Sir Frank Lowe’s genius

Lowe Howard Spink and CDP are the agencies that I most associate with this giant of the industry.

Now retired, he is interviewed by Dave Dye.

It’s a lesson in how advertising works.

In some ways the man in advertising I admire most – He was the ‘creative’ that wasn’t a ‘creative’.

Here’s a picture or two to treat your eyes as well as your ears.

What’s even greater is the video archive that accompanies this.











Mother London bags Campaign’s agency of the year in its 21st year.

There’s a lot of reasons to admire Mother.  Here are four of them.

  1.  The management team picture


2.  Helping staff

Free breakfast and lunch are standard but it also offers a £1,000 bonus to people who successfully give up smoking

3. This – my ad of the year


4.  And this.  Laugh out loud funny with a strong communication and a great end line.

Quite nice.




Think Hard in the Press. Marketing Society Honorary Fellowship Award.

Well, it came as a surprise when Graeme Atha contacted me a few months ago to tell me, in confidence, that I had been tabled for not just a Fellowship of The Marketing Society, but an Honorary one.  The fact that I shared the honour with my great friend Charlie Robertson who passed away late last year made the event at The Sheraton in November all the more poignant.

Thank you to The Marketing Society for this recognition.  It really is a great honour.Screenshot 2019-01-21 at 09.38.08.png

A breath of fresh air. Sweden’s Libresse ad by AMV BBDO.

Female hygiene product advertising has come a long way since Bodyform’s blue water absorbency demonstration.

Let’s face it, it’s a product area that carries a fairly high degree of throat clearing and knee crossing language in ‘polite households’ and isn’t the language that 50% of the population are comfortable using with the other 50%.

Here’s how the category is described in Wikipedia to give you an idea of what I mean

Female Hygiene (or menstrual hygiene products) are personal care products used by women during menstruation, vaginal discharge, and other bodily functions related to the vulva and vagina. 

Increasingly blood is replacing the blue test tube in this category, one of the few that, in my opinion, is holding onto the notion that ‘the big idea’ has real value in this dumbed down world of advertising that we live in.

I stumbled upon this commercial, from Sweden, for one of the aforementioned products while reading a piece on the new Gillette commercial which is nothing if not brave, but maybe a little laboured – I will write about it soon.

Anyway, I think you will enjoy its celebration of femininity in all its honesty.

Maybe it should carry a decency warning, but that would defeat the point of its existence.

It was created by AMV BBDO in London (the agency behind The Economist campaign) and directed by Kim Gehrig at Somesuch (she was responsible for the new Gillette ad and the excellent ‘This Girl Can” campaign for Sport England).

It’s interesting that the creative team is all-male. Art Director: Diego Cardoso de Oliveira
Copywriter: Caio Giannella.

But, as ever, in great advertising great credit has to go to the client who sanctioned it in the first place; Global Brand Communication Manager, Martina Poulopati.

It deservedly won a Gold at Cannes IMHO.

We live, in some small ways, in enlightened times after all.

The power of poster advertising. The fall of the Economist’s advertising intelligence.

In august last year I was asked to argue a debate in favour of big ideas over big data.  Little was I to know that my defence of the Big Idea could never be about to be validated more perfectly.

AMV, for many years, were the top agency in the UK and the jewel in the crown (creatively, not financially was The Economist).  Their advertising was legendary and I show some of it below.  It was always on posters and garnered more PR than it did sightings.  I rarely saw an Economist ad in the flesh but I knew them all.

Proximity now hold the account and the proudly stay

We use data-driven creativity to solve business problems

Their data driven creativity brings together a bunch of algorithms (I guess) to create an an ad on medium that ticks every box going.  And the result is a piece of communication that adds up to…well, zero.

It’s a sad day indeed to see how the Economist has abandoned its incredibly intelligent generation-long advertising campaign on posters for a TV spot that will simply make you cringe.

From these….








To this….

Truly a sign of the times.

Charlie Robertson. An inspiration.


(I wrote this a while ago.  The week of Charlie’s death in fact, but I’ve just realised it lay in my drafts folder.  I never published it here, although I did elsewhere.  So, for completeness sake, I share it here now.  Apologies if you have stumbled upon it elsewhere.)

I’ve been plucking up courage for several days now trying to put metaphorical pen to paper about the life of my old chum Charlie Robertson.

I’m not a lifer (as a friend/colleague) so perhaps others are better placed to wax lyrical about him, but he had a profound effect on my life at a particularly impressionable time.

I was a ‘suit’ at The Leith Agency when Charlie appeared.  A returning migrant from London, not just London – BB bloody H – where he’d inspired Vorsprung Durch Technik.

This wasn’t a planner, this was a rock star.  Cue Mick Hucknell gags (OK, that’s it out of the way.  No more. Ed.)

We weren’t worthy, except, actually, we were.

Because Charlie wasn’t the London wanker we feared.

Charlie was just Charlie.

A gifted 5-a-side footballer, cut from the same jib as Jimmy ‘Jinxy’ Johnstone (albeit ‘Jinxy’ was from the wrong side of Charlie’s tracks).

Charlie was a storyteller, a provocateur, a walking brainstorm.  My job was to get the best out of him and we seemed to work really well.  The trick with Charlie was to spot the ball.

The Golden Ball.

Because Charlie would fire out ideas by the shedload, you just had to be in the room at the right time to say “STOP, that’s it Charlie.” And I felt I had a knack for that.

Our finest hour was pitching for Irn Bru, an account The Leith Agency holds to this day.  It must have netted them millions by now. Charlie was the planner, I was the suit, Gerry was the creative director.  It was awesome.

We came second to BB bloody H.  John Hegarty dazzled the Irn Bruers with his charm and sophistication and then went on to produce a pure minger of a commercial, but then Coke knocked on their door.  Irn Bru got booted from BB bloody H and they came back to Leith.  We were ‘a close second’ they had said and it was true.

History began.

I left soon after but that wasn’t the end of my relationship with Charlie.  He worked, through Red Spider, with 1576 from time to time.  We met for beer and red wine from time to time.

Charlie was the real deal.  A proper advertising genius.  A colossal brain and a charm to go with it.

Client, no people, loved Charlie.  Me one of them.

We will miss his elegant charm and his clever wit.  But most of all we will miss his humanity.

Bye Charlie.  It was great.