How not to kill your clients.


So impressed and inspired was I by Atul Gawande’s astonishing book, The Checklist Manifesto, about how a seemingly mundane tool such as a checklist can reduce deaths on the operating table by half, that I’ve been pondering on how the same could apply to the world of advertising.

His inspiration was the world of airline piloting and he took the principals of this industry and applied them to his own.

I’ve done the same for the advertising industry and will be sharing them with an audience of account handlers at The Leith Agency on May 6th.

My presentation covers all aspects of advertising strategy and how to minimise your chances of getting it all horribly wrong, and contributing to the 89% of advertising that, according to Dave Trott, simply does not get noticed and consequently has no chance of working.

If you’re interested I could potentially be persuaded to share it with you.

(But only after The Leith Agency have had first dibs.)

Social Marketing

Social marketing isn’t, like, facebook and twitter an’ all.

It’s the pursuit of behavioural change through marketing channels.

It most certainly includes “Old Skool” media such as TV and posters an’ all, but increasingly social MARKETING includes Social MEDIA, like facebook and Twitter an’ all.

Sometimes social marketeers usurp old skool marketing channels by leveraging their highly expensive TV airtime with communications that work online and we find ourselves in the reals of viral marketing.

(In Scotland The Leith Agency did it really well with the launch of their tsk tsk “Fanny” ads recently).

This Californian anti-smoking ad tries to do the same by being a bit fnaar, fnarr, risque pisque.

Knowing Californians (Pre Farrelley Brothers and Seth MacFarlane) this probably only aired once or twice (because they really aren’t into fart gags) and the real effort put online.

It’s hilarious.  It really is.  BUT.  Do you really think a few fart gags are going to change an addictive behaviour that it is lampooning in such away that merely makes the target market nod along in agreement.

“Yeah that’s me, that’s hilarious. In fact, my friend (sharing this experience with me) I’m so goddamed exhilerated by it, how about we go outside for a cigarette.”

Sorry, no cigar.

It’s a sketch.

Truth in Advertising

Bowel cancer is no laughing matter.  It’s the third most common cancer in Scotland and reaps its revenge on weary 50 year old men that have enjoyed too fine a life. (Actually it takes on all sorts if the truth be told.)

And it’s embarrassing, because,where’s it best self -monitored, or worse, encountered?

That’s right, in the WC after examination of last night’s dinner.

So the Leith Agency has taken an admirably fresh, in fact humorous, approach to warning men of my age to check out their jobbies as they read the sports pages in their cludgie.

It’s great stuff. That’s why I wrote about it in my blogspot on All Media Scotland.

Funnily enough The Bridge, and my old pal Doug Cook took on the subject in a different way, but also in the cludgie, albeit in a slightly more restrained manner several years ago.  In fact you’d hardly call theirs a cludgie at all.  It’s a toilet, for sure.  (Even a bathroom for us Edinburgh folk).

You choose what works best for you.

In fact, let’s a have a poll shall we?

Creative Edinburgh. Creative and Corporate Love. Tonight, Live in Leith.

Creative Edinburgh Logo

I bet you’d enjoy this.  But you can’t, because you were too slow off the mark.

It’s the latest Creative Edinburgh event tonight on The Leith Agency’s Mary De Guise Barge.

As our membership grows (it’s well over 500 now) our events are getting more and more popular.  That’s why this one’s sold out.

Ed Brooke (Ed of Leith) will share the speaker’s podium with award winning photographer Jannica Honey and Arts Learning Specialist and Drama Artist Fi Milligan Rennie.

Keep an eye on the Creative Edinburgh website for our future evens (we’ve planned hosting and curating of over 50 already this year)

Better still.  Become a member.  It costs very little.

Or pop along to Creative Circles at Brew-Lab.  It’s free.

Think Hard in the news

Here’s an article I wrote this very morn for The Drum

Pop goes our ginger – what would the Britvic merger mean for Scotland’s much-loved brand Irn-Bru?

What next for Irn-Bru?
What next for Irn-Bru?

It’s been revealed that Irn-Bru maker AG Barr has approached Britvic with a view to a friendly £1.4bn merger. At roughly half the size of its competitor this represents a big and, certainly to this correspondent, surprising move from Scotland’s most consistently creative super-brand. OK maybe at £500million it’s probably a bit of an overstatement to call Irn-Bru a super-brand but certainly in the world of communications it’s punched well above its weight for the last 40 years.

I was fortunate to be part of the team that won the Irn-Bru business in a rather odd pitch against BBH back in the early 1990’s. I say “odd” because when I say we “won” the pitch we actually “lost” it. The twinkle in Sir John Hegarty’s eye turned the ladies’ heads back then and we missed out in a thrilling, nail-biting decider.

But, only a few months, and one grunter of a TV ad, later (anybody dare to remember the David and Goliath howler) and BBH had to pass up Irn-Bru to take on a short lived Coca Cola assignment. We (Leith) were in and so began a thirty-year relationship that would in many ways define the Leith Agency. From the naughty Raymond Biggs pastiche of the Snowman to the infamous “bitches” poster and this year’s refreshingly contentious “fanny” ad Leith have regularly filled our screens with great, and occasionally phenomenal, advertising fare.

So, what will the merger mean for Irn-Bru? Will it get Tangoed or will it suddenly become Made in England from Oak Beams? My guess is that Irn-Bru (the company) have the initiative here. Roger White is highly regarded and holds the whip hand, slated as he is for the CEO job.

This is one David and Goliath scenario that would benefit Irn-Bru. The massively increased distribution network that Britvic brings to the table and the opportunity to bear down harder on buyers will surely improve margins. Whether the English will suddenly gain a taste for our finest bru is another matter though. After all, when did you see a bunch of workies in Glasgow supping from a bottle of Dandelion and Burdock, despite its presence on our supermarket shelves?

Irn-Bru is something of a cultural phenomenon. It’s well known that Scotland’s the only country in the world (other than Peru?) that Coca Cola isn’t brand leader. But given the right support and distribution Irn-Bru can travel; its success in Russia is well documented and it’s already the number three soft drink in the UK, behind Coke and Britvic’s Pepsi.

I have a feeling that this is not about Irn-Bru, the brand, even though it’s inevitably what will grab the parochial Scottish headlines. Britvic is not faring well just now, so an injection of great management from Cumbernauld might be just what it needs for its Robinsons, Pepsi, Fruit Shoot and Tango brands and secondary brands in the Irn-Bru portfolio like Tizer, Strathmore and Orangina could benefit greatly from Britvic’s exposure to the on-trade. Sure, our beloved “other” national drink could get a boost but it’s the supporting cast that might just make the difference to the enlarged group’s fortunes.

Mark Gorman is head of thinking at Think Hard

Worthy of mention

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here.  Largely because not much has made me sit up and take notice.  But this ad did when I saw it last night.  It’s by the Leith Agency and it’s a very fine piece of work indeed.

Featuring one of Scotland’s best actors, Elaine C Smith, it talks about breast cancer in a way that’s very real from an actor that’s very real.  The result?  A piece of communication that will make women waken up to the real issue and get themselves checked out.

Hats off to Clear Cast as well for clearing this.

No doubt some folks will take offense but they need to get a life.  (It’s described as a “shocking” TV ad on the BBC’s website but what’s “shocking” about it?)

I’ll tell you what’s shocking.  1 in 9 Scots women get breast cancer.  That’s what.


New Irn Bru TV

When this goes on youtube I’ll let you know, but in between times you’ll have to use the link.  Me?  I instantly liked it, especially with its nod back to the old US Coke spoofs.  The McHigh School Musical pastiche got me and my teenage kids’ votes.  (I hope Mark Davies did it.)

Actually, the more I watch it the more I like it.  It’s captured the essence of Scottishness, and let’s face it Scottishness is Irn Bruness, brilliantly.  And it brings gingerness to the fore.  Irn Bru IS ginger and in Weegieland they call carbonated soft drinks Ginger – AND we’re a ginger nation.

Is this a move towards a ginger strategy.  If so this eexecution is a bloody good start and the first step towards a full blooded celebration of gingerness –  and we love gingerness.

PS My wife’s Ginger. (Sorry, strawberry blonde.)

In my slimmer days


I am inedbted to Doug Cook for spotting and sending me this. It’s a recruitment ad for the very early days Leith Agency. I was an account man there at the time. The shot was taken from an award winning press campaign (I was the account handler) for The Edinburgh Club.  The original ad that the photo derived from featured an exaggerated ‘before and after’ comparison. Naturally, I was the ‘before’.

Anyway the Leith recruitment ad was essentially saying we want account handlers who are prepared to get their tits out.

It worked.

I left six months later to set up 1576 with Adrian and David.

That’ll teach ’em to give me a public profile!

Here it is at a more browser friendly size.


Scotland’s best advertising ever?

I’m making a presentation to the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday and in it I have to demonstrate how good we are at advertising in Scotland.

So this is what I could find on Youtube that at least makes the cut. Some of it is very very fine indeed.

The best Tennent’s ad ever?

The best Irn Bru ad ever?

A rather nice VisitScotland ad that I was involved with at 1576.

and another…

Kwik Fit