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


Nothing Shows Respect Like Letting Someone Argue With You …

A career is a funny thing.

I mean literally, as a concept – it’s quite bizarre.

The idea of working in one industry and hoping to move up a fictional ladder and somehow hope that by the time you’re pushed off it – and we’ll all be pushed off it at some time – you’ve built up enough reputation or cash to keep you going through till the bitter end.

Hahahaha … Mr Positive eh!?

Anyway, by hook or by crook I’ve somehow managed to have what I’d call a career.

Admittedly, I fell into it – but overall, I’ve had a pretty good one.

I’ve worked at some amazing places.
I’ve got to live literally all around the World.
I’ve met people who have literally changed my life.
I’ve been part of work that still excites me years later.
And somehow, I’m still doing all those things, which is insane.

But as wonderful as all that is, one thing I am particularly proud of is how many of my old team mates are now at some of the most highly regarded creative companies in the World doing all manner of interesting things.

Of course, I had little to do with it – it’s all their talent – but the bit that makes me proud is that they are forging their own careers based on their own ideas and their own opinions and their own voice.

About 2005, I realised how lucky I had been with previous bosses.

All of them encouraged me to find my own voice rather than duplicate someone else’s … and while that often got me in trouble, they never strayed from their path of encouraging independent thought.

Now I appreciate a lot of companies say this, but this wasn’t some PR bullshit they could spout in a magazine, they lived it – openly and actively welcoming, encouraging and igniting debate.

And they never ‘pulled rank’.

It was always a discussion of equals – which was one of the most empowering and liberating professional feelings I ever had.

It showed trust. It showed respect. It showed value.

And even though I’m an old fuck who has done OK in my career, I still get that same feeling when I am working with others who embrace the same value.

As much as rockstars and billionaires may have a reputation for demanding diva’s, I can honestly say the ones I’ve been working with have been amazing in welcoming opinion. They may not always like what is said, but they always value why it has.

And that’s why, when I saw a shift in planning from rigour to replication … challenge to complicity … and individuality to impotency [driven by the global financial crisis of 2008] I realised the best thing I could do is encourage my team to be independent in thought, voice and behaviour.

I should point out this was not selfless. By having great creative and cultural thinkers in my team, they would help make even better work and that would have a positive effect on me too.

I know, what a prick eh.

And of course, I acknowledge not every planner was following the replication path. Nor was every agency. But it was definitely happening and arguably, this is why Australian planners have risen in position more than those from other nations [ie: Tobey head of planning at Uncommon, Paula global head of Nike planning at Wieden, Andy head of planning at Wieden Portland, Rodi, head of strategy at Apple South East Asia and Aisea MD at Anomaly LA to name but 5] because – as much as the Aussie government may like to say they suffered – the country was largely unaffected, which meant training continued, standards continued, creativity continued.

So while there was a bunch of other values we continually encouraged and practiced, the desire to develop independent thinking, openness and debate were a real focus of mine and have continued to be.

Whether I was successful is up to the people who had the awkwardness of dealing with me, but I distinctly remembering being in a meeting at Wieden in Shanghai after Sue, Leon and Charinee had just challenged a bunch of things we had just talked to the agency about.

One of the global team was there and said, “they’re very outspoken”.

And while normally that could be read as a diss, it wasn’t … it was more of a surprise because many people in China – especially the young – tend to keep very quiet, especially in front of people who are at a more senior level to them and this mob had gone to town.

To which I replied, “I know. It’s a wonderful headache to have”.

And it was.

And it is.

Which is why I will continue to believe the best thing any head of planning can do is encourage independent thought and respect for debate and rigour … because while it can creates moments where it’s a right pain in the arse, the alternative is far more disagreeable.

Have a great weekend.



Hello Colenso …

So this is it.

First day at school. Again.

In another new country. Again.

It’s always a weird feeling starting a new job. A mixture of excitement and nerves.

Excitement for the possibilities that lie ahead and nerves that you don’t really know what the hell actually lies ahead.

Most of this is because you are not you when you begin a new job.

You’re in this weird place where you want to throw yourself in the mix as quickly as possible – both to start feeling settled and to show your value to your new colleagues – while at the same time, knowing you have to learn a whole new set of people, protocols and situations while navigating the judging eyes that are going to follow you around for weeks.

But I have to say I am particularly excited about this.

I’ve loved Colenso from afar for a long time.

And as I wrote a while back, I almost joined them 6 years ago and always regretted it didn’t work out [simply because my head was not in the right place after Mum died] … so to be given this chance again is something else.

But the main thing is how they have acted towards me before I joined.

Lots of companies talk a good game when they’re trying to hire you and then – the moment it’s all signed and sealed – turn into demanding, inconsiderate pricks.

While it has only happened to me once, it fucks with your mind.

You doubt your judgement.

You question your decisions.

It’s pretty debilitating.

And yet, while it has been almost 8 months since we agreed to get married, Colenso have been amazing in how they have dealt with me.

One of the big things is how steadfast they’ve been not involving me in stuff till I’m here.

Of course they checked in … but they never gave me work to do, because they didn’t want our first experience working together to be one where I’m the only person on Zoom and 13 hours behind the rest of the team.

And while I would not have minded, I totally get why they wanted that to be the way.

That said, I did want to use the time to get to know the team and I basically had to beg to get that to happen.

Of course it’s not the best way to build any sort of understanding, rapport and relationship with people – so rather than talk about work, we tended to chat about what’s happening in our lives and how we feel about it – which took away any formality and allowed us to start revealing the different sides of each other.

And while I can’t wait to get to know them properly from here on in, I’m happy we have got to a stage where they feel comfortable enough to already call me a range of ‘choice’ names … which means I’ve just saved a week on my typical timings, ha.

While the past 13 months have been a very special time for me both personally [spending so much time with my wonderful family in our new home] and professionally [working with amazing people doing work I never dreamed I would be a part of] I am utterly thrilled to be starting here today.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it won’t all be rainbows and unicorns.

I’m old enough to know there will be plenty of times full of pain, drama, arguing and asshole challenges … but when you work for a place that only has its eye on the work they create, it means everything works out in the end.

For all the tension, scars, arguments and bloody hard fucking work it takes for creativity to be at its sharpest and most dangerous – at least a lot of the time, but not all of the time – once you’ve got it there and let it out into the world, it’s amazing how all the tension, scars and arguing fade away.

Better yet, it’s replaced with excitement, energy and possibility.

OK, and nerves, but even that is in an excited way.

Now I accept this might all sound like bullshit, but it isn’t

I lived it at HHCL, Cynic and Wieden.

It’s why it’s the founding principal behind Uncorporated.

It’s why places like Uncommon, are attracting the biggest names rather than chasing them.

And it’s why a small agency on the other side of the World has consistently played against the very best in the World.

The key word here is consistently.

Not one offs.

Not once upon a time, a long time ago.

I mean doing it day in and day out.

Finding new ways to do old things.

Looking for opportunities where creativity can change outcomes.

Embracing technology to expand the possibilities of creativity rather than just efficiency.

Staying on the path even when you could take short-cuts or potentially crash and burn.

Because in an industry that is increasingly defining success outside of the work they make and the cultural impact it creates, it’s those who let the creativity do the talking who create and attract the most interesting futures.

Not just for themselves. But for clients and culture alike.

So thank you to everyone who helped me get to this place in my career.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me actually get to New Zealand.

And thank you to Colenso for your stupidity in giving me this opportunity.

I will be eternally grateful, even if my new planning gang won’t be.

Right, time for the oldest ‘new boy’ to go cause some chaos.

Have a great day, I know I will.