🎙 DADicated #59 THE Rory Sutherland on not losing your marbles as a dad of twins, establishing trust and the fathers-daughter-bond
“I think we make the business of parenting disproportionally difficult - if we assume that everything is within our control.” Rory Sutherland on DADicated.com
Rory Sutherland is one of the most influential men in the advertising world and a charismatic Dad of twins. He’s the former Vice Chairman of Ogilvy Group, has served as Chair of the Judges in Cannes and is a best-selling author. He is very intelligent, fun and will get your brain and heart to light up (more even).
Do yourself a favour and listen to this lighthearted discussion around the sheer disruption that parenting brings to an otherwise tidy, domesticated life. 🥃
“I think we make the business of parenting disproportionally difficult - if we assume that everything is within our control.” Rory Sutherland on DADicated.com
Rory Sutherland is one of the most influential men in the advertising world, a charismatic speaker and Dad of twins. He’s the former Vice Chairman of Ogilvy Group, has served as Chair of the Judges in Cannes and is a best-selling author. He is very intelligent, fun and will get your brain and heart to fire up. Do yourself a favour and listen to this lighthearted discussion around the sheer disruption that parenting brings to an otherwise tidy, domesticated life.
The most powerful takeaways for me as a dad were:
To book Philipp’s keynote on building successful families simply to reach out via www.dadicated.com.
Philipp Hartmann (host)
RS: [00:00:07] So, so the best advice I'd give myself as a dad, I suppose, is I suppose the best question to ask is what would I've done differently? I'm pretty pleased with the outcome so far. It's also worth reminding yourself that there's a huge amount that parenting can't really change.
[00:00:25] So I think everybody who's had children and particularly people who've had non identical twins does become a little bit of a genetic determinist. I'm not saying you become completely deterministic in that front, but you realize that there are personality and character differences, which are there from the outset and that you can't do much to change to be absolutely honest.
[00:00:46] And then the other thing to realize is that there is an enormous amount, which is beyond your control, because I think we make the business of parenting disproportionate, the difficult, if we assume that everything is our responsibility. And that doesn't just mean that you can't control genetics and you know, innate personality types, I think it also means you can't control the tiny things like peer groups, you know, to a large extent, children are not only influenced by their parents, they're influenced by each other. And so, the, you know, the people they happen to be friends with will have a disproportionate effect on their attitudes to things.
[00:01:24] You know, I always think that the main reason people pay for private education is not really to pay for an education, it's to buy a peer, you know, what you might call a non-risky peer group , for your children, which may explain why elite public schools in Britain are actually many ways, it's rather dangerous because yes, there's a fairly high chance they'll get in with an incredibly good peer group, but equally the risk they get in with a bunch of like druggies is probably higher at an elite public school than it is an average one.
[00:01:54] So those sort of things seem immensely important understanding what you can change and what you can't, understanding the contradictions. I was watching that Coke ad about the father making his way to the North pole to deliver his daughter's letter to Santa and it struck me that it does contain within it one of the great kind of paradoxes of the father daughter relationship, which is that you find them really annoying, but you'd take a bullet for them. You know, I didn't quite expect the level of contradiction there that your children can annoy you in all kinds of ways, they argue, they bargain, you know, they're incredibly argumentative, particularly if you have twins, of course, where they're incredibly sensitive to everything that seems unfair between the two of them.
[00:02:41] You know, you can't really say, well, look in another three years' time, you'll be this age so you can go to Alton Towers. There's no argument you can advance as to why one person gets one thing, and another gets another. And so, in many ways, the process is incredibly disruptive, annoying and frustrating. As you said, particularly when they're very young where you can't even use basic argument and they're bargaining they're emotional bargaining talents are terrifyingly well honed, even from a young age
PH: [00:03:15] today, we'll just grind you down
RS: [00:03:16] if they will just use absolutely the war of attrition, the war of emotional attrition, which is I'm going to give into this totally unrealistic demand, because I just haven't got the energy to resist any longer, which I, fear that must've been a mistake I made quite a few times. But at the same time...
PH: [00:03:32] I know you can't walk away from it.
RS: [00:03:34] They know perfectly well.
PH: [00:03:35] Rory. We make a cut here because I'm still going to introduce you because this is how we'll take this beginning piece. We'll edit it in then comes to the summary and then comes the podcast. So
[00:03:46] that's fine.
[00:03:47] You ready?
[00:03:49] Okay. Ready? Okay, Rory, I'm super stoked to have you on. Thank you so, so much, actually, I've been a huge fan. I saw you. I think we established 11 years ago in Holland holding a talk, I think, which is actually your Ted talk on communication, but you talked about food and I found it really amazing. And ever since I've I've obviously I know you also, in the advertising world, so I know of you. And so, you're the vice chairman of Ogilvy and also you have you're the creative director, right? You're the vice chairman and
RS: [00:04:20] creative, I was the creative director, what I now mostly do is I, I still deploy creativity and direct it, but I mainly do that through the lens of behavioral science and the Ogilvy behavioral science practice, which is a division of Ogilvy consulting.
PH: [00:04:36] And yeah, we can edit that. No problem. And
RS: [00:04:41] one second. I'm so sorry.
Right. That's that should be clear now. Excellent. Yep.
PH: [00:04:55] No problem. And not only that you also have twins, right? Who are 19? And so, we found each other through dadicated. I have twins and twins who were, rather twins and triplets, but they are twins and triplets and I think you found that intriguing. So here we are,
RS: [00:05:11] that must be particularly intriguing.
[00:05:12] So you have the perfect kind of experiment that you have two what is it, monozygotic. And and then one you know heterozygotic or whatever you call it, twin within the same, within the same group. So, it is a kind of randomized controlled trial of childbearing all in one package.
[00:05:30] PH: [00:05:30] It is because the twins are not identical. Yeah. The boys who are the triplets are identical, but they are identical, identical. And so, they are also triplets. So, everything under twins for us as peanuts.
RS: [00:05:45] Good grief.
PH: [00:05:48] Hey, tell us a little bit about your journey as a, as a father.
RS: [00:05:52] It's as I said earlier, the contradictions are immense in that It's probably made a little more difficult by the fact that we have children later in life in that one good thing about having children later in life is they don't conflict with your urge to stay out late and they can get drunk.
[00:06:10] So in some ways, you know, by the time I was 35, I think when the children were born. And so, by the time you're 35, you're much more of a natural homebody than you were at 25. So, in some senses, it's, it's it's better to have them late. The only thing is your energy levels are a bit lower. And they also arrive at a time, let's say age 35, where you think you've got your life sorted as a couple, a little bit.
[00:06:38] So, you know, you've got the flat you like and the neatness you like and the furniture you like and, you know, and, and you're just about settling down into one stage of domesticity and then there's this massive, great seismic upheaval. Essentially. And so, as I said, it tiny contradictory because it's immensely rewarding.
[00:06:56] It's immensely frustrating. And you have, as I said, this contradiction, which is that you, you find them annoying, but at the same time, you'd take a bullet for them unthinkingly. And so, it's a very strong, I think the father, daughter relationships, particularly acute in that actually
PH: [00:07:12] you have two daughters.
RS: [00:07:14] Yeah. They're not identical, but both girls. Yeah. Yeah.
PH: [00:07:18] Yeah, what I found so interesting is you said this earlier, but I mean, that's why I love you, you always come up with these amazing comparisons. Of course, you can't say to the child. Well, you know, in three years when you're that age, if they are twin, because they're just in competition mode on days.
It's amazing. I can see that with ours already. Like if the one gets something that the other one, doesn't get, it's a big issue like me too. It's always me too. Me too. Me too.
RS: [00:07:41] And I think they also practice what you might call market differentiation between the two of them, which is that they almost define themselves by what the other isn't.
[00:07:52] So it's almost as if they're both trying to carve out a kind of niche, you know, a market niche. So, I think my two daughters were in a funny kind of way more different than they would have been had they been born separately. And that would make sense in all kinds of ways. I think, you know, that would cover the waterfront between the two of you, but, you know, one of them was tended to be nerdier and the other one tended to be although funnily enough, as they've got older, they've actually become much, much more similar again.
[00:08:23] And they're much more alike and actually they get on a lot better too. But then they get on very, very well now, whereas there was a period where they did seem to be in kind of open competition. You must've noticed the same thing.
PH: [00:08:38] Yeah. Yeah, I do. Yeah. I don't know mine, not only three and a half and five.
[00:08:43] I do see the three-and-a-half-year-old, the triplets they compete like there's no, tomorrow. They are like, we talked about it earlier, a fierce, fierce competitors, and it's just like there's no prisoners, right. If that's what they want, that's what they want. And they all want it that same time. And also, the other thing is If somehow it, they need to overt, they need to out-compete each other, right? So, the one starts screaming, the other one will start louder because she kind of needs to outdo them. And so, then the five-year-old’s chime in a little bit more advanced in that sense, but they do very much so,
RS: [00:09:19] The demands on fairness are particularly difficult because I actually, I think that also applies if you have children who are separated in age, I'm not, you know, I often think with people who have three children actually, you know, when you come over, do you always have to bring all three because you know, then, then, then there are nine of us, which terms, what would be a kind of house party into a bit of a kind of yeah, sort of souk and of course the brutal truth is they almost certainly do have to bring all three or all four, if you've got four children, because you can't really apportion them out very easily. Yeah.
PH: [00:09:56] Yeah. So, the truth is with us, no one would ever invite us ever again. Of course, you can't invite the Hartman’s over they will bring five and the dog.
RS: [00:10:04] No. So, you've got, yes. So, in other words you're seven people. And of course, it makes things like travel unbelievably expensive because if you stay in a travel lodge, that's the same cost as a couple of staying at the Ritz. Yeah. You know, I mean, I, by the way, I'm, this is with mentioning on your podcast. I've been campaigning for this, for ages that any hotel actually, I proposed it to the Holiday Inn chain and subsequently discovered that the Holiday Inn chain started on this very premise that you could have a second room. If you're a part of a family, if rooms were free, you could have a second room for half price.
[00:10:41] Now, it would cost very little for a hotel to offer this because the marginal cost of having a guest in a room is quite small. It's obviously much less than the price per night. In other words, you obviously have to turn the room over and you have to have it cleaned and you have to have the beds and linen changed so, but that isn't the whole cost of obviously a hotel stay. And you also make a bit more money from breakfasts and, and ancillary stuff. So, the business of encouraging families stays to offering at least a preferential deal on the room rate, if you're booking more than one room with your family unit, seems to me fairly good marketing sense.
[00:11:19] And yet nobody does it. In the same way if I'm right, air travel, air tickets used to be half price for children under 12, I think. And that's also disappeared. Now, you know, rail companies do a bit of this rail companies, do the family rail cars and so forth where, because they realize quite simply that essentially, if you don't offer a discount for children, because there's in many cases, you see there's a couple is two wage-earners paying for one hotel room. And the family is quite often, one wage earner paying for three hotel rooms in your case. Yeah.
PH: [00:11:57] Yeah. That's right. I've seen it for Robinson club. They do it sometimes, they've got actually kids, kids under 14, whatever, come for free
RS: [00:12:06] Disney do it I think don't they? I think kids go free, I think is a Disney thing, which is essentially
PH: [00:12:11] would actually sponsor this podcast. Robinson or Disney. Yeah. For that, especially now after Corona, everybody wants to travel again. Right. Cause everybody will travel. Maybe who knew it a little bit, do bounce of notes.
RS: [00:12:23] Right. But it is interesting. I mean, another important, I mean, it is fascinating to me that I think I'm fairly sure that when I was a kid. If you tra, if you traveled and you were under 12, there was a significant discount in your ticket price. And now of course it's a, toddler's travel for free, but then the second-year children are 2, it's basically an adult seat if I'm right, is it 2 or 4. I think it's 2.
PH: [00:12:49] It's 2. It's 2. When we arrive at, at Lufthansa at a Lufthansa counter in Cape town, they know that we there. It's a big jol it's really fun. And we, of course, you know, we travel with the nanny and us, my wife and myself and the five kids. The last time my mother-in-law was also there. So, we were four adults and five children. And that's one group. And so, they gave us this little block in the middle of the plane to kind of separate us out from the rest of the group. And you can imagine the faces when we walked into that plane. Wonderful.
RS: [00:13:24] You're one of the few families which actually works with the dreaded three, three, three configurations on a plane, but it's the idea was that the Boeing seven 87 was designed really to be two 42, which is a very family friendly or couple friendly seating arrangement. You see, cause if you're a family of four, you'd prefer probably just have the center row. And if you're a couple you to have the aisle and window, the outside, but nearly every airline in economy basically crammed in an extra seat in every row. Which is a pity really, because I mean, we're talking about, okay, we're talking about a cost difference of 9% and unfortunately people when they choose air travel price is, very salient, but seat comfort isn't and, you know, I think a lot of people to be honest, would pay you know an extra 10% to have reasonable width at a decent seating configuration. But the trouble is it's not very visible at the time of booking because you're on a, a price comparison engine, not a comfort comparison engine.
PH: [00:14:29] Which would be a nice idea of
RS: [00:14:30] there shouldn't be a comfort comparison as well as a price comparison engine.
PH: [00:14:34] Let's do it. Okay. Back to the dad show, share a little bit. How did you grow up? How was it for you being a father? What was good? What was bad? What was challenging? What was amazing?
RS: [00:14:45] I have the lucky thing in that my wife decided to give up work. She was working at the Victoria and Albert museum, and I was lucky enough by the time we had children that she had a complete choice as to whether she continued work or not and decided not to for the first four or five years. And I was lucky enough to be able to afford that because that's a tiny amount of people in the UK can bring up a child on one salary for a few years, let alone two.
[00:15:13] And. It wasn’t one curse of the thing was that both my wife's pregnancy and then the birth of the children coincided with a huge bout of international travel for various reasons. I'm not quite sure why I'd reached a level of seniority where I tended to go to quite a lot of events. And it was also in that period in the late nineties, where there was just a lot of corporate travel and I'd started, I suppose, I'd started getting kickstarted onto the speaker circuit a bit at the time. And so that, that was one interesting thing, which is, I really didn't like going away very much in the way that I had previously. And I think this is actually a very, very pertinent thing, particularly for working mums who are required to fly as part of their job. It's an actually I think the I think the zoom age is very important for several groups of people. One of them is working mums. One of them patently is, you know, people on maternity leave. And I explain that in the second and the third group has just retired people because how many people retire not because they want to stop work, but because they want to stop commuting. You know, people are retiring for freedom of movement and freedom of where they, when they spend their time, but they're not necessarily retiring because they want to enter a life of complete idleness either.
[00:16:32] And so the opportunity I think, to tap into the economic value of retirees, but also, I suspect that a large part of the gender pay gap is in fact, the maternity pay gap, not gender pay gap. And it may simply emerge, not from the fact that your career is put on hold necessarily. You know, it's not, you know, it's simply being visible.
[00:16:57] You know that thing, what is it? 90% of success is simply turning up. Okay. There's a lot of truth to that that actually simply remaining salient and visible means you're much more likely to be offered opportunities than people who've disappeared for two years. And I, I, I I'd be intrigued to see how you could combine a longer period of maternity leave with some degree of homeworking.
PH: [00:17:26] Yeah. Okay. Depending on the hours
RS: [00:17:31] for women personally, it may be, that may be that that may simply be the product of social norms of expectations, but I think being separated from your children physically. It's not the fact that you haven't got any free time. They're asleep quite a lot of the time. Okay. You Do have some free time. It's the physical separation that makes work so different.
[00:17:54] I'm so sorry about this. Okay. What about just ringing? Stop. Okay, never mind. The physical separation is, was painful for me as a dad because you feel if something happened, I need to be there very, very strongly. And so, you know, one of the worst moments I can remember this was being in a hotel room in Austria. It was something like 10 o'clock at night, nine o'clock at night in Austria and my wife and children hadn't come home mysteriously and I couldn't reach them on a mobile phone because they were in some black spots, funnily enough, visiting a reptile place I think it was. But the sense of total panic, you know, where I was ringing neighbors and saying, can you see the car what's going on? Why have they, you know, why have they completely gone off the grid for three hours? That was, you know, that was a level of unpleasantness. You can imagine that. I remember hearing a wonderful story from Anet King who used to be the chief executive of Ogilvy in the UK and she said my worst moments as a parent, was she was driving home and she was overtaken by an ambulance well, that happens. Okay. And then the ambulance turned into her street ahead of her, and then the ambulance stopped outside her house. Okay. And you can just imagine it. She was just getting home from work and what it was is one of the children who had a fall or something fairly minor but had done the right thing. She hadn't had access to transport. So, she called an ambulance for paramedics to check the child out. But she said, you know, that was that absolutely gut-wrenching moment. Do you remember the scene as it's one of those ingenious moments in film history? There's a film which involves a lot of people making a science fiction film. In Iran as a front to rescue some hostages who I think has stuck at the Canadian embassy. There are some hostages from the Iranian embassy invasion under the sh under the
PH: [00:19:53] Tell the story,
RS: [00:19:54] but what it is is that they're just about to get these people out of Iran who were actually American embassy staff and they've taken, they were in hiding, I think at the Canadian embassy or the whole point was you could get them out under the guise of being a large film crew, filming some ludicrous Sci-Fi film in Tehran.
[00:20:14] And when they get to the airport, their tickets have been canceled because the operation has been aborted and they need to get a hold of a very, very senior person who's in a meeting with the president of the United States in order to get the tickets authorized and reinstated. And they adopt this absolutely ingenious rule. How do you get somebody out of a meeting with the president of the United States? And one of them says his daughter goes to a prep school in Georgia, just ring up and pretend to be from the school. Because if his PA goes into a meeting with the president of the United States and says to her boss it's your daughter's school on the telephone, there is no way that guy is not going to leave the meeting.
PH: [00:20:57] It's your daughter
RS: [00:20:59] on the phone? What is the film called? I'll let me Google it because it's driving me nuts. I should, it's got a slightly silly title. Here we go. It's a kind of here we go. And I will find it in a second. Argo. It's called Argo's based on the Canadian caper that took place during the Iran hostage crisis in 79 and 80.
[00:21:20] And effectively it's been, yeah, still an article by Joshua Berman, which is how the CIA used a fake Sci-Fi Fleck to rescue Americans from Tehran. And there are these various American staff who were kind of trapped there after the hostage crisis and essentially a bunch of people pretending to be Hollywood actors set up this totally spurious ruse that they're making a film.
[00:21:41] In in Tehran, and, whatever, for whatever reason, in order to smuggle the other people out. And it's a brilliant, brilliant film, but I always remember that detail as the ingenious, only way. You can't get someone out of a meeting with the president by saying it's very but the second you say, it's your daughter's school on the line. You're going to leave that room.
PH: [00:22:00] I think it's a great idea. We'll put it right there with negotiating with the three-year-old. Yes, exactly. But you can also go on to win that.
RS: [00:22:10] Well, it actually won the Oscar for best picture. Fantastic. Excellent.
PH: [00:22:14] I mean, I agree with you this whole, it's funny you call it the zoom era.
[00:22:18] It's interesting. I mean, we've, we've been doing that for 20 years. Only people didn't know you can, like when we started 18, 18 years ago, we started in 2002 servicing people from Africa in Germany and Switzerland everybody was like, you're crazy. You can't run digital services. We are just a creative agency, right? And a digital production house from, from Africa to Germany. Of course, you can. There's no time zone difference. And the only thing has changed now in the last eight months, since February, really like say call it a year. People do turn on the video. Yeah, before it was just a phone call. And that makes a huge difference because now you can see the face and they can see your face too.
[00:22:58] Before people kind of didn't want to turn on the webcam. You know, even though Skype existed, they'd have, make a call. And not turn on the webcam and now that's changed. So yes, you are very much more visible. Yeah.
RS: [00:23:09] Very interesting, indeed. Yeah. And it gives you something to look at, you can see yourself, which I think is strangely important.
[00:23:17] I think Microsoft teams makes a big mistake in making the picture of yourself minuscule because you do need to see what you look like for reasons of confidence. And they also actually deployed quite a lot of cosmetic software to make you look better than you look in real life. So that, that that's not irrelevant, but it's one of the obstacles to video was vanity that, you know, people would feel they'd have to put on makeup before a call.
[00:23:40] That kind of thing. I'm sure people do. I must admit I don't. Although under lockdown, I tend to wear headphones as a kind of man's Alice band, just to keep my hair in check because I can't get it cut very regularly, but I think it's, I think it's an enormous importance in the business world. I think it's it's of equivalent importance to the invention of the internet itself, actually. And I don't think it's being given the attention it requires. Now there's a famous economist and I can't remember who he is who said that in his opinion, the washing machine was a more important invention than the internet. And his argument was that the washing machine allowed women to enter the workforce because things like the vacuum cleaner, the washing machine, the dishwasher meant that running a household kept that middle-class standard of cleanliness and general decency, no longer required absolutely three hours of work a week. Okay, well, sorry, 20 hours of work a week or 10 or whatever it might've been, but undoubtedly you know, whatever, whatever the number, I mean, certainly there was wash day in the Edwardian era, you know, where people effectively dedicated an entire day to doing the laundry, cleaning clothes and so forth. And if you add, you know, you added the vacuum cleaner, you added in the dishwasher, those things were hugely important in terms of expanding the labor force.
PH: [00:24:58] Hmm. Yeah. But as a father or as a parent, everything that saves time you have to do. I mean, if, if there's a, if there's a vacuum cleaner robot machine, how will you not have it? You know?
RS: [00:25:09] Yeah. Likewise, things, things like home, grocery delivery are particularly potent because actually anything that doesn't require you to leave the house is a massive bonus. I mean, if you've got five children, this must be even more pronounced because you know, leaving the house. If you don't have a nanny or someone who someone else who can take care of things is effectively an hour-long operation.
PH: [00:25:33] Yeah, and we luckily have nannies here in Cape town, but it's true. I mean, I do schedule it in if I want to leave, I scheduled it or the, you know, when the kids are in school, they're in school now, again, after lockdown is finished from nine to 12, they're at school. So, then it's fine. But yeah,
RS: [00:25:48] The other thing to focus on, I think with child upbringing, is those moments, moments which are too disproportionately infuriating.
[00:25:56] And there not that many of them, a few moments where just remember you'll have a few. Okay. So, you know, we just have the carpets freshly cleaned, and my children decided to play with eggs by smashing them on the floor. That was when they weren't 19. Obviously, they were babies at the time. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:26:12] At another moment was because, you know, in a weird kind of way, when you're 34 and childless your life can run to an extraordinary level of both efficiencies, but also you have quite a lot of leisure time. And the extent to which that evaporates is quite scary. The other thing would be things which make you, I don't know whether this is just me.
[00:26:32] Now, if you have five children, I don't know what car do you have? How do you transport it?
PH: [00:26:36] Oh, we've got a Toyota Fortuna.
RS: [00:26:38] That makes sense. Yeah
PH: [00:26:39] But then it's full or we contact them. We take the nanny; we go and in two cars. In Germany where you have a nine-to-12-seater Mercedes bus.
RS: [00:26:48] So you've gone for the, you've gone for the minibus option, but one of the things is with children.
[00:26:54] It's impossible that in the course of any journey, at least one of them doesn't decide to remove their shoes.
PH: [00:27:00] A hundred percent and they have to pee.
RS: [00:27:03] This is one reason to go. Sometimes I did get them into train, travel a bit for that reason, which is that actually, you know having two children and the urgency with which they need to go to the loo before we get into the car.
[00:27:15] No, no, no. We don't need to go to the loo. And then, so you're literally six miles down the road. I need to pee. Now. You know, and of course so th th there's this absolute urgency, but then the shoe thing used to drive me nuts because of course you have six years of you get out of the car. You get out of the car; you collect your bag.
[00:27:37] You walk away. If you lock the car now getting out of the car, particularly if you've also got buggies to unfold and things like that is a kind of military operation. It's like setting up, being dropped behind enemy lines and having to set up some sort of town. And this is how it is what drives me insane because I don't know why I used to get so annoyed.
[00:27:59] Waiting, waiting for them all to get, to have the car, but that was one moment where for some reason. Oh, and the other thing of course is that, and this is, this is extraordinary. Is having finally had our children reach adulthood. And they're both at university at the moment. I was laughing my wife and I go off on a trip for example, let's say we're staying overnight for a couple of nights somewhere because you suddenly, once again, feel like people in a tourism stock shot. You actually feel like someone in stock photography and you have two or three bags and they all fit in the boot of the car and you place them in one, two, three, and you check, you have them, and you get in the car and you drive off.
[00:28:36] And literally five minutes after deciding to leave, you're traveling at 60 miles an hour. And of course, also the number of bags you have is what I call a system one number. Okay. If you have three bags between the two of you. Okay. You know, you've got three bags. It's just something you can do with that thinking. When you've got seven bags. Okay. Every single stage of the journey you have to count. Okay. Where do you check in? You've got to count when you can take them off the carousel. You've got to count. When you put them in the rental car, you have to count when you take them out of the rental car. And that business had having to actually go one, two, three, four green, one red, one blue one.
[00:29:15] Okay. Yep. We've got all the bags. Okay. (PH) And all the kids - and all the kids, you don't want to have (PH) and the nanny's still here. With two. I've never, I've never really wrestled with those situations, but with five, I can imagine that it's, it's potentially possible.
PH: [00:29:30] Yeah, it was, I mean, the last time we were at the airport and then one of the children started running away and he was like 50 meters away already. We were like, (RS) - Oh my God. Yeah. And you can't leave the others. Right? Yeah. It's interesting. Yeah. It's true. I mean the last yesterday, actually I thought about it, the car situation. I never thought about that before, but it's true. Like yesterday I said 11 o'clock. Okay. We're going for lunch everybody. Right?
[00:29:56] 20 past 11, we started the operation. It took us 30 minutes to get everybody in the car because of course they don't cooperate. Right. And I can put your shoes on. No, this, I need to pee that, but you just said you don't okay. And by the time we all gone, it's 30 minutes. So, if I can put that money and put it in the bank, so,
RS: [00:30:17] and on the other end, you know, and and occasionally, you know, the whimsical dislikes of things, I always think there's people who get very sniffy about McDonalds tend to change their tune once they have children because the fact you can basically say we're going to McDonald's and they're happy and they're not going to go, Ooh, it's got olives on it. But whatever it's green
PH: [00:30:43] haven't tried it. But my wife, my wife she's Italian. Right? So, love goes through the stomach cooking. And then the tr she, she cooks these amazing meals. Amazing, amazing. And then she puts it on the table, and they go, Ooh, I don't want it. You haven't even tried it yet, but it's green. And there's like, I'm doing this.
[00:31:06] It's like the size of a pinhead, like a carrot, this carrot and the pasta. Yeah. But that's just off the spoon. Okay. Let me take it out now. It's
RS: [00:31:15] the whole thing is ruined, but you come into contact with carrot
PH: [00:31:20] and then you can imagine, of course. Yeah, I guess I think, I think every parent has that I think it's just, we have it to a larger extent, but I also have to say, and maybe that's a little bit unpopular. I think if you have one child. It's really very easy. One child is honeymoon, you know, because you put the child in the corner, you go to a restaurant, it will sleep there in the cot.
RS: [00:31:41] Twins are interesting. When you look as they have both vantages of one child in the sense that it's batch processing. So, when, when they, when you no longer need buggies or when you need to no longer need car seats, it's at least simultaneous. So yes, you have a period with, with a double buggy or with two car seats or whatever, but when it's done, it's done. Okay. Whereas, if you have three children staggered that can go on for 10 years of your life, if you think about it, which is a hell of a hell of a long time to have with, you know, that kind of, you know, tedious effort with getting children out of the car, I would broadly speaking agree with you having had twins that one child is comparatively much, much easier. In the sense that when they're asleep, they're asleep, there's no synchronization problem or coordination problem involved. And yeah, parents of one child will think me an absolute shit for saying this I'm sure, but I think it is comparatively quite a bit easier.
PH: [00:32:40] I mean, also, you know, you have to like perceived reality is really reality. I was thinking
RS: [00:32:45] The other thing of course with one child is they are outvoted, you know, there are two of you and there's one of them. Yeah. So
PH: [00:32:54] we are outvoted
RS: [00:32:55] yeah. Yeah. And I suspect with one child, the bargaining skills possibly become easier because there is not the third-party question.
[00:33:08] In other words, you do not get that problem of well. Millie said it is okay. You said it was okay for Millie to do this. Why can't I do this? You know, which I think is also an issue.
PH: [00:33:18] That's an issue. Yeah, no. I mean, if you have more children, regardless of whether it is twins or triplets or quadruplets, you have to keep everything the same, because if you need to now manage different treatment for different children and different rules in different situations that in itself becomes a mega effort.
RS: [00:33:38] Yeah. So, what you have is you have to develop sort of what I call heuristic rules which are essentially, they must be the same for everybody. Whereas I think with a single child, probably individual negotiation kind of works a bit better. Because you are absolutely right in that with a single doll, you aren't really required to show your workings out when you deliver a ruling, it's just considered to be a ruling. Whereas with multiple children, you must consider that actually each of them will will, you know, will start referencing it.
[00:34:10] So someone just, I have no bloody idea why, here we go. I have got plenty of time. I do not know why someone was ringing from France. I will I'll leave it for now and I'll ring them back. No, I think that is the kind of interesting question, which is you suddenly have to become a legislator rather than just a sort of you knows, a despot that's the difference? I think with one child, you can just be a bit of a despot, whereas with two, you have actually got to have a kind of Supreme court.
PH: [00:34:38] Yeah. Yeah. The more that the more kids, the less that is possible. Cause they are just grind you down.
RS: [00:34:44] You. Yeah. Any inconsistency will be seized upon any loophole or possible anomaly will be seized on.
PH: [00:34:54] Yeah. And tell us, tell us some stuff that was the funniest or the most difficult or some extremes.
RS: [00:35:01] This all seems a bit different. But it is important to remember that at you know, occasional moments in your life, you will be apoplectic. Because. It just seems, you know, it does, it is really, tough.
[00:35:14] And someone incredibly famous who I won't quote said that you know, with sometimes with children, you're really glad you have them, but you don't like having them around now that, you know, that's a little bit harsh, but I won't, I won't name them because they're quite famous in the world of behavioral science and it would be unfair.
[00:35:30] And actually, I really, one of the interesting things about lockdown now then 19 is I really liked having them around, you know, because. You know, they've essentially well actually of course miraculously. And you, you have not seen this yet. When one of the biggest benefits of having a child is that they learn to drive because they become useful.
[00:35:52] It is extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary, but my, my one daughter really enjoys driving. So, we will basically hop in the car on the slightest pretext. And Sydney, if you have some, you would be collected from somewhere or something that needs doing, that's a miraculous bonus or doing shopping for you, or, you know, various other things.
[00:36:12] And strangely enough, really, really enjoys doing that kind of you know, doing errands. But no, it is also, it's also very pleasant because generally you reach by about 18,19, probably 19,18, 19. I've noticed they reached essentially what you might call the age of reason where things are a sensible accommodation between varying parties, looking for positive outcomes, you know, whereas economically young children and not really positive sum are they, their thinking is, is, is very, very zero sum.
PH: [00:36:45] Yeah, I think, especially until they are five or six or something, or
RS: [00:36:49] totally equal given to tall, and then you have the period where you can use argument, but it is very legalistic. And it is very much based on fairness and it also, isn't really based on the spirit of compromise.
[00:37:06] And one of the joyous things when they start to get a bit older is you start getting, well, I'll tell you what I'll do this. And what then, why didn't you do that? And you know, they’ll meet you halfway essentially. Did I, that's a little bit of an epiphany when that happens that you're actually engaged in what an economist would call, you know you know mutually beneficial exchanges rather than turning everything into a kind of negotiation.
PH: [00:37:31] Negotiation. Yeah. Just for the sake of it. And have you I know you run this podcast, what's it called again?
RS: [00:37:36] Oh, behave. So, it's a single letter o for Ogilvy and then behave. And it's on most of the podcast platforms and we interview a mixture of behavioral scientists, academics, practitioners, that kind of thing.
PH: [00:37:48] Mm. And have you spoken to someone particularly around family and children?
RS: [00:37:53] This will be an interesting one. In fact, because I, I think actually someone who has had children, bizarrely don't come with a manual. I mean, there are various schools of thought around it, and there are certainly schools of thought around the upbringing of babies.
[00:38:07] And you know, there are people who have turtle routine Nazis, and there are people who are somewhere in the middle. How much, I'm not sure. I mean, it's an impossible question isn't then how much you have an influence on the general outcome.
PH: [00:38:19] I think it's a very, very good point that you're raising, and no one has done this. And I think your podcast number. 50 that I'm publishing a number 75 that I've recorded or something like that. And no one's ever said, you know, have you actually considered how much it actually matters? Because probably it doesn't matter a hundred percent as much as you think it does. And so, don't beat yourself up so much. t's a very very good point actually. Yeah.
RS: [00:38:43] There's a book. There's a book by Brian Kaplan on this very subject, which is that the helicopter parenting and the treatment of actually the way to treat parenthood is as a as a satisfiser and not a maximizer. Don't try and optimize your children to any dimension. Your job is to prevent catastrophe. Really your job is what, what is that? There's a Chris rock sketch about keeping your daughter off the pole. Wasn't that? The Chris rock text, you know, which is, you know you know, your job is, you know, essentially, you know, your responsibility as a parent is to avoid worst case scenarios rather than to try and optimize them.
[00:39:23] I think know, I think that's an important lesson, which I think helicopter parent, because interestingly, there's very interesting talk by a Harvard philosopher who's called Michael Sandel. And he is very worried about the ambition around Ivy league entrance in the United States, because he notices a category of students arriving at Harvard, whom he describes as wounded winners.
[00:39:52] In other words, they've got there, but the price they've now been forced to pay in order to get there has been inarguably not worth it. And he I'll use the hyper-competition and parenting is of course it's worth remembering about hyper-competition is we tend to measure the successes, but not the failures.
[00:40:15] And so there's a very strong case, I think, where hypercompetition may lead to a few disproportionately successful outcomes. But what we're not measuring is the cost to people who narrowly fail or the cost to people who make it and fail because they're essentially emotionally wounded. You would see this at Oxbridge even 30 years ago when it was less competitive. Okay. Which is people would turn out having been like the best mathematician or the best engineer in their year at school and the best pupil at their school for three years in a row. I mean, arrive and by the standards of the university, they were merely a pretty good engineer.
[00:40:53] And weirdly they'd find that s sudden comparison, absolutely painful. Or they just give up, you know, they, you know, they'd almost go well, if you can't be the best, there's no point. And there's a lot of value to being pretty good at a range of things. You know, we forget this, and I think hyper-competition around both the fact that you know, there are only certain universities that certain you know, very high wage employers use for admissions. And then you knock that onto the price of getting into those few universities. And you've suddenly bastardized education because you've turned it into
PH: [00:41:29] super valuable. What you just said. You said there's a lot of value to being pretty good and being able to arrange things and, you know, on the topic of schooling and education, we are educating our children to to recite. Right. That's the whole, the whole thing has become very instrumental when you're competing with machines. Nobody can as well, just the machine in any case. So, in order to organize things and to get stuff done, or to be empathic is much more valuable in any case or be creative for that person.
RS: [00:42:00] The other interesting question is whether there's a special role of the dad relative to the mum, Now there's rent. There's an important role to having two parents around simply in terms of contrast, generally your daughters will exploit you a bit because they know that if mum says, no, there's a fair chance that dad will say yes, but some of that indulgence I suspect is. Quite important. One of the things I did having two daughters, which I didn't really do intentionally it's, because I only had a brother myself I didn't really know. I didn't know any better, but I made sure they were both fairly mouthy and lairy, you know, I mean, one of the daughters I had, you know, it was very sweary. So, she knows, she keeps saying, fuck in class at school, because that's what we do at home awfully, perhaps. But I was quiet, proud about this because I didn't want any kind of, I didn't want them to get trapped in that female demure thing.
[00:42:56] And I didn't want to get trapped in that kind of, you know, the social norm around kind of, you know, I don't think it's any worse for a girl saying fuck than a boy. I don't find, I don't find swearing remotely off-putting in women at all. Okay it's not 1957, you know where it might've caused the norms change and making them just generally fairly mouthy and outspoken, which is my natural tendency anyway, but I made it, you know, I think I did perform a valuable service there possibly in just making them just, you know, a little bit kind of and also I think, I think the other thing is that, you know, having two parents, it doesn't matter whether the Petrie parents are the same sex, two parents who have different sex, but just having two people around is kind of important for all kinds of reasons, simply because of breadth.
[00:43:47] Because, you know, I don't know, my wife would do things with them that I couldn't do. Okay. You know, and they get involved in certain things like watching romcoms, for example, I'm sorry. But you know, that, that got a bit tedious when, when you're over voted three to one and its family film nights, you know, and they're going, you know, The weird thing about romcoms is that women love them despite the fact that when you look at them for a feminist standpoint, absolutely love that they really are retrograde. And yet, for whatever reason, even my highly feminist daughter loves a really good romcom for some reason. Anyway, but she knows it. She knows, she knows the fact that it's actually a highly retrograde idea of the highest female achievement being to, you know, find a partner, you know, it's essentially Jane, Jane Austen on the cellulite.
[00:44:38] But that, those were the things that they could enjoy, which to be honest, I wouldn't, but then I could equally get them into kind of, you know, thrillers and action film, which they also enjoy, you know,
PH: [00:44:50] Yeah. I've, I've had this debate or not debate this conversation with mostly dads who are divorced,
RS: [00:44:57] but started objecting something I've said
[00:45:04] you think of wrong, comes to social. Jane Austin is a romcom. It is. It's a very well-written romcom. Sorry. You were saying its social critique. I'm not sure nobody reads it for the social criticism of the 18th century. Sorry, I'm going to argue with my wife about Jane Austin is romcom. What is she saying?
[00:45:24] She's saying it's social critique, but I'm saying that nobody reads Jane for the exciting social criticism of 18th century or early 19th century mores. They're reading it for the the romcom element. They are. Okay. Is there a category, is there a category on sky movies for social critique? There is not.
[00:45:44] Is there a category for romcoms? There is. I bet you'll find that Jane Austin comes under the category of romantic on sky movies. Sorry, just having a bit of an argument that yeah,
[00:45:55] of course. Of course, it does. It's a romcom romcoms based on social critique. Okay. What about 12 things I hate about you, which is based on Shakespeare's? Was it taming of the Shrew? Is that a romcom?
[00:46:22] Okay. Okay. Right. Okay. I'm just saying on the sky movies of social critique, I just don't call them based on Emma. That makes exactly the same criticisms. Okay. Or I'll buy, I'll buy this. I'll just about buy this. Okay. But I've read three. It was bad enough. You know, I can't know. There's a limited amount of romcoms I can read.
[00:46:45] Oops, sorry. Anyway, the but the whole point is I could get them, you know, I would get them into kind of, you know, really one of the weird things I did, which I have to confess to is I had no interest in censoring what they saw. I didn't try and isolate them from world news. Now, whether this was bad or good, I have no idea.
[00:47:02] I'll only know in 20 years’ time, but, you know, I would sit down with them when they were like 12 and watch a documentary about a serial killer. Okay. Well, my view is, they've got to learn that there's a bit of shittiness in the world. You know, some people adopt this terribly kind of you know so I was the opposite of that kind of cling wrap parent or the bubble wrap parent. I mean, it's partly pure selfishness. If I felt like watching a documentary about a serial killer, I wasn't going to wait until they went to sleep and and to be honest, I mean, yeah. Was that a terrible thing to do? What an interesting question. I genuinely don't know, but so, you know, I did not obey the instructions of the British board of film classification.
PH: [00:47:46] Yeah. Okay. But 15 or 12. So it's seven, eight years ago. The technology situation was still a little bit different. You know, I do think that cell phones and too many, too much screen is, is, is damaging. Like I concede with my three-year-old, you know, she just wants to, she says, let me choose the music because he knows I'm listening to music on the phone all the time, but really, she just wants to play with the screen.
[00:48:11] Really. And when I take it away, she's not choosing anything. I choose something. Then give it back to me. No, she's still scrolling. And you know, of course it's amazing because
RS: [00:48:18] I think the other thing, the other reason, I'm glad I was fairly free and easy is a few things I noticed from my daughter's contemporaries.
[00:48:27] Which is I basically let them watch whatever they wanted to watch. Okay. Now, interestingly with daughters, you probably don't have the porn problem to quite the same extent, because they're generally regarded as a bit yucky. I don't know what it's like having teenage sons. In the world of online pornography,
PH: [00:48:44] from what I read, it's a big problem.
[00:48:45] Yeah. And it's damaging.
RS: [00:48:47] Yeah. And damaging, but I wasn't bothered about what films they watched, what film, you know, what films they watched on television, you know, something that was broadcast on TV as distinct from some weird online thing. And the one thing I did notice is that the kids who'd been most bubble wrapped by their parents didn't have a spirit of trust with their parents. So, my whole point was what you do, what you want online. I'm not going to put blockers on, but if anything happens, which is a bit weird, you tell me straight away. Okay. That's the deal. Okay. Yeah. So once or twice on club penguin, there was someone acting a bit weird and they said, dad, this person on club penguins being a bit weird.
[00:49:24] How do you report them? And you could take action. Now, what I noticed when they were 12, 13, 14 is the friends they'd had, who are massively bubble wrapped, basically developed a parallel life where they didn't tell their parents anything. In other words, you can't stop them looking at this stuff. So, it's better off that you just accept the fact that they're going to look at it and you trust
PH: [00:49:46] How did you foster this, because I mean that doesn't just come up with club penguin, which is an amazing, amazing system by the way, because you can make money, but you can't spend it unless you are a paying member. And it costs, I think, 1999 where it doesn't matter.
[00:49:59] As long as the child shuts up, you pay for it. Or nine 99 does. There's a price point where it doesn't matter anymore, but, but different topics. That way, it doesn't matter if it's nine 99 or 1999, the pain of the child really wanting to spend their virtual money in clear Pango is very important, how he just paid in 1990 and get over with it.
[00:50:16] But how did you foster the, the relationships? Because I have this very valuable. How did you foster the relationship to a point where they would actually come up? Tell you everything and trust that you won't be mad and trust that, that they can just tell you. And you must have started that earlier.
RS: [00:50:32] Yeah. The same thing applies to say smoking or drinking or drugs, by the way.
PH: [00:50:37] That's my question.
RS: [00:50:39] To be honest, I think they spot it as an intelligent trade-off, which is that there, if I accept that, for example, if they've smoked dope, they can tell me, okay. Now would they tell me if they tried anything harder?
[00:50:56] I think they probably would. And that's where I'd really step in you see
PH: [00:51:03], but if they tell you and that there's a consequence. Will they tell you the next time? So is there still a consequence when
RS: [00:51:11] you can't know they're 19, you can't ban them from doing anything right over
PH: Yeah, but when they are 14 or 16,
[00:51:16] please get the reasonable discussion where they position your opinion as being somewhere in the moderate.
[00:51:28] What you might call it in the moderate camp because they don't want no restrictions. Not nobody wants parents who, you know, who are kind of going, Hey, do what you like just to enjoy yourself, right? People want lines. But if, if those lines are drawn in a place which they see as ridiculous, they will ignore the lines.
[00:51:46] So the trick lies in line in drawing the line a bit tighter than they would draw it, but not as much your point that they see or views or opinions or advices, utterly irrelevant and outdated and absurd.
PH: [00:51:59] Yeah. Yeah, because then you're just ridiculous.
RS: [00:52:01] Right. And university, they're going to try some drugs, which are technically illegal.
[00:52:07] I think it's probably fair to say. Okay. And I, and to be honest, I mean you know the other thing is that if, if I go, you know, if I'm, you know, I buy that bothered, they have a cigarette at the party not really. You know, just don't know, either of them seems heavily addicted to smoking. They like one or two, you know, they like both of them will have the odd cigarette at a party.
[00:52:29] Okay. Does that bother me? No not at all. So, you know, I could get hysterical about that, but then if I did, I lose my credibility in any other areas, essentially.
PH: [00:52:40] Yeah. So, it's also a trade off from your side that is very wise.
RS: [00:52:44] I think you have to make that trade off because this is where in some ways the perfect is the enemy of the good,
[00:52:52] I've got a meeting at three just to warn you. But I think that sense of perfect is sometimes the enemy of the good is an important point. Actually. That's why I said it's not, not an optimisation problem. It's a de catastrophization problem.
PH: [00:53:07] Yeah on that. Rory, is there anything else that you want to share? Otherwise, we wrap it up from here.
RS: [00:53:16] Well, one interesting thing, just for the last three minutes, do you have, do your kids, none of your kids have mobile phones yet? Do they. No, no that's reinforced the tracking thing. It's an interesting area for debate because one daughter didn't mind having just her life three 60 thing tracking on the other daughter was totally paranoid about it.
[00:53:35] Now, interestingly, I noticed that live three 60 has a very clever thing now, which is just a bubble. Okay. And if you're in a bubble, your parents can see where you, which town you're in, but they can't see where you are. So, in other words, it says, okay, within half a mile or so your daughter is here. Okay. So, you can make sense of there that that basic location was okay.
[00:53:57] That looks like they're on their way home. Without being able to say, why did you go to Weatherspoon's on the way home or whatever. And then the clever thing with that bubble arrangement is you can in an emergency, pop the bubble and find their exact occasion, but it's something you only do in exceptional circumstances.
[00:54:15] And then notify to the fact that you've done it.
[00:54:18] What's it called
[00:54:19] life three 60. dot com. And that, you know, that is important thing because being able to work out where your children are and what they're up to, without that helicoptering over them every moment, or texting them all the time to ask where they are is quite useful. I mean, my wife and I both have it on so that, you know, I don't have to say when you are coming home or, you know, whatever, or I can occasionally say, look, if you're going past, Sainsbury's why don't you drop it and get this.
[00:54:52] Okay. And so, it's just a useful thing and, you know, you can turn it off. You can turn it off if you want to, you can mute it if you want to. But then I noticed that it's very interesting they've created this concept of the bubble, which is just vague location, not precise because I think a lot of kids, such a good idea, because a lot of kids rarely, rarely balk at having their parents know exactly where they are. But if I know my daughter's in Turnbridge Wells or in so-and-so, I could basically make sense of movement. Without needing to actually know precisely, you know, which shops you did or whatever.
PH: [00:55:25] Yeah. Good. Rory. I know you have to go. No, it was good.
[00:55:31] It was very interesting for me.
RS: [00:55:33] Likewise, it's a great pleasure. This is a very, very worthwhile podcast.
Rory is the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy, an attractively vague job title which has allowed him to co-found a behavioral science practice within the agency.
He works with a consulting practice of psychology graduates who look for ‘unseen opportunities’ in consumer behaviour - these are the often small contextual changes which can have enormous effects on the decisions people make - for instance tripling the sales rate of a call centre by adding just a few sentences to the script. Put another way, lots of agencies will talk about "bought, owned and earned" media: we also look for "invented media" and "discovered media": seeking out those unexpected (and inexpensive) contextual tweaks that transform the way that people think and act.
It is a hugely valuable activity - but, alas, not particularly lucrative. This is because clients generally do not have budgets for solving problems they did not know they had.
Before founding Ogilvy Change, Rory was a copywriter and creative director at Ogilvy for over 20 years, having joined as a graduate trainee in 1988. He has variously been President of the IPA, Chair of the Judges for the Direct Jury at Cannes, and has spoken at TED Global. He writes regular columns for the Spectator, Market Leader and Impact, and also occasional pieces for Wired. He is the author of two books: The Wiki Man, available on Amazon (at prices between £1.96 and £2,345.54, depending on whether the algorithm is having a bad day), and the best-selling Alchemy, The surprising Power of Ideas which don't make Sense, published in the UK and US in May 2019.
Rory is married to a vicar and has twin daughters of 19. He lives in the former home of Napoleon III - unfortunately in the attic. He is a trustee of the Benjamin Franklin House in London and a Patron of Rochester Cathedral.