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


Principles Cost Something …
April 21, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, Politics

A long time ago, I watched a documentary called, This Divided State.

It’s very old … but it’s about the University of Utah inviting Michael Moore to speak at a student organised event.

There is uproar.

Students are divided.
Parents are incensed.
And the university is sued.

What makes things even weirder is that the other speaker – Fox News Hypeman and false news peddler, Sean Hannity – is allowed to come and spout his rubbish without so much as a turn of the head.

It’s a brilliant example of how politics in America is not based on issues and solutions, but tribal blinkered loyalty … where you stick with your party through thick and thin and view anyone who acknowledges the opposition has a good point is a traitor.

This is the trailer:

The reason I write this is because I recently saw the modern day equivalent of this situation.

Again in Utah.

Spencer Cox, the 18th Governor of Utah, was recently asked to pass a vote on trans rights,

Given how many people hated Michael Moore coming to their local university to ‘corrupt’ the kids minds, it’s no surprise that [1] they are a deeply republican state and [2] many don’t agree with trans rights.

Which is why what Mr Cox did is incredible.

Because he voted against the bill.

Or – said another way – he voted against the will of his constituents.

But what I respect even more is his explanation on why he did that.

He doesn’t shy away from the unpopularity of his decision.
He doesn’t shy away from complicated this decision is.
He just explains the reality of the situation and that for the people this affects – the people often forgotten about in debates literally about them – it is about belonging, not disrupting.

I don’t know Spencer Cox.

I don’t like much his party represents.

But I do know that by doing this, he is a politician who is actually doing what his job is supposed to be about – which is represent ALL the people in his state, not just those who voted republican.

Let’s hope the republican voters of Utah and the senior figures in his party don’t view him as the enemy for that. Sadly, history suggests they will.



In The MetaVerse, One Person Is Outside Laughing At All Of Us …

OK, I should point out I actually think the Metaverse has incredible potential.

It could revolutionise education, medicine and ignite the creation of industries that don’t even exist yet. Which is why I am still utterly baffled why Zuckerberg thought the best way to sell the technology was by putting out that utterly shit video … where you saw him and his ‘mates’ not only do things that are all possible right now, but were worse in terms of quality, creativity and interactivity.

And then I saw this picture and everything became clear …

Maybe Zuck doesn’t give a damn about the Metaverse.

Maybe he doesn’t want to help humanity evolve and develop.

Maybe the only reason he’s doing it is for the same reason a lot of conmen do things …

Because when you can distract your target, you can rob them when they’re not looking.

Now before Mr Z’s lawyers try and sue me for every penny I’ve got for saying that, I would like to point out two things.

1. I said ‘maybe’ …

That means I am absolutely not suggesting Mr Zuckerberg is a conman or only doing Metaverse for conman purposes. I am only suggesting that could be possible, however unlikely that is. Similar to me saying I could be a catwalk model.

2. Be honest. That photo is very, very creepy.

Whoever allowed that photo to get out at Facebook … I mean Meta … was either an idiot or a hero. Because when I look at that photo, I can’t help but think of this ad … except with a totally different ending.

Rather than everyone being saved in the nick of time – thanks to the hero coming in at the last moment and destroying the screen that is hypnotising and blinding the audience so they follow the words of evil – no one comes to save them, so evil walks past all of his hypnotised and blinded victims, smiling to himself that’s he got them exactly where he wants them.



The Rise Of Keep The Problem Alive …

So I know I said last week was the last of the Rules By Rubin … but then I did also say there may be some more in the future.

Well consider this the future.

Shit isn’t it?

Don’t worry, it’s just for today and tomorrow then we go back to normal.

So just as shit. Sorry.

Anyway this is about the state of the creative industry.

Whereas once, it was filled with companies all wanting to create wonderful things to put into the world – regardless of their individual discipline or expertise – the emergence of consultancies has led to the industry now falling into 2 groups

Those who can’t help finding ways to put creativity out into the world in interesting ways and those who seemingly do all they can to never put anything out whatsoever.

While I sort-of understand the theory why agencies would like the idea of being like a consultancy, what I’ve found especially bizarre is that in doing that, they’re seemingly happy to dismiss making any actual creativity at all.

At first I was really confused how they thought they’d stay in business.

I mean, there are as many competitors as there are in adland.

Their entire model is designed around making actual creative work.

The lack of C-Suite engagement is more individual than entire industry.

Then I thought maybe I was completely wrong.

That they did want to make work.

After all, why else would their excellent strategists continually write 100 page decks filled with charts, ecosystems, frameworks and playbooks to every single client meeting?

Surely that is a sign of a company actually wanting to make something.

But then on closer inspection, I saw a lot of those decks had no creativity mentioned in them whatsoever.

And the conversation around audience was simplistic, generalist and utterly contrived.

In essence, they talked a hell of a lot but actually said very little.

“What the hell was going on?” I would ask myself.

And then on a cold night one Wednesday, I worked it out.

Those planners aren’t writing strategic decks, they’re creating remuneration landfill.

Thank fuck for the others.

The ones who know who they are.

The ones who push rather than pander.

The ones who create opportunities not wait for them.

The ones who run to the edge rather than run on the spot.

The ones who finish interesting things to start making more interesting things.



Here’s To Those Comfortable With Uncomfortable …

I recently saw the above quote in The Athletic magazine.

The idea that Manchester City – albeit during their less successful period – had to provide ‘rain charts’ to show potential signings that their city was not wetter than London surprised me.

Then I came to my senses.

Society has an incredible knack of trying to lift themselves up by putting others down.

Obviously racism is the work example of this, but we do it everyday in lots of little ways.

From blanket attitudes such as …

“People from the North are backwards”.

To city affirmations such as …

“Manchester is the musical capital of England”.

To hierarchy comparison such as …

“I may be from Nottingham but at least I’m not from Derby”.

It’s not only bollocks, it’s also often stated by people who have never gone anywhere near the cities/countries they are negatively judging. Now I know people will say it’s all a bit of a joke – and I appreciate between mates, it can be – but there’s a lot of perceived truth in those sorts of statements, which has been exploited by all manner of organisations, especially politics.

When I lived in China, I was shocked how hard it was to recruit people from outside of Asia to come and work at Wieden+Kennedy.

OK, it may have been because they didn’t want to work with me … but even then, the amount of people who started off claiming to be interested and then said ‘it wasn’t for them’, was incredible. [Though maybe you will still find it understandable. Bastards. Ha]

There was a time where I almost gave up wanting to hire people from outside the region due to it being so much hassle. But the reality was I always felt it important to have a real mix in the gang. Sure, the vast majority of them had to be from the country/region – but by incorporating people from outside of it, I felt it created a tension that led to better and more provocative thinking. In addition, it could also help stop the blind and blinkered views we kept seeing and hearing from the West … because the more Westerners we got to experience the crazy, infectious magic of the nation, the more positive voices we would infect the rest of the world with.

But many people we talked to weren’t interested in changing their blinkered opinion.

So many didn’t even bother to investigate more about China, they were just happy to keep making their false judgements.

Oh they were all very happy to work for Wieden+Kennedy, they just didn’t want it to be in China and would often say, “but if you could connect me to people in London/Portland/NY/Amsterdam” etc.

And if they were really interesting and had a valid reason to not leave their country, I would.

Didn’t happen often.

I find it amazing that people – especially planners – don’t want to explore the World.

Planners go on about curiosity but what they mean is they are curious under certain conditions of personal comfort.

Behind a desk.
Surrounded by people and things they know.
Never venturing outside of the bubble they’ve created.

Of course not everyone is like this, but there’s a lot who are. Viewing the world and passing judgement on it via Twitter rather than experience.

In the case of China – as with anywhere I’ve lived – if the issue became about the country we were in, it probably wasn’t going to work. Of course it was OK to have concerns and questions, but if I sensed you saw it as a hardship rather than an opportunity or you thought you knew everything when you would have to relearn everything, you were not going to be someone I wanted on the team.

I was, and still am, eternally grateful to everyone I’ve had the honour to work with – and I’ve been incredibly fortunate with the incredible and diverse talent I’ve inherited and nurtured – however those in China will always have a unique place in my heart.

Because whether they were from China, Asia or further afield, all of them knew what they were taking on with the job. Not just in terms of the standards and expectations of Wieden+Kennedy, but the inherent perceptions, prejudices and lies that existed in society – and the ad industry as a whole – towards China and Asia.

And it’s for this reason that I fucking loved seeing them do work others could only dream about, especially when the industries perception was ‘China doesn’t do great work’ or ‘there’s no good planning in Asia’ … often muttered by people who have neither been to China or done great work.

But even that doesn’t make me as happy as seeing where they have all ended up …

Not just in terms of the level they’re at – from running departments, big pieces of business or companies – but the actual organisations they work with or have worked with.

Nike. Ideo. Tik-Tok. Wieden. Mother. 72. Anomoly. Supreme. Playstation. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Facebook. Google. Net-A-Porter. Instagram.

Not just in China but in countries that include America, Taiwan, Holland, UK, Singapore and Australia. Not forgetting the mob who decided to start their own thing and are now working on a bunch of fascinating projects from gaming to research.

I’m not just proud of them, I’m excited for them … because I truly believe they will do stuff that is interesting, intriguing and valuable for the rest of us.

And while most of their achievements are down to their talent and graft, another part is because of what China gave them.

Unique knowledge, experience and understanding of people and situations.

Some will never understand that.

Some will never value that.

But for those who were there – and the companies who hired them – they absolutely do.

Because while some make choices based on not wanting to leave things behind, this group of wonderful fools made their decisions based on what they could gain … and they didn’t need a rain comparison chart to convince them.

Thank you to all of them.

Thank you to anyone who runs towards the challenge not the comfortable.



The Same People Take You To The Same Place …

Yesterday I wrote a post about the 4 mistakes we make when evaluating new ideas.

As you can see from the photo above, I am doubling down on that … except instead of talking about new ideas, I’m talking about leadership.

Well, I say talking about it … but what with Bill Gates quote and the post I wrote a few weeks ago that details what I think Bill is talking about, I think it says all I need to say.

But I will leave you with this.

There are some incredible leaders out there.

I’ve been lucky to work for and with a bunch of them.

But I guarantee you the ones who think they are, generally aren’t.

Not because they’re not clever.

Not because they’re not successful.

But because they place greater importance on how they look than those around them.

They believe only they have the answers.

They believe only they know how to write the deck.

They believe only they have the client relationship and trust.

And while that be true in the short term, that approach rarely lasts the distance.

Not just because clients change and business changes … but because you simply can’t keep moving forward if you don’t let new ideas come to the fore.

To push you. To challenge you. To excite you.

But generally these leaders won’t and don’t allow that.

In fact, they will actively reject and eject other views.

Because they think they know it all.

And know it better.

And did it first.

And while many may interpret this as the behaviour of someone fearful of their future – desperately trying to prove some sort of relevance to those around them – they’re wrong.

Because the leader Bill Gates describes in his quote is someone who thinks they’re a master of the Universe. Someone who is always right. Someone who is better than those around them. Someone who is the only one who can make things happen. Someone who holds the keys to everyone’s success.

And maybe for a time they are.

Until that stops.

And that’s when things get really scary.

Which reminds me of something my Dad use to say about how he chose which lawyers to hire:

“The people who need to show how intelligent they are, aren’t.”

Or said another way, the moment you think you can’t lose. You’ve lost.