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


There’s Tributes And There’s Tributes …

So a little while ago, the wonderful human that was Dan Wieden sadly passed away.

A lot of amazing things were written about this amazing man.

And I added my own little story to the compendium as well.

But there was one that was not published.

Mainly because it was a conversation between some people who worked at Wieden about how sad we were that Dan had passed..

It’s possibly the weirdest tribute written.

Not specific to Dan, I mean ever … and yet, it is a tribute that was expressed with as much love and respect to the man and the legacy he built, as any of the others.

I should point out Dan – and I – are not guilty as charged. The person in question is simply referencing the fact that I sent them to Portland for a W+K meeting and Dan happened to have started W+K in a city where this particular form of ‘entertainment’ was everywhere.

Don’t be hard on the person who wrote it.

They were young.
They were from China.
This was their first overseas trip.
And he was given these experiences by people who wanted to ‘introduce them to the West’.

I personally would have chosen a different approach, but each to their own and I know the intent was to explode this visitors mind in good ways, not damaging.

Given he still remembers his trip so vividly – maybe 10 years+ after it happens – I guess this means they succeeded.

Which results in Dan getting the most unique, but well intentioned tribute ever written.

I think he may have liked it.

Or the sentiment of it at least.

Miss you Mr W.

And you LL.

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The Exclusivity Of Commercial Seriousness …

I have always found it rather amusing that occasionally the industry press has shown an interest in what I’m doing – or done.

Even now, my first reaction is, “don’t you mean the other Rob Campbell, who started RKCR Y&R?”

And while occasionally the answer is, “yes, we do mean him” … I have approached any interaction with my tongue, generally in my cheek.

Hence I’ve said if I was a Star Wars character, I’d be Darth Vader.

I’ve felt fine writing sarcastic responses to discipline assassination.

And I showed no shame saying the word ‘wank’ in response to a new business win.

To be fair, Campaign Magazine – where a lot of this madness took part – played their part in the relationship by running pieces questioning if my wife was real and if I was having an affair with a reindeer.

I say all this because a friend sent me something he had just found in an old edition of Campaign in Asia …

Apart from the fact that I was at Y&R Asia 16 years ago, so I’m wondering why on earth anyone would keep a copy of Campaign that long … it did make me smile.

Yes, I used to use the word ‘toptastic’ a lot.

A. LOT.

And yes, I can absolutely see myself saying that, even though I LOVED Mediaworks and would do it again in a heartbeat.

But more than that – and I appreciate how egotistical this makes me sound – it was nice to see a bit of humour in an industry that is quickly going up its own arse.

Yes, what we do is important.

Yes, we need companies to recognise we care about their longterm wellbeing.

But for an industry that is supposed to understand how to connect commerce to culture … this overly serious, overly complex, overly monotone approach to all we do isn’t helping.

I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t take what we do seriously, but maybe if we stopped taking ourselves so seriously – so we can resonate with culture rather than patronise them – we may end up with better work and better results.

And by god, could we do with that.

Though I appreciate this may simply be my attempt to reframe my industry ridiculousness as professional, so should Otis ever see it, he won’t think his Dad was a total lunatic.

Maybe.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

National holiday on Monday, so see you Tuesday. That is if anyone reads this blog anymore – I have no idea. [Which is probably a very good thing, ha]

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Thank You For All The Things You Never Understood Or Accepted You Did …

news of The Queen – I was still shocked.

But while the Queen had been in my life for all my life, the loss of Dan – like Dave before him – was much more personal and emotional.

And while over the coming weeks there will be many stories about Dan Wieden that will all be amazing to read – from his brilliance to his humbleness – I thought I’d write about something else that made him special …

His ability to unite a culture while encouraging the individuality of that culture.

That’s an amazing thing to achieve. To build something united by the same passion and values wherever in the World you are located, but still be able to – encouraged even – express your individuality, even if it would be in conflict with what he would have chosen.

But then, when you got to know him, you realised he craved creativity, not conformity, and suddenly everything makes sense.

I have a bunch of stories about this brilliant man … and while the one where he held my hand and told me “never leave”, despite having just belly danced for him [long story] is one I love, this is probably my favourite.

For reasons I don’t need to go into, Wieden wanted me to feel some major love.

So one day, I got whisked from W+K Shanghai and plonked in front of Dan in Portland.

I think he was as surprised as me to be there, but we chatted about all manner of things … from why he thought it would be great for me to run The Kennedys [which was the highest compliment, given I was a planner] to how on earth he had managed to have offices in China, Japan and India – which still blew his mind.

After 45 mins, he asked if I fancied lunch.

Of course I said yes to which he told me to follow him as we walked to one of his fave local restaurants.

Nothing fancy. Just lovely.

We had an enjoyable lunch and he told me he was glad I was there. He even sounded like he meant it, haha. So when the bill came, I asked if I could pay.

He looked at me like I was a lunatic and asked why.

“Well …”, I said, “… my friends think you’re mad for hiring me so I want to get them back and paying for this meal is my way of asking you for a favour”.

[For the record, of lot of those ‘friends’ were regular contributors to this blog, when I allowed comments – which I miss. Damnit]

He looked me dead in the eye and replied …

“Should have known there’s no such thing as a free lunch. OK Campbell, tell me”.

So I asked if I could have a photo with him … but I wanted him to look like he was bollocking me, so I could show my friends and pretend he’d just found out they were right.

His eyes lit up.

“That doesn’t make much sense to me but let’s do it” … which explains the photo at the top of this post and why every single time he saw me from then on [and I mean EVERY time] he’d say, “I thought I fired your ass” … thankfully with his eyes shining their infectious, mischievous sparkle, so I knew I could come in the next day.

I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have so many brilliant people shape it, and Dan was one of them.

In many ways he changed my life. Certainly the trajectory.

That may sound huge, but the opportunities he gave me through the company he co-founded resulted in a life I never could imagine and will always be grateful for.

Dan was a legend.

Not just in creativity or advertising but in so many other ways.

From his ability to be a huge presence in any room but never make anyone feel small, through to his beloved Caldera, which helped – and will continue to help – so many who may not have had many chances to see what they can become.

But if you told him he was [and I did] he would wave you away, refusing to acknowledge or accept it.

[And don’t get me started on his reaction when he discovered people had W+K tattooed on them. Often as part of some founders day shenanigans. He literally couldn’t understand it]

So that just leaves me to say a huge thank you to you Dan. For everything.

Your legacy lives on through your work, your agency, your impact and the people who were so lucky to work for you and with you.

You probably would tell us to “stop talking horse shit and go make your own legacy” … and while I know we all try and do exactly that, it will all be the better for the time we learnt from you.

Deal with it Dan.

To his family, friends and W+K peeps past and present, I send you my love and deepest condolences.

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The Taste Of Bullshit …

I’ve written a ton about brand purpose over the years.

Not as viciously as my beloved Martin Weigel. But close.

It’s not that I am against brand purpose, It’s when it’s used as a marketing tool and ‘updated’ to whatever trend is currently popular that my hate boils over.

It’s why I have always advocated for belief rather than purpose.

Belief is demonstrated by what and how you do things, not what and how you say things.

Or give things away.

Belief drives change. Purpose hopes for it.

Which is probably why so many brands prefer purpose.

The ability to look like you care without always having to demonstrate it.

Take this from Unilever food brand, Knorr …

“Our purpose is to reinvent food for humanity by being healthier for both people and the land. 
 Knorr brings the power of flavour to good food to 
overcome barriers that stop us from eating for good”

Sounds good doesn’t it.

Sounds purposeful.

But for those who are not sure what Knorr make, let me enlighten you …

Yeah, when I think of flavour and good food – not to mention being good for humanity and the land – the first thing I think of is cheddar broccoli rice sides.

But maybe I’m wrong, how do you cook these things that help us ‘eat for good’?

Here’s the instructions …

Microwave directions: In 2-quart microwave-safe bowl, combine 2-1/4 cups water, 1 tbsp. margarine(optional) and contents of package. Microwave uncovered at high about 12 minutes* or until rice is tender, stirring once halfway through. Stir and serve.

Yep, thought so. Utter rubbish.

The reason I am writing this is because I recently saw a post from an ice-cream brand.

Have a look at this …

While those words sounds trite, purpose-for-marketing … food and culture are incredibly entwined and so there is a real chance it may be a badly worded version of what they really believe and do.

Let’s look at their website.

For those too lazy, here is a screenshot of their flavours …

Hmmmmn … doesn’t seem too much about people, places or cultures does it?

There’s a lot about ingredients.

Some even seem interesting. But absolutely no mention of people, places or cultures.

But is that surprising when it’s so obviously an absolute load of purpose-washing?

And what a missed opportunity.

They could truly make that into something that could change something.

Educate, unite, challenge, inform … tell the stories of the people, places and cultures that were the inspiration of those flavours through the flavours.

Ben and Jerry’s meets Tony Chocolonely.

And what makes it worse is their intentions sound honourable. They’re already a B-Corp certified business, choose ingredients that are direct-trade and believe in diversity.

All great and important things except nothing to do with what they claim they do on their packaging.

Many years ago, at Wieden, we were invited to pitch for an ice-cream brand.

We said yes because hey, it’s ice cream.

Anyway, when we got the brief, it read like a purpose fluffer.

My god, it was literally dripping in claims and terminology that not only had nothing to do with their category, but had nothing to do with any of their actions, behaviours or products.

We spoke to them about looking at ice cream another way.

If they had to have a ‘purpose’, make that purpose about what ice cream is supposed to be.

Fun and tasty.

Not deeper meaning. Just that.

And then prove it in the product, not just the experience.

You may think that is overly simplistic, but by then the entire category had gone purpose insane and no one was actually owning what they were and what people actually wanted.

Put it this way, it had gone a looooooong way from the days where BBH had brilliantly changed the way people looked at ice cream and did it in a way that was sexy, powerful and based on a real truth. [A campaign so good that is was spoofed brilliantly by Fosters Lager]

Anyway, for us, the way we could get back to what ice cream was but in a way that proved the fun was down to flavours … so unlike Jeni’s ice creams, we actually went out and talked to all manner of people about their weird tastes. Things they love others think are a bit mental. Things that make them deliriously happy for whatever reason or whatever duration. Because we saw an opportunity for the client to be more like a taste and colour experiment lab than a manufacturer of everyday ice-creams and flavours with an unbelievable purpose attached.

So we worked it all up and I remember it for 2 main reasons.

+ We used a picture of a cat in the presentation with an inverted cross on its forehead … which is still my favourite mad presentation image ever used. And I’ve used a lot.

+ When the client wanted us to justify our idea, we simply showed this …

It may not be the deepest reason you’ve ever read.

It may not even be the most exciting.

But it was definitely more believable than all the shit they were saying.

And with the flavour combinations we had and how it all came together with the creative work – which had some weird ice cream flavour meme generator at the heart of it … generating all manner of taste sensation madness out into the internet … it was something that not only would help them differentiate from the competition, but have a place and role in culture.

They hated it.

Instead they went with some bollocks about ice cream being ‘a gesture of love for those who are not rich’.

No, I’m not joking.

Which may also explain why they … Haagan Daaz and Jeni’s talk a lot about their purpose in society but are – with the possible exception of Jeni’s – increasingly irrelevant ice creams brands whereas that old, dumb favourite, Ben And Jerry’s, still has some sort of position in culture, because despite selling out to the death star Unilever, they try to do shit rather than just say it.

Emphasis increasingly on try.

But even with that, the reality is – as is the real test of any brand that claims to have purpose – they show what they believe through every aspect of what they do, even when it’s inconvenient, rather than market what they claim their purpose is, only when it suits them.

Enjoy your day. Be careful you don’t eat any bullshit.

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Two’s Company, Three’s A Wonderful Nightmare …

For someone this old, working in adland this long … it’s amazing how few friends I have in the industry.

Oh I know tonnes of people – you can’t help it when you keep moving countries every couple of years – and I love soooooo many of them, but in terms of actual mates, it’s not a massive amount.

However despite this, there are two people who have that moniker.

They may wish they didn’t.

They may wish I wasn’t about to advertise that fact.

But the brilliant Paula Bloodworth and Martin Weigel are most definitely two of them.

Obviously they need no introduction.

They’re 2 of the best and most respected planners in the World and have a body of work entire global agency networks would kill to have. But the thing many people don’t realise is that underneath it all, they’re just amazing humans who are also insanely talented.

Obviously we all met at Wieden and worked together on various projects across the network. But it’s more than that. I met a lot of amazing people at Wieden but I just clicked on a different level with those two.

That doesn’t mean we always agreed with each other.

In fact, the opposite is probably a better reflection of how we were … but there was something between us that meant we not only trusted and respected each others judgement, we felt we ended up in better places for the debates.

And we did.

And we still do.

Because even though only Martin is still at Wieden, we still talk a lot.

In fact we have a video call every week.

London. Amsterdam. Auckland.

And all we do is chat, laugh, debate, disagree and wonder.

And occasionally bitch, hahaha.

But what they may not realise is how they make me feel.

You see I have no problem asking them for their point of view and they have no problem giving it to me.

Except it’s not some wannabe intellectual wank-fest [which is good, because I’d always lose] it’s thoughtful, compassionate and – dare I say it – loving advice.

In short, they look out for me.

They tell me when they think I am wrong.

They tell me when they think I am right.

But most of all, they tell me things to think about to encourage the outcome that I hope for.

When I was made redundant, they were the first people I spoke to.
When I am moving to another country, they’re the first people I chat to.
When I want someone to bounce stuff off, they’re the first people I reach out to.

In an industry obsessed with pathetic intellectual swordsmanship, these two wonderful, beautiful, talented bastards swap weapons for compassion.

They make me a better person and colleague – albeit to Colenso, clients and Metallica.

And they ask for nothing in return.

Which reinforces they’re brilliant people but maybe not as smart as everyone thinks they are.

They’ll probably hate me being so gushing in this post given they both like to hide their public emotions in a black hole … but it’s true.

I love them.

I love their partners.

I love their multitude of animals.

But most of all, I love they’re in my life.

How’s that for a Monday post then eh?!

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