LEAD! How Business Can Reinvent Itself for Today

LEAD! How Business Can Reinvent Itself for Today

From time to time Albert will walk in with a complex as hell question. It may be the way his mind works or just the extraordinary situations he finds himself in.

He asked, “So how can we work for a technology client and still struggle with Outlook? Why don’t they use the millions of apps for business available?”

By apps for business he meant Trello, Franz, Google apps, Slack, Dropbox and the plethora of other businesses built by the world’s most brilliant minds to help evolve the nature of business in our time and age.

Valid question with no valid answer. At the time, anyway. How could a technology business not be the most technologically adept business? It made no sense. Over the months,however, we’ve had the conversations for me to finally understand why, the uptake of new technology is not as swift as it is developed.

The People Who Run Businesses:

Big businesses are built by successive promotion of talent and so in most cases people in management are the most experienced people in the business. Why is this dangerous? Because these people rely on the tools that got them to where they are. They trust Outlook and distrust Thunderbird.

They don’t understand Skype, Slack, Trello or Jira, because the only way to get work done is by having meetings. They also don’t understand the millennial-preferred offsite working.

And so, these decisions and technologies don’t get bought into, they don’t get signed off as business solutions and they don’t get used. So business remains archaic and stagnant.


The Industry In Which Businesses Operate:

The industry is made up of thousands of people who only think that office wear must include a tie for gentlemen. That dreadlocks are for hooligans. That everyone must be bribed. Thus, these ideas become cast in stone. They become millstones around the whole industry’s neck.

This attitude permeating the industry makes it inflexible, sluggish and bloated. It takes more time to come to decisions, more consultation to arrive at options, and ever more options to satisfy a boardroom of decision makers. The world’s leading businesses are agile, lean and extremely fast. Decisions are taken, businesses either succeed or fail and they learn from it. And move on.


The Talent Pool In The Market:

Businesses must also be aware of the people in their employ; millennials! More collaborative, less rigid and more creative about how they approach their work than any generation ever born! Businesses and the industry must first and foremost serve these people’s needs; which although they seem erratic, aren’t. They are just processing more information than anyone ever has.

“Write a tweet, finish and send the report, respond to the girlfriend about the weekend, walk into a 5 minute huddle, bite into the sandwich, sip on a coffee, double tap Grace Nakimera’s Instagram album, make plans for this evening. And that’s all before 8:45am!”


Old Dogs and New Tricks:

How does a business that only used to plan for Easter, Independence Day, Christmas, NRM day, and Eid holidays now retrofit itself to handle #MCM, #WCW, #TBT, #FBF, #SundayTwitter, Black History Month, Breast Cancer moth, The Kabaka run, the MTN Marathon, Movember,  #Tweminists, Grammar Nazis and the plethora of landmines waiting for it online? How can it do those things unless it changes how it works?


The Thirst is Real For Results:

Results! Results! Results! Everyone wants them. Clients want to know how much engagement there was on that post. Who clicked on it, where were they from? Can we message them with something else? Where did they go after they left the website? Cookies, algorithms, ad blockers, native advertising. Everything we do is measurable and someone wants to use those measurements to make money. Old technology will not have these answers.

New thinking and new knowledge is necessary. Buzz words today include; big data, A.I., blockchain, integrated marketing, Bretail, remarketing, influencer marketing etc. All fancy words to mean no one knows how today’s audiences behave so we are throwing everything at them to see what sticks. However, the guys at Cambridge Analytica are doing fun things with data.

No matter what you use, we need new tools because the old ones aren’t going to get the job done


How do we resolve these incongruences?


Has the advertising agency model died? Must we rethink it? Can big retainers continue to exist in an age where all employees have 2 or three skills? Can the model built on trust of credit survive in the harsh pre-paid economies of Africa? Can we


We must be bold. Courage and boldness in action will trump speed or strength every day. The courage to question the old ways. To depart from the knowledge that got us here but will not take us into the next 5 years. Must forge new paths.


We must commit. Commit to our businesses. Commit to unlearning and relearning. Commit to understanding our target audiences and what is hurting them. Know that client businesses are hurting and they need solutions that help their bottomlines.


We must be agile. Agility gives your business edge. It separates you form the bloated pack. Cut the fat from your organization and make it flat! Flat and lean like a start-up because if you want start-up money you must have start up structure and work ethic.

Allow to be bad. In his 50th Law, Robert Greene speaks of the necessity of aggression and how at the right time aggression can bring distinction thereby delivering the blue ocean your business desperetaly needs.


Or don’t do any of these things and go down in glory as the internet is full of companies that did nothing wrong and still went down.


Why are clients afraid of great work?

Why are clients afraid of great work?

My annual chats with Emuron Alemu follow a pattern. Work is hard; *whiskey*, life is exciting, *whiskey*, advertising is a calling, *whiskey*, Africans are *whiskey* hilarious, we need to *whiskey* work hard, *whiskey* we *whiskey* have *whiskey*to *whiskey* change *whiskey* the *whiskey* world. *whiskey* *whiskey*

Starting out in Uganda and now at WPP, he is the fastest rising creative I know. Saving brands, taking names and kicking ass. We talked about the industry across the continent and about opportunities for young creatives (a common idea is that the industry is dominated by old, geriatric farts whose time is long past but more on this later), then he said something intriguing.

He said rather casually “I was talking to someone at work recently and he said to me across the world clients are now afraid of great work.”

I saw my life flash before me. My chest constricted. My breath caught. I was perplexed. Creatives give life and limb, blood and tears to do great work. They sacrifice family, relations, friends, parties, and more to commit to this craze. How possible is it then that across the industry people were saying that clients were slowly moving away from great work?

What was happening?

This is how he explained it to my addled mind. Great work won awards. It won pitches. Looked good in portfolios. It might even save a tanking brand – for a while. Above all it created expectations.

Expectations are always rising. insatiable. innumerable. Inexplicable. Unseen often unspoken even. They make clients say things like “But last month you did this campaign in 1 week how come you now say you need 3 weeks?” Expectations are dangerous.

Great work also never starts out as great work. Often it will be an idea and not much more. It will require someone to believe in it (insert client) and to pay for it. Why? Because great work has a 50-50 chance of bombing. It can either be very good or very bad. The risk, the edginess is what transcends it. And often, with jobs in the balance, clients will simply not go “all-in” on an idea. They require some certainty.

The biggest reality to hit great work has been the evolution of client roles. In the past most corporate structures separated marketing and sales roles; ostensibly making marketers “spenders” and sales people “earners”.

Businesses are now merging these roles making marketers have targets – real hard cold targets. Don’t get me wrong, they still have to achieve emotional warmth, brand affinity, and emotional equity but they also have ROI, market share and conversion conversations.

The latter conversations are quite difficult to have because they involve justifications to the business and also influence future budget allocations. How will this great TV commercial turn customers to my product and keep them there? The truth is great work does this. It answers the brief and saves the brand – for a while.

Then brands go back and do the same shitty things. Disrespect customers. Abuse employees. Lie to stakeholders. Break every promise they make. So naturally the “great” work done by said campaign is eroded in customers’ minds. Then it is all downhill again. Until the next great campaign. Leaving the business graph looking like the heart monitor reading of a tachycardia – erratic with little chance of normalization.

Those difficult conversations mentioned above have defined the job to be done – deliver results. Clients want work that works. Work that delivers. That doesn’t solve only today’s problem but that will be built on tomorrow, next month and next year. Strategic work.

Work that works.

Good work. That’s what it is. Good, effective, grounded, researched, insightful, problem-solving, long shelf life, and targeted work. That’s what clients need today. Work that helps them keep their jobs so they can keep paying for school fees, mortgages, rent, car loans, bar bills, new phones and CIM.

Clients are also people. They have dreams, aspirations. and responsibilities. 

That doesn’t mean you can do crap work. No. It means if your work isn’t solving a problem, it doesn’t matter if Zeus himself touched you with a lightning bolt, it’ll be crap. It means that if your work improves your client’s bottom-line, you improve their chance of getting a promotion, advancing their career and ultimately growing their brand.

Good work is also replicable; month after month, year after year and is not unattainable. That means you can six good campaigns a year and not only the great one. This naturally lays emphasis on solid strategy and good old hard work and crafting. Where it all starts.

8 Tips for the Makerere University PRO at this Time

8 Tips for the Makerere University PRO at this Time


Public Relations is all about catching the right moment, the right smile, the right break. With all the things happening at Makerere University now is the right time for that P.R.O. to shine, or not. For those reading this without context; earlier this week Dr. Stella Nyanzi, a PhD scholar and notorious social media activist undressed herself in protest and ire at her boss Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, the Executive Director of MISR (Makerere Institute for Social research). I awoke to social media posts of Stella’s breasts and nakedness and epithets in a video (video here) Whatever the context of that story is, is still unfolding but I’d like to focus on the handling of this issue. How could it have been done better? Who should have spoken by now, 72 hours after the crisis broke that hasn’t spoken? What other opportunities are being lost every day this story is in the headlines? As P.R.O. has sleepless nights these are the top 8 things to consider when in crisis:

  1. Seize The Golden Hour: Stories have a golden hour when, if attacked properly they can even be still born. The first hour of any crisis presents an opportunity to negotiate, intimidate, bribe, cajole, or even create a diversion. Seize it, move swiftly and decisively. It helps if you have a crisis management plan (you have to have seen the importance of planning to have this) in place that you can lean back on. If not, consider this your biggest career lesson.
  2. Stop The Bleeding: The attrition that happens over a few hour news cycle is catastrophic. Justine Sacco, in 2013 sent an insensitive tweet and got on a plane by the time she landed she had lost her job and was an internet pariah. Unfortunately, in Uganda these kinds of shenanigans at Makerere aren’t uncommon. The fact that social media is involved however makes the battle instant and viral; attracting commentary and live coverage each minute. Issue a statement to counter the crisis, even if its to simply say, “We are responding to this…” The bleeding is considered to have started stopping when you get your name in the public conversation. when people start saying, “They responded”
  3. Appoint a Mascot: With their enemies at their gates the Romans would give up their democratic rights to one man – a general who led them to war. He had absolute control. The mascot should have all information. They are the designated spokesperson, and source of information coming out of the university. A singular, authoritative, clear focal point. Arm them with information, update them regularly, discuss the full situation with them, and go through talking points and possible questions. This not only manages misinformation, it would allow the university to speak as one unit. And everyone is either with them or against them. There is no space for equivocation in war. And this is war.
  4. Keep Record of Who is Saying What: In the heat of battle, people will mouth off things. Things like they were under “duress”. Record them. Know who said what when. Review this material daily to catch inconsistencies, to open holes in their stories and build character discrediting evidence. When you’re in the court of public opinion, creating situations where your opponent’s character is questioned can turn the tide in your favour. Records also help your learn as a professional and as an institution. They become case studies.
  5. Bring Your Heavy Hitters: As an institution, there are certain assets that you have, secret weapons, people in your corner who can and should be leveraged to speak in your favour. There are relationships you have by virtue of your size. If you spend up to UGX100M a year in advertising and media relationships with media houses it is incumbent upon you to leverage ALL those relationships to get fair news coverage. If there are websites that are popular among your students or run by university students e.g. campus bee and others reach out to them to get your story out there. Every click counts with the internet. Bully. Threaten. Grovel. Do what must be done but ensure you have your mascot before the cameras. Let the public see that yours isn’t a huge, faceless, brutal institution that has driven a woman to hopelessness. Humanize your brand. People always want to believe other people.
  6. Create Diversions: Diversions by their very nature are meant to take people away from the point. Some have argued in academic (purist non-practicing) circles that this style of PR is unethical, unscrupulous and portends an underhanded blow. But you work for a university where students get sexually transmitted degrees, you are underpaid and no one notices all your good PR when you do it, how are you supposed to remain ethical or above judgement? Divert to the good things like that sunshine powered bus, or the research happening elsewhere that is not in the area of conflict. Divert to the vibrant sugar daddy- supported economy around the university. It will give you time to breathe.
  7. Extirpate Conflicted Parties: Anyone who might be compromised by relation or by virtue of their closeness to the conflicting parties should be removed. This ensures people are not underhandedly undoing your work but also draws clear lines and that people must choose a side. In this case the fact that the University Vice Chancellor who is also Dr. Nyanzi’s uncle has not recused himself from this matter does not show that the university is placing itself in an objective space to deal with this matter. In the public’s eye, make sure your side has its ducks in a row and is above reproach You are simply responding to an unreasonable employee.
  8. Breathe: No matter how bad you think it is. It will pass. Don’t forget to breathe. Its not the end of the world. Yes, if Prof. Mamdani leaves, the university’s ranking will probably drop but Makerere is Makerere. Prof. Mamdani battled the legendary and lugubrious Dr. Nsibambi and has faced down many tough people. If he can’t face down a bare chested woman, then maybe he can’t. We should not expect too much of him. He is human. The university might also not be so lucky to raise that $7.2M he has raised in funding during his tenure. But its Makerere, it will survive.

In closing, whether the PRO is unequipped to handle conflict online and social media where the bulk of the deluge of messages is coming from or they are the “bury your head in the sand” kind of PR person they need to understand that adversity shapes us. They need to be present and be felt. It is those who are awake and present in times of war that can shape the outcome of events. And this is war…


THE NILE BREWERIES PITCH: 10 Things I Think It Means To The Industry

Quick summary of the issues at hand
We all know it is coming. It was rumoured and whispered in hushed tones all of last and this year. Yeah, I’m talking about the break-up of the Nile Breweries stable of beer brands. Apparently word in the grapevine was that the stable has been on its way to breaking up for a long time but was held together for various reasons but the leadership at the breweries was steadfast in keeping all the 10 brands under 1 house. Since some recent shakeups at the Jinja-based brewery though that plan has been fast tracked.
So what would it mean for the industry? Here are 10 things that I think it means for the advertising industry:
1.       Moringa Ogilvy will NO LONGER be host to all the 12 NBL brands.
2.    The brands as broken up above have the high impact brands and the premium brands. The high impact brands (Club Pilsener and Nile Special) are the more preferred to stay at Moringa because they have more recognition and will most likely have higher budget allocations.
3.       The mass brands like Eagle and Chibuku won’t be in a hurry looking to move since almost no agency will want to take them by themselves. They only make economic sense once paired with other higher revenue brands.
4.       The Premium brands might be split individually between agencies i.e. Castle Milk Stout, Redds Vodka Lemon, Nile Gold and Castle Lager, Castle Lite, and each be handed to a different agency. Or all be distributed to one house to handle that portfolio.
5.       The pitch is made harder by the fact that no Uganda Breweries beer brand is handled creatively by any Ugandan agency.(Bell is in SA , Tusker lager is at BBDO Kenya, Senator is in Kenya, Guinness sits in the UK & SA, the Diageo Reserve category is with Owen Kessel in SA)  So EVERYBODY is coming to take a piece of the pie.
6.       Uganda Waragi (EABL’s premium Ugandan spirit) is handled at Metropolitan Republic Uganda. Whether this will preclude them from the pitch is definitely a question answers are wanted to.


7.       In terms of media investment, desire to achieve economies of scale and the continued bullishness of the Uganda Media Owners’ Association are going to continue driving consolidation and the search for savings. The same way EABL will be looking to consolidate all their buys and investment under the Dentsu Aegis Network affiliate Carat Media in Uganda. So this makes me think media buying and investment might go to one house as well.
8.       There are concerns about PR and digital for these brands since across the region margins are shrinking and costs are being cut, it will be important to find more effectiveness and target audience penetration; the things that PR and Digital deliver well on. Obviously there will be infinitely more PR & digital agencies than listed above so expect that to be a hot category.
For the level of investment, you’d think they could have done more.
9.       The experiential and events division will remain mostly the same – undifferentiated and not breathtaking. The thing is the experiential element does carry a lot of potential because it creates the take-outs that brands actually want consumers to have. Smell, taste, sight, eventually leading to recall. But innovation in the category has been little and uninspiring – largely because of a large cost of reach per individual and the nasty practice of brand managers taking half the budgets as kickbacks. Eventually leading to things like the “Club MegaFest” or rather “MegaFlop” and“in-bar activations” or rather  “in-bar ways to pay campus girls”. Maybe a renewed focus will allow the brands to focus better on the goal in mind, and the agencies too.
10.   There is the thorny question of the talent that will get sacked because frankly the brands they were working are no longer there to be worked on. That’s all fine except the recent set up of J.Walter Thompson Uganda has already pilfered and pillaged the industry of any excess talent thereby making me think there will be space to absorb these people in the industry. Or maybe the newly acquiring agency will be generous enpugh to pick them up. There is of course the possibility that they won’t be let go, we don’t’ know!! But all things come to those who wait – or some Club copy writer once wrote.
There are obviously a lot of questions that need to be answered around the pitching etiquette in this town. Clients have to stop inviting everyone in town t pitches because its a waste of time and money. Someone with authority is even mooting the idea that clients should pay for agency to attend pitches – but they’ll get round to it when they do.
In the end, we can only be prepared. May the best man win.

Uganda Bloggers 7 Day Challenge: NO, YOU ARE NOT GOD – Day 3 Post

When you work in any communications and advertising business especially an ad agency you learn quickly and swiftly how the work flows.
Account manager or client services
Creative studio.
Account manager
That is how it works in almost every industry. There is an interface between the specialist and the client. Someone who interprets the jargon for both ends. In certain agencies, studios and indeed workplaces they pay it a little differently
Account manager or client services
Account manager
The creative people have such a refined sense of what their communication should be doing that they consider themselves gods. They are the final word on photoshop, layouts and headlines and punctuation. All this is fine until it isn’t. Ruling with no mercy or empathy and a fist of iron they have no place for bickering or talking back. No matter what the client says or wants. That’s not what THEY want. But mostly it isn’t about the client and what they want. Its more that someone in the universe doens’t want what they want.
Someone differs with their approach to things.
Someone differs.
The argument can be made that creative people have been over indulged and therefore have over sized egos. That they are paid higher than most people in their age range or that they tend to have specialized skills which make them as good as they are. Which is all well and good. But the truth is they are human. They shit. They breathe. They err. And that should be enough. However, their inflated sense of self doesn’t allow them to see their own humanity. Their fallibility.
The last point is most likely as a result of how long they think they have worked to get where they are. The truth is the trenches in advertising are grueling and cruel. Starting out it is impossible that one can even ever hope to make it anywhere worth mentioning. The hours are atrocious, there is no credit given for work and no work you do is ever good enough. Ever. There is always a guy with a better script. A better ad. A better layout. A faster computer. And so the thick skin develops from early on. Merging and morphing with complexes (some from as early as childhood) to form creatures no one recognizes in the end. The long work hours make these people impervious to the level of exhaustion that will normally tire out ordinary people. They will push and push hard. Warping their reality of what the people around them can and can’t do. And eventually warping their own minds about their own abilities. They think they inexhaustible, indefatigable. Untouchables.
At this point you must put the dog down. Because they cannot be saved. Why am I tirading like this? Because a person of meagre standing in my office said to me recently “Just because you know the answers doesn’t mean you will get asked the questions. The truth is people hate a know-it-all.”
As I sat back and ruminated on that it hit me for all the reasons creatives were revered and feared; they still were people. More seasoned, yes. More exposed, yes. But still people. Their years of working like slaves did not entitle them to treat the rest of the world like lesser people; especially because they are lesser people. They willingly applied for these jobs. They signed up for the pain and suffering. Thhy chose this path for the glory it promised. That was the price.  Their genius isn’t a validation for their behaviour. In fact it is their greatest undoing.
By being as great as they were, they were inadvertently not as great as they were. Because they missed out on the simple stupid moments of being human. Of being fallible. This made them Outliers. Observers of the human experience and not partakers. Like the orphan child looking into the home of a family unable to comprehend how people can have so much emotion. They are in fact relegated to the observer status. Watching other human beings to do their work better. And thus the sadness of it all; foiled by their own genius they come to terms with their humanity. And accept they are not god. They could be. If they could walk away from it all. They could be. But alas. Without it all to look at and do great ads. They are nothing.
This is a message to all creatives: you are not god. But you could be.


Uganda Bloggers 7 Day Challenge:The 4 Stages of Mentorship: A Quick Exploration Of The Inevitable Conflict Between Mentors & Their Charges

Back when I was but young and naïve I was mentored by a young man who was only but slightly older than I was and who my friends derisively called “The Shark”. He was in the 95thpercentile of intelligence of anyone I had known at the time. Even to this day, The Shark is in the top 5 most intelligent people in the world I have met. He was astute. He worked like a demon. He was driven. He was many things to many people but above all he was torrentially unrelenting. He would not quit and could not be out performed. He wore you down with the sheer amount of energy and work output he brought to a single project or even a conversation. These things made him unbeatable but also unforgiving. Of any insurrection or disloyalty. Or any perceived slight done to him.
He was what I wanted to be. I attended law school so I could learn how he thought. I dated law school girls so I could see women through his eyes. I even went as far as mimicking his gestures to achieve the demagogue like – power he held over rooms when he spoke. Oh, how had I been patient.
One day as we walked from his hostel to Wandegeya to get some rolex for supper he said something to me “There are 4 stages to any mentorship Identification, Bonding, Conflict, Resolution. We are heading into the conflict zone. Be prepared.” I was confused so I asked him and what follows is the transcript of that relationship.
Identification: There is a stage where the mentor and the mentee evaluate each other. Each one assessing their prey. Each one thinking they have the advantage on the other. The mentor driven by some egoistic need to impress upon someone young their skills and their wisdom. The desire to get unquestioned loyalty and attention. The mentee thinks he has found a gold mine. Where he can learn without question, slack without rebuke and be treated with favour without end. At some point in this stage the decision is made to enter this dance to the death.
Bonding: The bonding process was essential as after discovery the mentor and mentee got to know each other, spent inordinate amounts of time with each other. The mentor sees all their own promise and achievements in the mentee while the mentee hopes that they can be up to and maybe even more than the mentor. They will adopt their mentor’s speech patterns, diction, choice of reading material and even dress elements or overall approach to fashion (grungy, rugged, formal, sharp, clean cut, etc) It was in this space that the critical mistake of crossing boundaries was always bound to occur. For the mentee, it was out of naiveté but for the mentor the decision was almost always borne out of some misguided sense that they could trust the mentee and after all, if they were “showing them the ropes” why couldn’t they “let them in”. The result was a mismatch between expectations and reality. This is of course naturally aided by the process that it’s only the people who you care about who can hurt you.
Conflict: And then it finally came. It’s confusing that people who can be so obsessed with each other can so quickly devolve into near mortal enemies. Why? Because in most cases what draws people into mentor mentee relationships is what revolts them against each other. In the bonding process above the “deep dive’ that happens allows people to look deep and what they often see is a reflection of themselves. And they don’t like that. They quickly notice traits that are way to familiar with, either taking advantage of others, a mean streak, a penchant for exploitation, taking others for granted, a knack for ingratitude, etc. These things trigger a separation of swift and decisive proportions.
Resolution: In the time apart both parties think evaluate and weigh the mentorship and what it could do for them. Whenever the mentee repents (as the mentor has no need to and will never feel the need to and more importantly is bound for the sake of the relationship dynamic never to apologize) and sees the folly of their ways, they re-approach, this time with the hindsight of wisdom and the cautious shield of distance; careful to never be too clingy or appear too eager or too keen. Tempered. Tamed. Mentored.
Today I have mentors but I make the deliberate effort not to work with them. On projects yes, over the long haul definitely not. Because they are human. Because they are fallible. Also, idols like mentors are better seen on a pedestal and never up close. Whether that is because to not show the cracks in the idol or the flaws in the mentor, it’s a practice that serves to protect both of them.

Kissing The Emperor’s Ass; Ugandan Advertising and its Pitfalls

In advertising, it is a common occurrence that you will regularly be asked to kiss someone’s ass. Sometimes with good reason and sometimes for no reason. Now because advertising is what it is, no one ever questions the ass kissing; it’s always been done and will always be done. We just do it. Maybe one day Jesus will come and we’ll stop. Or maybe we wont stop who knows. But I digress.
You now know that advertising people are a subservient, obsequious and disgustingly self-loathing bunch of people. But the truth is that it is not all advertising people who are this way. It the client service people. Those are the real ass kissers. Those who most kiss ass eventually have their oral orifices transform into that oval shaped pout now common with most girls on Instagram; you know the one white girls do because they don’t have thick African lips and the one African girls copy from the white girls because, well they don’t know why the white girls do it and are too stupid to see that their thick Africa lips look like a tilapia in rebellion rather than whatever they imagine they are doing.
 Again I digress.
These client servicing people over the course of a successful (important to note here) lifetime kiss so much ass they get used to and even start to like the smell of it. However there are people who don’t kiss as much ass; the creatives (but this one I’ll leave to another day). But every once in a while you find some ass that smells good. People who know you have to kiss their ass but take the time to make sure it is clean and scented and they wipe it. Clients who like you. Who think you are the shit [no pun there]. Clients who, you too, incidentally, like. They respect you. They listen to you. They let you do your work. They are honest about their budgets. And they appreciate you when you do good work.
“What?! Whaaaaattttt?!! They exist!!” *in maniacal voice*
The real trauma is that this gentleness and humility has come at the end of a lifetime of hard work and interactions. It is lessons from dealing with thousands of people. The kind of wisdom possessed by an “emperor” (for purposes of this post) and not is tempestuous “heir apparent” (also for the purposes of this post). Which brings us to the heart of this post.
Most people who deal with emperors find them civil, full of leadership, great product knowledge and a great amount of insight about their products or services. They know their customers, they know what they (their customers) want, they know when their products are weak. And so they trust their agencies to lead them to the right place. They also know exactly where they don’t want to go but are open to being surprised on what is possible. They are visionaries. These are the ones with the scented bottoms. You could kiss that ass all day long.
However because this breed are so rare one only encounters a handful in a lifetime of work. Quite often you meet one in your whole advertising career.
Just 1.
And you meet them at the end of theirs.  They are either preparing to hand over the empire to the next generation, or to move on to the next great thing. Or if your stars are so badly aligned and you deserve nothing good in this life – they are preparing to hand over to their children.
Why, you ask?
Because anytime a business is successful enough to be handed over, it means there is a lifetime of relationships and lessons to be taught there. A plethora of cautionary tales and an ensemble of adversaries the business has overcome to survive that long. These are things that most emperors try to teach their heirs apparent but most times fail miserably. Why? Because the lessons are time acquired, they are seared in the mind because they are experiences mixed with emotions making them memories. They can’t be forgotten.
In their tutelage, most heirs apparent hear these lessons but brush them off as tales of a time gone by. The prospect of “modernizing” things is so intoxicating that most of them forget why things have remained the same for so long. So they rush into the boardroom and fire everyone. They replace all the casual labour with a capital intensive solution that makes the “casuals” jobless. They are swift to “modernize” the logo and up-end the “brand look and feel”.
“These things are from a long time ago. They all need to change,” they say. “We need to get with the times. Something new and fresh and exciting!”
“Like what were you thinking?” lips firmly placed, you ask.
“ I was checking online and I saw something that I think we should use,” comes the curt retort.
In that process they want their asses kissed so hard and if there is no evidence of sh*t on your face they’ll rub it in for effect. They’ll work you harder. They’ll listen to you less. They’ll disrespect you more. Eventually, when the tally is done they will never let you make as great as they could be. These are the bottoms we all dread. The ones who don’t wipe. They ones who will fart while you are in the middle of your morning ass-kissing ritual and laugh just because they can and there is nothing you can do about it.


But why are they like this? I don’t know so don’t ask me but in my next life I’d like to come back as an heir apparent just to see. But I suspect there are a few reasons why:
As I said above, the emperor is wise and old. He has seen many things and has learnt that he will never really know it all. So he listens. He mulls on things. And appreciates a good idea. He is the emperor. No one can rush him. When he is ready he will act with deftness and blinding speed. The heir apparent doesn’t have that luxury; he has got naysayers, detractors, populists, etc all around him. He must be rushed and decisive. And there is where all the skid marking starts. As they make the wrong decisions and shit their pants in fear, all the ass kisser will find is skid marks when he comes for their ritual ass kissing.
The decided lack of compassion: this lesson is almost as old as itself. Nowhere in the human race is there less compassion than in heirs apparent. They bear an often unmistakable proclivity for mean, spiteful, denigrating behaviour. They’ll end old friendships and relationships, will set fire to the village barn because they haven’t gotten their share of the wheat crop even though the harvest was bad all around. This is perhaps the point where that lesson on absolute power and corruption is derived. I’m reminded that even in the much hailed Holy Bible for all their strength Judges would never become kings. No matter how many Philistine foreskins Samson took, he would never have the grace and empathy of David.
And that leads to my final point; Strength Vs Grace: Ass kissing is all about grace and tact. It’s very difficult for you to kiss ass when you know its ass. The human spirit rebels against that kind of thing. It is revolted by the debasing of the spirit it represents. However if a king passes by and it has been agreed by his subjects that none shall look upon his countenance then it is in unison that they all bow before him and give him respect. That they will let him have the final word. That they will do his bidding even against great personal misgiving. On the other hand, being forced to kiss hard, unscented, unwiped ass on your knees, in chains only makes the ass worse, and the action more vile.
Yet we must and will continue to kiss ass for that is what will light our houses, and warm our loved ones and feed our children. In the end all you can hope for is that you meet an emperor in your lifetime because that experience is truly one worth having had. Just one emperor. Oh such sweet ass.