Think Hard

Speculative work in design and advertising and its absurdity.
February 3, 2016, 12:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

I am grateful to Dean Happel for bringing this film to my attention.  It’s a rhetorical polemic on the absurdity of our industry.

The trouble is we have made our bed for many years and the vast majority of us now have no choice but to lie in it, or be absurdly ‘go to’, or persuasive to take the ‘take’ out of pitching.

Great work from Zulu Alpha Kilo in Toronto, Canada.

Advertising ideas are “Non Working Spend” for marketers.
February 3, 2016, 7:54 am
Filed under: advertising, brands, business, creativity, design, marketing, politics | Tags: , ,


I honestly thought I’d seen it all until I woke this morning to an email from a company called Percolate who have published a “White Paper”.

“Ooh, a White Paper – must be important and true because David Cameron has signed it off, what incredible words of wisdom does it hold within its shimmering virginal covers?”


“As the pressure to demonstrate the value of marketing grows, one overlooked metric for return on investment (ROI) analysis is on the rise.  Non working spend [my emboldening]  is the cost of producing marketing content, as opposed to media spend distributing it.”

Here it is in more detail. In case you think I made a dreadfully stupid assumption.

Yes, it really does say “Non working [spend) is EVERYTHING ELSE [my caps].”

So, my thirty year career, not to mention that of my planning friends, my creative buddies, my TV producers, digital content creators, print buyers, secretaries (back in the day), studio managers and those scary guys that work for them but deliver such great work…they’re all “non working spend.”

A necessary evil.

Expensive grist to the media mill owners.

Jeezo.  I’m gonna have to take a little minute here.

I’m a little shaken, I admit.

I mean it’s a fucking White Paper.  Not just any old made up shit.

Sorry Mum.

Sorry I let you down.  Remember I told you I worked in a reputable industry where I made a difference – along with Charlie, and Smudger and Jimbo and Will?

Yeah.  That’s them.

And Gerry too and Raymond, and Roger.

Yeah, yes Victoria and Ruth.

All just “Non Working Spend.”

That guy at the government. Remember I told you about him?

The guy you liked off the telly?

No, not George Osborne, he’s a bad man.

The Scottish guy.

Remember I came home and told you he said advertising people were like “leeches’?

Yup, that’s him.

Well, he was right, ‘cos it’s in a White Paper.

We’re all just “Non Working Spend.”

You don’t believe me?

Read it here.

My board responsibilities. And why they are important.
February 1, 2016, 10:34 am
Filed under: business, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,


I have chaired a charity for children for six years.  A musical theatre company for the record.

I am a trustee of a professional theatre co.  Another charity.  And have been for seven years.

I chair a creative membership organisation.  For four years so far.

I have been chair, advisor or council member of several more.  And part of my day job is providing advice to company boards.  Usually micro/small enterprises.

I am no guru but I take my responsibilities very seriously and have learned a great deal about governance from a number of highly responsible individuals.

It has been my privilege.

So I really do take offence at the behaviour of The Kids Company – a charity run by a highly charismatic lady who freely admits she is a loose canon (and that’s fine, were checks and measures in place to control her undoubted energy, enthusiasm and ability to engage with sponsors, funders and political and social/behavioural/societal influencers) but in this situation what she did not need were staff, trustees, a chairman and, believe it or not, even the Charity Commission – not to mention a government – that indulged her.  (In the latter case in the hope that some of Camila Batmanghelidjh’s charisma would rub off on them.)

This is the BBC article that exposes the findings of the The Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

It’s a disgrace frankly.


“With Creativity you don’t need to scream to be heard.” (Dave Trott 01/02/2016)
February 1, 2016, 9:54 am
Filed under: advertising, Blogroll, creativity, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,


I often share with you Dave Trott’s incisive insights that he publishes on his outstanding blog.  He really is a hero of mine and the best living writer on advertising (but really on creativity).

This is a remarkable blog post from him.  But before you read it take a moment to view this.


It happens to be one of my favourite songs of all time (if you can use favourite to describe a nightmare).

The film ‘Gone With The Wind’ was released in 1939.

Fine southern ladies and gentlemen living civilised lives in elegant houses on huge plantations, attended by grateful slaves who were thankful to their kindly masters for being so considerate.

Of course, the reality wasn’t quite like that.

The truth was, in the south over five thousand African Americans were lynched by white mobs.

Strung up from the nearest tree and left hanging.

Photographs were taken of the smiling crowd, much like a picnic or a barbeque.

Grinning for the camera, pointing at the hanging corpses.

But in that same year, 1939, Billie Holliday released a song that would begin to change all that.

Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records, describes her song as the beginning of the civil rights movement.

And yet it didn’t scream outrage, it wasn’t a cry of horror.

It was softly, gently ironic.

Every evening, at the end of her nightclub act, Billie Holliday would have the room lights darkened all the way down.

Just a spotlight on her as she sang softly and gently what everyone assumed would be another romantic ballad.

She started quietly:

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit:

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root.

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”

By the end of the first verse the audience were silent.

They didn’t know what to make of it, or the next verse:

“Pastoral scene of the gallant south:

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth.

Scent of magnolia, sweet and fresh,

And the sudden smell of burning flesh.”

Now the crowd shifted uncomfortably:

“Here is fruit for the crows to pluck:

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck.

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,

Here is a strange and a bitter crop.”

Then the spotlight went out, and Billie Holliday left the stage.

No encore just stunned silence.

The unsettling words lingering like a surreal nightmare.

No mention of corpses in the song: just the sweet scent of magnolia and strange fruit hanging from trees.

Cognitive disonance.

Mass murder described in gentle irony.

It became the first example of a kind of music we would later take for granted.

The intelligent protest song.

Thirty years later, Bob Dylan would quote it as the song that influenced him most.

‘Strange Fruit’ is still quoted by every civil rights leader.

But it wasn’t written by a black man.

It was written by a white Jew living in the Bronx.

Abel Meeropol was so horrified by the images he’d seen on postcards, he wrote it and persuaded Billie Holliday to sing it.

In 1999, Time Magazine named it ‘The Song Of The Century’.

The quiet, intelligent song that started a movement.

The movement which eventually led to a black man being elected President Of The USA.

Proving that, with creativity you don’t need to scream to be heard.

Marketing done good. Making a difference for Autistic children the world over.
January 26, 2016, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


Marketing is bad.

That’s drummed into us by the naysayers.

Advertising is evil. We all know that.  Maybe because it’s the bastard spawn of marketing.

But is it?

Me?  I’ve worked on behavioural change, mainly in the old school through (bastard spawn) advertising on smoking cessation, alcohol moderation, blood donation, healthy eating, organ donation and others.  Oh yes, and I’ve helped many charities fulfil their dreams, again through the bastard spawn.

But today the options are far wider.  Great marketing thinking comes in many shapes and forms. And with the arrival of apps less than a decade ago marketing was given a real chance to find new and exciting ways to further effect positive behavioural change.

Take this bloody brilliant thing that I stumbled upon today.  It’s a Korean campaign, based around an app, for autistic children.

Autistic children have difficulty making relationships and one of of the reasons is that they find it difficult to make eye contact and to then decipher emotional coding in people’s expressions.

But autistic children like hand held electronic devices and these DO hold their attention.

So Samsung has invested in an app that trains autistic children how facial expression works through a 15 minute daily programme.

It’s had a remarkable effect.

And you can see how and why here.

Now.  Is marketing so bad?

How to get round protesting when protesting is banned: Create a hologram.
January 26, 2016, 1:39 pm
Filed under: About think hard, advertising, awards, business, creativity, marketing, social media, web2.0

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 13.31.22.png

This is a remarkable communications idea from DDB Spain.  In March 2015 Spain banned any form of physical protest under a new ‘Gag Law’ but DDB found a way around this by creating  ‘virtual’ protest right outside the Spanish Congress by allowing people to upload protest images of themselves online that were then turned into a massive hologram.

The effect was huge and reached 800 million internationally, not bad for a law that had been criticsed by the UN and 80% of the Spanish population.

Here’s how they did it.


The Best Advertising Practical Fool Joke of all time.
January 7, 2016, 10:08 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I love Dave Trott; I really do.

This shows the less commonly perceived practical joker side of him.

I was involved in a few practical jokes in my time, perhaps the fart machine that I hid inside a colleagues computer and went off through a remote control that I used randomly either in rapid burst or once every few hours.  I could operate it from about three rooms away so my presence wasn’t a link to the problem.  That was my best one.

But this is FAR better.



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