Notes from a malcontent

February 14, 2017
Fall of Rome Auden reindeer

Caesar’s double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
On a pink official form.


Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.
The Fall of Rome, W.H. Auden


Uh oh. This must be a serious one. It’s got poetry at the start.

Typically, for me, nothing screams: “HERE COMES THE POMPOUS BIT” more obviously than a heavyweight quotation or citing of verse. But in this case – in drawing on the literary world and in the content of the poem itself – I think I might get away with it.

Because right now, I’m bored. Bored by ‘content’. I’m especially bored by the word ‘content’.

I’m convinced content creators need to look somewhere new for ideas. Strong ideas. Inspirational ideas. Different ideas worth shouting about. Brave ideas. So, I thought, why not start with a spot of W.H.? He was always good for a bit of controversial comment and zeitgeisty fun.           

This sudden (and unexpected) lurch into poetic militancy was brought on by yet another depressing trawl through Twitter today. Marketing people talking to other marketing people about marketing stuff. Promises to double, treble, quadruple my ROhWhy? The hidden secrets of conversion magicians. Ten reasons why clients are like unicorns. The usual, uninspiring, unoriginal, heard-it-all-before and it-won’t-work-this-time-either wisdom of our industry’s titans.

So, in a world where re#tags are de rigueur and Nike’s famed ‘Just do it’ mantra is an order to get on with your job rather than a clarion call to rule-breakers everywhere, how can we find those flashes of inspiration? Those vast herds of reindeer in the golden moss?

I’d start by picking up a book. Any book really. It could be a work of fiction. Some popular science. Maybe even a few lines of poetry.

Pick it up, read a page or two. Have a think about it.

Visit a website you don’t usually frequent (within reason). Disappear on a glorious voyage of YouTube discovery. Talk with TED.

Listen to music.

Go to an art gallery. Or the countryside. Or your nearest city.

Walk around. Take some pictures. Get some fresh air.

Just don’t be bored. Because what you say, show and share will give you away.

Make no mistake – these are exciting times. Craziness is at an all-time high. Convention is being stood on its head. The lunatics have not only taken over the asylum, they’ve commandeered the nice housing estate next to the asylum too.

Google gives us cardboard that augments reality. Something called blockchain is about to render national government irrelevant. AI is inventing languages faster than we can forget them. It is, as Satchmo thought to himself, a wonderful world.

But still the first article I come across on Twitter is telling me that the new MacBook Pro’s battery life is quite good for some, but not so much for others.

Scream if you want to go faster.

I know, I know. There IS great content out there, waiting impatiently to be discovered. It’s just harder to come by than it should be. Trickier to find. And less common than I’d like.

So while my ardour remains unextinguished by the inoffensive foam of me-too content, I’d like to make one final plea. Before you share today’s missive with the world, publish your next pic or pour forth with the latest insight from your industry, have a think. Is it interesting? Valuable? Or, at the very least, entertaining?

Because if it isn’t, prepare for it to be forgotten. Silently and very fast.


Phil Robinson - Creative Director