Attention-getting Headlines.

Do you know about Yul Brenner, the actor?

Yul Brenner died of lung cancer.

No surprise there, it was fully expected.

He was more than a pack a day smoker from when he was a kid. Maybe from age 9.

The result?

Doctors told him he could count his days on one hand.

What was a surprise was a 1986 film he made to convince young people to quit smoking.

It opens with Yul Brenner to camera saying if you’re seeing this I’m dead from lung cancer.

It’s a message from the grave about the dangers of smoking.

Will you find a more effective anti-smoking message? It’s unlikely.

The strength of this approach is being used again.

By Phil Gaimon, a professional bike racer.

He isn’t dead, but he could have been many times as careless drivers put him in peril while he was on his bike training.

He did a video to tell the story,

It comes with a stopper of a headline: “Please share this when I’m killed by someone driving a car.”

Have a look at the video and … yeah, have a care when you see cyclists on the road.

AI? Or is it A-Yi Yi Yi?

As you well know, AI is often rubbished as a threat to our jobs.

You might call it the devil in the church.

But does it deserve the bashing it endures?

Here’s a podcast that makes a dark view of technology seem shortsighted.

It’s Tyler Cowen talking to a celebrated writer and thinker who has been dead 279 years.

That’s Jonathan Swift, master of irony and satire with works like A Modest Proposal and of course, in 1726, Gulliver’s Travels.

No toadying to silly conventions with Jonathan Swift. Thanks to AI you get to hear about his brand of satire in Gulliver’s Travels, and more.

Swift speaks again.

Thanks to ChatGPT you’re treated to something with more than a little bit of charm.

 Have a listen:

As this use of AI is fascinating and an education unto itself, it makes you think about the possibility of future hosts and their guests.

You could have someone currently at the top of Ogilvy, like Rory Sutherland, interview David Ogilvy on why so many ads today are monochrome, slapdash and lacking in verve and polish.

What a wonderful troublemaker Ogilvy would be in trying to reverse mediocrity.

Mark Ritson could interview Bill Bernbach on the role marketing played in crafting DDB’s 1959 VW campaign.

What was true then about marketing fundamentals carries weight now –  because when you allow yourself to be swamped with data you tear the humanity out of ads like “Think small”.

You could have Steve Harrison host David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach together, talking about why the main purpose of advertising is to sell.

You’ll remember Ogilvy once said, if it doesn’t sell it isn’t creative.

That should be a welcome thought for CMOs who are befuddled when facing demanding sales managers.

With ChatGPT a whole new take on education will be waiting for you.

Because, as with long gone movie stars who are resurrected to appear in TV commercials, nobody’s dead anymore.

Cold as Ice.

We don’t have green fingers in our house.

Nobody is a dab hand with plants.

Yet our orchids are something special.

Credit for that goes to the discovery of a secret way to look 

after them.

Avoid watering orchids like other plants; instead place ice cubes 

in their pots.

That way the release of water is just what they require.

Slow and steady care to thrive.

How about a secret way to nurture creative people.

That starts with creative directors who are as cold as ice

when it comes to approving ads.

If the work tries to force-fit purpose to the brand, a red pencil

is required.

If the work lacks stopping power, the creative team is sent

back to fix it.

If the work lacks originality other teams are invited to improve

on that.

If the work is up against a deadline the creative director calls the

client with the good news.

Instead of expedient work ready to the minute, breakthrough ideas

are in the works.

Of course all this is dependent on one thing.

Canny creative directors.

Pros with the nous to do better work and the desire to quosh clueless 


Like ill-chosen influencers, fabrication of a flimsy social connciousness and

putting purpose before the one thing CFOs live for.


The best creative directors should be able to do all that.

But only if they’re cold as ice.

When you write, it might an idea to be witty, engaging, disarming, pleasing. (But only if you don’t want to bore your readers rigid).

Luke Sullivan’s book – we use it to teach young writers and art directors their trade.

As you’ve no doubt memorized it, you know it leads to cluey creative people who can
change things. 

With that, D&AD is another teaching source that kick starts ability.

Especially annuals from the 70s and 80s.

Additionally, there’s the J. Peterman catalogue.

Remember it?

At one point it became the darling of the Seinfeld show as each product story is
relatable and amusing.

With each page, J. Peterman reinvents retail. Why’s that? Stories.
This page keeps you reading with surprising narratives.

An example of that is the J. Peterman vintage football jersey with striped sleeves.

Here, stripes aren’t just ornamental.

The copy tells us they harken back to the early days of football when players added strips of canvas, leather or moleskin to their sleeves to prevent fumbling.

Well, nobody wants the ball squirting out when they’re tackled, do they?

You have an echo of that in the J. Peterman jersey, illustrating the fact that a functional attribute also looks great.

This exemplifies the Peterman philosophy.

“People want things that are hard to find. Things that have romance, but a factual romance about them”.

Before you write your next ad, social media post, landing page or web copy, it might be an idea to search for some of that romance with inspiration from the Peterman catalogue.

That way you’re bound to come up with an emotional narrative that’s insightful and persuasive. 

The opposite of writing that’s fact-resistant, feeble and out of touch with interest.

Great Music is Coming Your Way. May 6th.

Classical music has always been an emotive part of theatre, films and commercials.

For many that’s especially true for commercials.

No doubt you’ve enjoyed the Hamlet Cigar spots all the more for the choice of Bach’s Air on a G String .

The piece works as a counterpoint to the humor of the spot while the gentle progression of notes supports Hamlet’s branding as the ‘mild cigar’.

It’s enough to make reformed smokers think again. Well, we did.

Equally, you might remember the music from the British Airways “Face” film.

It’s from Leo Delibes and his Flower Duet in the opera Lakmé.

Few people wish commercials were any longer than they are, but we’re thinking the choice of this track changes all that.

It pairs so well with the visuals, you might want to binge and screen it more than once.

Another opportunity for great music is ahead of us on May 6th.

That’s Coronation Day.

Westminster Abbey will overflow with pageantry that will be broadcast to the world.

We’re only guessing at this point, but the music of Handel could be chosen to add even more to the pomp and splendor.

George Frideric Handel, born in Germany in 1685, lived most of his life in England and as such is looked upon as an English composer.

Handel was not only a prolific composer, his work was also admired by Beethoven and Mozart.

But what Handel piece will take pride of place on the day?

Again we’re only guessing, but it could be an anthem called Zadok the Priest.

It’s been performed at every English coronation since 1727.

Here’s a preview:

With a world audience (swelled by the popularity of productions like Downton Abbey and The Crown) there’s every chance Handel’s coronation anthem will become widely known.

So in future it might just be the thing to add a celebratory note to TV spots and videos.

Who knows, maybe it’ll be your spot that benefits from music that’s so timely and distinctive.

How to get someone who’s been dead 278 years to speak to you.

We were gobsmacked by Jonathan Swift speaking in a podcast interview yesterday.

That’s the Anglo-Irish satirist we’re talking about, the 1667-1745 Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels.

Thanks to ChatGPT he comes alive, speaking about satire, religion, politics, economics and literature.

With that he’s no less than a charmer. And you learn an amazing amount. 

Take a moment to see for yourself, here’s a link to the podcast, Conversations With Tyler.

Click on the “Jonathan GPT Swift on Jonathan Swift” episode.

The interview is conducted by Tyler Cowen, a polymath and professor at George Mason University who has hosted something like 175 deep thinkers with engaging rapid-fire questions.

Cowen’s guests range from Barak Obama, Sam Harris and Ken Burns to Margaret Atwood, Malcolm Gladwell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Kwame Anthony Appiah, a philosopher at NYU and Karl Ove Knausgård, a literary sensation from Norway.

We should add: with guests like Katherine Rundell, Emily Wilson, Amia Srinivasan and Lydia Davis, Tyler Cowen feels his interviews with women are among the best.

To keep you on your toes, new episodes appear every other Wednesday.

Here’s how the Jonathan Swift podcast was put together.

Tyler Cowen rapid-fires questions and the responses are printed out by ChatGPT to be read by someone who may well be an actor.

Questions and answers are then combined to create a polished interview.

The result is machine learning that starts with a moral seriousness then progresses with wit, charm and sudden outbursts of humor – Jonathan Swift comes across as sharp, resourceful, charismatic and above all, current. 

If only learning at school could have been as riveting.

Applied to advertising, agencies and their clients could benefit if the right questions were aimed at the ChatGPT personas of long-gone greats like Bill Bernbach, Howard Gossage and David Ogilvy.

That way some of the best minds in advertising could ensure we’re not dead when it comes to ideas.

A Test for Robot Copywriters.

The buzz is about ChatGPT. Many are talking of nothing else.

They can’t resist the lure of an AI neural network that writes ad copy, 
composes music, makes films, churns out stories and in doing so responds to natural language.

To put all the hype to the test we asked ChatGPT to knock out a few 
Volvo ads.

We wondered, could a bot write as well as two of the best copywriters of all time?

Could it be as good as Ed McCabe and David Abbott?

As you probably know, both wrote brilliant Volvo ads (like many you might even have been among those who wrote them out by hand to learn how to be a better writer).

With copy completed in a trice, 11 seconds on one ad, ChatGPT did passably well.

But it wasn’t a patch on Ed McCabe or David Abbott. Or even a middling writer.

The result was a laundry list of features without a tone of voice, original thinking or the wit, charm and reasoned persuasion you might expect. 

Formulaic describes it.

So rest easy if you’re a copywriter, your job shouldn’t be in jeopardy.

But …. 

Rumor has it that in 2023 you’ll be faced with a dramatic upgrade.

The current ChatGPT (which spins off from GPT3) is fueled with tons of 
data starting with everything on Wikipedia, Twitter and Reddit.

It’s equipped with what computer boffins claim is 175 billion parameters — a figure that correlates to human brain cells. 

The next iteration, GPT4, will be energized with everything on the Internet plus billions of images and sounds.
It’s predicted to have 100 trillion parameters, making it as much as 500 times better than GPT3.

It leaves you wondering, doesn’t it … where will we be when GPT5 and GPT6 arrive?

Will AI eventually be as brilliant as Ed McCabe and David Abbott?

You can always run your own Volvo ad test to see.

Painting In One Day

We spotted a solution to a problem that surprised and delighted us.

It’s in the headline above, used by a house painter.

What a strong thought. 

But can we really get the job done and get rid of the effing inconvenience
in one short day?

We went on the painter’s Website to see.

There were reviews, but many were negative.

It reminded us of something Bill Bernbach said:

“A great ad campaign will make a bad product fail faster.
It will get more people to know it’s bad.”

That’s spot on in this case.

It seems there are plenty of telling Bernbach quotes online.

They could serve as a marketing and advertising course you could call Improvement in One Day.

So why not set aside one day.

Get your team together and use Bernbach’s thinking as talking points.

Read out the quotes then let the comments flow.

And with that, relevant stories about your brand and how you can improve
everything from competing in the marketplace to short termism in creative work
vs long term brand planning.

Bill Bernbach hasn’t been around for eons in advertising years but his thinking about
why we’re in business remains.

Thanks to him, in one day you could save painting yourself into a corner.

PS. To start you off, here’s a Bernbach thought that should resonate with your CFO:
“The purpose of advertising is to sell. That is what the client is paying for and if that goal does not permeate every idea you get, every word you write, every picture
you take, you are a phony and you ought to get out of the business.”

That Wonderful Subject Again – Ageism.
(Yeah, right.)

You might have seen a piece we posted recently about ageism.

It aims to help senior art directors and copywriters avoid the push by planning for a second career.

Here’s the link showcasing two senior creative people, Geoff Stevenson and Mark Denton:

You don’t need me to tell you it’s a bumpy road for art directors and writers in their 50s. 

Reset and retrain for a
second career. A business school program could help
you do it.

The threat of ageism has been likened to an Arctic chill.

Given that, what’s your plan? 

 You can freelance, but you already knew that, so let’s move on.

The few who are chock-a-block with talent and contacts (George Tannenbaum is one – see his Ad Aged blog) can start their own company. 

By answering only to yourself you’re bound to feel all your Christmases have come at once.

But then there’s also further education. 

That may be more viable with business school as another option.

On offer are executive education programs that don’t require the time, commitment or the eye-wateringly high tuition costs of an MBA. 

Business schools are keen for working professionals to apply and many programs are structured with customized learning paths. They can be part-time, in-person, live online and online at your pace. Please yourself.

Subject matter includes marketing, strategy, leadership, management, social enterprise and finance. And you can earn a certificate.

With that certificate in hand you can begin to lower the barriers to future employment, develop immunity to further ageism and assert your value. 

We spotted on-going benefits for you, starting with marketability.

You gain skills, strengths and business cred well beyond what’s on your resume. 

Cred translates as resourcefulness to employers and sets you apart. 

You learn from professors who know their stuff with courses that are applicable to your professional development.

The idea is to build your knowledge so you can pivot to another industry.

You benefit with networking — other program participants are likely to come from diverse industries, roles, geographies and backgrounds.

You’re bound to find friends, allies and long-term business contacts among them. 

You can also call on alumni – you’ll have commonality there, a strong starting point with MBAs who could turn out to be future employers.

One other thing.

Business schools have career centers.

So there’s every chance you’ll benefit with professional coaching and maybe even introductions to hiring managers.

Recruiters troll business school career centers to find talent – who’s to say you won’t be the next gem they turn up. 

If there’s a spark of an idea here, research business schools in your area. 

Have a look at several programs, speak to admissions people one-on-one, attend an on-campus event, chat to existing students, read student blogs, see if there’s a scenario that makes sense for you and your lifestyle.

At the very least this is an idea you can mull over. Hope it helps because whatever your choice, we don’t want you disappearing from view.

Your Second Career – Get Cracking On It.

Restless leg syndrome.

A few years back a guy sitting opposite us had it in a big way.

It was his way of calming himself.

He had just been shown the door as an art director, let go, thanks to ageism.

It’s sad and infuriating, of course, made even worse by a question he repeatedly asked.

Whaddya do when you’re still brilliant?

One thing is to prepare for ageism, keep it from surprising you.

So before you get to the borderlands of your career, have a care and start planning for your next gig.

As a push in that direction, here are two role models for you.

The first is Geoff Stevenson, a cartoonist.

That’s his work you see here.

Geoff was a copywriter in London and Sydney.

He did the kind of ads people in agencies like Collett Dickenson Pearce admired.

He also wrote on a sitcom, did Nickelodeon episodes, illustrated a dozen kid’s books and had an animation pilot.

More than a few strings to his bow.

Including working as an extra on Scrubs when he arrived in LA from Sydney.

You probably saw Geoff as Dr. Beardface. 

He was such a strong draw in the show they gave him more than a few lines of dialogue and made him a regular.

Geoff went on to swap making ads for doing cartoons.

He wasn’t pushed out by ageism and neither should you be.

It’s worth taking note of something David Ogilvy said on the subject.

Advertising is great training for a second career.

In fact, he went further.

Ogilvy thought everyone should have two careers to get the best out of life.

Getting the best out of a second career is another role model, Mark Denton. 

After being a top creative guy for decades, agency principal and D&AD committee member he’s doing it all again.

He applied for and landed a position as an intern at St Luke’s in London.

Yep, intern — no word of a lie about it.

So, how do you square starting at the bottom at age 65?

Well, for starters, everyone benefits.

Mark gets to contribute to what’s next in the business while everyone at St. Luke’s gains from his infinite experience.

Both these guys, Geoff and Mark, seem to have a mindset that’s ideally restless. 

You don’t see them being cowed by anything.

Who’s to say you can’t improve on that with your own individuality and talent.

So have a go.

But meanwhile, before Day One of your second career, do one thing.

Do great ads, knock everyone’s eyes out with surprising work and enjoy doing it.

Because in its pure form – without ageism — there’s no career like it.