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


Another Year On This Blog Is Officially Done …

So this is it, year 15 of this blog is officially over.

YEAR 15!!!

Christ, this might be the most I’ve ever been committed to anything. What a shame this blog is basically worth nothing, hahahaha.

But we’re here.

A year that the World hoped would represent huge, positive change after the hell of 2020 … but ended up being more of the same.

For us, of course, this was a year with a huge difference – namely we now live in New Zealand.

Moving countries can be a pain in the arse at the best of times, but doing it in a pandemic adds a whole lot of stress that no one needs. However, despite that … despite saying goodbye [or should I say, au revoir] to the beautiful house we had just bought … despite not being able to physically see my beloved Paul and Shelly before we went … despite the hassle, broken furniture and time to get settled in … it’s been amazing.

There’s many reasons to that.

From the 2 week quarantine we had to do, which let us – and Rosie, the cat – get acclimatised to the obscene time difference to the kindness and generosity of the people here. To the fact we had bought our beautiful home – and cars – before we arrived, which made things so much easier. To the covid vaccinations we received. To the community we have found ourselves in. To the outdoor life – excluding the insane rain and 4 month lockdown – we have been able to enjoy.

So much.

But it would be wrong for me to not mention the role Colenso and, specifically my team, have had in it.

Everyone of these talented souls has been wonderful.

Not just to me, but Jill and Otis as well.

Plus there’s the fact my team have [generally] put up with my ‘ways’ … and we all know how painful that can be. I’ve always been incredibly fortunate with the teams I’ve been a part of and this lot are no different.

Sure, they’re mouthy bastards with no end of opinions, ideas and considerations but that’s – as you probably could guess – is exactly why I love them.

We’ve only been together 7 months but I’ve seen enough to be excited about what damage we can do in 2022 – reinforced by the fact we finished this year being named Agency Of The Year by the Effies organisation for a whole host of work that solved problems in interesting ways.

So to Lizzie, Henry, Teresa, Emma, Gi, Augustine, Amy and Liam … thank you for everything.

You’ve given me laughs, headaches, pride, lessons and things to ponder … and I couldn’t be more grateful for all of it.

[And extra best wishes to Lizzie who gets married during the holidays. Made extra perfect because she had to postpone it due to Covid and this way she gets to make the holiday season even more wonderful for all her family]

But while NZ has been the major change in my year, there have been some other notable moments.

In some respects, it was a year of music.

From my Rick Rubin project to getting fired by the Red Hot Chili Peppers to the best passive aggressive endorsement ever seen in the history of mankind.

Given I’ll be working for The Black Keys, Muse and – weirdly – Journey in 2022, I can only hope the musical rollercoaster will keep me on my toes as much.

Talking of celebrity …

I met Noel Edmunds at a business ‘do’ in Auckland – which surprised him as much as it did me – and I got to hug Jacinda Ardern, albeit committing social faux pas when I interrupted her during a dinner she was having to say hello.

That I’m still allowed in the country is testimony to New Zealand’s humanity.

Then there was the Tokyo Olympics …

An event a year late from its original plan … met with global apathy, especially in their home country … only to win us all over and turn us back into fans.

Seeing young kids win medals in skateboarding will stay with me for a very long time.

In fact, having skateboarding in the Olympics may have just done more to get kids wanting to do sport again than any number of NIKE ad campaigns.

That’s how good it was.

Best ad of the year goes to the amazing MacMillan cancer ad.

I must have watched it a couple of hundred times now – hell, I’ve even built a presentation around it that I give clients – and I still cry when I see it.

Not because of sadness – though there’s plenty in it – but because of the human emotion it triggers.

As I wrote at the time, it has this incredible ability to take me back to the times I lost my parents but make me feel closer to them. Extraordinary.

I could go on …

I could talk about certain posts I wrote in the year, like Toxic Positivity, but let’s face it … you can’t be bothered to read it and I can’t be bothered to write about it.

So I want to say some thanks …

To everyone who reads, writes and insults me on this blog … I am eternally grateful – and surprised – you come here. Many of you have been coming here for almost as long as I’ve been writing it and I have to say I find comfort in knowing that whatever I’m facing in life, I can come here and all of it just fades away. So for that, thank you … I really appreciate it.

I also want to say thank you to everyone who has reached out to check on how we’re doing. You didn’t have to, but you did and that means a ton.

Extra special thanks go to Paul, Shelly, Martin, Paula, Amelia, Martin B, Meg, Rach, Mike, Sam, Mr Ji, Peter and Cliff … who all made me feel like you were just around the corner, even though you were thousands of miles away.

And finally, a special thanks to Jill, Otis and Rosie.

None of this would be possible without you and I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.

You make me a happier, better person than I believed was possible … and while you may rightfully think I can be a total pain-in-the-ass, I can just tell you I’d be even worsr without you.

So thank you.

For everything,

I can never fully tell you how much I love you and am grateful for you.

The way you handle all this change is extraordinary …

Nothing sums this up more than something Otis chose to do recently.

As you all know, Otis has beautiful, gorgeous, stunning long hair …

Well a few weeks ago, he suddenly announced he wanted to cut it off so it could be donated to kids with cancer.

We asked if he was sure as it was a big thing and he said, “he wants to and is determined to”.

Then he added he will continue to do this until he’s 18.

Grow his hair.
Donate his hair.
Grow his hair.
Donate his hair.

So that evening, his Mum got scissors and a hair razor out and starting cutting 35 CENTIMETERS OF HAIR.

THIRTY FIVE!

Throughout the cutting he kept saying how excited he was.

How it was changing his life.

How much ‘lighter’ his head felt.

And afterwards, the little champ looked like this …

A new sort of rock n’ roll.

I thought it was impossible to love him anymore. I was wrong.

To have the capacity to be so compassionate and considerate at 7 years of age is incredible.

Even more so when he has had so much change in his life.

Four countries in 6 years.
New homes, new schools, new friends.
Almost 18 months of lockdown.

And yet he still has it in him to think of others.

Definitely his Mum’s son.

But proudly mine too.

Hell, he even offered me a chance to remember what it was like to have hair …

… though it could also have been to take the piss out of me.

So to Otis … Jill … Rosie … everyone I know and people I don’t but somehow have still come into my life this year, I wish you a wonderful festive season.

I really, really hope 2022 is much better for everyone than the previous 2 years.

I hope we have a year where everyone can have hope for the future.

I don’t know if it’s possible with the machismo bullshit of politicians, but let’s hope so.

Thank you again for everything, have a great time … just not better than me. Please.

See you on January 31st.



Having An Opinion Doesn’t Make You An Expert …

So I survived and no one died. Yet.

Yesterday was wonderful.

Everyone was so nice to me, which means they don’t really know me.

Anyway, while I’ll be talking a lot about Colenso and New Zealand in the future, today I want to talk about something else.

A while back, the amazing Martin Weigel wrote an absolutely brilliant post about the importance of language in strategy.

Except it wasn’t just about the language you use in your work, but how you use it.

How you ensure you are writing a strategy that has colour, movement, clarity and provocation.

I’m doing it a disservice as it is basically a masterclass – as all Mr Martin’s brilliant posts are – on how to write strategy, with the end result being you not only have a greater understanding for how to do it, but a greater respect for doing it.

The craft.

The consideration.

The way to take people to a place they can see and feel and want to fuck with.

However, as brilliant as it is, I’ve heard some say, “it’s all obvious”.

And while there is an argument for that – because what Martin says isn’t a revolution on how to approach strategy, simply a focus on how to do it well – the reality is there’s a big difference between knowing the theory and actually doing it.

Which leads to my issue.

Our industry is filled with planners who talk about how to make world class creativity, but have never made any.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to talk about it, but it does mean they don’t have a right to act like experts about it.

But they do.

And while I am not suggesting these people aren’t good at many other things and ‘world class creativity’ is about as subjective as you can get … in the area of actual making work that has defined brands in culture, I think if you looked at the reel Mr Weigel can put forward, it would be better than most agencies could present.

But here’s the thing …

World Class creativity isn’t specifically about work that has run across the globe.

Nor is it about work that is for a global brand … though, it should be noted, he has done this and done it brilliantly which is often far harder to achieve than work for a smaller client with far less politics.

It is simply about the actual work.

Not the theory of it.

The actual work and how it changed the way culture looked at the brand and how the brands fortune changed because of it.

Not one or the other.

Both.

That he has done this at the highest level and – arguably – on the most consistent level of any planner on the planet, means people who are looking to belittle it because ‘it’s obvious’ or because ‘he works at Wieden+Kennedy’ are idiots.

Maybe you can get to this level because of luck – especially if you’re male and white – but you definitely can’t stay there because of it.

Especially at Wieden.

What this piece of brilliance Martin gave us was an act of generosity.

Something designed to help the individual be better so that the overall work can be better.

Making work that fights indifference.

Making work that has a point of view.

Making work that we can all be proud of making.

So to all those who truly care about the work, follow the people who actually make it at the highest standards, because anything is easy for the person who never has done it.



Perfect Fucks You Up …

A while back, I did a presentation for the Brazilian APG about the dangers of perfect.

Or more precisely, the boredom of it.

It was my usual rambling mess of random pictures that goes off on tangents a protractor would find hard to calculate … but I still liked the underlying point that perfection stops possibilities whereas acts others may view as stupid … creates them.

[If you’re mad, you can see a static version of the presentation here]

I say I liked the underlying point until I saw this.

I really, really like this.

I love the idea that flaws help us connect.

I love that imperfection can make us feel normal. That it is something to aspire to.

Of course, the reality is perfection is just an illusion.

One persons definition of what is the ultimate expression of an idea.

A temporary moment, where they believe nothing better has been explored or revealed.

The problems start when that definition starts being challenged.

While some embrace it – seeing it as a way to push the boundaries of what they thought was possible – many fight it.

Using their definition to control, limit or devalue the work of the challengers.

Sometimes it’s due to ego.
Sometimes it’s due to money.
But everytime it aims to oppress rather than liberate.

It’s happening everywhere.

From technology processes to agency ‘proprietary’ tools.

And while there is a lot to be said for being proud of what you have done, when you use it to stop people creating their own version, it’s not.

I’ve seen too many people in too many companies follow the orders of their bosses simply because it’s easier to do that. Where they know expressing a different point of view will be seen as an attack rather than an attempt for everyone to be even better.

So while perfect might be nice and shiny and make you feel good, it also has the power to stop progress.

Or as the brilliant chart at the top of this post states, stop feeling you can relate.

Not because it’s so far ahead, but because of the speed society evolves, it’s too far behind.



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.



Driving With The Brakes On …

When I first started working in London – just as I was starting out in this industry – I commuted about 5 hours a day.

A DAY!

To be fair, that was of my own making because the company thought I lived in London because I’d given them my aunts address when I applied and got hird.

When they eventually found out I lived with my parents in Nottingham, they were livid.

And they had every right to be.

But as they were giving me the first of my long history of written warnings, I asked the question: “would you have hired me if you knew I lived in Nottingham?” … and didn’t hear a word back.

And while I knew I deserved it, what pissed me off was that I generally was always the first person in and last out. Driving up and down the M1 in my shitty Ford Fiesta with one wing mirror and a radio that couldn’t drown out the sound of my engine. But the fact was, I was a bloody idiot and as much as they probably wouldn’t have hired me if I’d be honest with them from the start, I was fortunate not to be kicked out of an industry I still love.

Well. Most of the time.

And while I was young and having a car felt amazing … even then I knew 5 hours a day – 25 hours a week on a good week – was too much.

Winter was the worst.

Bad weather meant it could take almost double the time to get there and back and many a time I slept on a friends couch or a motorway service station, in my car under a mountain of coats and blankets I kept in the boot ‘just in case’.

My parents were not happy about it, but I think because my Dad’s brother-in-law was travelling 8 hours per day [he was head of traffic control at Gatwick airport] it somehow made them feel a bit better about it.

What’s interesting is that after that job, I vowed never to be more than 30 minutes from work.

And I wasn’t.

Until, of course, I came back to London.

Even though I was in a much better position personally and professionally than I was the last time I worked – and eventually lived there – no one drives into Central London anymore. And while I genuinely enjoyed catching the tube or the bus – helped by the fact that the stations I got on at meant I generally always got a seat – it still was a 80+ minute journey each way, each day.

Given our house was only 7 miles from work, that made my old 2+ hour journey over 120 miles, look positively effective.

And this was life for me.

Out the house before the family woke up.

Back at home as the family – or at least Otis – was going to bed.

And while we made it work and weekends were sacrosanct, the fact I was spending a minimum of 13+ hours a week going to and from work was – and is – ridiculous.

So when COVID started and we all started working from home, I was – for the first time in my life – able to have breakfasts, lunches and dinners every day with my family and I can honestly say I found it pretty confronting.

You see I loved it.

Absolutely loved it.

It was – and still is – one of the most wonderful times of my life.

And while I enjoy working, I started to question what the hell I was doing spending so much time away from them just to get to and from work.

Then R/GA did the nicest thing they could do for me.

They made me redundant.

And while there are things I could say about how they did it and why they did it, the fact is, I’ll always be grateful to them for the opportunity they gave me to come back to England, develop the team I got to work with and then – at the end – hand me my redundancy so I could rediscover and reclaim my priorities, passion and creativity.

Right now, I feel more fulfilled and excited than I have in a long time.

I’m spending more time with my family than ever before while working on a range of global projects that are some of the most creative I’ve ever been involved with.

Mad, mental stuff – from ads to products to art installations – which involve some of the most talented creative people in their field … from an icon of dance/electronic music to the most notorious developers in the gaming category and a bunch in-between.

Then, of course, I have the brilliant excitement of NZ and Colenso to look forward to, too.

It’s all simply amazing.

While I appreciate I am in an exceptionally lucky and privileged position, I can’t help thinking about this quote:

“The problem with life is we sacrifice what we really want to do with what is available right now.”

We all do it.

We might have different reasons causing it, but we all do it.

And while there are many considerations, situations and expectations that push us down these paths, I hope if anything comes out of the craziness of 2020, it’s that we think why we’re doing it rather than just blindly following it.

Because it’s only when we question our choices can we start seeing where we’re going.

And then we have a little more control. Or choice. Or even peace. We all deserve that.