Good news

Viewing posts from the Good news category

My interview with Parag Khanna

At the Moscow Urban Forum, Parag Khanna and I look tilt-shift miniature sitting in the “backyard” of a developer’s demo house. It was the quietest place I could find to record our conversation.

Listen in iTunes / Apple Podcasts:

iTunes podcast:  Parag Khanna and Jeremy Hildreth in conversation

Listen on SoundCloud:


A year after Parag Khanna became the most hated man in Mongolia for making a disparaging (yet accurate!) remark about their geopolitical prospects, he accepted the president of Mongolia’s invitation to visit the country.

But instead of flying like a normal person, Parag drove 13,000km from London to Ulaanbaatar (as part of the Mongol Rally) in a decommissioned British Army Land Rover field ambulance, which he then donated to Mongolia’s medical services.

This is what I admire most about my friend Parag: if and when he doesn’t have actual skin in the game, he has the next best thing: his feet on the ground.

Parag Khanna, who turns 40 this month, is a scholar and a traveller (not always in that order) and a wise and well-informed man, characterised as a visionary by none other than THE BLACK SWAN’s Nassim Taleb.

In this conversation, which took place backstage at the Moscow Urban Forum a few minutes after I’d interviewed him on-stage for the Forum itself, we get into Parag’s views on:

* What it means to fuse the reality between “what you read” and “what you see”
* The paradox of how the future success of globalisation depends on increased tribalism (and why he supports secessionist movements)
* Why it’s probably your own goddamn government’s fault if you’re unhappy that your job went overseas
* How most people misuse the term globalisation in pathetically self-serving ways
* Why it’s sound judgment to “trust the traveller.”
* Why Berlin, London, Singapore, New York are awesome
* Why Dubai (Dubai??) is REALLY awesome, too


Full transcript:

Read it in full below, or, if you prefer, on  Medium.

This is Jeremy Hildreth, and my guest today is Parag Khanna, who is kind of a buddy of mine I guess you’d say. We’ve known each other a long time, and we’re about the same age. He’s a couple of years younger, and we don’t see very much of each other. He lives in Singapore. I live in London. We’re both American, but it’s always in some random place like down an alley in Shanghai. I remember once having a drink with him down some hutong. I think we’ve never hung out in the same place twice, actually, so it’s no surprise whatsoever that the last place I saw him was in Moscow, Russia at the Moscow Urban Forum, where I interviewed him up on stage about his new book called Connectography.

The point of my podcast, this podcast, generally speaking, is to have conversations with remarkable people who’ve lived interesting lives so far, and Parag meets that description to a tee. He’s a traveler, a thinker. He’s an integrator, which is something very important to me, something I look for in people, something that’s a very rare talent, skill, knack of combining things, putting things together, seeing the big picture, and how it connects to the details. I love this. I love this about him.

His book Connectography will enlighten you. It will help you use the right maps to see and understand the modern world, and direction, or directions, that we’re moving in. It’s not an easy read, particularly, but it is a nutritious one, and if you like what you hear in the interview, regard that as a kind of a sampler, and go get his book.

I’ll give you a couple of examples from the blurbs. “Connectography is as compelling and richly expressive as the ancient maps from which it draws its inspiration.” I like that one. “Reading Connectography is a real adventure.” I certainly concur. “A provocative remapping of contemporary capitalism based on planetary mega infrastructures, intercontinental corridors of connectivity, and transnational supply chains.” Hahaha. Anyway, you get the idea, and I promise you it’s a hell of a book.

So let’s go now to the audiotape….

For the benefit of the audience, Parag and I are sitting outside of a makeshift patio on a developer’s demo house.

How do you like this AstroTurf?

Yeah, with AstroTurf beneath our feet. There’s a gigantic — how big is that thing?

That’s quite a mural… photo.

There’s a gigantic photographic mural, or very detailed painting, of Moscow. It’s as though we were on the roof of a very expensive apartment.

Yes, this would be a multi-million dollar apartment’s terrace that we would have been on, were we not actually indoors in a giant hangar.

If this view were real —

If this view were real.

— there would be three people in the world who could afford it.

Yes, and all three of them would be Russian billionaires, that is true.

Nassim Taleb, the Black Swan guy, coined this term fairly recently “Intellectual-Yet-Idiot” IYI, which has caught on.

I’ve never heard that, that’s awesome.

Read More

My interview with Neil French

This is Neil French. Advertising copywriter extraordinaire (retired) and former worldwide creative director at Ogilvy and WPP. He granted me a 2-hour interview at his home in Spain that ended up lasting two days. Fingers crossed, I'll soon publish recordings and/or transcripts of our conversations. #whataguy #neilfrench #livinglegend and oh yeah #buyhisbook called "Sorry for the Lobsters," a true-life Mad Men memoir (though Neil claims not to have have seen the show #madmen). It's as elucidating as any book by David #ogilvy and a helluva lot more risqué.

This is Neil French, advertising copywriter extraordinaire (retired) and former worldwide creative director at Ogilvy and WPP. He granted me an interview at his home in Spain.

Listen in iTunes / Apple Podcasts:

iTunes podcast:  Neil French & Jeremy Hildreth in conversation

Listen on SoundCloud:


Now in his seventies, Neil French is a Hemingway-esque figure. Neil’s checkered past includes a stint as Judas Priest’s band manager and a foray into Soho’s pornographic underworld that lasted until the Maltese mafia threatened his life.

It was Neil’s stratospheric success in advertising that made him rich and famous, yet for reasons left unexplained, he can’t stomach being compared to Don Draper of MAD MEN.

In 2005, he finished his career with Sir Martin Sorrell at WPP with the exalted title “worldwide creative director,” then went into the business of being a dad full time.

This podcast presents a single hour of coherent conversation (distilled from several hours of discursive dialogue).

In this recording, we get into random & fascinating topics like:

• How to know when to give up bullfighting
• David Ogilvy: from boardroom to bedroom
• Why you should try to write the way you talk
• Ozzy Osbourne’s incredible ear for accents
• The mindsets and practices that create and sell-in effective advertisements
• Banging heads with the chairman of Mitsubishi, and how that can be avoided by using a 4-foot “cultural exclusion zone”
• The generous spirit of Thai women
• Which airline serves the best curry
• The genius of Jimmy Buffett and the poetry of country music
• How to get the best out of your clients while helping them get the best out of you
• Being likeable versus ingratiating
• Living without regrets

Full transcript:

Read it in full below, or, if you prefer, on Medium.

So, this is Jeremy Hildreth, and who am I talking to?! 

I’m talking to Neil French, who’s one of the most straight-shooting, strong-willed, self-revealing and self-determined men that I have ever had the pleasure to discourse with. I would characterize Neil as an amalgam of Roger Sterling, Ernest Hemingway and Errol Flynn, but you can draw your own conclusions about that.

This podcast is brought to you by… nobody. I made it myself very much in a, “Look, Ma, no hands!” kind of way. You can probably look forward to better audio quality in future broadcasts. But this one is still pretty listenable, and you do get the ambiance of Neil’s villa high up on the hillside of the village of Deia in Majorca, Spain where the following conversation was recorded.

Music: [music: Judas Priest, “Victim of Changes”]

So… thank you for agreeing to be on my first podcast, which might be my last podcast too.

Certainly, in which case, it will be the best.

Yes. Or it could be the beginning of something. I’ve been told many times I have a great face for radio.

Yeah, you do have a terrific face for radio.

And you have a great voice for radio. So, between the two of us….

Well, I earned a living at this for awhile….

For the audience’s benefit, I’ll say that I first heard of you, Neil French, after I did my MBA at Oxford, and I got my first job at a branding and design agency in London. And I was a strategist teamed up with designers. And in the little library that the agency next to the kitchen they had a book called The Copy Book, which had I think 47 or 48 different copywriters.

32. I always thought that was a bizarre number. Why 32?

’Cause out of 50, that’s how many responded.

Oh, is that right?

No, I just made that up.

You made that up as well? You’re very good.

I’m learning from you how to sound authoritative when you make something up.

I’m so impressed.

So, that chapter in The Copy Book had a big influence on me. And now, changing the subject slightly, I tease people that I have a variegated history, not to be confused with a checkered past. I’ve had several careers up till now, but, sir, you take the cake in terms of a career history, which may, if I could put it politely, verge on a checkered past.

Well, it wouldn’t verge! I worked at it being a checkered past! Christ!

That was by design? Okay.

How much more checkered do you want it?!

Read More

A JH&Co. exclusive: Augmented Virtual Reality

AVR pirate ship by JH&Co.Presenting the world’s first “augmented virtual reality” app for smartphones.

I often come up with damned decent ideas, but every once in awhile I come up with a truly brilliant one.

That’s what has just happened: collaborating with some specialist 3-D photographers, I came up with a smash-bang idea that’s ideal for place branding.

And now we’re shopping it around.

It’s there for the taking.

First come, first served.

My team is ready.

VR is going to be hot… for a little while… and a destination that gets in on this will have the cache of having been somewhere between “ahead of its time” and “right on trend.” Hence, it’s a good symbolic action. Maybe not right for everyone, but perfect for someone… somewhere….

Write me for the 8-page PDF proposal, telling me who you are, how you ran across this, and what your interest may be.

Not to spoil the mystery, but the way the app will work is it will render several of the destination’s best scenes in VR (“virtual reality”), using a standard smartphone and cardboard (or plastic) VR “headsets.” And then the user will be able to juxtapose interesting, unusual large objects into the scenes — the like pirate ship into the town square, or a 747 into a main street, or… well, we have many ideas. Our imaginations have run pretty wild.

Fully portable.


Instant worldwide distribution.

Useful for investment and tourism promotion.

Comes complete with a stakeholder engagement plan.

As I say, if you’re curious, write me for the 8-page PDF proposal, telling me who you are, how you ran across this, and what your interest may be.


Twittering or frittering?

Me, stealing Wi-Fi (and power) from a closed shop in Great Exuma.

Me, stealing Wi-Fi (and power) from a closed shop in Great Exuma, Bahamas.

Often, Twitter makes me feel like I’m frittering away my energies 140 characters at a time. I’d rather devote myself to my work and concentrate on the people I’m in the room with.

But I do Tweet. And I try to keep a high average for the content of my feed.

Follow me on Twitter.

Update (December 2014): I’m tweeting more these days. Also got on the Instagram train:

I have a terrific face for radio

“A regular on Monocle 24.”

Tyler Brûlé’s media wing — the redoubtable Monocle — has, since its third-ever issue back in 2008, featured my writing in its magazine’s pages from time to time, and since the launch of the Monocle 24 radio station two years ago, I’ve made regular appearances on air.

Read More

Branding a continent, eating insects

In Teotihuacan I continued this year’s ongoing experiment in eating insects, with white and red caterpillars and ants’ eggs; my client Mr X, adopting the persona of a nature documentarian (but failing to keep a straight face), made a short film of the escapade, “For science!”


I’m always up for a challenge.

Ever since getting into the field of branding and identity a decade ago, I’ve been drawn to challenges: post-war countries with no obvious visitor attractions who, nevertheless, want tourists (East Timor); regions that are mistakenly identified with a different country (Swedish Lapland, when Lapland is commonly thought to be a part of Finland); or the country with the most bombed hotel in the world, that’s also the home of the Titanic and Bushmill’s whisky (Northern Ireland).

With this track record, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that when RedIbero, the association representing the trade promotion authorities off all Latin American countries, asked me to attempt to create a coherent identity strategy for an entire continent, I said count me in.

Read More

“I love boobies”

A blue-footed boobie holds a pose. "You have to tip him," I told a very earnest lady after she took his picture.

A blue-footed boobie holds a pose. “You have to tip him,” I told a very earnest lady after she took his picture.

Can I go to the Galapagos for 24 hours?

The travel agent in the hotel lobby laughed at me. “Yeah, you can do it,” she said, “but it’s crazy.”

I was in Guayaquil, Ecuador, for business, with some time to spare — just enough time for an overnight trip to the Galápagos Islands, a place people normally go for a week or two. It was ten minutes to 6pm, closing time, and the flight was first thing the next morning. I had to decide.

“Let’s do it,” I told her.

Frankly, although I made the appearance of hemming and hawing before plunking down my credit card, it was a foregone conclusion. The outcome was determined at birth, I think, for this is how travel is for me. If I so much as get in the orbit of some extraordinary place or event, I predictably succumb to its gravitational pull. And I’ve yet to regret my impulsiveness.

So I’ve now gone where The Beagle and the puritanical genius Darwin have gone and can briefly convey to you my impressions.

And the main thing is this: visiting the Galápagos is like being behind the bars at the zoo. This isn’t my turn of phrase — I picked it up from a Louisiana man with a 400m zoom lens I was talking to at the giant tortoise reserve — but it is my sentiment exactly.

Read More