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


Creativity Is A Weapon …
October 19, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Culture, Cunning, Revenge

I have an old job reference that states:

“Rob is driven by hate”.

Amazingly, they meant it as a compliment.

Despite my friend Michael believing I am incapable of such an emotion [but then he’s a beautifully misguided German] they’re right.

OK, maybe hate is too aggressive [damn you Michael!] … because when I encounter something – or someone – I don’t like, I use it to push me further rather than push them down.

This is not a new thing.

I wrote about it way back in 2011 … but even now, hate – or whatever we want to call it – has the affect of pushing me to learn, grow and try more stuff than I’ve done before because I want to do things better than whoever or whatever the focal point of my distain, achieved.

Does it always work? Nope.

Is it obvious to them I’m doing it? Hopefully not.

Can it sometimes be ignited by me being petty and pathetic? Yep.

But for all the potential unpleasant side of this characteristic, it gave me a work ethic that helped me achieve far more than any talent I have, could achieve – hahaha.

I say all this because a friend of mine sent me a photo of another persons version of creative revenge.

This.

It’s it utterly glorious?

Apparently, they did it because their partner said they wouldn’t hang up the washing.

OK, so they’re not using their hate to drive themselves forward … but they’re definitely using it to release the anger.

An act of personal vengeance that leaves no pain or blood on the intended victim while, at the same time, gives the aggressor a sense of satisfaction, peace and revenge.

That’s not easy to do.

But creativity found a way.

It always does.

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When Advertising Said More Than Simply ‘Buy Me, Please’ …

Once upon a time, when I lived in Singapore, I popped into the restaurant next to where we lived on Club Street, to get some takeaway.

As I was waiting for my noodles, I saw a man at the bar having a drink.

He had a nice face but the only reason I noticed him was because he had a mark on his head that made him look like Mikhail Gorbachev.

The next day I found out, it was.

While Club Street was blessed with lots of nice restaurants and bars, seeing the ex-head of the Soviet Union having a drink next door to where you live, was not the sort of thing you expect to see.

But then Mikhail was good at the unexpected.

Like the time, in 2007, he turned up in a Louis Vuitton ad.

Back in the days when being an ‘influencer’ meant you had done something to impact the world rather than existed to simply flog product.

But Mikhail was an inspired choice for a whole host of reasons …

One was the visual metaphor he represented for Russia’s journey from communism towards capitalism.

The symbolism of a new era in Russia. And the rest of the world.

And while this ad came out in 2007 – 16 years after he had seen the dissolution of the USSR – what he represented was still clear. Made even more obvious by placing him in the back of a car – in a photo taken by Annie Leibovitz – driving past the Berlin Wall … another symbol of capitalism triumphing over communism.

For many who read this blog, the impact of this change may fly right past you.

I get it, especially if you’ve lived in Western countries, so to give you some context, let me take you to Communist China.

The modern metropolis that you see in photos of China today is certainly not what I found when I first moved there. Especially when you stepped out of central Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou. Though, to be fair, that’s still the case in many parts of the country – including Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou – despite the Middle Kingdom’s incredible modernisation and rise.

Anyway, when I first moved there, Louis Vuitton had a reputation – and nickname – of being ‘the mistress brand’.

There was a simple reason for it …

People who owned it were seen as ‘girlfriends’ of high-level business people or government ministers.

Basically the belief was that because their lovers were one of the few people who were allowed – or could afford to – leave China with ease, they’d buy LV products on their travels and then give them to their lovers as presents on their return.

Was it true?

Not entirely, but there was definitely a ‘second wives’ economy that existed and likely still does.

There was a street near where we lived where every shop was allegedly funded by a generous ‘benefactor’. And you could believe it, because we never saw a customer enter a single store and yet the owners – always young and attractive – were driving the latest Bentley’s. Ferrari’s or Maserati’s.

It was a different world.

And while China has been the centre of the luxury universe for decades, I still remember the Government banning all luxury outdoor advertising in Beijing every now and then to both show their power to the luxury brands who make billions from them as well as reminding the people who live there ‘they were still a communist land’.

Sometimes.

What is interesting is that when Russia and China opened up, Louis Vuitton were one of the quickest brands to see what this could mean for them and their category.

They recognised very early the importance – and confidence – luxury brands could play in culture and so they upped the branding on their products dramatically.

And that’s why these ads, from Ogilvy, are so interesting to me. Because at a time where the cult of luxury was on the rise, these ads attempted to separate LV from the competition by trying to position them with greater significance and purpose.

Presenting LV almost as something you ‘earned the right’ to have rather than something anyone could just buy.

Treating the LV iconography as a badge of honour, not simply wealth.

Reinforcing status as much about how you live, rather than simply what you have.

Maybe this was a reaction to the way Putin was starting to shape Russia to his will.

If you look closely at the bag next to Mikhail, you will see a magazine with the headline ‘Litvinenko’s murder: They wanted to give up the suspect for $7000.’

That headline was on the magazine, New Times, a liberal Russian publication that regularly criticised the Kremlin.

That headline was a reference to Alexander V Litvinenko – the former KGB spy who died in November 2006 after being poisoned in the UK. The former KGB spy who had accused Putin of orchestrating his murder.

While Ogilvy and LV dismissed the significance of that magazine headline, I think it’s pretty safe to say that’s bullshit.

There is no way that is a coincidence.

I get why they said it, but the symbolism of Mikhail … with that magazine poking out his bag … driving past the Berlin Wall … was a pretty blatant message of how far Putin’s Kremlin had taken Russia back to the ‘bad old days’ since Gorbachev had left.

It may have been a condition for Mikhail to feature in the ad.

Only he, Ogilvy and LV execs would know.

But I do admire their stance.

Let’s be honest, there’s absolutely no way that would ever happen now.

Which is as much of a statement on how safe advertising and brands have become as it is of the dangers of Putin and his actions.

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Keep Them Mean To Keep Them Subservient …

As it is the first of August, I thought I’d change the tone of the posts from the rather heavy ones of July to something a bit more ‘light’.

Which is why today I’m writing about cats.

As you know, I love those feline sods.

Specifically my feline sod … Rosie.

The things I’ve done for her.

Taken her around the World.

Got an import licence in China so we could get her her favourite treats.

Built custom ‘penthouse cat houses’ for her, so she could enjoy the outdoors in safety.

Got a company to make a bloody stuffed toy version of her for us.

In fact, it’s so realistic a client once thought she was stuck on a wardrobe during a zoom call.

And what do I get in return?

Complaints.

Demands.

Distain.

And a distinct lack of love or emotion.

Oh I know she loves me really.

Not as much as we love her, obvs … but there is affection there. Deep down.

However I recently saw something that not only summed her up, but summed all cats up which perfectly explains why some people hate them, and why some – like me – are at their mercy, will and command.

If humans treated humans this way, it would be considered an abusive relationship.

But cats powers of manipulation has managed to reframe that as ‘personality’.

Seriously, if you want to know the art of strategy, forget the Weigel’s, Bloodworth’s, Ritson’s and Collin’s and just study cats.

They’re bastards. But they’re brilliant bastards … as demonstrated by this photo that, for me, is the best encapsulation of cattidude you will ever see.

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Channel Your Inner Adele …

I know I’ve done a lot about Rick Rubin of late, but this time I’m using Adele.

I love her.

I think she’s an insanely talented musician, singer, and songwriter.

But this is about none of those things.

Nor is it – as were my Rick Rubin musings – about creativity.

No … this is about work.

Specifically about knowing who you should and shouldn’t invest your time and passion with.

I’ve generally had amazing bosses.

Brilliant, creative, supportive individuals, bursting with integrity and belief.

And even when I would be getting a bollocking for something daft I’d done – and I’ve done a lot – I never once doubted they cared and wanted me to succeed.

But I’ve also had some bosses who were less amazing.

Who didn’t like questions.

Didn’t like independent thought.

Actively demanded you follow their words rather than your own curiosity.

Where success was judged by the level of your complicity rather than creativity.

And that’s why at 50, I now realise there’s two sorts of manager in the world.

Those who want you to be better than you imagined and those who use you to feel better about themselves.

If you have the former, hold on to them with both hands.

If you have the latter, follow Adele’s advice.

And if you feel you can’t do that – for whatever reason – visit TheyTriedToKillMeButI.Live … because that’s where you’ll see you’re not alone, you’re not to blame and together, you’re more valuable and powerful than you think.

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Be Your Own Worst Enemy …

There have been times in my career where I’ve chosen the wrong path.

What makes this crazy is that there have been times where I knew I was but still went ahead with it.

Nothing bad.

Nothing illegal.

But, according to others, it was the wrong thing to do.

Now this is not because I have a death wish or want to cause trouble … it’s because a situation or certain circumstances occurred that just triggered something in me.

Good and bad.

And while – with hindsight – I know I could have handled ‘how’ I dealt with some of those situations differently, I absolutely don’t regret ‘why’ I did it … even if that led to some people labelling me as being ‘too emotional’.

Too emotional is a horrible phrase.

It aims to shame people for who they are and what they believe.

What is worse is that it is often expressed by people who have an inability to show any emotion towards anything, so act as if it is some sort of human flaw.

A fundamental weakness.

Let me be very clear, being able to express your emotions is a strength.

It’s healthy.

It’s positive.

It’s also a sign you give a fuck.

Whether that is about work, standards or other people.

Now I appreciate that doesn’t mean you can use it as an excuse to abuse others or act like you’re some sort of megalomaniac diva.

Nor do I think that just because something triggered your emotions, it means your perspective is automatically correct.

And then there’s the fact there will be times or situations where you need to restrain your emotions to a time – or place – where it is more appropriate to let out. Let’s face it, no one wants a surgeon to have an emotional outburst mid-operation just because someone handed them the scalpel in a sloppy way.

But expressing your emotions is important.

It should absolutely never be treated as doing something wrong.

Especially in the creative industry, where our goal is to literally make people feel something.

So if anyone ever say’s, “you’re too emotional”, don’t just take it.

It’s the sort of comment that – if allowed to fester – can chip away at your confidence.

Often uttered by senior figures in a company who want employees to think, act and behave exactly like them rather than embrace differences of opinion or brand new thinking … which is ironic, given that’s the main way companies can evolve and grow.

So if faced with that situation, ask them what they mean by their comment?

Put it back on them to explain.

Half the time you’ll find it is simply because they don’t like conflict.

Or an alternative perspective.

And that’s when you explain why the situation has made you feel the way it has.

Why you believe it shouldn’t just be brushed away.

Not because you’re an egomaniac who wants whatever they choose, but because you see possible implications that could have a terrible effect on the work or the company or the team at large.

Because even the person you’re discussing this with doesn’t feel it or see it as being important, doesn’t mean it isn’t … which at the very least should justify a conversation about it, especially if you feel so strongly about it.

But, as I said, there may be occasions where you will look back on how you reacted and feel you could have done it another way.

Note I said ‘how’ you reacted, not ‘why’ you did.

And that’s why it’s important to always learn from these incidents.

Discover what pushes your buttons.

Understand what you expect from yourself and others.

Reveal what standards you will and will not tolerate.

Not so you can deny or suppress your emotions in the future, but so if another situation arises, you can express your emotions in a way that will change the outcome you are responding to rather than just reacting to it.

And when you get to that point, that’s when you find being ‘too emotional’ is a superpower.

So while the guy in the video is being his own worst enemy for the worst of reasons, expressing your emotions never is.

Because regardless what some may claim, they are a sign of strength, never weakness.

It’s another long weekend here in the UK, I hope you have a good one and a safe one.

See you Tuesday.