What do you see when you look at this poster? The visual language of cigarette packaging is so distinctive that even a non-smoker who has barely seen a fag packet up close in years knows what this is. But look again, and you see it’s not about tobacco. It’s about obesity. Genius, or confusing?

It’s universally accepted now that smoking increases cancer risk. Cancer charities want us to think of obesity in the same way. Read More

Comment | August 2019

It’s July, and Sue Barker is back at Wimbledon for the BBC. When you do something every year, there’s bound to be pressure, and an appetite, to move it on rather than risk predictability. Back in 2015 the BBC tried to do that, with humbling consequences. Here’s a reminder of what they did and what we all can learn from it.

You have to feel for Clare Balding, the nation’s darling after 2012. Read More

Thought leadership | July 2019

Taking aim at women who didn’t feel confident with financial matters got NatWest into hot water. Meanwhile Santander’s new “Antandec” bank ads are just aimless. Apparently they were inspired by the similarity between the two names. Inspired might be a bit strong actually. Beyond the joy of seeing Ant and Dec together on the telly, there’s nothing much in these ads. Whatever Santander is trying to say about its own offer is lost. Read More

Comment | June 2019

NatWest is taking a beating for its “tone-deaf” attempt to target women. The campaign launched with a tongue-in-cheek letter from an old-style bowler-hatted banker apologising for ignoring or patronising women in the past. The bank’s intentions were good. A spokesperson for NatWest said, “While many women feel confident when it comes to finances and investing, research has shown that a huge number of women don’t feel the same way.” All the same, this is a clear case of Oops, Read More

Comment | June 2019

Innovation. Should you fail fast, or never give up? How can you tell a good idea, not yet solved, from a hopeless one?  Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos never gave up. She named her invention the Edison, in honour of the American inventor of the lightbulb, Thomas Edison. He supposedly said, I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways it doesn’t work.  

Holmes’s company was reported to be worth $10 billion by 2013 and she was a paper billionaire. Read More


This week Coca Cola announced the launch of Coca Cola Energy. If you feel like you’ve heard this before, perhaps at some point in the last 32 years you’ve stumbled across Red Bull. Yep, it’s taken Coca Cola 32 years to launch their response to Red Bull, although they distribute Monster, in which The Coca Cola Company has a minority stake. Now they’re finally doing it for themselves, you might have expected something rather more inspiring. Read More

Thought leadership | April 2019

The pressure to show you can “take feedback” seems to have led to ever-harsher ways of giving it, such as the culture of “radical transparency” at Bridgewater Associates, and the Netflix approach featuring real-time 360s, which sound to me like being tried as a witch.

I once asked a very experienced primary school headteacher how she managed to control the youngsters without ever raising her voice. She told me her basic rule was to “catch them being good”. Read More

Thought leadership | March 2019

The old saw “All publicity is good publicity” is being sorely tested. In the first month of 2019 we’ve had at least three major incidents. First there was vegan-sausage-roll-gate, in which Greggs caused grave offence to meat eaters. Well, Piers Morgan. Then men worldwide were outraged by Gillette telling them to show their feelings more, but not the mean ones. Today’s hurt is brought to you by a “digital banking alternative” called Revolut. Read More

Comment, Thought leadership | February 2019

People are getting in a lather about Gillette. Here’s why they’re doing the right thing, but going about it the wrong way.

The first question to answer is: Is it right for a shaving brand to take a stand on how men behave?

Second: If they do, how should the brand act on that belief?

Third: is a two-minute film the right way to tell the world what they think? Read More

Comment | January 2019

The build-up to the Oscars seems to start earlier and get bigger every year, now featuring the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs en route. It’s assumed everyone cares about the Oscars. We’ve been told the Golden Globes are an early indicator of Oscar success. The British Academy has jumped on the bandwagon. TV news will now break off in the middle of a story to go live to the announcement of the BAFTA nominations. The nominations. Read More

Comment | January 2019