Long Lost Families and Masters of Sex

The most interesting thing in the world is people. And, talking about interesting, which we were, and people, which we are, there is a peculiar juxtaposition in two TV series currently on air.

For me, and anyone with personal experience of adoption, a must-watch TV programme is Long Lost Family where people separated by adoption at birth are reunited with the parents they have never met – usually their mother.

It is shocking to learn about the attitudes to pregnancy that prevailed in the lifetimes of two generations of people still living today. For, until the 1960s/70s, pregnancy represented a harsh and unforgiving world where babies of only a few weeks old were torn, literally ripped away, from the arms of their screaming, desperate mothers who, typically, were still teenagers. Continue reading

Posted in Blog posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It may be right. It may be good. But is it interesting?

David Ogilvy said this about advertising:

‘You can’t bore people into buying your product, you can only interest them into buying it.’

Here is the same mantra with the key word underlined by me:

‘You can’t bore people into buying your product, you can only interest them into buying it.’

As my advertising career began with Ogilvy, I have been interested in ‘interesting’ for a very long time.

In today’s world, is advertising interesting? Continue reading

Posted in Blog posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Debt collection: the shameful face of modern Britain

In free market economies, providers of products and services need customers.

In marketing, without customers, none of us are anything. Or, if that is too tortuous a double negative, without customers we are nothing.

Customers are the name of the game. They need to be identified, understood, targeted, persuaded, looked after, nurtured, retained. Continue reading

Posted in Blog posts | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why you would be a mug to be a poet in the 21st Century

I have met people who are very, very rich.

I have met people who are famous.

I have met great sportsmen.

I have met academics.

I have met aristocrats.

I have met celebrities.

I have met film stars.

I have met singers.

I have met bands.

Even royalty.

But the people I admire most are writers. Continue reading

Posted in Blog posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Employment Support Allowance (ESA) disgrace

Writing these blog posts, it is impossible to predict who will read them or where they might lead.

Thus it is a pleasant surprise to me that my most retweeted and liked post has been Disability Living Allowance (DLA) Disgrace – especially as I would be the first to admit that I am no expert in the murky confusion of the social security market.

I say a ‘pleasant surprise’ because the interest generated by this post would seem to support my overarching thesis – specifically that the understanding of human behaviour and creativity of our world-beating advertising agencies could be better employed to improve society as a whole.

Please park this thought while I tell you that it is a golden rule of marketing that any money spent on promoting a product or service must, if nothing else, generate more income than the cost of creating and transmitting it. Continue reading

Posted in Blog posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beware, in this digital age, of the wrath of the people

1. strong, stern, or fierce anger; deeply resentful indignation; ire.
2. vengeance or punishment as the consequence of anger.

Snatching some early summer sun in Greece, I have been reading John Steinbeck’s seminal American novel, The Grapes of Wrath.

For those who do not know, it is the story of an agricultural 1930s American family – the Joads – who are driven from Oklahoma to California in search of work. As the Joads strive to survive, the book tracks their lives, and their world, disintegrating into chaos and despair.

Published in 1939, the people and the scenes in The Grapes of Wrath are, in every way, a world apart from modern Britain.

Or are they? Continue reading

Posted in Blog posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Sir Alex Ferguson could learn from David Ogilvy

Who am I to add to the extraordinary volume of news articles about the sacking of David Moyes as manager of the Manchester United football team? On the Telegraph website alone there have been over 60 articles on this subject in the four days 22-24 April.

David Moyes predecessor, Sir Alex Ferguson, is universally acknowledged to have been a master of his craft.

However, as someone who is not ‘a football man’, my abiding image of Sir Alex Ferguson is of him, after a game, gobbing a huge wad of chewing gum onto the revered Old Trafford turf before strutting into a post-match interview to complain about the ref. Couth? Not.   Continue reading

Posted in Blog posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How Maria Miller compounded her own problems


One of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me was a teacher at my children’s school. On discussing their potential careers, he told me:

‘Your children don’t have to worry about their career choices, Hugh. They’ll be fine. They’ve got your values.’

I replied that, while I appreciated him telling me this, the difficulty my children would face would be how to identify the contrasting values of other people they might come across in the big, wide world.

In my career, I have been unfortunate enough to encounter people with rather a warped view, shall we say, of the difference between right and wrong. 

I have found that, working with these people, it is relatively simple to move on and, with a grateful sigh, eliminate them from one’s life.

But what about their families?

How will their children emerge?

With what values are they imbued?

Or their partners by whom they might have expected to be ‘deeply loved’ until the day they die?

For over a week, the British media has been dominated by the behavioural shortcomings that have been revealed by our Culture Secretary, Maria Miller.

How on earth can Ms Miller, a Cabinet Minister no less, have let things get this far:

‘In 2012…The Daily Telegraph, which broke the original expenses scandal, began investigating Miller …  after a tip-off that her parents had been living with her in taxpayer-subsided accommodation. A reporter visited the Wimbledon home and this was confirmed by the culture secretary’s elderly father.’?

You what?!

Her elderly father?

What was Maria Miller thinking?

The behaviour of three more politicians comes to mind:

One is Jeffrey Archer, formerly deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, about whom the BBC said this:

‘In October 1986 a sensational story hit the tabloid headlines. The deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, Jeffrey Archer, was accused of paying money to a prostitute. During the 1987 libel trial Mary Archer famously took the stand to support her husband.’

You what?!

His wife? In court?

What was Jeffrey Archer thinking?

Then we had Jonathan Aitken, an MP and Privy Councillor. On sentencing him to prison, the judge said:

“The fall from grace has been complete, his marriage has broken down, he has lost his home, he is one of only three people this century forced to resign from the Privy Council, he is bankrupt and his health has suffered. His public humiliation has been absolute. These are real and considerable punishments. Sir John said Aitken now felt “profound remorse and shame”, particularly for drawing up a false witness statement for his daughter, Victoria, to sign.

You what?!

His own daughter?

What was Jonathan Aitken thinking?

In March last year, former MP and Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne was sentenced to eight months in prison. During the trial it emerged that his son had sent him texts saying:

‘You’re a pathetic loser …. You are the most ghastly man I have ever known’.

You what?!

His own son?

What was Chris Huhne thinking?

Do you see what I mean?

How is it that some people refuse to accept the implications of their own behaviour to the extent that they risk the destruction not only of their own lives but also the people who are closest to them?

Maria Miller seems to be one such person.

All I can do is warn you that, next time your other half says to you… :

‘Darling, can you do me a favour please?’

… be very careful.

Especially if you are married to a politician.

Posted in Blog posts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

If you can whistle, you’re not tone deaf


My late father’s only sister, my Aunt Hetty, died last month.

My earliest memories of her are of Kenya and a different world. For the first 17 years of my life, ‘home’ was Hong Kong where I was born. From the age of nine, I was sent away from home to a godforsaken Roman Catholic boarding school near a maggot factory in Nottinghamshire. Not the happiest days of my life. In fact, the most miserable.

One summer, my father announced that rather than fly straight from Hong Kong to school in England, he had arranged for me to stop off in Kenya on the way. As you do. I was fifteen.  Continue reading

Posted in Blog posts | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Digital activism defines democracy in the 21st Century


For several years now, I have advocated that more intelligent use of the media options available to us in the 21st century can influence social change and a better world.

Earlier this month, we were reminded of such a campaign when TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall updated TV viewers on his ‘Fish Fight’ campaign.

For those who are not aware, Fish Fight started in 2010 when Fearnley-Whittingstall highlighted the ridiculous situation where, under the EU landing quota system, our fishermen were being forced to throw back into the sea over half of the dead fish they had caught.

Largely as a result of the Fish fight campaign, there was an emphatic vote in the European parliament in which MEPs voted 502 to 137 to end this ridiculous practice. The Fish Fight campaign has been, in every sense, ‘a political fight‘. Continue reading

Posted in Blog posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment