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


A Reminder About Humans To Everyone Dealing With Humans …

No matter how well planned you think you are.

How detailed you’ve been.

How many case studies you’ve watched.

How many focus groups you’ve sat in.

How logical your argument is.

People will always do what works for them, not works for you.

So think about that next time you try and claim your comms plan/user journey is a true reflection of how all people engage with brands and make purchase decisions.

For the record …

I get the role and value of comms plans/user journeys.

I have no issue with them. In fact they can make a real difference to the work.

Where I get pissy is when they’re presented as ‘fact’ rather than a guide. Acting like they represent how ALL people behave – while ignoring factors like personal situation and circumstance as well as competitive activity.

Of course this attitude of ‘unquestionable, unbendable, superior intelligence and logic’ is prevalent in many planners … probably driven more by clients wanting certainty and consistency than personal ego … however by refusing to acknowledge we’re dealing more in frameworks than blueprints, we’re not just undermining our discipline and inadvertently placing barriers on new approaches and experiments, but ultimately selling generalised convenience rather than personal intimacy which means it’s set up to be average from the outset.

Madness.

As I said to a client recently about insights …

They’re not perfect.

They’re not infallible.

They’re not all encompassing.

But when done right, they increase the odds of good things happening because they reveal the ridiculous truth behind people’s beliefs and behaviours … and I swear if we all adopted this attitude towards what we do, we may just end up making things that are more interesting and more effective as well.

We won’t. But I just like to think we might.



Nothing Shows Respect Like Letting Someone Argue With You …

A career is a funny thing.

I mean literally, as a concept – it’s quite bizarre.

The idea of working in one industry and hoping to move up a fictional ladder and somehow hope that by the time you’re pushed off it – and we’ll all be pushed off it at some time – you’ve built up enough reputation or cash to keep you going through till the bitter end.

Hahahaha … Mr Positive eh!?

Anyway, by hook or by crook I’ve somehow managed to have what I’d call a career.

Admittedly, I fell into it – but overall, I’ve had a pretty good one.

I’ve worked at some amazing places.
I’ve got to live literally all around the World.
I’ve met people who have literally changed my life.
I’ve been part of work that still excites me years later.
And somehow, I’m still doing all those things, which is insane.

But as wonderful as all that is, one thing I am particularly proud of is how many of my old team mates are now at some of the most highly regarded creative companies in the World doing all manner of interesting things.

Of course, I had little to do with it – it’s all their talent – but the bit that makes me proud is that they are forging their own careers based on their own ideas and their own opinions and their own voice.

About 2005, I realised how lucky I had been with previous bosses.

All of them encouraged me to find my own voice rather than duplicate someone else’s … and while that often got me in trouble, they never strayed from their path of encouraging independent thought.

Now I appreciate a lot of companies say this, but this wasn’t some PR bullshit they could spout in a magazine, they lived it – openly and actively welcoming, encouraging and igniting debate.

And they never ‘pulled rank’.

It was always a discussion of equals – which was one of the most empowering and liberating professional feelings I ever had.

It showed trust. It showed respect. It showed value.

And even though I’m an old fuck who has done OK in my career, I still get that same feeling when I am working with others who embrace the same value.

As much as rockstars and billionaires may have a reputation for demanding diva’s, I can honestly say the ones I’ve been working with have been amazing in welcoming opinion. They may not always like what is said, but they always value why it has.

And that’s why, when I saw a shift in planning from rigour to replication … challenge to complicity … and individuality to impotency [driven by the global financial crisis of 2008] I realised the best thing I could do is encourage my team to be independent in thought, voice and behaviour.

I should point out this was not selfless. By having great creative and cultural thinkers in my team, they would help make even better work and that would have a positive effect on me too.

I know, what a prick eh.

And of course, I acknowledge not every planner was following the replication path. Nor was every agency. But it was definitely happening and arguably, this is why Australian planners have risen in position more than those from other nations [ie: Tobey head of planning at Uncommon, Paula global head of Nike planning at Wieden, Andy head of planning at Wieden Portland, Rodi, head of strategy at Apple South East Asia and Aisea MD at Anomaly LA to name but 5] because – as much as the Aussie government may like to say they suffered – the country was largely unaffected, which meant training continued, standards continued, creativity continued.

So while there was a bunch of other values we continually encouraged and practiced, the desire to develop independent thinking, openness and debate were a real focus of mine and have continued to be.

Whether I was successful is up to the people who had the awkwardness of dealing with me, but I distinctly remembering being in a meeting at Wieden in Shanghai after Sue, Leon and Charinee had just challenged a bunch of things we had just talked to the agency about.

One of the global team was there and said, “they’re very outspoken”.

And while normally that could be read as a diss, it wasn’t … it was more of a surprise because many people in China – especially the young – tend to keep very quiet, especially in front of people who are at a more senior level to them and this mob had gone to town.

To which I replied, “I know. It’s a wonderful headache to have”.

And it was.

And it is.

Which is why I will continue to believe the best thing any head of planning can do is encourage independent thought and respect for debate and rigour … because while it can creates moments where it’s a right pain in the arse, the alternative is far more disagreeable.

Have a great weekend.



Let Them Be Fragile Around You, Not Defining You …

Once upon a time I worked with a male creative who was one of the most sexist pricks I’ve ever met. He was condescending, patronising and – even worse – did all they could to stand in the way of female talent.

There was one situation where he actively tried to stop me from hiring one of the best planners in the World simply because she was a woman … knew more about sport than him and was much better at it as well.

He tried so hard to find fault with her, when all the time he was revealing his fragile ego.

And while I dealt with him – resulting in us hiring this brilliant planner who has gone on to have the sort of career most people could only ever dream of having – the fact is, her career could have been severely undermined if he had got his way.

What makes it worse is he is a loving father of daughters.

If anyone should be treating female talent with respect and encouragement – surely it should be someone with 2 daughters of their own. But then I remembered watching the ex-Prime Minister of Iceland – Vigdís Finnbogadottir – in Michael Moore’s documentary, ‘Where To Invade Next’ who explained things perfectly.

“While men would never want another man standing in the way of their daughters career potential, that attitude only extends to their daughter … not women in general”.

Of course she’s right.

That’s what’s so fucked up. Especially about men.

As is the vernacular they use to describe female colleagues.

Calling them emotional.

Fragile.

Weak.

And while I would rather work with an emotional, sensitive and compassionate person any day of the weak, the fact is women are way stronger than the vast majority of men I know.

Fuck, my wife has shown more courage than I could ever hope to muster.

From saying yes to moving countries with a man she had only known for 6 weeks to carrying our kid for 9 months and then PUSHING HIM OUT to just embracing every challenge that has been put in her way … everything about her is stronger than Superman and more inspiring than any Nike spot. [Sorry Swoosh, you know I still love you]

Then there’s the fact the vast majority of female leaders [of which there’s still too few] actively bring their whole team along with them versus a lot of men, who just want to take themselves forward.

And yet, despite all this, women continually face gender devaluation by many men – specifically white men – which is why I bloody love the poster at the top of this post designed by the brilliant Kat at Colenso designed from this amazing quote by Rahul Singh Rathour.

Which is why I hope women embrace being fragile like a bomb … because it means those around them will fear them rather than them having to fear those around them.



And They Say Planners Aren’t Smart …

Some people say planners are a waste of space.

That they don’t know what they’re doing.

That they have egos is writing cheques, their talent can’t cash.

To be fair, there’s a lot of truth in all of that.

But recently I came across a bit of planner genius that deserves applause.

Have a look at this …

The handsome bastard in the photo is Henry.

Henry is one of the brilliant planners in my gang.

And while his brain can take you to places normal minds can’t see, let alone reach, I can’t help but think that as subliminal cues go … showing a client your thinking while standing under a light bulb – to reinforce “this is a brilliant idea, you must approve it immediately” – is next level impressive.

Well done Henry, you have single handedly make planners ask their agencies for lightbulbs to be hung down in meeting rooms all over the world.



They Deserve 32 Root Canals …

Toothpaste.

It’s all kind-of the same isn’t it.

OK, so the manufacturers would disagree – which is why they keep launching different variants with all manner of ‘secret ingredients’ – but to the average person on the street, not only is the product pretty much the same, so is the advertising.

I get it, toothpaste ads must be hard … but even that doesn’t justify this shit from Colgate.

Cop a load of this.

Yep … ‘Made for greatness’.

Not made for great teeth, but greatness.

Hmmmmn … that’s not an over-claim whatsoever is it?

It’s a toothpaste.

For teeth.

TEETH.

And while teeth have a big role in our lives – and culture – THEY HAVE FUCK ALL TO DO WITH YOUR ABILITy TO CLIMB A MOUNTAIN.

Or a flight of stairs for that matter.

Now I appreciate I’m biased because in 2012, we did Greatness for the London Olympics … but have a look and tell me which you think is better … more resonant and more appropriate?

Yes, exactly.

And that’s before you have been reminded about the two lead NIKE Olympic ads from 2012.

Find Your Greatness.

Jogger.

God, even now Jogger gives me chills.

As I said, I get how hard toothpaste ads must be, but if Colgate want to do something right and interesting, they should give me a call – as I literally have 3 great ideas they can have. For a price. On the bright side, I promise you that whatever the price we agree on, you wont have to pay with your dignity like you have had to do with this.

Oh god how I’d love it if they did that, even though we all know it’s not going to happen.

So I’ll leave you with this.

Colgate … I am sure this passed all manner of internal research tests.

I am sure you this makes you all feel you’re doing something really important for humanity.

And while healthy, bright, strong, clean teeth are important – and Colgate plays a big role in that – it would be so much better if it helped make the brains of the people who approved this, as bright as their teeth, because maybe they wouldn’t have churned out the advertising equivalent of a root canal without anaesthetic.

Call me Colgate. Seriously. Please call me. I can put a billion dollar smile on your face.