Chatted to a homeless guy today in Lewisham. Not intentionally, but he caught my eye and engaged me. He was asking for money and I declined: it's just my personal rule and I was busy.
Then he said something I thought I misheard. "I'm a copywriter/art director".
I looked at him again, this seemed ridiculous. "What agencies" I asked, a little sceptical. He looked 50 years of age, but could be my age ... Long hair, wild eyes, if you were to define what a homeless person looked like, he looked like it. I've walked past hundreds of similar, and so have you.
He then reeled off all the names of the agencies he had worked at ... DDB, AMV, Saatchi etc etc - all the ad shops you'd look up to in the 80s and 90s. He'd done the Watford Course - a well known inroad to advertising. Then told me a ton of stories about shoots he was on all round the world. I was having a laugh with him, enjoying the banter when he said "What's the point of a Clio award if you haven't got food to eat?". That ended me. What is the point?
I've had my low times in this business but always had friends and family to help pick me back up. Matthew Smith wasn't so lucky. I've not stopped thinking about him all day. He bade me farewell as I needed to be somewhere, and he was concerned about a fly he'd seem crawl in his shoe earlier.
I opened my wallet and gave him a tenner, which looked ridiculously small as I had at least 50 quid in cash on me. He tried to give me something for the money "so it was fair", then to ask how he would repay me. "This isn't charity Matt, this is the least I could do for a fellow ad man who needs a leg up". A tenner, two measly five pound notes. I've never seen a chap so thankful. I was embarrassed at how rich I suddenly felt.
I don't feel guilty, and I am trying to stop feeling helpless. What I do feel is THANKFUL to be in the place I am.
Many of you have been around me at times of great lowness, and many of you helped me in small or big ways probably more than you'll ever know. I'm not sure I say it often enough.
I was asked by an energy business to speak at their annual conference in Marrakesh, Morocco on Social Business - Using Social Media for Business in Africa.
Here is an updated version including my voice-over included as new slides:
In the role of Digital Director I wrote the digital strategy, advised on social media strategy, content curation and measurements and built up the development team. It was a great example of fully integrated planning and delivery, mixing the best of on and offline engagement to create a true world first.
What is it?
When a whisky brand usually creates a new whisky it is up to the master distiller to choose from the aged casks which spirit will make the perfect dram. He does this pretty much alone and the customers’ only interaction is to buy the whisky once it has been bottled. We set out to change that.
Instead of the whisky fans being at the end of the process, switch it around and put them at the start. Give The Glenlivet’s fans the chance to choose the whisky that would be bottled, rewarding their loyalty and creating a world first along the way: appropriate for “the whisky that started it all”.
First, The Glenlivet’s Master Distiller Alan Winchester created three expressions: 3 different whiskies, all with their own characteristics, flavours and tasting notes.
Now, the hard part, how to get over the barrier of “participation inequality”. There are hundreds of thousands of people who want to taste the whisky, but unless we gave it all away for free, precious little of it to go around. How can you vote on a whisky you haven’t tasted?
We created a personality for each of the three whisky expressions, relevant to their taste and ingredients of The Glenlivet’s history and brand: Classic, Exotic, and Revival. Read more about the specifics of each whisky here.
As well as Global Tasting events in America, UK, Canada, India, South Africa, Japan and beyond, we also created a content space online called the Guardian’s Hub where each of these three expressions was brought to life, with articles including the likes of Classic Bars, Exotic tailoring or Revival architecture, were regularly served up, giving those who might not get to actually taste the whisky, a chance to define their own taste. They were then able to use this journey to help vote on the expression that most represented them.
Through voting apps at events, and on the Guardian’s Hub online, participants could vote for their favourite expression, or change their vote if they were so persuaded, and with your vote being made public, you had added incentive to share with your friends to help support the dram you most wanted to see bottled.
The campaign ran for 4 months and had massive interaction on the Guardian’s Hub, at the events and through social media. People voted in 39 countries around the world and at the end, celebrated the final winner ... The Exotic, in shops in March 2014.
UPDATE: IT'S LAUNCHED!
A good brief and client is one thing, but you need a great team to pull it off. On this project I was involved from the very start and worked closely with a brilliant planner. We gelled immediately and in one room over just a few hours managed to shape and reshape then define the core of the idea in a way that would both look and feel right, but also be technically profound. This ensured that everyone else involved on the project had a clear focus. I have to say was a joy to work on.
I've always been close to SA. My grandparents and aunt lived there and my Dad for a time too. I read Donald Wood's books as a teenager and felt a little of that world and more recently JM Coetzee's excellent writing. Each page giving a tiny, embarrassing peek into the foreignness of that system.
I'll never truly understand South Africa before 1990 but what I do know is that it could have been a bloodbath after. People, disenfranchised for so long by a white minority, could have so easily (and you might say understandably) risen up and taken what they had been forced to go without ... But they didn't. Incredibly. Against the odds. All because of one man.
Nelson Mandela ... a fighter, classified as a terrorist, hidden away for so long preached only of unity under a new flag, a new anthem and a new way. The nation held it's breath then and still holds it's breath.
Though the ANC has not delivered all they promised, and there are of course many ills in SA that must be addressed, the fact that SA has moved on from it's harsh past in such a short period of time is a testament to the power of faith in someone not of god or money, but of true power.
He was an old man, old men die. His legacy will either be to keep uniting people, or to be tarnished by infighting and widening inequality in his name.
Time will tell but for now dear Madiba, rest in peace.
"You don’t hire the agency, you hire the people"
I did a radio show entitled "Things to know before hiring an agency for your social media campaign" earlier this year, it went down really well.
For those who prefer long form, they transcribed it here:
Part Two: What a Social Media Agency Shouldn't Do
Or, listen to the radio show here.
I have been proud to work with The Glenlivet for the last 18 months. planning their global digital programme - but the time has come to hand over to another agency to take this forward.
It was a hard call and I needed a boost, something to remind me that whenever you hand on work it means something new is around the corner. Apt then that I found this on the first page of The Glenlivet's Moleskin notebook ...
"You have to invent something. Do something no one has ever done before.
See the world differently. Describe the world differently.
You must stand firm.
Be popular one day. Be unpopular the next.
And stick to your guns regardless.
Room to Read is a global organization seeking to transform the lives of millions of children in the developing world by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. and I have been asked to become the Head of Digital for Room to Read in London.
My first encounter with the organisation was from a fair distance,
raising money for them through TechBikers Paris to London cycle in 2012, but in
2013 as I became more involved in TechBikers (taking on the role of Head of
Comms) I found myself working closely with Room to Read in London and Globally,
especially connecting with founder John Wood (he’s an absolute dude). We did some good stuff this year - see the report.
John’s passion for what TechBikers were doing, combined with the interest from Room to Read London’s new team, has lifted TechBikers from a single annual ride to potentially many rides all around the world, wherever there is a tech cluster. I’m proud to have played a part in making this happen, from a few tweets to a world of opportunity.
I’m joining Room to Read for three reasons:
- Mairead King who leads the London Chapter is an excellent person to work with, she instils confidence and passion, and has chosen a great team in London while engaging Room to Read globally in a really short time. She asked me, it was hard to say no.
- Room to Read does amazing work. Sure, lots of charities do amazing work but I have never seen a third sector organisation that runs so much like a business – on measurable goals and clear results, so the money donated is invested more wisely in projects that deliver the greatest result.
- John Wood. Did I mention he’s a dude? He left a secure job in Microsoft to build libraries, fill them with books, and help children get the chances that we almost take for granted. He has done this for 13 years, built a $40m charity that has benefited 7million children already and yet still keeps the air of an old friend every time we meet, even though we barely know each other. I know being part of an organisation he founded will be a very rewarding challenge.
Also, he wrote this in his book for me, and I am a sucker
for heartfelt inscription.
The role is pro bono and will sit along side my other commitments. Exciting times? You bet!
The moustache of legend is a sign of strength and manliness but beyond the bravado, is the ritual of moustache cultivation more powerful than we realise?
Why through history has overt personal grooming been seen as effeminate, while the cultivation of a moustache is revered as the very symbol of masculinity? I posit that what is missing from men’s lives is the ceremony of grooming that a moustache brings.
Yes there has been resurgence in the moustache lately but where once the moustache was described as having a “wonderfully powerful effect upon a man’s whole expression” it now most usually adorns the ironic lip of hipsters of Dalston or Williamsberg.
before the oldest recorded moustaches of the Scythian horseman, in
moustache has been a symbol of strength, pride and individuality. Men
like Panayot Hitov the Belgian hajduk and voivode opposing the Ottoman Empire to “farmer,
teamster, sometime buffalo hunter, officer of the law, gambler,
saloon-keeper, miner, and boxing referee” Wyatt Earp the moustache has
symbolised people who have changed the culture around them, and been
characterised for it, but what unites men like these, and Einstein,
Dali, Freddie Mercury, Burt Reynolds, Hulk Hogan is the ritual of
“You take longer to get ready than I do”, she said.
I have had a moustache for 6 months now, something I didn’t realise I’d take to but gave it a try and it stuck. I’ve enjoyed the comments from strangers (“Nice ‘tache!”), the banter from friends (“cockduster”) and the parental disapproval (“oh Mark, what have you done”) but it was my better half who articulated the importance of the ceremony of the moustache that I had missed.
She was right. Each morning I shower with a special beard conditioner to soften the moustache, then once dry, trim extraneous hairs before applying wax with a specialist comb (its tiny, makes you feel like a giant). Sometimes I curl the ends up ludicrously, imagining Dali or a vaudeville villain, sometimes down - a mini Fu Manchu, and devious. Each morning I do this and you know what? I love it.
Owning a moustache allows you grooming the way only women have had an excuse to do, it gives a man special time each morning to focus only on a single personal satisfaction. There is nothing quite like staring at yourself in the mirror each morning doing something almost ludicrously frivolous as twisting the ends of a moustache to make you look at life in a different way each day.
Is it any wonder then that great men of history (and women) have adorned themselves proudly with the moustache and given themselves the excuse, joy and time of moustache cultivation?
There are many great examples of the effects of moustache cultivation through the years but none so glorious than that of seven-time Olympic gold medal winner Mark Spitz. While swimmers usually shave their body hair to reduce drag Spitz kept his for the 1972 Munich Olympics. “I had some fun with a Russian coach who asked me if my moustache slowed me down. I said, 'No, as a matter of fact, it deflects water away from my mouth, allows my rear end to rise and make me bullet-shaped in the water, and that's what had allowed me to swim so great.' He's translating as fast as he can for the other coaches, and the following year every Russian male swimmer had a moustache.”
Moustaches are not just the "appurtenances of terror" as they were during the Napoleonic Wars they are a chance for men to start their day at peace. We keep hearing that we are in crisis and surely what helps a crisis is “virility, spirit, and manliness” as Mrs. C. E. Humphrey put it. Will it change your life? There is only one way to find out.
It doesn’t matter if you started growing a mo for Movember, or just for a laugh: take it seriously and keep it long after Movember. I implore you to reclaim the ‘tache from the hipsters – without irony or apology, for neither charity nor humour, not just for a month but for life.
Oh, and if you are in London, I can't recommend highly enough Murdock - the boutique chain of barbers: Ryan in Liberty has a mean moustache and can sort you out the perfect trim.
About the writer
"When not standing on his soapbox about moustaches Mark Jennings loves cycling, though not on a fixie, and helping organisations make the internet better. He can be found on Twitter @markofrespect"
This article is a repost from an article I wrote for ThemePark in 2012, republished with kind permission
In September, as the weather turns cold and wet, I will be on a bike, in shorts, cycling 70 miles a day for 3 days.
Why? To raise money for a charity I believe in so strongly that it is worth the cuts, bruises, strains and drenching.
Last year we did this and built 2 schools and a library through Room To Read, with your support we can do even more - please donate to me to achieve this goal.
Please support me - I promise, I won't let you down http://bit.ly/supportmark
If you’ve started either, you’ll see yourself.
Speaking recently in Margate at the GEEK conference to local businesses, academia, local councils and the government I had 10 minutes to cover the topic cultural and social conditions that create networks within the digital sector, how to enable growth and how to support it.
So I spoke about STORY, BELIEF, LUCK, NEED and ENCOURAGEMENT. It’s something I’m really passionate about and hope many of you see yourselves in this.
I spoke at GEEK in East Kent recently, here is a short vox pop afterwards on what makes East Kent an interesting place for the digital and creative industries.
No one is here for their health,
and London is a cruel mistress, showing you so many tantalising
delights, but giving you precious little time to enjoy them. It is also a
place of magic, energy, passion and creativity that you need time to
discover for yourself ...
Me speaking at Themepark - on procrastination #video
Mark Jenning’s tongue-in-cheek exposition of the wily ways of that most pernicious of all pastimes, sees the art of never doing what you must receive something of an overhaul: namely, the idea of progressive procrastination,...Read More
It's the inconsistency.
Watching a group of people totally unfamiliar with the power they wield attempt to work it out with really big consequences if they get it wrong and no sense they are capable of grasping that en masse.
Individually I find many Tories well meaning, good people but they are cowed by the same forces that brought down Major. Dinosaurs. Those who represent the worst excesses of the past, and the worst kind of politics - the self serving.
Well, more to the point, what did you acheive? If you sponsored me for the recent Techbikers Paris to London 200 mile cycle then you are of course awesome, but this is why ...
We will fund the following 2012 projects in Nepal:
- One two room School Construction project at 22,000 USD (Brand new school built)
- One constructed Library at 20,000 USD (brand new library built)
- One School Library at 5,000 USD (re-purposing of an existing room in a school with no library, filled with books)
I could not be prouder today, and this extends to each of you who supported me - thank you with all my heart.
The plaque text will read: This school/library was established through the cooperation of the local community, Room to Read and TechBikers. TechBikers (40 entrepreneurs in East London) were inspired to support this space and hope that it similarly inspires the local community to dive into a world of creativity, initiative and curiosity that was opened up to us by books and learning.