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A J Lovewins was living on the streets of Seattle for five years.

He managed to get off the streets by helping run a soup kitchen.

For people, like himself, who just needed a break.

He also ran a programme for musicians who were trying to get a break.

Then he noticed something: the musicians couldn’t get any exposure, the homeless people couldn’t get any work.

Both groups were stuck.

The homeless had nothing coming in, the musicians had nothing going out.

Something clicked in his brain.

What if you put the two groups together?

He persuaded a local recording studio to record a track from each of the musicians, for free.

He now had a compilation CD of Seattle-based artists.

Then he started recruiting the homeless.

They could have 3 CDs free, which they would sell for $10 each.

They would keep all that money.

Then they could buy more CDs at $2 each, sell them at $10 and keep all that profit.

Homeless people began doing it.

What did they have to lose, the first 3 CDs were free?

When they saw how easily they made $30, they bought fifteen more CDs with that money.

Which they then sold for $150.

They were in business.

More importantly, they were off the streets.

People around Seattle happily bought the CDs to help local musicians.

But in fact, they were helping two groups of people at once: the musicians and the homeless.

That first CD made around $50,000 profit for homeless people.

He made a second CD, this one was distributed by the homeless in 3 cities: Seattle, San Francisco, and St Louis.

This time the CD made $100,000 profit for homeless people.

The project is called Harmonic Humanity, and he wants to raise money to help fund it in five cities, including Los Angeles.

What makes it different to any other charity is every dollar donated pays for a record to be made.

That record sells to the homeless for $2, the homeless sell that record for $10.

So every dollar donated generates $8 directly to homeless people.

They get the money they need for food, clothing, and shelter.

Meanwhile the musicians get the exposure they need.

When the programme expands to LA, the media capital, who knows who will hear their music?

Directors, producers, promoters, ad agencies.

That’s how it works: homeless people get a break, musicians get a break.

Two minuses make a plus.

That’s what I love: things start to happen when people get off their arses.

For sure, nothing happens when they don’t.



But when you set the game up right, everybody wins.



In 1904, Amadeo Gianni spotted a gap in the market.

Many poor Sicilians seeking a new life had emigrated to America.

Some stayed in New York, but the poorer ones, the hard-working fishermen, wanted to escape the crime.

They went to San Francisco.

Amadeo Gianni knew these men, he understood them: they worked hard, they saved their money.

Gianni knew they needed a bank to keep their money safe.

But no such thing existed for Sicilian immigrants.

Banks were just for rich WASPs (white, Anglo-Saxon, protestants).

And that was the gap in the market Amadeo Gianni saw.

The gap for a bank where Sicilians would feel welcome.

He didn’t know anything about ‘branding’ but he knew the name must be something they trusted.

He opened a little shop front with a big sign outside: BANK OF ITALY.

That said to them this is your bank, not just for rich WASPs.

And the Sicilian fisherman deposited their savings.

But in 1906, San Francisco was destroyed by an earthquake.

All the buildings were flattened, there were riots and looting.

Gianni made his way through the mob on a horse and cart carrying crates of oranges.

Just a fruit-seller, no one paid any attention to him.

What they didn’t know was that hidden under the oranges was every penny of the bank’s assets.

Gianni knew that as long as he had the money he still had a bank.

He went down to the docks where the fishermen worked.

He re-opened ‘Bank of Italy’ there, just a plank across two barrels.

They needed to borrow money to rebuild their homes and businesses.

He asked how much they needed.

When they told him, he said raise half yourself then I’ll lend you the other half.

This would prove they were serious and capable.

He was always proud that every penny was repaid.

Bank of Italy grew and grew until it became the only statewide bank across California.

Now it was time to stop being a bank just for Sicilian fishermen.

He needed a brand that the all US citizens could feel was their bank, Amadeo Gianni needed to rebrand.

In 1930, he changed the name to BANK OF AMERICA.

Now it felt like it had stature, it felt like it had history and tradition.

And Gianni was right about the rebranding.

Bank of America grew so fast that, in a few decades, it would become the second largest bank in the entire USA.

One of the largest banks in the world.

In 1958 they launched the world’s first credit card.

It was called the BankAmericard.

It created the credit card market around the entire world.

Which meant it wasn’t just a credit card for Americans.

It needed rebranding.

A name to underline the freedom it gave everyone to travel with their money anywhere.

BankAmericard was renamed VISA.

Today VISA has 38% share of the world’s credit card market.

It handles 62 billion transactions a year, amounting to $4.4 trillion.

Proving what Amadeo Gianni knew all those years ago.


Your best advertising is your brand.



Have you ever wondered why Bank Holidays are called that?

After all, it isn’t only the banks that get a holiday.

So is it because the holidays started with the banks?

Well yes and no.

Sir John Lubbock was a Liberal MP.

He was a reformer who wanted to improve the lot of the working class.

Which, until that time, had been poverty and misery.

The Liberal party had already made some improvements:

Children under nine were no longer allowed to work.

Children under thirteen could only work six hours a day.

Children under thirteen also had to have two hours a day schooling.

Women could work no more than ten hours a day.

But Sir John Lubbock wanted more.

He wanted something that was unheard of for poor people.


The only time they got off was Christmas Day and Good Friday.

Lubbock wanted them to have four more days throughout the year.

He chose: Boxing Day, Easter Monday, Whit Monday, and the first Monday in August.

But this would never get through the House of Commons.

Most of the MPs, particularly the Conservatives, were landowners and industrialists.

The moneyed classes, who didn’t see why the work-shy lower classes should get time off to laze around and do nothing but sleep and drink.

It could start a trend.

They would start wanting more and more time off for more and more pay.

Until it became impossible for the ruling classes to keep the factories open at a profit.

Giving the working class time off would be taking money straight out of their employers’ pockets.

They’d never vote for it, Sir John Lubbock knew that.

But he also knew that the banks needed to close at various times during the year.

They needed to suspend transactions while they got their books in order.

And of course, lots of the MPs were bankers themselves, they could understand that.

So John Lubbock presented his bill as The Bank Holidays Act 1871.

It went through Parliament pretty much on the nod.

Most of the MPs who would have voted against public holidays didn’t even bother turning up to vote.

The Bank Holidays Act was passed.

The MPs had no idea how important this innocent sounding act was.

But Sir John Lubbock knew, if the banks were formally closed no business could be done.

A day off was inevitable for everyone.

And now it had passed into law.

Sir John Lubbock regarded it as his greatest political achievement.

He said “If we had called our bill the “General Holiday Bill” or the “National Holiday Bill” I doubt that it would have been approved. But the more modest name the “Bank Holiday Bill” attracted no attention”.

Thanks to Sir John Lubbock, most of us who now work for a living take holiday entitlement for granted.

Because he got upstream and changed a problem he couldn’t solve into one he could.

That’s predatory thinking.



European farmers throw away three hundred million tons of fruit and vegetables a year.

There’s nothing wrong with them but they’re mis-shapen.

So the supermarkets won’t take them.

The supermarkets will only take perfect fruit and vegetables.

They believe that’s what their customers want.

Of course, this makes the best fruit & veg more expensive.

Simply because so much is rejected.

It also creates a lot of waste, which no one feels very good about.

Intermarche is a chain of French supermarkets.

They are famous for providing low prices and quality fresh produce.

Intermarche had a blindingly obvious insight.

At least, it seems blindingly obvious once you hear it.

The fruit and vegetables may look different, but they still taste the same.

If you’re going to use them in cooking, what’s the difference?

Once an orange is squeezed into juice, you won’t know what it looked like.

Once a carrot is chopped and cooked in a stew, you won’t know what it looked like.

Which is a great opportunity for predatory thinking.

People would happily buy less-than-perfect fruit & vegetables if they were cheaper.

The farmers will happily sell them much cheaper because they were only going to throw them all away anyway.

So Intermarche decided to give its customers a choice.

Bins of imperfect fruit & veg are displayed next to bins of perfect fruit and veg.

But 30% cheaper.

Which is just right for the supermarket brand that’s built on value and fresh produce.

Intermarche made it the basis of it’s new advertising campaign.


Each poster features a funny looking fruit or veg, shot beautifully.

Each has a relevant line, like:

“A grotesque apple a day keeps the doctor away just as well”

“A ridiculous potato still makes delicious mash potato”

“A disfigured eggplant, so cheap who cares what it looks like”

“A failed lemon tastes exactly like an expensive lemon”

Of course, customers loved it.

Store traffic immediately increased by 24% with sales up accordingly.

Intermarche sells an average 1.2 tons of imperfect fruit & veg each day in each of its 1,800 stores.

The campaign did what every client wants: it went viral.

In the first month, 13 million saw it for free on social media.

Millions more people saw it for free on the news, as commentators tried to get other supermarkets to follow Intermarche’s example in cutting waste.

Intermarche became different from all the other supermarkets.

It became the only supermarket that was sensible, thoughtful, and ecologically aware.

Not just big and greedy and expensive.

The supermarket that thought of their customers first.

Intermarche tapped into what Bill Bernbach called “Simple, timeless, human truths”.

One of these is something my dad always used to say to me years ago.


“I don’t mind spending money, but I don’t like wasting it”.



Advertising is now taught as an academic subject.

It’s a sub-set of marketing.

So you can get a degree in marketing and one of your modules will be advertising.

You’ll do modules in: pricing & distribution theory, market research, brand planning, category management, ethical marketing, social and mobile media, presentation skills, and, oh yes, advertising.

So advertising is just a part of a marketing person’s job.

Once you’ve got everything else right, you’ll look at the advertising.

Because, if you get everything else right the advertising must work.

Hmmm, I wonder.

Let’s look at that from another angle.

Bill Bernbach said, “If no-one notices your advertising, everything else is academic”.

That’s important enough to repeat.

“If no-one notices your advertising, everything else is academic.”

That’s the word ‘academic’ used rather differently.

We know that £18.3 billion is spent on all forms of advertising and marketing every year.

We know that 4% is remembered positively, 7% is remembered negatively, and 89% isn’t noticed or remembered.

So that’s roughly £17 billion of advertising that fits Bill Bernbach’s definition of ‘academic’.

Advertising that might as well not have run.

Advertising as a sub-set of marketing.

The dictionary defines the word academic as “Having no practical importance: not involving or relating to anything real or practical, only of theoretical interest”.

But advertising isn’t an academic subject.

It does have practical importance.

So it isn’t just a sub-set of marketing.

Advertising is actually the voice of marketing.

Adam Morgan talks about ‘in front of the curtain’ and ‘behind the curtain’.

In front of the curtain is what we want the audience to see.

Advertising is ‘in front of the curtain’.

Behind the curtain is what we don’t want the audience to see.

Marketing is ‘behind the curtain’

The audience isn’t supposed to notice marketing.

But if the audience doesn’t notice the advertising, what’s the point in doing it?

So advertising is not a sub-set of marketing.

Advertising is about amplification.

Making sure your message is part of the 4% that gets noticed and remembered.

Because, otherwise, however clever all that marketing thinking was, it will all be wasted.


“If no-one notices your advertising, everything else is academic.”



In an article in the Economist, a neurosurgeon talks of her experience at a dinner party.

She was explaining a book she’d written to a group of people.

One of the men kept interrupting her.

He wanted to tell to her that he’d just read a book on that subject.

He wanted to explain various topics in the book to her.

His friends kept telling him it was her book he was talking about.

He interrupted three times before they eventually got through to him.

The neurosurgeon says this is an example of ‘mansplaining’.

Where men feel the need to put things into simpler terms for women.

But she says this is actually a misconception.

Women think men just do this because they patronise women.

Actually no.

Men do this to each other, they do it to everyone in fact.

‘Mansplaining’ isn’t exclusive to women.

It’s just that men are cruder creatures, and women, because of their more subtle and sophisticated communication mechanisms, interpret it as patronising.

For a woman to do it would indeed be patronising.

But for men, it’s just how they communicate.

Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and previously Google, has written a book on this.

It’s called ‘Lean In’.

Put very crudely (well I am a man) men are on ‘broadcast’ women are on ‘receive’.

Or, as a female planner once explained it to me “Men talk at each other, women talk to each other”.

And women are responsible for encouraging men’s behaviour.

The neurosurgeon talks a bit more about that dinner party.

She says during the first half of the evening, she talked to the woman on her left.

She was also a medical specialist and they had a good conversation.

Discussing and exploring each other’s work.

During the second half of the evening, she turned to the man on her right.

She asked him what he did, and he told her.

Then she asked him some questions about his work, and he told her.

Then she asked him some more questions, and he told her more.

At no point did he ask her what she did, or even seem interested.

He did what a man does: answer questions and talk about what interests him.

She did what a woman does: ask questions about the other person.

So that, by the end of the evening, she and the woman on her left knew a lot about each other.

She also knew a lot about the man on her right.

But he knew absolutely nothing about her.

She says this is because men view communication as a ladder to be climbed, each one racing to get to the top.

Whereas women view communication as a web, creating new interlocking networks.

Her analysis is really interesting.

It could explain why women work better in jobs where interpersonal skills are important.

Why women make better account handlers, management, and CEOs.

And why men work better in creative departments.

Women are more naturally geared to develop relationships, to create a bond one-on-one.

Men are more geared to winning in a competitive environment.

Making sure their advertising dominates and achieves cut-through and standout against the competition.

Of course, as the article was at pains to point out, it’s a generalisation and not true in all cases.


But it’s crude enough for men to understand.



Ed McCabe wrote ads, he sold things.

In the days before planners, when creatives could think.

He worked out what the product was, what the market was, what the problem was, and he solved it.

But the solution doesn’t work if the ads are invisible.

So Ed made sure his ads were in the 4% of ads that get remembered positively by consumers.

The one out of 20.

He did this by the lost art of thinking.

Ed had a motto “You can’t do anything until you know everything”.

The answer is always in one of two places: either the product or the consumer.

So Ed would find out about everything about those two things.

Like the time Frank Perdue gave Ed his account.

Chickens were a commodity product, there were no brands.

Just supermarket chiller-cabinets full of chickens.

To grow Perdue as a brand, Ed’s job was to take market-share.

So he needed something that couldn’t be copied.

Something that would make Perdue unique.

Frank Perdue was constantly talking about the quality of his chickens.

What they ate, how they were kept, how they were packed, why they were plumper, why they were all-round better.

And the more he talked the more he reminded Ed of a chicken.

So Ed made Frank Perdue the spokesman in all the advertising.

And so began a series of hard-hitting, funny commercials.

Like this one:



(Frank Perdue straight to camera):

“Government standards would allow me to call this a Grade A chicken, but my standards wouldn’t.

This chicken is skinny, it’s got scrapes, it’s got hairs.

The fact is, my graders reject 30% of the chickens government graders accept as Grade A.

That’s why it pays to insist on a chicken with my name on it.

If you’re not completely satisfied, write to me and I’ll give you your money back.

Who do you write to in Washington?

What do they know about chickens?”

(Cut to pack shot and VO):

“Perdue: It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken.”



After just one year sales more than doubled.

Perdue became the first branded chicken in America.

And “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken” became one of the most famous straplines ever.

The advertising was so successful it ran for more than two decades.

Proof that hard-hitting product-based advertising is not incompatible with building a brand.

Quite the reverse.

Having a great product and talking about it can build a great brand.


Because product is what you say. Brand is how you say it.


In 2001 the twin towers collapsed.

What was the effect on the average person?

Not the publicised shock, anger, and grief that the entire nation felt.

How did it affect the behaviour of the individual?

People became scared of flying.

Because that day, four planes crashed killing everyone on board.

So many people stopped flying.

How did they travel instead?

Gerd Gigerenzer researches this in his book “Risk Savvy”.

Instead of flying, people switched to driving.

For the previous five years, driving grew at around 1% a year.

In the twelve months after 9/11 it grew by 5%.

The increase was greatest on rural interstate highways, the sort used for long distance travel.

Something else happened during that twelve-month period.

Road deaths increased by 1,600.

Gigerenzer says the average yearly death toll on American roads is around 35,000.

So the increase in deaths is roughly the same as the increase in driving.

That’s 1,600 people who would have been alive if they’d flown instead of driving.

How can he know this?

In the five years after 9/11, over 2 billion passengers flew and not one died in a major plane crash.

Gigernzer’s point, which is interesting for us, is that the real focus of terrorism is to control the mind.

It’s not the initial act which is important.

It’s everything that act provokes the target into subsequently doing.

It’s a very useful area of study for us.

Given that we don’t just want to make advertising that’s forgotten as soon as it’s finished running.

We want to provoke a change in the behaviour of the target audience.

We don’t just want people to notice our ad.

We want it to have an effect in the market.

We want people to be provoked into doing something.

In most cases, into buying our product.

Either trying our brand, or buying more of it, or buying it instead of something else, or buying it for someone else.

To do this we need to have advertising that lasts beyond it’s media.

Advertising that gets into people’s minds.

Osama Bin laden understood this.

He said “We spent half a million dollars on that event. While it cost America, according to the lowest estimate, more than five hundred billion dollars.

Therefore every dollar we spent defeated a million of their dollars”.

So the real issue isn’t just the act.

The real issue is what the act provokes.

In our terms, it’s ultimately a business problem not a communication problem.

The act must lead to a business solution, not stop at a communication solution.

So the real media isn’t where it runs.

The real media is where it runs after it runs.


The real media is the human mind.



Recently I spent an afternoon with one of my heroes, Ed McCabe.

Ed was, after Bill Bernbach, one of the most influential advertising people in New York.

Bill Bernbach introduced charming, intelligent advertising.

Ed introduced aggressive, intelligent advertising.

Two different schools, but both great.

One of the most powerful advertising campaigns of all time was DDB’s campaign for Avis, done by Helmut Krone.

Briefly, Hertz was by far the biggest car rental company.

Avis was just one of many smaller competitors.

Avis attacked Hertz by making a virtue of being smaller.

Avis portrayed Hertz as complacent.

The fat cat of car rental.

Avis were smaller so they couldn’t afford to be complacent.

“We Try Harder” became one of the greatest lines of all time.

It soon made Avis the second biggest car rental company in the US.

And it scared the daylights out of Hertz.

So Hertz changed ad agencies.

They went to Carl Ally, where Ed McCabe was working.

Ed’s ads took the same approach as Bill Bernbach’s: use your competitor’s strength against them.

DDB had managed to turn being the biggest into a negative.

Ed McCabe would turn being smaller into a negative.

Ed ran ads like: “For years Avis has been telling you that Hertz is number one. Now we’re going to tell you why”.

And: “If you had fewer cars, in fewer locations, what would you promise? Right: we try harder”.

And: “It’s the little dog that’s keeping the big dog on top”.

I recently saw a documentary about what happened when that campaign ran.

Bill Bernbach walked into Helmut Krone’s office.

He dropped the Hertz campaign on his desk and said “Look at this, as of today our Avis campaign is dead”.

And that was the real result of Ed McCabe’s advertising.

It managed to scare the daylights out of two of the greatest creatives who ever lived.

It scared them into scrapping the Avis campaign.

From then on they did “We Try Harder” without attacking Hertz.

When I was talking to Ed, he said he’d spoken about it afterwards to Helmut Krone.

He said to him “Why did you drop that campaign? You dropped it too fast, there were still years of life left in it, that was a great campaign”.

It was a relief to hear that, because that’s what I’d always thought.

But, because Krone and Bernbach were two of my heroes, I thought I must be wrong.

They must know something I didn’t.

Ed McCabe said “No, they were just wrong.They got scared”.

The Hertz campaign made the staff at Hertz feel good.

But it didn’t have anything like the traction with ordinary people that the Avis campaign had.

The Hertz campaign was appreciated by people in advertising.

But the Avis campaign was loved by people in the real world.

The power in Ed’s campaign was in scaring his competition into dropping a campaign that was working so brilliantly.

With power and aggression, he’d frightened the daylights out of Helmut Krone and Bill Bernbach.

And that’s a valuable lesson about advertising.


The target market isn’t always the target market.



It doesn’t happen every time we’re stopped at the traffic lights.

But it happens often enough.

My wife is driving, so she has her foot on the brake.

We’re talking, but I’m watching the traffic lights.

Suddenly the car next to us starts to move off, so all the other cars around us start to move off.

So my wife starts to move off.

I yell “What are you doing, the lights are red?” and my wife stops.

And all the other cars stop too.

What’s fascinating is that I’m the only one watching the lights, and I’m not even driving.

All the other drivers are just watching each other.

When one moves they all move, whatever colour the lights are.

Daniel Kahneman calls this behaviour ‘Social Norms versus Injunctive Norms’.

In other words, copying the behaviour of our peers, the need to be part of the crowd, is much more powerful than the instructions of an authority.

So whatever the traffic lights say, we do what everyone else does.

We see this in every walk of life.

This is the problem over e-cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes generate a vapour, like steam, that dissipates really fast into the air.

It’s far less harmful than tobacco, to the user and the bystander.

Everyone accepts this.

But the government wants them restricted like cigarettes.

They want them banned in indoor public places, like pubs.

They want e-cigarette smokers to be forced to smoke outdoors like tobacco smokers.

This is because the government worries that e-cigarettes may normalise smoking.

Seeing everyone else doing it around us may encourage us to take up smoking again.

Whereas the opposition uses the same argument to advance the opposite view.

They don’t want e-cigarettes subject to the same restrictions as tobacco.

Their view is that if people are forced to smoke outside with tobacco smokers they won’t see any advantage to e-cigarettes.

So they may as well go back to smoking tobacco.

The interesting part is that in each case everyone involved accepts that e-cigarettes are less harmful.

Each argument hinges on the interpretation of the fact that people are more influenced by the behaviour of those around them.

The arguments aren’t based on the fact that people will smoke e-cigarettes for their health.

The arguments are simply based on the fact that people feel comfortable doing what they see other people doing.

The urge to do exactly the same as everyone else is stronger than the urge to rationally work out what our own behaviour should be.

We need to fit in, above everything else.

We resist being different.

When it comes to advertising, we know what the numbers are: 4% is remembered positively, 7% is remembered negatively, 89% isn’t noticed or remembered.

This is simply because roughly 90% looks the same and 10% doesn’t.

Rationally we know that we have to be different to stand out.

But the urge of agencies and clients to fit in is stronger than logic.


Because most of us would rather copy the other cars than watch the traffic lights.

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