Tuesday, August 22, 2017

64 Bars

A year ago I published 64 Shots (Leadership in a Crazy World). New Zealand rapper David Dallas is doing 64 Bars. Dreamed up in Auckland in 2015, 64 Bars is an online showcase where handpicked MCs step into the booth and lay down "64 Bars" of straight raps - four verses without a hook, bridge or break. Styled in the tradition of Sway's 5 Fingers of Death freestyle segment, or Charlie Sloth's Fire In The Booth, it's an outlet for local artists to show and prove their skills for real. Performing under the spotlight they present a short packed set surrounded by an intimate audience – moving the feeling of a crowded street corner cypher into a live scenario.

Last November David Dallas and Red Bull Studios Auckland presented a new season of 64 Bars starring local rappers. Now, Red Bull will take the idea to other cities around the world where they have studios, a long list which includes Berlin, London, LA, New York, Paris and Tokyo (which they did in July).

The set-up is elegantly simple: three MCs, one mic, one studio. The sole idea behind 64 Bars is to have a platform strictly focused on the craft of rapping – not songwriting, or fashion, or marketing. “You've got radio and social media for that other stuff,” says Dallas. “I just wanted this to be a showcase of people's ability to rap.”

"There's a platform for everything else, you can use SoundCloud if you're a good songwriter, if you've got a great aesthetic, there's YouTube, there's all these other things, but for kids that just want to be good at rapping, there wasn't anything - at least locally - for that."

I wrote in the introduction to 64 Shots that “64 is a magic number. Remember 1964? It was a landmark year that changed the world in many ways. The Beatles held the top five positions on Billboard, headed by “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Bob Dylan recorded “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” The Rolling Stones released their first album. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted the Civil Rights Act. Nelson Mandela gave his “I Am Prepared to Die” speech over three hours from the dock before being sentenced to 27 years. Cassius Clay became both heavyweight champion of the world and Muhammad Ali. BASIC computing language was introduced and the computer mouse was invented. Protests began against the Vietnam War. Andy Warhol began his most celebrated period. It turns out that 64 is a super-perfect number. The square root of 64 is the lucky number eight. There are 64 squares on a chessboard, and the Karma Sutra has 64 positions (but you know that!). Sixty-four is the country calling code for New Zealand, my home on the edge of the world. And the title of a famous Lennon and McCartney love song from the greatest album of all time.”

Take it away, David Dallas and 64 Bars.


Monday, August 21, 2017

The Gods Make Bored First Those Whom They Wish To Destroy (but destruction is avoidable)

When I was studying Virgil’s Aeneid at school I came across a line I will never forget – “The Gods first make bored those whom they wish to destroy.” French novelist Victor Hugo made a similar statement in his book Les Misérables: “There is something more terrible than a hell of suffering… A hell of boredom.” Without going into too much detail, the ancient Latin proverb and Hugo both play on the fact that boredom is usually perceived as something negative. That’s still the case today. Think of the importance society places on ‘being busy’. Not having anything to do or feeling bored is often associated with laziness or insignificance.

Being busy and making a difference are not the same. A growing body of research suggests boredom could have positive implications for creativity and productivity. According to psychologists Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman from the University of Central Lancashire, “being in a state of boredom encourages you to explore creative outlets because your brain is signaling that your current situation is lacking and you need to push forward.” This figures and could be why we often have great ideas when in meandering mode (taking a shower, going for a walk).

And it’s not just our creativity that can benefit from boredom. According to Andreas Elpidorou, an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Louisville, boredom might push us to be more productive. He believes boredom acts as a “regulatory state” that can help motivate us to complete projects. And it puts things we are doing (when not bored) into perspective and makes them seem more significant. Making time to do ‘nothing’ is something some of the world’s successful business leaders already do. Bill Gates is known for scheduling in time just to sit and think for instance.

Take time out, make like a shark and keep moving, and remember Virgil: “Fléctere si néqueo súperos Acheronta movebo - If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.”

Illustration from Virgil’s Aeneid. The Dreams of Aeneas. 1829.  Anne Louis Girodet de Roussy Trioson. French 1767-1824. hadrian6.tumblr.com


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

In Praise of Air NZ

Air New Zealand is - alongside My Food Bag - New Zealand’s premier company. They fly 16 million people a year. That’s a lot of trust. Most of my miles with Air New Zealand have been across the Pacific, from America and Asia, a few hundred times I guess as I have come back home. I loved flying them through the Lions Tour. No fuss. No drama. No bullshit. Just customer-focused, professional, friendly, light touch, and engaging approach to safety (seen their latest video?) but safety nonetheless.

It says a lot for the New Zealand government’s longsighted expertise in ownership and governance of major commercial enterprises that Air New Zealand has thrived (NZ Govt owns 52%). For the past 15 years Air New Zealand has been led by three outstanding CEOs: Sir Ralph Norris, Rob Fyfe, and Christopher Luxon. Each has set a superb cultural context for customer experience, married with outstanding engineering and financial skills needed to steer an organization as complex and safety-conscious as an airline; together with 10,000 brand ambassadors working every day to bring an unselfconscious Kiwi professionalism to their roles in the air and on the ground.

Air New Zealand regularly wins global and regional awards for customer experience, and regularly attracts favorable media attention. Monocle Escapist just wrote about “Easy Flying” as their correspondent hopped around New Zealand on the regional airline network, advocating Air New Zealand “for those of us who value smart service and a sense of humour.”

I have been especially pleased at how Air New Zealand wove the silver fern symbol into their plane livery next to the treasured koru tail piece. Back in 1999 I advocated for this along with my creative colleague Brian Sweeney, we mocked up some black 747s with a giant silver fern – so I have a personal stake in every Air New Zealand plane I board. Read the story here.

The business of hosting guests – New Zealanders and global visitors – has evolved into our largest industry. Gone are the days of tearoom snacks with decrusted white bread sandwiches filled with hundreds and thousands (remember them, in Greymouth a few decades ago!). Air New Zealand sets the standard for the he amalgam of Kiwi attitude of helpfulness and generosity with their incredible food, wine, music and media offerings. I wrote about this 10 years ago here at KRConnect.

I’ve often pushed for New Zealanders to be world-changing over world class. However I don’t really want a world-changing airline, I want it to be world class, and Air New Zealand does it exactly right. Hats off to all 10,000. That’s lot of love.

Monday, August 14, 2017

KR Podcast with Linda Coles "Tell Us A Story"


















Just posted, a 23 minute podcast with Linda Coles, foremost NZ Linkedin influencer (530k followers). We dive into Lovemarks and how they came to be, PepsiCo stories including one that led me to General Norman Schwarzkopf, the future of retail, Jake Millar's visionary business education video channel Unfiltered, and both being from the North of England, we talk local politics.
http://tellusastory.podbean.com/e/kevin-roberts-ex-global-saatchi-and-saatchi-chairman-talks-lovemarks-and-a-lot-more/ 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Name The First Advertising Agency That Comes Into Your Head.

Exactly. Chutzpah & Chutzpah is a history of Saatchi & Saatchi by Richard Myers, Simon Goode and Nick Darke (Michael O’Mara Books, London, 2017). It is an insiders’ story of the first 20 or so years of the most famous advertising agency in history. Chutzpah & Chutzpah is the sixth independently-written book about the agency. It is compelling and irresistible reading. The book is dedicated to founding brothers Charles and Maurice Saatchi, “whose unique talents and chutzpah inspired us to reject mediocrity, to have no fear of being first, to believe that whatever has gone before counts for nothing, and that the unthinkable can be achieved.”

Myers, Goode & Darke (Saatchi originals across creative, management and design respectively) take us on a 195 page ripped and rip-roaring adventure across the founding of the biggest advertising company the world had known, and its subsequent explosiveness.

The agency was, at its core, very British. Literate. Erudite. Funny. Ironic. Sarcastic. Superior. This was 1970; Monty Python, the start of the 747 era, the women’s liberation movement, heavy metal, Richard Branson founding Virgin, BP discovering oil in the North Sea, the death of Jimi Hendrix, the break-up of The Beatles, Nixon’s presidency, Jesus Christ Superstar. Television was the dominant and vital force. Britain was throbbing, and Charles and Maurice Saatchi had a dream and a dare to blow things sky high.

Chutzpah & Chutzpah catches the cultural semiotics that drove a golden era of advertising (alas, before the onslaught of Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, creating trillions of dollars of shareholder value against the meagre mega-millions of advertising holding companies. At least advertising had Lunch). A sampling:
  • Nothing Is Impossible
  • We can achieve anything
  • The biggest risk is not taking risks
  • There are no boundaries, no rules that particularly matter
  • We stand for the single-minded pursuit of creative originality and excellence
  • Come to the edge
  • We are naughty and fearless
  • We are walkers of the walk
  • We have pure determination to win
  • Saatchi people will go to any length, and make any sacrifice, to win new business
  • Never put your best people on new business; put your luckiest
Other phrases the authors assign Saatchi & Saatchi in years 1-20:
  • Self-belief bordering on arrogance
  • Fearlessness, ingenuity, and chutzpah
  • Swashbuckling, shrewd, sensational, surreal
  • Unparalleled household fame
  • Unsurpassed creativity
  • Masters of Illusion
The actor playing Lafayette in the musical Hamilton exclaims in one of the show’s most popular lines, “Immigrants, we get the job done.” Charles Saatchi had the reported chutzpah of, on a slow news day in London, insuring his creative department for one million pounds, a vast sum of money in the early 70s. The Saatchi brothers had global ambition to be the world’s best and biggest, and they cleverly laced this positioning with the original globalization theorist, Harvard economist Theodore Levitt. Chutzpah & Substance. Soon enough Saatchi & Saatchi was doing legendary campaigns for the biggest brands in Britain: British Airways, BP, ICI, BT, British Coal & Gas, Cadbury Schweppes. The history of the Conservative Party assignments – and the future of Britain – resulting in three election-winning performances is well covered by Myers, Goode & Darke. Through its acquisitions the agency gained Procter & Gamble’s coveted business, and won the business of Toyota and Lexus in the U.S. which it has held for three decades. Collectively, the Saatchi & Saatchi agencies represented, supported, led, quarreled with, inspired, and cajoled clients and brands with sales running into a multi-billion dollar stratosphere. Advertising does make the world go round, and while the business of selling with great ideas has been contaminated by data science, a brilliant idea still goes all the way. 15% or more.

Having ambitions for global dominance – meant that the Saatchi & Saatchi Nothing Is Impossible culture had to inculcate worldwide. There was a waiting audience. In New Zealand, for example, a country who until 1972 had called Great Britain “home,” there were a bunch of mavericks – King, Cullinane, Thorp, Grieve, Bradley, Wicksteed – who gave rise to an agency that just so got the Saatchi & Saatchi attitude that they became one of the most celebrated global agencies. And in Italy. In Spain. Argentina. Brazil. Australia. China. Russia. The Saatchi & Saatchi attitude found willing participants.

My own Saatchi & Saatchi journey began at its founding. My first employer, fashion designer Mary Quant, was a founding shareholder in the agency in 1970, and taken by the chutzpah of the Brothers, I pledged to hire the agency without pitch wherever I was in the world in the future – in Geneva, Casablanca, Toronto, Auckland, Sydney. I did this. And one day I was phoned up to save it.

Chutzpah & Chutzpah is a chronicle of 200 firsthand accounts from alumni, of bad behavior and bad language by good people working at the apotheosis of business and creativity. There are a number of piss-ups and punch-ups but throughout the essence of Saatchi & Saatchi’s trajectory was one of “growing phenomenally, making money, creating great award-winning work, doing winning media and helping our clients be massively successful.” Visionary advertisers are acknowledged in Chutzpah, including Lord King of British Airways who was infatuated to the core, and Bob Field of Toyota in New Zealand, the franchise’s leading country per capita, who greenlighted an outrageous idea on the spot. (“Bugger.”)

I have unconditional love for Saatchi & Saatchi. When Arthur Sadoun, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, spoke to Campaign in 2016 about “the reasons why the Saatchi team is going to succeed,” his first reason was “the incredible strength and attractiveness of the brand…we are talking about the most brilliant brand in the world.”

Myers, Goode & Darke recount an early invocation of the Saatchi & Saatchi brand: “The culture has the attitude of a mongrel fighter, a kind of ‘we may be brash outsiders but we’re going to win’ certainty.”

Make things happen.

KR.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Zentivity Calms Stress and Discontent in the Workplace

My cobber in D.C. Leland Schwartz is always onto a good thing. He sent me a just-published book called Zentivity: How to Eliminate Chaos, Stress, and Discontent in Your Workplace by Marianne Clyde which asks: “Why is it that when illness is related to emotional, mental, or relationship factors, are we more likely to hide and deny it, hoping it just goes away? This doesn’t make sense. If we simply addressed the issues up front and learned techniques to help ourselves and our employees overcome them, we would see direct results in enhanced job performance, a more positive outlook, and focused productivity.”

Reports show that 43.8 million Americans suffer from some kind of mental illness. Even more are dealing with difficult emotional difficulties such as divorce, health issues, parenting problems. The impact on the economy is a whopping $225.8 billion a year. The wise employer is one that recognizes the connection between strong mental/emotional health in the workplace and increased productivity, lower costs and stronger bottom line.

Zentivity offers practical, easy-to-implement solutions to help business leaders achieve a level of mental and emotional stability, creating a strong internal locus of control, enabling them to respond wisely and efficiently to stressors and unexpected crises in the workplace.

Based on the practice of 10 Essential Principles, Marianne Clyde, licensed marriage and family therapist, offers leaders a way to strengthen their own sense of well-being and offer support to those they lead. She lays out a step by step guide to develop strong individuals, leading to a stronger team and better productivity.

Learn how to:
  • Get rid of old emotional programs that keep spinning in the back of your consciousness, sabotaging your efforts, and replace them with thoughts and beliefs that work. 
  • Respond instead of react, so there's less to clean up later.
  • Understand how your personal history informs your decisions and opinions, and how to apply that in understanding others.
  • Strengthen your awareness of yourself, others and your surroundings so you can respond in a way that maximizes time and energy.
  • Communicate effectively so you can be heard and respected.
  • Find a way to practice gratitude, respect, non-judgment, forgiveness to maximize your effectiveness.
  • Get grounded through meditation and mindfulness, without losing your edge or taking up too much time.
  • Detach from drama and chaos to keep a clear and balanced perspective.
  • Be the same balanced, healthy person in business and at home.
  • Just breathe.... (and why you should).