Bluetooth wanker: why I’m wearing the Jawbone ERA


This year there have been a few pieces of technology that have entered my life that I thought were worth talking about.  After all, I think I started this blog about technology once upon a time, and not even I can waffle on about “strategy” any longer.

Bluetooth headpieces, in my opinion, the most polarizing of all wearable technologies. In fact, they don’t ever even enter the ‘wearable’ discussion. They are, for all intents and purposes, the dominion of absolute wankers from all walks of Western life.  Or, you’re a businessman in Asia and free from any stigma.

I’ve recently picked up the Jawbone ERA – which is Jawbone’s latest and greatest (and tiniest and mightiest) blue tooth device.  It’s discreet, beautifully-shaped and has some fascinating audio technology for audiophiles like me.

Let’s start with the bottom line, then you lot can geek out on the below.  The Jawbone ERA is functionally amazing: full hand free access to your smartphone or tablet and for any ad agency solider, who spends a life time on the phone at the desk, in the airport or in transit should consider one.

It has literally made my working day super smooth, mainly because the device knows which bluetooth device around you is currently engaged in a call: my Mabook Air, HTC One, Samsung S4 or my iPad Air. That’s a lot, and when you average 6-8 conference calls around Asia a day, it pays off in spades.

The features:

  • Awesome design, super comfortable silicon ear-shaped bud
  • “Military grade” whatever that means, noise-cancelling sensor
  • Sleek case that doubles as a second power-supply (another travelling life saver)
  • Useful app and customized ‘voices’ much like a GPS. I chose the British bird from MI6

And while you might have rocks thrown at you for the stigma around bluetooth ear pieces, I’m soldiering on because this tiny-mighty device is fucking awesome.

The walls between art and engineering exist only in our mind

“A part of me is an engineer, who wants to map the progress of mobility.  The other is an artist, who wants to sculpt the earth around us and give it shape.

The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds”.

BMW ‘Kinetic Sculpture’ from Academy Films on Vimeo.

Everything I’ve learned about business travel, so far (part 2)

This post is continued from part 1 – read here.

6.  Download movies for your laptop

No joke, I finished every move on Cathay Pacific in about 6 weeks.  And while every month they had new releases and new additions to the collection, they don’t last long. And you mightn’t want to watch Bridesmaids again.

Whether legally or illegally, make sure you get a stack of TV series and movies on your laptop.  Although, if you’re watching Game of Thrones, expect to get a few people watching with you, or cringing at another sex scene.

Pro-tip – get a two way (or I carry a 5 way) splitter so your better-half, colleague or most importantly, your boss, can watch with you.  Reduces stress by taking your mind completely off the trip or off the 900 emails you got during your last flight.


7.  Carry-on only     

 Should be an obvious one for anyone who has watched Up In The Air, but stick to carry-on.  I’m heading to Europe for two weeks this trip and have taken carry-on trolley, small back pack and my laptop bag.

That’s a suit, 4 shirts, two pairs of pants, underwear, exercise gear, toiletries and the rest.

Pick for carry-on? Spend the money on a Rimowa.  Beautifully designed and a five-year warranty makes it easy.  Get four wheels – makes everything lighter through better weight distribution, makes moving down the cramped aisles of the plane easier and is less stress on the arm by wheeling ahead or next to you.

Travel wallets are also important, I’m using a new Bellroy who specialize in making things streamline and slim.  Get one.

How’s this reduce stress? Can be the difference between frequent small frustrations and moving through taxis, security, airports, planes and airports differently – that’s what you’re putting yourself through.


8.  Back-up power supply for your cell

The back up power supply – is amazing! If you’re an iPhone user, grab one of the cases with an extra battery pack.  For us HTC, Samsung or other users – grab one of the charging adapters.  Remember to charge it whenever you can – don’t put it off.

Buy a big one from a reputable brand.  I have invested in a cheaper one before and the battery was shot after two months.

Reduces stress by not having to worry if you’re going to miss that email, make that call or meet with your drinking colleagues.


9.  Stay connected with WhatsApp

Travelling means some big bills for you or your company if you’re still using SMS.  Asia has this hands down, and no one really uses SMS, unless you haven’t had the “which service do you use conversation”.

I primarily use WhatsApp, but am also now using WeChat (China), Line (Philippines and Hong Kong) and of course Facebook messenger.

Again, staying in touch with your friends and family will mean if you’re waiting in customs lines, airports lobbies you can always see what is going on.


10.  Join both miles programs, but stick to one

Biggest rookie mistake I ever made was not instantly transferring my Qantas FrequentFlyer Gold Membership straight to Cathay Pacific.  Rookie error.  If you’re changing countries, then make sure you do your research into whether oneworld or Star Alliance is better.

For instance, Singapore use Star Alliance.  For Hong Kong, use oneworld.

You won’t always be able to stick to the group.  So make sure you use both, but try to stick to only booking in one.  There plenty of people doing the hardcore math around which program and why so do your homework.

Cathay Pacific’s Marco Polo Club (Asia Miles) is great – I’ve connected both American Express cards, a Visa card plus a whole host of other partners like Travelex (money exchange) to rack up points quickly.

Believe me, once you realize how many benefits there are, including upgrades and better lounge access it is all worth it.

Lounges seem like a small luxury, but I got stuck in New Zealand once at 2am with no where to charge my phone, have a sleep or get 15 minutes quiet.  You don’t need that kind of stress.

Lounges reduce stress not only from having a better view, but the food is half-decent, there is always some wifi, power sockets, TVs and anything else you need to forget the fact you’re awake at some ungodly hour.


11.  Remember to have fun

Talk to the concierge of the hotel, they will know everything about the local scene.  Talk to your colleagues and make sure you go out and have some fun.  See a few sights, eat the best food and buy a bottle.




I really hope this helps anyone about to start a travel gig.  It’s an opportunity I am extremely grateful for and look forward to continuing next year.

Reduce whatever stress you can, and manage yourself in the process.  Don’t forget it’s important to have a life at the same time.

Everything I’ve learned about business travel, so far (part 1)

Based in Hong Kong, I am now on a plane at least once a week which means living out of a tiny carry-on and strapped into headphones. Eating tiny boxes of re-heated food.

My travel schedule this week (from Hong Kong): Tokyo, Singapore, and Shanghai; home for 12 hours then straight to Geneva before onto London.  Looking ahead I know I might have one week back at home before I’m heading back to the Philippines, Singapore and then to Sydney before November 10.

And there will be more.  Definitely to China and Singapore. Just waiting for the calls.   Business travel for me is about reduces every possible stress factor so I hope this is valuable for anyone in the same kind of gig.

1.  Keep fit, eat well

Start packing your work out gear and don’t over commit.  You’re going to be tired yes, and probably rushing.  Stick to nailing 30 minutes of heavy lifting in the hotel gym.  Squats, deadlifts, bench press – super-set with lunges, curls or ab workout.  Your metabolism will be firing and you’re not going to waste time with low-intensity-watching-the-news-treadmill-running-BS.

Eat well – avoid white carbs, stop drinking on every flight and every hotel, stick to protein and high quality fats. If you know you’re going to get stuck with no good eating options (or a big client dinner), make sure you stick to your workout and avoid having to buy two plane seats in the future.

Keeping fit and eating well reduces stress by keeping your body full of endorphins, oxygen and feeling focused.

Pro-tip: drink as much water as possible: make sure you include a little sodium or vitamin mix.  I aim for about 300ml every hour.  500ml when I’m off the plane.


2.  Read Monocle

Stay up to date with trends, not just the news, around the world with Monocle.  Does what it says on the can: a global briefing of current events, business, design, government and more.  Monocle is also thick enough to keep you reading one magazine for many trips over the month.

Reading will reduce your stress, especially during take off and landing.  Monocle will keep you from over-thinking about work, or about how awful Changi airport’s carpet is.


3.  Download TripIt

 E-tickets are probably the worst case of information design.  At least the ones I get are anyway.  This could be an easy opportunity for an airline or travel agency to differentiate.  Qantas send a page full of Courier New(that ugly email text) in huge bulk paragraphs in monochrome and expect you to decipher that rubbish.

TripIt makes your journey stress free.  You simply forward the email you receive from your agency or airline to a generic email and your phone will automatically update with all the information – including gates, seats, and baggage claim terminal.

Pay about $50 USD and you can get automatic update information on points tracking, delays and scheduling.   Great for managing multiple stop trips.


4.  Know and request the best seats

Flying economy is no problem as long as you know where you’re sitting (and maybe what you’re eating).  Grab exit row seats wherever possible.  Negotiate with your company get any additional charge covered – once you’ve reached the first tier of a mileage program it is generally free anyway.

You get the legroom and easy-access chair that really can make the difference between and enjoyable flight or a nightmare.  At all costs avoid middle seats, or seats down the back. Bring your own food to economy, it’s pretty ordinary on some airlines, and you want to stay healthy and fit.

If you’re in business class, avoid the first row of seats which actually can feel more claustrophobic than normal.  You – or your company – are paying the dollars, so make sure you get your value.

Food here will make all the difference, in addition to being treated like a real person. For those employers out there considering what policy to put around business class travel: you’re not putting your staff in hostels, or making them catch buses to meetings – so work it out with your clients and finance team on how to make it work for your team.

Seat choices can really determine stress levels.  Too bad you can’t lose the spluttering, snoring and demanding creative-type next to you demanding to know why his wine isn’t from whatever region.

5.  Buy some noise cancelling headphones

I just bought my first pair of Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones and I felt betrayed for having never used these before.  Honestly, they are so good that I will LEND YOU MY PAIR just so you can experience it. Light weight, compact and beautifully designed.   They even plug into the airplane system.

Whether you’re watching a movie, listening to music or just reading with no music, these headphones actively (battery powered) cancel out the back ground noise.  I’m sitting in an airport lounge now of probably 100 people and listening to some very light EDM at 33% volume and it is clear, crisp serenity. For the plane ride, you may have never noticed just how loud an airplane is.

For around $300 USD it’s an investment in your sanity that you can’t get with any other product.  The quality of Bose is only second to Sennheiser for me –  but the noise cancelling product from Sennhesier is twice the price (and the size) not to mention as ugly as hell.

Reduces noise stress, which is a real unknown for most people until you take it away.

Read on to part 2

No one ever died wishing they spent more time on PowerPoint Slides.

The year past has been one of the most memorable.  Moving country, changing roles and trying to be a grown up: it has been challenging.  The year has also been incredibly rewarding.  There is no greater lesson I have learned than change is inevitable, but can be difficult.

But there is a need for balance. No one ever died wishing they’d done a few more PowerPoint slides.  I just want to do what I love and try and make a few people happy.

From a career perspective, I have had the opportunity to develop the strategy and service offering for the CMG group of agencies.  Like any start-up, the volatility of clients, partners and personalities is the source of every high and every low.   Internally and externally. This is agency life.

A company that is only really 18 months old has grown from one to over thirty in that short time.  Nurturing that growth, and constantly looking for the big picture while managing to change the attitudes, processes and outcomes of six individual agencies of over 1,500 other employees.

The growth is not all sunshine and lollipops.  The change is not all management text-book materials. We did not and do not make every one happy.  But overall, the change that the team has developed through our strategic, creative and production capabilities has been a true step-change.

We’ve been recognized with the Digital PR agency of the year. But it is no time to rest.  My role, and what we colloquially call “the studio” must keep changing, must keep evolving, must keep adapting to ensure long-term success.

Personally, the journey has been one of growth and some serious self-reflection.  I won’t lie: my cynicism and jaded attitude was my biggest enemy.  Exhausted, stressed and highly caffeinated at all times meant that managing our teams of strategists and agency account managers lead to some hard moments, and harder conversations.

The stress of travel, relationships and friendships meant my usual sanctuaries were wiped.  Music, CrossFit and film become duties – to manage the stress required more discipline before.  My anxiety and lack of concentration was amplified to a scale I’d never experienced before.

I’ve grown up in a culture where it’s good to work hard, have a stressful job and be successful – but when you’re wiped out on the bathroom floor of a hotel room in the middle of a panic attack, your body forces you to stop.

There’s no prize for being the most stressed out.  There’s not even a prize for coming first.

Do what you love. Make people happy.


Analytics: The Signal and the Noise

Every week there’s a conversation about analytics, online and social media monitoring, and more and more, we’re identifying the long list of problems associated with it. Here’s my approach to social media monitoring:

  • Analytics should be about outcomes, not just outputs
  • We’re looking for trends and not absolute values
  • Correlation is a dangerous notion
  • Reasoning and understanding is key

And here’s a man who puts all this better than I ever will.



The simple truth of attitude

Be free. Do what you wanna do. Be yourself. Do what you do best.

Seems growing up not only tells us not to grow out of creativity, but also the simple truths of attitude.  Maybe I’m being sentiment growing up in my own heavy metal bands with nail polish, but if you’re feeling too old, or even too young, watch this.

Recruitment in the digital age


Recruiting for digital, social media and technology based roles is hard.  Really hard.  Mainly because the majority of agencies “turning digital” are doing it all wrong.  The most common mistakes I see?

  • No digital career path – they’re not here to be your stop gap for the next 5 years
  • No thought on structure – how is this one ‘digital’ person going to integrate into your existing structure (politically)?
  • No thought for culture – digital folks and social folks come from a very, very different culture than say, PR
  • No support – one ring them to rule them? No way.  That’s why Frodo won. Support them! Financially, with teams and with direction and mentoring

Recruiters – love them or hate them, they make a huge difference to businesses everywhere.  I recently got a chance to talk to Dorota Dopierala – founder and managing director of Nuclei – who has been supporting the growth of our agencies across the region. Here’s what Dorota had to say:

In a job market where traditional marketing is considered old school and digital is the new black, candidates are chasing the biggest and brightest roles with gusto. Fortunately for us, plenty of our candidates actually know what they are talking about, they are passionate and excited about what they do. And that’s the group our clients are after.

What are candidates looking for in their careers, not just their next job

For some it’s centred on a pay rise, stability, working hours or location. For others and generally the more passionate marketers it’s about their careers.

They want employers with access to resources, tools, data, global or regional reach, so you can share the experience. They want large, exciting accounts, which are prepared to invest or have innovation budgets, allowing them to try new things, be at the forefront of marketing and allow them to make the difference. They also want an employer which is forward thinking, companies that are one step ahead of the latest industry developments.

But what I believe they really want and need is true leadership. They want to learn, progress, be challenged and be looked after.

What are companies looking for in their first ‘digital’ hires

Aside from the regular requirements, such as their technical skills and proven experience in a similar environment, companies really want to see passion and potential for growth. They want someone who loves what they do and someone who will share that love with the wider business.

If this is their first digital person on board, they need to have a broad understanding of the whole picture and be able to help others to move into digital. Excellent communication skills, patience and ability to educate others are a necessity. It would be ideal if the candidate had either experience or “respect” for traditional disciplines as it would help them to implement the changes the company would be going through after moving towards and into digital.

What are experienced digital companies looking for in their next digital hires? 

This would really depend on the level of the hire. For juniors, digitally focused companies would like to see candidates who are passionate about digital and hungry to learn from others. Not just to learn about digital but to learn the company operations or the brand.

For senior roles, companies look for proven performance in previous roles. They still need to show hunger, passion and be able to help others grow. In a senior role you will be focussing on strategy, client retention and people management, so you are already expected to have these skills.

It’s much easier to verify senior candidates’ previous experience and skills, hence it’s often the junior or entry level roles where companies experience the most difficulty bringing on a new hire.

The hard part is how do you truly test whether someone is really passionate?

What are the challenges with all this 

Companies seem to struggle to define their unique offerings and or culture. They talk about their key clients, “work-life balance” or their brand. They seem to forget that their competitors use the same arguments.

Everyone has their individual needs and you need to listen to them. There is no one unique reason why people would move. It might be that candidates don’t really share their needs or the employer doesn’t care. A lot of employers seem to think that it’s all about paying more and just using the next resource who would take your job.

On the other hand employers struggle, as they want “ideal” employees. Everyone needs to have the perfect technical background, be an outstanding speaker and client manager, be able to educate others and have ‘passion’. They don’t think about what’s really important and what they could teach or coach. Maybe they are missing the true leaders in their current management?

What are your recommendations for candidates and companies alike 

Be flexible – in a candidate short market, finding the “perfect” candidate is not always an option. The same thing should be noted for candidates, maybe your “dream job” isn’t really the best option you can have. Talk to others in similar roles, maybe pick a good recruiter and ask about their opinion and trends in the industry?

Be patient – whether it’s waiting for the right candidate or waiting for the right job, take your time as you don’t want to be in the same position 3 months down the track you are currently in, simply because you jumped at the first option.

Understand your value – employers should be able to describe how they are different from their competitor. Candidates on the other hand should be very clear on what they can bring to the company.

Prepare for the interview – it’s a two way process, which often companies forget. It’s your chance to ask all the important questions, whether you are a potential employer or employee. And be passionate, candidates want to work for companies which love what they want!


Dorota Dopierala is the founder and managing director of nuclei recruitment, a specialist digital media recruitment agency based in Sydney


Reborn on Responsive Workflow Design

In my opinion, Reborn are one of the very hottest digital agencies in Australia.  Having worked with the guys on a number of projects, they absolutely know their shit. If you’re in “social” and don’t know a fucking thing about “digital”. This could be a good place to start.  It’s time practitioners, marketers and clients looked at the bigger picture.

Social media and digital strategy are not mutually exclusive, nor are they the same thing.  But more on that later.

User experience and engagement

Engagement is not an on/off switch. It’s an experience. Marketers, PR pros, SEO gurus and the humble digital strategist are enterprising the face, voice and touch of brands and campaigns today.

Today isn’t just digital and mobile.  It is a seamless transition through online, offline and everything in between.  Brands need a steward, a navigator – to guide them through something we in the web business were fond of “user experience”.

Everyone knows the marketing landscape has changed, far fewer understand what to do as a result of that change. What holds true is that the customer is at the heart of it all: and their experience is how a brand may be remembered.

Whether is mobile, social or digital: the geeks of yesterday find themselves counted amongst the marketers.  And the best marketers are realizing it’s adapt and live, or stagnate and fade to the background.

This unique combination of skills across communications, digital development, design, customer relationship management and oh yeah, the four P’s of marketing are forcing teams to grow more collaborative.  But collaboration is hard, not necessarily complex, but certainly hard.

When we’re recruiting for digital or for client servicing today, everyone is talking about strategy.  And user experience is a wonderful way to see if they can walk the walk.  It’s not all big picture: it’s about smaller nuances between digital channels, their audiences and the multiple platforms for desktops, tablets and smart-phones.

User experience and user interface designers look at the whole picture and know each piece intimately.  Better still, they understand the human reactions of many audiences – young, old, male or female.

I believe user experience designers will be a pillar for future marketing teams. Even future C-level management.

Look at Apple, Pintrest, Weibo and Nespresso– all designed to be seamless experiences for the user. From a web sign-up right through to content syndication to the four screens.

Furthermore, search engine data, web analytics and the emergence social CRM all provide a plethora of smart data to build intelligent ideas – creative ideas – for those who are nimble enough to change and adapt.

From management to the intern, brands are stewarded by a number of different skill sets that were once deeply divided: digital has connected them together.