An Englishman in NY (well Chicago)

After another two month stint in the US, I am flying home to take up my role in London. In 2014 I had the good fortune to work for six months in New York and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, this time it was Chicago in my new CRO role for Performics. I have found myself analysing the country more than I did in NY, I guess the second time around was more critical than the first and I seemed to soak up more of normal life this time.

A few things have struck me this time, small often, some big but just areas of difference between US and UK, work and otherwise.

  1. They love DOGS. Holy shit, they love them, every shape, size, colour. I thought the UK was a nation of animal lovers but its on another scale here, every apartment block has them pouring out in droves.
  2. US offices are so much quieter than UK. There are arguments pro and con but on balance the life that exists in UK offices outweighs the sometimes oppressive silence of US offices. I would be tearing down the cubicles as fast as I could.
  3. I am left dumbfounded by the level of waste of food and lack of recycling. Restaurant portions seem to me gluttonous to the point of not really understanding who eats it. It perhaps creates a sharing culture as people don’t order dishes each, but mainly I just see waste.
  4. How much more friendly and relaxed Chicago is to NY. A totally different experience, people are so friendly and helpful and makes for such a nice pace of life vs NY.
  5. You have to work here to get the scale. Europeans who moan about the US, need to understand more about the US before passing judgment. The numbers, the opportunities, are immense.
  6. Love – taxis taking cards as a matter of course, yet at the other end the card payment processes seem really behind with limited Chip and Pin, let alone contactless.
  7. Eating and drinking in the US is interesting. Service is great generally, some restaurants wont let you sit until your other dining partner arrives which frustrates me. The dropping of the ‘check’ on the table when you have barely finished is both irritating and fantastic, one pushing you out, on the other hand, you don’t have that frustrated process of catching waiter’s eye to get the check.
  8.  Stop spilling iced water all over the table. Please.
  9. I still find that there is too much hierarchy in US businesses, I would prefer to see much less focus on titles and seniority and more on great and accountable relationships with the teams.
  10. So kid friendly. playgrounds around every corner, children’s menus, museums etc, Chicago but also NY have been fantastic for kids and I love the place for that.

I hope to get the chance to come back here again, America is a great country and from a work perspective it is a must and would recommend to anyone. I have enjoyed a wonderful time here with the Performics team, a great team and look forward to what the future holds!

Thanks windy city, its been a blast!


Business photography

A few photos from the last few weeks on the road! Instead of my usual stuff I thought I would let the pictures tell the story!



Damian Burns doing his usual top class client service, another Damian in the background being less professional.


Mark Ronson at the Microsoft Party in Cannes – a very cool session


Neal Mohan of Google setting the scene at the start of the Client Advisory Board Meeting in LA


An amazing view of the beach at Dana Point, a beautiful jog first thing


Tracey Scheppach of SMGx and VNC fame on the water in Chicago with HQ just behind


Beatriz and Sara from Spain and Italy talking RTB (Not)





Creating change – it is not all plain sailing


Two days in Chicago at the VivaKi Nerve Center Management meeting and one thing really struck me, that change even when it is really needed is pretty tough. Key to getting through it though is by having a plan and sticking to it. The VNC started in 2008 and we were laughed at, Curt Hecht who leaves us this month was there at the start and he recalled some of the comments at the time. That plan though has been sturdy and continues to be at the core of everything we do and it is resistant to country whims and individual blocks and that change we are bringing can not be stopped now.

VNC was a slow burn Internationally but in recent times things have accelerated rapidly. Over the last two days we have had people from the VNC from US to Australia and everywhere in between and each person was ringing the bell on the old models, it is time to step up and be prepared to change. Only two years ago we had VNC in US, UK, Dubai and Spain. Add to that now Italy, France, Germany, Australia, China, Russia and more to come, amazing growth.

Trouble with change is that it unsettles and some people don’t want it and are willing to slow things down and say ‘it’s not like that here’ and excuses to that effect. The encouraging thing though is that those people are becoming far and few between now and most people have started to embrace. I met recently with Maurice Levy and it was clear where he expects to see development, what areas should be moving faster and that is the biggest encouragement of all when it comes from the top.

Change your mind or change the people was a phrase mentioned by someone recently and I agree. I have always loved change, it is so exciting and creates so much opportunity so I assume everyone will but I am afraid that is not always the case. The VNC over the last two days has presented some amazing work and propositions and it is no wonder it has been copied by most of the other groups – whether it was market leading Partnerships, the worlds first and largest trading desk, driving innovation through The Pool, VNC has lead and shown the people laughing behind their hands that in fact it has become a blueprint.

The work we are doing with our agencies is moving so fast in many many markets and the ambition in the room has been palpable so expect to see more and more from this group over the coming weeks, months and years.

See you Chicago, it has been a pleasure (apart from your terrible airport).