How do you get attention when you’re so familiar that people think they know you already? Two recent media stunts by established brands say it can be done – but be prepared for a backlash. “Going viral” isn’t always good news.

First, the one that worked. In November 2019 Coldplay launched their new album, Everyday Life, by announcing the track listing in the classified ads section of local newspapers. They chose papers that band members had some connection with. Read More

Comment | December 2019

If you like giving your opinion, you’ve never had it so good. The use of smiley and frowny faces to give instant ratings has led to a cornucopia of feedback opportunities. There’s a whole new industry built on online reviews – like Feefo, TrustPilot and Trip Advisor, a brilliant business model in which all the content is provided free of charge by the punters. All that’s before you even open the customary follow-up email asking whether you would recommend, Read More

Thought leadership | November 2019

Here are two signs. The one on the left is in the grounds of a museum in New York City. It says, “Jousters wanted for seasonal employment. Must work knights.” Assuming it’s a bit of fun rather than a job advert, it’s delightful. A few words presented seriously can be very playful. It adds to the character of the place, at little cost.

The one on the right is closer to (my) home. Read More

Comment | October 2019

Is it the job of advertising to portray society as we wish it to be? There’s a new UK rule that advertising cannot show harmful gender stereotypes. In its first month, complaints were upheld against two TV ads. 128 people objected to the way this ad for Philadelphia cream cheese showed men as incompetent carers for the baby, while three people reported this Volkswagen ad for giving all the adventurous and successful roles to men while the little lady sits with a pram. Read More

Comment, Thought leadership | September 2019

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