Friday, December 19, 2008

One is one and all alone…

I remember when I was CEO of Pepsi in Canada, telling my people that given we were number three in the soft drink stakes, there was really no point in being number two. So we did what all companies should do in those circumstances, we became number one. I was reminded of this experience by an article by Peter Jessup, a New Zealander, looking at some of the great number ones in sport and the effect they have.

Let’s start with the obvious. The past few years have not been a good time to be a world-class golfer if you want to be number one! Tiger Woods is a phenomenon like Michael Jordan, Mohammed Ali, Pele, Don Bradman, and Lance Armstrong. They don’t just dominate their sport, they remake it in their own image.

Peter Jessup’s article was about another of these remarkable sports people, Kelly Slater. Early last month, Slater won his ninth world title, 16 years after he won the same title for the first time. Where did he achieve this remarkable feat? Just off the Spanish Coast. Kelly Slater is a surfer or maybe it’s more accurate to say, The Surfer.

Jessup suggests that given the extraordinary fitness, agility, and timing required in surfing (let alone grit and inspiration), Slater may be one of the greatest athletes ever. Imagine that. One of the world’s greatest athletes and most people have never even heard of him. If we put up others in that rank like Tiger, Ali, or Pele (the guys who only have to use one name), they are household names and remain so long after retirement. Slater is probably better known for his appearance in Baywatch as the recurring character Jimmy Slade than as a man of astounding athletic ability.

Of course I assume that in surfing households, Slater enjoys enduring renown and love. In the end that is probably all he or any other athlete needs. It’s a local global thing. Winning world championships is Irreplaceable, but being loved by your community, now that’s Irresistible. That’s why I’m picking Kelly Slater as a Lovemark.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Value in the eye

Repeating something does not make it so. Millions of words must now have been written telling us that brands are in a value race and that those who win will be those who can shave cents best. Wrong call! Focusing on just one end of the value equation drags you right into the nightmares of the vanishing margin. It’s like those Olympic records that have to be measured by more and more sophisticated equipment because they have become vanishingly small. The margin game can be played the same way: cut them so finely until counting profits becomes like adding up angels on the head of a pin.

What’s to be done? Simple. Create products and services consumers find more irresistible than anything your competitors are putting to market. As someone wisely said, only a fool confuses price with value. Of course, that’s where Lovemarks can come to the rescue. We’re not talking a rulebook but an inspiration to creativity shaped by Mystery, Sensuality, and Intimacy. Tough times test our mettle. They give us the opportunity to show who we truly are. Are you truly committed to making the world a better place, or are you about tactics you think will capture the elusive green consumer? Do you believe that stories and mystery attract human beings at a profound level, or do you really think that all they are interested in is price? Are you convinced that people will fall back on the tried and true, or do you know they want to be surprised and delighted?

If you opt for delight, check out this terrific site that pushes the sense of sight to extraordinary heights. The Web Urbanist has put together a range of visual effects designed to delight. Gathered from around the world, they are in turn funny, charming, awesome, and unbelievable. They spark curiosity, humor, and surprise at every click. They are true attractors in the Attraction Economy. With artists and designers capable of presenting us with such wondrous gifts, and the human desire for delight, I believe the power of price is only one factor in the complex, living connections Lovemarks make with the people who love them.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

That was a week, that was

Getting up to face the snow in Grasmere a couple of weeks ago, I went into my study to see what the fax machine had brought overnight. On top of the pile was a letter from Lancaster University’s Vice-Chancellor, Paul Welling, inviting me to accept an Honorary Doctorate from the University. The award of Doctor of Laws (LLD) is to mark the contribution I’ve made to the field of creativity and innovation in business and education. Wow.


Talk about totally unexpected and out of the blue. I was blown away. There’s no recognition like local recognition.

Ever since leaving school somewhat prematurely in 1966, I’ve been committed to the concept of a great education as being the best preparation and foundation we can offer kids. As far as I’m concerned, it sits right beside giving young people a sense of purpose, values, performance, unconditional parental love, and support. I spend a fair bit of my time working with students in various countries. I particularly enjoy going back to my hometown of Lancaster and working there as a Governor of my school, Lancaster Royal Grammar School, and having the opportunity to mentor Rachel Cooper as she sets up her innovation and creative design lab, ImaginationLancaster, at the University.

So to be recognized in this way by my hometown university is a thrill that’s really beyond compare. The ceremony will take place during the week of 13 July 2009 and, as cream on the cake, the degree is to be conferred by the Chancellor, Sir Christian Bonington. Chris Bonington was a hero of mine in the 70’s as he knocked off peak, after peak in his incredible and inspiring career. His books on mountaineering were my constant companion during that time.

The honor arrived a day after I visited Oxford University at the invitation of John Hood. John went across to Oxford as Vice-Chancellor four and a half years ago after a brilliant business career in New Zealand. In that time he has taken the University forward across every dimension. I had the privilege of talking to his MBA students and then joining a dozen or so of them for dinner at the Vice-Chancellor’s lodgings later that evening. It’s invigorating to be around MBA students, particularly ones who have taken the courageous step of leaving their jobs and investing in themselves and their education. These people are on the verge of transforming their lives and, having talked with them, I certainly get the feeling our future is in great hands.

To cap off a great week, I signed a contract with the University of Auckland to become a member of their staff as an Honorary Professor of the Faculty of Business and Economics. I’m committed to working with Vice-Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon, and Business School Dean, Greg Whittred, to bring real life experience to their MBA program which starts in January 2009.

What a week. It has been a time of connecting past, present, and future. Connecting my upbringing in Lancaster to my adult life in Auckland - the common thread being education.

I feel humbled and honored to be able to give back to these young students, and I’m looking forward to inspiring them to make a difference and play their role in making the world a better place.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In Praise of Sisters

I managed to get up to Grasmere last week for a couple of days and thoroughly enjoyed battening down the hatches as the season’s first snow tumbled down. Everything around me was covered and all you could see was the odd deer track. The bordering fields, fells, and hills glistened beautifully in the crisp, bright sunshine. It was truly a Winter Wonderland.

I didn’t leave the cottage for 48 hours until my sister, Trisha, arrived from New Zealand and we went for a great dinner at Holbeck Ghyll. The chef there worked at Michaels Nook for eight years so it felt very much like home away from home. Holbeck Ghyll is a hotel with a one star Michelin restaurant, and is where Renee Zellweger stayed when she was filming Miss Potter. It’s a classic Lakeland house with beautiful views over Lake Windermere, a roaring log fire, and a lovely lounge full of comfortable easy chairs; the perfect place to order your pre and post dinner drinks in the most leisurely fashion. It also has the beautiful Lakeland habit of personally welcoming and farewelling you.

Trisha and I started to talk at 6:30pm and we were still going strong at 2:30am.

There’s a lot to be said for brother/sister one-on-one’s. Trish and I certainly don’t do it enough; there are always other people around. This time, however, it was just us and it turned into one of the most enjoyable nights of my year. Trish emigrated to New Zealand way before I did and paved the way. She’s made a stunning success of her career, starting out at the Housing Corporation, going to Shell, then heading up HR at Fletcher Challenge and latterly Telecom New Zealand. She’s probably the most highly respected HR leader in New Zealand and is certainly the most caring and nurturing. Now Trish is about to embark on a new adventure having tired of corporate life and eager to take on a new challenge in recruitment/HR development. When we met at Grasmere she was looking at loads of options and it was great seeing her so excited.

She’s been my greatest supporter over the years and, although younger than me, has acted in many motherly ways. I’m pleased to say, my daughter, Bex, has much the same relationship with her elder brother, Ben. So here’s a Christmas toast to sisters all over the world. Long may they thrive.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Getting Around Town

When Ben and Danis arrived in Paris recently at Gare du Nord on the Eurostar, the queue for taxis was about 200 yards long. Having lived in Paris for a year, Ben knew his way around and he and Dan grabbed a couple of the €1 public bikes just outside the station and set off to their hotel near the Place Vendôme. It’s a great way to get around, although you do take your life in your hands with Parisian driving.

I would like to see this tried in New Zealand. I think it would be an enormous hit particularly in our smaller, tourist-oriented towns where traffic is light anyway.

One of my favorite cities in the world is Montreal (a great place to eat, drink, and watch ice hockey). It has a terrific public bike system nicknamed Bixi. It’s really state of the art. The module bike racks are all Web enabled and solar powered (although I’m not sure how much sun you get in Montreal in winter.) The bicycles are designed to resist the inevitable public thrashing they get everyday and are equipped with special tags so they are easy to track and trace. From a sustainability point of view, this is one of the great ideas that we need to see being adopted in more and more cities.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Go Pepsi, Go

I spent seven years working for Pepsi at the height of the Cola Wars. I’m still a Diet Pepsi and Pepsi Max fanatic to this day. The hardest working Pepsi logo was developed in 1971 and survived until a rebranding took place when I was with company in 1987. It was a change that cost over $100 million to implement. We had to change every truck, vending machine, fridge, postmix machine, stadium sign, and point of sale material all around the world.

Now a new logo has just been developed and will be introduced next year. It’s only the 11th in Pepsi’s 110 year history, but it’s the 5th in the past 21 years. I haven’t seen the logo yet but I’ve read about it. It’s a white band in the middle of the Pepsi circle that forms a series of smiles. A smile will be the central identity of brand Pepsi; it will turn into a grin for Diet Pepsi and a laugh for Pepsi Max. Sounds very Lovemarks to me and adds intimacy and sensuality to the brand.

It’s very interesting to see how the pace of change in packaging has accelerated, reflecting modern times where the consumer is boss. It also reflects the idea that we can connect past, present, and future and not hang on to things that become more outdated more quickly in today’s highly visual marketing arena. As well as making the brand feel more intimate, it also adds personalization and brings together a variety of the Pepsi brands in an interesting, mobile, dynamic way. I think it’s very exciting.

Full credit to CEO Indra Nooyi and Marketing Head Massimo d’Amore. This is a rewriting of the rules. Very Pepsi.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Farewell Jean Roberts

My mum joined my dad last night.


Jean Roberts (née Lambert).


RIP.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Lovemarks store

Monocle magazine goes from strength to strength. It still has the same rich mixture of current affairs, business, culture, and design that makes it a must-have on any long flight. But now Monocle has leapt off its pages and out of it website into the big wide world and done something close to my heart. In London, just off the Marylebone High Street, Monocle has launched a tiny store in which they have arranged their Lovemarks. They’ve put their money where their mouths are and stood behind some products taken from the advertisers in their own pages.


I’ve always thought that a Lovemarks shop would be a winner. Some of my favorite retail experiences are those curated by smart and skillful hearts and minds. Those savvy people who can put together objects and ideas to create a unique experience with special shoppers in mind. Colette and Moss both continue to reinvent themselves so they can inspire us. We all know from our own retail experiences that it is the mix that makes the magic. Some shop windows stop you in your tracks with a clever assortment of products you never thought of being together. That is the beauty of the Lovemarks store idea. The curatorial premise (as they would call it in art museums) is that each item is linked to the others simply by the love of Inspirational Consumers. There’s no functional associations or category limit, just insight into what matters to shoppers.

Imagine you are walking down the main street and you see a small, well-lit place that has this line-up on its shelves: Moleskine, iPod, an IKEA chair, Tiffany & Co. jewelry, Bose, Dualit toasters, Beyond toothpaste, Mrs Ball’s Chutney, Matt & Nat bags, Natura skin cleanser. What connects this variety of products? It’s not the superb taste of Murray Moss or the pulse of the latest trends picked up by Colette, it’s the simple fact that they all are included in Lovemarks.com’s Top Five lists. Who wouldn’t push open the door and step inside?

One day I hope to create my Lovemarks store, but as I love Monocle, their store sounds like a great start.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The All Blacks: A matter of faith

Well, the All Blacks achieved the second Grand Slam in three years over the weekend. Convincingly. In a year which started horrendously with our exit from the World Cup, we have now collected the Bledisloe Cup, the Tri Nations, and a Grand Slam. What a fantastic vindication for the New Zealand Rugby Union who were brave enough to vote Graham Henry, Steve Hanson, and Wayne Smith back in as coaches. It would have been all too easy to bow to public pressure and knee jerk into a new coaching era, forgetting everything this trio had done prior to that one disastrous 80 minutes. Instead, the coaches buckled down, eliminated a lot of stuff, changed their views on things like rotation, and really delivered a highly motivated, highly professional, all round performance.

The defensive effort on the tour of the U.K. has been unparalleled. No international team scored a try against the All Blacks and no one scored any points in the second half against us. When you think about the exodus of players from New Zealand this year, the result is even more important. It is a strong endorsement of continuity, commitment, focus, re-invention, and creating a culture of responsibility throughout the team.

We can now all put the World Cup behind us and move forward.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dream team

I’ve spent a lot of time in rugby changing rooms, both as a player in my youth and as a passionate supporter. There is nothing more electric than this place at half time when the team’s down half-a-dozen points or more. On a recent memorable occasion, the coach came into the room, looked at the long faces on the benches, and said seven words. “If you really want it, it’s yours.” These words could be the foundations of sustainability. The New Zealanders went on to defeat their Australian opponents 34-20 to win the Rugby League World Cup for the first time. I believe that we can only inspire people with the determination to make sustainability part of their lives. We cannot direct, instruct, or command them.

I’ve written before about how I believe that for greater sustainability we first need to change how we think about the task ahead. Big problems give big headaches and an inability to take effective action. Ask any CEO the best way to tackle a big problem and they will tell you to break it down into manageable parts. It is the same with sustainability. Take the problem apart and light an inspirational fire under it. “If you really want it, it’s yours.”

The team that heard those words went out onto the field and trounced opponents that everyone else thought out-classed them. From the moment they ran back onto the grass, it was clear that each one of them totally understood what was required and believed in the dream. Together they were literally unbeatable. I believe it will be the same with sustainability. Once we all understand the problem in a way that makes us believe we can make a significant contribution, and we are inspired to work together to give that contribution some heft, change will start rolling.

A sustainable world will come from an inspirational dream, not an insurmountable threat. It is the same with the economy, social issues, and the environment. A sustainable planet is possible if we all have the same dream.

If we really want it, it’s ours.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Haven of Life

A couple of weeks ago I spent five days in "The Haven of Life". Chiva Som is a two and a half hour drive from Bangkok and is one of the most beautiful places on earth. This is my sixth visit and I always stay in the same room every time, room 303 – The Chamomile Suite. I love this room that overlooks the pool, palm trees, yoga pavilion, and ocean. It is a place where I recharge my batteries for the year-end and take time out to refresh the mind, body, and spirit. I dropped 8lbs. by following a 5-day Classic Cleansing diet comprising of vegetable juice, potassium broth, wheatgrass, and lots and lots of water.


I combined this with a daily massage (including my first ever facial) and a brilliant 5 Element Massage using hot and cold stones. I also worked out every morning, played tennis with Tam every day (four wins out of four – 3 in a tie-break and one 7-5). I had a water aerobics class daily and at least one hot tub and steam every day. I didn’t speak to anyone except the tennis pro for the entire five days and it gave me time to focus on positivity and replenishment.

In the hectic business life we all lead nowadays, I find the person we most often neglect is ourselves. Instead we spend lots of time worrying about the business, our clients, and our people.

“If your thoughts are always positive you will be at peace with yourself and all around you the world will smile.” Joy is one of the great motivators of peak performance. Reminding ourselves to find the joy in every situation by making people smile is not only a great equity position for Crest toothpaste (where healthy beautiful smiles for life are the order of the day), but it is also a highly inspirational code to live by.

Chiva Som was only 40% full when I was there and it was mainly women. In fact, I only saw three male guests during the five, which meant the men’s spa was always empty. Perfect.

Chiva Som is a favorite among celebrities like Elizabeth Hurley and Sarah Ferguson, and you’ll find lots of Thais and expats from Bangkok taking a weekend break. Women were using the time away from husbands, family, and work to pamper themselves, mothers and daughters were bonding, and a few couples were getting in shape (spiritually and physically) together. I was the only person there on the Classic Cleanse; everyone else was enjoying the health spa lifestyle and food which is delicious. I wrote about Chiva Som last year but it really does get better as the pace of life gets faster.

I did lots of reading during the five days and was also reminded of one of the core tenets of a good life: “It is always good to grow in the spirit of forgiveness. But we must also learn to forget.” Instead of going over many wrongs that may have happened to us in the past, let us forget them and live in the present.

I almost forgot to tell you about the work part (oh, yes, that too). I spent three hours a day in the library keeping things whirling. I did this with my iPod on, with total tranquility all around, and wearing only a t-shirt and shorts.
The news everyday wasn’t too hot, with American Express laying off 10% of their workforce, people’s 401K funds in the U.S. being hammered, and job losses wherever you look. And it was happening in businesses as varied as Chrysler and Yahoo!. Once again, though, my readings helped me, “Conditions are always good, never bad; we need to know how to make good use of them. The man who waits for conditions to improve may have to wait for eternity”.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Eye Spy A-Space

My kids are all on Facebook. I’ve so far resisted the temptation as I grow older gracefully (another birthday just came and went). The move towards social networks has really accelerated over the past 12 months and it certainly is one of the key phenomena of the century’s first decade.

In September, the U.S. government launched A-Space, aka Facebook for Spies. It is a highly restricted website only available to members of the FBI, CIA, NSA, and 13 other intelligent services. I spoke to this mob 3-4 years ago and I can vouch for their smarts, work rate, analytical skills, and overall geekiness. Social skills did not seem to be a prerequisite so A-Space was launched. The spies’ very own social network designed to encourage the sharing of ideas, information, and hot dating amongst this very high-powered, high security classified group.

I wonder if the Russians have got access?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Loving the Kindle

Andy Murray, Global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi X, is an early adopter of the Kindle and never leaves home without it. He is the greatest evangelist (second only to Oprah, who showed it last week and drove her viewers straight onto Amazon.com where Kindle sales are once again going through the roof). Andy’s after me to get one and somehow he has convinced himself that the retro design is cool and Atari 80's-like. He also finds it emotional and sensorial. Andy has always been a voracious news reader and tells me he now downloads, free everyday, the Financial Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Onion, Slate, Time, BusinessWeek, and Newsweek. Without commenting on Andy’s somewhat conservative reading taste (!!) I wonder if anyone else out there has any views on the Kindle? I love to read but I still love the physical fix you get from newspapers. That’s why I still buy CDs which I then of course, put onto my iPod. Am I being a dinosaur? Should I give in and Kindle?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Have a Seat

My dear friend, Jorge Oller from Costa Rica, and I share many interests, good wine, great music, and Lovemarks amongst them. As I have posted before, we also have a passion for chairs. Over the years, chairs have been a fascination to me and a few weeks back I took possession of the Villain Chair. This chair first appeared in Sean Connery’s Bond adventure You Only Live Twice. It was Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s key prop, along with the Persian cat and the eye scar Donald Pleasance wore in the part. Now SUCK UK have just introduced the chair in a gorgeous Cadbury Dairy Milk colored leather with 20 aluminum panels angled to cushion you in decadent, criminal luxury. Naturally it also swivels for maximum malevolence.

This chair now has pride of place in my TriBeCa loft alongside La Chaise from Charles and Ray Eames, Shiro Kuramata’s 'How High is the Moon' chair, and hanging from the loft ceiling is the Eero Aarnio Bubble Chair. On the deck I have a range of Frank Miller’s 1960’s iconic garden furniture, alongside the more up-to-date Philippe Starck Bubble Club armchair and sofa.

In Auckland, I have a bunch of chairs from Ross Lovegrove, David Trubridge, Marcel Breuer, Philippe Starck (including the Royalton Sofas and armchairs I first saw when that hotel opened a few years ago), the classic Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Chair and Day Bed, Verner Panton Heart chair and, my favorite, the Milana chair from Jean Nouvel.

In Grasmere, I have Eero Aarnio’s Ball chair, along with two amazing Peter Blake deckchairs Ro surprised me with for my birthday last month.

When I visited Jorge in his home in San Juan, Costa Rica, a couple a years back, it felt like home away from home with many of the same pieces scattered around Jorge’s home and the agency. He’s too warm and friendly to have the Villain Chair though.

p.s. You can see most of these on www.regencyshop.com and the Villain Chair on www.suck.uk.com.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Don’t swing that cat inside

After my post on iPhone Apps and reintroducing 'small is beautiful' as an idea that’s right for our time, a friend recommended a great site featuring another small triumph. This time it’s housing. In a video on the site, a couple of people have settled into small (and I mean small) houses as a way to reinvent their lives, and tell their stories. In some places in the world, even these 800 square feet (70 square meter) dwellings would be spacious but, as in all things, size is relative!

There is quite a movement among architects in New Zealand to build houses using shipping containers. The idea works on the 'small is beautiful' principle, and once you have a few of these metal boxes piled up and clad with something more appealing than steel, they can turn into roomy and well designed homes. Just last week, a Lovemarks.com story on IKEA from Matroshka beautifully summed up this philosophy of simplicity: “Plain, Nordic, simple. Reminds me of my youth when we were poor and full of hope.”

There is the opportunity to put a whole lot of small things together to make one large one. This has happened in the U.K. where Travelodge has created a 100 room hotel made from, you guessed it, shipping containers. It cost the hotel chain ten percent less and took ten weeks faster to build. Regrettably the process has been gifted the rather unlovable name of ‘box and build’. On a more positive note, the hotel can be easily reshaped and resized and the rooms look as good as any regular hotel room you are likely to see. Projects like these have a lot to show us about thinking outside the box – literally. We need innovative ways to add value; initiatives that push ahead recycling at scale and a serious reconsideration of the amount of space we take up on the planet.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bob Isherwood

I have held off writing about the departure from Saatchi & Saatchi of my good friend and colleague, Bob Isherwood. Partly it’s because I am having difficulty imagining what the place will be like without him, and because I’m enjoying memories of challenges overcome, ideas unleashed, and the fantastic times we’ve had together.

Bob was already a mainstay of Saatchi & Saatchi when I arrived. In the early days, we’d talk for hours about Saatchi & Saatchi as an ideas company and what it meant to our clients, our people and to the ones who matter most – consumers. For Bob who has been in advertising all of his life, the shift was bold and courageous. Over the years he has been up and down more award stages than he can count. He had a serious investment in the advertising industry while I had just jumped in from the client side, but he was passionate about the potential of ideas to make sustainable emotional connections. He always understood that an idea is not an idea until it engages consumers.

Bob has always had great instincts for what’s important, whether it’s the juice in an idea or the spark in a untested young creative’s eye. Simply having Bob Isherwood in the room has cracked countless campaigns and sent hundreds of creatives back to the drawing board with a brilliant solution to what seemed like an unsolvable problem.

Saatchi & Saatchi was founded on the belief that “Nothing Is Impossible.” Bob’s ‘footprint in the snow’ are the words “World Changing Ideas.” We stay dedicated to both.

Sail well my friend.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

To Dare

Thinking about the Theodore Roosevelt quote* the other day, also reminded me of a quotation from a completely different source. The great photographer Cecil Beaton who died 30 years ago said, “Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play it safers, the creatures of the common place, the slaves of the ordinary”.

Zigging while others zag has always been at the heart of my personal belief set. It is why I’ve always felt so comfortable at Saatchi & Saatchi whose founding purpose was “Nothing is Impossible”. The times we live in today will not be illuminated by the ordinary, by the standard, by the play it safers. Today’s reputations will be made by those who dare to be different.

Happy Thanksgiving, United States of America.

* “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Don't Bank On These Guys

I’ve been railing against idiot bankers for years now. Wall Street was driven by greed, dishonesty, and dishonor. The salaries paid were obscene and the arrogance amazing. Watching this latest meltdown from neighboring TriBeCa has been horrendous. I don’t really care what happens to the bankers. In fact, I’m more than a little pissed that so many of them have walked away with fat cat bonuses over the last three years and we found no way to get that money back.

What depresses me is what happens to the average person. Many employees at Saatchi & Saatchi have seen their 401K retirement funds decimated by the greed, stupidity, and arrogance of these so-called 'Masters of the Universe'. And the worst is yet to come. Management around the world are taking radical cost actions to survive. In my job, I get to speak to CEOs all over the world and no matter what business they are in or in what geography, when you ask them this question, “What’s your most important resource?”, they always have one answer - their people. But at the first hint of trouble, the first thing that many of them do is get rid of them, indiscriminately and usually starting with the innocent in the middle and at the bottom, rather than at the top where in most instances the blame lies.

Last week in the U.S., mass layoffs reached their highest level since the recession month following the September 11 attack. Unemployment hit 6.5% in October, the highest rate since 1994. No industry is immune. Chrysler laid off 6,825 people last month, 25% of their workforce. The once mighty Goldman Sachs laid off 3,250 people, 10% of their workforce. Poster child Yahoo laid off 1,500 people, 10% of their workforce. And Merck, once all powerful in the pharma world, laid off 7,200 people, or 12% of their workforce.

My view is that the role of business is to make the world a better place for everyone. The way it does this is through innovation and ideas that create jobs, not by highfalutin, fancy-named pseudo technological financial instruments which destroy wealth, hope, and dreams.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

RocknRolla

Guy Ritchie is back. Two of my favorite movies were Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch; funny, clever, fast-paced, brilliantly shot and full of larger than life British characters. Ritchie’s been distracted the last few years trying to cope with the demands of the me, me, me, Material Girl, Madonna. As a result, his creative performance went out the window. Now she’s left him (anyone surprised by that?) to chase baseball stars. The good news? The Big Guy is back.


I went to see RocknRolla last week and it was fantastic. We’re talking great direction, fantastic music, terrific performances by the actors, especially from the star, Gerard Butler. All in all, a rollicking good time. Set in contemporary London, it tells the story of old school English gangsters dealing with the new Russian mafia, including a Roman Abramovich look-a-like at the Emirates Stadium, not Stamford Bridge. The characters, One Two, Mumbles and Archie are perfectly pitched to bring out the best of John, the RocknRolla.

The plot has typical Ritchie-like twists and turns but is more mature, more subtle and slightly darker than earlier movies. The good news is that it threatens to lead to a follow-up movie.

Great to have you back, Guy.

Inspiration

In the 60’s I was an avid fan of Manchester City’s glory trio of Lee, Bell, and Summerbee. Manchester United had Charlton, Best, and Law, and we had Franny, Nijinsky, and Buzzer. All three played for England, all three were mavericks and all three were inspirational characters.


Franny Lee was a hustling, bustling striker who made millions in the toilet paper business and later became Chairman of Manchester City. My hero, Colin Bell, who had his leg broken in a horrific tackle by Manchester United’s Martin Buchan, had a stand named after him at the City of Manchester Stadium and is rated by most as Manchester City’s best ever player. He came from Bury, a homely club I used to watch with my Uncle Roy when I was 8 years old. Buzzer Summerbee was George Best’s best friend (in fact, Besty was Buzzer’s best man at his wedding to the beautiful Tina). I’ve just finished reading Buzzer’s autobiography, which is a great working class kind of book about football in the 60’s and 70’s.

These entertainers were paid so little but they certainly lived the good life. What struck me about the book is the inspirational quotation from Theodore Roosevelt that Summerbee claims as his life long inspiration. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Great thoughts from a great man. And how appropriate they are today when the whole world is running around blaming others, feeling depressed, without hope, and is in danger of withdrawing into its own shell. This is the time for people to have a go, to be optimistic, and enthusiastic, and to give your all. Go Teddy go!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fireworks in Dubai

I was a guest, with my wife Rowena and daughter Bex, at the opening of Atlantis-The Palm in Dubai on November 20. Saatchi & Saatchi London and Dubai won the Atlantis Palm account earlier in 2008, this was the big moment. For everyone interested in the future of world commerce, Dubai is inescapable, given its strategic location to China, India, Africa and Europe. Dubai has thought ahead in bold and daring ways, and has created infrastructure that is regionally and globally important. For a start, fly Emirates, to 100 countries. And in a world where tourism is trending local for a year or two, the list of truly spectacular architectural (and engineering) wonders narrows tangentially: among them Dubai, where I first visited and did business in the 1970s when it was a port and fishing town. Now Dubai is a global business and tourism hub. Sol Kerzner, creator of Atlantis, has produced several of the world's best experiences in hotels, vacations, and dream-times. The #1 core value of his company is "blow away the customer." And at the opening of his second Atlantis (the original is in The Bahamas), this is what he did. Rowena takes up the story.

There just aren't enough adjectives to describe our experience at the Grand Opening Celebrations of the Atlantis at The Palm in Dubai.

We arrived on Thursday morning feeling very refreshed after a wonderful journey courtesy of Emirates Airlines. Bex and I flew in from Auckland and Kevin flew in from New York. After checking in at the Atlantis — a masterpiece of towering arches and arabesque domes located at the very tip of The Palm Jumeirah — we were handed a very extensive welcome package. Inside was a beautiful gold, brass, and cord bracelet handcrafted by Taj Taj that turned out to be the most important thing we had been given. It was this bracelet that ensured exclusive access to all the events and activities relating to this "once in a lifetime" three days.

The following night we were privileged to be part of the invitees at the US$20 million Grand Opening. After leaving our room drapes closed as instructed (more on this later!), we met up in the Grand Lobby of the Royal Towers. You could feel the buzz and air of excitement — all the guests were very elegantly attired in black tie or national dress. We were escorted down the red carpeted staircases to the Royal Deck whilst sipping our champagne. From there we mixed and mingled amongst the VIPs of the world, including Charlize Theron, Robert De Niro, Gerard Butler, Janet Jackson, Lindsay Lohan, Michael Jordan, The Duchess of York, Mary Kate Olsen, Mischa Barton, Wesley Snipes, Agyness Deyn, Lily Allen — the list was endless. All the celebrities were happily mingling with everyone else, there was no special area. In fact, the whole evening was very inclusive — at one point we watched Michael Jordan having a quiet drink by himself at the bar!

The stage was set amongst the palms and swimming pools and we were accompanied by beautiful Middle Eastern music as we made our way to our tables to experience "The Birth of an Icon", the more formal part of the evening. We were absolutely delighted to be sitting on a table with a very eclectic bunch of guests including Karyn McCarthy from The Leading Hotels of the World in New York. This was particularly interesting for me from my earlier days working in corporate travel, and very interesting for Kevin, being such a traveler and supporter of their wonderful hotel portfolio. At the table were Albert Herrera from Virtuoso in New York, Nigel Page from Emirates Airlines, Helen McCabe-Young from Kerzner International, and Sol Kerzner, who was the the visionary behind this amazing resort. Richard Branson and his family were seated at a neighboring table.

The dinner was a feast of traditional Arabic mezzes and delicious international cuisine created by celebrity chefs from the world renowned restaurants, Nobu Matsuhisa, Giorgio Locatelli, Michel Rostang, and Santi Santamaria (all four restaurants making up part of the dining choices at Atlantis). It was just one delight after another, all while being accompanied by a magical performance by Lebanese singer, Nawal Al Zoghbi.

Imagine this scene — here we were in a restaurant outside in the balmy desert night, situated amidst the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf, gazing upon the most beautiful piece of architectural excellence — on land that five years ago was all water. It was surreal! And this was only the beginning. Quincy Jones appeared on stage to welcome the star guest of the evening and we were treated to an electric performance by Kylie Minogue in her first appearance in the Middle East, accompanied by her band and dance troupe. This got the younger guests up and dancing between the tables and very much in the party mood.

Then the evening really took off!

Bollywood superstar and former Miss World, Priyanka Chopra, appeared as the Goddess of Atlantis and introduced the largest display of fireworks in history. It was created by the Grucci Family — $6 million worth, seven times larger than the Beijing Olympics ceremony.* The whole story of the search for Atlantis was created using the hotel facade as a screen, complete with amazing sound effects — camels and mythical sea creatures flashed across this "screen" accompanied by music and perfectly in sync with the fireworks. On and on it went, dazzling flashes of color after color, flumes and sprays splashing across the starlit night sky. The whole 43kms of the Palm Jumeirah was illuminated (and apparently visible from space) and the whole of the audience stood mesmerized — in awe. It was incredible and almost impossible to describe. You had to be there to see it. The fireworks, including rhythmical sprays from each guest bedroom (hence the closed drapes) tinkled and swayed in time to the beats. The whole display lasted for about 20 minutes and when it finished there was silence — then rapturous applause. The general consensus was that we had witnessed something, the like of which we would never see again.

As the moon rose higher over the Arabian Gulf, the celebration continued with the Royal Afterglow — DJ spinning sensation Samantha Ronson kept the guests dancing till the early hours.

What a night! Sol Kerzner's team certainly know how to put on a party!

Luckily for us it was still not over. Today we spent hours in the Aquaventure, a water adventure playground in the grounds of the Atlantis — thrilling water slides, awe-inspiring river rides, tidal waves and rapids — and guess what — there was hardly anyone there (obviously still recovering from the Royal Afterglow!). Kevin conquered the Leap of Faith, and with Bex, the Surge and the Shark Attack. Bex also spent 60 minutes in a one on one with Lexi the dolphin in the Dolphin Adventure. It was amazing — surrounded by the blue Gulf waters and the backdrop of the Dubai skyline, camels and a Bedouin tent on the beach — it couldn't have been more perfect.

Tonight we are being hosted by Sol Kerzner's team again. This time to "eat, drink and dance the night away". We are to meet in the Poseidon's Court and we will be given our table at either Nobu, Locatelli, Rostang or Seafire — followed by another high energy party in the Sanctuary Nightclub with Sam Ronson on the turntables.

Bex and I think we've died and gone to heaven!

* For those of you interested in the fireworks statistics:

220 pyrotechnicians produced the display. It was one of the most ambitiously designed and technically advanced computer-controlled fireworks performances ever attempted and was managed by 62 computer systems operated by 1,200 satellite controlled modules, which initiated more than 36,000 circuits.

More than 100,000 specially designed pyrotechnic devices were fired in less than 9 minutes.

Fireworks were launched from 716 locations including 50 points along the 17km crescent of Palm Jumeirah, 226 floating pontoons across 46 kms of water outlining the Palm fronds , 40 locations along the 5.5km monorail on the Palm's trunk and over 400 balconies of Atlantis.

Some series of shells burst at an altitude of 245 metres, and were visible from space.

The largest aerial shell rose 300 metres and displayed its flowery burst the size of two soccer fields.

Fireworks illuminated the entire 69,403 square metre facade of the Royal Towers of Atlantis.

Special effects fireworks were designed and manufactured in China, Spain, Italy and Taiwan in addition to the designers' (Grucci) versions made in the US.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Off the Map

The Edge is a fantastic metaphor for connecting creativity, innovation and risk. I use it often. The potential of the Edge was inspired by living in New Zealand and discussions with my colleague, Brian Sweeney. We both strongly believe in the potential of ideas that are born beyond the center, beyond the conformist, beyond the well-known out there on the Edge. People who live on the Edge get the idea immediately but people who believe they live in the center – and are proud of it - find this tougher to understand and even tougher to get why it’s important.

Enter an extraordinary tool, one that we’ve twisted and turned for centuries to reflect how we think and feel about our world. I’m talking about maps. From the guesstimates of medieval times to the unearthly precision of satellite cartography, maps make plain our aspirations, perceptions and knowledge.

Who was not startled the first time they saw a map that put the Northern Hemisphere at the ‘bottom’ of the globe? I’ve always loved the map that puts New Zealand at the center, with every other land mass radiating out from our islands. New Zealanders can savor the paradox of being at the center and on the Edge at the same time. This kind of vertigo is exactly what’s brought on by a fantastic new publication from Thames & Hudson: The Atlas of the Real World.

This extraordinary publication is deeply provocative. It raises surprising questions and gives us insight we didn’t realize we needed. It is a wonderful example of surprising with the obvious.

For instance, a map that shows all the countries of the world by their exact land area. At first sight it looks like any other map of the world you might have seen pinned up behind an office desk, travel agent or school room, but on closer examination prepare for a surprise. Europe shrinks to a small proportion of the land mass of Africa, and Alaska is not around the same size as Australia. In fact, this frozen landmass would fit around that continent three times.

Even more extraordinary are the social, cultural and historical maps – countries sized by the numbers of troops they sent to wars and by tourism. A map scales countries by the number of fast food outlets, in this case McDonald's. Suddenly China, so dominant in most of these maps, virtually disappears along with Africa and Central Europe, while the tiny islands of New Zealand are plump enough to make up a third of South America.

This is how I like to see numbers used – to make obvious facts so surprising that we gain insight into the truth of our world and are inspired to take action.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lost

One of the most exciting innovations coming the way of frequent flyers is Motorola’s RFID technology. The initials stand for Radio Frequency Identification, which will put an end to the frustrations caused by the ever increasing lost baggage syndrome. My bags have disappeared twice this year (although they did catch up with me a few days later). Both times were the result of the incredible stress airlines and airports are under as they constantly reduce headcount and costs to stay afloat. Last year more than 34 million bags were lost or mishandled worldwide. And I was that soldier. Now Motorola have invented a tracking system where a small chip is embedded in each bag tag. The chip picks up radio waves emitted by the RFID at different points on the belt, sending a message saying “Here I Am.” The read rate is currently 99.5% vs. 80% for optical scanners. This is where the problem starts. If a bag isn’t read, then it’s handled manually and good luck and godspeed. The system has been tested at Las Vegas which processes around 70,000 pieces of baggage a day. Using RFID, the airport only had to manually handle 350 bags with no losses. I understand Air New Zealand are in the vanguard of this development. Bring it on!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Palms

The excitement is mounting. On November 20 we’ll be in Dubai watching Kylie Minogue open the most incredible hotel in the world, Sol Kerzner’s Atlantis on The Palm. Sol is the original 'Nothing is Impossible' man. 18 million liters of water in the adventure park, 11 million liters in the aquarium, 1.4 kilometers of beach, 65,000 marine animals housed in the Ambassador Lagoon, 1,539 rooms, a 924 square meter bridge suite, a 27.5 meter 'Leap of Faith' waterslide. At a cost of $1.5 billion.

Atlantis is modeled on the brilliant property in the Bahamas and takes its name from the fabled land under the sea. Here at The Palms, Sol and his partner (the United Arab Emirates government) have transformed 17 hectares (42 acres) of water into a themed amusement at Aquaventure.

I took a plane over the property six months ago and have been privileged to be involved in all the launch marketing and advertising. 'The Lost Chambers' brings the myth of Atlantis to life through a maze of underground tunnels offering views into the boulevards of the ruins of Athens. Dolphin Bay is a state of the art education and conservation center affording the opportunity to personally interact with the wildlife under expert supervision. There are 17 bars, lounges and restaurants, including Nobu from Nobu Matsuhisa and Robert DeNiro, and Ronda Locatelli, which is Giorgio Locatelli’s first outpost outside of London. There is also a French brasserie from Michel Rostang. Topping this (because he has three Michelin stars and Locatelli and Rostang only have two!) is Spanish chef Santi Santamaria and his seafood Ossiano.

We’re heading out there for three to four days of partying and parasailing at the Aquaventure park. This will redefine Middle East tourism and bring together all the classic elements of a great break for today’s luxury eco guest. I can’t wait!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The times are a changing

I spent last weekend in Washington, D.C. It is an underrated, beautiful city which is really worth a 2-3 day visit. We were there for a USA Rugby Board meeting and to attend the traditional New Zealand Ambassador’s Shield Rugby Match. The game was to celebrate an amazing initiative with Hyde School, an inner city, low income, urban development with all the problems you would expect in a public charter in the inner city. Over the last decade, Tal Bayer has run an initiative at the school using rugby as a catalyst to create character, growth, recognition and pride. The results have been spectacular. 50% of African-American males from Washington, D.C. never graduate high school. In contrast, 100% of Hyde senior rugby players are accepted to 4-year anniversaries.



We celebrated this initiative with a dinner hosted by the New Zealand Ambassador, Roy Ferguson and his wife, Dawn, at their residence at the New Zealand Embassy. It was a beautiful evening that brought together business, government, academia and sport, all driven by shared beliefs and shared dreams. The conversation, as well as the food, was stimulating and it was a joy to hear Roy talk about democracy and rugby. The timing could not have been better as it was within one week of America’s decision to choose Barack Obama as their president. It was also 12 hours after New Zealand’s decision to elect Prime Minister John Key. Both these choices were driven by a desire for change, the need to refresh and an optimistic trust in shared, inclusive values. America and New Zealand share many things and hopefully these two new leaders will bring their countries closer together politically and in the vital (for New Zealand) trade arena. It was a pretty buzzy time to be in Washington I can tell you.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Small is beautiful

Back in the seventies the expression 'Small is Beautiful' was on everyone’s lips. The phrase was the title of a book by British economist E. F. Schumacher. I’m betting that this was the phrase that rang in Steve Jobs’ ears when he was thinking about where to go with the iPhone. I’m talking about iPhone apps, of course; those funny, helpful, entertaining and must-have applications you can download from iTunes.

If you know anyone with an iPhone, and that seems to be just about everyone, you will have been shown how the beautifully designed screen can double up as a spirit level, a glassful of milk, a block of knock-on-wood, a device that recognizes songs and makes them available for download, and so on and on. All this is wonderful in its own way and jump starts conversations anywhere, but the really astonishing thing about these Apple apps is that they are so cheap and that they generate so much revenue. Many of them are free, some can be downloaded for a couple of dollars and big ticket purchases, like a dictionary or encyclopedia, are around the price of a paperback.

'Small is Beautiful' indeed. By making iPhone apps fun and easy purchases, Apple has opened up a new market for people who want to spend small and get big results. The results for Apple have been sensational. The numbers keep heading north, but the last time I heard we’re talking about more than 100 million downloads from the iPhone App Store. As for revenue, we’re talking $30 million a month, and counting.

The iTunes store had already pointed the way to a 'Small is Beautiful' world with its option to download that single song you love rather than having to buy a whole album. Watch 'Small is Beautiful' change the way people package and market over the next five years. Also start thinking about how the reintroduction of this idea, thanks to the digital age, can help us put a lighter footprint on our planet.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Mystery of Chanel

A few weeks ago I spoke with Chanel’s senior team in New York. To me, Chanel is already a Lovemark so these people are in the exhilarating position of keeping that status. With John Galantic, Chanel’s CEO in New York, I also visited the latest in their efforts to show their customers that the love went both ways. It’s the Mobile Art Pavilion. Now located in New York’s Central Park, the Pavilion has been to Hong Kong and Tokyo and will travel to London, Moscow and Paris. It is an extraordinary spectacle. The Pavilion is a true convergence enterprise in the sexy sense of the word. The convergence of art, architecture and design; the convergence of the huge talents of architect Zaha Hadid (Cincinnati’s Rosenthal Centre for Contemporary Art and the Vitra Fire Station) and Chanel’s own Karl Lagerfeld; the convergence of public and private with a substantial donation being made to Central Park; the convergence

of 15 artists from Europe, Asia and the Americas; and, of course, the convergence of culture and commerce. Go Yoko!

The first impact of the Pavilion is surprise; it looks as though it has just landed from outer space. It is so other-worldly that its beauty is hard to place. It stands alone in the confines of the familiar park, drawing on childhood memories of the future as well elemental mysteries that stand outside time. Hadid bases most of her work on the landscape, so the folds and shadows she creates feel both familiar and strange. That’s a weird sensation. It could be a shell, a twisted new geometry, a work of high craft or higher art, or none of the above.

It’s not often you get two such hugely creative and successful people as Hadid and Lagerfeld willing or able to collaborate, or a major company so willing to let them at it, so I‘ve been surprised by some of the negative reactions to the Pavilion. The New York Times went so far as to call the project “delusional” and to claim that visitors were tempted to “stray farther and farther from the real world outside”. That’s not what I saw. I saw people perfectly capable of working out that this was a world-class fantasy brought to New York to enchant and entertain them. Its purpose was to showcase the skills of some of our greatest cultural magicians – and to do it inclusively and for free. I saw people’s eyes light up and smiles appear as they wandered through this extraordinary place. They welcomed such a spectacle as an emotional inspiration and a vision of an alternate reality.

When times get tough people want confidence, and they want signs to show them that the human spirit is forever hopeful, forever striving, forever young. The amazing creation of Zaha Hadid and Karl Largerfeld certainly does all three.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Babe Ruth and the Power of Ideas

Every now and then you hear something that feels so true it takes you by surprise. It happened when I heard Steve Jobs talking about upcoming models of the iPhone. He said, “Babe Ruth only had one home run. He just kept hitting it over and over again”. Pow! Talk about surprising with the obvious.


How often do we see an idea nudged off course and destroyed by incrementalism? A tweak here, a modification there, some repositioning and the beauty of what you had evaporates. The lesson is simple. When you have a great idea, don’t immediately start changing it into a different great idea. Let your idea breathe. More is not always better and this is exactly where Jobs was going with his Babe Ruth metaphor. Most phone companies roll out handset model after model with tweaks to the colors and the layout but with very little thought to what all these different versions mean to the people who are buying them. The important question to ask about any product is how it delivers in terms of Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy - and to ask that question relentlessly. You don’t have to hold an iPhone for more than a nanosecond to know that Jobs’ team had that kind of focus and discipline backing up their inspirational design.

Having a great idea is one thing; knowing that you have it separates out the winners. I’ve always been impressed by the way the Kaplan Thaler Group – another member of the Publicis family – harvests ideas. At meetings, and not just creative meetings, one person is dedicated to being the idea catcher. Their task is to capture every idea, big, little, good, bad, and from anyone in the room, not just the person with the loudest voice or the biggest office. How many times have you been at a meeting when you’ve heard a good idea only to let it slip away as the meeting roared onwards?

As the economy tightens, ideas will become increasingly important to move business upward and onward. Why not try the Idea Catcher idea and see what it brings you?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Beautiful, Beautiful Buenos Aires

I just spent three days in one of my favorite cities – Buenos Aires. I was speaking to 2,000 executives about the future of brands in this tough economic environment, as well as catching up with the MBAs at the Universidad de Palermo.

I stayed at an old favorite hotel, Alvear Palace, one of the Leading Hotels of the World. It has a great French restaurant, La Bourgogne, terrific spa, and a great location right next to hustling, bustling Recoleta.

I arrived on a Sunday when the market was open and it was terrific to walk around the hundreds of art and crafts stalls. Later that evening, I dropped in to La Biela on Quintano, a century old bar where you can sit underneath a huge Ombu tree on the sidewalk and drink fresh Malbec wine. Then it was on to a special evening with HSM’s CEO, Eduardo Braun. He invited us to a beautiful Palermo loft where we were entertained by a wine tasting from Michel Rolland and tango experience complete with singing, dancing and lessons from Eduardo!!

In my mind, Buenos Aires is the world’s hottest city. The architecture and layout are based on Madrid and Paris and the wide boulevards are just a delight to walk. In fact, 9 de Julio Avenue is 140 meters wide. One of the widest in the world. The city is a great contrast of funky nightlife, tango mythology and tradition.



My favorite area is Puerto Madero, where I stayed in April with Bex. It is reminiscent of the Butler's Wharf redevelopment in London by Tower Bridge (where I lived when I first joined Saatchi & Saatchi in 1997). There, we stayed in a funky boutique hotel, Faena Hotel+Universe, designed by Norman Foster and Philippe Starck. It covers the coastal strip from Retiro to La Boca with its old buildings restored into bars and restaurants. La Boca, of course, is home to La Bombonera, the stadium of Maradona’s (the new national team coach) Boca Juniors, the most popular soccer team in Argentina. Watching this working class team play its more upscale rivals, River Plate, is not for the faint hearted.

Close by is Malba, the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires. A few years back I was fortunate enough to host a Saatchi & Saatchi reception at the museum, which contains one of the best Latin American art exhibits in the world.

The nightlife in Buenos Aires kicks off at midnight and goes to 8:00am. Puerto Madera, Costanera Norte, are famous for their steaks, fresh red wine and parilladas (barbecues).

There is no more interesting place to visit nowadays than Buenos Aires. The shopping is outstanding and the prices are low. From there, of course, you can head to Patagonia, Iguazu, Mendoza or Cordoba, and it’s only a hop to nearby Punte del Este in Uruguay, the Hamptons of Latin America. Argentina delivers beaches, mountains, deserts, woods, forests and ice.

I’m going to take a couple of weeks here one of these days.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Simon Gault

Well, my mate Simon Gault has beaten the great Heston Blumenthal to the punch. Heston is about to publish a £100 cookbook at the end of this year from The Fat Duck with rumors abounding of a limited edition of selling for £1,000.

My old friend and partner, Simon, has produced Nourish which goes out on sale today and it’s a thing of beauty. It draws together all the recipes that Simon has worked on in his career, from Antoine’s through to Euro. It includes great stuff from the Jervois Steak House and Shed 5 in Wellington. Both these restaurants to me feel like great home cooking, with Jervois delivering the best steak in New Zealand and Shed 5 delivering its own fish monger and fish filleting service.

The book is beautiful. Instead of just art directed shots of food, it actually shows Simon’s team at work and is a great lifestyle coffee table addition to any home, as well as being a necessity for every serious kitchen. Every home should buy two!

Go to the section on Simon’s own favorites for the best food tips. It’s a joyful read and, for a change, all the recipes are well within the reach of every kitchen.

To cap it off, Ferran Adria, chef of El Bulli in Spain, has written an endorsement personally.

(So there you have it, three of my favorite chefs, Heston, Ferran and Simon all in the same article!)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sustaining Families

Today I want to draw sustainability in another direction. Towards technology. No, not technologies that save energy or clean the environment, but familiar technologies we use everyday. Computers, email, phones and the rest have not only sped up my life, they have also hugely enriched my family life. For a start, it means we can retain close connections when we are scattered across the globe – Auckland, Rome, New York, London. I can catch up on the latest family snaps, talk with any of them wherever I am (and on video if I’ve access to the right gear), get the short version in texts and the long version on email, and of course, there's YouTube and Skype. It means Ro can see Stella every day (well, three times a day actually!). We also have a family blog where we share what’s important to us without talking to the world.

I was pleased that my own family’s experience is in perfect sync with a recent report on families and their use of technology. Five years ago the growing power of computing and the Internet was regarded as a serious problem for sustaining the vitality and mutual support of families. The thinking was that unless a family was sitting around the same dinner table every night, it couldn’t be called a real family. What a difference a few years make! Experience has taught us that technology can nurture the intimacy of family connections and the support that goes with them. However, video games can be a diversion. The lockdown some kids get into when they are playing them is a temporary escape, not a life state.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has the numbers. 60 percent of adults said new technology did not affect the closeness of their families and 25 percent said it actually made them closer. And frankly, I believe that this 60 percent could all go into positive territory if they made some proactive changes on how they use and share their technological freedom. Even more significantly, people who felt that technology had changed their family life felt it had been for the good. That's the feeling we can use to make a direct link with sustainability.

I’ve written often about the idea that sustainability demands success across four bottom-lines: economic, environmental, cultural and social. These four are enmeshed with each other, so dealing with any one of them in isolation misses the point of how sustainability affects every aspect of our lives. So good to have confirmed that technology is proving to be a fantastic inspiration to the social and cultural dimensions of family life and our efforts to create a sustainable world.

Friday, November 7, 2008

News Flash

Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands has done great work for consumers around the world. Now a signed copy of the book is helping to raise money for the fight against paediatric HIV and AIDS in children via the celeb2nds.com auction site. Get over there and put a bid on it. The auction closes 18 December.

Melting moment

A couple of weeks ago I posted on a lamp that worked by putting coins in a slot. Sustainability was the theme that time. Now here’s a lamp that is pure and simply a work of art. It uses no coins and may even use a tad more electricity, but how it would gladden the heart to come home to. It beautifully makes something we take for granted – light – mysteriously real. If I ever saw an example of surprising with the obvious, this is it.

Netherlands designer Pieke Bergmans has created a magical object from sand and thin air. Like many new generation young designers, she is looking for ways to cut through the commodification of design and connect with people in ways that are smart and meaningful. As she says, "No two people are the same, and neither are two of the hairs that grow on your head. I wish our products were a bit more like this as well”. Surprising with the obvious requires curiosity, a fresh way of looking at things and, I believe, a good sense of humor. Go to Pieke Bergmans' site and give yourself a treat.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Another great Melrose retail experience

As we were blowing down Melrose in Los Angeles on the weekend, we stopped to try and find a casual Lebanese place to grab some falafel. Just then the heavens opened and we were ducking for cover. Amazingly, I saw across the street a newly opened English Laundry store. It’s my all-time favorite shirt brand - Elegant, Arrogant English by Christopher Wicks. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The store opened a couple of weeks ago and was full of shirts that weren’t on the website, as well as a new range of belts, wallets, jackets and a ladies range called English Rose. Irresistible. Four shirts, a belt and a wallet later, I was talking to the very friendly assistants who told me that Christopher himself was scheduled to come in that afternoon. We couldn’t wait but I left him a note. Next day he called on his way to Hong Kong and we exchanged stories of Manchester in the 60’s and how he got the whole business started. He tells me they are expanding in Australia through Myer and David Jones and looking to open three stores in Las Vegas.


The store is at 7519 Melrose Avenue, or you can visit the website here.

Christopher is sharing the space with a Fender/Jimi Hendrix branded funky fashion store. If you are a music lover, there are some great t-shirts, shirts and jackets here as well.

For me, Melrose is still the coolest street in the world for eclectic street fashion. Robertson Blvd has become the upper scale destination in LA. As I posted recently, the Peter Alexander store is tremendous and the new Chanel store next to the famous The Ivy restaurant is a brand new concept in luxury - inside/outside – wow! A real Lovemark experience.

Don’t you just love great retail.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sisomo and interactivity

As you know, I am no great lover of surveys, tests or focus groups. Yet every now and then someone looks at the human condition through that kind of lens and gets results that are fascinating, even if how they got them was kind of dull. My example of the day is a project Disney has going at the moment. As fully paid-up members of the sisomo society, Disney is very keen to find out exactly what works in the screen age. Which screens work best, big or small? Is high-definition more or less compelling? That sort of thing. Important questions, although I find the technology focus old school. Haven't technology users already taught us that what we thought was perfect doesn’t even flicker the dial for them?

For this quest, Disney have set up an emerging media and advertising research lab in Austin, Texas. Led by Professor Duane Varan, it is apparently about the shift from "a paradigm centered on exposure to one increasingly focused on engagement with the viewer". Sound familiar? In this lab, they are testing the biometric reactions of around 4,000 people using measurements like heart rate and readings from electrical impulses via the skin (I did warn you there was a boring part to all this). The goal is to find out which programs and types of content have the most potential for interactivity. Let’s face it, anything that’s not interactive won’t fly in a few years so Disney’s in the right space, but check out how fast Apple is moving and making money right now.

The iPhone App store opened online in September and in one month, Apple had about $30 million in sales. Sales made up of sensible functional stuff (timetables, tools, etc.) and crazy stuff which seems to have one purpose: impress friends. Why else would you want an application to turn your phone face into a block of wood that thunked satisfactorily when you knocked on it? To me, this is where the true value of interactivity will be won – ideas that connect emotionally, ideas that entertain, ideas that entertain and, yes, engage.

Looking at the “I” in sisomo, I’m thinking maybe it should stand for interactivity. Sight, Interactivity, Sound and Motion. Don’t even try to pronounce it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Starbucks: The world's local coffee house

The best connections are the ones that take you to new and strange places. Slate writer, Daniel Gross, certainly ventured off the map when he connected the number of Starbucks locations in a country’s financial capital with how affected the city has been by the recent economic blast. The more Starbucks stores, the worse affected. So, London has lots of stores (256), lots of problems. It’s a snappy tie-up and underneath it there is probably something to be learnt.

I love Starbucks and no one has been smarter than Starbucks at understanding the business they were in. In Starbucks’ case, it wasn’t the coffee business or the fast food business (or the music or book businesses!) but the connections business. The introduction of the Third Place into millions of busy lives was a brilliant insight. Whenever I visit Starbucks HQ in Seattle and talk with them, I am always impressed by how they have touched so much of their business with Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. So why have they been struggling in recent years when they’ve got so much right? I think what happened is they grew explosively and began to drift. They drifted into the property business. They had so many stores in so many prime locations (with some of that value generated by Starbucks moving into the neighborhood) that the coffee struggled to be at the center.

Geoff Vuleta, a Saatchi & Saatchi alumnus and now CEO of innovation shop Fahrenheit 212, used the property business insight to come up with startling foresight for Starbucks. His thought? Get out of the property business. Refocus on being the coffee authority by shrinking the store size. People associate the Third Place with what Starbucks has to offer, but that doesn’t mean Starbucks has to deliver on it in some of the most expensive real estate on the planet. Make the outlets smaller and concentrate on serving really good coffee, go back to being the world's local coffee house, back to being a friend. Starbucks might end up with the same number of stores in London, for example, but each would be more focused, more agile and more valuable. Even Daniel Gross would approve.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween Down Under



Halloween is a major festival in North America. You couldn't move around New York City on 31 October without knowing it was Halloween. It was like Mardi Gras. The harvest festival tradition was brought to North America by Irish and Scottish immigrants in the nineteenth century. Our family lived in Toronto many years back where we were introduced to the celebration. My daughter Bex has re-created the experience at home in Auckland New Zealand. Here is Bex on her latest Halloween adventure. KR.

Halloween – that special night of the year that all kids love! My first introduction to Halloween was when we lived in Toronto and I was six years old. It’s a huge event in North America and you get to enjoy it for the whole day. All the kids are allowed to go to school in their fancy dress and they have a parade and tea party.

The excitement continues as soon as you come home from school and have the fun of going trick-or-treating. Since it’s autumn in Canada in October, the dark night adds to the excitement. We lived in a really family oriented neighborhood and as well as dressing up, everyone dressed up their houses too. We even had a neighbor who themed the downstairs of her house as a haunted house and allowed all the kids to roam round and “be scared”. Another great thing was the way most of the parents dressed up as well. We always decorated the front of our house with carved, lit pumpkins, skeletons and ghosts, and we also had a music cassette which played ghostly, haunted music just to add to the atmosphere. It was so much fun knocking on the doors as they always got answered, even by families who didn’t have children. By the end of the evening, each of us used to have a pillowcase full of chocolate and sweets!

This year I thought I would relive the fun I had in Canada and host my own Halloween party. I decorated the downstairs of my house with cobwebs, spiders, skeletons, fake blood on the floor, tombstones and bloody handprints on the walls. We also had a table spread with chocolates, candy, marshmallow ghosts, black cats and pumpkins (all helped by the fact Mum had just been to L.A. and raided Target). There were also vodka jelly shots with gummi bears and, of course, a big bowl of punch.

Adam and I dressed up as Wilma and Fred Flintstone (handy as I'm a redhead). All my friends really got into the spirit of the occasion and dressed as Patrick Bateman, Minnie Mouse, Peg and Al Bundy and all the characters from The Wizard of Oz. We also had a couple of vampires, Catwoman, Little Red Riding Hood, Poison Ivy, Hillary Clinton...the list goes on. Although we had no trick-or-treaters, it was so much fun seeing all the effort everyone had put into their costumes. Halloween has never been a big holiday for us in New Zealand so I’ve decided I’m going to make it an annual celebration. I’m looking forward to recycling all the Target decorations and doing it all over again next year!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Small comforts

You have to love CNN. How else would I find out in the midst of one of the greatest shifts in our economy for decades that the big selling items in the UK are safes and chocolate? Safe sales have been up 45 percent in the last three months and chocolate up 20 percent over September.

It’s classic fight and flight. Fight the bastards trying to lose your cash by putting it in a safe, and flight to the world of small comforts with the mega-comforter chocolate. That is especially true if it is made by one of my Lovemarks, Cadbury. And let's not forget their Irresistible Gorilla either (Thank you Fallon!)

I expect many people see the purchase of a safe as a highly rational decision, especially in these tumultuous times. I see it as completely emotional and in fact rather romantic. I suspect most people who buy safes aren’t doing it to prevent burglaries but to buy into emotional metaphors for safe-keeping. That’s the way we are. I further suspect that any safe salesperson who found a way to touch this emotional need would be on their way to a tropical island as Salesperson of the Year. For most people safe-sellers are not in the security business at all; they are in the comfort business. The chocolate people have always known that’s where they belonged and built a US$74 billion business on the insight. No one who sells chocolate ever thinks of it as food. Try and talk about chocolate as a food without sounding ridiculous.

Keeping an eye on what your business is really selling to consumers is the way to get focus and stay focused. The archives of every business school are littered with case studies of the many, many companies that have faltered for the want of understanding that, for example, while they thought they were selling cameras, consumers were buying boxes to capture memories. Take a few minutes out to capture what you think you’re selling and then go out and listen to consumers. Is that what they think too?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Peter Alexander, the store

Our Worldwide Head of Design at Saatchi & Saatchi is Derek Lockwood. It was Derek who designed the Lovemarks book and who is now helping to take Lovemarks in store. I’ve always liked stores that take the name of the person who first had the idea. Australian Peter Alexander, who opened his first leisure wear store in LA last week, is in the class. Shoppers now expect an experience that resonates with their own personalities and aspirations. I call this creating a theatre of dreams and that is just what Derek and his people did for Peter Alexander. Their central idea was simple: the different emotional responses to leisure. They then designed a store format based on a number of alcoves, each speaking to a part of the leisure experience. There’s a kids’ section and a place for men who come in with their wives or partners – very smart. How many times do men end up in a store that is essentially for women and find themselves just standing around waiting? Not in Peter Alexander. They can wander into an alcove where any guy would be happy to spend some time and, importantly for the store, some cash too. The clever layering of colors, textures and ideas onto shoppers’ lives is enhanced by a strong dose of visual humor. I like the series of gold-framed light boxes on the ceiling that show clouds scudding about above your head.

Peter Alexander started his retail life in Australia as the pyjama guy. His great idea was to create pyjamas you could go to the store in. This idea has now been extended into a wider leisure range and that’s what you get to see in the LA store. You also get to see the personality and passions of Peter Alexander himself in the objects selected and the style. Nothing, in my experience, goes down better with shoppers than personality and passion. If you are in LA, the Peter Alexander store is a great opportunity to see them both in action.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thumbs rule

The thumb’s first moment of triumph was when the opposable thumb proved its worth. The difference between those who could grasp and those who couldn’t sent human beings on a fast track to invention. We haven’t stopped since and the thumb has been with us all the way. It pointed up and down for the Romans. It helped us thumb through a book fast. It proposed rules of thumb that might not be exact but would get us started. And today it has brought a whole new way of communicating to life. When I wrote the sisomo book I talked about people starting to talk with their thumbs. Back then texting was in its infancy but you could already sense the potential. Two trillion text messages later (that’s the current annual number) you have to wonder why people still get antsy about all the tricks users resort to to get their messages through as simply and as fast as possible. Abbreviations, code-like acronyms, extreme punctuation or no punctuation at all. I love the creativity and invention of it all but I do empathize with those who have come through an education system obsessed by spelling. If you talk to a linguist about the rights and wrongs of thumbspeak you’ll get a surprise. They assert that most people who tap out CU L8R on their phones do in fact know how to spell and that the couple of trillion messages they send are too small a fraction of our global communications to worry about. That puts it into perspective, right? Who cares about two trillion? The objection to thumbspeak turns out to be more emotional than functional. People who have been taught to write one way don’t like their rules to be ignored by the next generation. What a surprise. Wait until texting is increasingly integrated with visuals and sound and a whole new wave of vocabulary and shortcuts sweep over us. It’s going to be GR8.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Worth a try

One of the personal challenges I have set myself is to help unleash the sport of rugby on the American people. USA Rugby’s mission captures the spirit: 'Inspire America to Fall in Love with Rugby.' So with my head and heart occupied by taking Rugby to America, I’m fascinated by some action the other way. For instance I read the NFL is attempting to take American Football to the rest of the world. It has always struck me as strange that the two classic American sports, football and baseball, have not had the international uptake you’d expect. That means very limited international competition and the loss of huge sources of potential excitement, creativity and authenticity.

The NFL’s problem is that people who have not been born into the culture of the game just don’t seem to get it, or don’t want to get it. I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe the razzmatazz has gone to such heights that it’s what the game seems to be about. Cheerleaders and extreme uniforms rather than superb athleticism combined with awesome discipline and timing. At its core American football is simple. It’s all about territory. Take it, hold it, repeat. But this fundamental idea is surrounded with hundreds of complicated rules, a stop/start rhythm the uninitiated find irritating and the distinctive two-teams-in-one offence/defence system.

Despite the challenges, winning international audiences has become critical for any sport. We’re not just talking about high level competition (although the contribution of national style to global football is a topic of endless fascination – who could forget the drama of the methodical and disciplined Germans defeated by the stylish and adventurous Spanish in the Euro 2008 final?) but the opportunity to participate in the gigantic sports media market. In 2006 FIFA enjoyed about $1.4 billion in TV and new media rights – nudging the top-dog Olympics Games. The IOC reported $1.6 billion in TV revenue from Beijing. Why wouldn’t the NFL want a piece of this action?

To take on the job the NFL has invented Coach Stilo who is heading online to teach the world the ins and outs of the game. How long does it take to learn the basics? Three hours apparently with tutorials and tests. Sound like fun to you? Personally I’d rather go to a sports bar for a couple of games and ask the guy next to me what’s going on.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Who's the boss?

You knew the answer already – consumers. And it turns out that they have a major direct effect on a huge abstract force that affects our future. I’m talking about green house gas emissions. It’s estimated that around 65% of US emissions are controlled directly or indirectly by consumers, and their choices. So the power to change is not all in the hands of anonymous bureaucrats and corporate cartels at all; it’s largely in the hands of all us. I’ve always believed when we put our individual skills together, all of us are more powerful than any one of us. It’s the wisdom of crowds, the passionate spirit of teams, the enduring love of families, they all lead to this conclusion. What’s great is that the bigger the group you are part of, the more dramatic change you can effect. Nowhere is this more true than in changing our actions and attitudes toward creating a more sustainable world. I have already talked about how Wal-Mart harnessed the power of its huge staff by developing their own Personal Sustainability Projects. Wal-Mart believes that once their associates personally commit to a sustainability project, whatever the scale, they start to make a difference and their conviction also touches the shoppers and communities they interact with every day. So often in debates about people and planet scale is seen as a negative, but sometimes scale can create dramatic effects. Small individual shifts in consumer behavior can make huge gains. It’s the same as the way people used to talk about making it big in China. “If we could sell one widget to even 20 percent of the population, we’ll make a fortune.” Most didn’t of course, but if we can get even a modest reduction in greenhouse emissions or other sustainable savings from most of the people in the US, the result for the world would be immense. Sometimes big is beautiful.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Emotional Rescue

I love that phrase. 'Emotional rescue' strikes the right note during weeks of meltdowns and bailouts. This is a time of high emotion indeed, so multi-billion dollar rescue packages can’t do the job alone. They need emotion.

In Lovemarks, I talked about the primary human emotions. We’re talking Joy, Sorrow, Anger, Fear, Surprise and Disgust. Have those six had a workout in recent weeks! People are struggling to work out who’s to blame and what the future holds for them! These are the emotions that are brief, intense and cannot be controlled. This period of turmoil comes into more constructive focus when we get to the six secondary emotions. Love, Guilt, Shame, Pride, Envy and Jealousy. What’s relevant is how social they are. You can feel the primary emotions when you’re alone, but for the secondary ones you need someone else around. Someone to love, someone to be proud of. This is the volatile mix from which human relationships are formed and human responses to the world are shaped.

John Bargh of New York University claims that everything is evaluated as good or bad within a quarter of a second. No wonder confidence can evaporate in a heartbeat and disgust and anger kick in. No one can feel we are at our best when business leaders are taunted and abused, but we all understand it emotionally. In the coming weeks the negative dynamic of our emotional DNA will be tested further. It’s evolutionary. Our emotions tell us what’s important and in our ancient past it was smart to pay the most attention to the bad stuff. Pay attention with our emotion and reason, evaluate and then either take action or move on.

Right now the same deeply human process will kick in. The result we are all hoping for is that word you see everywhere today: Confidence. I’ve always liked the pattern that connects the words beginning with the letter 'c'. It might not be logical but it feels intuitively true. Start with Community and Connection. Add Collaboration and the big 'C' of Communication. What’s the pattern that attracts me to these words? They are all fundamental to our future as a connected and connecting world economy. It’s not about globalization any more. It’s about connections that run in all directions at all scales. A community of human beings supporting, trusting and respecting each other. This is the only way to the confidence our markets have lost so dramatically and the real bottom line we need to re-orient ourselves to: Creativity inspired by Consumers.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jo Malone a winner in Auckland

They are celebrating at Jo Malone in The Chancery. Ro’s Lovemark store won New Zealand’s Top Shop award in the Health and Beauty category (I guess by now most of you know that Ro is my wife). Jo Malone also toddled off with the Innovation Excellence in Retail Award.

The store absolutely drips with mystery, sensuality and intimacy and is a theater of dreams for many loyal Jo Malone fans. The Chancery in Auckland is based on Beverly Hills' famed Rodeo Drive, and the store was inspired by Jo Malone’s original Sloane Street store in London (made famous by the patronage of Madonna, Donatella Versace and Elton John!!). The layout inspires trust, faith and confidence which is elevated into the world of Lovemarks through sight, sound, smell and taste. The experience is fabulous, with customers being encouraged to create their own fragrance on the spot, and being treated to a relaxing hand and arm massage by Jo Malone staff.

What I most like is that when you enter the store, you immediately become a friend, not a customer. The experience is second to none. It’s enhanced by beautiful packaging and thoughtful presentation. Today, the Jo Malone box rivals the famous Tiffany blue box in its instant appeal.

At the black-tie Top Shop dinner held at Auckland’s Sky City Convention Centre, Ro, Bex and the Jo Malone team found themselves seated at a table near the back as the Oscar-like award ceremony took place. They figured their table position was a sign that they hadn’t won anything. How wrong could they be. Iloa, Raewyn, Minal, Lisa, Ro and Bex were settling back and enjoying the evening emceed by Mark Ferguson, a New Zealand TV veteran. In true Oscar style, the envelope for Top Shop in the Health and Beauty category was opened by Jennie Ryan, Head of Partner Channels at Telecom. She announced Jo Malone. The table went berserk. Ro and Bex quickly realized that the table placement had been arranged so that they had the longest possible walk up to the stage, and the longest opportunity to walk on air and enjoy the applause. The team were delighted. As they settled in to enjoy the rest of the show they were staggered to hear the Jo Malone name again for the Innovation Award, which was across all categories of all stores in New Zealand. More celebration ensued as the team collected their second award for the night.

These Top Shop awards are international and I think they are a tremendous inspirational tool for driving excellence in customer service. Everyone likes to compete; to test themselves against the very best. And winners are grinners!




Jemima Puddle Duck visits Portland Road!


Being away from home as much as I am, I miss all the fun. Here is a story from my daughter Bex in New Zealand. Enjoy it. KR.

When I arrived home last week I went upstairs to my bedroom and glanced out the window. To my surprise there was a beautiful duck and eleven newly-hatched ducklings paddling about in our swimming pool. I rushed out to see them and phoned my mum, Ro, who turned out to be just coming up the drive. She whipped out her camera and came straight to the garden to join me. The ducks and chicks looked so cute quacking away and following their mum around the pool. We quickly realized, however, that the noise they were making was not about having fun, but because they couldn’t get out. They had obviously been swimming around for the best part of the afternoon and were getting tired and frantic. Mummy duck - whom we named Jemima - swam around to each side of the pool and hopped out with the little ones trying desperately to follow. Unfortunately, their little webbed feet slithered all over the sides of the pool; it was just too steep and they kept flopping back in.

So it was Ro and Bex to the rescue! Ro got a plank of wood and placed it like a ramp in the corner of the pool and gradually we coaxed the ducklings over. By this time, Jemima had already hopped out and was quacking madly at them. We managed to get five of the ducklings out, who huddled together on the side of the pool quacking encouragement to their siblings. One of the ducklings got a wee bit confused and, seeing some of his siblings still in the pool, jumped back in only to be stuck again! A few minutes later four more followed leaving just two on the other side of the pool. Finally they swam over and we helped them out.

Jemima tried to lead them back to the creek at the very bottom of the garden, but they were distressed and tired. They eventually found comfort in my garden though unfortunately for them this was right in view of my cat, Alfie. I had locked him inside so he couldn’t have ducklings for dinner, but he was going mad trying to get out, frantically scratching at his cat door. Meanwhile Jemima had spread her wings and completely enveloped all her little babies to keep them protected, warm and dry.

At this point I wasn’t really sure what to do and was worried about them being eaten by neighborhood cats. While Ro duck-sat, I went and phoned the “bird lady” at the SPCA who told me what to do.

Taking her advice, we managed to get Jemima to move off her babies, who immediately started to scatter round the garden. We rounded up the eleven ducklings and put them into a box and walked back past the pool onto the driveway and back down to the stream. They were screeching away while Jemima followed us, quacking at her babies who she could only hear but not see. After making a few wrong turns, she finally found us in the bush and we were able to gently tip the box so the ducklings could hop out into the stream to join their mum and swim safely away.

And I’m please to say there were no feathers found in Alfie’s mouth that night!