes back [again] I’ll simply point him to this post and hope he understands the responsibility for clarity of communication is with the communicator, not the recipient. Something tells me, he wouldn’t.

But what all this shows is a mistake that companies, platforms and agencies continually make with the idea of community.

I get why it’s so interesting to them, but the problem is – what they think is a community, isn’t.

A community isn’t where you go to continually satisfy your own needs.

In essence, that’s the total opposite of a community.

What a real community is something built on shared beliefs and values … where you want to work together to help push or achieve a common goal. It absolutely isn’t about personal benefit at others expense, it’s about something much, much bigger.

And while it’s power and influence can be enormous …

Linkedin doesn’t get this.

Agencies flogging membership and community doesn’t get this.

And this ‘competitive strategist’ doesn’t get this.

Because the key rule for a real community is about adding to it, not just taking.



A Year Like No Other …

So this is it. The final post of 2020.

Congratulations on making it to here. Especially after a year like this one.

I have to say it feels kind-of bitter sweet for me, because as I’ve written before – this year has been pretty special for me and my family.

Sure I turned 50.

Sure, Forest still fucked up the promotion hopes they’d held onto all season in the last 15 minutes of the last game of the whole season.

And sure I lost my job

But even though they’re all pains in the arse, compared to what others have – and are – suffering, it was nothing. Hell, even turning 50 gave me the chance to do this.

When I originally wrote this post, I’d listed all the things that had happened to me this year.

It was a very, very long list.

And while I am super grateful for each and every one of those things – from new jobs to new houses to family happiness to Paul doing Frothy Coffee full time – it just felt wrong.

Not just because there’s a whole host of people going through a terribly shit time right now. Nor the fact I’m a over the self-promoting, self-congratulatory, soapbox shouting by people on social media. Or even because the brilliant Mr Weigel wrote it better than I ever could achieve [as usual] … but because of something I read in The Guardian Newspaper a few weeks ago.

Specifically the very first sentence.

Which was – utterly bizarrely – about me.

No seriously, and it went like this.

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in July, Rob Campbell, 50, received a Zoom call from his boss at the advertising firm where he worked as a head of strategy.

When I read it, the number 50 stood out.

Like it was 50 stories high.

It confused and confronted me.

Part of it was because I don’t think I am that age.

Part of it is knowing I am.

And maybe it was at that point I realised just how lucky I am.

Not that I was naive to it before, but it became more apparent.

Because losing your job at 50 is shit.

It doesn’t mean it’s all over, but it’s unusual to have so many good things happen and frankly, it all made me feel a bit embarrassed which is why I deleted the list of stuff.

It happened. I just don’t need to share it because I lived it.

And while it would only have been there to act as a reminder of all that happened should I – or Otis, later in his life – wanted to jog our memory about it, the spirit of this post and those before it say all that needs to be said.

So instead, I want to use the rest of this post to say thank you.

There’s so many people I am grateful to have in my life.

So many people who made the worst year, in many respects, one of my best.

People on here.
People in the industry – some I knew, some I didn’t.
People who just read my instagram and got in touch.

You may not realise it, but it made a huge difference to how I saw the future.

Then there is my amazing family. Their unconditional belief and support meant I never had to panic. I never had to worry. I mean, I did have moments of it – but that was all because of me, never them. Jill never expressed concern. She gave me confidence by simply being confident in me so the whole experience never felt scary – which is incredible when you think about it. Then there’s Otis. God, I love that kid. Seeing him come home from his new teeny-tiny school in the country filled with stories and giggles meant the house never had a chance to feel bad.

My mates were ace. A check-in here, a word of advice there, a dollop of pisstaking and a whole lot of love. They ensured I never felt alone, and while I was perfectly fine with the situation I found myself in, they made sure I stayed perfectly fine with the situation I found myself in.

Of course I can’t forget my old colleagues. Not just from R/GA … but also Deutsch, Wieden+Kennedy and Cynic. So many got in touch. Offered to help. Made me laugh. They didn’t have to do that – especially the way I had treated them when we worked together, hahaha – but they did and it meant more to me than they may ever know.

I want to give a particular shout out to Blake Harrop.

Not only is he the most handsome, clever man in the whole universe but he is also the MD of Wieden Amsterdam.

When he heard what had happened, he sent me an absolutely epic note. I’ve always regarded him as a special man, but this just took it to another level and I will keep that note forever.

And then my clients.

Past. Sort-of present. And now, future.

Fuck me … what an impact they had on my confidence.

Not just in their kind words, but in their actions. Signing long-term contracts, introducing me to others and – in the case of two in particular – collaborating with me to start Uncorporated. As I’ve noted in other posts, the work it has let me be a part of is unprecedented and I cannot say thank you to them enough.

Finally to the wonderful folk at Colenso.

To have one of the agencies I’ave always loved reach out and ask me to join them was simply the icing on the cake. They were open, warm, encouraging and honest throughout the process before topping it off with most well written job offer letter I’ve received in my life. Seriously, it was a work of art and if there was an award show for this sort of thing, it would be a Black Pencil winner for sure. I can’t thank Scott and the team enough for the opportunity to play with them and I can’t wait to be there in March and cause some trouble.

What all this means is that I have been surrounded by wonderful people.

Not just the ones I know, but people who just reached out to see if they could help.

I don’t know what I have done to deserve it all to be honest [it must be Jill and Otis] but I totally get why people say it’s better to be lucky than rich.

So to each and every one of you, I want to say thank you.

Jill, Otis, Paul, Michelle, Mr Weigel, Mercedes, Paula Bloodworth, David Lin, Carina, Winson and Wanshi, Nils, my wonderful old planning team at R/GA London, Lesley Cheng, Ryan and Sam, Mike and Sam, Trudie, Matt Tanter, Group Think, Scott and Levi and all at Colenso, Blake Harrop, Karrelle Dixon, John Rowe, Mr Ji, Richard Green, everyone at Q-Prime, Metallica, RHCP, Richard David James, Paul Colman, Flash, Rodion, Charinee, Debbie, Leon, Jorge Calleja, George, Andy, Baz, Lee Hill, Simon Pestridge, Steve Tsoi and PT Black, Patrick the Dirty Ram fan, Michael Roberts, Ben Major, Holly Day, Lindsey Evans, Dan Hill, Rach Mercer, Donn the grandpa jumper wearer, Ben Perreira, Maya, Chelsea, Bree, James Thorpe, Lani, Tarik at Onroad, Leigh, Nic Owen, Bassot, Judd Caraway, Gareth Kay, Pickens, Wes, Hoala, Brixton Finishing School, Mark Lester, Ros and Hiro, Lea Walker, Phil Jacobson, Maria Correa, Sam Clohesy, Ian Preston, Doddsy, Lee Hill, the inspirational Murray Calder, Wendy Clark and every single person who has insulted, laughed or ridiculed me on here.

While I am sure I’ve forgotten some names, I assure you I haven’t forgotten your kindness.

To be able to have all this at 50, in one of the worst years the World has seen is insane. I definitely feel some guilt over it so I hope that in 2021, everyone out there gets lucky … and if I can do anything to help that, give me a shout – because it COVID has reminded me of one thing, we’re better together than separate.

May you all have an amazing holiday season. Or as amazing as it can be.

I send you thanks, love and best wishes.

And I leave you with the 3 ads that gave me hope that creativity still is a more powerful and deadly weapon than all the frameworks, funnels and optimisation put together.

See you on the other side. Specifically on the 11th.



Take Their Breath Away …

So as last week was all about Otis – who had an amazing birthday – I thought I’d get back to normal by writing my usual shit this week.

The good news is it’s the last week of me writing posts for this year, so you only have 5 days to go before one of the horrors of 2020 disappears.

Only for it to start in the early weeks of 2021.

Cue: Evil Laugh.

Anyway, this post is about luck.

That thing where great outcomes seemingly appear from nowhere.

And while that is true for some … like lottery winners … the reality is there’s something very few people seem to talk about, and that is our own role in increasing the odds of it happening.

The golfer Gary Player once said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get”.

That’s a nice line, but he is also saying something important, and that is ‘what are you doing to make it happen?’

I think I have written about how I met Baz – who comments on here – but just in case, let me say it again.

We were interviewing for an entry level job at Cynic.

Andy comes out to find me, tells me I have to meet this kid and ask him about his references.

So in I go and ask him who his references are, to which he replies:

“Kofi Annan, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Steve Jobs”

My favourite bit is his reaction when I asked if they were real.

The disgust on his face at being asked such a thing will live with me forever.

The reality is, they were his references. Over the years he had written to them – and others – to say he wanted to meet them to see if they had his generations best interests at heart.

And while that’s ballsy, he wasn’t doing it in some precocious, self-serving way.

He cared and had concern for his generation.

He wanted to know if these people who were very influential in culture at various moments in his early years, viewed his generation as friends or foe.

And maybe it’s this earnestness that led to those 4 agreeing to meet him at various periods of his life … but I bet they weren’t prepared for what he did next, which was ask them to then write him a reference. Hahaha.

Of course we hired him. Then he got hired by Steve Jobs. Then he went on to do a bunch of wonderfully entrepreneurial things while acting as a consultant for a bunch of companies from Apple to Zuji.

Literally the A to Z of creative tech.

Now, as much as it pains me, I have to admit Baz is incredibly sharp and smart … but the reality is there’s a lot of people like that who haven’t had the breaks Baz has enjoyed.

But was it all down to luck or was it down to him helping increase the odds of it?

I say this because I recently read an interview with the music producer Giorgio Moroder.

In the interview, he reveals how one person created their own piece of luck that changed their life forever.

Moroder had just been hired to write a love song for a movie coming out.

He knew exactly what sort of thing he wanted to create so he got on with it.

However the dirty little secret about Moroder is that while an amazing musician, he was a terrible lyricist.

Anyway, Moroder owned a Ferrari that he parked at the studio.

It was a beautiful car except it suffered from brake trouble.

One day a guy called Tom Whitlock came by and said he was a mechanic and could fix it.

So he did.

When it was all fixed, Tom told Moroder, “Oh and, by the way, I’m also a lyricist. If you ever need some words …”

Now it’s fair to say, Moroder probably had some of the best song writers at his fingertips, but he decided to give Tom a shot for no other reason than he asked.

He handed over the demos and Tom came back writing the lyrics for this.

Not a bad way to legitimise your ‘musical lyric’ career.

Interestingly, as much as it was ‘luck’ that got Tom the chance to write the lyrics for one of the most well known songs in music, it was also ‘luck’ that Berlin got to perform it.

You can read why, here … however while putting yourself out there is no guarantee of success, there’s a lot more chance of it happening than if you don’t.

Yes, it requires confidence, stupidity or delusion.

Yes, it’s as much about why and how you ask as what you want.

Yes, if things work out, you’ll be labelled ‘lucky’ rather than talented.

And all those together can act as pretty big barriers to wanting to put yourself out there.

But there’s a hell of a lot of people in our industry who have done more than they imagined or [maybe] deserve, simply because they spoke up or acted at the very moment most would quiet down.

I’m one of them.

Not to the extent of Baz or Tom or a whole host of others … but I’ve definitely gone after things that were important to me that I didn’t think I’d stand a chance of having if I didn’t speak up.

Sure, they all were things I felt I had something valuable to offer as opposed to just wanting to take … but I’ve gone for it.

And while a bunch of these acts never worked out for me – including the time I was about 10 and saw my first ever really fancy car in the flesh so I cycled up to the driver to ask they did for a living because I couldn’t believe anyone in Nottingham could ever have a job that would allow them to own such a wonderful thing – I look at my career and realise a bunch has.

Maybe they’re not big or shiny things, but they’ve all contributed to the luck I’ve enjoyed.

Hell, the reason I am going to get to work at wonderful Colenso is because they saw my ‘I’ve been made redundant’ post on the very day they were looking for a new CSO.

It happens.

It’s not always obvious.

It’s not always going to work out.

But it happens … especially if you find ways to encourage it, conscious or not.

Which is why I hope 2021 is the year people fight for their luck rather than just hope for it.

Because after the year we’ve had, we all deserve a bit more of it.



Cher Was Right, You Can’t Turn Back Time …

Can you imagine what it must have been like growing up in the 1920’s and living in the 1960’s?

The things you have seen, endured, been challenged by?

The advances in technology, social mobility, medicine?

Wars, depression, liberation, love.

It must have been amazing …

Well, the reason I say this is because it’s exactly the same if you were a kid in the 80’s but are around today.

OK, it’s not identical … but the cultural shifts have been, in many ways, just as dramatic.

Wars. Economic highs and lows. Medical and transportation revolution. The internet.

Huge shifts in expressions of creativity – from music, art, film and TV to fashion, food, technology and sport.

An endless journey of exploration, discovery and adventure.

And while it can all feel daunting, the reality is the changes are rarely night and day.

More like a steady stream of progress, even if not always in a straight line or done with fairness or equality.

Throughout her life, my Mum was very much about embracing the present.

Not in the sense that she was trying to mimic Cher [though I also love Cher] … nor that she didn’t value the experience and lessons of the past … but because her view was that if you embrace the times, you live a more fulfilling life.

It’s why she was always interested in what others were interested in.

Music. Art. Film. Culture.

Because even if she didn’t always understand it or like it, she felt it was important to appreciate it. Though, you would be amazed how much she did like it. Love it even.

It amazes me how many people don’t seem to follow this view.

Who think that actually, you can turn back time.

Like Republican/Tory voters. Or Daily Mail readers.

Stubbornly trying to maintain or recreate a time where they felt more ‘in control’. More important or valuable.

And while I appreciate change can be scary, it can also be exhilarating and that’s why the idea of living in the equivilent of the 1920’s to 1960’s has never made me feel so old, it’s also never made me feel so lucky.

I hope with all my heart I get to experience the World when Otis has gone through the same period of time.

It’s unlikely, but I hope he embraces it.

Not just for his happiness, but for what it could inspire him to do.

To discover.

To learn.

Thank you Mum.