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


Ignorance Is Stupid …

Congratulations on surviving the first week back of this blog.

Remember, the good news is there’s no more posts till next Tuesday thanks to yet another holiday in New Zealand. If I knew I’d be having this big a break at the start of the year, I’d have moved here 6 years ago when I first had the chance.

It’s utterly mad, which is the perfect segue to another example of madness.

Have a look at this:

That, my friends, is apparently a genuine tweet.

Someone believes a video made by Mr Beast somehow proves the creator community is the ultimate in power, influence and success because – according to them – it got more views in less time than the original Netflix show.

How many flaws can we spot in that statement?

Look, I’m not doubting the creator community can have incredible influence over culture.

I’m not doubting the creator community can attract incredible amounts of ‘views’.

I’m not doubting the creative credentials of Mr Beast [who I do enjoy following].

But apart from the fact the Mr Beast video actually took 10 years and 7 weeks to make as it required Squid Games to be written, produced and streamed prior to Mr Beast being approached by a company to ‘re-create it’ for his channel … not to mention it didn’t make nearly as much money, or have as great an impact on sales of Van’s as the original … literally copying something someone else created is the absolute opposite of what ‘creator community’ is supposed to mean.

Don’t get me wrong, the creator community is a brilliant thing.

I genuinely love it.

But there are millions of people who are putting in so much effort to make ‘content’ and often only end up with a few likes rather than real revenue. And even those who do make it big, still earn less than the biggest stars of ‘traditional’ film making – so the promise of the community may not be as bright as some think it is.

At least right now.

I’ve blanked the name of the person who wrote the tweet to protect their delusion, but it kind of reinforces my post from last year about the fine line between entrepreneurs and parasites.

In the 80/90’s, a number of UK up and coming comedian created a group called ‘Comic Strip ‘.

The comedians were Rik Mayall, Jennifer Saunders, Adrian Edmondson, Dawn French, Nigel Planer, Peter Richardson, Jennifer Saunders and Alexei Sayle.

So basically the foundation of British comedy television for the next 30+ years.

Anyway, Comic Strip was basically a creative vehicle for them to make a bunch of programs for Channel 4.

One of them was called Bad News, a ‘rockumentary’ about a fictitious heavy metal band trying to hit the big time. Yes, the premise sounds awfully like the movie ‘Spinal Tap’ … however Bad News came out the year before that seminal movie, so it’s just a bizarre coincidence.

So in the show, the guitarist, Vim Fuego – played by Ade Edmondson – tells the interviewer that he is a better guitarist than Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page.

His reason for saying that is because he could play the solo to Stairway To Heaven when he was 13 but Jimmy couldn’t even write the song until he was 26.

Later in the program, he said John Lennon had visited him in a dream and gave him a song. He decided to call it Imogen. And when the interviewer said the name – and the melody – were suspiciously like the Lennon classic, Imagine … he claimed he’d never heard of it.

Of course, all of this was supposed to be great comedy, but with views like the twitter writer above, apparently it was simply an example of future human delusion.



A Glimpse Of The Future …

Every Saturday, the Guardian Newspaper runs a feature where they interview 2 people who have been out on a blind date over dinner.

And every week, they ask the same questions to both parties.

Sometimes they find love …
Sometimes they find a friend …
Sometimes they find their worst nightmare …

… but it’s always an enjoyable read.

Now while you may think my favourite stories are when the couple hate each other – and some truly do, with a total inability to hide their distain behind their one word, printed answers – that’s not actually my favourite.

As soppy as it sounds, it’s quite marvellous when people find someone they want to see again. Maybe it’s because it’s so rare, or maybe it’s because I’ve found my inner-romantic in my old age, but it’s really lovely.

The thing that makes it even more warming is how they answer the questions.

It’s not simply that they say, “I really like him/her”, it’s the way their answers have a real warmth and respect for the other person. It’s not simply about what they feel, they describe how the other person made them feel. It’s delightful and a very different experience to people who didn’t like their date.

Some get very personal.

Expressing themselves in a way that shows they genuinely think they were aesthetically, intellectually or morally superior. Which, of course, has the result that you find them actually the uglier person inside and out.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I read about these 2:

Sadly Johnny – 24 and an artist – and Gen – 23 and a post-grad student – didn’t hit it off. But I couldn’t stop looking at their picture.

Or more specifically Johnny’s.

Not because I’m a weirdo, but I kept thinking how he looked like an older version of this one:

Yes … the hair is a big part of it, but there’s other things.

The gentle face.
The compassionate energy.
The wry smile.

I know it’s ridiculous, but it felt like I was seeing my son in 18 years time.

You see, when you’re 51 … your father died at 60 … and your son is 6 … you start to think about death a hell of a lot more.

I don’t like it. I don’t like how it sometimes makes me feel. I don’t like how stupid it can make me … but the reality is there is a chance I won’t make it to see Otis at Johnny’s age and that terrifies me.

I mean, I hope I do.

I hope I live a lot longer than that.

But then my Dad wished he could have seen me get married and become a Dad and he never got that chance … so seeing Johnny felt like a bit of a gift. A chance to glimpse the future, which I appreciate sounds utterly stupid. Because it is.

But it gets worse.

I found myself reading Johnny’s answers over and over again – wanting to make sure he was a nice guy because for a moment, I’d convinced myself that meant Otis would be to. [Good news. They both are, hahaha]

Then I found myself wondering what sort of artist he is and how he got there.

Is he happy?
Is he fulfilled?
Will he achieve what he hopes?

Obviously all of this had triggered my fears and insecurities … projecting the life of a complete stranger who looks a bit like my son on to my son.

Fortunately Otis – who was sat next to me at the time – was living in his own world playing Roblox on his iPad, not giving a fuck that his Dad was having a bit of a meltdown, hahahaha.

So to Johnny, I want to apologise.

I’m sorry an old bloke got kind of obsessed with you for a minute.
I’m sorry I temporarily stole your life to give it to my son.
I’m sorry Gen and you didn’t click. [though you may be happy about that too]

And to Otis …

Well my wonderful boy, know I love you.

Know I wish I could be here forever … to be near you.

To see you grow and blossom. To watch you discover a life of adventure and fulfilment. To witness the choices you make and the life you create.

I hope I see you at 24 and beyond.

And I hope you know my interest in Johnny was not because I want you to live his life, but because I just want to see you live yours.

For decades.

Rx




The Pointless Reveals The Most Important Things …

This is a plant in our office.

I have no idea who owns it.

I must admit I don’t even really like it.

But that sticker …

Oh I like that.

I like it a lot.

Sure, to some it may be stupid.

Or even disrespectful.

But to me, it shows a company where the people within it have a mischievously creative spirit. The sort who spot creative opportunities to do something people will notice, or relate to or just feel for a whole host of reasons.

In just a single word, they found a way to make anyone who sees that little sticker not just see a plant, but a hard-to-please, always demanding, never content, forever dissatisfied pain-in-the-ass plant diva.

In short, they gave a plant a personality.

In one word.

Yes I know I have a ‘history’ with dodgy stickers – and I also loved the time someone at Wieden Shanghai put the sticker ‘freedom’ next to the ground floor button in the lift [which was promptly taken down, probably by the same person who still goes mental when they discover another of my Wieden leaving stickers hidden somewhere in the building despite me having left years ago, hahahaha] … but I particularly love this one.

I love someone thought it was worth doing.

I don’t care they may have given it no thought whatsoever – in fact that makes me like it more – because it’s those little, pointless things that reveals the most important thing you could ever want to know about an agency.

Are you entering a place that has a culture of creativity or a business that sells efficiency processes under the label of creativity?



Don’t Want Something So Much That You Do Something You Don’t Want …

When I was at cynic, I wasn’t allowed to talk money with clients.

The main reason for this is that while I like money, I like doing weird and wonderful things more … so I used to agree to terrible terms just because I wanted to make sure we didn’t miss out on doing something we were really excited by.

Now I get we like to think there’s some sort of logic to this approach, but as George kindly told me – while punching me in the head – what I was doing was undermining our position.

For a start, your relationship with the client is impacted. That doesn’t mean they don’t value you, but it means they don’t value you as much as they should. They see you as a ‘cheap problem solver’ rather than a valuable problem solver.

Then there’s the fact all your additional time and passion will never be rewarded to the level it deserves. The worst part is this is your own fault as you already set the precedent for how much you are worth by lowering your fee to such a great degree.

And then there’s the dilution of the projects importance.

In essence, when something is made much cheaper, the effect is its value goes the same way. Going from something significant to just another thing being done. From having a strong focus within the company management to being delegated to people who don’t really have the same decision making power.

Before you know it, clients start questioning other things you’re doing.

Asking why certain things need to be done. Challenging the time or expense on the elements that show the real craft.

Leaving the end result a lesser version of what it should have been.

Now this doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens a lot.

And while I get we are in a highly competitive time, where everyone is looking to save cash – the ease in which we undermine our own value is both astonishing and debilitating.

George’s brilliance was his ability to have us walk away.

I have to be honest, we had many arguments about this over the years … but in the main, he was right.

His point was ‘why would someone value us if we’re not valuing us?’.

It’s a pretty compelling argument.

This doesn’t mean we weren’t open to negotiation, but George’s position was ‘never forget we have something they want because we’ve shown them something they need’.

Another pretty compelling argument.

And while this approach helped us not only win all manner of great creative projects – but helped us be a profitable, sustainable company – I still found it hard to deal with.

Hell, on the occasion we didn’t win a project because somebody said they could do it for cheaper, I was a bloody nightmare. George used to say it was because I am an only child – which may be right – because I hated not getting what I really, really wanted.

And even then, George was the voice of reason.

“Why are you upset about losing a project with a client who wants to go down to a price point rather than up to a standard?”

ARGHHHHH!

What makes it worse is he meant it.

He, more than any of us, knew our value and wasn’t going to let us let go of something we had worked so hard to earn.

He’s right of course.

It’s the reason the best work comes from people who share the same goal.

To aim high, not cheap.

Sure, money comes into it … but the focus is always the quality of the output not just the price.

It’s why Cynic was so exciting.
It’s why Wieden+Kennedy are so special.
It’s why Metallica’s management are so influential.
It’s why all the work I’m doing right now is so fascinating.

George taught me so much.

While I appreciate I’m in a much more privileged position than many, nowadays I am totally comfortable with walking away from a project if I feel the vision, ambition and value for a project is not shared.

And what’s weird is that while that approach has resulted in me walking away from a lot of potentially interesting projects that were worth a lot of money to me – especially over the last 6 months – it has brought me a range of fascinating clients and projects [and cash] that most agencies would kill to have a chance to work on.

I’ve written about knowing the value of your value in the past.

I’ve talked about how that lets you play procurement at their own game.

And while it feels scary to stick to your standards when someone is threatening to take away something you really want, it also makes you feel alive.

Butterflies of excitement. A taste of power and control. Nervousness of being in the game.

And while it might not always come off and while you may be able to justify why it would be easier to just take whatever they want to give you … it’s a beautiful feeling to feel you matter. That your work matters. That the way you look at the world matters. That what you want to create matters. That you won’t allow yourself to do something simply because you’re the cheapest. Or allow a bad process to force a diluted version of what you were hired to do. Or let yourself be evaluated by someone who doesn’t care about what you’re creating, just that it’s done. That you matter enough to not allow others to negatively judge you for terrible conditions they put you in.

It can take time to come to terms with this.

It took me almost 20 years to really get it.

And while some may call you a pretentious or stubborn or commercially ignorant, the reality is dismissing the value of your value simply to make things commercially viable for everyone else is simply the most stupid thing you can do.

Because to paraphrase something Harrison Ford once said, when you devalue the value of something you’ve spent your whole life working at, you’re not just being irresponsible, you’re not valuing the value of the time, experience and expertise it has taken to get you to that point.

George knew this.

George helped me benefit from this.

George eventually got me to understand this.

And I’ll always be grateful for that gift.

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I’ve removed comments. Not just because I’m scared of the mountain of abuse the ex-cynic alumni who comment on here may/will give me. But because I’m even more frightened they may bathe George in even more praise and that would be too much for me to deal with.

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A Conversation About Living. And Failing.

A few weeks ago, my friend – Philippa White, the founder of TIE – spoke to me about my life.

While many would say that is the single worst idea anyone could have, Philippa – for reasons that still escape me – thought differently.

TIE – or The International Exchange – is an amazing thing.

They link people from the commercial world [from big organisations to people from BBH and W+K] with social initiatives around the world, providing unique opportunities that will transform the lives of both parties.

It’s an absolutely amazing organisation and the people who have done it talk about how it has had a profound affect on their lives – for the experience they had, the realisation that their skills can benefit people in different ways that they ever imagined and the lessons they learnt about what they’re good at, what they want to be good at and the future they can now envision for themselves.

I have not done TIE, but Philippa and I bonded when we met over the power of overseas experiences and learning and for some reason she wanted to talk about my journey.

We cover a whole lot of topics, from family to friendship to failure and while it may only be interesting to those looking for a cure for insomnia, if you’re looking for development, growth and having more meaning and value from your life … I can assure you TIE is definitely going to be of interest to you.

Thank you Philippa. Thank you TIE.

You can be disappointed by it here.