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


Nothing is As Sharp As Simple …

I used to think it took a lot of hard work to be simple.

A lot of thinking.

Evaluating.

Sharpening.

Changing.

But maybe I was wrong because I literally cannot imagine how much time it took to create this:

It’s a masterclass in nonsensical.

A blueprint for showing a company who doesn’t know what they actually do.

A celebration of the buzzword bingo bullshit that permeates so many organisations.

Basically, imposters talking to imposters with words they’ve so bastardised the meaning of, that you’d be hard pressed to recognise their original definition if you were left alone with them in a bar overnight with only a dictionary for company.

The verbal equivalent of Mickey Rourke.

Or Lara Flynn Boyle.

Hence now …

Innovation means ‘we’ve made something average a little bit better’.

Revolution means ‘we’ve never done this before though others have’.

Experience means ‘we offer our customers boring and average’.

Transformation means ‘we’ve caught up to everyone else’.

[hence ‘digital transformation’ is simply code for, ‘not being left so far behind’ as opposed – as many in the industry also like to position it – as reinventing the whole category]

And while adland is the cause of a lot of this bullshit, the consultancies – or worse, the wannabe-consultancies – are taking it to a whole new level. Continually creating nonsensical language and definitions in an attempt to feel intellectually superior to those around them. Believing this sort of language acts as a sort-of ‘code’ that helps identify other delusionists, wannabe’s and/or victims … so they can revel and reward themselves with their Emperors New Clothes bullshit.

Until they can’t.

What is particularly amusing is these companies still celebrate the old adage of ‘quality over quantity’ … even though they show up with a level of excessive vulgarity that would put Donald Trump to shame.

Talking in plain English – or plain any language – is not a bad thing.

If anything, it is the most powerful.

Not just because it is easier to communicate and relate to.

Nor because it shows you can identify the core problem that needs addressing.

But because it captures something my old man used to say to all his young lawyers:

“If you want to show how intelligent you are, you’re not that intelligent”.



You Don’t Get What You Pay For …

The picture above is a well known internet image that reflects the value of using professionals.

It’s right.

But where it’s not entirely accurate is that in the real world, what’s happening more and more is that rather than ending up with an image of a horse drawn by a blind, drunk, 5 year old … clients are getting a beautifully image because the professional has been forced to lower his price to get the work.

It’s shit.

What’s worse is that many of these highly talented, exceptionally trained professionals have been made to forget their own value.

It doesn’t happen immediately, it’s often a slow, drawn out process – but the end point is the same, they treat their craft as a commodity. Not because it is, but because they’ve been made to think that way.

When I started working with Metallica, their management asked for my rates and costs.

I gave it to them.

They told me I was a fool and I needed to triple it.

Let me be clear, I thought it was a fair cost – I wasn’t knowingly lowballing myself – and yet here I was being told it wasn’t just low, it was THREE TIMES LOW.

I said I couldn’t do that, it was in-line with market rates and I felt it was fair … to which they asked me a question that changed the way I value what I do.

“Do you think your work and your experience is better than the market?

I knew if I said no, they’d ask why they were working with me, so of course I said yes.

I have to admit, I felt a bit weird saying it, but there were 3 reasons that pushed me to do it.

1. I really wanted to work with them.
2. It was obvious they thought I was worth that amount.
3. Without being arrogant, my experience is pretty huge.

Now the reality is my fee was still a fraction of what many people in the industry charge, but for them to do that when they could have just accepted my fee and said nothing – especially as they knew I wanted to work with them – is something I will forever be grateful for.

It also means I work harder for them, to both repay their faith and keep justifying my rate.

Clever sods.

Since this moment, my relationship with charging for what I do has literally done a full 180.

It’s why I was able to take on a procurement department when they tried to position me as ‘just another supplier’.

It’s why I enjoyed doing it.

It’s also why I was happy to do it in such a mischievous way.

For people who worked with me before – especially at cynic – this shift is amazing.

I was always George’s worst nightmare.

Agreeing to any price if the opportunity excited me.

It’s why I was banned from my own company when dealing with clients about money.

It’s why I still apologise to George for what I did.

Because I was not just undervaluing my talent, but everyone else’s too.

I know it’s hard, but the only way we will educate clients to pay what creative talent deserves – which, let’s not forget, it still a fraction of what they happily pay consultants who don’t ever do the work they recommend – is to give them the standard their budget actually should pay for.

For example the horse at the top of this page.

Because craft is not an expense but an investment.

An investment that doesn’t just lead to better work, but work that lets your client achieve more from it. Whether that’s charging a price premium or simple making more people more interested in what they do.

As Harrison Ford said, the most important thing we can learn is the value of value.



Rejected By Love …

I have always believed that bad news can be delivered in ways that don’t create bad feelings.

I know … that probably sounds mad coming from me, especially given I was once described as someone who could start a fight in an empty house … but it’s true.

In fact, I believe there’s a way where you can deliver bad news that makes the recipient feel even more positively about you.

I remember when I lived in Sydney and bought a brand new VW Golf GTI.

Within 6 weeks, the turbo blew and the gear box collapsed.

In a carpark.

At the entrance.

Stopping all the cars behind me from being able to get in and forcing my car to be dragged out backwards [while stuck in first gear] because the tow-truck couldn’t get in front of it.

Obviously I wasn’t pleased about this, especially when the dealership said they would not lend me a car while mine was being repaired.

Pissed off, I sent as many variations of what I thought the global CEO of VW’s email would be, explaining that while I appreciate it wasn’t their policy to lend cars to customers, it wasn’t my policy to buy a new car that collapses in 6 weeks.

Within 48 hours, I was told my car had been fixed as VW had flown in a new gear box from Germany.

While I should not have had to deal with that situation, the [eventual] approach meant I felt an even greater loyalty to the brand than I may otherwise of had. Though this was before they admitted to emission scandals and gassing animals for ‘research’.

Now I appreciate there may be times where you want to deliver bad news in a way that leaves bad feelings … but the ability to use each challenging situation as an opportunity to build a better relationship is generally always there, which is why I love how comedian Steve Martin dealt with fan mail.

I’ve written about the opportunity of rejection before but I do feel it’s something we could all do with practicing more. Especially as our industry is so small that you can be sure any person, or agency, you reject will likely come back into your life.

Which is why one of the most valuable things to remember at points of rejection is it’s never ‘just business’, it’s always personal.



After Winter, Life Grows Again. ( ‘A Year After Redundancy’)

A year ago tomorrow, I was made redundant.

Well, I was told the week before, but tomorrow marks a year since my last day at R/GA.

While I wrote a long post at the time about how positive I was about the whole thing – especially that it was happening to me rather than a junior or a woman or a Person of Colour who normally get impacted by these sorts of decisions – it still blows my mind how well things have turned out for me and my family.

Part of the reason I was so optimistic was because I knew I was going to shout about my redundancy from the rooftops. Hell, even the Guardian wrote about me doing it.

Despite what some on here may think, this was not because I wanted to appear in a national newspaper … oh no, it was for far more practical reasons.

The first was that the more people knew I was available, the more chances I’d have of being considered for work. I mean … come on. I work in advertising, what else was I going to do?

However the second – and possibly more important reason – was I hated how many people felt some sort of shame for finding themselves in this situation.

Shit happens – especially during a global pandemic – so to carry that burden in addition to all the other stuff they have to deal with must make the pressure they’re dealing with unbelievably destructive. I would not wish that on anyone … no one at all. And while I was treated fairly, what makes these situations even worse is that some companies actively encourage people they’ve let go to feel this way … simply because it encourages them to stay silent about what’s happened which lets the company act to clients and the market that everything is fine and dandy when it obviously isn’t.

So my thinking was that by owning my situation publicly, it may help burst this corporately induced shame and reinforce there is nothing to be embarrassed about … especially as the situation ultimately has nothing to do with you – and everything to do with them – even if some companies try to suggest otherwise.

But there was also another reason for my optimism.

Potentially a stupid one.

And that was the last time this situation happened to me, it led to one of the most fruitful and creative periods of my career and I wondered/hoped/mused if lighting could strike twice.

Despite turning 50 [rather than the last time, where I was 35] it amazingly did.

Now I absolutely appreciate how lucky I am.

I also appreciate there are a lot of factors that contributed to this luck.

From the openness of my family to move countries for the 4th time in 4 years … to the wide range of contacts I’d gained thanks to having lived all around the World … to the fact I’m a white male so ‘unfair advantage’ was baked into my career DNA from the very beginning.

But even with all that, the life I now live is in many ways – or at least in many parts – unrecognisable to the one I had when I was let go from R/GA a year ago

From the work I’ve done and do.
To the clients/bands/billionaires I’ve done it for and do it for.
To the immensely talented people I’ve worked with and work with.
To the country I now call home.

Hell, I even managed to get hired and fired by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in that time.

It’s bonkers.

And while I enjoyed my time at R/GA and am grateful for the experience, I’m happier now.

They probably are too … hahaha.

That said, I miss my gang.

Lachlan, Nic, Rach, Anna, Joel, Amar, Erika, Laureen, Bassot, Ed, Hannah, Megan, Nicole, Divya, Arda, Amelia, Severine, Marissa, Insa, Toby, Ben … and the others who helped make my time – and the gang – so much fun, including Anne, Valia, Eduardo and Michael.

What a wonderful bunch of beautifully talented misfits they were/are.

Always demanding … debating … provoking … and making me smarter because of it.

Then again … given all but a couple of them have moved to do other interesting, weird, infamous and famous things, it means that even if I was still there, they wouldn’t be.

Or maybe they would. [Cue mischievous laugh. Hahahaha]

But the point of this post is not just to celebrate a year since a weird day in July … it’s a reminder that life is always changing, moving, evolving and progressing.

However bad a situation may be, it does not mean it will always be that way … even if it feels like it is.

And if anyone worries they are the exception, I want you to know I am here to chat.

Not to convince you you’re wrong.

Or try to solve your problems.

But to listen.

Because not everyone has that and not only is that important … sometimes that’s the first step to getting stronger.

Not to self-reflect or gain enlightenment … but to vent, bitch, moan, complain.

The things some people try to make you feel guilty for wanting to express or think, even though the real reason is because it makes them feel uncomfortable rather than it being bad for you.

And it absolutely is not bad for you.

At least in small doses.

Because as we all know, the first thing you do to treat a scrape is to cleanse the wound … so if anyone thinks this would be useful to you, please know I would be happy to give you a safe space to be your worst without judgement or expectation.

Because the worst times don’t last.

They just feel they do.

So thank you R/GA, I will always be grateful for what you did for me.

Especially on July 10th 2020.

You can reach me here.



The Pointless Reveals The Most Important Things …

This is a plant in our office.

I have no idea who owns it.

I must admit I don’t even really like it.

But that sticker …

Oh I like that.

I like it a lot.

Sure, to some it may be stupid.

Or even disrespectful.

But to me, it shows a company where the people within it have a mischievously creative spirit. The sort who spot creative opportunities to do something people will notice, or relate to or just feel for a whole host of reasons.

In just a single word, they found a way to make anyone who sees that little sticker not just see a plant, but a hard-to-please, always demanding, never content, forever dissatisfied pain-in-the-ass plant diva.

In short, they gave a plant a personality.

In one word.

Yes I know I have a ‘history’ with dodgy stickers – and I also loved the time someone at Wieden Shanghai put the sticker ‘freedom’ next to the ground floor button in the lift [which was promptly taken down, probably by the same person who still goes mental when they discover another of my Wieden leaving stickers hidden somewhere in the building despite me having left years ago, hahahaha] … but I particularly love this one.

I love someone thought it was worth doing.

I don’t care they may have given it no thought whatsoever – in fact that makes me like it more – because it’s those little, pointless things that reveals the most important thing you could ever want to know about an agency.

Are you entering a place that has a culture of creativity or a business that sells efficiency processes under the label of creativity?