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


Why I Am Eternally Grateful For Anthony Hopkins Eyes …

I’m not back.

Not properly.

But today is the 24th anniversary of my Dad passing away and I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – let this pass without mention.

24 years means I’m fast approaching him not being in my life for half my life.

And yet he is always there.

Maybe not always in the spotlight of my life, but always on the stage.

A warm presence.
A secure presence.
And sometimes, a surprising presence.

You see there are times where Dad appears seemingly out of nowhere.

From deep in the shadows to centrestage of the light.

Anything can trigger this.

A song.
A place.
A situation.

But the most common of all is a pair of eyes.

Specifically these pair of eyes …

As the title of this post reveals, those eyes belong to Anthony Hopkins.

And while the life of him and my father could not be further apart in so many ways, his eyes could easily belong to my Dad.

Not just for their shade or shape, but their character.

They are welcoming. They are warm. Caressed by lines around each eye that shows they have seen and they have lived. A journey that has led them through fields of pain, fear, laughter and love. And while you’re left in no doubt they have the power to make you feel fear or guilt with just a glance … that the lines around the eyes curve upwards, reassures you their resting condition is to let you in.

And that’s what my Dad gave me.

The power to always be let in. Even when I disappointed him.

Yes, there were times later in his life – when he was ill – that became a little harder, but even that was just temporary.

Because his main focus was for me to feel his love and support not his fear or wrath.

And his eyes were his way of reinforcing that.

I still remember a moment towards the end …

Dad had had many strokes by that time which had robbed him of his ability to talk and walk.

One day I got a call in Sydney – where I lived – telling me he’d been rushed to hospital and may only have 24 hours left to live.

I caught the first flight home and after a traumatic journey from the other side of the planet, I was with him … relieved he was alive, devastated he may die at any time.

At some point Mum and I were told we should get rest and go home.

Their house was literally 10 minutes from the hospital and they assured us they’d ring if anything happened.

Reluctantly we agreed and as I was saying goodnight, we looked at each other.

A firm, focused gaze into each others eyes.

I can still feel the intensity of that moment.

How the feeling of love was almost breathtaking in its power.

Because I knew exactly what those eyes looking back at me were saying.

What those eyes looking back at me were saying for him.

He loved me.
He was proud of me.
He was so glad I was there.

But it was even more than that …

It was him trying to take in my face.
Every line. Every mark. Every detail.
To ensure he remembered how I looked in case what we both knew was going to happen, happened while we were apart.

I remember how I felt my eyes were overflowing with water as I looked down on him in his hospital bed.

Our hands gripped so tight with me kissing his over and over again.

Holding back the tears in an attempt to express what I wanted to say.

That feeling you’re trying to lift a huge weight in an attempt to not break down.

Massive pauses between words to not let any cracks take hold.

And I managed it.

I told him, “I know … I know … and I love you so, so much my dear Dad”

Then there was a pause as I wondered if I should finish what I wanted to say.

And then I decided I would, just in case …

“And you have to be here tomorrow. You have to be Dad. Please be here”

And as we walked out of that ward, with me constantly turning around to meet his gaze with my eyes, I hoped that was not the last time I would ever see him.

It wasn’t.

Despite us going through a similar rollercoaster 3 months later … a time where he would sadly not be able to find the strength to yet again surprise his Doctors, Nurses, wife and son … he did then.

And I still remember how we knew he was feeling stronger from the moment we walked into that ward.

Because my dad – that wonderful orator – had mastered another skill. This time, the ability to talk … through his eyes.

A million words and emotions passed perfectly through a look from his beautiful, blue, kind, warm eyes.

And while you may think that when I see Anthony Hopkins I get upset, you’d be wrong.

Because when he appears on the screen – even when I’m least expecting it – I am grateful.

Because he doesn’t reinforce the loss, he lets me feel like I’m close to my Dad again.

My wonderful, warm, supportive Dad.

Which after 24 years apart, is a gift.

So thank you Mr Hopkins.

And thank you Dad.

I miss you.

Give Mum a kiss from me.

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Goodbye 2022. Hello Peace And Quiet …

So this is it, the last post of 2022.

Again, I want to say a big thank you to everyone and anyone who has read or commented on my ranting rubbish.

I have to say, I miss the comments.

I know it was my choice to stop them, but I do miss them – so maybe I’ll have to bring them back, even though I’ve become waaaaaaay more productive since they’ve been turned off as I don’t have to spend vast amounts of my time checking what insults have been written to me and about me, hahaha.

But lack of comments aside, it’s been a big year … mainly because it has been the first year in a couple of years without any lock-down. And yet I still find it bizarre seeing people not wearing masks and being able to get on a plane again.

To think of the isolation, suffering and pain so many people suffered, the speed of the bounce-back has taken my breath away. Of course there are still people enduring tough times … but given the horror of the pandemic has seemingly been replaced by the threat of nuclear war and economic collapse, maybe COVID wasn’t so bad after all.

That said, I’m so grateful for the ability to travel again as it meant I was able to go on a trip that I’ll never, ever forget.

A trip where I got to see my beloved Martin getting married in Portugal.
A trip where I got to see my beloved Nottingham Forest getting promoted at Wembley.
A trip where I got to see my beloved Queen in concert with a ticket I bought 2 years earlier.
A trip where I got to see my beloved Paul, after the longest time we’ve been apart in 52 years.

It was, without exaggeration, one of the most special times in my life … with stuff I thought I may never see – or see again – so you will understand why I still feel so grateful to be able to have experienced it.

But beyond that, there were many other things that made this year memorable.

We did some fun work including Beyond Binary, Rick and Morty, Phone It In and Give Up On Humans. Our agency Christmas gift was interesting too. I say interesting, but I mean ridiculous, especially compared to last years more sophisticated Restraining Order, haha.
I wrote a pretty decent April Fools post that conned a few people.
And then, more seriously, I wrote some posts about my dalliance with depression, fulfilment, prejudice and respect that seemed to mean something to people, which made me feel happy it helped in some way.
I worked with Metallica, Miley Cyrus, Muse and Journey, to different degrees of success and enjoyment, hahaha.
We produced Dream Small … which I’m not only very proud of, but has led to conversations and change I never imagined we could have.
The way Otis – and his school – dealt with his dysgraphia diagnosis.
I celebrated my Mum’s 90th.
I got to see the wonderful Maya and Bree again, after years.
I was somehow featured in a book.
My Bohemian Catsody office mural … featuring Rosie amongst others.
I laughed myself stupid about Gi’s shit explosion while also being proud as punch of my wonderful team with our WARC/Cannes Global Grand Prix for effectiveness … followed up with us winning the same achievement at the NZ Effies … followed up by us winning the Global Grand Effie a few weeks later.
Renovating the old Colenso table to give it – and the irrepressible, unmistakeable Kate Maitland – the respect and recognition they deserve.
Lizzie and Amy’s news.
And Paula’s wonderful ray of sunshine.
Then finding the brilliant Briar and Shelly … with Martin and Meg arriving in Jan. [Which in Meg’s case, is almost 2 years in the waiting]
And last – but certainly not least – seeing Boris get pushed out quickly [literally and figuratively] by Liz Truss, even though the evil Tories somehow remain in power.

Of course there was some sad and disappointing stuff.

The loss of the irreplaceable and wonderful Dan Wieden.
Queenie … which hit me far more than I ever imagined it would.
Ben. Who left us too soon.
Mike’s motorcycle accident.
Henry, Liam and Robin left the team.
My first dalliance with COVID. And Jill too.
The bullshit that Simon P was forced to deal with and face.
Not to mention the horrible situation one of our clients was exposed to by the worst of society.
And then too many terrible global events, with the situations in Ukraine and Iran being possibly the worst of them all. What makes these last two even more disturbing is how the media only pay lip service to them. As if they don’t deem the horrors ‘relevant’ enough for their viewers and readers so they hide it on pages 5 and 6 … behind articles on energy bills, political scandal and sports scores.

I know it’s Christmas, but instead of having that one extra drink or buying that one shitty pressie, donating that money to organisations who offer support and help would be amazing. Two of them are this for Ukraine and this for Iran.

2022 has reminded me how privileged and comfortable my life is.

While compared to many, I have only experienced that sort of life, there have been times that have challenged me.

1999 was horrid.
As was 2015.
And last December was arguably, the worst month I’ve ever faced.

But this year, from a purely personal perspective, has generally been pretty special for me and one of the biggest reasons for that is my family.

I know we’re all supposed to say that, but it’s true.

Not just for who they are, but because for some reason, I feel we got even closer.

Emotionally.
Supportively.
Connectively.

To be honest, I thought we were already as close as you can be, but I discovered there’s actually no limit to the level of connection you can feel with loved ones and that has left me feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Maybe it’s because NZ is so far from everyone, we feel closer to each other. Maybe it’s because we don’t see the people we love so often, we have become more reliant on each other. Maybe it’s because we just have gone through some stuff that it reinforced how special we are to each other. Maybe it’s for reasons I’ve not wanted to admit before because it challenges the priorities I’ve lived by before.

Who knows, but what I can say is I love my ramshackle collection of Campbell’s.

Including Rosie, of course.

They’re not perfect.
They can drive me nuts.
But they’re mine and I adore every bit of them.

Which is why I want to sign off by saying to them – and to the rest of you – that whatever you do over this period, I hope it gives you all you want and all you need. I am grateful for everything every one of you put in my life and I hope 2023 – as scary as many are suggesting it will be – will surprise us all with its happiness and fulfilment.

Just as long as mine is happier and more fulfilling than yours.

Hey, I may be getting more tolerant in my old age, but I’m still as only-child demanding as ever.

Have a great one. Back Feb 1. I hope to see you in 2023.

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Big Enough To Matter, But Not Big Enough To Count …

Recently I was reading an article on Brexit when I came across a comment that stopped me in my tracks.

The reason for it is that in a few words – literally a few – it not only highlighted the issue with many of the shortsighted fools who voted for leaving the European Union – and likely voted for the election of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss – but also could be used to explain the decline of so many companies, institutions and individuals.

This is it …

What a perfectly constructed sentence.

A devastating set of words that places you perfectly in a corner you can’t get out of.

It’s almost a Hollywood movie line it’s so crafted in its underlying viciousness.

But of course, the people it challenges won’t accept it.

They will continue to refuse to acknowledge their complicity in the situation millions now face.

Because as I’ve written before, people has difficulty understanding something when their credibility and reputation depends on them not understanding something.

It’s why they will continue to cast blame on everyone else.

Why they will continue to claim the opposition are more dangerous than the government they voted in … the government that has brought an entire nation to its knees.

But let’s be honest, the reason for their attitude is even uglier than not wanting to own up to what they contributed to. Because for all their claims of wanting a ‘better Britain’ … the real reason behind their choice was to create a barrier between them and people they think are beneath them.

A way to feel socially, morally, professionally superior to those around them, while conveniently choosing to ignore they were either given great advantage from birth over the vast majority of people or seek to mitigate their situation by blaming everyone else for what they have not achieved, despite starting from greater advantage.

I get it. It’s kind-of human nature. It’s also the unspoken truth of democracy – where the reality is we tend to vote for what works for you rather than what’s right for the nation.

Of course the unspoken truth is still better than the alternative … however given the way politics and business are increasingly allowing spin, vitriol and lies, it seems we’re seeing ‘post truth’ as an accepted and embraced business strategy.

And that’s why the independent voice has never been so important.

Not just in the public domain, but within organisations, governments and individual groups.

Not to attack, destroy or dethrone – as is the current trend – but to protect.

To ensure the people making decisions – or the people asking to decide on the options – are aware of the range of possibilities and outcomes that could occur rather than just blindly following a blinkered promise of what will happen.

Not delivered with hyperbole or exaggeration, but with quiet, informed context and facts … delivered by an individual or organisation without political affiliation and respected for their independence.

It doesn’t mean it will stop things like Brexit happening, but it will ensure people who knowingly bend the truths to suit their own agenda or were deliberately ignorant to the choices they made are held to account. Because without that, we carry on down this sorry path where governments, organisations or individuals can choose to ignore previous choices they made, ignore the passing of time that changes the context of everything and ignore the realities others may have caught up and left us behind.

I am under no illusion that the truth hurts, but delusion damages us forever.

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If You Want Sustainable Success, Don’t Hold On Too Tightly …

Brands love to say they know their customers.

They love to go on about the research they do to ‘get’ the needs of the people who use them.

And some genuinely do. Looking to understand how people live not just how they use, choose or buy their brand or a competitive product.

But sadly this group seem far more in the minority these days … with the preference being to outsource research needs to a ‘for profit’ external partner, who are asked to provide answers to drive immediate sales rather than to build long-term understanding.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive fan of research, but I’m reading far too much that seems to be about telling the client what they want to hear rather than what they need to understand.

To be fair, that is also true of agencies as well, and so much of that is because a lot of companies have already decided what they want to do and say and they expect everyone else to fall in line with it. And I get it, in a quest to streamline process and maximise productivity, that makes perfect sense.

Except it doesn’t.

Because as George used to say ALL THE TIME, it’s like going to the doctor and prescribing your own medicine. And as much as people/brands may think they know what’s wrong, that doesn’t mean they know how to fix it …

Agencies and research companies should be paid for their independent thinking and approach to solving problems NOT paid to execute what someone else wants the solution to be. The great tragedy of brand communication these days is that somehow, independent thinking has been labelled as dangerous when the real danger is when there isn’t any.

When solutions are decided by financial hierarchy rather than expertise – and by expertise, I mean that in terms of what an organisation is actually an expert on, rather than what they think they are – you tend to end up with a pile of shit that then ignites a game of blame storming.

Here’s a perfect example of it …

Now I appreciate printer, photocopier, fax [?!!!] sales must be very difficult.

I get companies may only give them a second thought when they go wrong or run out of ink.

But … but … who the fuck approved this shit?

I mean, it’s bad enough they say they know what we need – which makes them sound like some sleazy office colleague – but then they come out with this gem of bollocks.

“Like twins who understand each other completely”.

What??? WHAT???

Apart from the fact it’s utterly, utterly pants. if they really had a telepathic understanding of ‘what we need’, surely they wouldn’t have to pay to have this shit printed in a magazine and they’d just turn up at their customers office with the requirements of their machine – even before their customer knew they needed it.

But that’s not the case because they don’t know their customers, they don’t know what they need and they sure as shit don’t know how to communicate to them.

I get people think communication and creativity is easy.

I get people think they know their customers better than anyone else.

I get they want everything to be as efficient as is physically possible.

But if anything should tell them what they think and what is true are very different, it’s rubbish ads like this. And while I appreciate this is especially bad, there’s a whole lot more expensive versions of this wherever you look.

Great creativity and research is born from independent thinking.

A desire to create value by giving you what you need not what you want.

Which is why companies who place greater value on what they can make their agency partners do – including how they do the job, how many people can do involved in job and how long they’re allowed to do if for – the more complicit they are when things are less effective than they could be.

I’m not saying agencies and research companies are perfect.

And they sure-as-hell aren’t all the same standard and quality.

But they’re much better when they can give you truth and possibilities than blind complicity.

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Two’s Company, Three’s A Wonderful Nightmare …

For someone this old, working in adland this long … it’s amazing how few friends I have in the industry.

Oh I know tonnes of people – you can’t help it when you keep moving countries every couple of years – and I love soooooo many of them, but in terms of actual mates, it’s not a massive amount.

However despite this, there are two people who have that moniker.

They may wish they didn’t.

They may wish I wasn’t about to advertise that fact.

But the brilliant Paula Bloodworth and Martin Weigel are most definitely two of them.

Obviously they need no introduction.

They’re 2 of the best and most respected planners in the World and have a body of work entire global agency networks would kill to have. But the thing many people don’t realise is that underneath it all, they’re just amazing humans who are also insanely talented.

Obviously we all met at Wieden and worked together on various projects across the network. But it’s more than that. I met a lot of amazing people at Wieden but I just clicked on a different level with those two.

That doesn’t mean we always agreed with each other.

In fact, the opposite is probably a better reflection of how we were … but there was something between us that meant we not only trusted and respected each others judgement, we felt we ended up in better places for the debates.

And we did.

And we still do.

Because even though only Martin is still at Wieden, we still talk a lot.

In fact we have a video call every week.

London. Amsterdam. Auckland.

And all we do is chat, laugh, debate, disagree and wonder.

And occasionally bitch, hahaha.

But what they may not realise is how they make me feel.

You see I have no problem asking them for their point of view and they have no problem giving it to me.

Except it’s not some wannabe intellectual wank-fest [which is good, because I’d always lose] it’s thoughtful, compassionate and – dare I say it – loving advice.

In short, they look out for me.

They tell me when they think I am wrong.

They tell me when they think I am right.

But most of all, they tell me things to think about to encourage the outcome that I hope for.

When I was made redundant, they were the first people I spoke to.
When I am moving to another country, they’re the first people I chat to.
When I want someone to bounce stuff off, they’re the first people I reach out to.

In an industry obsessed with pathetic intellectual swordsmanship, these two wonderful, beautiful, talented bastards swap weapons for compassion.

They make me a better person and colleague – albeit to Colenso, clients and Metallica.

And they ask for nothing in return.

Which reinforces they’re brilliant people but maybe not as smart as everyone thinks they are.

They’ll probably hate me being so gushing in this post given they both like to hide their public emotions in a black hole … but it’s true.

I love them.

I love their partners.

I love their multitude of animals.

But most of all, I love they’re in my life.

How’s that for a Monday post then eh?!

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