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


Some Weeks Last A Lifetime …

So I was supposed to be back today, but the gods had other plans.

I got covid.

After avoiding it for 2 years.

After moving to the other side of the planet in the middle of the pandemic.

They decided now was the optimum time to give it to me.

And maybe they were right.

Because this trip has – so far – been filled with nothing but miracles and love.

I got to see the wonderful Martin and Mercedes get married in Portugal, surrounded by old friends who I’d not seen in an age.

Including the brilliant Clare Pickens who I love enormously.

Not to mention Nusara and her husband … who I discovered actually exists.

Now it’s fare to say all weddings are special, but this was magnificent.

There’s many reasons for that – from the people, the venue, the moment – but it was something more than that. As I said on the speech I was asked to give at the last minute, we needed this. All of us. Not just Martin and Mercedes … but every person who was – and continues to be – affected by the devastation of COVID. Which means every person in the World because whether it has been small or big challenges, we’ve all had to deal with them.

And from there, I then got to see my beloved Nottingham Forest pull off the miracle.

From bottom of the league with the worst start in 108 years to playing at Wembley after 30 years and getting promoted to the Premiership after 23 years away.

And to be able to do that with my beloved Paul – who I’d not seen for almost 2 years – by my side, was just even more special.

I don’t mind telling you I cried when I saw him.

When he got out his car and gave me one of his massive hugs hello, I clung on and cried. God I’ve missed him.

Don’t get me wrong, I love NZ, but it is the first place I’ve ever lived that genuinely feels ‘far from everything’ … so with that and all that has gone on in the past 2 years – not to mention the fact this is the longest I’ve not seen him in my entire life – I realised how much I’ve missed and needed him around in my life.

So to have that and then watch our beloved Forest get back into the promise land together was – well, just unbelievably special.

Now if you remember the post I wrote when I was setting off on this adventure, you will note I have not mentioned seeing Paula and her baby yet and that’s because of the COVID gods. But they’re still being nice to me …

Because not only has COVID not been too bad for me – especially compared to what some people have suffered – it meant I had to move my flights as NZ travel rules meant they wouldn’t let me catch my plane. And even this set back has a silver lining.

Because of the demand on airlines – and the time it takes for RAT tests to show a negative reading – the earliest flight I could get was next Tuesday. So not only will I have the time to see her before I go, but I also get to see Paul again when we go to the Queen concert we booked back in 2019 that they had to cancel because of COVID.

Seeing Queen with my best friend and his wonderful wife Shelly is like the ultimate gift to end this incredible visit to Europe.

But there’s more …

You see the Queen concert is on the day the UK celebrates the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

I mean the royal one, not the musical one.

The reason this is significant is way back in 1977, my Mum and Dad brought me to London to watch the crowds celebrate her Silver Jubilee. I remember it well, despite being so long ago. So to be back in London – albeit by pure coincidence – on a day where England yet again is celebrating a landmark moment in the Queen’s reign takes me back to that day with my parents and that is a feeling I will really treasure.

What this all means is not only has this trip been more wonderful than I ever imagined, it’s ended up giving me more miracles and love than I ever expected. Miracles and love that I needed more than I ever imagined.

So while I can’t wait to get back to my family – and my team – I can honestly say this has been a couple of weeks that are one of the most important and memorable weeks of my life and for that, I thank everyone who made it possible … from Martin and Mercedes, Paul, Nottingham Forest, Colenso, Q-Prime, NIKE, Paula, Queen, Lee Hill and Virgin Atlantic and my brilliant supportive wife and son right through to, bizarrely, covid.

I don’t know how you did it Mum and Dad, but thank you.

So till next week.

R



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



Accidental Legacies …

A few weeks ago, I read this:

It was said by Susan Ann Sulley, one of the singers in The Human League about their iconic song, ‘Don’t You Want Me’.

I have to admit, it has absolutely captivated me.

From the acknowledgement there was a real chance they could have put sleigh bells on the song if they thought it would chart over Christmas – which would have immediately made the song a novelty record rather than one of pop’s true classics – to her statement of simply being ‘an ordinary girl, doing her best’.

The level of honesty featured in those few lines is both breath-taking and disarming … especially given it comes from someone from within an industry that loves to big-talk itself, even when they haven’t had a Worldwide hit like Susan has.

To be honest, this openness is reflected in the entire article – which reinforces some ‘no nonsense’ Northern stereotype that adland likes to communicate over and over again.

But there’s something else I like about it …

Because while rigour and planning definitely increase the odds of success, the uncomfortable truth for all those companies, consultancies and self-anointed marketing masters who claim to have proprietary processes that ‘guarantee success’ is the legends, legacies and icons of culture owe far more of their good fortune to the beauty of happy accidents than an obsessive focus on the perfection of a process.

Said another way, they leave space for chaos rather than try to remove it.

I get it may sound counter-productive, but as Martin and I said way back in 2019 … chaos creates what order can’t.



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.