Monday, 27 June 2016


Below are the most telling statistics of Thursday’s Referendum:

18-24:   75% Remain
25-49:   56% Remain
50-64:   44% Remain
65 plus: 39% Remain
(YouGov poll)

So most of those closer to retirement and death are the ones who’ve have determined the future of the next generations. Unsurprisingly a lot of young people are very angry. Here’s what a friend of mine said: “My daughters, just under the age they can vote, say that older voters have hobbled the future of the ambitious young.”

But that’s only partly true … these girls who are exceedingly bright will seek and discover a glorious future elsewhere, possibly in Europe. In fact the most damaging result of the vote to leave the EU will probably be our biggest “brain drain” since the 1970s. The consequence of embracing isolationism makes this inevitable despite Boris’ bizarre claim we are now “more European than ever.”

The second likely impact will be on our ability to plan for economic growth. Any UK based company should, for the next two years or so, be visualising how to become a smaller business. I’d be advocating cutbacks far deeper and more wide-ranging than any we’ve seen since the 1980s. Unfortunately unemployment will grow rapidly. And Brexit will be blamed (as it should but only up to a point). Employers haven’t ever had so obvious a whipping-boy. Suddenly they have a get-out-of-gaol card.  It’s one they’ll use to powerful (and sometimes, maybe, unfair) effect.

Finally the good news is all about Democracy. It was a huge turnout. This was not the voice of apathy. Some of us – well nearly ½ of us actually - may not like the result of the vote. Most of all we may dislike the untruths about £350 million weekly windfall promised to the NHS before and then admitted as
being, well, untrue afterwards. Meanwhile despite noise about a re-run of the vote, Thursday’s message must surely be accepted, we must move on and make the best of the hand we’ve been dealt.

Most of all we must seek out the opportunities that revolutionary change like this will create. Those nimble and angry in marketing and finance will daily face the potential opportunities from the fall-out of Brexit and will need to seize them.

I’m sitting in a temperature of 34C in blissfully calm Venice seething about how so many people at home (strange that  it feels much less like home now) seem so triumphant in having interfered with their children’s and grandchildren’s futures. I’ve had a lot of messages from American, German, French and Italians asking why, what, how and when? They are astonished and a bit hurt by what they see as our rejection of them.
Have you at home any idea just how witless and bumbling we seem over here? It’s been an embarrassing few days and I fear it’ll get worse. But let’s be calm, thoughtful and dignified.

Dignified? Ah…I’d forgotten about


Monday, 20 June 2016


This will be read when I am in Europe. Yes, I’m depressed by the Referendum-Shambles and even the prospect of a Euro-Divorce (are we insane?) so I’ve fled to Venice and left my proxy vote at home in safe hands.

As I walked through Brighton yesterday a tough looking, crop haired, wiry girl (probably an off duty copper I thought) said to her friend:  “So we want less interference from bloody Brussels right? No one tells us what to do. Correction - no-one tells me what to do.”

It was the rolling plod of her walk and the “you are nicked” tone of her talk that suggested she was a copper - life is full of such first impressions.

And what has struck me throughout this gruesome debate is the oil and water mix of an argument about money and an argument about sovereignty. Add to this a bubbling “we don’t like Johnny Foreigner” ingredient and you have a complete Eton Mess.

Politics is ill served by its main protagonists right now. Most of the people I most dislike are politicians - shifty, cocky and furtively looking as though they are “up to no good.”   But I am in Venice chewing my finger nails and wondering why all the Europeans I’ve recently met seem nicer and more sensible than many of my neighbours and the Brexits.

Yet this isn’t a simple either/or decision. It’s more nuanced than that. What it really involves is defining the sort of world we want to live in. I love the idea of living in this the biggest-economy-united-states of the world which has an asset I prize and the world as a whole prizes above all others.


We have in this vast “kingdom” the greatest art, music, creativity and sense of humour (yes even Germany - watch Klaus Myers) but most of all we have the best food, drink and civilised conversation. If Jesus returned he’d come to Continental Europe (sorry not the Green and pleasant land of Britain).

My cleverest soothsayers tell me not to worry that the result of “remain” by a wide margin is a foregone conclusion. Drink Prosecco. Relax. Celebrate.


The problem is discovering 50% of the UK comprises people that I don’t want to live with anymore.
‘Once you’ve decided to start an argument you have to be prepared to finish it’…I’m sure someone said that once but I wish they hadn’t because it’s completely wrong. The survival of the human race (no less) depends on not finishing arguments.

In recent years the derided (by some), undemocratic EU has been brilliant at nudging us towards compromises and liberal consensus. We have abandoned the idea of fighting as our default mode and when we revert, as we did in Iraq, the results are not great. As with the Arab Spring violent disruption tends to be a bad thing.

I’m in Venice looking at great paintings and talking to gentle Venetians.

Please vote for civilisation.


Monday, 13 June 2016


I was on the Gatwick Express in that half-doze a train journey to London can induce. Behind me I heard a voice:

“I’m not sure the direction of travel aligns with the strategy…I’ll go to Warsaw tomorrow to ensure the co-ordination dynamic plays better…”

Had I died and gone to jargon purgatory? Another similar voice took over.

“Don’t they see this is an either/or decision? We need JD to grasp market realities. He’s in a no-hope space with the current trajectory.”

Stop it. Just stop it!

“Yes there are strategical contradictions in seeking to reach the tactical goal… but at least we have signs of moving on and re-orientating.”

Who were these maniacs? 30ish, sharply suited, MBAs (that incurable disease - surely they had that?) A-cut hair, serious. They strode off across Victoria Station to another mischief-creating meeting on incomprehensibility.
So it was a rare delight to hear Professor Mark Ritson sticking it up the digital marketing guys at the Marketing Week Live Conference. In blue, blokey and furious language he lambasted the current obsession with Millennials - there aren’t many, they have no money and their behaviour isn’t that different to the rest of us … “stop it guys get real” and so on.

He lit a fire under the idea of the big companies being one whit concerned about Corporate Social Responsibility an award for which had apparently gone to Google who don’t pay their taxes. How bad? He put it well.

“The average marketer earns around £44,000 a year and pays around £17,000 in tax. If they were Google they’d pay £269 …. Now don’t tell me that’s corporately responsible.”

He savaged “Cool Brands” as absurdly irrelevant. Brand valuation as phoney and erratic.  Brand Purpose as pretentious nonsense… who wants the Starbucks purpose of creating a better world when all we want is a better cup of coffee? And the claim that TV Advertising is dying is a big, fat lie. It’s huge and it’s growing so f….off.  This guy is splendidly in-your-face contrarian. His audience laughing nervously were bombarded by the “f” word and assaults on their stupidity. He accused them of being like sea anemones “totally brainless, merely reactive and in which mouth and anus are the same.”

Finally he pleaded with the audience to stop doing what David Weldon CMO at RBS described as “barking at every passing car.”  Marketing is a real heavyweight business he said:

“I need you to put down the dreaded,  dreary “D” word and come back to work…stop being juvenile and playing with the tools of marketing and get back upstairs to marketing strategy where you diagnose the market so you can decide where you’ll play and how you’ll win”

Pity he wasn’t on the train to beat up those MBAs. He is a yesterday marketer (as I am) but I see the millennial revolution more kindly than he does.

But that attitude and that rage? Great stuff Mark. Please stay angry.

Monday, 6 June 2016


On Sunday summer kicked off and we had one of those balmy bumble-bee-buzzing days. As I sat on our balcony catching the whiff of burning BBQ meat I began to drift off in that I’m- floating-away-like-a-balloon way. My last cogent thought was it would be poor form if our world leaders were caught doing this. We expect them to be at it thinking and strategizing 24/7/365. As I slept I imagined George Osborne (45) was in the Treasury surrounded by economists plotting our future.

But in America come November the candidates for the world’s top job will be two months shy of 70, 70 ½ and (if you include Bernie Sanders) 75. So chances are they’ll be snoozing quite a lot. As will Putin (64) - he sleeps in late apparently. Age derided by some - a client of mine described Jack Welch as an “old fossil” (81) doesn’t seem to have damaged Warren Buffett (86) too much.

Anyway maybe snoozing lightly and thinking about stuff is a good way of sorting out complex thoughts. Nobel prize-winner Daniel Kahneman (82) whose award was for his studies of the human-mind, believes our just sub-conscious is operating at its best when left alone to do its work. (My best work is often done when I’m asleep.)

But something strange is happening in America. Not only are the candidates rather odd as well as old in a country where glamour is one of the most highly rated qualities - hence the adulation of JFK. They have Trump intent on “winning bigly” and Hillary snatching defeat from victory’s jaws and Bernie - think intellectual Corbyn (67) -  who has grabbed the imagination of youth by things like:
If a financial institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist

But given that age isn’t an obstacle or not the obstacle that it once seemed why, oh why didn’t Josiah Bartlett stand (aka Martin Sheen (75) of “West Wing”)?

Maybe we’ve just got the age thing wrong - wisdom is one of the greatest under-used assets. And wisdom increases with the perspective of age for some whilst the ability to create is undimmed.  Roger Daltrey, (72) co-founder of the Who still has “magic in his eyes” and still performs so long as he thinks he’s “got it”. So do the Stones (Jagger will be 73 in November) and so does Bob Dylan (75) and Leonard Cohen (82).

Maybe, just maybe all these old fossils have something to offer that would prevent the hyper-active get things moving at all costs.

We need our Vardy’s (29) up front and doing battle but we also need Claudio Ranieri (65) - the Leicester City Manager - managing the affairs of state, guiding and inspiring their young talent.

 As he says:

 "I am happy when our fans are happy, when our players are happy and our chairman is on the moon."

(All ages shown are as of November 2016 - US Election month)

Tuesday, 31 May 2016


From intellectual swinger to Uber partner

I was watching Steve Hilton one of the radical political swingers of the ‘90s on Question Time. He used to be David Cameron’s strategy guru before decamping to Silicon Valley where he’s married to Rachel Whetstone Senior VP of Communications at Uber.  Steve invented the “Big Society” and is clever, articulate and ever so slightly barmy in a new world, give-the-people-their-voice way (well it takes one to know one.)

So to learn that he’s a Brexit fan is surprising apart from that Uber thing - do Uber hate the EU? They surely do.

Swinging against the Silicon Invasion

The more I see of this debate and those “aren’t-we-the-greatest?” squabbles the more I like Europe, its civilised manners, style and attitudes to bullies like the big US heavies, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and of course Uber. Nowhere else in the world does anyone want to or can anyone else stand up to the Techno Thugs like the EU does, the biggest economy in the world.

The golf swing slows down

But however you vote not many executives spend hours relaxing on a golf course any longer. Golf participation in the UK is in very steep decline. Golf clubs are closing and being turned over to property development projects. Let’s face it, who’s got the time to spend hours on golf in our busy, busy world?

Recycling not swinging

We are a busy and we’re a sated race. However good the series the sequel has to be extraordinary to survive, yet success drive its producers on to the umpteenth Master Chef, Strictly Come Dancing, Bake Off or whatever.  With no golf to play, son of X Factor to watch, wearisome debates to turn off and a massive assault from American marauding techno hordes trying to own us and all our data - no wonder that we all feel rather tired.

(Source: Mumbrella)

Bad news swinging into adland

The big new, news, as Roger Alexander  the retired legal giant from the advertising world remarked, is the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) forthcoming report on media fraud. Business Insider journalist Lara O’Reilly said this:

An explosive report on kickbacks in the ad industry is coming out next month and some say it could lead to 'jail time'

Jon Mandel ex-CEO of WPP’s Media agency Media Com kicked this elephant in the advertising room into the spotlight last year. So the next sector to face the inquisition is advertising to whom “transparency of billing” has been an oxymoron since the money men took over.

So is anything swinging? Try looking at the Portsmouth fashion scene….
My wife and I went to a graduate fashion show at Portsmouth University and were blown away by the quality, and quantity of sheer creativity shown by these young people. They were so full of hope.

Cheering after listening to Boris and the rest of those dreary men to hear and see the real future swinging into view.

Monday, 23 May 2016


I went to St Catherine’s College Cambridge on Saturday to a Memorial Symposium in honour of friend who’d been a Professor of History. I wasn’t sure if “Sir Christopher Bayly and the Horizons of History” would be a bundle of laughs “Don’t hold your breath” warned a friend who knew about such things.
And yet I was blown away. These academics, all eighteen of them, started and finished on time….none of those laggardly, bad manners you so often see from lawyers, politicians and businessmen at such events. They engaged, entertained and inspired us.

I hadn’t realised just how eminent Chris had been. He had helped rewrite the way history is studied and how people think about the world as a whole with a rare ability to zoom in and out from long shot to close up, thrilling people with the new clarity this produced. He certainly thrilled Professor J├╝rgen Osterhammel who said of one of Chris’ many books: “it would have been a very good book even if all the facts had been wrong.

Most of all Chris was obsessed by the music of words and the way that good writing could change people’s minds. Facts alone don’t do it. The narrative itself has to engage and thrill. He weighed words like a miser.

He wrote with precision and with sparing tautness.

He had exciting stories to tell, focusing as he did on India and then developing from that the way in which global events interlinked and resonated against each other.  Like a good CEO he was able to handle and dissect the detail and see the bigger picture too but unlike what his commercial counterparts so seldom do, was then able tell this story in a significant way.

He was evidently a great teacher. He could listen and prod so his pupils’ vision was expanded and changed.
Professor Richard Drayton put it nicely: “he’d listen hard and then tell us what he thought we were trying to say”

And he was not just an academic. His love of wine was legendary and charming. But it served a purpose. He used wine to lubricate and expand the minds, ideas and laughter of those around him. He shared ideas and developed ideas over a glass or two of claret. If we all did more of that we’d be better off and better humoured.

Wine and genius are seldom distant from one another. Handel it is said at one of his many dinner parties would from time to time rush out to ostensibly record a new musical idea but in fact to take a surreptitious swig of a fine Burgundy he’d stashed away.

Bayly and Handel. They’d have got on pretty well.

One of his younger PHD students, Rachel Leow described his special kind of astonishing cleverness when she said:

He’d cover whole areas of history in just one sentence

I realised then how much I’ll miss him. A clever man and a very nice one too.

Monday, 16 May 2016


I’m not against big businesses. They’re full of people who are smart, civilized and charming. I like Google and Apple (who couldn’t?) I used to love the spirit Nike had in the period of their pre-21st-century glory. I love the confidence with which companies such as John Lewis, Heinz (now 3G) and BMW go about what they do.

I enjoy seeing challengers like Aldi disrupting the market and behaving small when they are actually the 90th biggest company in the world - quite a lot bigger than Tesco with twice as many stores in 18 countries. I ‘m thrilled by the narrative of British Airways and the problematic relaunch of Coca-Cola. But there’s something about big companies that’s beginning to worry me quite a lot. It’s that being big can make you a bully and turn you prematurely deaf.

Being big makes you think ‘There’s my way and then, of course, there’s my way.’ Most of all, being big makes you an enemy of marketing. The big decisions you make will be about cost and margins, about downsizing, consolidating and acquisitions. They should be about people and what they want and need. They should be about marketing but they won’t be. And when you get too big to focus on marketing, you’re going to die. Big, old companies often get trapped in their own legacy with an out-of-date business model and old fashioned products. They get uncomfortably stuck with a redundant overhead too expensive to write off yet dragging the minds of the company downwards and backwards. New businesses are about the future. They are about risk and about change. They are now and next. They are where innovation thrives. They are about learning. They are busy doing important things. Like visualising how the world might be in the future. Thinking radically and being inspired.. New businesses are lucky. They generally don’t have shareholders. They don’t have a lot of out-of-date plant and property they don’t need. They don’t have a huge workforce or a lot of bureaucracy. But what else don’t they have? They don’t have enough money to have much wriggle room. So they need to be very smart or lucky to survive. 
In a recent conversation between Professor Clay Christensen and Marc Andreessen (Silicon Valley entrepreneur) at Startup Grind Global 2016, Clay Christensen said there was capital everywhere looking for a home. Unfortunately return on investment was virtually zero overall and there was an astonishing $6 trillion in negative yielding bonds. So why isn’t more of this money being invested in start-ups? The success rate of start-ups is improving and starting from zero is recognised as a great place to set off from. The world of the new and disruptive is amazing. Consider. The biggest media company in the world is now Facebook, the biggest Hotelier is Airbnb, the biggest producers of films are India and Nigeria (Hollywood comes third.)
Excited? Well I think we should be.