We don’t need more thinkers, we need doers

The act of creation is about making something happen,
from nothing.

That’s creativity.

Just making things nicer isn’t creativity.

That’s styling.

As Edward de Bono said, “There are lots of people calling
themselves creative who are merely stylists.”

Nicole Yershon is genuinely creative.

She makes stuff happen, often from nothing.

Nicole is Mike Yershon’s daughter.

Mike was one of the best media guys in London.

So Nic grew up in an atmosphere of operators, people who
made stuff happen.

Not just people who sat around and complained about

Nic used to run the traffic department at GGT.

The creative dept was full of stroppy, grumpy

But quietly and firmly Nic organised them like a

I reckon we got double the amount of high-quality work
out because of the way Nic ran it.

I didn’t know at the time she was only 19.

Or that it was her first job out of school.

She obviously thought it was better to keep that quiet.

Anyway, after I left GGT, Nicole went to Ogilvy.

The brief she was given there was to “Bring Ogilvy into
the 21st century”.

She digitised traffic, so that workflow was hooked up to

This led to massive time and cash savings.

She binned every single mechanical and proof, and 10,000
reels, going back thirty years.

She kept one digital copy of everything.

At the same time she was learning everything she could
about the digital world.

Going to every lecture, seminar, and workshop she could

And she made a lot of contacts.

She comandeered a large conference room at Ogilvy.

And had it wired up as a ‘digital innovations lab’.

Then she started to contact people she’d met at the

Guys who sold great digital equipment, but didn’t have

She said she could let them have space in Ogilvy, for

All they had to do was supply and maintain the equipment.

Then, between 12.00 and 2.00, they could use the space to
demonstrate it.

This is an incredible deal that works for everyone.

Ogilvy get hundreds-of-thousands-of-pounds worth of
state-of-the art digital equipment, free.

Their partners get great showroom space, free.

And Nicole began linking the London lab to other similar
labs in other Ogilvy agencies.

New York, Singapore, Tokyo, Sao Paolo, Beijing.

She could stream information to 22,000 desktops in 19

But Ogilvy didn’t have a budget for all this.

So what does a creative person do?

They create.

Nicole noticed Rory Sutherland, the Ogilvy Chairman, was
doing lots of speeches.

She said, “Rory, do you get paid for these speeches?”

Rory said no.

Nic said, “If I can get a speaker’s fee for you, can I
use the money to expand the digital labs?”

Rory said okay.

In Rory’s own words, she “pimps him out” to fund all
R&D and innovation.

She created money where there wasn’t any money.

Just the way she created digital equipment where there
wasn’t any.

Just the way she created offices where there weren’t any.

And an international digital-innovations network where
there wasn’t one.

What have Ogilvy got from all this?

Well, for instance, a creative team were working on a
global warming awareness brief.

They asked Nicole if it was possible to flood the online
game ‘Second Life’.

To demonstrate the effects of the ice caps melting.

Nic called up some of her contacts and made it happen.

A great idea that couldn’t have seen the light of day

Another creative team were working on Fanta.

They liked the idea that children can hear mosquitoes but
adults can’t.

They wondered if it was possible to make an app for
iPhones like that.

So that pupils in class could contact each other without
the teacher hearing.

That won a Cannes award because Nic made it happen.

Another idea was interactive posters for Castrol.

As your car passed a camera, it would photograph your
number plate.

This would automatically be flashed to the DVLA in

They’d instantaneously return the relevant information.

And a poster, at the garage in front of you, would light
up with your number plate, and what sort of oil you should buy.

But for me, whether these are great ideas or not isn’t
even the point.

The point is, that real creativity is making this whole
thing happen from nothing.

No knowledge.

No money.

No waiting for permission.

As Winston Churchill said, “We have no money, we shall
have to think.”

  • Kevin Gordon

    Thanks for that Dave.
    A great way to start a Monday.
    I visited Nicole at her office when I was working for a Publisher.
    I asked her if she was related to Mike Yershon.
    When she said yes, I gave a copy of our publication.
    She’s put me down in her little black book of ideas.
    That in itself is a great idea because it makes the supplier feel great.

  • Grilla Login

    Dave, I’ve just peeled and eaten a delish banana.

    I could easily of slipped into just thinking about peeling and eating a delish banana, but, then I perused your latest post, and Nic’s ‘just do it’ attitude spurred me into action.

    As Winston Churchill might have said, “I’d take a Grilla over a black dog every time.”

  • gotnoteef

    Black Dogs need kicking – the action of a doer.

  • Kevin Gordon

    What happens when you just let it happn:


  • nicole yershon

    WOW, dave – i’m honoured and delighted that you have shared this brilliantly written post (i’ll pay you later, from rory’s r&d fund!) nx

  • Grilla Login

    Kevin, I just banged my head, and it’s all your fault.

  • Kevin Gordon
  • Steve Taylor

    Innovation in ‘doing’ is sorely missing in media, which is why so many smart strategies collapse into mediocre plans. Every agency group needs a Nicole. Trouble is, there’s only one of her. As a friend, I know what an uphill struggle her role can be; as a fellow innovator and outsider to Ogilvy, I don’t think the agency has anywhere near harnessed her potential to help transform the business. Not yet.

  • Grilla Login

    Kevin, that’s painful to watch.

  • Stuart Leach

    hey, this is what everyone should be doing, whatever walk of life they are in.
    Creating without delivery is as pointless an occupatin as I can think of. So many people talk about what they are going to do. How many really do it ? Clearly not Nicole Yershon.
    Inherent in it is persistence and patience and a determination to findi ways around obstacles.
    The ability to ask when one approach has not worked- what can be done differently so it will work?

    By the way….Winston Churchill may have said that qoute…but am I right that he got it from Sir Ernest Rutherford?


  • Jayne Marar

    hooray for people like Nicole, people like Rory and Dave who let it happen, opportunities, honesty, free speech, equal rights and yes i will be your friend on linkedin/facebook for all.

  • Soap Box

    hey Jayne, you nicked my idea!

  • Grilla Login

    Sir Winston nicked Sir Ernest’s 2 Soapy. If it ain’t screwed down…

  • gotnoteef

    aaaarrrgggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh – the bl**dy man – he kills all the fun – he stomps on it with his rules
    all these youtube links – SURF CONTROL – I’ll have to look at home – even when they work I’ve gotnospeakers.

  • http://paab.typepad.com/furtherandfaster/ John Griffiths

    Great and inspiring post.Though I might ask what creative awards are for because they manifestly don’t celebrate this kind of ingenuity. The cult of creativity in UK agencies has I am afraid got stuck with having the idea and having your name attached to it. Neither of which is a criterion which you cite in Nicola’s dogged and hitherto uncredited work.

  • Kevin Gordon

    Windows 7.
    Whose line is it anyway?

  • gotnoteef

    Kevin – have you been at the glue again – your supposed to be knocking out plastic tools of war, not sniffing the UHU.

  • Grilla Login

    Gettin his Air Fix you mean?

  • gotnoteef


  • http://www.ideasfoundation.org.uk David Holloway

    Back to the original content. Ideas Foundation is a big fan of Nicole who is always there to inspire our young creative scholars. Nicole, her insights and her lab are a real high point if they are luck enough to get Ogilvy Digital Labs in their programme.
    Love the Churchill quote: will use it on Saturday at our Ideas F seminar when I plead to the Board for development input. David, you have some good connections, another of our favourites is Jade.
    See our scholars and Robin with a message for all Brand R people: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6kHQg4dBFc

  • Foreman

    It’s the first time that I think of the real definition of creativity, and it seems to be much more complex than what I thought it to be, and honestly, it looks like an endless debate that I cannot participate in (because I don’t have enough knowledge in this field..). Anyway, it was extremely interesting for me to read it.

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