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Make acronyms your enemy

Make acronyms your enemy

Most see the act of saying something that has absolutely no chance of ever coming to fruition or doing something that has absolutely no chance of success, as utterly pointless. But to my mind there is a certain nobility in the futile. Futility is hugely underrated. The decision of Lord...
The mediocrity of middle distance insight

The mediocrity of middle distance insight

Twyla Tharp is one of America’s greatest choreographers. In a long and prodigious career, she has created over 130 dances for her own company as well as for the Paris Opera Ballet, The American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Ballet. In 2003 she committed the secrets of her creative success...
The power of powerful creative vehicles

The power of powerful creative vehicles

Recently I have got really interested in the concept of creative vehicles. Indeed I wrote about them for Campaign magazine in a piece about how much I hate the word ‘branding’. By creative vehicle I think I mean a repeatable approach to communications that builds fame for a brand. The...
The value of deep work is your only real value

The value of deep work is your only real value

There is eternal battle that I fight every single day of my working life. It’s by no means exclusive to strategists and planners in advertising but I think that it affects us more than many. And it’s the battle to engage in deep work. Proper, meaningful, in flow, immersed work...
Singing eats strategy for breakfast

Singing eats strategy for breakfast

This post has an intent, something that I advise that you do immediately you have read it. And that is to join a choir. And to join a choir particularly if you can’t sing or rather tell yourself that you can’t sing. Now you may be thinking, what the fuck...
Don't let your marketing become famous

Don’t let your marketing become famous

In August 2003 Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s Director of Communications, resigned. For some months he had been at the centre of allegations that the intelligence dossier that created much of the case for the invasion of Iraq in March that year had been doctored. Whether or not this was the...
We need to think more about advertising

We need to think more about advertising

Adam Lury, one of the founders of the late, great and greatly missed HHCL, is perhaps one of our least recognised planning legends. The exponent of a radical approach to strategy that helped make the agency’s work so distinctive in the 1990s, like many great planners, he was also immensely...
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Why hire an advertising agency?

Why hire an advertising agency?

David Ogilvy famously asked clients of his agency wanting to write their own work, “why keep a dog and bark yourself?” Half a century later it appears that for some clients the answer is “who needs a bloody dog?” Which brings us to the thorny question of why use an advertising agency at all. One...
The year ahead in planning

The year ahead in planning

Ok so its March and this is rather late off the rank. But better late than never. It just means we have 9 months not a year to sort this stuff out. If 2016 taught us anything, it is that prediction is pointless. It may be desperately tempting, it may feel like a commercial imperative,...
Who will buy our goods if every job has been automated?

Who will buy our goods if every job has been automated?

During an early 1950s tour of the recently modernised Ford plant in Cleveland the President of the United Automobile Workers Union, Walter Reuther, was shown the latest car construction robots. His over zealous guide turned to him and said “Walter how are you going to get all these robots to pay their union dues?” To...
Have we reached peak purpose?

Have we reached peak purpose?

It’s quite possible that 2016 marked peak purpose. The year in which the idea of corporate or brand purpose reached its zenith from which its grip on the collective consciousness of the business world may slowly wane. You see purpose has a rather patchy rep. For every Unilever, celebrated for their commitment to both corporate...
The seven deadly sins of planning

The seven deadly sins of planning

Recently I was asked to talk to the Open Strategy Group about planning bad habits that should be addressed in 2017. And so I aimed off at what seem more to me as sins than simply bad habits. The seven deadly sins of planning. Here is the slideshare from the event, each point illustrated by...
2016

2016

One of my all time favourite ads is Asshole for Holstein Pils. It was written by Robert Saville and Jay Pond Jones at GGT and I think it’s by far the best drink driving ad in history. God knows why it’s not on every year. If you are familiar with the ad perhaps you might...
Why we need to adopt whole puzzle thinking

Why we need to adopt whole puzzle thinking

A while back the good people at Admap asked me, along with a bunch of other strategists to contribute to a bumper September issue on the future of Strategy. It’s rather long but here it is for your delight. The skills of the strategist are, with the best will in the world, unnecessary. In any...
Stand up for strategy

Stand up for strategy

The work, the work, the work. That’s the mantra by which we live and die in advertising. Good agencies are measured by the work they win and the way that they work. But great agencies are always measured by the quality of the work they make. CDP, BMP, BBH and Mother all brought innovation to...
Brexit: The segmentation study to end them all

Brexit: The segmentation study to end them all

Good news is thin on the ground right now but in the world of marketing, there is one massive benefit of the Referendum. Thanks to the 23rd June no organisation need bother commissioning a segmentation study ever again. There are few concepts in marketing that promise more and deliver less than segmentation. Segmentation is the...
Remain was advertising's lowest moment

Remain was advertising’s lowest moment

This is an article I wrote for the second edition of the New European. The New European is a fascinating publication, it was set up from idea to first publication in 9 days. It’s kept its costs very low and exists to serve the 48% of people that voted to Remain. It will disappear once...
Start up tips, six months in

Start up tips, six months in

I guess it’s in the nature of our business that after years looking after other people’s brands you crave to have one of your own. Not an agency brand (though the thought remains intoxicating) but a real brand, something out there in the world that’s living and breathing. Over the past six months and after...
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