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


A Week Like No Other …
May 20, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Happiness, Love, Martin Weigel, Mercedes, Wedding

A week ago, this post was not going to be written.

Circumstances – some real, some assumed – were working against me.

From Forest missing out on automatic promotion to NZ immigration issues stopping me from attending the wedding of someone hugely important to me as well as seeing the first born of another person who is hugely important to me.

I had begrudgingly come to terms with it, but then – like magic – it all changed.

Forest – somehow – managed to get to the playoff final and border restrictions got changed earlier than imagined.

And what does this mean?

It means I’m flying to Europe on Sunday.
It means – thanks to NIKE getting me tickets – I get to see Forest play at Wembley.
It means I get interviewed on the Nottingham Evening News about my trip. [That’s not a joke]
It means I get to do this with my best friend Paul who I’ve not seen since September 2020.
It means I meet the first born of my dear friend and incredible planner – Paula Bloodworth.
[Made better by her husband being from Nottingham and Forest fan, which kills her. Ha]
It means I can give you 10 days of freedom from this blog.

TEN DAYS!!

But the icing on the cake is that I also get to see my beloved Martin Weigel marry his beautiful and wonderful Mercedes.

He might not want me to talk about this, but he’s probably so stressed trying to sort out the final arrangements that he will either not see this or not care.

But after trying to make this wedding happen for THREE YEARS – fuck you COVID – next Wednesday, in Portugal, we finally get to celebrate the most wonderful day of the year.

And I include the unlikely possibility of Forest getting into the Premiership in that statement.

Put simply, Martin and Mercedes are genuinely amazing and wonderful humans.

Yes, I know Weigel can come across as a miserable bastard intellectual … but the reality is he’s one of the most wonderful and warm people I’ve ever met. Of course I’m not supposed to say that – but it’s true – after all, how else would he get to marry such an amazing woman?!

People may think Martin and I are an odd couple, but everyone knows Martin and Mercedes are the perfect couple and I cannot sum up how happy I am for them.

Up until a couple of days ago, I didn’t think I could go.

I was invited, but visa and immigration issues were messing with it.

But now – on the day Forest won the match to get into the Championship playoff final – things changed and I’ll be there and I’m overwhelmed about it.

Not just because marriages are always wonderful.

But because marriage is important.

I’ve written about this before.

Of course everyone has their own opinion, but based on my experience, it has been the single best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Did it change anything when we’d been living together for years?

Actually it did.

Emotionally.

For the better.

It made me feel more secure, more cared for, more together.

And while that may not be the case for everyone, I have a sneaky suspicion it will be for Martin and Mercedes. And so it should, because they’re wonderful and right now … I am the 3rd happiest person in the whole wide World.

Thanks to them.

And because of them.

So to my dear M&M – but not Eminem – congratulations.

At a time where the planet is in a bit of a state, what you are doing next week – and what we all will celebrate – is a reminder that there’s beauty, happiness and hope out there.

I’m so glad you found each other.

I’m so glad you’re in my life.

I’m so glad I’ll be there.

Masses of love to you both.

Good luck to Forest.

Here’s to one of the most important and special weeks of my life.

A week I never expected to have, just a few days ago.

Which is a reminder of how awesome life can be.

As proven by the fact I’ll see you on the 2nd June.

Ta-ra lovelies.

Rx



Depressing Inspiration …

Back in the 80’s, there was a real trend for companies to put up ‘inspiration posters’.

Corporate Yoda statements that were as contrived – and daft – as fuck.

Things like …

EXPLORE. Only those willing to leave shore can find new lands.

I’m not even joking. There was tons of them like this.

For a while they were all the range … so popular that a friend actually created a mass of pisstake versions in the early 90’s.

Here’s one of them:

They were soooooooo much better than the real thing.

And then, from the mid-90’s to around 2015, these empty statements died a death however – just when you thought it was safe – social media decided to bring them back with a vengeance.

However, if you thought they were bad before, they have reached a whole new level of terrible.

Or should I say a whole new depth.

So much of this is because of Linkedin …

I’ve written my views on the biggest fiction factory on earth before.

Seriously, it’s about as professional as me … that’s how bad it has become.

In fact, it feels more like a home for wannabe Tony Robbins than a place for professional interaction.

Nothing sums this up more than an ‘inspiration’ photo I saw on there a while ago.

Take a look at this.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

I mean, just how depressing is that?

Sure, I know it’s trying to be deep and meaningful but christ almighty.

And they are using a photo of Jim Carrey to demonstrate the point.

But I’m not quite sure why him.

Yes, I know he has suffered loss and yes I have heard he supposedly doesn’t try to ‘impress’ people anymore … except he works in Hollywood and has a history of being an attention-seeking, approval-needing, soul-sucking individual.

Maybe he’s past that.

Maybe I have to stop using the term ‘Jim Carrey syndrome’ … which is how I used to describe people who are successful in one field, but are so desperate to win the respect of their peers, they change their actions and behaviour to try and win their approval, only to fail because that’s not who they are or what they’re good at.

I hope he is.

I hope that is the case.

That would be good and healthy for him.

But even with that … it still wouldn’t clearly explain WHY he is the star of this ‘grimperation’ poster, WHY the creator thought this approach would motivate people or WHY the person who posted it on their Linkedin, thought it may make them look like a guru.

That said, when I saw it, I genuinely burst out into hysterical laughter so maybe … just maybe … that was the whole point of the thing and if that’s the case, it’s bloody genius.

You wait. Depress yourself to happy will be on Linkedin status updates any day now.



Connect Don’t Communicate …

As many of you know, I’m quite the emotional guy.

[OK, I get it … that’s an understatement. Let’s leave it there]

But while this can sometimes result in me having an ‘Elton John’ moment [™ Elton John] I have always been a huge believer in the value and importance of empathy.

Part of this is because my Mum always told me to be interested in what others are interested in, but as I got more and more into my planning career, I realised that if you can truly understand the feelings and emotions someone is experiencing, it enables you to make work that others will also feel and resonate with.

A perfect example was this work we did ages ago for Nike in China.

It had already been decided the idea for the global 2012 Olympics Campaign was going to be Greatness. The problem was that when we spoke to kids all over China, they didn’t feel they were ever able to refer to themselves as great.

They felt that was a term saved for the chosen few. The people who the government deemed as having done things that raised the entire nations profile and success.

Of course they didn’t articulate it like this … we got there by spending time with them and slowly pulling away the layers of codes and confusion so we could understand what they wanted to say rather than what was being said.

Or said another way, we wanted to understand rather than get answers.

Now I am not denying it took a while … and I also accept being an Olympic campaign, we had the time and the money to do things right. But the thing is this rigour was worth it … because not only did it turn into an incredible campaign … not only did it become China’s most successful ever campaign … it helped changed attitudes towards what greatness is and allowed millions of kids to feel they could feel valued and valuable.

This is the work.

The reason I say this is because for the past few months, I’ve been working with The University of Auckland’s Creative Thinking Project in exploring new ways to use creativity to engage and deeply resonate with audiences.

Thanks to the work of Sir Richard Faull, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at The University of Auckland and Nuala Gregory, a fellow of the National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries – also at The University of Auckland – we have explored and experimented with a whole host of different creative formats to identify which one can create the best conditions for connection.

The findings have been astounding.

While the vast majority of communication spend goes towards television, digital and outdoor advertising … none of these had the same impact on audiences as the power of the poem.

In fact, when poems were used as the content for television, digital and outdoor, the increase in engagement went up on average 13.3%.

THIRTEEN!

OK, I know that may not sound a lot on first impression, but when you consider last year, companies spent SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIVE BILLION DOLLARS GLOBALLY on advertising … if this can improve connection to potential audiences by 13%, then it has huge commercial opportunity.

[And by that, I mean for brands, creativity and the University of Auckland]

Now I suppose on one level, none of this should be a surprise.

Rap is a kind of poetry.

A way to communicate that’s felt as well as heard.

But while we have started to explore this, our focus has been on poetry and the results, as I detailed above, have been fascinating.

Sir Richard believes this may be heavily influenced by the challenges the World has faced over the past few years. Where the feeling of isolation of helplessness has created an yearning for any sort of emotional connection. And while TV may have their manifestos, they often come over as contrived … whereas poems have a fragility to them that enables them to better resonate and connect to audiences.

For example … of the literally thousands of poems tested, this was one that achieved one of the highest scores, despite being from an anonymous author.

Now this mountain I must climb
Feels like the world upon my shoulders
But through the clouds I see love shine
It keeps me warm as life grows colder

While it is deliberately ambiguous, it appeared to connect to audiences as they saw it as capturing the struggles they felt in life. Where there is still an expectation for progress and yet the conditions people find themselves having to deal with are increasingly harsh and difficult.

Other poems that resonated – and follow a similar theme to the previous example, except it is by contemporary poet, Ocean Vuong – include this:

And when your fears subside
And shadows still remain
I know that you can love me
When there’s no one left to blame
So never mind the darkness
We can still find a way

As well as a piece from his work entitled ‘Life’, which has a much darker theme:

Loneliness is my hiding place
Breast feeding my self
What more can I say?
I have swallowed the bitter pill

We are still working on the research but have set up an instagram that lists the poems that have tested particularly well.

I would love it if you could visit the page and let me know how the poems affect you. If they do.

Now I appreciate this leaves me open to all sorts of ridicule.

And I assure you that I am not trying to suggest poems are the future of effective advertising.

This is simply a project to see if there are techniques that allow us to better connect emotionally to audiences without necessarily needing to spend months in the field meeting endless people.

While I am part of this work, it is ultimately the property of Auckland University.

Fortunately, they have said I can promote the work because they would love to have more respondents take part. So if you are interested in discovering more – and helping see where this creative adventure could lead, can I ask you to sign up here.

That said, I would recommend you do it today … because studies have found April 1st is the optimal day to get people to sign up to ‘research’ that is actually just some 80’s song lyrics from Foreigner, Guns n’ Roses and Queen.

Have a great day. I know I will.



Happy Anniversary Mum And Dad …

Today would have been my parents 58th wedding anniversary.

Amazing.

And while the reality is Dad died 23 years ago and Mum 7, they had a good marriage.

Yes there were some hard times along the way.

Some that still hurt deeply when I think of them.

As is often the case, they were brought on by stress triggered by a lack of money, health issues and/or family bullshit they were pulled into.

But while there are some moments that I wish could be erased forever, I was brought up in a house of love and support.

Love for each other.
Love for me.
Love for us.

As I said at both my parents funerals, I never wanted for their support or compassion and it was only as I grew older that I realised how lucky I am for that.

The photo above was taken at the Nottingham Registry Office where they got married.

They’d been living in London but came to Nottingham to be closer to my Dad’s family.

They were only supposed to be there for a few years – but you know how it is.

I always thought that must have been hard for my Mum.

Don’t get me wrong, she liked Nottingham … but she was Italian, had moved to London for adventure but met Dad, fell in love and then found herself in the Midlands, even further away from her family.

I think when I came along, it may have helped because she wouldn’t have wanted to raise me in central London and so Nottingham probably became quite a good place then.

She stayed there for a long time.

A lot longer than she had lived in Italy.

We had talked – prior to her death – if she wanted to move back to Italy.

It was a real consideration.

Dad had died. Long term neighbours had died or moved away. Her sister was alone in the family home back in Guardiagrele.

But it didn’t happen and now her ashes, like Dad’s, are scattered over their beloved garden. The garden that was my family home and always will be, despite eventually selling the house.

I’ve written about how hard that decision was.

How conflicted I was when it suddenly became mine.

But I think they would be happy how I handled it. Plus I have a beautiful jar of soil from that house with me. And by selling the incredibly generous gift of their inheritance, I was able to buy our family home in the UK. A home with a garden my parents would absolutely approve of.

I still remember the bizarre moment Mum and I went to register Dad’s death and we realised it was in the same place as where they got married.

It had a weird closed circle to it.

Similar to the fact Mum died in the same hospital where I was born.

I miss them. I regret that I didn’t really talk to them about these things.

Part of that was because I thought I’d have more time to do it but alas, Dad fell ill when I was just 24. And then I kept moving countries.

But I’m very glad they got married 58 years ago today.

Because they gave me a childhood and a family that was as special as they were.

Happy Anniversary Mum and Dad. I hope you’re holding hands and laughing at the silliness and joy your son and his family get up to.

Rx



Creativity Creates Value …

A few weeks ago I was asked to talk to a board of directors about creativity in business. Specifically, how they could encourage more of it.

I showed them this:

I had seen this image on Twitter and fell in love with it.

Yes, it’s a small thing, but it’s an important one.

Alright … before I go over the top, I do appreciate it’s simply a napkin holder with some words printed on it and there’s millions of companies that offer that.

But instead of just putting their company name on it – or NAPKINS in big letters – someone at this shop saw the opportunity to use them to add charm and value to their brand and product.

Hell, I’ve seen 3 minute TV commercials that can’t achieve that.

And all it took was 4 words.

Four words to turn a lowly napkin into a Donut Evidence Removal Kit. A Donut Evidence Removal Kit that celebrates the deliciousness of their food. That acknowledges what you’ve just eaten is definitely on the naughty side of indulgence.

FOUR WORDS.

ON A NAPKIN DISPENSER.

And yet it all comes together to convey a ridiculous amount of cheeky charm for a shop that, whatever way you look at it, simply sells fried dough.

So don’t tell me creativity doesn’t add value or drive business.

It can make more of a claim for effectiveness than logic ever will.