Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Fan is Forever

Sport touches everyone. A recent study I read about on sports and happiness says that having a winning NFL football team boosts the wallets of a city's inhabitants by a full $120, making harder workers and bigger spenders, while increasing happiness and self confidence. Even if your team is not winning, sports fans remain dedicated, sometimes even obsessed. This is because following a team is a pure example of an emotional connection; an experience that is part frustrating and part exquisite pride and happiness. We all love the feeling of community, the emotional tug on the heart-strings, the hope that maybe, just maybe, this will be the year.

It's a dream of hope that springs eternal! As a fan, what you experience is Loyalty Beyond Reason, and as a Manchester City fan I know exactly what this means! What truly matters in the end is performing, not simply winning.

Last week I gave a keynote address to the big players in the US sports world at the Relay Sports Symposium in New York. Most of the conference involved investigating the relationship between sponsor and team (or club). I wanted to focus on the connection that irrevocably binds fan, team and sponsor, so I gave the sports nuts seven ideas to build Loyalty Beyond Reason around a sports team. These are ideas that can grow value for one and all: fans, brand marketers, sponsors, managers and boards.

1. Share a dream. One Team, One Dream. Sponsor, owner, player and fan. A mission isn't going to light up the ball park. Feel like a family, play like a team.

2. Connect with emotion. Ditch rational-based marketing and move people to your cause.

3. Move from Irreplaceable brands to Irresistible. Lovemarks.

4. Check in with reality. Do you just want to be respected, or loved and respected?

5. Use Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy, the three secrets.

6. Seal it with Sisomo. Hand your brand over to fans and connect with the family of screens. They'll take good care of it!

7. Perform at Peak. Create the conditions for Flow. Just like the best sports people, find the zone where passion and harmony put you at your best.

Once you've got Loyalty Beyond Reason, you're all fans. The great thing about fans is that they all face the same way and dream the same dream. Turn that group into a winning team and scientists and economists say it's worth $120 each and bundles of happiness, which is priceless. Which all confirms what husbands have always known and wives have feared for years. Watching sport is good for you!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rugby Reaching Out for the Olympics

Last month the International Rugby Board attended the Beijing Olympics as an IOC recognized sports federation. This was as part of the ongoing proactive campaign to have rugby re-admitted into the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games, the world’s largest sporting stage, can provide the stimulus for the continued global development and growth of the game and its development in new and major economic markets.

As a key element of the campaign, the IRB has launched this short promotional film. Titled ‘Reaching Out’, the film showcases rugby’s compelling case for Olympic re-inclusion.


Wile Away the Hours

Three easy watching movies I’ve enjoyed lately in the air.

It is definitely going to be Hugh Jackman’s year. He’s set to star in Baz Luhrmann's epic Australia, which I hope will do for Australian tourism what Lord of the Rings did for New Zealand. (And anyone in their right mind visiting Australia will tag on a week in New Zealand.)

In Deception, Hugh Jackman has bulked up to play a raunchy, sensual, evilly attractive guy that I believe women will find irresistible. He stars opposite Ewan McGregor who really extends his range brilliantly. The movie is smart, cool, trendy and set in my stomping ground of New York. One scene even takes place in the Soho Grand. It’s clever, fast paced, sexy, intriguing, dark and totally contemporary. The penultimate scene is fantastic and, as so often is the case, the final scene pathetic. Almost certainly a victim of consumer research.

Flawless is a small movie that’s well worth watching. It’s set in 60's London and is a beautiful slow moving period piece of the times. The fashions are terrific and the social mores are beautifully captured. Michael Caine is terrific as an old cleaner and Demi Moore plays outside her range too. It’s a story is well told and well paced.

In similar vein is The Bank Job, which is based on a true story of the 60’s. It’s set around a royal scandal of the time involving Princess Margaret who was Princess Diana’s predecessor in the publicity stakes. I remember the story so well, and here it is terrifically played out and recaptured. The movie stars Jason Statham and, at first it has the feel of a 'slam bam, thank you mam' bank heist, but it turns out to be much more fun than that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Loving Manawa

Moana Maniapoto has been described by US magazine, The Beat, as a “truly inspiring performing and recording artist”. She has consistently pushed the boundaries of Maori music in both her recordings and live performances, fusing taonga puoro, haka, chants with soul, reggae and classical music “to produce her own blend of traditional and contemporary styles without compromising either.

Moana draws on her identity as a Maori woman to write songs that still manage to resonate with global audiences. She is the recipient of the New Zealand Order of Merit, a Life Time Recipient of the Toi Iho Maori Made Mark and received the 2005 Te Tohu Mahi Hou a Te Waka Toi Award from Te Waka (Creative New Zealand), in recognition of outstanding leadership and contribution to the development of new directions in Maori art.

Moana and Toby are good friends of ours and have recently become parents to a beautiful daughter, Manawanui. Here's Moana's story...

Some people live life as if they are long distance runners. They pace themselves, keep to an even keel and move steadily towards the final flag.

Then there are the sprinters; the rock-stars of track and field. They spring out of the blocks and go hell-for-leather in a short furious explosion that leaves them gasping for air.

Finally, there are the rest of us.

We are in no shape for competition. We have no strategy and diddly-squat experience. We wing it on passion and adrenaline. We find ourselves propelled towards the finishing line when we didn’t even know we were still in the race.

That’s how I felt about getting pregnant in my mid 40s.

My son was about to turn 18 in October. I was due to give birth to a baby girl on October 24. This would be a first child for my partner Toby. I’d just wrapped up a month long tour of Europe with my band Moana & the Tribe and was easing myself out of circulation. In fact, I was feeling a Dalai Lama moment coming on. The next 10 weeks would provide me with a rare opportunity to think and focus on a bit of creative and strategic planning.

Yeah right.

At 30 weeks, our baby had other ideas. I was admitted to hospital in the hope that they could hold back the birth. At 30 weeks, the lungs are the most at risk. So I was given steroids to strengthen the baby's lungs. I was resigned to simply lying around in a hospital bed and being waited on hand and foot.

So far, so good. Except for the small matter of my impending gig. Naturally, thinking it was 'all about me', I talked about canceling.

“The show must go on,” my backing vocalists said.

“Er,” said I. “Without me? Without the lead singer?!”

“Yep,” chorused Amiria and Trina. “We'll do your bits!

“Right. Okay. Choice.” I think they even said “No sweat”.

Off they went to the gig. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall watching them break the news to the boys in the band that it was now The Tribe. Forget the Moana bit...

So off I went to star in my OWN show.

The pills they gave me to keep things at bay? Didn't work. The Panadol to help with the pain of contractions? Didn’t even touch the sides. And life didn't get any better when a doctor arrived with her huge torch (think big yellow thing appropriate for caving expedition), then yelled “Oh my god, I can see the head!” and took off behind the curtains.

Great. The doctor's having a meltdown, I thought.

Next minute, I am hurtling down the corridor, propelled into the walls - thank you very much - and having to listen to the nurse and receptionist argue over whether the theatre and ‘SWAT team’ will be ready in time. I was in the theatre for 30 minutes. Things were so speedy my midwife missed it and my partner Toby made it by 15 minutes. Just 5 minutes behind my specialist. Talk about a last minute dash!

Our tiny girl weighed in at 3lb 2oz. She is so small!

Manawa spent the first few days of her life hooked up to a whole bunch of drips and wires - which she would try to pull off. If you have never seen a doctor try to insert a needle into the vein of a hand that tiny, you are lucky. It's also hard not to have a meltdown when the monitor alarms that your baby is hooked up to, ring.

“What's happening there?” I'd ask.

“She's stopped breathing,” the nurses would reply.

“Excuse me??!!”

“It's normal in premature babies - don't worry about it,” the nurse would say. “We give them a bit of time to snap out of it and self correct. If they're too slow, we just give them a little shake and off they go again.”

Right. Good to know.

Having said all that, I'm pleased to report that Miss Manawa is feisty and getting fitter each day. In fact, we ended up calling her Manawanui (Manawa means ‘heart’, Nui means ‘big’). She’s on a serious carbo-loading diet at the moment and learning to regulate her own temperature. We expect her to be in hospital until she is at 38 weeks - and that’s okay with us. These tiny babies require extra special care. I can say that the nurses and staff up at NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Auckland Hospital) are just simply awesome.

Of course, you barely get 48 hours in a hospital after giving birth, despite delivering a premature baby that needs intensive 24 hour care. I was turfed out pretty quickly. It didn't help that my bounce back time was so quick. Trina reckoned I was too much like Angelina Jolie. I needed to look a bit more tragic and pathetic to catch a sympathy vote. Toby has Manawanui’s life worked out. At puberty, he insists we will be ‘moving to a remote area of Scotland where a panic room will be installed and our daughter will be locked up and kept out of sight from boys’. Glad he is thinking ahead.

Miss Manawa leads the newest members of Moana & the Tribe. These include Te Ahu (daughter of haka man Te Hira) and Kurawaka (daughter of haka man Scottie). These girls are Leos, born during the Olympic Games. All babies will be issued with passports and baby tees inscribed 'Roadie in Training'.

When Manawa is well enough, we will be having a Homecoming Party for her. We will toast to her warrior spirit with that beautiful big bottle of Boizel that Ro and Kevin sent to us. Thank you both so much!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Viva Italia

I love Italy and all things Italian. As the family becomes more and more interlinked with Italy, first through my dearest friend, Paolo Ettorre, and now through daughter-in-law, Clarissa, and granddaughter, Stella, I have an increasing bond for the country and their people. I love their design, their flair, their cars (from Fiat to Ferrari), their hotels (Bulgari and Hotel de Russie), their food, their wines (especially Brunello’s, Barolo’s and Super Tuscan’s), their football teams (Inter Milan and Juventus) and their rugby development. I love Benetton and Fabrica, Renzo Rosso and Diesel, and my two new watches from Giuliano Mazzuoli.

But what on earth is the country doing to itself? A decade ago it was the number one tourist destination in the world. Now it’s number five and is haunted by the specter of organized crime, tons of rubbish on the streets of Naples (now at least gone), terrible customer service, ridiculously high, rip-off tourist prices and a great name like Alitalia - the gateway to the nation - suffering so badly.

There are some bright points, such as Milan being awarded the Expo 2015 through the superb efforts and vision of Letizia Moratti and her team. With the Expo’s sustainability theme, this is worth its weight in gold for Italy.

Many of the regions are working hard on tourism but the national campaign is nonexistent. I believe the country needs to invest massively in a new logo, promise and campaign, and back it up with a revamped airline.

I’m excited by the appointment of Matteo Marzotto to president of the Italian Government Tourist Board. Matteo strikes me as the guy for the job. With his cultivated but down-to-earth style, empathy, radical optimism and leadership experience in the luxury sector, Matteo represents the future of Italy.

A call to the nation to lift the customer service levels and to rally around the country for the benefit of all should be communicated loud and clear. Otherwise Mediterranean neighbors with emerging economies, such as Croatia, will continue to eat Italy’s tourist lunch.


My granddaughter Stella can’t talk yet (although I’m convinced she can understand every word I say) but she got me to thinking about the huge information gap there is between generations. As impossible as it seems, I can now talk to young people who look blank if I mention The Beatles. They’ve heard the name but only in the same way I knew about someone like Bing Crosby when I was their age. A little nugget of information but no connection, and of course it’s connections and emotions that make meanings and memories. This gap can deeply affect how we do business – and I’m not just talking about ageism and everyone in advertising being under 35.

The experience of Kate Roberts (above left, no relation, but a member of the Saatchi & Saatchi family from the 1990s when she worked for our Russian and Romanian agencies) has some useful insight into this generation gap. One of Kate's many exploits was being kidnapped in Moscow, but today her life is a little more sedate. She is the driving force of the AIDS organization YouthAIDS and works to increase understanding and awareness of AIDS and its continuing impact. This is making the world a better place in a big way.

Kate Roberts once made a point that made me sit up. She was talking about how difficult it is to keep the AIDS message fresh with brand new audiences year after year. As she notes, young people today didn’t see “the shocking images of Freddie Mercury or Rock Hudson dying, or those really scary in-your-face, aggressive public service announcements”. Her job? To make AIDS personal and relevant again, and to make that message sustainable. How does she do it? She goes beyond repetition and connects with emotion. Each kid needs to hear messages of both hope and warning that older folk have heard time and time again. Kate’s been at it since 1999 when she experienced first hand the terrible cost of AIDS in South Africa. Funeral after funeral. Families destroyed. These were the stories that inspired her to take action.

Let’s hope there are other teenage Kates out there prepared to take on the challenge, connect across generations and help create a better world for all of us to live in.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Murray Mexted: For the Love of the Game

The reason I love rugby is because it is passion personified. Raw passion that is then shaped and honed so that it inspires a winning performance every time. Like so many compelling sports, rugby thrives on paradox: fusing extraordinary individual talents into a seamless whole. Not easy. Transforming rugged individualists into a family that looks after one another, acts in unison and is willing to pass the ball even when every nerve calls out to run, has got to be one of the great people challenges. My friend Murray Mexted, a 34-test All Black legend and one of the greatest players ever to wear the number 8 jersey, has never been shy about challenges. For proof simply look to the International Rugby Association of New Zealand (IRANZ).

Mex set up this world-class training program around six years ago and today it is a leader in creating top-performing players. To be part of one of Mex’s academies for coaches and players is to be dropped into a furnace of high expectations, passionate encouragement, more rugby knowledge than any one person could handle, and access to rugby legends from the past and present. IRANZ demonstrates yet again how devoted individual All Blacks are to the game and its future. If there is a senior player who has refused to help out at a Mexted course, Mex has never mentioned it to me. The blood truly runs black and runs forever.

One of the features of Mex’s approach is to keep the training specific to positions. You want to be next year’s best first-five eight? Then you need training with Grant Fox. At IRANZ, Grant Fox or one of the other great All Black first-fives is who you’re likely to get. It’s all about focus. Focus on position, on achievement and on commitment to playing the game at its highest level.

I’ll have more to say soon about Mex and how I believe IRANZ is helping to shape the future of rugby.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Peru: Part 2

Well, I made it in and out of Peru this time. The trip didn’t start too well when I was on exactly the same airplane, courtesy of American Airlines, that didn’t make it last time. Yes, it was the same flight with the same equipment, and they still hadn’t repaired seat 3A.

Anyway, all went well and once again the Miraflores Park put on a great show. This is one of the Orient-Express Hotels and they are totally service focused. A great bar (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde), a great fish restaurant, good spa and brilliant customer service. In Peru, the service mentality is their greatest secret weapon. They really care about delivery.

The next morning passed in an array of video and media interviews which were characterized by unusual, emotional and passionate questioning from the journalists concerned. Journalism is a young, honorable profession in Peru and attracts smart, curious, educated, lively people. In my experience they all share one thing, they are optimistic and positive. We could do with bringing some of them into New Zealand and the UK.

After the media session, the Dean and Faculty leadership of Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas hosted a wonderful lunch at one of those quirky, irresistible restaurants that crop up from time to time. When it comes to serving people, Andy at The Jumble Room in Grasmere beats the field, but let me tell you the team at El Pescado Capital are cut from the same cloth. Pescado means fish in Spanish and is very close to Pecado, which means sin. The restaurant picks up on this and is themed Capital Fishes or Capital Sins. The whole menu takes you through every sin you can think of and puts up a meal against each one. It’s a great psychological game to figure out what you are going to order. One of your own sins, one you’ve never tried, one you’d like to try? I was introduced to the owner of the place who gave me a copy of the menu which I’ll put at the end of this post.

Food in Peru is fantastic and the whole culinary experience is taking off there. They have chefs all over the world, including a new place opening at The Mayfair in London. The ingredients are fresh, healthy and extremely tasty. The nation that gave you ceviche is probably one of the hottest areas in the world right now for foodies.

We were joined at lunch by one of Peru’s hottest creatives, Gustavo Rodriguez (ex Saatchi & Saatchi) now running his own agency Toronja (grapefruit). Also at the table was the president of our Peruvian agency, Raul Rachitoff, the lovely and brilliant Ximena Vega, Hernan Campos and Catherine Nettleton, the British Ambassador. Catherine is an optimistic, constructive, positive, focused diplomat of the new breed. From Yorkshire stock, schooled in Manchester, she was great company. Catherine is an experienced ex China hand and was a real breath of fresh air. The diplomatic service needs more of her kind.

After lunch I went to the University where I was privileged to receive an Honorary Professorship. The ceremony was formal, traditional, historic and moving. Ursula and Luis spoke in glowing terms and I’m afraid I threw away my prepared speech. The mood, the connectivity and the positive emotion was so great that I simply addressed the room from the heart. Not sure this is de rigeur on formal occasions, but luckily humanity prevailed and everyone was very complimentary and supportive. It’s an amazing world that a working class Lancastrian who got kicked out of school at 17 can receive an Honorary Professorship from a university in Lima, Peru. What a wonderful world we live in. Thank you Enrique Lizarzaburu for making the impossible possible.

Menu from El Pescado Capital

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Brand Auckland

Auckland has been my home for almost 20 years and is the place around which I’m building my future. I spend most of my year travelling the world but Auckland is the place where I generate my best ideas, in the lush beauty of the native bush that surrounds my home. Each year I bring a bunch of Saatchi & Saatchi people from around the globe to Auckland to brainstorm the future of our business, our industry, our world.

There is a youthful energy here that crackles with possibility. We have a world-class university and the mix of Pacific, European and Asian cultures excites me about the type of hybrid community we are creating here. The sort of new music and film we’re creating from local Auckland stories – north, south, east and west – show off this youthful energy to the world. And of course I’m fired up about the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the third largest sporting event on the planet. I was asked once what my favourite walk is, and I replied the one from my home in Portland Road to Eden Park on test match day. I’ve got October 2011 blocked out in my diary. Auckland will be in the spotlight like never before.

There’s a song by the Bee Gees called “Islands in the Stream” that could have been written about Auckland. My favourite journey is the Air New Zealand flight from LA to Auckland, you get in at 5am and as soon as you’re out of the airport you get bathed in this incredible salty sea spray. That’s the smell that tells me I’m home. I was involved in several America’s Cup campaigns and my belief is that Auckland is one of the great nautical cities of the world. Being close to a blue ocean – not a grey one, not a brown one, but a True Blue one, is one of the most refreshing experiences in life.

I’m fired up by the work Brand Auckland is launching to tell our story to the world. I love the idea of “Spirited Progress” – you won’t find this in the middle of Europe or America! It’s the vibrant fusion of cultures, fresh influences, and diverse point of view that make Auckland, our place, such a dynamic ever-growing region that people just want to be part of. I love the sense that this is a place on the rise, a place that is still being built, a story waiting to get out, but sure about what it’s spirit is. It’s incredibly important that cities, as well as countries, have a strong brand story to promote to the world.

There are something like 300 cities in the world that have a population of a million people or more. It’s an ultra competitive world. Regions and cities are competing on innovation, taste and style, experiences. Auckland has all these things but with one essential differentiator. My metaphor for New Zealand is “the world’s edge”. All new stuff comes from the margins. So if Wellington is the capital of New Zealand, then Auckland is the capital of the world’s edge. This is a great place to be.

Auckland is a city so full of possibility - big enough to let you live to your potential, yet young enough to let you make your mark. In Auckland there’s a real sense that we’re always looking to move forward…whilst always retaining Kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of our land, our roots and our heritage. More than simply a campaign, Brand Auckland have issued a call to action – an appeal to Aucklanders to deliver on the brand promise of “Spirited Progress”, to truly live the message, and to tell the world about it.

Let’s get on with it!!!

ps: I know it's not protocol to customize a company's logo, especially when it has just been launched, but I couldn't resist adding a Lovemarks touch to Brand Auckland. Some bloke once said "Lovemarks are not owned by the company but by the people who love them..." and I've taken his message to heart...KR

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Peru Part 1 : Incognito and Bulletproof

As I write this I’m on my way to Lima, Peru, and then Mexico City. I’m on the same flight, courtesy of American Airlines, that took me to Ecuador instead of Peru last year. So fingers crossed I actually make it this time.

I was reading Tyler Brûlé's excellent Monocle this morning and was somewhat interested in his update on kidnapping activity. 48% of kidnapping worldwide takes place in Latin America with the majority in Colombia, which unless American Airlines divert me again, I’ll be avoiding. There were 521 kidnappings there last year, down from 3,500 in 2000.

Actually, the majority of kidnappings take place in Mexico. I must have misread this - a Freudian slip since I’m heading to Mexico City for the third or fourth time this year. In 2007, there were 547 kidnappings there with 1 in 7 ending up dead. In Colombia they only kill 1 in 26.

Third in the kidnapping stakes is Venezuela with around 350 per year.

Many CEOs go into these places with personal security, bodyguards and bulletproof cars. One or two even go with lightweight bulletproof vests. Miguel Caballero in Bogota, Colombia, has cornered the market in this area. He has an array of tweed jackets and tropical shirts with the bestseller being a bulletproof black leather jacket that adds 1.2 kilos to you. Caballero is the "Armani" of bulletproof casual wear, dressing Hollywood A-listers, Heads of State, US rappers, and CEOs.

I suspect a burgeoning market also exists in Russia.

My approach is completely different. I go into these places low key, low profile, jeans and t-shirt. Avoidance rather than confrontation.

So far it’s worked.

Fingers crossed!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Three Boys and Their Toys

Piotr Jakubowski, a regular commenter on KRConnect, sent me an email with a run down on why the British TV show Top Gear is one of his Lovemarks. A graduate of Drake University with a BSBA in Marketing and a BA in Advertising, Piotr was an account management intern at Saatchi & Saatchi New York last summer. He’s also worked in market research and creative positions in Japan and Indonesia and is a talented photographer. Top Gear has already been nominated on Lovemarks.com but, as this report is a little longer, I thought you might enjoy reading it here. KR

The Top Gear trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May are presenters that entertain millions worldwide. Now entering their eleventh season, the show has slowly taken the hearts of viewers. It has already developed a large following in Europe and is on course for broadcast as Australian and America versions.

So what is it that draws millions of viewers for a full hour of speed, horsepower and the most interesting combination of dry British humor? Whether it’s vicariously driving ridiculously expensive cars on the test track, experiencing the quests across America, Africa and the English Channel, or putting Simon Cowell on the spot for the type of cars he drives, one thing is certain: Top Gear is a Lovemark.

The Production – Pure Sensuality
Starting with the photography and music score, the show is a delight for the senses. Director Brian Klein has given his all since Episode 1, incorporating fast-paced action shots that add even more speed to the incredibly fast cars. Paired with a great selection of music, segments of the show captivate audiences with the raw sights and sounds of the multi-million dollar machines in action.

The Stig – Mr Mystery
One aspect of the show is shrouded in a cloak of mystery - The Stig, Top Gear’s anonymous race track driver. By making allusions to the driver’s identity such as, “some say he is afraid of ducks”, the presenters continue to develop the story throughout the seasons. Partnered with the absurd genres of music he or she “listens to” while test driving cars at break-neck speeds, The Stig’s mannerisms and cameos factor a humorous aspect of entertainment to testing cars.

Raw Humor - A Special Kind of Intimacy
Humor in Top Gear is often the source of controversy, but it is British humor, intertwined with automotive jargon, that provides the glue that holds the show together. Clarkson, Hammond and May’s personalities and their passion for motor sports create a sense of intimacy that allows viewers to truly enjoy and appreciate the featured automotive marvels.

Since its re-launch in 2002, the British version of Top Gear has snowballed into one of the most successful television shows in the world, winning Emmys and BAFTAs. With a following in the hundreds of millions, the Top Gear brand has truly reflected the spirit of a Lovemark. Without the brilliance of Clarkson, Hammond and May’s performance, the U.S. and Australian versions of Top Gear will have truly large shoes to fill.

China Fan

This is the first of a series of top of the week posts on what I am going to call Sustainability Monday.

I wrote it in the Lovemarks book and I’ll repeat it anytime I’m asked, “I’m a huge China fan”. This love affair started way back in 1990. I was COO of Lion Nathan and we built the most advanced brewing operation in China at Suzhou. I got an amazing master class in making stuff happen when it seems impossible. China is such a moving target that even back then one hundred days seemed a lifetime. You simply had to be bold, fast and imaginative. To fail fast and fail cheap, then to learn fast and fix fast. There was no other option. Little did we know that China was on the fastest acceleration track the world has ever known. My China connections grew even deeper when I joined Saatchi & Saatchi. By then the agency had been in China for more than 20 years, and we’ve kept our leading edge.

I love China’s restlessness and energy, ambition and mystery. The Olympic Games marked an amazing moment in the history of China and the Olympics itself. Yes, there was the extraordinary architecture with the iconic names (will anyone ever call the Bird’s Nest the National Stadium?), the drama of competition and victory, and the sheer joy of the people of China. Under the intense spotlight we also saw controversy, protests and pressure. I believe that 2008 was the right Olympics for China to host. I’m for inclusion. Opening doors, not closing them. Inspiring people to do better, not berating them for their efforts. China has come such a long way.

I guess when you attract the eyes of the world through an event like the Olympics you can expect criticism, but I don’t think you have to take the blame for the world’s environmental problems. There seems to be a strange blindness abroad, bred, I think, by fear. Many commentators seem to be less concerned about the impact of private vehicles today than about what happens when more Chinese get on the roads. Today, California alone consumes more fuel than China does and has increased its consumption by a massive 50 percent over the last 20 years. While it looks as though China’s 1.3 billion people will equal the consumption of California’s 37 million by the end of this year, they are still way down the list.

Anyone who flies as much as I do is conscious of the looming banks of brown air that spill off the coast of China. To fly across this vast country is to face a visual reminder of the challenges ahead. But we are in this together. All of us are better than some of us. It is time to stop the blame game with China as well as other fast emerging economies like Russia, Brazil and India. Telling people what they are doing wrong never gets the same results as encouraging them in what they are doing right. It’s time we started taking that approach with China.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

La Rentrée

I love France. My first visit was when I was 14 and I played rugby for a while in a town in the Pyrénées called Perpignan. I now work for a French company, Publicis, headquartered on the Champs Elysées next to the Arc de Triomphe, and I still believe Paris is one of the great 5 cities in the world. My love of France is also why I bought a house in St. Tropez and why I’m a big fan of French Rugby, French wines, French cheeses, French Cuisine (by far my favorite), and French philosophers.

However, as much as I love it, it is not always easy to get things done in France, particularly in August when the whole country takes off for summer holiday. For a start, Paris becomes a ghost town and I know, to my own pain, it is impossible to see a surgeon during that period. But now August is over and we have La Rentrée, the new school year; the new beginning. In France La Rentrée is similar to January 1 in the US. It’s a time for resolutions, new commitments, new beginnings. Elle magazine writes that “the French are like eternal children that return to school every year.” That may be true, however, based on my observations this year it seems gloomy, despondent and pessimistic. Generally the weather was pretty poor in August and French people are certainly at their best when the sun is on their backs. I hope politically, emotionally, and socially the country can lift itself out of this gloom quickly. Europe needs an optimistic France, France needs major reform, and I need a good mood from all my French colleagues to help us get through the next 6-9 months of continued economic difficulty.

President Sarkozy will be in New York next month to be honored by the Marion and Elie Wiesel Foundation where my boss and inspirational partner, Maurice Levy, was honored last year. I hope Sarkozy (and, of course, Carla) succeeds in getting France refocused and reenergized because the world needs his leadership.

But tell me this. Everywhere in the world the Publishing Industry keeps all their blockbusters for April/May and hammers them all out just before summer which is a peak reading period. In France there is a cascade of new books waiting to launch this week. Only French logic would determine the peak season for new books is when people return from vacation, go back to work and have less time to read. You’ve got to love them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A job for the future

A couple of days ago I came across a list of what are supposed to be must-grab careers of the future. We’re talking Computational Biology, Simulation Engineering, Genetic Counseling and Space Tourism. Sounds more like research areas to me than ideas to inspire a life’s work. Next to each career was a salary range and they didn’t exactly knock my socks off either. I’ve always found that when you look at great careers, you’re looking at people who are after experience ahead of money. In fact, I recall seeing a study showing that most workers would go for praise and appreciation ahead of a modest rise in salary. So what are the hot careers for the future which will win you praise, love, inspiration and the lifestyle of your dreams?

Storyteller. Let’s start simple. The ability to tell stories has been admired since humans first gathered round a campfire. Now, with cultures merging and technology connecting everybody with anybody, storytelling will become even more highly sought after. Not everyone can do it well, but we all have a spark of the storyteller in us and it’s a skill to nurture. Where storyteller merges into mythmaker, that’s where the future lies.

Creative Connector. I’m not sure whether this will be a specific job description or simply something everyone is going to have to be great at doing. Connecting people with people, ideas with ideas, images with images, insight with foresight...you get the picture. And as sustainability comes roaring in, we’ll be stretching connections in all directions in that amazing dance known as the Power of Paradox.

Paradox Player. These are the people who will have to take creative connections to the limit – and then some. They’ll have left Either/Or thinking well behind and emerged as the magicians of And/And. They will know how to move slowly, carefully and take big leaps at the right time; they will grow businesses steadily and remain paranoid; they’ll keep it simple and complex.

Sisomo Magician. Back in the day they were creatives, directors, designers and so on. In the future we’ll cut to the chase and focus on what connects them rather than divides them. Sisomo. Sight, Sound and Motion on screen. Any screen, from tiny wrist screens to giant outdoor displays. Whatever you want these magicians will deliver with attitude, skill and imagination.

Professional Optimist. One of the great business tools is as old as the hills and twice as useful. I’m talking about SWOT. The simple system where you look at the future in terms of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. I’m always on the opportunity side of the chart using threats and weaknesses as a pivot to new strengths. Optimists have always been rare, but never have we needed them so badly for inspiration, for insight and for a perspective that looks up at the horizon rather than down into the abyss.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Telecom New Zealand

Last week I accepted a proposal from Wayne Boyd and the New Zealand board to join the Board of Telecom New Zealand, New Zealand’s largest company. I’ve been interested in joining a corporate board for some time but wanted to serve somewhere I could make a difference. I was looking for somewhere I could leverage my own skill set on behalf of the company, somewhere I could learn new things, somewhere I could contribute to New Zealand, and importantly, somewhere I could work with a new team in a different industry. Telecom New Zealand fits the bill on all counts. Telecommunications is vital to our society’s growth and to making the world a better place, and Telecom New Zealand is vital to the continued growth of all New Zealanders. I’ve worked closely with the company for over a decade, with Saatchi & Saatchi being fortunate enough to have been its advertising partner for many years. Former CEO, Theresa Gattung, was a terrific marketer and remains a close friend. Her successor, Paul Reynolds from British Telecom, is leading transformational challenges as the company ups its competitive, consumer and customer focus. I’m pretty excited about the whole thing.

Vital information

Who amongst us has never unleashed some trivia at unsuspecting friends or family members? Tom Nuttall is publishing a book on September 4 and it is packed with such trivia highlights (or low lights) as:

1. Humans share 35% of their DNA with daffodils (I know some of these people)
2. Britons eat 97% of the world’s baked beans (my son Danis is fighting his corner)
3. The average British woman spends 2 years of her life gazing in the mirror (don’t ask me what this number is for Californians)
4. Women are estimated to buy 80% of everything sold (the other 20% comes from a list given to men by women)
5. Hitler was on the shortlist for the 1938 Nobel Peace Prize (so there’s hope yet for G. W. Bush)
6. Two-thirds of Britons live within 5 miles of where they were born and raised (a miserable thought if you were born in Slough)
7. 70% of Land Rovers, first built in 1948, are still on the road (not too smart for used car sales, and not the model that made Gillette a monster seller)
8. 62 of the world’s 100 richest men are married to brunettes (go figure!!)
9. No English manager has ever won the Premier League (and, before you ask, Mark Hughes is Welsh)
10. No words in the English language rhyme with orange, silver, purple and month (songwriters and poets to note)
11. The most expensive age of your life is 34 (I must be 34 every year!)
12. The average age of a first time grandparent in the UK is 49 (we’re very late starters)

Friday, September 5, 2008

“Sat on a Park Bench Quietly”

Simon and Garfunkel were right. When you reach a certain age there’s nothing like the power of old friends. Last week, I spent three days in St. Tropez with a friend of mine that I hadn’t seen for exactly 30 years - M’bouirik Mouilek.

When I moved to Casablanca in 1978 with P&G, Mouilek was a hot, young, industrial engineer with loads of potential. We played tennis, discovered Moroccan wine together, shared a passion for Cat Stevens and spent every morning and evening talking about how we could change the world. Mouilek introduced me into the real Casablanca, the real Morocco, which was a far cry from today’s tourist paradise. Dripping with mystery, sensuality and intimacy, it was probably the best two years I ever enjoyed in my life.

I had a great job as Marketing Director for P&G’s huge Moroccan business and worked with a wonderful distributor/mentor named Aaron Levy, who taught me a lot about selling and negotiation skills. Mouilek would pick me up every morning in his wife’s car and we’d drive through Casablanca to Ain Sebaa to the P&G detergent plant. During the 40 minute drive, we would talk, as only young men can do, about marketing, creativity, people, etc. It was there that I inoculated Mouilek with the marketing bug and successfully persuaded him to use his engineering background as a foundation for greater things. After eight years with P&G, he went to forge a magnificent career for himself in marketing with Colgate-Palmolive and Dannon. His career was founded on P&G principles, engineering rationality, along with his own Moroccan sense of spirituality and passion.

Mouilek was born in very poor circumstances in Agadir, in Morocco’s deep south. He has seven siblings and none of them went to school. Mouilek was the youngest and carried the hopes of the family as he undertook an education. That is an investment he has paid back many, many times.

We had lost touch so it was great that he could come down to see us with his wife of 33 years, Aline, and their two fantastic children, Karim and Sabrina. Mouilek looks as youthful and debonair as ever with Karim his spitting image. Soulful, cool, romantic and an emogeek of the highest order, Karim is also emotional, passionate and technologically very creative. He works as a presales engineer for Thomson in France and is a real heart-breaker with real talent and amazing potential. His younger sister, Sabrina, is a photocopy of her beautiful mother. She’s just won a place at MIT. It’s a helluva long haul from Agadir.

We spent a couple of days with the entire family and it was as if we had only seen each other yesterday. Mouilek brought a melon from his farm in Agadir (which we used to breakfast on every morning during our drive) and some of the typical Moroccan pastries our wives used to adore.

That’s intimacy.

That’s old friends.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The emotional Internet

As it evolves, who can miss the fact that the Internet is becoming more and more emotional? To claim it was an emotional place even five years ago raised eyebrows (I know because I remember raising my own). Many people, and not only young ones, have learnt to share how they feel online in ways that would have been inconceivable when we began our tentative attempts at those mysterious functions: email, browsing, search, purchasing and blogging. If you still have doubts about this reshaping of cyberspace, visit We Feel Fine. This wonderful site is the brain child (or is it lovechild?) of Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar. The site is inspired by a simple idea about a simple phrase. The phrase is “I feel” (or “I am feeling”) and the idea is to gather together all the instances where it appears on the Web. Harris and Kamvar then present them in what they call 'six movements'. This has nothing to do with orchestral music, and is all about six different and interesting ways they have identified to theme their examples. And, as usual, examples explain the idea best.

I feel pretty.
I feel I don’t really have a clue what love is.
I feel the ghosts were cool but unnecessary.
I feel so lonely.
I feel like every time I find a product I really rave about, they change it.
I feel that I’m somehow being blackmailed into using Facebook.
Etc. Etc.

It’s like dipping into a sea of unmediated emotion. Strangely compelling. Harris and Kamvar do offer more structure if you want to take that route. How are people affected by weather? What are the effects of sun and snow? How about gender and age? Does the fact people live in Germany or Brazil make a difference? And of course, all the answers you uncover are based on an algorithm and your own imagination. What a great way to uncover insight into yourself. If an “I feel” happens to be attached to a photograph (yes, you can get that too) it often brings up some really bizarre results. Example: A hand with SOS printed on it and the thoughtful comment, “I’m not sure how I feel about Pierce Brosnan singing”.

The one problem with the site is serious sensory overload, though it was more than off-set when I was clicking around by the theme of most shared feeling where “Feeling better” was ahead of negative feelings by miles. Once again, proof that human beings are essentially positive and optimistic. One of the phrases sums it up beautifully, “I feel better everyday, and that’s as it should be”.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Air time

When I talk to creatives about great sisomo (sight, sound and motion on screen), the conversation always circles back to our favorite music. I travel a lot and one of the ways I get through the nightmare of waiting, shuffling and waiting some more, is by listening to music (you can check out a typical playlist here). We all know how music affects mood and we’ve all been in supermarkets and elevators listening to what passes for mood-enhancing music. However, it seems to me to be more about stupefying people rather than uplifting spirits. Someone once famously said that “music hath charms to soothe a savage beast” and I think that Delta Air Lines must have been inspired to take that literally. Yes, Delta has started using music to speed up the process of getting people onto their planes. They got the idea when their cabin staff noticed that playing upbeat music inside the plane seemed to have a direct relationship to passengers getting into their seats faster. Now the Delta boarding playlist has something of a cult following with sites like CD Baby announcing new additions and replacements.

So what sort of music makes you head to your seat a little faster? Coldplay’s 'Strawberry Swing' and 'On The Radio' by Regina Spektor both do the job, and so does the well-named 'Come On Get Higher' by Matt Nathanson. No doubt we will see other industries go further with integrating music into their business with one set of playlists for test drives and a different selection for when the workshop is running behind time. It seems to me the Delta idea gets the best of both worlds: happy customers and faster delivery. By the way, the “savage charm” quote was by William Congreve, who went on to add that music could also “soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak”. Maybe construction sites should consider personalized sounds tracks as well.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ooh - ah - Umaga . . .

A major reason why we did not win the World Cup in 2003 was the injury to All Black captain and iconic leader, Tana Umaga. Tana was hurt in a collision with teammate Carlos Spencer and didn't recover in time. It was not surprising that his on field dynamism, commitment and leadership were sorely missed when it came to the semi-finals. Unfortunately, it was one year too far. In 2007, if he’d even only been playing on only one leg, I’m convinced we would have taken care of business and won the World Cup.

As it was, Tana got out at the top, having been an incredible ambassador for All Black values and New Zealand. He was instrumental in winning the hosting rights for the 2011 World Cup, which may prove to be his greatest legacy. He’s now coaching Toulon after having single-handedly taken them from Division II to France’s top 14. I went along to watch a pre-season friendly against Saracens which ended up in a 60 point jamboree of running rugby which would have left Tana fuming. No structure, no discipline, no commitment, no leadership. I wouldn’t have wanted to be those boys the next morning!!

The following day, Tana and wife, plus three adorable daughters, Gabrielle (8), Lily-Kate (4) and Anise (2) came around to our St. Tropez house. They joined Ben Castle and his new wife, Lauren, and Tusi and Carla Pisi. Ben and Tusi are ex-New Zealand players with the Chiefs in Auckland and were terrific company. Ben, as the newbie, took charge of the Mini Moke as we four boys zoomed into St. Tropez, leaving the girls (young and younger) to an afternoon/evening’s fun and games by the pool.

Tana was stopped quite a few times in St. Tropez for photos and autographs, demonstrating how much the All Blacks are revered throughout France. And, let’s face it, Tana is somewhat recognizable. He signed autographs and posed for photos; helping to spread New Zealand’s charisma in a very positive, upbeat way. It will be fascinating to see whether these passionate Kiwis can drive Toulon into a top six place in what is probably the toughest club competition in the world.

One book that will be required reading for Tana is John Daniell's Inside French Rugby: Confessions of a Kiwi Mercenary. It’s the best inside look of how the French really view club rugby, including playing away from home and playing against European opposition. It is also a book I recommend if you want to understand the innermost workings of Kiwis, Frenchmen and rugby players. JD – who played with Tana in Wellington - now writes for L’Equipe. That boy sure done good.