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

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

For a business with a small marketing budget, social media feels like a no-brainer. Free communication channels to reach the world: a finance director’s dream come true. What’s the worst that could happen? No one sees it, no harm done. But watch out. A communications plan that starts with social media is at risk of being ineffective, and even damaging. We’re told social media fuels narcissism. It can also turn reasonable brands into self-important bores who only talk about themselves. Read More

Thought leadership | November 2018

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