Planner’s reading list additions

In my last post I started compiling a list of required reading for anyone working in advertising or marketing communication.

Since then I’ve had chance to read another book I would definitely add to the list:

The Anatomy of Humbug: How to Think Differently About Advertising by Paul Feldwick.

In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that for anyone just starting out in the industry this may even be the best place to begin, given that it’s essentially a book about books about advertising.  Meta.

Firstly, it’s described as a ‘wonderfully sane book’ by Jeremy Bullmore, and frankly any book for which Jeremy Bullmore is prepared to write the foreword has got to be pretty good.

But more interestingly, as Feldwick asserts from the outset, it’s not a book about ‘how advertising works’; it’s a book about ‘how people think – or assume – advertising works.

So in one very short, enjoyable and easily readable text we get not only a summary of all the key theories of how and why advertising works, but also an explanation of how those theories were developed and popularised.  (Spoiler alert: the evidence behind a lot of the theories we now accept as fact was often built on the flimsiest of evidence to suit the needs of the proponent).

If you’re anything like me you’ll come away realising you know even less than you thought you did, but in a good way. Definitely recommended.

Another book I missed off the original reading list that merits inclusion is:

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You by Eli Pariser.

Written in 2011, Pariser’s view of the computer as a one-way mirror that reflects your interests and reinforces your prejudices is arguably even more apposite today as we move towards ever greater degrees of personalisation and algorithmically generated content.

Following my original post I also received a couple of other interesting recommendations:

Hegarty on Advertising: Turning Intelligence into Magic by JohnHegarty

Where the Suckers Moon: the Life and Death of an Advertising Campaign by Randall Rothenberg

I haven’t actually read either of these myself yet so I don’t know if they’re any good (who is that Hegarty fella anyway?!), but they were recommended by @yazac and @kitchen_sian, both of whom are lovely, smart people, so I’m sure they’re well worth a look.

Happy reading!


The ultimate planner’s reading list

I have started compiling a required reading list for anyone with a serious professional interest in advertising or marketing communication.

I’m sharing the list in its current form, partly because it may offer some useful guidance or inspiration and partly because I’d like your help in adding to it, please.

What’s missing?  If there’s a book you think should definitely be on the list below, please post a comment or drop me a line via email or twitter.

I’m not looking to produce an exhaustive list – even in the fairly narrow field of advertising and marketing theory there are simply too many books out there for one person to get through – but I do want to summarise the most interesting, thought-provoking and useful texts, both directly and indirectly relevant to the comms industry.

I should point out that I’ve not included any IPA texts on my list, but their reports (click here) are also definitely required reading for any half decent or aspiring planner.

Here’s my list so far (in no particular order).  What do you think?

The ‘Classics’

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

Behind the Scenes in Advertising by Jeremy Bullmore

Truth, Lies and Advertising : The Art of Account Planning by Jon Steel

Perfect Pitch by Jon Steel

A Masterclass in Brand Planning: the Timeless Works of Stephen King

The Book of Gossage by Howard Gossage


Advertising & Marketing Theory

Marketing in the Era of Accountability by Les Binet & Peter Field

The Long and Short of It by Les Binet & Peter Field

How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp

The New Marketing Manifesto: 12 Rules for Building Successful Brands in the 21st Century by John Grant


Human Psychology & Decision-making

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism by George A. Akerlof & Robert J. Shiller

Herd: How to Change Mass Behaviour by Harnessing Our True Nature by Mark Earls

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness by Richard H Thaler & Cass R Sunstein

Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Thinking, Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Brand Positioning

Positioning: the Battle for your Mind by Al Ries & Jack Trout

The Pirate Inside by Adam Morgan

Eating the Big Fish by Adam Morgan

Branding only works on Cattle by Jonathan Salem Baskin

Economics & Behavioural Economics

Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist by Tyler Cowen

The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford

The Long and the Short of it: A Guide to Finance and Investment for Normally Intelligent People Who Aren’t in the Industry by John Kay


Creativity & Idea Generation

Sticky Wisdom : How to Start a Creative Revolution at Work : by What If? (Dave Allan, Matt Kingdon, Kris Murrin, Darren Rudkin)

A Technique for Producing Ideas by James W. Young

Where Good Ideas Come From: the Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

Creative Mischief by Dave Trott

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

Lateral Thinking: A Textbook of Creativity by Edward be Bono

(Image credit: the original version of the photo accompanying this post can be found here)

Thank you, Clive James

Watching the crazy Yamasa soy sauce ad (see my previous post, The best TV ad in the world ever) made me think of Clive James.

As the man who made an artform of laughing at crazy oriental TV, I’m sure it would be right up his street.

It seems somewhat anachronistic in these modern times, particularly now UK television is swamped with gameshows every bit as inane as those he used to poke fun at, but as a kid in the eighties I loved Clive James on Television.

Millions of viewers tuned in each week to snigger at an assortment of funny and bizarre TV clips from around the world, like a curated version of YouTube before the concept of online video ever existed.

Clive James is much more than just a TV host though.  He is at heart a wordsmith; an acclaimed author, critic and poet.

He is also terminally ill, having been diagnosed with both leukaemia and emphysema in 2010.

Completely sound of mind, but with little physical energy and too ill to return to his native Australia, he has turned again to poetry:

“I have been quite ill for three years now but have found that when I have any energy and clarity of mind at all, poetry has been my first means of signalling how I feel. I don’t quite know what this says about how deep the instinct must lie to express oneself in verse.” 

Trapped in a foreign country, and trapped in his own failing body, he has employed his rare ability to ‘turn a phrase until it catches the light’ to create a series of beautiful, tender, and contemplative poems reflecting on his life and impending death.

A fuller collection of his work is available at, but as a starting point I’d urge you to read a couple of his more recent pieces, Rounded with a Sleep and Japanese Maple.

As Charlie Brooker pointed out in this 2012 column, reports of Clive James’ death are thankfully somewhat premature.  He’s been talking about popping his clogs for a couple of years now but remains resolutely alive, if not exactly well.

To quote the man himself though, “stop worrying – nobody gets out of this world alive”.

So while he is still around, and producing some of the finest work of his career, I’d just like to echo Charlie Brooker’s comments.

Thank you, Clive James; thank you.

Now is the time to do

I’ve decided to start a blog.

Yes, it is still 2014.  No, you haven’t suddenly gone time travelling and magically reappeared in 2003 like Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap.

I realise that I’ve missed this particular bandwagon by several years – even the word blog is starting to sound slightly old fashioned compared to the new wave of social media – but I’m going to have a crack at it anyway.

I should have done it years ago, but it was one of those things that always slipped off the bottom of the To Do list.  Procrastination being the thief of time and all that.

Recently though various things have prompted me to stop thinking about it and just get on with it.

First was a post on Richard Branson’s blog about action breeding confidence

The last phrase in particular struck a chord with me: “just get out there and start: now is the time to do.”

It’s so simple; so obvious.  But how many of us really live our lives like that?

I’m a planner by trade, and by nature.  I spend my life analysing, interpreting, considering all the angles, weighing up the pros and cons.

Sometimes though I’d be better off just getting started and seeing where I end up.

I love reading, I love writing, and I have a strong opinion on absolutely everything.  But other than snarky comments on Twitter, I had no real outlet for my views.

And 140 characters grumbling about Grimsby Town’s perennial uselessness doesn’t quite cover the full range of my thoughts and emotions.  Except on Saturday afternoons.

So reading that Branson post gave me a little jolt.

Not enough to make me do anything about it, obviously (you can’t just rush into these things!), but enough that it started to play on my mind.

Then I saw a Twitter post by Paul Frampton (@Paul_Framp) along the very same lines (what a very wise man he is!).

But probably the biggest motivator for me to start this blog was an entirely unrelated incident.

Robin Williams died earlier this week.  And from nowhere I felt a rush of sadness completely out of proportion with my relationship with him. Because I didn’t have one.  I didn’t know him, never met him.

To be honest I didn’t even think Mork and Mindy was very funny.

But then people started posting their favourite Robin Williams movie clips on Facebook and Twitter, and I realised the common thread that made me, and thousands like me, have that strong feeling of loss when he died.

Many of his characters focused on drawing the best out of other people – getting beyond the front, the bullshit, the ephemera, to reveal the true self beneath.  It can’t purely be luck that Robin Williams was continually drawn to that kind of role.

If you have any feeling in your bones it’s impossible not to be moved by someone who champions the fragile strength of the human spirit in the face of overbearing societal pressures and conventions.

Whether it was as Sean Maguire forging a bond with Matt Damon’s tearaway genuis in Good Will Hunting, renegade DJ Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning Vietnam, or Patch Adams, or most obviously as the inspirational teacher John Keating in Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams’ characters continually encourage others to express their true thoughts and feelings:

So, suitably inspired, I have in some small way decided to sound my own barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world.

I certainly can’t promise I’ll deliver any poetry as a result.  In fact I’m not entirely sure yet what I’m going to write about, or how often.

I’m starting right now though, and that’s the important thing.