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Here are the photos I didn’t take at the Jazz Club tonight. And here’s the video I didn’t film there. And the selfies with the band in the background I did without. And this is the Facebook update I wrote after I watched the brilliant performances. Because I realised tonight that this thing is called a post – something you can do after the event, not during. So I didn’t miss a thing. Just enjoyed watching the musicians, including the virtuoso saxophonist’s 11yr protege daughter, play joyously without feeling the need to record it all.

After all, no one likes glowing mobile screens obscuring the view. I wondered why people go to watch live entertainment when all they do is sit there, ignore it, update their status every five minutes and read those of others who aren’t there. So weird that we’ve become a world of people telling absent friends that we’re having great time rather than just having a great time. Resisting the need to join in anti-social media was strangely liberating. And made for a more memorable evening with friends than if it was saved on my mobile. I don’t think I’m a Luddite. I just finally understood the power of the off button.

Have you counted up the number of emoticons you use each day? I avoided them for so long thinking they were just for kids. But now I realise that I’m forced to add them in many if not all emails, texts and status updates.

The thing is, just like here, there’s no tone of voice. We can’t ‘hear’ each other without speech, obviously. And we can’t see the facial expressions that accompany the words. All the subtle audio nuances and visual clues are lost. So we have to include pictures now to soften or strengthen what our fingers type.

And this is on the increase. With the influx free Apps like Viber, WhatsApp, Line, Tango, WeChat and Instant Messengers, to give but a few examples, the proliferation of little graphics and animated gifs allow us multiple ways of expressing ourselves.

But is this a good thing?

A picture says a thousand words. Well now they have to. Because we would’t want to be misunderstood. It’s way too easy to misinterpret just a few little words. Worse still is when you are communicating with people whose first language is not the same as your own.

I love all my buddies in Vietnam. They know me for all the cheeky, stupid, childish and nonsense things that pour out of my mouth – and usually forgive me because they know that almost everything is meant in jest.

But I know that I must always be careful when sending messages, just in case someone some day forgets and takes offence.

Maybe it’s just a speed thing now where we want to tell what we’re doing but we just don’t have time. But, blimey, if we haven’t got time for our friends, do they really deserve that title?

Or maybe it’s simply to entertain them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of entertaining those I know with the odd sweet pic. But I try to correct spelling mistakes and grammatical errors when typing. So I’m quite happy to make them wait a couple of seconds longer to say something rather than resort to a generic picture.

So next time you type to a friend, just try not adding emoticons. It’s hard because it’s just accepted that they’ll be there.

Better still, CALL THEM…! Because they want to hear from you. Not just read about you.


: )

In less than a week, I start as Executive Creative Director at Lowe, the biggest agency in Vietnam. After a month of discussions on Skype with the senior stars and face to face with the tremendous Michel Borelli, MD there, I finally signed on the dotted line last Thursday evening.

Click here to see their current website.

One thing I know, I’ve got a hell of a lot to learn. Three months in Singapore last year as well as a few stints in Bangkok showed me that people may well be motivated by similar things, but they can be very different in the way they like to be spoken to – quite obvious really.

With Vietnam set to become the world’s 17th largest economy in the next 10 years and a population of over 90 million, it’s growing fast and the ride is going to be an incredibly exciting one. The fact that I was able to Skype from my iPhone in the car that took me from the airport to the hotel in Ho Chi Minh city indicated that this is already a pretty advanced country as far as internet is concerned. And why shouldn’t it be? What did I think it would be like? Actually, I haven’t set my expectations at any level – I just want to discover, be open minded and soak everything in.

The whole language thing is going to be fun… Like my Dutch friends who are so unforgiving when it comes to pronunciation (example: the words for ‘that’s cool!’ and ‘prostitute’s grave’ sound near-as-dammit identical), I’ve heard that if you don’t say something exactly the way it should be said, there’s complete incomprehension…! Hahaha! English people just speak more slowly and louder.

So all change for me but exciting times ahead. Already met a few of the team and they look like a great bunch of people. Over 100 in the agency so a lot of new names to remember (not a chance!). Wife and family planning their trips over for when I’m settled. And I’ll be back as often as I can be to catch up with all my brilliant London and Amsterdam friends.

So, tan bee from me. That’s ‘goodbye’, I think…

At a recent Careers Evening in my daughter’s school, I was asked by four sets of parents during the few hours whether or not their little darling should go to University. It really made me think about what advice to give – the pros and cons of routes into Advertising.

I’m not a massive fan of the treadmill that seems to be a three or four year University education. Even if the tutors are talented, incredibly passionate and encouraging, I’m not convinced there really is a benefit from those very long years. One outcome is assured of course – a jaw-dropping debt that will take years to pay off. Is this really fair and do you really get a good return on your investment?

What generally happens is that for the first few months if not years of leaving Uni, you have to work at poorly paid (if any pay at all) placements until some agency snaps you up for a pittance. You work your arse off for long long hours every day often on briefs you never dreamed of working on in your worst nightmares.

This is nothing to do with the industry – it’s simply that, in my experience, Universities give very little to students to help them understand the real world, what they’re expected to do to get paid, who they’ll be working with, what life will be like, etc, etc…

There are some exceptional places that really do teach well and prepare our next generation of creative thinkers for a brilliant career and life in Adland.

However, beware the charlatans who simply rob you.


Even if you offered to work for free in an agency for three years, you’d

• be better off at the end
• be better equipped to do the job
• be completely realistic with your expectations
• have a big network of contacts
• know if agency life was worth spending three years slaving to get into

And above all, you’d probably already have a paid job – probably earning far more than if you were just coming out of Uni.

There is no better training than on the job. Working with brilliant, inspirational people who you can learn everything from.

And here’s a thought. How about you pay them to be there? A nominal fee of course but one which would mean they had to take you seriously.

You’d pay less than full time education yet you’d learn from doers not just teachers.

I have three children (two of them teenagers) and I’m having serious conversations with them about the merits of an expensive degree-level education – or should I say regurgitation, because it seems to me that there is little original thinking required to pass courses. To me, my final third year exhibition was the most important event worldwide that Summer. In reality, it cost thousands of pounds, few people saw it and I got a piece of paper to show I’d finished the course with a degree – whooppee dee. It’s everything I’ve done after that education that has got me to where I am today, I would say nothing to do with it.

It’s not that I’m negative about further education in general. But I do wonder what I should be telling parents when they ask if it’s really worth it.

My answer was that I thought it helped personal development – that it helps the kids mature and weens them away slowly from the comforts the protection of school and prepares for life’s realities. I’m not sure if this is worth £30,000 and all the subsequent pressures that come with such debt, but still a huge amount of kids go through it. And really, what difference does it make? Few people in the creative side of Advertising (which is supposed to all sides) care about the A4 certificate. All they care about is the portfolio. And if you can grab yourself a good mentor who works in the industry and will nurture and help you, I think you’d be in a much better place – so long as you have the self-discipline. And that’s the hard bit.

If you’re at secondary school now, know someone there or are a parent whose child has expressed an interest in Advertising, please feel free to contact me on [email protected] I’m happy to discuss options with anyone – I know how important it is.

Thank you for listening.

Ever heard of a place called Longyearbyen? No? Well it’s one to learn for Pub Quizzes. It happens to be the world’s northernmost town. As such, it gets the least daylight of anywhere on Earth that people call home. In fact, the townsfolk live for 4 months of every year without sunlight. So what better place to demonstrate the benefits of the Philips Wake-up Light?

I came across this campaign just before it launched (last year) and was instantly struck by the big idea. A lesser team would have jumped on Getty images and grabbed pretty pics from some unknown photographer then knocked out a quick press ad, microsite and maybe a few banners. This writer and art director jumped on a plane and actually went there. With a photographer, a Director and a film crew.

The thing is, these days it’s all too easy to sit in your office, do your job, pick up your pay cheque and piss off. What most impressed me about this campaign from Tribal DDB, Amsterdam, was that it isn’t just another load of selling ads. It’s an education, a fascinating documentary, social experiment and interactive experience that genuinely dramatises what the product actually does.

A fine documentary that wouldn’t feel out of place on the Discovery channel or BBC2 talks you through the experiment. We follow numerous folk in Longyearbyen who describe what it’s like to live without natural light – in particular what it’s like getting up in the morning.

The next thing is that each person is given a Wake-up Light. The mission is to see what happens when these clever units ‘Wake up the town’. As the website tells you, our internal body clocks are naturally set to wake up with the sunrise and the Wake-up Light simulates this.


Rather than me explain the rest of this in detail, I’d suggest you have a look for yourself. The site is a nicely designed, informative, smart way to give consumers more than the single hit of most campaigns. You actually come away having learnt something new about the world. Now, how many campaigns can you say that about?

You can buy the lights direct from the website. The one I like has an iPod dock but at £159.99, it isn’t cheap. However, if it means I wake up fresh and alert, it’ll be worth every penny over the next few months.

Watch this when you’ve got 7 minutes and 11 seconds spare. It’s a mesmerising film about a blogger who has 70,000 readers a day. This is part of Amsterdam Worldwide’s latest campaign for Intel’s Visual Life. Almost 600,000 views in just a few weeks, it’s far more engaging and informative than most 30 second spots, press ads or poster campaigns. This new style of content-based advertising will feature

more and more over the coming months and years. Seeding is key but this is very clever because the guy has already got a very large and eager fan base all waiting to tune in. The result is an well made short that entertains and informs. The fascinating bit about these high profile bloggers is that you wouldn’t recognise them in the street – so it raises their profiles too. Everybody wins.

Scott Schumann, aka blogger ‘The Sartorialist’, is very honest about his lack of professional training as a photographer but sees himself as a true documenter of life and fashion in the current age. He refers to the internet as a ‘Digital Park Bench’ where you get to listen and interact with interesting people, hear new stuff and enjoy filling your time with visual stimuli. Intel’s link is ‘Through visual experiences, we define who we are.’ They provide the powerful processors that run our PCs and Macs, thereby ensuring we get the best experience when we watch online or via moving image formats. It all fits nicely and doesn’t feel like a stretch too far. You can even share your own experiences – not that I will. I heard statistics that 1% of people contribute, 5% comment and the rest (of us) just watch. Hey, I apply myself elsewhere (though my wife would probably have something to say about that…)

There are lots more of these films planned. I for one will certainly tune in.

What makes great creative for multi-channel campaigns?

I wrote this for this month’s mediaPro magazine. They asked for a page or two. I gave them three… So much to say and I had to cut loads out too. Anyway, if you have a spare 20 minutes, I think it’s worth the read. Some great examples in here too.

Here goes.

Someone recently said that most things called ‘viral’ these days are simply TV ads with no media budget. Upload to YouTube, tell a few mates and hope that they’ll tell their mates and so on. Unless it’s a) really offensive, b) really rude, c) really blasphemous, or d) really really funny (and bare in mind, everyone’s definition of funny is different), it doesn’t stand a chance. However, there is one way to give a film a good chance of success without media spend: ‘make it awesome’. If, as Leif Abraham and Christian Behrendt say, the response is ‘Holy sh*t! They really did this!?’, then you’re on to a winner. In fact, this applies to any campaign, any media.

Leif and Christian are co-authors of a brilliant ebook called ‘Oh my god what happened and what should I do?’ – free to download at I thoroughly recommend reading it to anyone who works in advertising and marketing. It is what your job will be, if it isn’t already. That is, if you are not interactive right now, you soon will be or you’ll be stacking shelves.

This one’s a killer too: – social media stats that will blow you away. With over 500 million registered users on Facebook now and LinkedIn being any networker’s dream, no one can ignore this media’s potential for reaching audiences that are exactly right for any client’s product or service.

But beware.

Putting my money where my mouth is, earlier this year as an experiment, I personally ran a campaign using Facebook advertising for a one-off event. It cost around £300 and the results were amazing. Of the 6,000 people who signed up in just 3 weeks, over 1,200 said they were coming to the event. However, less than 30 turned up – and that included friends of mine. Over 100 people clicked ‘attending’ while the party was taking place, some even after it had finished, but they never showed. Bizarre.

I have spoken to many people subsequently who all agree that there is a huge disconnect between the virtual and the real world. If all you people to do is click, great (and that includes click to purchase). If you have to do something for real (go somewhere, take part in something with other people, meet human beings in the flesh), it’s a whole different story. My theory is that you can be anyone you want to be online; fulfill every fantasy, have thousands of friends, be the coolest kid on the block, join in everything. But it’s not real. It’s all pretend. The important bit for advertisers is how to harness this state of mind.

Be remarkable

These days, it is not enough to get noticed – you have to be spoken about. The best campaigns know this and no agency worth its salt simply churns out TV ads any more. They’re part of multi-layered, multi-media onslaughts – and all the better for it.

Everyone now has a say. Advertising that preaches no longer has a place. Imagine someone who spends all his or her time telling you all about themselves and how wonderful they are. You’d soon get bored. The more you involve the audience rather than simply talking at them as passive non-contributors, the more they feel engaged and important.

‘Watch your own heart attack’ ( was one particularly powerful press and poster headline which drove you online to see a short film for the British Heart Foundation. It shows a disturbing yet unforgettable and highly informative 2 minute long film. Imagine how much it would have cost to air that on TV.

I still believe the best creative work is that which dramatises the benefit to the consumer. Take The Best Job in the World by Queensland Tourist Board. Tiny little B&W press ads placed in newspapers across the globe announcing a truly fantastic job vacancy which anyone can apply for. And nearly 35,000 did. From every country in the world. In just a few weeks. Those on the shortlist were given their own PR agent in their respective countries to gather more votes. A lucky few were shipped to The Great Barrier Reef and one was chosen after they’d completed various tasks. All the while, the campaign showed off how amazing this part of Australia is and had the whole world talking about it – allegedly $500m PR coverage. And there was an hour long BBC documentary about it.

‘There is a place for a certain advertising that is much more conversational and transparent. Not all advertising has to be stealth.’ Dave Droga, Droga5

Only a few years ago, Droga5 launched with an outrageously audacious stunt for Marc Ecko, graffiti artist, who tagged Air Force One, the President’s plane. ‘Still free’ was spray-canned on the side. The fact that this was filmed at night on a camcorder allowed the agency to get away with mocking the whole thing up – it never really happened. Massive exposure worldwide from one simple idea – although a very costly one to execute. It was dropped anonymously onto 20 websites and caused a huge storm, even the Pentagon was forced to deny the authenticity three times. The estimated audience was 15 million. And not a penny spent on media…

Check out Droga5’s and A great strategic insight, this work highlighted the benefits to Jewish parents and grandparents (via their children) for voting Obama. And in its own small way, maybe it helped influence the outcome.

In this country, the TV licensing people tell us they know where we live and they’ll come and get us if we haven’t paid. In this stunning film, (which you
can personalise easily and forward to a friend), you are called a hero for paying the fee. One attacks the negative, one celebrates the positive. I know which I prefer. (By the way, the link is now the sequel to the first film – not as good but still enthralling.)

If you haven’t had the treat of watching the simply jaw-dropping new Old Spice campaign, do yourself a favour and see it now: Old Spice (almost 21m views and counting.) This is TV at its best. And YouTube. And Twitter. And PR. This absolute gem has caused a frenzy of outright joy online with sheer media strategy brilliance added to outstanding creative. Celebrity Tweeters have been targeted with bespoke short films/ads sent to the direct via Twitter mentioning them by name. These are instantly shared with the millions that follow each of these ego-fuelled names. The only problem with this campaign from Weiden & Kennedy Portland is that it might actually encourage men to wear Old Spice – imagine smelling like your dad or grandad…

‘Instead of filling the gaps in between the entertainment that people watch, brands have the opportunity to create the entertainment itself. If we can tell genuinely entertaining stories that are authentic to the brand’s core values, then it’s good news for everyone – brands and audience, and that audience is entertained.’ Robert Saville, Mother

Participation Advertising

For the past couple of years, I’ve been banging on about what I call Participation Advertising. Think T-Mobile’s 13,500 singing karaoke in Trafalgar Square, Cadbury’s Wispa Gold outdoor campaign, Walker’s search of a new crisp flavour (Builder’s Breakfast won). All of these involve the general public and each of them incentivises its audience. The first two promise a slice of fame (you get seen in the TV commercials and on poster sites), the last one also comes with a cheque and royalties!

I read everywhere and everyone tells me that the future of advertising is digital and digital only. Forget TV – people record the programmes they want to watch so that they can see them later and fast forward through the ads. Forget press ads – there won’t be any more newspapers soon, all news content will be online. Forget direct mail – it’s too expensive, destroys forests for the paper and no one reads it anyway. Forget posters – no one remembers them and who actually reads them? Forget radio – as soon as the music stops so does the attention. Forget everything apart from banners, emails, microsites, Tweets, blog posts, Facebook ads, in fact, anything you can do online is good, anything you do offline is bad. The mere mention of any other media these days is done apologetically. It’s like we assume the whole world has a screen in front of their face 24/7 and doesn’t acknowledge anything else.

This is nonsense. Important as digital is, interactive is the most important direction all of our work is heading. Whether you interact on a PC/Mac, on your mobile, via a poster site, with your TV, by posting something or by actually turning up, there are multiple ways to get a response that is measurable. The worry I see these days though is that many clients simply cannot get their heads around any campaign that does not deliver instant sales. They need a demonstrable ROI to justify running any work. The fact that Samsung’s charming LED Sheep film – – has had nearly 12.5m doesn’t necessarily show that anyone has actually bought a TV. But that’s one hell of an audience choosing to tune in.

Interactive love

Nike have produced numerous some outstanding interactive work that genuinely and relentlessly reinvents the connection between consumer and brand. The Chain campaign was literally kicked off by Ronaldinho who kicked a football out of the camera frame. Viewers were invited to film the following link in the chain. The ball had to enter from the left and exit to the right. Over 40,000 films were submitted, 2,000 were selected and they made a 2 hour long film called The Chain which has been viewed by more than 20 million people.

Chalkbot was another Nike beauty where you could submit a message online and a robot would spray that message on the road for everyone to read. When I say everyone, I mean the entire audience of the Tour De France. You see, the messages were sprayed in yellow on the road the cyclists rode along. Messages of support. Messages of personal grief. Messages of hope. Pure interaction with the brand. You watch every part of the race to see if your message is shown. You tell everyone you know to watch to. Tweeting and blogging all the while. Genuis.

‘The principles haven’t changed at all, you now just need different places to find those consumers – sometimes they’re in longer form pieces of film, sometimes they’re in digital spaces, sometimes they are on TV, sometimes they are in print, sometimes they’re on the street.’ Robert Saville, Mother

A particular favourite of mine recently is Orcon’s ‘Together Incredible’ campaign. ‘Play live with Iggy Pop’ said the TV ads, posters, Facebook ads and online banners. 9 New Zealand musicians were needed to work with Iggy Pop to produce a new version of his iconic ‘Passengers’ track. Iggy chose his band from the huge number of auditions and coached them live online on the day to produce a brand new arrangement. This content was then used to make the follow up TV commercials. And all this to promote Orcon’s broadband – the fastest in New Zealand. Brilliant. A real live product demonstration. One hell of a lot better than the stomach-churning nonsense of Iggy’s Swiftcover car insurance ads.

‘There are more spaces to land your point of view now and more targeted places to put your idea. It’s still about the idea and how do we speak to them in, hopefully, a mass way.’ Richard Flinton, Fallon

Last year, 20:20 London won a Gold at the DMA Awards in the Mobile category, as well as in other categories for a campaign for the COI. I know because I judged it, and I loved it. How do you encourage teenagers to listen and engage with messages about sex education? Well, every one of them has a mobile phone. So why not create a mini drama that pans out over 26 weeks, one minute a week? You follow the teenage characters on blogs, watch them in the shows, and the storylines cover sex in an integral way, not overt.

For the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, I worked on a microsite and direct mail campaign last year. – You send in your favourite memory and we add it to a memory wall or just can key it in directly. In the mailer, we enclosed 10 Post-Its so you could encourage friends to add their memories too. Everyone can forward to friends online. Everyone gets asked for a donation. We grow the database. And everyone’s memories get saved f
or posterity.

‘If you look at advertising agencies traditionally, there was a kind of mystery around them, with the production of commercials or the production of print, with photographers or illustrators… But now it is so democratic, everybody is a graphic designer, everybody’s a photographer, everybody’s a filmmaker… That’s changed it a lot.’
Erik Kessels, KesselsKramer

Email is cheap media

Gap’s 30% off vouchers are emailed around for a three day special weekend at the end of every season. Stuff that goes in the Sale a couple of weeks later anyway gets sold off to people who think they’re special for receiving money off and can forward the vouchers to their friends. So they get two hits – nearly a third off and happy friends. Perfect. Data capture has gone up 450% as a result.

But every email you get looks the same. The same typeface, the same colour, the same few words trying to get your attention to open it. Even if it escapes your spam filter, it relies on you knowing the brand name, being interested in the offer or preferably both. But they work, they’re trackable instantly, and with the addition of personalised short films (such as Vismails), they can be really impressive.

Open minded clients

I believe what we do now is start conversations. For most of our clients, these conversations need to end in a sale. Getting people talking and doing in such a measurable way has never been more exciting with so many ways to motivate consumers and join them in the brand. For me, the less we have to spend on media, the more we get to spend on idea. Outsmart rather than outspend. But we must have clients who understand this and are willing to try something new. I have a portfolio stuffed with alternative media or interactive campaigns that have been received with adulation only to fall at the first hurdle: ‘But will it sell more products?’ I explain that people buy more from brands they like, brands they feel like them, know them and they are part of. Some take the plunge and are amazed and hooked. Most don’t. Yet.

The thing is, just as agencies are trying to keep up with all the opportunities to advertise, clients are no different.

The issue still lies with the fact that clients separate out their agencies into different boxes. Brand, direct, digital, PR, experiential, interactive, etc. And every agency is busy trying to proclaim their integrated offering. I’ve felt the hard stare many times when I’ve presented work that strays into the territory of one of the ‘other’ agencies. But it’s just so hard to live your creative life with blinkers on.

One last thought.

Until clients stop paying agencies for the deliverables and hours and start paying for ideas, unscrupulous agencies will continue to recommend media where they get the biggest kick-back, commission or mark-up. One of my previous agencies made ten times their creative fee through media commission. Pay for the idea and agencies will suggest what’s right for exposure rather than what’s right for a percentage.


Ever had to design those little buttons that make software look unique? Well I’ve done one-offs before but never a full set. A designer friend artworked up my sketches beautifully.


One very happy client. (This isn’t what he looks like!)


After the unprecedented success of last year’s inspired Best Job in the World for the Queensland Tourist Board, advertising you take part in featured heavily in this year’s award-winning campaigns at Cannes Lions Direct.
The Grand Prix winner was a great use of Iggy Pop – unlike those stomach-churning nonsense ads for Swiftcover. Audition to play with Iggy on a brand new performance of ‘Passengers’. Love it.
Check out all the winners here and spot how many actually involve the audience to build the campaign.
Bring it on I say.


I’m three weeks in and loving getting these little boxes every day. Filled with loads of scrummy snacks, it’s a pleasure each day opening up to see what they’ve sent me. 9 times out of 10, I really like all the contents. I really recommend Graze – great tasting food delivered daily to my desk. £2.95 per box, £1.50 starter pack. Each little pressie means I don’t snack on crap. A very good thing after all these years!

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