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


Not All Heroes Wear Capes …
July 28, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Family, Mischief

… they are called Tony and have their birthday party at Legoland in England.

Then there’s the parents who call their kid Telemachus … and they either need arresting or need to write the next Transformers movie.



Niche Business Is Still A Business …

Recently I did a talk with a client of mine, the brilliant Hankook Kim – founder of the brilliant Gentle Monster.

For those who don’t know who Gentle Monster is … in simple terms they’re a street culture, luxury eyewear brand who do some of the most brilliant – and crazy – collaborations you’ve ever seen. From World of Warcraft to their own brand of cake shops to pretty much everything in-between.

Anyway, we gave a presentation to a bunch of venture capitalists called Mosquitos Annoy The Fuck Out Of Giants and it highlighted the short-sightedness of their scalability investment model.

For example, Gentle Monster were initially turned down by a lot of VC’s because they saw them as only ever having a small retail presence, literally ignoring the fact he started the company with the goal of having an outsized cultural impact … whether that was through the design of his stores, the collabs he would do or the focus on making eyewear for Asian facial structures – when most other manufacturers based their product on larger Western physical features.

Obviously in all of this, Mr Kim brought the credibility whereas I just brought the punches … but it was a huge amount of fun, regardless if we convinced the VC’s or conflicted them.

The reason I say this is because I recently got sent the ad above about the beatboxing funeral musician.

On first glance you may wonder how many people would want that, but then you think about it and you realise that maybe quite a few do.

Not just because they like beatboxing, but because they want to go out with fanfare.

A few years ago I wrote about the songs I want played at my funeral, and while most remain the same [though I’ll be adding Myles Kennedy’s Love Can Only Heal, to it] … I’ll still have Europe’s classic ‘The Final Countdown’ to end proceedings.

Now I appreciate some will see that as a highly inappropriate song choice, but that’s kind of the reason for it.

To make sure whoever bothers to turn up is sent off with a smile.

To ensure my last ever act one has a glint of cheekiness and mischief.

To say thank you to everyone who made my life better than I ever imagined it could be.

And while this may all sound like I’m a delusional fool, the reality is it is important to me and I would be willing to pay a premium for it – especially if it’s the last thing I’ll ever pay for – which is why this is a reminder that before you judge, [1] remember it’s not whether you like it, but whether others do and [2] your definition of success may not be the same as theirs.



The Power Of Presence …

So recently a friend of mine sent me this video of Prince performing at the Brit awards in 2006.

I don’t just love it because I miss his talent.

Nor do I just love it because it reminds me of what a phenomenal musician he was – with his guitar playing in particular being of Rock God standard.

And I don’t just love it for the beautiful moment he and Darling Nisi sing the chorus of Purple Rain – even though her smile shows how joyful she feels at the moment.

No, the main reason I love it is because of his stage presence. The sheer commitment to performance. The spectacle that is impossible to ignore.

This is more than just being a famous musician performing in front of others – I’ve seen many do that and bore everyone to tears – no, this is about his magnetism.

All eyes are on him. Despite a stage of dazzling talent and dance, you never move your gaze off him. You end up feeling all your emotions have been given a thorough workout despite him being on stage just 12 minutes. I haven’t seen anything like that since Queen’s iconic performance at Live Aid … where in just 20 minutes, they secured their place as music icons.

There are actually less people who have this talent than you think, but one who had it in ‘the real world’ for me was a guy called Chris Jaques.

Years ago I wrote how I had to hold my hands together under the table at our first pitch presentation together because he was so amazing, I just wanted to clap.

I also wrote how anyone who ever worked with Chris who saw the carousel scene in the TV show, Mad Men, thought it could have been him.

He was that good.

But it wasn’t just because he was exceptionally smart.
Nor because he was also exceptionally talented.
But because he had an energy around him that you could not ignore.

He had the incredible ability to make you think he was only talking to you, even in a crowded room. He was clear, open and pragmatic with his opinions. He would go out of his way to ensure everyone felt included and involved. But there was never any doubt he was the leader. You wanted to work for him. Be better for him. When he walked in a room you felt his presence before he said a word. Not because of his power or wealth or standing … but because you felt it was going to be a valuable moment.

But what was even more special about Chris is that he never let this adulation go to his head. OK, not much anyway … certainly less than the people who think they have this impact … which meant he was always approachable but always valuable.

While there are some amazing people out in adland, there’s less Chris’ these days. Whether that’s because they have chosen different industries or this industry hounds people like Chris out is up for debate … but I do feel it’s a great loss.

Many like to refer to them as dinosaurs … people of another time who are no longer relevant. But people who say that have never worked with people like that. They probably wouldn’t want to as they would be challenged and questioned.

But what they don’t understand is their comments wouldn’t be about them.

They would just be talking about the work.

Wanting to help them be better by pushing their own boundaries.

And that’s why everyone should listen to this interview by the irrepressible Tony Davidson of Wieden London.

Tony – along with Kim – basically made that office and his interview is special.

He reminds me a lot of Chris.

Sure, their methods and approaches were very different, but the impact he had on me was very similar.

But after 20 years, Tony is leaving Wieden. While I am in no doubt that he will go on to do other amazing things, the reality is another person who made this industry interesting is going.

And while there are still some out there – Nils Leonard at Uncommon, Angela Watson at Colenso, Jorge Calleja at CPB, Ellie Norman at F1, Susan Hoffman at Wieden and Ryan Fisher at Wieden London to name a few – the industry still seemingly likes to give more face-time to the faceless and beige than the people who make things wonderful and weird.

Maybe that’s the industries insecurity showing [again] but as much as we are talking about mental health and work/life balance in a bid to lure people back to us [which is important and well over due]… maybe another way would be putting the weird, interesting and intriguing in the spotlight again.

Because you don’t attract the creative with even more logic, you attract them with people who have made ridiculous powerful and effective.



What Would A Personalised Number Plate Say About You?

Years ago, I was asked the title of this post by an industry journalist.

I replied with, “it would say I was a prick”.

Given a bunch of people in the industry – not to mention my mates – have personalised number plates, it didn’t go down very well, however compared to this, they’re all saints.

Yep, that’s a real number plate.

Better yet, it’s not even a personalised one. [Someone checked]

That is the number plate the DVLC gave the car.

Now I appreciate that maybe you wouldn’t immediately see the perv potential of PU51BAD … but when it’s written out as PU51 BAD, you’d have to be Stevie Wonder to not see it.

And yet the owner of this Volvo – not sure if it’s a male, but a male was driving it – is happily driving around the UK with it.

Why? Surely they know what they’re doing?

Hell, it seems they even made sure the number plate clearly conveys its questionable words.

Surely they realise the only people who wouldn’t find this cringe worthy are 16 year old boys.

Or maybe I’ve got it wrong.

Given the image of the typical Volvo driver – especially the old Volvo driver – maybe this has given them the bit of an edge they’ve been craving for years.

No longer are they the responsible, safe, family man/woman driver … now they’re sexpests of the most public order.

And to think, Volvo spent untold billions to shed their ‘safe and boring’ persona when all they needed to do was get a perv numberplate.



The Annoying Prick Who Keeps Being An Annoying Prick …

When I left Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai, I wanted to do something that was a mix of mischief and love.

OK, mainly mischief.

So I had 600 stickers [like the the one above] and hid them throughout the newly refurbished office, Nike GCHQ, restaurant and bars near the office and – just because I was spending so much time there – Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo.

I have to say, hiding that many stickers can be quite difficult, but it forced me to get very creative with it … which is why for months afterwards, people would message me to say they had found one in the most unlikely of places.

Apparently all this tomfoolery really, really pissed someone off there – which, I must admit, made me smile for a whole host of reasons – and they went through the office trying desperately to find and destroy all the stickers they could find.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine – who had helped with the hiding – sent me the above photo.

Yep, it’s one of the stickers we placed.

Yep, it’s one of quite a few they still haven’t found.

Which makes me so, so happy.

Not just because if the person it annoyed so much finds out there’s still some there, they’ll not sleep for the feeling I got one over on them … but because after 3 years since I left, it surely means I qualify as the official cockroach of Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai. Which would be wonderful, because I loved every second of my time there.