If all publicity is good publicity, then Nike’s recent ad featuring Colin Kaepernick is a triumph. Widespread reports of outraged Americans burning Nikes is just free media coverage – reportedly $43m worth in 24 hours. Or, you may believe most people aren’t much interested in what brands do, the shoe-burners aren’t valuable customers, and anyway our memories for controversy are short. So, like the VW emissions scandal, or British Airways misleading Virgin Atlantic passengers, Read More

Comment | September 2018

Bud Light’s Dilly Dilly campaign is a useful reminder that Britain and America are divided by a common language. Apparently it’s a big hit in the USA, where the medieval background to the ads connotes Game of Thrones and is therefore, presumably, quite cool. Whereas here in the UK, any self-respecting beer-drinker who shouts “Dilly dilly!” in a bar can expect a lifetime of mockery.

Coca Cola is another global brand that’s traditionally been loved for its upbeat American values. Read More


Algorithms are distorting the news and, maybe, damaging democracy.  So says everyone (that’s to say, everyone in my filter bubble). Personalisation can take us to an online world perfectly in tune with our preferences, interests and opinions, in which everything feels relevant and nothing is dissonant. Bad for democracy it may be, but it’s the holy grail of marketing. What’s more, it can be done by machines, thanks to online analytics and algorithms. But marketers are not redundant just yet, Read More

Thought leadership | November 2016

Marketing Week recently claimed that marketing and sales are pretty much the same these days (lead article on 12 May 2016). They are wrong. It is a dangerous idea. The more a company believes marketing and sales are the same thing, the harder they will need to push to persuade customers to buy. And if they think marketing is about persuasion, or even about communication, they are in big trouble. Read More


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

George Bernard Shaw Read More

Quotes | November 2015

We seem to be moving from a words-dominated world to a picture-led one. YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine (its owners Google tell us). It’s never been easier to take and share pictures, and it’s happening a lot. See Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, et al. Marketing tech start-ups that do something with video are springing up all over the place.

That could make us think words don’t matter any more. Who reads when they can watch a Vine or YouTube it? Read More

Thought leadership | November 2015

I have recently read thousands of words written by marketing and advertising people, as part of a judging panel for some business awards. Here are a few of the modest claims I have encountered.

“We changed the law”. This is a popular one. A very large charity said their online petition led to a change in a different law. That’s some going for a petition that collected fewer signatures than, say, the petition against a puppy farm in Hull – I don’t think that one has worked yet, Read More

Comment | August 2015

That pouting blonde in the yellow bikini has attracted a lot of attention. Nothing new there. But the row about Protein World’s poster, “Are you beach body ready?” has had a lot more coverage than she has in the poster. Apparently it’s offensive. I really can’t see why it’s more offensive than a Dove ad.

How can I say that? Dove and its campaign for everyday beauty has been hailed as some sort of feminist icon. Read More

Comment | May 2015

Effective marketing communications are getting harder to do. It can be hard to find anything (other than price) that’s really worth shouting about. There are whole advertising campaigns built around seemingly marginal features. Take The Ford Motor Company. “Keys”, says the woman in the Ford Focus ad, and I start watching because it is charming and true. Or that buff chap climbing the steps to the diving board, to the opening riff of Hawkwind’s Master of the Universe – Read More

Comment | March 2015

The trailer for the new Call of Duty game, Advanced Warfare, says it is expected to get a “mature” rating. If an Xbox shooting game is mature, what’s immature?

A film I saw recently warned upfront that it contained sex, violence and “mature themes”. So sex and violence are no longer considered mature, but shoot ‘em up games are. What exactly are mature themes? Whether to buy an annuity with your pension pot? Read More

Comment | August 2014