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

It’s Better Oop North …

Ad blogging was once a rich, vibrant community.

It was amazing how much people looked out for each other.

A lot was driven by Russell Davies … but the effect of it was something pretty special.

I met a lot of people because of that community … some, still even come on here.


But when you compare it to the toxic, ego-filled bullshit of ad twitter … I can’t help but feel the blogging community was a much more valuable and positive resource for adland.

Especially if you were a junior.

While there are many positives of social media, learning the strategy discipline through 280 letter tweets is not really going to drive the craft forward.

Nowadays there seems to be only 2 people still blogging.

Martin and me.

Or said another way …

Nowadays, only Martin writes a blog that has real value and depth for the industry and discipline.

One of the people I am saddest at having stopped blogging is Andrew Hovells. Better known as Northern Planner.

I’ve written about him a lot in the past.

From how much I respect him to how much I liked trolling him by sending him to see Queen in concert, when he absolutely hates the band.

But I revisited his blog recently and there’s just so, so much amazing stuff on there.

Stuff for people curious about planning.
Stuff for people just starting planning.
Stuff for people having a career in planning.
Stuff for people leading work and teams in planning.
Stuff for every level and need in planning.

And while there are many other resources for this sort information on the internet, Northern Planner’s is especially good for 3 reasons:

1. It comes from someone who could have worked at pretty much any of the best agencies in London, but didn’t and instead chose to stay ‘oop North’ and bring the planning discipline to a part of England that [i] didn’t have it and [ii] needed a lot of convincing to see it’s value. Not only did he achieve that – and validate the discipline for more people in the region to become a part of it – his work gave the supposed London ‘superstars’ a run for their money.

[He also turned down coming to cynic, which still devastates me, because he would have made such a difference to us. But it also shows how smart he is. Unfortunately]

2. He doesn’t give you a process to follow, he gives you a way to look at the discipline and the roles within it. Meaning you’re developing your own planning style and voice … not regurgitating someone else’s.

3. All of it is free. Every last bit of it.

Given the amount of amateurs ‘flogging’ their questionable, superficial and inauthentic courses that don’t have the right to even be in the same universe – let alone industry – as Andrew’s generous, considered and carefully explained lessons and insights … I know who I recommend people spend their time learning from.

I really miss Northern and his blog.

But the planning community should be missing it even more.

A Half Brit, Half Italian Who Spent 7 Years Living In China And Now Lives In America Starts Work At An Agency That Sounds Awfully Like A German Bank …

So as you know I have left China and moved to LA.

And, given I’ve written about it, you know the reasons behind the decision.

However I am also conscious I haven’t said where I am going. OK, so I know others have said where I’m going, but I haven’t. At least on here. 

Well today is the day, because today is the day I start my new job.

Actually I should say today is the day I start my main job because I’m also doing an on-going project with a rather famous rock band [ no, it’s not Queen] however I’m super excited to announce that as of this morning, I have become partner, chief strategy officer and official ‘new boy at school’ at American agency, Deutsch.

If you are based in the US, I’m sure you’ve heard of them but if you’re not, you’ll probably know them for this

To say they’re big is an understatement.

They’re huuuuuuuuge.

Massive clients. Massive office. Massive team.

Basically it’s the classic American cliche … everything is bigger in the US.

Now I’ve got to admit, there’s an element of their scale that makes me nervous … but that’s part of the reason I am so excited to be here.

When we were deciding where to go, I was very clear I didn’t want to do something that was similar to what I’ve been doing over the last 7 years. That’s not because I haven’t loved it – I’ve loved it almost too much – but because I couldn’t see the point of leaving a company I love if I was only go to end up at another company that wanted to be like the company I’ve just left.

What Deutsch offers me is the chance to play and learn in new areas.

Sure, it’s still advertising … but there’s a few fundamental differences from what I’ve been doing for the last few years.

1. I’m going to be a partner.

I’ve got to be honest, this was very important to me. I always want to grow and be challenged and one of the things I knew would be good for me was if I was given the additional – and official – responsibility for helping run an office.

Now you may think I had that at Wieden Shanghai – and I did, kinda – however the structure of the company meant that unless I become an MD [something I don’t want to be] I would always be an invited guest, never one of the hosts.

I should point out I knew this when I joined and I was always given the opportunity to speak up and speak out, however I believe there’s a point where responsibility without authority undermines your potential and ambition and ultimately, I wanted to see if I could make a bigger difference to a company or if I’m full of shit.

2. Deutsch are much more into using tech to solve their clients business problems.

This is almost going back to the way cynic approached things and I love that. However, it is not for the reason that I am sure Northern Planner will suggest … which is that I might be able to convince a client to let me make a moped or car for them.

In all seriousness, one of the things I really liked about Deutsch was their desire to forge their own direction rather than replicate someone else’s. That sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many places try and mimic Wieden without seemingly realising there’s only one W+K and they will always be the best in the World at what they do.

Deutsch’s ambitions feel more entrepreneurial and applied and I find that desire, fascinating.

3. I get to set direction for brands rather than translate someone else’s direction.

While I’ve worked around the World and represented massive regions of the globe, the reality is in most cases, I’ve been about translating someone else’s perspective on what the brand does/is. Someone who tends to work and live in America.

If I’m honest, I’ve never really found this a hindrance – especially in China, where the cultures was so different, so it was always fun to try and work out how to make things connect – but it will be nice to be at the real start of the challenge for once.

Of course there’s other reasons …

The partners are all great people who just happen to work in advertising.

I get to infect a new bunch of talented planners and hopefully make them even better than they thought they could be.

I have the opportunity to make my new team one of the most respected/hated/mischievous departments in the whole of North America. I find that idea really exciting and really infectious.

And then there’s the 2 big ones …

I get to give my family an environment that is healthy for them and we get to experience and immerse ourselves in a brand new culture. Again.

Those are worth their weight in gold … especially as we’ve found a Mandarin school for Otis so he can still feel a connection to the country he was born in and the country his father loves and will miss deeply.

[Oh, we also own and get to drive cars again for the first time in 15 years. I am embarrassingly excited about it … though driving on ‘the wrong side of the road’ is interesting … especially for all the other drivers in LA]

In fact the only thing I don’t like about my new job is that I’m called the Chief Strategy Officer.

I’m not that keen on that. It feels so cold. So exclusive. So disconnected to creativity.

But I get America loves its titles so it’s a small price to pay for the adventure.

So we will see what happens.

It could all go down in flames or it could be a fantastic adventure and for me, when those are the possibilities, that makes me massively excited.

So thank you Deutsch for the incredible opportunity, let’s hope you don’t regret it …

More posts in a couple of weeks when I’ve either [1] settled in a bit or [2] been fired.

You Can’t Let A Momentous Day Pass Without Comment …
January 20, 2015, 6:20 am
Filed under: Northern, Queen

Like Halley’s comet, sometimes an event comes round that demands to be recorded and reacted to.

Today is the recording of that event.

Tomorrow may be the reaction to it.

Well, it will be if the person in question bothers to write about the experience on their blog … because this blog is currently closed so I won’t be writing any more, even if this post proves the word ‘closed’ is very ambiguous where I am concerned.

What am I talking about?

Well today, this man …

… is going to be seeing this band …

… tonight in Leeds.

Yes, that really is Northern Planner [sorry, I just can’t get use to the whole shortened, ‘Northern’ moniker] and yes that really is Queen [or half of them, with a bloke from American Idol].

It’s like Chairman Mao meeting George Bush.

Or Margret Thatcher meeting Arthur Scargill.

Or Sonic The Hedgehog meeting Mario.

It’s a potentially explosive combination – or at least a brain raping one – and I am happily the reason it’s all going to happen.

You see a few months ago I mentioned on Twitter that Queen were going to be playing in Leeds when Northern sarcastically said if I got him tickets, he’d go.

So I did.

And he is.

With his wife.


Northern utterly loathes Queen.

He loathes them as much as I despise The Smiths

And while the band he is going to see is not the ‘real Queen’, it’s as close as he’ll ever come to it and I am excited because while he might loathe the band, hate everything they stand for and generally be the most miserable bastard in the place … I have a feeling that being part of a crowd that is loudly enjoying and physically engaging in the spectacle, might overwhelm his cynicism and give him a night he enjoys.

And if not, it will at least give him a night he’ll always remember.

I’ve written about the power of crowds before. Unlike being the only sober person in a room of drunks, this is different. You find you want to join in. You feel swept up in the emotion of the moment. You start smiling and having a good time … even if you never thought that would be possible.

So I’m interested to see what happens tonight with Northern.

I’m not expecting him to suddenly love Queen just like I don’t like the Smiths despite finding Morrissey less of a dick as I always suspected he was, but maybe – just maybe – he will find himself having had a good night out with the missus and if that happens, that will make me happy because not only will I always have that on him, he is a good man and I’m glad I could do something nice for him and his wife.

Even if it was all done with the intent of evil.

We’ll see I suppose … though I must admit the best outcome for me is if he hates himself for having a good night out at a Queen concert.

Even if it’s not really Queen and it’s hard not to have fun at any concert.

Unless it’s something like One Direction.

Jesus, just typing that makes me ill.

Oh, and as I haven’t really written anything for the past 2 months, I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, New Year, Birthday etc etc. See, the rest has made me nice. Sort-of.

Even though none of you really care, the baby is good, the family is good and fatherhood is brilliant … though that is only my opinion and others may see things rather differently. Especially a little boy that experiences more drama when I change his nappy than the feelings he went through when he came into this World.

And with that, sit back and watch this … knowing Northern will be experiencing a slightly diluted – but much louder – version of this in a few hours.

Don’t forget to check his blog in the morning to see what went down.

I’ll be waiting with baited breath because if he loved it or if he hated it, it’s all a win:win for me.

[Cue: Evil Laugh]

And with that, I hope all is well and see you around.