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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.

31 Comments on "I can’t quite believe it"

  • ddgf says

    Good luck with your new world!

  • John says

    It was the rain wasn’t it?

    • heh. It actually rains more in NYC than PDX. honest!

  • Hi Iain,
    Long time since Oven in London… :)
    Congrats to this!!
    Very emotional and great read.
    …and welcome to NYC! Let me know when you’re here, would be fun to catch up!

  • tobie says

    I think it’s good. Good for you.

    It’s one thing to steer a boat, and completely another to jump on the ropes and sail a ship. If that even makes sense..

    Did you get the poster?

  • Ian L says

    Remembering you from Syzygy, this sounds so *you*. A big gain for Google :-D

    Good luck!

  • nuzzaci says

    congrats and good luck on your new adventure!

  • Good luck Iain!

  • TheSisb says

    I’ve experienced this warm, doubtful feeling you describe. I don’t know the name for it, if there is one, but it hits me very often as well.
    I’m just going to say this piece of pick-up artistry advice that fits in very well with this sort of feeling:
    “Let the girl decide why you aren’t good enough, don’t do it for her.”
    Congrats and I hope you work hard to make the world a slightly better place.

  • Godspeed, Iain, congratulations!

  • DK says

    Been following for a while, we’ve never met, but just want to say good luck and kick ass… what a great opportunity!

  • Sounds exciting, have fun!

  • marc says

    You’ve changed a culture. You’ve started the systematic mind off at wk. If they can nurture that, grow it, your job is done. Good luck with creative lab, watch out for Andrew Chee he’s contracting there and is an amazing takent. Andy B will look after that wk soul you’ve acquired. Don’t worry one day you’ll go back, we all do in the end.

  • Sabine says

    Great post. Congratulations, Iain!

  • John Ferrier says

    Actually, I get this. It’s not a little thing, or superficial, or fake. I’m impressed, and looking at my own choices, chastened. Wow.

  • matias pj says

    You’re probably doing the right thing! Looking forward to see your impact on Google :-)
    Hope to see you in Cannes anyway!

  • good luck, iain. i’m sure you’l kill in Nueva York.

  • olishaw says

    “getting deeper into the shaping of products and services” – very much this, looking forward to seeing what you get up to there

  • duswain says

    Cool! Congrats, Iain. Will drop in to see you next time I’m in NYC. Hope all goes well with the move. Duncan

  • Ribrob says

    Awesome, congrats! :)

  • congrats, sir! can’t wait to toast you in nyc!

  • I’m not qualified or experienced in your field. But can I have your old job? Pretty please :o)

  • Congratulations – there must be a notable percentage of ad land who are jealous (and perhaps worried) of you!

  • Dani says


    Congratulations! I truly believe you have made an impact at Wieden and your leadership, influence, & ideas will be sorely missed.

    I am grateful to have met you in your time in Portland and I look forward to hearing great things as you transition to Google.


  • Kief says

    Hi Iain, congrats to Google for snagging you, congrats to you for a fun new challenge.

    The feeling you describe sounds similar to “Imposter Syndrome”, although not exactly since it doesn’t sound like you’re feeling like you didn’t deserve to get where you are, just a surreal weirdness that you are where you are.

    Good luck, I look forward to seeing your work come out of the big G.

  • tadd31 says

    Well done, we met at Poke and I trust you to bring some of the “making things” spirit with you… congratulation

  • I find it quite tragic that the people who should be shaping the the future of technology products are caught up in the advertising and communications bubble.

    The talent, creativity and craft in most ad agencie have the potential to disrupt the very businesses they are servicing. I often wonder why they don’t just make better products, rather than getting people to buy one’s made by other companies! I find this quite strange sometimes.

    This is a monumental move – Awesome that you are in the wild, bad lands of technology. Go forth and disrupt everything!

  • Wow and wow—you can’t go wrong at either of those places, and I see exactly where your head is at. Congratulations and suerte!

  • Leif says

    When I read what you wrote: “You wonder if you’ve been bluffing your way through life”, it seemed very familiar, because I have heard super-intelligent and talented women (at work) say the same thing.

    I had coffee with two women whom I admired immensely, both enormously respected in their field, both expressing the same irrational feeling — that they were afraid that to be revealed as “frauds”. This really stunned me because there was absolutely no reason for it. On the contrary, they were the best in the department. Yet they had that same feeling, both of them, and I have since heard other very bright women express the same feeling. We knew each other really well, that is why they would open up in that way.
    This was stunning in light of how many mediocre men happily brag and pretend to know things. But it helped me understand how women think. Maybe it puts them at a disadvantage, or it helps them work harder, but it was an eyeopener for sure.

  • HIMA says

    So, if i read this correct; you’re sick of doing evil and now want to do good?

  • alina says

    Nothing new ever since?