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)