What Razor Loves: February 2020

We’re an eclectic bunch at team Razor.

 Each month, we share with the world a flavour of what’s caught our attention and influenced our thinking and conversations in the office.


Chloë B
This week, I went to an AQR Spark event about mental health in the research industry. This is such an important topic of conversation and it made me so sad to hear that 85% of researchers have struggled with their mental state in the last year alone. The evening was hosted by Helen Stephens – a coach and mental health first aider. Helen did a fantastic job of running us through some of the main triggers that can lead to stress in a research agency. She also shared with us some coping mechanisms to consider when things seem overwhelming. I’ve written more about it here.


Chloë F
Bit theme-y this month. I’m about to start work on a project about the menopause and (perhaps coincidence or perhaps not) my two favourite things have been Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, Olive, Again and series 3 of Better Things. The writer of Better Things is also its lead actress and it’s the best show I’ve seen that explicitly deals with middle age. Searingly honest and seriously funny. Meanwhile, Olive Kitteredge goes through her seventies and eighties and the novel is unflinching when it comes to depicting old age. It’s beautiful and I wept every 20 pages or so. Two truly wonderful cultural experiences and both will help me sail into my next project.


Until this week, I’d planned to tell you about some of the Oscar-nominated films I’d watched (yawn and how predictable). But then I went along to Alliance – an MRS event jointly organised by MRS Pride and &more (the young researchers network). The inspiring line-up was a selection of young researchers and role models sharing thought-provoking stories and ideas on how to give a voice to the marginalised. Everyone spoke with the kind of passion that’s hard to not get swept up in. I’m not a member of the LGBTQ+ community but I was thrilled to be invited to listen to and discuss things that would simply never have crossed my mind before. (If you’re reading this, MRS, thanks for having us!)


Obviously, I’m reading another ginormous tome (The Age of Surveillance Capitalism seeing as you asked). But what I’ve really loved this month is our flexible working policy at Razor Research. We’re hitting our stride with what it all means; video meetings are now normal and work/life balance is *chefs kiss*. Although, perhaps I’m just very fond of it today as I’ve got my own research assistant. She’s terrible at PowerPoint but an expert at purring.

I went to the inaugural Life Lessons Festival at the Barbican a few weeks ago. There, I learned a thing or two from some of the most eminent speakers, doctors, authors and experts from different fields about everything to do with being human. We watched a couple of talks and by far the most impactful for me was Marie Forleo; an American Life Coach whose motto (and title of her book) is Everything is Figureoutable. She gave a talk full of enthusiasm, entertainment and some audience participation that really helped land her point. I came out feeling inspired and empowered!

I’m loving the Louis Theroux documentaries on Netflix at the moment. The plastic surgery episode, Under the Knife is a particular favourite. His patient, laid-back journalistic style allowing subjects to find their own words is what makes this so absorbing.

Note to self…

Learning matters: AQR Spark

Sharper thinking is a big deal to us. And so is industry training and learning.
We’d like to share with you our thoughts on all sessions we attend.
Because learning matters.  


February 2020: AQR Spark – Mental Health and Wellbeing

A session exploring mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. With Helen Stephens, wellbeing coach and former Research Director at Ipsos MORI.

Chloe B’s thoughts:

Mental health is an important topic of conversation and, today, it feels more relevant than ever. This week’s Spark event made us think about the different triggers that lead to workplace stress and coping mechanisms we can employ to try and manage things moving forward.

Helen made many interesting points, but here are five things worth considering to improve workplace wellbeing:

  • Foster a culture of openness and curiosity. One of Helen’s big points was around ‘unclear expectations’ either from colleagues or from clients. It’s important to make sure everyone believes they are ‘one team’ right from the briefing call and that questions can be asked without the fear of feeling stupid or naïve.

  • Switch off. Make sure you allow yourself proper time to focus on the task in hand. It’s so easy to get distracted with emails, messages and everything else going on in our home lives. Switch off emails when you need to focus, leave your phone in another room, take your lunch hour away from your desk and go outside for some fresh air – even if it’s just for a short walk. 

  • Set yourself boundaries. I know from previous experience that this can be tricky so it’s more for senior management to be in charge of. Razor is particularly good at this – we have a no early morning/late evening email policy and absolutely no emailing over a weekend. It’s important these are properly implemented as company policies and not something that’s just a ‘nice to have’ as and when it suits.

  • Surround yourself with good people. Sometimes we want to talk to people that will just listen to – rather than try to fix – the problem. Make sure you have people that you can talk to whether it’s a line manager, a house mate or a friend to help relieve some of that pressure.

  • Remind people how great they are. Once we start to lose confidence, it can lead us to believe we’re bad at our jobs. We then start to collect ‘evidence’ that proves we’re not good enough which can result in a vicious cycle. Praising people when they’ve done a good job can really give them the boost that they need.

I’m not just saying this but Helen’s reminded me of how lucky I am. I work with such a kind group of people that really care about workplace wellbeing and will go out of their ways to check in on each other. Everyone is going to feel stressed/go through busy periods at some point but it’s having people there for you that can make a real difference.

Don’t forget to check the AQR and MRS calendars for upcoming events and training!

A word from our sponsors…

Where to start? Sifting through (even a small portion of) Super Bowl ads after the big event is always quite the task. There I am each year, pen in hand, watching one commercial after another while trying to map various themes in my notebook. Fast-forward a few hours and I realise that the first ad I watched was my overall favourite. <Sigh>

It won’t surprise you to know that most of the game-day ads were a manic conveyor belt of celebrities. Stands to reason that after a looong while, and a few drinks, viewer vision became blurred and it’s hard to remember who paired up with what.

As usual, there were a number of themes, but nostalgia emerged as dominant. Not surprising seeing as we already know that old is gold when it comes to showcasing products and services. And while a large number of viewers won’t be old enough to remember the original films or references, sometimes the stars and ideas are just big enough to transcend them.

Another thing to bear in mind that it’s US presidential election year which means that the majority of advertisers probably opted to keep things light-hearted ahead of a likely second term for the current president. Remember how seriously political most of the ads in 2017 were? (Fear not, this won’t be that kind of blog.)

Anyway, let’s dive in:

Step back in time
Jeep: Groundhog Day – Created especially for (surprise, surprise) Groundhog Day 02/02/2020. A day that Bill Murray is more than happy to wake up each morning to pootle around in his motor with his furry pal. The tagline ‘No day is the same in a Jeep Gladiator’ does the job very nicely.

Walmart: Famous Visitors – For its first ever ad (during the Super Bowl), Walmart brought in a number of familiar sci-fi faces to show off its convenient kerbside pick-up service. Also serves as a reminder that the third Bill and Ted film will be out this year. (Excellent!)

Cheetos: Can’t touch this – MC Hammer makes a return with his 30-year-old hit to remind us of the consequences of eating dusty Cheetos. In this instance, a bag of new cheesy popcorn renders a man useless to everyone around him.   

Mountain Dew Zero Sugar: As Good as The Original – Parodying The Shining feels overdone in marketing but Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston is a nice touch. I’ll allow this one. It’s harmless enough.

Facebook: Ready to Rock? – Facey-B shows off its happy side in what appears to be a trust-building exercise. The ad displays a series of genuine groups (along with a couple of familiar faces) as an homage to the real people who make the platform what it is. All well and good but you can’t help but think that for every happy-go-lucky group shown in this ad, there’ll also be a hate group lurking in the shadows.

Snickers: #SnickersFixTheWorld – Is it trying to be a modern-day Coke ad with this group singalong? Who knows? It’s certainly a long way off from Mr T yelling ‘GET SOME NUTS’ in our faces – but I did enjoy the pair with the selfie stick falling into the huge hole.  

Squarespace: Winona in Winona –For some reason, Squarespace sent the actress – who most young’uns will recognise from Stranger Things – to her namesake, Winona in Minnesota to make a website about it. (No, I don’t understand either.) 

Tech (or sort of)
Budweiser Canada: Whassup Again – This one actually falls into nostalgia, tech and crossover. Bud Canada resurrected the 1999 ad with a present-day twist. Simply put, it’s an empty home full of smart devices and household items chatting away to each other and it’s great fun. Not only that, the other smart thing about it is that they teamed up with Uber to promote getting home safely after the big game by not drink driving. Win-win.

Amazon: Before Alexa – Good, clean fun. We’re at home with Ellen and Portia who are wondering how the world managed before Alexa came along. Turns out ‘Alexa’ has been around longer than we realised.

Hyundai Sonata: Smaht Pahk – An auto ad really, but one promoting remote smart parking assist – or ‘Smaht Pahk’. Boston celebs, Rachel Dratch, Chris Evans and (man formerly known as ‘future Mr Alkis’) John Krasinski, team up with their best Boston accents to talk about all the places in Boston one could park using this technology. Apparently, it’s hard to park cars in Boston. (Fun fact: ‘Smaht Pahk’ became a thing when one of the creatives said it with her Boston accent during a meeting. So there you go.)

Google: Loretta – Dammit, Google! This is a wonderful piece of storytelling about a Google employee’s grandfather looking for ways to remember the love of his life. Naturally, it made me shed a tear or two. Digital assistants serve a vital purpose for so many people out there. But the ad also reminds me of how much deeply personal information we give to the internet as a price. I guess in cases like these, it just has to be the way.

Some crossovers
Rick and Morty x Pringles – Rick quickly realises that his grandson, Morty, is actually a robot and that they’re all trapped in a Pringles ad they can’t escape.  

Tide: #LaundryLater – We’re told the best time to do laundry is ‘later’. Cue a number of tie-ins with other brands while Charlie Day tries to work out when later is. Tide and Bud Knight / Tide and Wonder Woman 1984Tide and The Masked Singer.

Coca-Cola: Show Up – Having plans but wanting to stay at home instead; it’s happened to all of us. Not even Martin Scorsese is safe from being ‘blown out’ by his mate at the last minute. Luckily for ol’ Mart, a glug of Coca-Cola Energy gives Jonah Hill his second wind and the two (pals in real life) hit the party circuit together. Our lives might not be Hollywood, but the storyboard works for me.

And finally…
New York Life Insurance Company: Love Takes Action – Beautiful. Not one of the sexiest ads perhaps, but it’s simple, relatable, and stands out amongst all the junk food on the Super Bowl advertising conveyor belt. I’ll file it under ‘lasting impression’.

*Read our previous Super Bowl blogs:

Super Bowl 2019
Super Bowl 2018
Super Bowl 2017