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

I have a relationship manager at the bank where I have my business account. I wonder what relationship he’s managing.

Is that unfair? Here’s a bank trying to do better. The problem with their monthly courtesy call is that it is content-free. They offer me nothing – no information, no news, nothing that could be useful to me. In truth it’s unlikely they’ll chance upon something I want to hear anyway. It feels like something they’re measuring for their own purposes: “We call all our business customers at least six times a year and check all is well.” The presumption here is that I will value the calls, Read More

Comment | January 2014

Where do you stand on the debate about whether brands, in their role as advertisers, should use their influence to make Twitter and Facebook clean up the nastiness that’s to be found there?

Let’s review the situation. Most media channels need advertising revenue. So brands have power and influence. Equally, brands want to reach their target markets efficiently, i.e. cheaply. Media that get attention, for whatever reason, can offer large audiences, which attract brands. Read More

Thought leadership | August 2013