Books I keep by my side

Confessions of an ad man – David Ogilvy
This book was written in 1962 so in some respects you have to take it with a dose of salt, but take it you must. I cannot believe that it has taken me 16 years in advertising to get to this wonderful book. I implore you to buy it – its cheap, its short and it is the work of a genius that stands the test of time. Here you see the aphorisms and cliches of our industry being penned(from paying peanuts and getting monkeys to the pointlessness of keeping a dog and barking yourself), here you see some of the best advice on winning and keeping clients you will ever come across, here you will witness a rollicking good story about the foundation of a great agency and here you will witness glorious and refreshing certainty about the way advertising works. But above all this book reminds us of the thing we are all so close to forgetting, that ‘we sell or else’.

The Brand Innovation Manifesto – John Grant
To be honest I wasn’t massively impressed with John Grant’s first book ‘The New Marketing Manifesto’. I read it dutifully but got little out of it and have never returned to it. As a result I didn’t read his second book ‘Beyond Image’ which I am beginning to regret, since in hindsight it seems right up my street. But his third book ‘The Brand Innovation Manifesto’ is absolutely outstanding.
Read it in two ways.
Get stuck into the first half, it is dripping with powerful new ideas like John’s definition of a brand as a ‘cluster of strategic cultural ideas’, like his critique of the cult of trend watching and like his real breakthrough which is to portray brands as molecules made up of multiple cultural ideas. And the thinking don’t stop here, I love John’s attack on consistency replacing it with the idea of coherence – infact I used it yesterday in a meeting with Sky. While I am reassured that he still sees the need for a brand to have a point even though it maybe made up of multiple cultural ideas, since the whole brand as Velcro argument is trying my patience with the new brand thinkers.
But only dip into the second half. Personally I find the classification of 32 cultural ideas way too much like hard work and I can’t imagine this part of the book was much fun to write either. But as a collection of 32 pithy case studies of brands that have created or maintained their position through real innovation it rocks.
In all this book is a significant step on in our thinking about brands and the first 86 pages are probably the finest you’ll read on marketing this year.

Visual and statistical thinking – Edward R. Tufte
This is more a pamphlet than a book and is one of Edward R. Tufte’s more beguiling works. First off you get the incredible story of how the water bourne nature of cholera was first understood by plotting cholera deaths in Soho. Then you get the story of how the misuse and display of data led to the shuttle explosion. As ever with Tufte the pamphlet is not only awesome and fascinating but beautiful to read – having his usual attention to typographic detail. You will love yourself for buying this.

A theory of everything – Ken Wilber
What can I say – don’t you just have to have a book with such a devastatingly holistic title. I have never finished it but it is another one of those chewers – always inspiring if you need a little mind fuck. Hey and next time someone asks you if you have read Eat Big Fish or some such plannery tome you can answer “nope but I’m half way through the theory of everything”

How brands become icons – Douglas Holt
Look I never shut up about this book. If you haven’t got the point yet then there is no hope. As I have always said Douglas has come to save us all.

The marketing pocket book – The Advertising Association
I went through a phase of thinking this was rather plonky and pointless and then I saw the light. I now carry it everywhere and every year I buy one for every planner in the discipline and do spot checks.
Get it here from WARC
Cool Memories V – Jean Baudrillard
Jean Baudrillard’s fifth collection of memoirs is a constant companion, executed as it is entirely in aphoristic form. Rather than a chronology of events this is simply a record of the stuff Baudrillard thought – some of it eternal some topical. Also makes you seem clever on the train.

Helmut Krone the book – Clive Challis
An utterly mesmerising book about the legendary DDB art director Helmut Krone who was responsible for both the Avis and VW campaigns from that agancy but more importantly was the father of modern art direction. At DDB he led a revolution that put concept rather than execution at the heart of the way adveritisng is designed. As if this wasn’t enough the book itself is a work of great beauty, showing as it does enormous reverence and respct for the work it celebrates.

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