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


We All Need Someone …

It’s easy to think some people can have whatever they want.

That they have the money to buy whatever they choose.

Or the business empire to create whatever they desire.

And while it’s no doubt easier to have things when you’ve got things … the reality is everyone – rich or poor – needs someone at some point in their life.

My Dad always said if you know people, you’re rich … and while mortgages can’t be paid in Linkedin contacts, I do understand what he meant.

When I look at my career, I realise so many of the opportunities I have enjoyed have come because of people I worked with or met along the way.

That doesn’t mean I had things handed to me on a plate – or no more than any other white, male has had that as an advantage – it just means because of the breadth of people I know, I’ve been able to do things that others may never have had the chance to experience.

While I think I’m pretty good at what I do, I am under no illusion I’m special – and yet I’ve been able to do so much that were beyond my expectations, whether that’s living around the World or working with Metallica – which highlights how much of life is down to luck.

In my case, while I didn’t go to a private school or a fancy university [or any university for that matter] I was born a white male … which means I was already hugely advantaged with ‘luck’ where life was concerned.

While this could easily become a rant about how fucking unfair this is – especially if you’re a Person of Colour or a female or gay or someone who does not identify themselves by male/female identity – I’m going to be writing about that next week, so I’ll end this week with the point this post was originally meant to have.

Recently I came across a letter from the writer John Steinbeck to Marilyn Monroe.

While it reinforces my point about the value of knowing people, the reason I’m writing about it is because it’s just beautifully written and shows a side of celebrity rarely seen.

Somewhere along the line, we seem to think all celebs know each other. Hanging out in each other’s pools and houses. Well, while it may be true now [it’s not] it certainly wasn’t true then – as this lovely letter to start your weekend by, clearly shows.

Have a great one.



Excuses For Complicity …

Adland – and most companies for that matter – love to talk about their commitment to diversity and inclusion.

And while they tend to be most vocal about it when there is a global news story that highlights the racism and oppression People of Colour experience EVERY SINGLE DAY, I do believe it is something many companies care about.

The problem is, very few seem to be doing anything other than caring about it.

No change.

No new decisions.

No policy shifts.

Recently I saw a poster advertising a conference in Australia about Africa.

This was it …

Notice anything?

Yep … a conference in Australia about Africa without a single Person of Colour being represented. Not one.

A conference in Australia about MINING in Africa without a single Person of Colour being represented.

[Though someone who saw it suggested the conference organisers may try and suggest the blank speaker space could classify as a Person of Colour]

Now I appreciate mining is hardly the most ethical industry, but even then the lack of representation shocked me so I tweeted about it saying this was a perfect demonstration of how much companies still had to learn about D&I.

“Surely no one could disagree” I thought …

Oh yes they could.

Rather than just go, “that’s bollocks”, some people tried to defend it … accusing me of having no context.

My 2 favourite comments were this:

“Let’s not jump to conclusions. I personally feel after a 2-second Google they have their intentions in the right place – well apart from the plundering of natural resources, but that’s a different outrage post. If anything they are guilty of crappy comms and maybe BBDO in Oz (or Africa) might like to say G’day?

“As organisers of Africa Down Under (ADU), Paydirt Media acknowledges the comments on social media and the interpretations which may be drawn by the advertised preliminary line-up for the in-person element of this year’s ADU,” the organisers said in a Twitter thread.

“As the premier forum for Australia-Africa business relations, ADU has always strived to ensure its programme is truly reflective of the diversity of African mining. In 2019, the last event before the pandemic, the programme featured 24 African presenters and 15 female presenters. “Ongoing travel restrictions mean we will be unable to welcome our African-based colleagues in person this year but once the full programme – including virtual participants – is released we are confident balance will return.

“We look forward to announcing participants from the African continent – including Australian-based African diplomats – in the coming weeks.”

And then this one …

Are these specific companies spouting anything about diversity and inclusion though?”

Right there is the typical corporate response to these things.

Protecting the company behind it.

Suggesting you are jumping to conclusions.

Saying that they’re good and this is a misunderstanding.

Yeah … yeah … if I’ve heard it all before, imagine how People of Colour must feel.

Which is why my responses were as follows:

“This is the sort of excuse churned out year after year to justify acts like this. A conference about Africa without a single Person of Colour as a speaker is not about difficulty, it’s about complicity, so maybe you’re looking at it from totally the wrong perspective.”

and for the second comment …

“Ahhhhh, so you’re saying companies that don’t talk about D&I don’t have to care about it which is why it’s fine to have an all white speaker group for a conference on Africa. Is that your point?”

I know people make mistakes … but this is not one of those, this is a deliberate act. There is no excuse for this. They can say they asked hundreds of People of Colour to be a part of the even and they said no – it still won’t wash. Because even if that was true, it would surely suggest there was something wrong with the whole premise of the conference if people from Africa didn’t want to be part of a conference in Africa.

“But maybe there aren’t many People of Colour working in the mining industry based in Australia, Rob?” I hear a prejudiced, white privileged individual ask.

And while I don’t know the answer to that, I do know if that’s the case, why are there so many bloody white people working in the African mining industry based in Australia?

It’s all bollocks.

And what is worse is the justification some people try and give this shit – with special focus on the organisers and their desperate attempt to look like they have tried really, really hard to make it more inclusive. Despite NOT ONE Person of Colour being included as a headline speaker.

As I wrote a while back about female leadership, change doesn’t even require white people/men to give up their seat … they could just make room for someone else to join them, but apparently even that is too much to ask.

We all are complicit..

We can all do more.

We all need to do more.

Hell, when white supermodels can use their privilege to create space for People of Colour to win [not just be seen, but win] the least we can do is exactly the same.

So to the people who will claim what I’m doing is promoting ‘woke cancel culture’, I would respond with this:

1. Yes I am.
2. Being referred to as woke is not bad as it means you have compassion for others.
3. You are the problem and you’d better be prepared for me to push back with the same energy you have adopted over years to maintain your privilege and power.

Anyone who defends this sort of shit is insane.

There is no excuse for it.

Ever.

Even having 5 People of Colour on that huge poster of faces would be too few, so to take the side of the organisers for NOT HAVING A SINGLE PERSON OF COLOUR is an act of prejudice.

You may not relate to being called that.

You may not accept being called that.

But your actions reveal it … because nothing says privilege than thinking your experience is everyone’s experience.



Maybe A Different Perspective Will Reveal The Prejudice We Are Complicit In Creating …
July 1, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Advertising, Agency Culture, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Prejudice, Racism

As we’ve recently had June 19 and on Sunday we have July 4 – both of which are topics for tomorrow’s post – I thought this would be an opportune time to write this.

I am blown away that some people deny racism is in plain sight.

Actually, ‘blows me away’ isn’t anywhere close to the emotion I feel … downright fury is a much closer definition of what I feel.

What makes it even worst is when I see them attempt to deflect the issue by saying people are reading into things that simply aren’t there. Or are making it an issue of race when there isn’t one. Or that they are in fact the racists, because they’re making anti-white statements.

Of course, the reason they do this is because they don’t want to admit the truth of who they truly are. A truth they write off as ‘living in a world of wokeness’ … without realising that to be described as woke means you are a person who is compassionate towards others, which means it is far more a compliment than an insult.

What makes it all the more laughable is they think they’re being intellectually superior with their arguments, without realising it’s just highlighting their prejudice to an even greater extent.

And while some like to suggest it is an America problem, the reality it’s a ‘wherever there are white people’ problem.

Recently photographers Chris Buck and Greg Semu decided to highlight the racism that lives in plain sight in the hope a different perspective may make these people see what has been staring them right in their face.

Given how blinkered these people are, I don’t know if it will work … but hopefully it will make those who say they are against racism realise it’s not enough to just hold that view, they have to be anti-racist.

I still remember when I lived in America and we were talking at a conference about the America In The Raw book we had done.

An attendee – a senior marketing exec – asked how I could help them better understand African American culture.

After pointing out they were asking a WHITE, BRITISH male who had only been living in the country for over a year, I said the best thing they could do was hire some young African Americans, put them in positions of power, pay them properly and set them up for success.

To be fair to him, he was genuinely appreciative and enlightened by my suggestion.

To be unfair to him, it was another example of the oppression People Of Colour continually face from those who are too – let’s be honest – too blind, ignorant, prejudiced or lazy to change their ways.

Which is not only why I am eternally grateful the brilliant Maya, Chelsea, Bree and Lani came into my life in such bloody amazing and beautifully angry ways … but why I have written to Chris and Greg to ask them to extend their shoot to include corporate environments – because maybe when companies, and their HR departments, are forced to recognise the reality of the environment they have created, maybe then they will realise they can’t hide from their lack of action for any longer.



When Hijacking Becomes Criminal …

I’ve written a lot about the ‘hijack’ strategy.

Where a brand pushes itself into a cultural event or topic to either attempt to change the narrative or leverage the narrative.

Some brands do it brilliantly … Nike or Chrysler for example.

However some are a bloody car crash.

At its heart, the difference is simply whether your hijack ‘adds to culture’ or just ‘takes from it’ … however given this approach is now so common among brands, I have to ask whether it can even be considered ‘hijacking’ anymore when most of society expect someone to do it.

That said, it is still a powerful strategy when done right … the problem is, most brands aren’t doing that.

Case in point … social media GAP during the US election.

What the hell?

I know why they did it.

I know what they hoped would happen from it.

But all I can think about is when your own brand of clothes don’t know who they are for, you’re pretty fucked.

And that kind-of sums up GAP’s problem.

Who are they for?

It’s no surprise they are facing incredible pressure in the market these days, to the point there’s talk of them pulling out the UK altogether.

They’re not distinctive enough for people to want to pay a premium for. They’re not cheap enough for people to use them as a foundation for whatever fashion they want to express that day.

In fact, the only thing they have going for them is a collab with Kanye.

It could be amazing.

Reimagining the future of what e-commerce is and how it works.

Combining it with art, not just functionality.

Though whether it will end up making GAP’s clothing range look even older and blander is anyone’s guess.

If they want to learn how to really hijack a moment, they should look at the Four Seasons Landscaping company in Philadelphia.

This is the place where President Trump’s team recently held a press conference, mistakingly booking it thinking it was the Four Seasons hotel.

With all this global attention, they’re leveraging it by selling merch that mimics Trump’s messages.

This is real cultural hijacking.

This is done by adding to the experience rather than just taking it.

Making a landscape company a brand of culture. Albeit for a short period of time.

But let me say this, it’s still more fashionable than the stuff GAP are making right now.

You can buy it here.



What Adland Needs To Learn From Oprah …

Adland talks a lot about diversity and inclusion.

It talks about wanting to make a difference.

But while I appreciate the intentions are genuine, the actions often aren’t.

Too many superficial acts designed to make us look good without actually doing much good.

Self-indulgent acts that are designed to change nothing but make us feel like heroes.

Pieces of work that tell people what they already know so we can claim we are ‘living our purpose’ at the next global conference get together where the loudest applause is for ourselves.

I wrote about this recently when I found out Cocoa Girl – the magazine for little girls of colour in the UK – was the FIRST magazine for little girls of colour in the UK.

The first!!!

Well here’s another example of how poor we are as an industry following through on what we so loudly and proudly claim.

The top of this post features one of the 26 billboards Oprah has purchased around Louisville, in the US.

For those who don’t know the story of Breanna Taylor, you can read it here … but in simple terms, it’s another case of US Police racism that resulted in another innocent African American being murdered with – initially – no implication on the officers involved.

[And then, after a huge protests, the officers involved were arrested but ended up facing a fraction of the justice they deserved … meaning it was another insult to the Taylor family]

This is a case that has shaken America and beyond.

This is a case that needed pressure putting on the authorities to investigate rather than look in another direction.

This is a case that showed again the deep disadvantage people of colour have in America and all over.

What Oprah did is amazing but I can’t help but think adland could have done this.

Should have done this.

But we didn’t.

And while I am pointing fingers at us, I’m also pointing them at myself … because if we are serious about D&I, it’s about doing things that are in the best interests of the people we want to connect with rather than making it all about what is easiest for us.

Or said another way:

We have to commit … rather than just show interest.

Go out of our way … rather than make others go out of theirs.

What this brilliant act by Oprah reminds me is that creative and cultural inspiration does not come from just looking at ourselves. If we want to survive, we can only do that by letting more diversity in and letting them thrive on their terms rather than ours.