On a man hunt – Episode 6

When I heard about the Marriage Market in Shanghai, I decided I wanted to participate. Parents put out ads for their children or browse the ads for a good match for their child. Luckily, Erika Brenner was up for helping me. She’s a junior planner who moved to Shanghai from Brazil and has spent the last two years studying Chinese. She’s now fluent and was brilliant as my surrogate parent.

Here was my ad, number one priority was for someone taller than me (I’m six feet tall/182 cm if you didn’t know.)

While we were there, we met a lovely Chinese-American English professor, Dr. Jiang, who was browsing the options for his son who lives in LA. He showed me an album full of pictures but sadly, his son was much shorter than me. Too bad! Dr. Jiang will make an excellent father-in-law.

Uncovering Human Kindness

My last day in Beijing there were severe thunderstorms that began in the afternoon. I managed to get a taxi over to rOobin’s apartment and he, his girlfriend Katrin and I spent the evening having great conversation and trying to get his very cute two year old son to go to sleep.

At 11 I was ready to get going. I was staying in an apartment near DMG on this leg. So rOobin and I go to the lobby of his building and ask for a taxi. We take a seat and start t0 chat. The rain has finally slowed after about 9 hours but no taxis are turning up. We sort of lose track of time and an hour passed. We decide perhaps we should walk to a busier intersection to have better luck. Another hour passes. Beijing taxis have clearly given up and gone home and when you read the articles after the fact, that was a wise move.

But what’s a girl to do when her train is leaving town in 9 hours? Walking isn’t a viable option unless rOobin goes with me and then walks himself home – which would likely take 2 hours. His scooter isn’t an option either as the roads could be too deeply flooded. As the pickle I’m in begins to set in, a chinese family of six in a Honda minivan pulls over and offers me a ride. A 24 year old girl is a student at USC and speaks english. I manage to get home via the kindness of strangers and witness that the plausible but improbable sometimes does just go ahead and happen.

The Birth of the Project 2 Years Ago

It all started with an email sent on May 19, 2010. I wrote:

I think I’ve finally thought of a way to turn my planner survey network into a book idea. I’d love to know what you think and if you might be willing to participate.

Essentially, I want to spend a few weeks or a month in several countries to experience planning/advertising/culture in those places first hand. I’d offer my services in exchange for a place to crash. I’ve been thinking about how there hasn’t really been a “planner” book since Truth,Lies, and it’s got the travel angle and the advertising in general angle. I can already cover the US and Amsterdam, so I’m thinking a few Asia spots, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, South Africa and maybe India and the Middle East if I’m brave.

I was hoping my scheme would help me avoid visa issues as we could call it an externship or an extended job interview. Also hoping agencies would see this as a good opportunity to raise their global profile and want to play along.

Am I dreaming/crazy? Can I bring a bottle of Zyrtec and stay with you??

And the response that catalyzed me into (eventual) action:

Hello there, how bloody tops to hear from you.

I absolutely, unconditionally, passionately love it.

Actually ‘love it’ doesn’t do it justice, it’s “leave my wife for it” adoration.

(I won’t tell Jill that, she might not be that happy to hear she’s lost out to an idea from someone I’ve never met)

Seriously, it’s great – especially as there are fundamental differences of approach, role and potential for planning and yet only those fortunate to live/work in other markets actually ‘get it’. Ironically I’ve written a post about this next week, but to actually follow/read the exploits of someone literally having the ‘change’ thrust upon them is incredibly exciting – though I would add it would transcend just ‘planning’ and probably end up being a guide on how to survive or thrive the World of adland, a Lonely Planet for the comms industry if you will.

Would love to help and get involved. Don’t quite know how yet but very happy to talk about that and kick some people’s butts where possible/necessary.

The only thing I’d say is that on top of different cultures having different approaches, so do different agencies … so would you like to try multiple agencies in each land, or just try a different agency on each trip?

I love this … so exciting … and way better working at DDB Amsterdam, ha.

Seriously count me in but let me know when this is all happening because (1) I’m basically inbetween homes right now and (2) if its too far away, I might of been sacked by Wieden by then, ha.

This is awesome, won’t breathe a word to anyone but if you want me to do any background scheming, shout – especially in Asia where for some reason – I actually know a few people.

Great to hear from you, but this idea made it even better.


So Rob managed to keep his job at W+K for more than 2 years and wait for me to get around to visiting. The project has morphed a bit since as he rightly says I can’t possibly see but a glimpse of what any city or agency culture has to offer. It’s more about what I learn as I go. The working title is “Shop the World, Steal from the Best.”

I wasn’t able to get online much in the past two weeks so I’ll be catching up now that I have full access to the inter webs again and chronicle some bits from my trips to Singapore, Tokyo (for freelance on Uniqlo!), and Beijing.

KLM Lies

And then blows you off! Here’s the story. As most of you know, I’m writing a book. I’ve quit the cushy, regular paycheck job to do this. I spent 1100 euros on a ticket to China for my next trip to work on it.

Then something awesome happened. A wonderful Japanese brand asked me over to Tokyo to do a week of freelance. So I call KLM to try to change the flight. They won’t do it. I had to go ahead and book another flight to get to Tokyo in time. A flight to Tokyo, then Beijing, then Shanghai and finally Amsterdam. MY WHOLE TRIP. Nearly 5ooo euros because I flew business over to be able to go straight into meetings.

But I simply do not believe that something you spend 1100 euros on and haven’t used yet can’t be changed with a fee. So I start tweeting.

This is the moronic conversation that ensued.

Clearly calling KLM is a bad idea and goes no where. It only took 6 hours after I tweeted instead for them to say, oh wait a second, this policy that we are so sure about holding everyone to is actually not true. Pay a fee and change your ticket. Oh and have some business class on a flight you’re not taking anymore because we’re not really reading your tweets. Hope you understand!

If “Hope you understand!” is in their social media guidelines, they need a serious overhaul.

KLM – please fix this. Let me change the 1100 euro ticket to something I can use as a thank you for buying a new 5000 euro ticket!

Update: after some back and forth DM’img and even a phone call they made to my hotel in Tokyo (so much for their claim that they will only communicate with you via social media), my China ticket has magically transformed into a round trip to South Africa. If you want something done at KLM, get to tweeting.