Episode Eighty Three: This Is My Next; And How It Felt

by danhon

0.0 Station Ident

For reasons that will become apparent in the next section, I spent most of the weekend trying to not be alone. Saturday was spent having brunch and then running errands before failing at not being alone, playing an inordinate amount of Resogun and then watching a double-bill of The Incredibles and The Fifth Element.

Anyway. On to the big news.

1.0 This Is My Next

The short version is this: I’m available and looking for freelance work. What am I interested in?

Here’s a short list:

– net-native games and storytelling for the non-core-gamer audience
– wearables done right
– consumer VR and poking holes in Snowcrash-as-a-business-model
– fixing healthcare
– the Internet and how it can be applied to Things
– how genuinely-nearly-ubiquitous access to the ‘net is pushing what the internet delivers further down Maslow’s pyramid
– better government
– better banking
– product-as-service-as-marketing
– products or services and how they can be used to solve communications problems
– products or services and how they can be used to solve consumer problems
– helping interesting startups understand their customers and how to develop and demonstrate empathy through product and communications

The even shorter version is this: I like solving problems. And I think I solve them well.

The long list is here: https://newsletter.danhon.com/archive/

Drop me a line at dan@danhon.com, or reply to this episode.

(If you’re in San Francisco and you’d like to meet, drop me a line: I’ll be at O’Reilly Solid this Wednesday and Thursday.)

2.0 And How It Felt

I’ve written before about how it was never one of my life’s goals to end up in advertising. It was one of my life’s goals to be an astronaut or to be a scientist or to be a writer, but, I have to admit, not someone at an advertising agency. And yet, about four years ago, I started on an adventure at W+K London, and then nine months later, moved out to Portland to work at the mothership, W+K’s founding office.

It as always a big experiment: when I had first interviewed at the agency, I dug into its history and saw that the craft in what they made. That they’d made some of the most memorable ads in the last thirty or so years and that, like any good – no, great – agency, they’d genuinely influenced culture. There were so many of them! The thing that really attracted me to them, though, was that here was a chance to see if I could work with some of the best storytellers in the world to make something amazing in the interactive space.

And, honestly, it was really, really hard. Advertising is hard. Most things are hard. Over the past four years, I’ve learned *so* much about the problems companies face and the ways in which they can solve those problems through communication. I’ve had the privilege on working on and being a part of directing some absolutely amazing campaigns over the last four years, and I’d be the first one to say that the power of filmic storytelling is, well, literally awesome. Across every single account I’ve worked on – Nike, Coca-Cola, Sony, Kraft, Lurpak and Facebook – I’ve worked with fantastic, smart people and been a part of work I’ve been proud of. And against all of this was the changing landscape of advertising being disrupted like every other traditional pre-internet industry and agencies as well as their clients needing to deal with the change.

I came in and loved the challenge. Of building teams and helping to define new roles. One of my favourite experiences – and actually, one of the things that I love doing – was of helping a new team get together who hadn’t worked with design or UX before and collaborating in a new way to come up with a new way of solving a client brief. And, ultimately, I loved learning through at the very least sheer force of osmosis, how to craft great stories that form a connection with people.

But that’s not what it felt like on Friday.

Because Friday was the day I got laid off.

I’ve been on the other end of layoffs. I dealt with them and managed them at the first startup I joined, Mind Candy, at the company I co-founded, Six to Start and at W+K. And I can tell you now: they’re horrible (but obviously differently so) on both ends.

It doesn’t matter that I’d clearly been considering what sort of future I had in an agency environment. Because what happened when I was being laid off, in that meeting – and I appreciate, genuinely, that it was done in the one of the most respectful ways possible, by just ripping off the band-aid as quickly as could be – was something that I just didn’t expect. And, at the end of it, it doesn’t matter if you were even slightly thinking of moving on – because the choice was made for you and the decision was taken out of your hands. And, ultimately, the decision was made that, out of the pool, you were one of the ones deemed to not be needed in the future.

And it’s just shitty for everyone. And yeah, I did spend the rest of the day – and the weekend – in a bit of a daze. And I was lucky enough to realise that I shouldn’t have to deal with it on my own, and that I had people to be with. And then oscillating between being a bit angry and being a bit resigned and being a bit excited and being a bit scared. But, mostly, scared – because my paycheck’s disappeared, and I don’t know where the next one is going to come from yet. From a personal point of view, I’m pretty sure this has been one of the shittiest Mays I’ve ever had.

On the plus side, more time for writing newsletters!

As ever, I like getting notes from all of you. So, send me notes. Even if it’s just a “hi”.