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Archive for April, 2012

I can’t quite believe it

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this funny feeling? You wake with a sneaking nagging doubt. You wonder if you’ve been bluffing your way through life. You look at where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re about to go. And you ask yourself, “how did I get here? Is any of this real? How could this be happening to me?”.

I haven’t spent any time in therapy, I probably ought to. I’m pretty sure they would have a science-y name for this feeling. But I’ve also heard enough people describe similar things to suspect it’s just a kinky part of the human condition.

Anyway, I’ve got an intense version of that feeling right now. I think the symptoms become especially acute in moments of good fortune. And right now I suspect I’m one of the luckiest people in the world. I’ve spent the last two years and 12 days working at the greatest creative agency in the world – Wieden+Kennedy.

I’ve been part of an incredible group of people (no doubt fuelling my feelings of inadequacy and fakery) helping to evolve the output of the agency to be more interactive, and to take advantage of the connected world we’re building. That evolution is an ongoing and never-ending work in progress. Something that many companies seem to forget or choose to ignore because it’s such a frighteningly infinite task. The fact that W+K is undaunted by that challenge, and is honest and clear with itself about the work that’s been done, and the work that’s still to do, is the reason I know they will continue to thrive and lead the industry. But they will thrive and evolve without me.

It took me 5 paragraphs to get there, but now I’ve said it: I’m leaving W+K.

I can almost hear the 12 people reading this blog asking: “Wait! If it’s so great how come you’re leaving?”.

I have nothing but admiration, respect, and fuzzy-warm feelings towards W+K and (almost) every single person there. And it’s a cliché but they ARE the best storytellers in the world. They create deep, rich, culture-shaping, stories, personalities and voices for brands that are unrivaled. W+K is in the game of creating content and experiences that people crave, seek out, share, and become emotionally entangled with – often driving incredible business results. During the last 2 years I’ve learned tons from some of the smartest people I’ve ever met.

I paused at the end of that paragraph and asked myself: “What the hell AM I doing walking away from this?”. I can only make sense of it when I look at where I’m heading; I’m going to be an ECD at Google Creative Lab in New York.

I’ll try my best to explain why this is the right move for me: on the surface it might seem like a subtle distinction, and for some people there’d be no difference, but for me it’s pretty fundamental. Earlier I mentioned doing things for brands that take advantage of the ‘connected world’, but what I really want to do with my life it to get closer to the shaping of the connected world. For me that means getting deeper into the shaping of products and services, showing people the life-enhancing potential of technology, and helping to get those things into peoples’ hands. I believe that Google is in a unique position to make those things happen in the world.

Google Creative Lab and W+K are a strange kind of yin and yang. And I know how much each of the organizations respects the other. They both create stories and products, and they’re both operating at the intersection of art and science – but their history, their outputs and their missions are quite different. At this point in my life I feel that I need to be working with the kinds of products that Google is creating.

I’m fully aware of recent criticisms of Google, and I’m going into this with my eyes open. It’s not a startup anymore. Google is a large company with vast responsibilities, and those responsibilities are only likely to grow. So it has to hold itself to ruthless standards of impeccable behavior. I’m excited and motivated by that.

Everyone I’ve met who works at Google and Google Creative Lab feels like they’re part of a company that is both a great business AND can change the world for the better. I’m overjoyed to share their beliefs and look forward to joining them.

I can’t believe that I’m leaving W+K. And I can’t believe that I’m about to join Google Creative Lab. The whole thing is kind of unbelievable.

To everyone at W+K – goodbye and thanks for everything. To everyone at Google – hello and thanks for things to come.