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


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.



I’m Watching You …

When I was at R/GA, I hired this brilliant planner called Joel.

It was weird how we met because it all started at a Google Firestarter meeting I was talking at.

At the end of my presentation, it was opened up to the audience for questions.

I couldn’t see who was asking anything as the lights from the stage were shining straight into my eyes. Anyway, there was one question that shone out from the rest of the questions of the night – basically challenging the London bubble of planning – and while I didn’t know who asked it, I wanted to find who did to say I liked it.

Alas I never found out who did.

A few days later, I got a message on LinkedIn from the person who asked the question.

His name was Joel.

I invited him for a coffee later that week and suddenly the person who asked the best question of the night was asking the best questions of the day.

But what made them extra good was he wasn’t doing it to show off or stand out, he was doing it because he was interested in the topics and interested to hear my perspective.

We talked about his background, his ambitions and then he did the one thing that almost guaranteed I wanted to hire him.

He called comprehensive school, ‘big school’.

BIG SCHOOL.

I hadn’t heard that since I was a kid in Nottingham and immediately I loved Joel for it. Because for all the time he had spent in London, he had not lost his Bradford realness … and then it became clear why he asked the question about the London bubble, why he was asking questions why culture rarely reflected how marketing department express it and why was the ad industry more interested in convenience than authenticity.

How could I not hire someone like that?

So I did.

And he never disappointed because apart from being culturally, creatively and strategically talented – with an obsessive focus on what life is really like for people, especially outside of London rather than the cliched, London bullshit a lot of marketing likes to portray – his greatest trait was he always wanted to learn.

Always.

Now don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t always the model student … he would push back, he would challenge, he would question … but what he doesn’t know is that was when I was the happiest working with him, because it meant he was believing his words rather than just following others.

And while we always have to be careful we don’t blindly think whatever we believe is the right answer, having confidence and conviction in your gut and your talent is an often underplayed, undervalued, under-encouraged skill in a strategist … which is why I was so happy to see when I left R/GA, Joel had a mug made with my face and my words on it.

Not because he missed my ugly face and lack of vocabulary, but to remind him to trust his smarts, his instincts and his authenticity … but never to be a prick about it.

If I was proud of him before. I am even prouder of him now.



Some Scams Might As Well As Have A Neon Sign On Them, Flashing Scam …

Just like great PR is never seen.

And great conspiracies, always feel plausible.

Great scams should never let you doubt their validity.

Yes, I know a while back I wrote that Bernie Madoff had said that success is as much down to the individuals greed as the scammers ability to appear legitimate … but fundamentally, if something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

Which is why the ad above is probably the criminal equivalent of infant school.

Let’s face it, you don’t call yourself ‘Mystery Shopping’ if you’re going to tell everyone what they’re getting and the likelihood that SONY would allow an external company to promote to all and sundry that you can play on their yet-to-be-released new gamer machine is – and I appreciate I may be being a bit cynical here – ABSOLUTELY ZERO!

On the bright side, it does show clients that as professionals in communication, adland is much better at manipulating people than criminals. Or at least amateur criminals.

So at least we have that going for us. Ahem.

Sorry gomysteryshopping.co.uk, you’re going to have to up your game.

Or at least not make such stupid, basic mistakes.

Wait for all the consultancies that will now approach criminals with proposals to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Now they’re definitely not ‘amateur’ criminals.