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


Beware Of The Quiet Ones …

Once upon a time, I worked with a guy called Kim Papworth.

He was the co-ECD of Wieden London at the time, with the irrepressible Tony Davidson.

Now I am sure Tony wouldn’t mind me saying this, but he has a reputation as a bit of a madman.

Brilliantly creative.

Deliciously stubborn.

Fiercely challenging.

And slightly bonkers.

OK, so in their early days – when they were at BMP and BBH – this ‘unique’ reputation was allegedly shared … however as time went by, Kim started being seen by many people as ‘the nice one’.

While they are both ace, I get why.

Where Tony is loud, Kim is quiet.

Where Tony is chaos, Kim is clarity.

Where Tony is intense, Kim is calm.

Where Tony is random, Kim is considered.

Let me be clear, Tony was – and is – amazing and has always been so good to me, however many viewed Kim as the more approachable of the two … the one you could reason with … the one you could chat to … the one you could have a debate with and it’s this that was his most powerful move.

You see Kim … wonderful, kind, compassionate Kim … is steely as fuck.

Sure he doesn’t shout or rant or gesticulate or throw tantrums.

Sure he doesn’t swear or throw toys out the pram or act aloof.

But he was stubborn as fuck about letting the work win.

He wouldn’t let ideas be killed on an individuals whim.

He wouldn’t let ideas be changed to satisfy personal ego.

He wouldn’t let ideas be diluted to appease a committee.

He wouldn’t let ideas be burdened by politics or agenda.

He wouldn’t let ideas be sold short by timelines or small mindedness.

He wouldn’t let anything win other than the purity of the idea.

I once watched him keep a campaign on the table after a client had spent 30 minutes saying it was wrong and they hated it. Better yet, he did it in a way where the client was OK with him doing it.

He didn’t bully, lie or manipulate to get his way.

He did it by listening.

Intently.

Then he slowly but methodically went through each of their issues and talked about the options he saw to solve them … always ensuring they elevated the idea he believed in rather than diluting it.

It was – quite simply – one of the most amazing pieces of creative negotiation I’ve ever seen.

Actually, negotiation is the wrong word.

Because it was never about dumbing down the idea to keep a version of it, it was always about solving the problems the clients had but in ways that ensured the idea would be able to shine.

[The photo at the end of this post is from that meeting, where Kim awkwardly humoured me and my demands to commemorate the moment of magic]

While Kim was – and is – a brilliant, brilliant creative, one of his greatest skills was the art of listening, because he always saw it as ammunition that allowed him to keep ideas safe.

While there are others that practice this – including a bunch at Colenso for example – a huge amount of the industry simply hears stuff.

Listening and hearing are very different.

Listening is understanding.

Not just the words, but the context and the details.

But hearing …

Well, hearing is simply about sound and that’s why we often end up with divisions.

A battle between ‘what I want’ and ‘what you want’.

A war between creativity and client.

No one wins.

Sure, someone may in the short-term, but not long.

That doesn’t mean you can’t disagree or debate … nor does it mean you will always succeed in convincing someone to change their mind … but listening increases the odds.

It ensures the other party feels they have been understood.
It ensures your response is efficient and focused on the issue.
It ensures you are keeping the work on the table for as long as possible.

[And if he feels the demands being asked of the work undermine the power of the work, he’d just take it off the table and we would start again. And I believe in that to this day]

I have had the great pleasure of working with a whole host of brilliantly talented creative people.

People in adland, music, fashion, gaming and sport.

But the ones I find the most fascinating are the ones like Kim.

Who have the ability to feel like velvet, even when their focus is forged in iron.

Not because of manipulation, deceit or trickery.

But because they know, nothing is as forceful as the power of listening.



Driven To The Edge Of Hope …

Years ago, at Wieden, we pitched for Porsche.

Actually we pitched twice and lost both.

Then we pitched for them at R/GA and lost that.

Which means I am the Porsche problem.

Makes sense …

Anyway, the first time we pitched, Sam – one of the creatives, along with Ryan – wrote the best positioning line I’ve ever read.

I can’t say was it was because I don’t want someone to steal his work, but it was one of those moments where you go, “Fuck me, that’s amazing”.

It was so good it conflicted Porsche.

They didn’t like our work at all but wanted to give us the business because of the power of the line. Then ‘international politics’ got in the way and we got told to take a hike.

Or a drive.

Though I acknowledge that I probably didn’t help matters by asking them why they sponsored golf when that was the antithesis of what Porsche were about. Hahahaha.

Anyway, as part of the campaign, Sam wrote a line in the TV script that I also thought was wonderful.

One I am OK with sharing because it isn’t sooooo specific to Porsche. It was …

“Ribbons of road draped over highlands”

God I love it.

I love it so much.

It’s so bloody evocative and – for me – captures the perfect balance between the quiet determination of nature surrounding a thin line of tarmac that has been gently placed over it and the loud performance of a car that’s hurtling along it at breakneck speed.

Torturing and teasing each other.

Both trying to dominate.

A game of cat and mouse.

The fine line between respect and ridicule.

I say all this because I recently came across a picture of a road that I feel this was written for,

Where we were writing for China, this road is in America – California to be more precise – but it is perfect all the same.

Which is why if someone at Porsche reads this and wants to get their brand back to the stature it once had – rather than this ‘fast luxury’ superficialness that it currently seems happy to communicate … let me know, because have Sam, Ryan and I got a brand idea for you.



Moments Where Time Never Moves On …
September 10, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Family, Love, Loyalty

I’ve talked about this in the past.

How when a terrible event happens, everyone rallies around you.

How they give you comfort and love for the worst time of your life.

But the next day, it changes.

Not because they’re mean or unkind or unthoughtful … it’s just they have their own issues and situations to deal with.

But for you, you are alone.

Floating in the wilderness.

More isolated than you were before.

Caught in the no mans land between pain and grief.

Numb and confused.

Yes it gets better. But it doesn’t go away. And on the anniversary, it all comes rushing back.

Nothing captures this like a story I read recently in The Atlantic.

Tragedy. Love. Conspiracy. Hope. Despair. Loneliness.

It had it all, but never expressed with hyperbole or exaggeration. Just raw feelings of confusion, loss and guilt – interspersed with a desire to be angry at someone … anyone … to try and make sense of the impossible.

It’s one of the most powerful things I’ve read about that fateful day on September 11th 2001.

Everyone should read it.

To understand what tens of thousands of people try to understand and deal with every single day.

Which is my way of saying that while tomorrow there will be tens of thousands of people all around the world feeling like the worst memory of their life is being thrust back into their present, I am thinking of you … Dave, David and Andy.

Big hugs. Bigger love.
_________________________________________________

No comments please. This is for them.



Crime Doesn’t Pay …
September 9, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Comment, Culture, New Zealand, Police

I passed my driving test in 1987.

NINETEEN EIGHTY SEVEN.

And while there were 25 years where I basically didn’t drive – except when I popped back to England to see Mum from living in Asia – the reality is that while I got the odd parking ticket and got stopped by the odd breathalyser check, I only got 1 speeding ticket in all that time.

In 1991.

And while I bought cars in America and the UK, that single speeding ticket was maintained.

Then I moved to New Zealand.

Despite being here 6 months, I’ve managed to ‘achieve’ the following.

2 x parking tickets.

2 x breathalyser checks.

2 x speeding tickets.

1 x road tax sticker error.

And – last week – I received the ticket for the icing on the cake of my fucked-up, stupid day … where I was caught holding my mobile at a red traffic light while a Police Car was next to me with the police officer staring right at me while I was doing it. [See above]

And while I am guilty of ALL these things, the thing that surprises me is that I’m a much safer … much more conservative and considerate driver than I ever was as a teen.

Which highlights 3 things.

1. I obviously have my mothers Italian genes in my driving style.

2. I am even more amazed I passed my US driving test first time.

3. I now understand why there’s so many episodes of NZ Traffic Police show, Highway Cops.



How Some People Try To Prove Effectiveness …

And please note – unlike someone who commented when I posted this photo on insta – I know Pluto isn’t a planet which is why it has ‘disqualified’ on it. That said, having judged a bunch of awards recently, and seen what some think qualifies as worthy, then the Pluto commentator is already miles ahead of many in terms of what is valid and what is dodgy. Happy Wednesday.