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

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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Yes It’s Another Bloody Rules By Rubin …

… however having just read a report by a consultancy on Chinese audiences – which was not only utterly generalistic, but out-of-date – I felt I had to write this.

Especially as the Rubin quote is so perfect for it. So here we go …

If you only know your audience through their transactional data … if you only speak to your audience to hear what they think about you rather than understand what you don’t know about them … if you only talk about your audience in generalistic terms … if you only interact with your audience through a one-way mirrored room … if you only interact with your audience by outsourcing to a ‘for profit’ organisation … if you think your audience only care about you and what you do … if you think your audiences lives have remained the same for over a year … if you use international trend reports as a proxy for knowing what your audiences future habits and behaviours will be … if you only talk to the same audience in the same markets [once a year] … if you only care about how to get your audience to buy more of what you’re selling … if you call your audience “consumers” …

Then I assure you, you’re definitely talking down to your audience.

If you want them to respect you, start by respecting them.

The Condiments Versus The Food …

I don’t understand what some people are thinking.

We have got to a point where ‘the idea’ is seemingly regarded as a superficial bit of nonsense.

A wrapper for marketing.

Something as interchangeable as a phone cover.

For some utterly imbecilic reason, ‘the idea’ is now seen as optional – a potential distraction to purpose, eco-systems, frameworks and anything else designed to elevate an idea rather than be the idea.

No wonder our industry is in such a state.

Not only have we sold the value of creativity down the river, we now have a business model based on selling condiments rather than meals.

This post isn’t about dismissing the different and the new.

There’s value in a lot of them – despite the fact most of them aren’t new, just in possession of a new name.

This is actually about being stubborn with the priorities …

Because an idea isn’t wrapping, it’s the fucking present.

Have a good weekend … we have Monday off here, so see you Tuesday.

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.

The Middle Is A Dangerous Place …

So this is the end of the week so this is the final Rules of Rubin.

To be honest, I’ve got at least another 3 weeks worth of posts I could do, but I want to write about some other stuff.

Yes, less valuable, less relevant, less interesting stuff.

Hey, this blog hasn’t got to where it is by writing stuff that is good. That’s why where this blog is, is at the bottom of everything.

But in all seriousness, maybe I’ll write more about the lessons from Rick later – I’ve certainly enjoyed it – but if you are interested, below is the list of quotes I’ve used and if you click here, you can read my write-ups on all of them.

However this last one is one of the most important.

One of the things I’ve never understood are brands consistently playing to the middle.

I get their thinking.

It’s a mass audience.

It’s a relatively safe audience.

It increases the odds of scalable success rather than risk.

But the thing is, playing to the middle is just the illusion of safety.

Apart from the fact lots and lots of brands are all playing there, all you’re actually doing is – at best – staying where you are, but more likely going backwards.

You might not notice it at first.

You may think everything is fine and dandy and slap yourself on the back for being so brilliant and successful.

But what starts off slow eventually turns in the blink of an eye as the brands or people who play and push to the edge take away all the safety you thought you had.

And what’s worse is because you’re high and dry and left far behind, your legacy and capabilities are impacted.

You’re tainted with being part of the past rather than the present, but even worse than that, your operational capabilities have been built around optimising rather than advancing so the best you can achieve is to play catch up.

This is a nightmare situation, based on one simple reality.

When you are playing catch up, your starting point is where everyone else is. But the problem is that by the time you get there, everyone is even further ahead and you’re back where you started.

A bit like Kyle in this episode of South Park

Of course it doesn’t have to be that way.

Some get that the only way to truly catch up is to leap frog current standards to set the next standard, but few companies have the courage to do that, let alone the money.

Oh they’ll suggest they can.

They’ll make all the right noises.

They’ll invest in some new technology, research or corporate ‘tagline’

They’ll even hire the odd new person from a new discipline with new ideas [though in many cases, they’ll then get moved on with the excuse ‘they weren’t the right cultural fit’] … but the reality is they’ll remain in this endless cycle of catch up.

I’ve seen it.

Hell, I’ve worked in some companies that have practiced it.

Because for all the desire to not get left behind, nothing feels as good as feeling in control.

Even if that’s just an illusion.

Because doing this means their position is protected.

It means they don’t have to look at their entire business model.

But more importantly, it means they don’t have to take a long hard look at their contribution for being in this situation.

So while I totally get why choosing to stand still may sound like the wisest option for so many, the problem with it is that it ignores one pretty vital consideration.

Culture never stops moving.

If you don’t want to get left behind, always play to the edge.