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


The Best Things Makes You Earn The Right To Enjoy It Rather Than Just Giving You It …

Television gets a bad wrap these days.

Out of date.

Out of touch.

No longer good.

But the reality is, we’re kind-of in a golden age of television.

There’s an immense amount of shows out there that are amazing … from documentaries like Netflix’s Schumacher to series like Succession through to mainstream TV channel shows like 24 Hours In Police Custody … even though the first time I watched the show, it was about a drug cartel who had been operating in the village we had just moved to in England.

What made it more amusing is that one of the criminals was called Robert, another was called Campbell and they drove a blue Audi … so when Rob Campbell – ie: me – arrived in Hundson with his family in a Blue Audi, the neighbours looked at me suspiciously.

Or should I say ‘more suspiciously’ than normal.

Now of course there have been a bunch of amazing shows over the years … amazing for their writing, acting and craft. Some went under the radar like Glenn Close’s Damages … some had instant critical acclaim, like The West Wing, The Newsroom and Mad Men.

But some … well, there’s a few that gain instant cult following but over time, get more and more recognised for what they did and how they did it.

The show, The Wire is one of those.

First broadcast in 2002, it’s a show that started small and then just grew in terms of the stories, context and issues it swallowed into its storylines.

It never felt fake, even if you came from a place that was a million lifetimes away from Baltimore, where the stories were based. There’s many reasons for it.

The writing is amazing.
The casting is perfect.
The acting is simply superb.
The craft and attention to detail is insane.
And they wholeheartedly embrace the ugly, inconvenient truths about racism, wealth and systemic racism that most shows – even today – do all they can to ignore or dilute.

And then there’s one more thing.

It has no musical score.

None.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have music. It does. But it is an integral part of what is going on at that moment in that scene rather than some incidental, indirect orchestration designed to inform the viewer how they should feel.

Similar to the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan – all you hear is what you would hear if you were actually in the place they are.

Nothing fake.
Nothing contrived.
All 100% raw and real.

What this does is create a very different experience watching the show.

There’s this conflict between feeling more directly into what you’re seeing while also giving you a sense of uncomfortableness. A nervous edge.

Things are not wrapped up in tidy bows.

Episodes don’t follow classic Hollywood tropes.

Details that can appear to mean nothing suddenly reveal their relevance weeks later.

And it’s for this reason I love the way Charlie Brooker – writer of Black Mirror and ex-TV reviewer for the Guardian – talks about the show in terms of ‘rewarding your attention’. It’s such a perfect articulation.

The Wire demanded you paid attention.

Demanded it.

Not in an academic explanation sort of way, but in terms of committing to it.

Watching everything going on.

Not just in the foreground, but the details all around the environment.

The streets.
The language being used.
The slight nods and movement.
The music being played by others.
The characters in the background..

Details someone from those streets needs to know to survive those streets …which is why viewers who paid real attention, were rewarded with something much bigger than what was just said on the screen.

It was a show that left you feeling you have gone through something.

Not watched, but truly experienced.

Experiences that stick with you. Change you. Question, consider, work-out, hypothosise and – to some degree – feel scared and pressured by.

While there is a lot of shit on the screen these days, TV isn’t dead.

In fact, in some ways, it’s never been more alive.

It’s just the best shows don’t want to give it to you on a plate, it challenges you to see if you’re worthy of watching it … of getting it.

And in our spoon-fed, superficial world, thank fuck for that.

In other news …

It’s a national holiday here on Monday so there’ll be no post on that day. Not because I like you, but because you’re not worth the effort to write one. Hahaha. Have a great weekend.



The Fine Line Between Hero And Horrible …

Back from a nice long weekend.

Hey, if this makes you feel bad, imagine how my poor colleagues feel.

Anyway …

I recently read the book Hype, by Gabrielle Bluestone.

It is depressingly brilliant.

While it covers a huge range of topics, it centres on the actions and behaviours of Fyre Festival founder [or should I say, scammer] Billy McFarland.

Now I appreciate with worldwide coverage and 2 documentaries on the subject, you may think you know all that needs to be known, but apart from Gabrielle bringing some new information to the table, what makes it especially interesting is how she compares his actions to others who are regarded as business geniuses.

Like Elon Musk.

Now you might think that sounds like the actions of someone desperate to create hype for their new book. But no. It’s incredibly well written and researched … and as you turn page after page, with hustler/liar story after hustler/liar story, you come away thinking the whole world has fallen for the Emperors New Clothes trick.

Not to mention that either Billy McFarland is unlucky to be sentenced to jail or Elon Musk – and countless other business people and influencers – are lucky not to be.

Society loves its success stories.

It loves trying to ‘codify‘ the system.

But while only a few ever succeed, it doesn’t stop people blindly following some ‘proven’ rules. Often losing themselves in details rather than appreciating context.

All the while making the originator [or person who shouted the loudest, quickest] even more powerful and famous … before they end up a caricature of what they once were.

I’m seeing a lot of this in marketingland at the moment.

Now, I am not suggesting these people are doing it to ‘con’ anyone. Far from it. In fact their intentions are pretty wonderful. But somewhere along the line, their perspective has developed into a ‘system’ and that system now has a number of unquestionable and unshakeable rules attached to it which, ironically, is starting to negatively affect the very industry they want to help.

To be fair, they are not entirely responsible.

They are a bit … because they give their ‘system’ names that suggest intellectual superiority when it’s really ‘an educated beginners guide’, plus they conveniently turn a blind eye to how many of their students are executing what they learnt – without context or real audience understanding – so it ends up just being lowest common denominator thinking. But the real reason this situation is occurring is too many companies aren’t investing enough in talent or training, so they send people off to do courses with fancy names so they can all look and feel like they are.

Putting aside the fact this also highlights how many companies lack a philosophy regarding their approach and value to marketing, what this ‘one size fits all’ approach is doing is educating a whole generation of marketer/advertiser/company that talent, standards and creativity are not nearly as important as having people who can follow – and police – process, formats and parity.

We’re in danger of getting to the point where independent thinking is seen as dangerous.

Or weakness.

Or anything other than strength.

And while understanding how things work is important, creating a singular approach and process where building brands and creativity is approached like an airfix model – where the outcome is always the same, albeit with different brand names/colours attached – seems to be more about undermining the purpose of marketing rather than liberate it.

What makes this even more amusing is the brands who are attracting the greatest cultural momentum, loyalty and brand value right now are not following any of these ‘process rules’. More than that, they’re building their reputation and value through the creation of distinctive brand ideas that talk directly to their audiences rather than focusing on brand attribution that aims to be slightly memorable among their category.

[Please note, I’m talking about brands with a real business behind them, not just social hype]

Now I appreciate the context and circumstances of cultural brands and the brands who are adopting a marketing ‘system’ are very different … but what I’m trying to highlight is that we now find ourselves in this weird situation where the ambition for many brands is to not find ways to get ahead but to not be left behind – all the while bombarding the market with claims of innovation, new thinking, new opportunities.

And that’s why I loved reading Hype so much.

Not just because it pulled back the curtain on the hypocritical bullshit of so many self-appointed ‘business icons’, but it revealed where we’re all heading if we’re not careful … even though I know there will be people out there who read it and see it as their goal rather than their ruin.



Smiling As A Weapon …

So after yesterday’s post about releasing your inner Adele, I have another post about the workplace.

Or should I say, the toxic workplace.

The reason for this is that I’ve spoken to a lot of people recently who – whether it’s because of COVID, or people’s slow return to the workplace or just people getting hired again after a year of being pretty much shut down – have all experienced a similar situation.

Which leads to this message to all managers …

Whether someone has a different view … a less favourable view … or just questions about your view … IT IS NOT A PERSONAL ATTACK.

It doesn’t mean they’re trying to undermine you or piss on your parade.

If anything, it means they care enough about you to want you to be even better though expanding your perspective.

But what is worse is I’m hearing more and more people dealing with it, through toxic positivity.

You will remember from this post, toxic positivity is the belief that “no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. It’s a “good vibes only” approach to life.”

While being intimidating towards people who have different perspectives is equally as bad, at least you know where you stand. Toxic Positivity does it’s damage because it not only immediately undermines you, it makes you feel your opinion literally doesn’t matter.

I can tell you, people who always look on the bright side are far more damaging than those who keep asking questions.

Of course, how you ask – like everything in life – is important, but it’s worth remembering you don’t get to great without debate. And you don’t get to debate without an environment where people are free to be honest with you and themselves.

So if you’re getting this treatment from your manager and you’re starting to question your value and worth … go to yesterday’s post and follow Adele’s excellent advice.

Comments Off on Smiling As A Weapon …


Welcome To The Era Of The Mundane …

The quote at the top of this page is what Frank Sinatra said about Elvis Presley.

If anything was going to turn youth towards the new musical force of the King, it was going to be comments like that.

But what I find interesting is the ad industry should understand this point more than most … however, I’m not sure we do anymore.

We appear to take more delight in being accurate than being exciting.

Now I appreciate this makes me sound like an old bastard but hang on for a second …

What I find interesting – at least where music is concerned – is that in the past, it was ‘the establishment’ who were frightened of the new and misunderstood, but that seems much less the case these days.

If anything, the establishment are bored nothing is scaring them.

Now there are some explanations for this …

Some of it is because of how the music industry has changed …

Rather than breaking new talent, they’re much more interested betting on certainties, because there goal is for lowering risk not pushing things forward. [Hence their appropriation of TikTok to flog back-catalogue tracks]

Some of it is because technology has allowed music to get ultra niche …

Thanks to music streaming platforms, people can now choose the genres they like and pretty much filter out everything else. What this means is we can kid ourselves into believing there’s less new dangerous music being created when the reality is we’re keeping it out rather than welcoming it in. Add to that the decline of radio – which was a central and universal place where a lot of music discovery took place – and we are actively cutting ourselves off from the new and uncomfortable.

Finally, some of it is because the power of music is not the cultural force it once was …

Don’t get me wrong, music is still ultra powerful, but in some ways, it seems to have gone from being at the forefront of culture to the background of it. Some will say that has always been the case – the ‘soundtrack to your life’ – but for people who have always lived for music, it was rarely just an accompaniment to whatever you were doing.

For me, a lot of the ‘danger’ that used to be synonymous with music has gone into gaming.

When Grand Theft Auto came out, it was almost like punk in the 70’s.

A game both universally loved and hated for what it represented.

Rather than trying to be something for everyone, it shamelessly wanted to be everything to someone … and because of the shifts in culture, technology, media, business model and price points, it meant it could be a very lucrative business to be in .

Of course, like all industries, too many companies simply try to jump on whatever bandwagon is cool in that moment … but for me, if you’re looking for the new rock n’ roll, it’s in gaming.

That does not mean dangerous music doesn’t exist.

But it’s power to change culture is not what it once was.

It’s more likely to be found in a game rather than us discovering a new artist.

Which reveals the dirty little secret about people.

The real reason people this there is a ‘lack of danger’ in music is because we’re lazy.

In the past, we would crash into it thanks to mass radio and media – but now, with everything at our command – it requires us to actively put ourselves out there to find it and frankly, we don’t want to.

For all the brilliant things technology can do for us, it has made us lethargically comfy.

We want everything on a plate.

We don’t want to lift a finger.

And while tech could also help overcome this, it’s been designed to satisfy not aggravate … which is why the only way you’ll find the dangerous edges is if you walk towards it rather than expect it to come to you.

It’s something adland needs to remember, because while some may say ‘exciting is indulgence’, it’s got more economic and cultural power than being ‘accurate’.



Losing Friends And Alienating People …

Many years ago, Toby Young wrote a book by the name of this post.

It was a journey through his bad decisions, bad timing and bad acts.

And while there was a lot of genuinely funny moments in it, you couldn’t help think he was a bit of a twat – which was confirmed with many of his later actions, decisions and behaviour.

I say this because recently I had a dalliance with someone who could best be described as Toby Young, without the humour.

Look, I work in advertising so I’m used to working with twats.

There’s actually a lot less of them than people like to think, but the ones who are there are generally stupendous at twatdom.

But this interaction was not someone I work with … it was someone on Linkedin.

Yes … Linkedin. The platform that is to community what Boris Johnson is to leadership.

Now even though this person and I are not ‘connected’, I do kind-of know him.

He was in Asia when I was there and had a reputation for grandiose statements that rarely could be backed up.

Anyway, I hadn’t heard about him or seen him for literally years, so I was surprised when a few weeks ago, he suddenly came into my life.

He did this by writing a comment under a Linkedin post I’d put up about one of the biggest mistakes a planner can make.

He asked:

What’s the difference between thinking and planning according to you? And is there a difference? And how do you see modern day account planning influencing business and corporate strategy which is really what CEO’s want to see – they’re not interested in ads or creativity unless its making them money?

I answered as best I could … saying I felt he was implying some planners didn’t care about the impact creativity had on the clients business, just their ego and if that’s the case, maybe he’s spending time with the wrong planners, clients and creatives.

In the blink of an eye, he responded with these 2 gems:

First this …

“I’m not implying anything- I’m asking a question. I be;lieve that’s valid on a social media platform. What I’ve foudn theough Experience s that sometimes it’s better to just answer instead of reading too much into it.”

[Spelling mistakes were his, not mine]

And then this …

“You really don’t get social, do you? You can’t be focused and social at the same time. I’ve been studying clinical psychology and the mind for 7 years. It’s two ends of the same frequency . Planners are focused (head) creatives are social (HEART). Open your heart my friend before a surgeon does the job for you. Good luck. You’re mucking around with someone with a lot of medical knowledge and experience.”

That second comment was bizarre.

Judgemental. Condescending. Patronising. Almost threatening.

I have to be honest, I was quite impressed. It’s been a long time since I’ve come across such a prick who can get so personal and so insulting so quickly.

But then it got weirder, because he then sent this:

Seriously, what the fuck?

From slagging me off to interrogating the most stupid shit [like my bloody camouflage background????] to then asking me to give him free information and advice so he can win a client and charge them money for his ‘help’.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because Linkedin is full of people who think they can just ask or say whatever they want as long as it benefits them. I’m sure we’ve all had headhunters contact us for names of people they should talk to – when they’re literally being paid by clients to know people who they should talk to.

But there’s something about this persons manner that pisses me off.

Maybe it’s the contradiction between acting superior but still wanting stuff.

I can’t help but feel he is someone who read Neil Strauss’, ‘The Game‘ [who also wrote Motley Crue’s, admittedly great, The Dirt … which tells you a lot] and saw it as a philosophy for how to live rather than the exploitative, manipulative and destructive book it actually was.

Part of me really wants to name and shame him.

If he’s doing that to me, what is he like to others.

Women. Or juniors. Or anyone to be honest.

But I won’t because who knows what he’s going through however – as I mentioned in my final response to him – for all his alleged expertise in clinical psychology and social platforms, he sure hasn’t got the faintest idea how to communicate with people.

So I’ll leave him be but if he does comes back [again] I’ll simply point him to this post and hope he understands the responsibility for clarity of communication is with the communicator, not the recipient. Something tells me, he wouldn’t.

But what all this shows is a mistake that companies, platforms and agencies continually make with the idea of community.

I get why it’s so interesting to them, but the problem is – what they think is a community, isn’t.

A community isn’t where you go to continually satisfy your own needs.

In essence, that’s the total opposite of a community.

What a real community is something built on shared beliefs and values … where you want to work together to help push or achieve a common goal. It absolutely isn’t about personal benefit at others expense, it’s about something much, much bigger.

And while it’s power and influence can be enormous …

Linkedin doesn’t get this.

Agencies flogging membership and community doesn’t get this.

And this ‘competitive strategist’ doesn’t get this.

Because the key rule for a real community is about adding to it, not just taking.