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I have spent 25 years working in advertising. Most of my time spent in London, some of it in Amsterdam.

I've worked with all kinds of client companies many of whom you may have heard of. I have worked with brilliant, dreadful, bright, dull, inspiring, annoying, funny, boring, famous, unknown, honest, untrustworthy, wise and sometimes stupid collaborators.

I’ve been extremely lucky.

I’ve learned valuable lessons and decided to write them down as simple ‘Marketing 101’ stories. Each will be no longer than 101 words and I will stop when I have shared 101 of them.

It may take me some time.

Jorian Murray - 21st November 2014 Highgate, London

Story 1

“There’s been a paradigm shift in cat food” he said.

I was impressed.

I didn’t know what a ‘paradigm shift’ meant so I looked it up.

I was no longer impressed.

Furthermore, I suspected that Thomas Kuhn, creator of this revolutionary scientific term wouldn’t consider Tibbles’s wet, meaty chunks a challenge to the ruling theory of science.

Later I joined Britain’s cleverest advertising agency. I was nervous.

Day 1 was a 6-hour introduction full of brilliant thinking presented in simple language.

I was no longer nervous.

As Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply you probably don’t understand it yourself”.

Story 2

As I was leaving for the office my 5-year-old Greek Niece enquired “What do you do every day?” desperately hoping that I’d take her to the playground instead.

“Do you know the little programmes that sell things between the cartoons on the television?” I asked patronisingly.

“The adverts?” She replied astutely.

“Ahh... yes, I work for a company that makes television ‘adverts’.” I said, recovering my pride.

“Oh,” she mused, “why does it take you the whole day?”

Ouch! The briefest of exchanges with a wide-eyed innocent speaking in a foreign tongue reminded me how much professional life complicates matters.

Story 3

I need to go to the office. (Objective)

I’ll get the bus. (Strategy)

It’s a nice day, perhaps I’ll cycle in. (Alternative strategy)


Why then are most strategic discussions confusing? Too often the word ‘strategy’ is used incorrectly to make simple logic seem more profound. A casual verbal exaggeration can cause mayhem.

“What’s our social media strategy?” enquires the CEO. Cue hours of angst-ridden meetings to produce a bloated, expensive and pointless presentation worthy of the Board’s attention.

“Are we using social media within our communication strategy?” will elicit a far more useful response;

“I’ll show you what we’re doing”.

Story 4

“We’ll win on Saturday”

“Not a chance”

“Let’s drive”

“We’ll never park”

“Shall we try that new place?”

“We’ll never get in”

Lovers, partners, friends and colleagues irritate one another every day with their pre-programmed alternative views on the world.

Half full, half empty?
Radiator, drain?
Dreamer, realist?

However one chooses to describe them, the optimist and pessimist are inexorably drawn to one another to form symbiotic relationships. Natural enemies and necessary bedfellows, once cast they have no option to change.

As a card carrying ‘Pollyanna’ I accept the pessimist is either proven right or pleasantly surprised and always wins.

How depressing?

Story 5

Scott Cook said, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is, it’s what consumers tell each other it is.” I love this quote because it encourages brand storytelling.

Authentic stories are the ones that get shared, so why do so many firms say exactly the same things as their competitors?

London & Capital opened their doors following the 1986 ‘Big Bang’ as pioneers of Wealth Management. 30 years later they remain as dedicated as ever to wealth preservation and this is how they tell their story.

I’m with London & Capital and I’m sharing it.

Scott’s right.

Story 6

Stardate; 2912.14. from the pod of an enterprise.

“StratCon imperative”

“Calculate SROI”

“Plot the liquidity moment?”

Am I at a Sci-Fi convention?

Thankfully not, I’m in a business meeting being subjected to unintelligible alien language.

This may be the 21st Century but why adopt the language of Spock? Instead sign up to Cluetrain’s 1999 manifesto;

#3 “Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.”

#4 “…the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.”

As we enter 2015 let’s resolve to communicate as simply and effectively with our colleagues as we do with our friends.

Story 7

Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers developed a method for measuring preference of behaviour as a means to define the type of wartime jobs that would be “most comfortable and effective” for American women.

70 years on their Jungian inspired Myers Briggs Type Indicator is the world’s most popular psychometric test and I’m a fan.

Katherine & Isabel’s method has taught me that I prefer to:

digest information as a concept,

make decisions from the heart,

be stimulated and too often distracted by the new, and:

I’m equally energised working alone or with others.

Which may explain my approach to this blog.

Story 8

What do you see?

Write it down.

Ask your partner to do the same.

Compare responses.

It’s probable that your answers are significantly different. In extreme cases the variation could be a long and detailed list vs a single word.

If this is the case you’ve confirmed that:

a. you digest information in different ways,

b. you disagree on Italian Rococo art,

c. opposites attract.

Next time you fight, it may be because you see the world very differently.

This disparity may also explain why you are such a capable and productive team.

Story 9

The brands that hold a strong point of view are far more intriguing and attractive.

The problem is that some consumers will not agree with the stated point of view and won’t be attracted, this explains why so many brands attempt to appeal to everyone.

Big mistake.

Consider the many service firms that claim to be; "professional, trusted and client focused".

Unless they have competitors adopting ‘slapdash, shady and client apathetic’ as values they’re wasting their breath.

When defining your brand’s values, apply the opposites test: if no sane marketer could ever dream of claiming the contrary then save your breath.

Story 10

I fell in love 49 years ago today*.

A love cast at first sight, never had I been so engaged with another that was not my own flesh and blood.

Seldom a day passes when the object of my affection is not in my thoughts. My passion grows as each year passes.

We’ve had our ups and downs and I accept there are more than two of us in this relationship, but with so much time invested there’s no turning back.

It’s for life.

If my wife doesn’t mind.

Highbury, January 30th 1968: Arsenal 2 (Sammels, Jenkins) v Shrewsbury Town 0.

*posted January 30th 2017

Story 11

In my younger years, I delivered some pretty dreadful presentations.

An engaged and enthusiastic contributor in meetings, I became a gibbering fool when presenting slides, especially the wordy variety. Rabbit like I was transfixed by the demanding text, intent on delivering every detail.

Someone had a quiet word; “Why not behave as you do in meetings?” enquired my CEO.


This simple advice took the PowerPoint monkey off my back. From that day forward I’ve communicated using pictures and telling stories. No more sweaty brow, no more dry mouth, no more speed reading.

In fact, no more presenting, much more storytelling.

Story 12

Has great become the enemy of good?

Too much business communication is mediocre despite decades of the great and the good making powerful calls to move from ‘good to great’.

It’s time to stop the unconvincing calls to deliver greatness when adequate is a more credible goal.

By precisely identifying the desired audience and addressing it with accessible, relevant and simple messages the majority of communication will climb from the base camp of mediocrity to the foothills of useful.

Add craft and originality to ascend the north face of ‘good’.

Only then consider the final assault on the peak of excellence.

Story 13

By May 5th the British electorate will be driven to distraction by repetitive politicians.

That said, the voting public will dutifully cast their vote for the most monotonous candidate and reward the ability to use sound bites that permeate their subconscious.

There is a lot to learn from this approach.

Much like politicians, brands are seldom on the radar of their customers. To be detected a business has to repeatedly tell its story, only when mind numbingly bored themselves with its re-telling will the storyteller eventually make an impression.

Or as Elizabeth Arden said, “Repetition makes reputation and reputation makes customers”.

Story 14

With so many channels freely available to communicate and the means to create accessible in our pockets the world has become addicted to sharing.

Is this at the cost of thinking?

Not so long ago planning often suffocated action, have we swung too far the other way? A considered communication plan is as important today as it’s ever been, even if the risks of implementation have been vastly reduced.

The Head of Kings Cross urban development reports that they spent a year “resisting the temptation to draw something” to plan properly.

I can’t wait to see the result when it’s shared.

Story 15

At the turn of the 21st Century an eminent Harvard Business School Professor advised our class, “It is not important to be liked, it’s important to take the tough decisions”.

The trouble was that on the very same course a Myers Briggs’ test advised me that I am an ‘F type’ - much like the Jaguar sports car with the same designation, I prefer to seek approval.

I tried the grumpy tough cop routine for a while with no success and soon reverted to type.

On reflection, Oscar Wilde’s 19th Century advice is far more helpful;

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken”.

Story 16

As four advertising executives motored up the M1 to present their campaign ideas for the launch of the new Volkswagen Passat, the talk was of a strategic nature.

Which of the creative ideas should we present first?
Should the Agency recommendation be delivered first or last?
How should the preferred idea be ‘sold’ to our client?

“Why don’t we simply share the ideas and ask what our clients think of them?” enquired the young Account Director.


Her logic was unarguable and accepted without contest.

With minds opened a hugely successful campaign was born and a priceless lesson in listening learned.

Story 17

“We have 3 service centres in Glasgow and will close 2 of them, how do we migrate customers across the City?”

This hypothetical pitch question was set to assess Britain’s biggest advertising agencies ability to ‘think’. We resisted the temptation to write ads and tackled this deceptively simple question head on.

Uncharacteristically we recommended a simple, local direct marketing campaign, our competitors presented advertising campaigns.

Victorious, our assignment was to deliver a national advertising campaign.

This was an unconventional but brilliant pitch brief. The request to solve a specific problem measured the most important quality of all - our ability to listen.

Story 18

As we travelled to Surrey to present to the formidable European Head of Marketing, I briefed the young Account Manager who was about to make her presentation debut.

“Stay calm, keep it simple, it’s a strong idea, you have nothing to fear”

I took my seat beside the client and my young colleague nervously delivered the presentation from across the table.

Our client wanted a word, alone.

I was nervous.

“I’m delighted you let her present but may I give you some advice…? I suggest you sit next to her in future because YOU are making her nervous.”

Lesson learned.

Story 19

In 1889, 21-year old Charles Rennie Mackintosh joined the Glasgow architecture practice Honeyman & Keppie. Honeyman, a respected establishment figure; Keppie, the new blood tearing up trees to innovate the partnership.

In 1904 the innovation cycle continued when Mackintosh became a partner, his name went ‘above the door’ and as a result the practice will be known forever.

This 110 year-old story reveals a universal and recurring truth. To stay fresh and remain relevant businesses must change to accommodate new talent and thinking.

Those that are truly committed to change will make the financial commitment to make it happen.

Story 20

Don’t waste precious time striving for consensus, obsessed by the need for perfection.

Collaborate? Certainly.

Balanced view? Absolutely.

Clear, inclusive, strategic thinking? Damn right.

Accommodate everyone’s contribution to give them a sense of ownership? Noooo!

Consensus driven decision making rarely leads to outcomes that are any better than agreeable.

Set a deadline at the outset, confer with all that you need to and focus on creation and delivery. Only then will you be able to reflect on a program of activity delivered and not on the series of opportunities missed.

A strong idea realised is far more valuable than perfection undelivered.

Story 21

At home. "Yuk! Polenta?"

The Emirates. "He’s no Patrick Vieira"

Finsbury Park. "Mardy Bum!!!"

The Office: "They’ll never do that"

Why bother resisting the new when our lives are so enriched by interesting food, faster football, modern culture and helpful technology?

According to the Kubler-Ross change curve ‘shock’ and ‘frustration’ are to be expected when we request family, friends and colleagues to try something new.

But experience proves that most change is rewarding so why not make life easier for ourselves and replace our primal dread with curiosity and open-mindedness.

After all if you really don’t like polenta, don’t eat it.

Story 22

Unbeknownst to me my career in advertising began selling shoes on Saturdays.

I graduated from Ravel Chaussures to Woodhouse, two blocks further down Oxford Street. There I acquired the following life skills: listening, smiling and the art of cross-selling St. Moritz oatmeal slipovers.

Critically, I learned how to talk to strangers.

Young Enterprise estimate that 70% of UK employers complain that first jobbers don’t have the right skills or attitude to start work. As the number of graduates soar, too few candidates have sufficient confidence to engage in a business environment.

Could the lack of Saturday jobs be a primary cause?

Story 23

‘Sales patter’

‘Gift of the gab’

‘Silver tongue’

We have a dim view of sales in British culture. We object to being ‘sold’ to and assume that salespeople are suited in silk and not to be trusted.

But we love to buy.

Having spent my early years in sales I was desperate to move away from it. I became a client and got my wish for 18 months only to discover I had little influence on what I bought.

The penny dropped. Sales is not about talking, it’s about listening.

Then again ‘Silver Cochlea’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Story 24

Election Day and the pollsters predict a tight outcome, but the measurement of ‘intention to vote’ is flawed.

When consulted, voters are primarily concerned with self image, not wishing to be considered selfish (Conservative), wet (Liberal Democrat), idealistic (Labour), racist (UKIP), or hippy (Green). In contrast Scottish voters are happy to be patriotic (SNP).

Within the polling booth self perception will be replaced by self interest so expect to wake up tomorrow to a Conservative majority* and the hitherto silent Tories celebrating as they did in 1992.

A timely reminder to be careful about context and motivation when searching for insight.

*Postscript; Against all expectations the Tories gained a 12-seat majority

Story 25

The most vocal proponents for change are often the least likely to embrace it.

Advertising agencies challenge and disrupt their clients’ business models but struggle to evolve their own. The 'Collaborative Economy' is the business model du jour, but few agencies are ready to share beyond hiring freelance in the guise of crowd sourcing.

As trained lateral thinkers it should not be beyond the creative industry to embrace the spirit of the age and pioneer new remuneration models that adequately reward the provision of business building ideas.

Fortune could well favour the talented and brave with rewards that exceed current margins.

Story 26

To appreciate the wonders of Britain ask an American.

Leave home to see what you miss.

Doubt the value of Arsene Wenger? Consult a Spurs fan.

It’s funny how those operating outside of a business have a clearer and simpler view of what’s important. When you are detached it’s easier to make clear choices of what’s distinctive and important, which is why I love being a consultant.

That said I’m in trouble when asked to simply articulate what it is I do. A case of ‘Cobbler’s children’ or further evidence that you get a better perspective when you look from distance.

Story 27

In 2002 the Nobel prize was awarded for a breakthrough study on how humans make decisions.

If it took Homo Sapiens 200,000 years to understand decision making, imagine what more there is to learn about ourselves.

In the 1990s alone we discovered more about the mind than had ever been known before.

Considering the historical ignorance of our species it’s confounding how conservative and resistant we are to change, particularly when analysing behaviour.

Future generations may look back at our era in the way we look at the Renaissance: impressed with accelerated technological progress but bemused by the way we behave.

Story 28

‘A’ level results disappointed. The Greek Island summer holiday didn’t. It was late September as I returned home having missed University ‘clearing’ without a plan.

I left my parents' Bloomsbury flat to knock on doors; the neighbouring London University colleges seemed like a good place to start.

Initially rejected I persevered. By 11.30am I was being interviewed by the impressively tanned Dr. Norman Davies, Head of History at S.S.E.E.S. We spent time swapping notes on the Greek Islands.

By lunchtime I was home with a place at University secured, my Mother shocked and relieved.

Amazing things happen when you just ask.

Story 29

1970 - My Mother bought me a new bike from Condor Lightweights in Grays Inn Road, London WC1.

Unfortunately she bought me the wrong bike from the right shop. The Dawes 'Newpin' Ladies' Shopper was not what I had in mind, my brother’s Dawes 'Red Feather' racer was far more like it.

I’ve spent the intervening years regularly thinking about the perfect bike. Fondling brochures, reading reviews, consulting friends, checking out passing fancies.

Last year I returned to Condor and bought a Super Acciaio road bike complete with Ultegra group set. Having waited 45 years, will ownership be as pleasurable as the wait?

Story 30

Having waited 45 years for my Condor road bike I’ve spared no time getting to know her.

193 Cornish miles, including 17,000 feet of climbs in 3 days, we are now firm friends.

It’s not just the bike that I’m delighted with, I’ve consummated a relationship with a long coveted brand.

Condor has history, a sense of purpose, independence, respect. Their provenance is London but they’re obsessed with all things Italian. Characteristics that I find enormously attractive and if I’m honest would like to project them for myself.

Further proof that what people really look for in a brand is themselves.

Story 31

Duncan Raban is an extraordinary photographer.

He’s spent his life capturing all sorts on camera. Royals, rock stars, surgeons and surveyors, you couldn’t get a more eclectic group. Once he’s weaved his photographic magic they have one thing in common, bizarrely brilliant pictures.

Here’s the thing, if he told you his intentions in advance you’d steadfastly refuse. Instead he commands you to mount the bonnet of ‘Victor’ his trusty Volvo and without hesitation you follow his instruction. The result? Extraordinary images that you’re compelled to share.

Daniel Kahnemann would call this an example of ‘fast thinking’. I call it unbridled creativity.

Story 32

Yesterday 64 of Lambert Smith Hampton’s brightest talent forecast their working lives in 2020.

They adopted the Pecha Kucha presentation format that allows 20 image slides to be shared, each for only 20 seconds. Presentations are no longer and no shorter than 6 minutes 40 seconds, presenters tells their story without bullet points, graphs or spreadsheets.


Since the format was conceived in Tokyo in 2003 by two American architects Pecha Kucha events are now staged all over the world.

64 presenter’s ideas were delivered in a concise, stimulating and entertaining form in less than an hour. Storytelling at its best.

Story 33

No matter the role, whatever the profession there are four inevitable development stages for every professional position held;

1. We begin each new role fully conscious of our incompetence.

2. Before we know it we slip into a state of unconscious competence, blissfully unaware of our newfound capabilities.

3. Stage two accomplished, it’s only a matter of time before we reach the ideal third stage where we become fully aware and comfortably conscious of our professional competence.

Sadly, the model doesn’t end there.

4. Remain in a role for too long and complacency inevitably creeps in to complete the cycle to render you unconsciously incompetent.

Story 34

Native Americans regularly moved to pastures new knowing their soil became less fertile with each crop.

18th century European farmers discovered that turnips and clover replenished soil and developed crop rotation systems leaving land fallow one year in three.

With so many demands on our attention, on average we look at a screen for almost 7 hours a day, it’s more important than ever to rest and replenish mind and body by switching off on holiday.

To restore mental fertility during my fallow fortnight in Crete I eschewed turnips and clover for Bryson, Marr, McEwan and Tyler*.

I recommend them all.

* ‘At Home’ Bill Byson / ‘A History of the World’ Andrew Marr / ‘The Children Act’ Ian McEwan / ‘Ladder of Years’ Anne Tyler

Story 35

The majority of award entries present their case in a linear form.

Few, if any, of these success stories were genuinely conceived, developed and delivered in a logical pre-determined process.

The best outcomes often happen by chance.

3M’s glue that failed to stick became Post-it notes, the Thai jet-lag cure inspired the Red Bull empire, a random visit to a calligraphy class defined Apple and we all know what happened when Columbus searched for a quick route to China.

Next time you hear a case history that suggests the outcome was predicted at the outset ask the author, "What really happened?".

Story 36

The post-war proliferation of television, radio and outdoor channels enabled brands to reach vast audiences, but in doing so they disabled their ability to converse meaningfully with their customers.

This was a golden age of advertising but a dark age for authenticity and transparency.

Communication historians may well reflect on this period as a marketing aberration that ended with the creation of the internet.

As brands have adopted and mastered the web they have regained the ability to listen, engage and provide a better service.

Why then do some brands persist in talking at their customers with anodyne, patronising, impersonal jargon?

Story 37

I shared a draft speech with an American colleague that I was due to deliver in his homeland.

“Americans see the Brits as either funny or evil, I suggest you try funny” he quipped.

I’m variously told that the Dutch are “direct”, Swedes “consensus driven”, Americans “can do”, Germans “efficient”, Chinese “inscrutable” and the French as inimitably “French!”

Having worked in all of these markets I concur.

Is this a case of years of conditioning by lazy stereotypes or genuine national behavioural characteristics?

As the world shrinks I hope these differences in perception flourish as it makes business far more colourful.

Story 38

Ever noticed how the really meaningful British business conversation happens at the meeting’s close?

A Briton’s business lunch is 95% chit chat and 5% commerce, all too often saved for the coffee and bill. In America it’s all business, in Sweden it’s all social and in Holland there’s no lunch at all.

Politeness and reserve are admirable qualities but I can’t help thinking that we Brits would achieve considerably more by releasing the etiquette handbrake now and again.

Less weather and more confrontation might ruffle colleagues’ feathers but it will improve productivity and could even get us all home on time.

Story 39

Has the constant scrutiny of unsocial media made high profile leadership roles less attractive or is something more fundamental going on?

Whatever the reason it seems there are fewer genuine leaders in today’s world of politics, business and sport.

Successful leaders typically have a simply articulated plan supported with a steely ‘I know I’m right’ determination, guile, charisma and luck. Put them together and a Thatcher, Jobs, Ferguson is born.

With universally accessible media channels open to customers and critics to troll 24/7, perhaps the most important characteristic required in the digital age is to have the hide of a rhinoceros.

Story 40

My eldest son collects vinyl, my daughter uses a typewriter and my youngest loves to receive post.

Outdoor media is the most effective way to reach a broad audience and only cinema has the ability to deliver uninterrupted film content.

Considering our daily inbox resembles a 1990s doormat congested with unsolicited ‘once in a lifetime’ offers, is the digital age past its prime?

Clearly not.

‘Digital’ is as powerful as ever and here to stay but when you want to engage with your audience remember the importance of context.

New media may be cheap but it’s not always the most effective.

Story 41

The post-war baby boom generated unprecedented demand.

Technology delivered endless supply.

Fewer, bigger businesses monopolised sectors.

And marketers lost direct contact with their audience.

For 50 years business lost sight of basic marketing principles and now the internet is restoring common sense and order. The most dynamic business models use technology to collaborate with their customers to create brands that engage in a conversation.

Most market categories have been challenged and disrupted by upstarts to provide a simpler, cheaper, better service.

Advertising agencies are an exception.

It’s time brands received a transparent, agenda-free, collaborative, flexible and better value communication service model.

Story 42

“Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man”.

This Jesuit maxim spawned the brilliant Granada ‘7 Up’ series which seemed to confirm the notion that our personality traits are set for life before we reach seven.

When working with Lego, a psychologist confirmed, "Children process information from seven that hitherto they’ve only stored". This doesn’t mean humans are inflexible and don’t change, but it does suggest that our values and behavioural preferences are established considerably when we are very young.

Why then do schools not acknowledge early coding and encourage more diversity when teaching?

Story 43

The only people heard to ask dumb questions in meetings without fear of humiliation are either new in the job or they are in charge.

When starting work, we’re forgiven for ignorance, and when the boss asks a ‘dumb’ question it magically transforms into breathtaking insight.

How often does the thread of a meeting slip away because you won’t seek help? How frustrating is it when someone else asks ‘your’ question and impresses the gathered throng?

If you’re confused and don’t understand there’s a fair chance you are not alone so free yourself from the fear of ridicule and go dumb.

Story 44

We humans are pack animals.

When we’re undecided we follow the direction of the flock.

We mark territory in the workplace by applying our scent to a project or idea.

Our behaviour is natural, instinctive and to be understood. If we accept these collective primal urges it’s easier to navigate and successfully manage a process.

To get buy-in make sure you leave your colleagues space to make their mark and recognise that you’ll need support of a quorum if you want the flock to alter course.

By using our animal instincts we can more effectively tackle the elephant in the room.

Story 45

When tasked with the urgent creation of an advertising campaign for a pitch a former creative colleague took to installing a Hi-Fi system in our offices.

Instead of the expected solitary, sedentary period of reflection he unleashed his power drill and launched into a frenzied assault on the walls.

As a start-up this was a defining pitch. Why, oh why was he not taking it seriously?

He was.

He dealt with pressure by getting active; his apparent prevarication was intense concentration.

In the morning we had our campaign, a new sound system and a timely reminder not to jump to conclusions.

Story 46

“Sleep on it” - three of my favourite and most productive words.

‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’ by James Webb Young convincingly illustrates why this is such sound advice in his fourth chapter.

The human brain has an extraordinary ability to sift the knowledge wheat from the noise chaff whilst the rest of our faculties take a well earned rest. Which explains why your bedtime knot of confusion has unraveled in the morning to form clean threads of logic.

No doubt a psychologist will one day explain the phenomenon, until then I will continue going to bed blissfully and expectantly confused.

<(*‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’ by James Webb Young - first published in 1940)

Story 47

There’s a lot written about defining overarching company objectives.

I love this stuff, it’s what I do.

Problem is that I don’t always understand the subtle nuances between a vision, mission, purpose, positioning, BHAG etc.

If I struggle with the jargon it’s no surprise that so few business leaders adopt them. When defining the path you expect your organisation to follow the first rule is to make your ambition completely intelligible.

If your colleagues don’t know where to start you’re wasting your time.

If in doubt try David Hieatt’s excellent ‘Do Purpose’, it’s full of inspirational common sense and plain speaking.

Story 48

Our Fathers had one job, we'll have six jobs and our children will have six at once. Welcome to the 'Gig Economy', where employers hire the right person for the right job as required and employees have freedom to do what they do best more often.

The term 'gig' seems appropriate as content creators get to perform for a variety of clients at multiple venues whilst commissioning clients pay only for the performances they need.

This is a significant threat to all but the very best communication agencies now that the power to access creative talent is more accessible than ever.

Story 49

When asked by a volatile agency Creative Director “Who do you work for? Your clients or the agency?” I wisely kept my counsel.

An eager to please account management colleague led himself to instant slaughter by bellowing, “My client!”

It was the early 90s, advertising agencies were preoccupied by building their own brand with distinctive house styles and rich creative reels in the pursuit of awards.

The world has changed.

It’s time for agencies to ditch their own agendas and focus exclusively on their clients’ needs. As long as agencies obsess with their own brand they’re in conflict with their clients.

Story 50

Marcel Proust stated that the purpose for his writing was to be as effective in serving the sick as the work of his Father, an eminent and highly respected doctor.

Some ambition.

An ex-colleague once told me that "Ambitions are driven by our parents. We strive to either compensate for parental deficiencies or outstrip their achievements".

I believe this to be true and have come to terms with my uncontrollable hidden purpose to be a fully engaged father.

Having stemmed one source of angst I've unleashed a new one - how will this theory influence the chosen paths of my children?

Story 51

At launch DHM supported Urban Fresh Fruit with branding, advertising & packaging ideas. We were both 'start ups' with bags of energy but no money. DHM were given free rein to develop a distinctive look and language for the nascent brand, in return we were paid in dried fruit.

It was an unsustainable but fun business relationship.

In time, our request to be given a stake in their venture instead of a fee was politely declined and we parted company. Our unsuccessful request was given context when Urban Fresh announced they'd been acquired for £70 million.

That's a lot of fruit.

Story 52

I've spent many hours struggling to identify brand propositions for the advertising agencies that I've served.

It's what they do for their clients, so what’s wrong with them marketing themselves with something smart and distinctive to help establish their own ‘agency brand’?

Everything’s wrong.

When agencies devote energy into building their house brands, they're in conflict with their clients. Their brand vision subliminally seeps into output to create a house style that projects a view of the world not necessarily shared by the commissioning client.

When choosing a communications partner choose one that's focussed on building your brand not its own.

Story 53

‘Fast Company’, ‘first to market’, ‘think quick’. Western capitalism loves speed.

Whilst the West creates the world’s biggest brands and companies the Japanese live longer and Scandinavians are happier.

As a young adman, I approached my career as a race, when the pressure rose I sped up.

Now when faced with a daunting challenge I’ve learned to slow down and focus. As a result, I’m a far more effective and efficient problem solver.

Avoid “the self-satisfaction felt by ‘busy’ men, however idiotic their business, at ‘not having time’ to do what you are doing” as Marcel Proust (uncharacteristically) succinctly put it.

Story 54

"Impossible is Nothing"

"Just Do It"

"Carpe Diem"

There's no shortage of communication that delivers positive thinking advice but is it always helpful?

I think not.

There are times when it pays to obey an inner voice of caution and procrastinate. If you've a strong instinct not to act don't worry what colleagues may think, dig in your heels and have confidence to be conservative.

I wish I'd been given this advice on the final leg of an icy black run during a recent ski trip. As I emerged from the fracture clinic I was entirely convinced that impossible is something.

Story 55

The modern bicycle, invented in 1885, provided personal transport for millions by the end of the 1890s and is credited for its influence in breaking down rigid class and gender barriers, even facilitating a turning point in the battle for women's suffrage.

The World Wide Web invented in 1989, exploded in the 1990s, we're still experiencing the full impact of how it's changing our world.

We are blessed to live in a time of such fundamental positive change, so let's embrace it.

As Victor Hugo said, "An invasion of armies can be resisted but not an idea who's time has come".

Story 56

Egypt 2000 BC
Invention of hand tools enables public service advertising carved in stone.

The printing revolution spawns publicity flyers and visual branding.

Newspapers fund themselves through paid for media.

Media sales and Advertising Agencies emerge to provide a 'professional service'.

The creation of brands, advertisers embrace technology and the broadcast media age ensues.

The dawn of the 'Creative Revolution'.

Late 1900s
Direct marketing, effectiveness measurement, the invention of the Internet.

21st Century
Explosion of free 'Social Media'. Surfeit of information and insight. Talent goes freelance in the 'Gig Economy'.

May the 'Age of Advertiser Empowerment' begin.

Story 57

Delegation, one of the great challenges of working life.

Managing others can be more time consuming than the benefit of having the extra pair of hands. This is also true of managing third party agencies where relationships are at an all time low.

Clients are frustrated by agencies "sucking the oxygen out of the room" whilst agents fear "we're slipping further and further away from the top table discussion". Another accepts, "We no longer feel we get the whole picture".

Time then for marketers in command of their 'whole picture' to take matters into their own hands and do it themselves.

Story 58

Left v Right

North v South

Red v Blue

Of the many ways we frame disagreement amongst colleagues the conflict between 'big picture’ and ‘attention to detail’ is more subtle and frustrating than any other.

When looking at the world through different ends of the telescope it's often irritating and impossible to imagine what others see.

Effective teams need to do both.

An objective (the 'big') defines destination, strategies (the 'small') plot your course. To deliver successful projects make sure you work with colleagues who digest information and look at the world in a fundamentally different way.

No matter how frustrating.

Story 59

Coach - "You are out walking with a friend who trips on a broken paving stone and cuts their knee, what's your reaction?"

I reply instantly - "You ask if they're OK...? of course".

Coach - "Anyone else?"

Me - "Really?!?!?! There is only one response!"

Extended pregnant pause.

A reflective colleague eventually responds - "I would think about fixing the pavement so that nobody else hurts themselves".

The 'emotional extrovert' and 'rational introvert' think, react and take decisions in significantly different ways.

For effective harmonious team building it is helpful to have both and for all to understand and appreciate one another's differences.

Story 60

I’d been Managing Director of a big company for five years and was stuck.

The plan was to succeed the CEO but I was in no hurry. Rumours circulated that my boss was to leave, my head advised succession was the logical next step but my heart disagreed.

I sought counsel from a business coach, “I only enjoy half of my current job, I suspect I’d hate all of the CEO role” I confessed.

My Zen-like coach created a pyramid shape with his hands and said, “Don’t get trapped by hierarchy” as they opened out.

Liberated with one simple hand gesture.

Story 61

Following a ‘slump in sales' and change of leadership the incoming CEO of Marks & Spencer revealed to staff how he planned to effect a turnaround in performance.

He promised:

"To put customers at the heart of every decision"

"We’ll keep things simple"

"Work as a team"

"In a way that's profitable"

Insiders described this approach as being a departure from his predecessor's strategy.


Whilst all of the above are desirable behaviours they don't constitute a strategy.

No doubt he has a game changing idea up his sleeve to significantly change the fortunes of one of Britain's favourite high-street brands.

Story 62

Men swear blind they never watch television during focus groups but moments later share detailed plot lines from Eastenders. Whilst the fairer sex share all, why are men reluctant to reveal their true selves?

The group dynamic dictates they position themselves to strangers before giving a true account of their habits and attitudes.

There’s a solution.

When researching with Volkswagen we interviewed men whilst they drove. No strangers to impress, no eye contact and a comforting distraction to enable open and honest dialogue.

If you need to have an awkward conversation with your husband, son, brother or father hit the road.

Story 63

Marmite's 'Love Hate?' campaign succeeds because it's true.

It endures because its creators Richard Flintham and Andy McLeod conceived their idea based entirely on their conflicting attitudes toward yeast extract.

Good communication 'ideas' are now sadly all too rare. Brands too often take the easy route to spin, assert or exaggerate and end up ignored because they fail to resonate with their audience.

If you want to be heard, have an idea. If you want it to register with your customer, base it on truth.

We may not all love Marmite but I've yet to meet anyone who hates their advertising.

Story 64

In the late 1980s Volkswagen's advertising was in a league of its own, it's why I joined their agency BMPDDB.

They were the only car brand to sell on emotion. Whilst others promoted features VW claimed their Golf to be as reliable as your 'best friend'.

The brand had a clear sense of who it was talking to and more imaginatively why?

Advertising is usually conceived to attract new customers. Golf's advertising was written to make new owners feel good about their choice and to encourage their loyalty and advocacy.

A decade before the Internet Volkswagen and BMP practiced customer engagement.

Story 65

In the digital age more ideas for a new venture, product, or brand are being conceived than ever before.

Never before have proportionately so few been realised.

In the late 90's two former admen had ambitions to start a new business. Their fertile minds dreamt up all manner of ideas each of which they sold to the other for one pound. They reasoned that until realised that’s all they were worth.

They founded REN Skincare, which after 15 successful years trading they sold to Unilever for significantly more than a pound.

An idea is only valuable when you make it happen.

Story 66

A second child was born, we needed to convert the loft.

"Am I being paid fairly for my role?" I asked my boss at the end of a lunch I'd organised with the specific objective of getting myself a pay rise.

"Yes" he replied.

One of us was being really clear, unfortunately it wasn’t me.

Rebuffed, I sought and found myself higher paid employment elsewhere. When resigning my disappointed boss enquired, not unreasonably, "Why on earth didn't you ask me for a pay rise?"

"I did!"

I didn't.

If I’d been clearer I would have avoided a whole lot of heartache.

Story 67

I was told by:

Mr. Ridler not to use the word ‘nice’

Mrs. Aveling to cut down on chocolate

Mr. Dawson that I was a ‘silly boy’

Mr. Gostick I’d been underestimated

My brother I was ‘unemployable’

My Dad I was the ‘Black Sheep’

Mum to ignore my father and brother

Store manager John to keep smiling

My boss Janet to join an advertising agency

CEO Rick not to join BMP

Former boss Barry to stay at BMP

Creative Directors to start an agency

My client Paul to consult.

I am glad that I didn’t listen to my brother or Rick.

Story 68

Are you happiest managing every infinitesimal detail to ensure your vision is delivered?

Your team members know their place with absolute clarity on what's expected of them, no room for error otherwise heads roll.


Do you prefer to gather and empower talent to give them freedom to express themselves? You set direction leaving them to do what they do best whilst you maintain a gentle hand on the tiller.

Micro? Macro? Pragmatist? Idealist? Hands on? Hands off?

You are likely to favour one or the other, whatever your preference make sure your team members both understand and appreciate your philosophy.

Story 69

'Remain' or 'Leave'?

The choice couldn't be clearer. Or could it?

When leavers say 'Take back control' what they really mean is 'stop the immigrants'.

When remainers say 'Great Britain not little England' they actually mean 'stay rich, stop being racist'.

Today's referendum on British membership of the European Union is one big glorious euphemism. In its inestimable wisdom the Great British electorate will do what it does best and ignore disingenuous politicians, press barons and pollsters to cast their votes based on personal welfare.

Let's hope the result reflects a nation full of financial self-confidence and we stay put*

*Post script: 52% voted to leave

Story 70

Over tea my financial adviser Iain asked me if I’d meet his client's son.

Josh and I met for tea.

Josh, a talented and hungry film producer had plans to start his own business so I invited him to produce some 'vox pops' for a client.

They’re excellent.

Josh suggested I meet Paul, the CEO of a global B2B manufacturer.

Paul and I had a cup of tea.

Paul wished to present his business more coherently and invited me to help. Yesterday he met with the investment community to launch his new corporate structure and brand.

I expect tea was served.

Story 71

As Britain recovers from the shock vote to leave Europe the inquest into the dreadful advertising campaigns is in full flow.

Whilst 'Leave' campaigners are pilloried for misinformation the 'Remainers' are rightly castigated for ineffective communication driven by fear.

Sick of being told what to do 51.9% of voters responded negatively to endless establishment lectures and closed the door on Brussels.

As advertising agency chiefs responsible for the failed campaign bleat about being ignored let's contrast the commemoration of 'Somme 100'.

Brilliantly effective communication conceived by a Turner prize winner moved the nation to stop, think and share.

Advertisers take note.

Story 72

I was kept back a year at primary school at the age of 11 for being a day too young.

At 18 when applying in person at the School of Oriental and African Studies (London University) they laughed in my face.

At 20 my first serious girlfriend dumped me.

At 21 I was given the body swerve by all advertising agencies I’d applied to.

I did telesales instead and was rejected repeatedly.

As a cosseted, youngest child early adult rejection hurt badly. Now I’m grateful as each bump on the road thickened the skin and shaped a quiet determination to persevere.

Story 73

I’ve been privileged to manage teams that contained brilliant people. There have been moments when I ridiculously believed I was a gifted manager.

Proven because many of those people went on to achieve great things.

Go me!

But my management effectiveness took a nosedive when I managed significantly less talented folk.

What went wrong?

The stark truth is that management is easy when you have self-motivated, engaged and intelligent people. They’re significantly easier to manage than those who are not.

Lesson learned.

Surround yourself with talent and never make the mistake of believing that it’s your leadership that makes the difference.

Story 74

When searching for opportunity it's often said that 'it's who you know not what you know' that's important. In an increasingly Linked-In world this may no longer be the case.

With unlimited social media access people have become paradoxically far more guarded against an unsolicited approach and rely on personal recommendation more than ever.

When searching for candidates or suppliers 'buyers' prefer the convenience of a tip-off and the added bonus of the personal reward that they found the solution through their own network.

Time to change the adage perhaps? 'It's not who you know that matters, it's who they know'.

Story 75

Advertising for small cars often features young single women nipping around town... shopping. It’s called ‘category convention’.

The problem is new small cars are bought by 64 year-olds and car manufacturers don’t want old people in their ads. Having driven big cars when they had regular incomes and families at home, ‘empty nesters’ choose smaller cars for cost and convenience.

As they still needed to feel protected, we promoted Volkswagen Polo’s safety credentials. As 64 year-olds don’t think they’re ‘old’ there was no need to feature them in our ad. campaign so it was just as effective for younger buyers too.

Story 76

Every brand has its own unique story but many forget to tell them.

Hi-Fi brand Cambridge Audio stamps 'Great British Sound since 1968' on their product and packaging but hidden within this statement is their 50-year purpose.

Unlike America where it's all about the bass and Asia where mid-range recording is popular we Brits prefer our music natural and unadulterated. Since their formation Cambridge Audio's single minded goal has been to pioneer and develop technology that amplifies authentic 'British Sound'.

The story got forgotten along the way and their tag-line felt like a jingoistic afterthought.

Now they tell the whole story.

Story 77

Depressingly we live in a 'post truth' age as consumers and voters increasingly ignore marketers' misleading spin when making their buying decisions. This has fuelled an ongoing debate about how to regain lost trust.

Is this a lost cause?

Rather than fret about broken relationships brand owners and politicians must accept that target audiences have wised up and are liberated to make their own decisions based on personal experience and recommendation. They don’t require guidance from so-called 'experts'.

Concentrate on delivering excellent product and cut out the bullshit, you never know the longed for trust in brands may well resurface.


Story 78

I’m easily impressed by the people I work with as I assume they are all devastatingly brilliant at what they do.

Over time I begin to feel a sense of disappointment when they slip from the pedestal I’ve placed them upon as I recognise they’re only human after all.

This is a disturbing trait that has required considerable self analysis. I’ve reached the conclusion that my condition is caused by an inherent lack of self-belief a.k.a. ‘Imposter syndrome’.

By finally accepting that I have earned the right to contribute I’ve taken a burdensome pressure off both myself and my unwitting colleagues.

Story 79

A global high end professional service company are looking for their ‘pitch in a lift’.

Their problem is they have too many good things to say and, like most firms, the various departments believe that they are fundamentally different from their counterparts. By asking straightforward questions about culture and listening carefully to the answers, a compelling and coherent brand truth has emerged.

By focussing on the ‘how’ not the ‘what’ this business does the functional internal barriers are removed and a distinctive purpose emerges.

As Robin Wight (the ‘W’ in WCRS) once said, “Interrogate the brand until it confesses its strengths”.

Story 80

I help brands identify where they should get to and then help them get there.

When asked what I do I'm loathe to use the C word, as 'consultant' implies a detached take-it-or-leave-it attitude.

My colleagues and I reject the term 'agency', as the focus is too often on the development of its own brand.

I struggled to articulate what it is we do and then a client came to our rescue, (thanks Paul). He described us as his "Sherpa" willing to both plan and take the journey to ensure he and his brand reached the desired destination.

We'll take that.

Story 81

"54% of senior marketers expect to bring work in-house that they currently outsource".

Doing it themselves will cut out the middle men & women and provide faster, more efficient, effective communication output.

Their brand's agenda will drive decisions on output not their agency's.

And enable them to access a wealth of independent talent to select the perfect person for the job to place them at the heart of creative decision making and enable them to publish a stream of content across their own free media channels.

What's not to like?

And what are the remaining 46% planning to do that's better?

Story 82

As a young adman I’d diligently write ‘minutes’ when taking client briefs. They served as the agency’s contract with the client.

They went out of fashion with the arrival of email, in a time pressured world there was simply no time. Two decades later there’s no longer the will or know-how to efficiently record actions and agree responsibilities.

These shortcuts are apparent in the rise of generic communication.

Time may have moved on but the need to be clear about outcomes hasn’t. To minimise the danger of anonymous marketing record in writing what’s been agreed.

Even if it’s only 101 words.

Story 83

There was once a time when there was ample time to think. So much so that clients had time to construct well thought through marketing briefs.

We now live in an age of instant impact which prioritises ‘doing’ over ‘thinking’.

Time starved marketers have little time to prepare briefs because they're too busy acting on opportunity. Where does that leave contractors?

The smart ones take the initiative and prepare their own briefs using their time to do homework and speculate.

The minimum gain is client's goodwill. The maximum is a new assignment.

Either way it’s time well invested to help progress.

Story 84

The British Prison Service is forbidden from striking.

But conditions in prisons have deteriorated so much that prison officers’ unions were forced to take the most drastic action they can and instructed members to ‘meet’.

This story caught my attention as I’ve a pathological hatred of pointless meetings. Looking back on my working life I despair when I think of the valuable hours, days, months wasted in pointless talking shops and consider all the useful things I could have done with that time.

I hope the Government truly appreciates how bad prison conditions are if their guardians have resorted to ‘meeting’.

Story 85

I got paid rather well as an agency Managing Director. So well that some clients couldn't afford my charge out rate. Which was odd because I'd been instrumental in winning their business in the first place.

As pitch costs needed to be recouped I was reduced to greeting visiting clients but unable to get involved in shaping the business or help to deliver ideas.

When things got bad I'd come back in to help.

When they got really bad I'd be asked to manage divorce proceedings.

It was time to go when I recognised that I'd become a handsomely paid doorman.

Story 86

The current advertising 'ageism' debate assumes that it's only the agencies that do the rejecting.

That's untrue.

A thirty something advertising Account Director once tendered her resignation informing me, "Now that I'm a Mother I refuse to put up with agency tantrums".

As intelligent, curious minds mature, priorities change and patience thins. When you are older than 40, smart and unprotected by a comfortable management role it's easy to grow out of agency life in its current form.

If agencies decide they want to hang on to their most experienced talent, they'll need to change their model not just their mind-set.

Story 87

A young and dynamic client recently confided that he was "lazy". This is a man who tirelessly speculates on whether he's doing enough, could his team do more? Could his brand be more ambitious?

He is 26.

His 'confession' resonated as I've spent my entire career questioning my lack of ambition and drive. It's taken 30 years in work for me to finally come to terms that I'm happy with my contribution.

The thought struck me that perhaps it's only lazy people who don't think they're lazy.

Or as Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel put it, "Only the paranoid survive".

Story 88

As advertisers go cold turkey to kick the habit of telling consumers what to think about their brands, it's worth reminding ourselves that there's a better way. And that smart brands have done it for centuries.

Before Innocent's 'whackaging' there was Paul Newman's sauce.

People stared at Pirelli's calendar long before Uniqlo's clock.

Roy Brookes' honest Estate Agent copy pre-dated Death cigarettes.

Michelin guides, soap operas, John Deer's 'The Furrow' are all prime examples of branded content before the term was coined.

Brand engagement's no new fangled invention, it's a necessity for brands that want to stimulate advocacy and loyalty.

Story 89

IBM estimate 90% of the world's information was generated in the last 5 years. Predictive analytics guru Nate Silver suggests the sum total of the world's knowledge increased by only 1% over this same period.

For the first time in history we have too much information.

To make life more difficult there’s fake news in a post-truth world to contend with. We are now required to sift knowledge 'wheat' from vast quantities of information 'chaff'.

Did the Information Age end in 2016?

If so can technology please provide us with a filter so that the Knowledge Age can commence in 2017?

Story 90

Andy Mcleod was part of Britain's most prolific and decorated advertising creative teams.

Marmite, Cadbury, Volkswagen; just three campaign legacies that will live long in the memory. Andy left the agency world to join a production company and become a 'Commercials Director'.

Actually he didn't and he's not.

Andy has always been both a 'jack' and a 'master' of many trades; copywriter/strategist/entrepreneur/director/creative.

He recognised that creators can no longer afford to limit their influence in a world of unlimited communication channels with one solitary and restrictive title.

Is it time to follow Andy's example and adopt a slash after your name?

Story 91

0-3 Baby whites

5-11 Arsenal red

11-24 Blue jeans

25-50 Black suit and loafers

50+ Brown tweed and brogues.

Our wardrobe choices define identity and reflect personal brand.

At 5 all I ever wanted to wear was my Gunners’ shirt, now I’m desperate for a hand knitted Fair Isle slipover (hint hint Mrs. M).

Having embraced ‘Grandad chic’ I see that personal dress code reflects my emotional state of mind and self confidence.

Start out > stand out > blend in > assert > chill.

I’m now comfortable in my skin and would like to think that autumnal browns suit me.

Story 92

Social media is a wonderful thing. It enables us to cut out the waste and focus exclusively on the things we like to see and hear.

But it turns out that the age of unlimited media has made us less open to new ideas. Rather than exploring the Internet to nourish our minds with new perspective, overwhelming choice has led most to digest only the familiar and agreeable.

If your timeline, subscriptions and planner contains hand picked content that only reflects your view of the world try something less appealing in 2017.

It might even help heal the fractures of 2016.

Story 93

'Backfire' has a new meaning. The more one provides factual evidence to support an argument the less likely an audience with an opposing view will listen. It's another symptom of our 'post-truth' world (Oxford English dictionary's word of 2016!).

This is as depressing for brand owners as it is for politicians.

The solution lies in building trust. Those that communicate with transparency and authenticity get listened to, those that win empathy will build trusting relationships.

Blindingly obvious advice when applied to our personal lives, it's now time for all businesses to apply these same principles to build enduring relationships with customers.

Story 94

Professional service firms are all in the business of providing expert knowledge so why do so few of them recognise or celebrate this as their client benefit. Instead, almost all resort to the generic: 'We are professional, trusted and client focussed' as terms to differentiate themselves.


Commercial property services company Lambert Smith Hampton recognise the real benefit that they bring to their clients is the provision of valuable, commercial knowledge and as such overtly state that they are in the 'property knowledge business'.

Or as Harvard Professor John Kotter more succinctly puts it, "People don't by drills they buy holes.”

Story 95

In the 1980s and 1990s British advertising led the world. The foundation for success was the creation of ‘a big idea’.

Elite agencies searched for a genuine campaign idea that had the potential to change a brand's fortunes as opposed to mere advertising destined keep the next day’s fish & chips warm?

We judged ideas on their:
Coherence. Did they amplify the brand's truth?
Creativity. Would the work stick in the mind and get talked about?
Campaignability. Did it have legs?

It’s worth reminding ourselves about their intelligence, simplicity and commercial value, perhaps we can help revive this lost art form.

Story 96

The Autism Trust paid a visit to our advertising agency armed with free outdoor media and a photograph. They needed some inexpensive ads, ideally using said photo.

"What must the advertising achieve?" asked Dave Dye, my creative partner.

"I want the Prime Minister to be fully aware of the wasted talent and costs involved in the management of Autism".

A week later Dave produced the campaign above and Polly got an audience with Gordon Brown.

If you want your advertising to work, be absolutely clear about what you want it to achieve when submitting your brief and resist prescribing the outcome.

Story 97

Anadin required a campaign to combat the runaway market leader Nurofen. Their ibuprofen based competitor was both stronger and faster than Anadin’s aspirin product.

With no discernible competitive advantage we turned the competitor’s strength against them to deposition the more powerful remedy as a ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’. Advertising targeted stoics by portraying Anadin users as ‘people that get on with it’ suggesting that those who chose the stronger alternative were weak.

By resisting the temptation to appeal to all we found an audience to identify with and avoided going head to head with the more powerful rival.

Job done.

Story 98

When pre-testing a Volkswagen Polo commercial our ad was met with significant hostility; "If you show that on my telly I will put a brick through it!"

Awkward as we'd spent £500k on production and media was booked.

On investigation it became clear that the 'Alsatians biting man' scene was turning stomachs. With the offending frames cut we aired successfully but it had been a close call, our beautiful idea almost scuppered by one unpalatable detail.

Research had validated Myers Briggs' tests* that indicate most people digest information detail up and fewer than one in four start with the whole picture.

*Myers Briggs aggregate results for Canada, Germany, UK & USA PRE-2008.

Story 99

In 1996 The Labour Party re-launched as ‘New Labour’ requiring a ‘new’ campaign.

We suggested they adopt classic branding techniques including logo and brand music. Lambie Nairn’s rose and music from D:Ream soon followed.

As the 1997 General Election approached the agency worked hard on uncompromising advertising campaigns to slam the Tories’ 18-year record in office. Each got systematically rejected as New Labour’s leadership refused to engage in negative politicking.

D:Ream’s “Things can only get better” was eventually chosen as the campaign theme and a series of simple, optimistically coloured posters ran.

Sometimes it’s best to let your competitor defeat itself.

Story 100

Advertising ain't what it once was.

"No shit Sherlock, it’s the Digital Age" I hear you cry.

That's insufficient excuse for the prevailing lack of imagination and abandonment of ideas. 'Ideas' are as relevant in modern marketing as they ever were. The brands that identify their truth and wrap it up in beautifully crafted execution are winning.

Problem is there's simply not enough of them.

These 101’s were designed to remind us what’s important.

All of which was more eloquently expressed by Bill Bernbach:

"It's not just what you say that stirs people, it's the way that you say it".

Story 101

Scene: The Wrestlers, Highgate North Hill, London.

Matt: "You're a consultant now, shouldn't you write a book?"

Me: "And what could I possibly write about?"

Matt: "Well, you’re endlessly telling stories..."

An idea hatched on my bike ride into London the following day. Write 101 stories that capture lessons learned from my career in advertising, each of exactly 101 words.

As I reach #101 I realise two things helped get me here;

i. I knew ‘who’ I was writing for (my children)

ii. I knew ‘what’ I was writing for (posterity).

What sustained me? The target of ‘one hundred and one’.

Story 102 (Over Deliver)

The best ad. I ever presented wasn’t supposed to happen.

Volkswagen required three commercials for their ‘Surprisingly Ordinary Prices’ campaign, we presented four. The outlier we were unsure about strayed from our formula.

To be understood ‘Lamppost’ required viewers to know the campaign which dramatised surprise at how inexpensive Volkswagens were. We thought it was too early to play games.

Volkswagen’s Marketing Director John Abbott disagreed, "Surely four commercials won’t cost much more than three, let’s do it".

I’m glad we did. The ad was awarded best Car Commercial of 1998 and one of Volkswagen’s best of all time.

Thanks John.