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There seem to be two main opinions on The Sun’s page 3.

One is that it demeans women by showing attractive young females posing naked.

The other is that it’s free speech: if you don’t like it don’t buy the paper.

I can see both sides.

But I think it helps to know why page 3 came about in the first place.

When I was growing up, my mum always bought the Sun.

My dad never liked it, he thought it was just gossip.

But Mum had always bought it because her dad always bought it.

The Sun was originally the Daily Herald.

My grand dad was involved in the trade union movement and the Daily Herald was the official paper of the TUC.

Consequently it was mainly left wing politics.

In the early years the Daily Herald had massive support but over the years the public got bored.

Most of the working class switched to the Daily Mirror which was more fun.

The Daily Herald changed its name to the Sun, but it was still dull.

Eventually, it was losing so much money it was sold.

To Rupert Murdoch.

Being Australian he was more brash, and decided to take on the Mirror at its own game.

He put in more sex, more jokes, more gossip, more fun.

In particular, the Mirror always had a bathing beauty in a bikini.

Murdoch decided to go one better and lose the top half of the bikini.

(Controversy is always good for a challenger brand.)

My mum didn’t take much notice.

The Sun’s readership was 41% female, and they didn’t really care.

Which was the best influence of page 3.

It normalised nakedness.

Before page 3 no woman would have dreamed of sunbathing without a top.

Having topless women in a national newspaper made it more normal.

Women became less ashamed of sunbathing topless.

Even women that didn’t look like page 3 models.

When their husbands said “Put your top back on” the woman could say “You don’t mind looking at page 3”.

But people who weren’t around in those days won’t remember that.

They’ll say that page 3 only ever shows attractive women.

Well yes, but the media has always shown attractive people.

At GGT, when Steve Henry wrote the Holsten Pils campaign it was the same situation.

I’d shown the creative department Steve Martin’s ‘Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid’ as a starter.

Steve was the only one who could make it work: a comedian talking to dead Hollywood stars.

Steve wanted Robbie Coltrane to be the comedian.

At that time he was new, no one had heard of him.

We shot a test with him and Humphrey Bogart and it looked great.

But the client turned him down.

It was a rule in beer advertising that you never used fat people.

It might remind men that beer makes you fat.

So we had to cast for a thin comedian, and we ended up with Griff Rhys Jones.

Steve wasn’t happy because Griff was more mainstream.

And he was right, it wasn’t as daring.

But people want what they want.

Should we try to force people into having what we think is right?

Or should we let them have what they want?

Everyone has to decide that for themselves.


1993 was the year ‘the brand’ died.

At least that’s what all the marketing experts thought.

Investors wiped $13.4 billion off Philip Morris shares, because they owned the most profitable brand in the world.

And they wiped billions off the owners of the other valuable brands: Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, H.J.Heinz, RJR Nabisco, Quaker Oats, and many more.

So why did the experts suddenly decide ‘the brand’ was dead?

It started with Marlboro cigarettes.

Marlboro had 24.3% of the American cigarette market.

They sold as much as the next five brands combined.

But this had fallen to 22.2% because of cheaper cigarettes.

Marlboro were selling at around $2.20 a pack, but cheaper cigarettes were selling for half that.

Previously, Marlboro decided they could charge a premium for ‘brand’.

Now, they decided all consumers cared about was price.

So Marlboro cut 20% (40 cents a pack) off their cigarettes.

It was called ‘Marlboro Friday’.

Marketing experts saw it as proof ‘the brand’ was dead, you couldn’t charge a premium for brands anymore.

And investors began dumping shares in big brands.

But the marketing experts had been concentrating on the wrong thing.

They hadn’t spotted the real problem.

Marlboro had always kept profits high by encouraging stockists to over-order.

To take more cigarettes than they actually needed.

But how do you get stockists to do that?

The best way was to keep putting the price up.

If stockists buy them now, before the price goes up, they can sell them at the new higher price later.

So that’s what Marlboro did.

They knew people would always pay a premium for a brand.

They kept putting the price up, sometimes 10% a year.

Sales kept going up, profits kept going up.

You’d think experts would spot this couldn’t go on forever.

But they didn’t spot it.

And eventually, Marlboro got to be too expensive for some consumers.

So they switched to cheaper cigarettes.

Marlboro decided ‘the brand’ was dead and announced they were cutting prices.

And guess what?

What the marketing experts hadn’t spotted happened.

The stockists stopped over-ordering cigarettes.

Because cigarettes would actually be cheaper next year.

In fact they stopped ordering any more stock at all while they sold all the stock they’d built up.

It’s estimated that alone cost Marlboro nearly a billion dollars.

The problem wasn’t that the brand was dead.

Because the brand is never the only answer.

The brand is always just one of several possible answers.

By ignoring everything except the brand the experts got themselves in trouble.

Then, by ignoring everything except the brand again, the experts got themselves in worse trouble.

But surely these were ‘marketing experts’.

Isn’t pricing and distribution part of what a marketing expert does?

Ensuring the pricing and distribution of the product is right?

Apparently not.

Apparently these marketing experts were so busy worrying about ‘brand’ they didn’t have time to worry about things like that.


Joe Stegner had often been asked to make recommendations to the board on profitability.

There are usually two ways to increase profitability: raise income or cut costs.

Joe Stegner worked with numbers.

He saw an obvious and simple way to cut costs that could save many millions of dollars.

The company had lots of factories that bought their own supplies.

They negotiated their own prices.

But the negotiations differed from factory to factory.

It was a waste of time and money for everyone to do separate deals.

Stegner had tried presenting this argument to the board before.

Usually they saw his presentation and nodded along with it.

Then nothing happened.

It was presented as slides of abstract numbers.

Very logical, very sensible, very reasonable.

And that was the problem, it appealed to the wrong side of the brain.

The reasonable side of the brain likes to put things on the back burner while it thinks about them.

And company-wide savings on every purchase seemed like something that needed a lot of consideration.

So nothing happened.

Joe Stegner realised he had to talk to the other side of the brain.

The emotional part, that feels it rather than thinks about it.

So he chose just one item.

One of the things each factory was purchasing was work gloves.

Dozens of different factories meant dozens of different prices.

So Joe Stegner briefed an intern to buy a pair of each of the work gloves that the factories purchased.

That made four hundred and twenty four different pairs of gloves.

Then he got the intern to put the price tag on each pair.

Then he waited for the next board meeting.

Before it started he took all the gloves and placed them in a huge pile on the table.

So when the board members filed what they saw was the polished boardroom table with a massive pile of work gloves in the middle.

Of course they asked “What the hell are these?”

And Joe Stegner explained the problem.

The board members began picking up and examining the gloves.

They all looked identical but some had $3.22 price stickers, some had $5.00, some had $10.55, and some had $17.00 on them.

The board members looked at each other.

This was crazy, who the hell was paying $17.00 for gloves that could be bought for $3.22?

Why wasn’t someone in charge of this?

If this madness was happening over work gloves, imagine what else it was happening on.

The company must be haemorrhaging money on this wastefulness.

And the board members immediately agreed to centralise buying and negotiations across standardised deals.

The same four hundred and twenty four gloves were taken to every factory to explain what was happening and why it must change.

Buying across all commodities was centralised.

In their book “The Heart of Change” Kotter and Cohen explain how profits increased massively because costs were slashed.

Costs were slashed because it wasn’t just abstract board members looking at abstract numbers.

It was human beings looking at simple, everyday objects.

We can learn a lot about communication from that.


Dr. Tina Seelig is a professor at Stanford University.

David Williams pointed me to an article about her in Psychology Today.

Her course is on ‘Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship’.

She gave her class a project as follows:

Each of the fourteen teams was given five dollars.

Who could make that money grow the most?

The teams had from Wednesday to Sunday, then on Monday they had three minutes to make a presentation to the class.

Dr Seelig asks the question “If you were given five dollars and three days, what would you do to grow it?”

Most people answer ‘Online gambling’ or ‘Buy a lottery ticket’.

She says the problem with this is it’s high risk with hardly any chance of a return.

She doesn’t consider these people entrepreneurs.

The second thing people say is to start washing cars.

She says this is safe, but will deliver a minimum return.

She doesn’t consider these people entrepreneurs either.

Neither of these groups are looking at the problem creatively.

Instead, they’re concentrating on the restrictions: only five dollars and only three days.

The entrepreneurs in the group were the ones who concentrated on the opportunity.

What was it that people locally really needed?

One group spotted that, in a college town, it was really difficult booking restaurants.

The real drag was having to queue for ages on a Saturday night.

So that group phoned the restaurants on Wednesday morning and made bookings for Saturday night.

Then they went along the queues at the various restaurants, selling their bookings to the highest bidders.

That group made two hundred dollars.

Another group noticed that students were too lazy to keep their bike tyres pumped up.

So they set up a stand outside the student union and offered to pump them up for a dollar.

They realised that, to students, laziness is worth more than a dollar.

And they were right.

That group made over a hundred dollars.

Both groups opened the problem up beyond only three days and only five dollars.

But the winning team were by far the most creative.

They stood back from the problem and looked at what they had to sell.

And decided the most valuable thing they had to sell was three minutes of the attention of the most entrepreneurial students at Stanford University.

Now who would want to buy that?

And they approached the companies that were trying to recruit exactly that kind of students.

And they sold that time slot to the highest bidder.

Those students made six hundred and fifty dollars, without even touching their original five dollars.

And, as Dr. Seelig says, you couldn’t see that answer from the original question.

You have to stand really far back, move beyond the standard responses, the traditional assumptions, and stop framing the problem so tightly.

To be an entrepreneur you have to be creative.

You have to question the question.


Paul Smith was a producer, he made programmes for television.

At least he did when he could sell them.

He’d been trying to sell a particular idea for two years.

It was a quiz show where the correct answer was from a choice of four on screen.

If the contestant got all the answers right, eventually they could win a million pounds.

Smith had sent it to the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, but no one would touch it.

What kept him going was one person loved it: Claudia Rosencrantz at ITV.

She showed it to her boss, David Liddiment.

But Liddiment was worried about the whole idea.

He told her he could lose a million pounds an episode with the answers on the screen.

Paul Smith said he wanted a chance to present it to Liddiment, himself.

Smith knew there was no point in a logical argument.

The only way was to get him to play the game.

So first off he asked Liddiment to take his wallet out.

Then he asked him how much was in it, Liddiment counted out £210.

Smith said “Okay add an IOU for £40, making it £250, and put it all on the desk.”

Then Smith took out an envelope containing £250 and placed it next to Liddiment’s money.

He said “If you can answer a question, the whole £500 is yours, if not you lose your £250”.

And he showed him the choice of four answers.

Liddiment started asking Claudia Rosencrantz which she would pick.

Smith said “You’re using your ‘phone-a-friend’ lifeline”.

Liddiment said okay, but he and Claudia couldn’t agree on the answer.

Smith said “You could use your ‘50/50’ lifeline”.

Liddiment said okay, so Smith took away two of the answers.

And Liddiment guessed the right one from what was left.

Smith gave him the whole £500 and said “That’s all yours, unless you want to double it by answering the next question”.

And he put an envelope containing £500 down next to it.

Then he showed him the four choices.

Liddiment started discussing them with Claudia Rosencrantz.

Smith said “Hang on, you’ve used the ‘phone-a-friend’ lifeline. You can’t use it again.”

Liddiment asked what options he had left.

Smith said “You’ve got your ‘ask-the-audience’ lifeline”.

So Liddiment opened his office door and began discussing it with all the staff sitting outside.

But everyone had a different opinion of the answer.

Liddiment frowned and closed the door.

He said to Smith “No, I’m going to take the £500 instead”.

And at that point, Paul Smith knew he’d sold the idea.

Because Liddiment saw he wouldn’t lose a million pounds an episode.

The ‘sunk cost’ heuristic would prevent it.

And David Liddiment was hooked.

In fact he loved the idea so much he arranged to run the show every single night of the week.

And ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ went on to pull in bigger audiences than Eastenders.

And it only happened because Paul Smith stopped expecting the client to understand the game rationally, and got the client to feel it.

Because, as Daniel Kahneman says, that’s where the sell happens.

Paul Smith moved the sell from System Two thinking (slow, rational) to System One thinking (fast, emotional).

As in any sell, desire must precede permission.


In 1957, America was stunned.
The Russians launched Sputnik: the world’s first satellite.
It passed over the USA every 90 minutes, sending out radio signals.
The USA couldn’t shoot it down, they didn’t have the technology.
The entire country was petrified.
American newspapers went into hysterics.
With a fleet of satellites, Russia could hit the USA whenever they wanted.
America, the world’s most powerful country was defenceless.
At that moment the Space Race began.
For the next twenty years America would throw everything they had into beating Russia.
The world could see it was the one country they were scared of.
Russia officially became a global superpower, like the USA.
But what did it look like from the other side, the Russian side?
At the end of World War Two, Russia was broke, they could barely feed their own people.
They tried to build a nuclear missile like America had.
But theirs was too big, too unwieldy, too slow to set up.
So the scientists decided to see if they could use it to launch something, anything, just to keep their jobs.
A crude metal sphere would do, but how would they know if it worked?
They had no radar that could see anything that far away.
The cheapest and easiest way was to fit a small transmitter inside the metal sphere, just sending out “beep beep” signals.
So the Russian scientists sent up the little metal ball and listened for the “beep beep” signals to confirm it worked.
Then they went off to the canteen and thought no more about it.
But the USA didn’t know it was just an empty metal ball.
To them it was something out of science fiction, an immense threat.
When Khrushchev saw the American hysteria he immediately told the scientists to launch more ‘firsts’.
Russia couldn’t afford new missiles so they had to use what they had.
The missile that could just about get something up into orbit.
So they put the first living creature, a dog, into orbit.
Then they put the first man, Yuri Gagarin, into orbit.
Then they put the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, into orbit.
Then they had a cosmonaut make the first ever space walk, in orbit.
All the Russians had was a missile that could just about achieve orbit.
But the Americans didn’t know that.
With each ‘first’ the Americans got more hysterical.
As they did, they cemented Russia’s place in the world’s mind as the USA’s only real rival.
For Khrushchev it was a classic piece of marketing.
He made America spend all those billions on advertising Russia.
The world believed America had an equal.
Which is why you want the market leader to respond to your campaign.
To needle them into spending their money on a campaign that advertises your brand.
In the public’s mind it becomes a two horse race.
Your brand is elevated into equality with the market leader.
And that’s how, with hardly any money or resources, the Russian ‘space team’ took market share from the brand leader.
Of course America eventually won the space race, with their vastly superior resources they were always going to.
But Russia made sure the USA spent a lot of their money giving them a piggyback ride.

Predatory Thinking even works in space.


A week or so ago, the BBC asked me onto a radio programme.

It’s called Moral Maze, and it does what it says on the can.

It debates moral issues.

There were four panellists: all journalists from The Mail and The Guardian.

Guests are questioned, on air, by that panel.

All I knew was that it was going to be about Sainsbury’s Christmas ad.

The four panellists were obviously anti-advertising.

But they had a moral problem with this ad in particular.

The ad takes place in 1914, it’s Christmas and the British and German troops come out of the trenches and play football.

Seems fair enough: centenary of WW1, a million poppies in the Tower of London, Sainsbury’s sell bars of chocolate to raise money for the British Legion.

It all links, so no problem.

Except for the panel of journalists.

One journalist, from The Daily Mail, said history should be treated with reverence, this was trivialising it.

I said I thought it was the one nice part of the war, when humans stopped killing each other for five minutes.

She said, how could I possibly say the First World War was nice?

Er, I don’t think that’s what I said.

But a journalist from The Guardian tried a different tack.

Was I saying that it would be okay for Ryman, the stationers, to use Anne Frank in an advertising campaign?

(Anne Frank was the young Jewish girl who hid in an attic from the Nazis, keeping a diary.)

This question took me back for a minute.

Anne Frank died in the death camps, what could that possibly have to do with Ryman?

Then the penny dropped: a diary, Ryman sell diaries.

Do they actually think what we do is as crass as that?

The question was so dopey I got confused.

They hadn’t got the point of what we do at all.

If there’s a genuine connection, it works.

If there isn’t it doesn’t.

Ryman is about stationery.

But Anne Frank wasn’t about stationery, she was about persecution.

Anne Frank might work in an ad for Amnesty International which is also about persecution.

But it only works if there’s a genuine connection.

It’s like saying Jesus was nailed to the cross, B&Q sell nails: let’s use Jesus in a B&Q ad.

Jesus isn’t about nails, Jesus is about universal love.

Suppose it was an ad for Oxfam, about millions of children dying, and it ended with a quote from Jesus: “Even as you do it to the least of my children so you do it unto me”.

Then it might work, because there’s a connection.

But nails isn’t a connection anymore than paper is a connection.

The point is, nothing is intrinsically wrong to use as long as there’s a genuine connection.

The Sainsbury’s ad has a genuine connection.

I’m pretty sure it’s not advertising being tasteless here.

I’m pretty sure, for once, it’s not us being thick.

I’m pretty sure it’s the journalists misunderstanding what we do.

The only question is, were they doing it on purpose or are they really that dopey?

I think those journalists should stick to journalism.


Every country struggles with the problem of prostitution.

Traditionally it’s been treated as a crime.

The solution has always been to stop women selling their bodies for sex, by arresting them.

The thinking is, to cut off the supply.

If there is no supply of prostitutes there can be no prostitution. Pretty simple.

Trouble is for thousands of years it hasn’t worked.

Prostitution has been illegal, women have been arrested, but it’s still flourished.

Modern, enlightened thinking has been to decriminalise prostitution.

Like alcohol or marijuana, prohibition didn’t work, so accept it, make it legal and have the state regulate it.

The problem is in the countries that tried it, it hasn’t worked either.

Not only has prostitution increased, but so have brothels, organised crime, and sex-trafficking.

Marie De Santis is director of the Women’s Justice Center.

She writes about the uniquely creative way Sweden tackled it and why they were able to do so.

Traditionally prostitution has been seen from the male angle.

The crime was always a woman choosing to sell her body. So the woman was the criminal.

Swedes say this is because the lawmakers have always been men.

In Sweden, they decided to reverse the situation.

Research showed that 80% of prostitutes were doing it involuntarily.

So the supplier wasn’t the criminal, the user was.

They decided to turn the problem round 180 degrees.

Instead of targeting supply, they targeted demand.

They decided to treat prostitution as a crime against women.

So the prostitute herself wasn’t guilty, the man paying was guilty.

Marie De Santis writes, “Sweden’s unique strategy treats prostitution as a form of violence against women, and the men who exploit them by buying sex are criminalised. The prostitutes are treated as victims who need help”.

By criminalising men, the source of income has dropped massively.

Prostitution had been cut by two thirds.

De Santis writes, “The number of foreign women and children now being trafficked into Sweden for sex is nil”.

Nil seems pretty impressive.

But surely all Scandinavian countries have a more enlightened view, so they have less of a problem to start with?

We need another Scandinavian country for comparison.

De Santis writes, “Compare this to the 15,000 to 17,000 females yearly sex-trafficked into neighbouring Finland. No other country, nor any other social experiment, has come anywhere near Sweden’s results”.

Okay, but why is Sweden the only country to have thought of this?

What makes Sweden different?

Well here’s the really interesting point.

Sweden has the highest proportion of women at all levels of government of any country in the entire world.

In fact 50% of the Swedish parliament is female.

So for the first time a country could look at prostitution from an angle no one else has thought of.

The female angle.

Which enabled them to take a problem they couldn’t solve, get upstream, and change it into a problem they could solve.

A different kind of predatory thinking.


Each year a group of neo-Nazis march through a small German town.

They march to the grave of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy.

The townspeople hate the neo-Nazis and the march.

They’ve tried everything they can to get the march stopped.

They asked the local council to ban it.

They’ve tried protest marches of their own.

Nothing works.

Neo-Nazis still come from all over to march the kilometre to the cemetery.

Fascist groups are a real problem in Germany, they attract the angry and disaffected youths.

The kids who have no jobs and no prospects.

This is a major worry for their parents and friends, who feel powerless to stop them joining.

So the local community has formed a group called EXIT, to help educate and de-radicalise young people, to encourage them leave the group and help them find better lives.

But EXIT needs funding.

So the townspeople have decided, since they can’t stop the neo-Nazis marching, to use the march for their own ends.

Instead of resisting the march they are now encouraging the march.

Because they are using the march to raise money.

For every metre the neo-Nazis march, local businesses are donating ten Euros to EXIT.

So the neo-Nazis will now be marching to fund EXIT.

The further they march, the more money EXIT gets.

If the neo-Nazis don’t like it they can stop marching.

Whichever way they decide, it’s a result for the local community.

Whether the neo-Nazis march or not, the little village wins.

The inhabitants now treat the march as something to enjoy and have fun with.

Every 100 metres there are signs stencilled on the ground, thanking the marchers for the money they’re raising:




And so on.

By the time the neo-Nazis reach the cemetery they’ve marched a kilometre, which means they’ve raised 10,000 Euros for EXIT.

So there is a huge rainbow sign thanking them, and the locals throw rainbow confetti over them.

The locals also have fun at the neo-Nazis’ expense.

Halfway along the march there is a huge table of bananas as snacks for the marchers.

Above it is a poster saying “Mein Mampf” (this means ‘my hunger’ and is a play on Hitler’s autobiography “Mein Kampf” meaning ‘my struggle’).

Because the situation has been reversed, the neo-Nazis are now marching against themselves.

The beauty is it’s all perfectly legal and non-confrontational.

If the marchers carry on doing what they want, the village wins.

If the marchers stop doing what they want, the village wins.

The villagers couldn’t stop them marching, so they changed what they’re marching for.

They took a problem they couldn’t solve, got upstream and changed it into a problem they could solve.

That’s predatory thinking.


Everywhere you look it’s the same thing: content is king.

I disagree.

Execution is king.

Content is what you find in school textbooks.

It’s information, it’s dull, it’s a penance.

To read it you need lots of concentration and coffee.

I don’t like writing where the reader has to do the work.

I like writing where the writer does the work for you.

I think that’s the job.

I just saw a link to “The Ten Best Business Books Ever”.

I thought: I’ll click on it, there might be something I need to read.

Then I thought: nah, they’re probably dull, I’ll buy them and never read them.

So I didn’t click.

Because like most people, I only read what interests me.

And if a book is boring, no matter how valuable the information, I won’t finish it.

Even if I’ve been seduced by the title into buying it.

How many people bought ‘A Brief History of Time’?

Now how many people do you know that actually finished reading it?

See my point.

It doesn’t matter how valuable the information is if it doesn’t get read.

What you read must influence you more than what you don’t.

So the first and most important job must be: make it accessible, make it inviting, make people want to read it.

My school in east London was pretty bad.

On Fridays we were encouraged to bring comics into class and spend the afternoon swapping and reading them.

Just so that we would learn to read.

We wouldn’t leave school illiterate.

I was one of the first kids in my class to read a book without pictures.

It was a cheap paperback, a war story about U boats.

I made myself concentrate all weekend in order to get through it.

Just so I could say I’d read a whole book.

I was fifteen.

They asked us to read comics because they knew that otherwise we wouldn’t read at all.

Paul Arden understood how people work.

Paul said “I couldn’t write a book, I’m an art director, so I thought I’d do one that was pictures instead”.

So far his book has sold two million, worldwide.

The same content is available everywhere, written down in page after boring didactic page.

But no one reads it until you put it in a way they find attractive.

John Webster understood that.

John’s campaigns were characters that brought the product benefits to life: Cresta Bear, The Honey Monster, The Smash Martians, The Hoffmeister Bear.

That isn’t so different from what Leo Burnett and Geers Gross were doing: The Jolly Green Giant, Tony The Tiger, The Tetley Tea Folk.

The difference was John did it with wit and style and intelligence.

John thought it was his job to charm the audience, so they’d want to pay attention.

Think of it as a present.

The content is what goes into the present.

But if you wrap it in a really boring way it won’t get opened.

John Webster and Paul Arden had the same content as everyone else.

They just wrapped it a zillion times better.

As Bill Bernbach said “Execution is content in a work of genius”.

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