If bands had straplines …

The advertising of music is a very different proposition to pharma. Listening to Justin Bieber may provoke side effects that include nausea and depression, but music delivers its melodious message across an entirely different medium; with no ABPI concerns to abide by, and no minimum regulatory standards to be concerned with (and at the risk of sounding like your Dad – don’t we just know it), marketing music can be simple as slapping a pretty gurning mug over a televised campaign and playing some choice aural snippets to a receptive target audience. Take that gift of audio away, however, and the harmonious little urchins are in the same boat as the rest of us. How would the marketing maestros behind popular beat combos sell their sounds via the medium of straplines – especially if honesty was the best policy?


James Blunt

20 million albums sold. 20 million people deny owning a copy.


For when that infernal paint just refuses to dry.


Your friends know, and they are quietly judging you.


Official Champions of Glastonbury Festival.


One Direction
Their life is better than yours, and they really don’t care what you think.


Because who hasn’t listed to Radiohead and thought “this needs more opera”?


The Ramones

One album sold for every twelve T-shirts worn.


The Wanted
Because One Direction tickets are so expensive!


Britney Spears
Auto-Tune’s MVP for 2014.



The one guest guaranteed to embarrass someone at a wedding.


With 2.3m Brits already unemployed, we didn’t need six more.


He’ll have changed his name by the time you read this.


Because The Beatles are gone, and they’re not coming back.


The Smiths

Listening to these guys? Heaven knows you’re miserable now.


Arctic Monkeys
After eight pints of festival cider, nobody looks good on the dancefloor.


The Carpenters
It’s OK, you can pretend you’re only listening ironically.


Black Metal
The Ophthalmologists choice!

Greg Porter, PLBR Operations Manager

Cannes, it pulls you in


It is generally agreed that Russian literature understands and interrogates the human condition like no other genre. Physical and mental disorder and dystopia are the fabric of some of the world’s greatest stories from War & Peace to Crime & Punishment. By coincidence or design Tolstoy became a recurring theme for me at Cannes this year, having recently started reading Anna Karenina it struck me how ‘health’ in its broadest sense is a constant in Tolstoy’s work. The physical and mental state of his characters are an essential tool in his story telling, the dyspeptic, the dipsomaniac, the depressive, the bipolar, the love sick, the disabled, the pock-marked and the consumptive. He pulls you in to their lived human experience, you feel the exhaustion, terror and elation that makes us who we are. To Tolstoy the human condition is inseparable from physical and mental health, there to be explored and dissected whilst everything else – the external ‘consumer goods’, the clothes, food, activities and chitter chatter of society are there to be satirized.  So whilst there has been much debate as to the merit of having a separate Health Lions, that somehow by separating our sector from the real deal we continue to be perceived as the ‘special needs’ group. One could argue however that Health is the only sector to truly celebrate what it is that makes us human, whilst Cannes celebrates the external fripperies of consumer pointlessness – the joy of stuff, Cannes Health explores the exhaustion, terror and elation of being – the joy of us.

The seminars on Saturday afternoon crystalized the human condition so brilliantly – Jason Silva’s Boundless Possibilities: How Biotechnology could Revolutionize Healthcare, Rita Charon’s How the Story is Changing: The Power of Narrative Medicine and David Nutter’s Fighting for your Creative Life. Jason and Rita could not have been more different in character. Jason – the world’s worst dinner guest had the energy of an exploding bomb, his seminar felt like a blitzkrieg bombarding us with a series of extraordinary and mind-blowing ideas and possibilities for the future, moving so quickly if you lost concentration for just a minute you’d miss one. Rita on the other hand was ponderous, delicate, thoughtful and drifted through her half hour like a little cloud, contemplating and molding ideas as she went. In our “What are you talking about? Get to the point” culture both speakers were unusually disquieting.


Jason Silva is frankly pretty excited about everything. In a nutshell he talked about how biology and technology are on the verge of merging to such an extent that we will soon all become monitor-able pieces of machinery uploading constant streams of physical data. He talked about the 2nd stage of civilization where sentient beings no longer explore outwards – their world and beyond, but explore inwardly – pulled into our bodies creating a complete map of ourselves in real time. Human beings effectively become transparent like an open watch face, the inner workings available for all to see and vitally, to change. He talked about technology being the scaffolding around us, an extension of our own biological systems. Eventually he disappeared so far down his own worm-hole it became difficult to follow, at some point in his future I think he plans for us to all leave our bodies and just drift in a sea consciousness. Or something.

Importantly though he raised the question “why do websites know more than my doctor?” He rightly points out that in the very very near future, getting nearer by the second, we will be self monitoring and self diagnosing. With self diagnosis soon comes self medication, which begs the question what will be the role for doctors in the future?


The ethereal Rita answered the question in her own unique way. She talked about the calling – the natural pull of care giving and rather sweetly she included us, the advertisers in that calling. She bemoaned the new generation of business-doctors (perhaps more of a States-side issue than elsewhere) and their inability to ‘get it’. We were left wondering ‘get what?’ as she told a stream of consciousness story of a patient of hers who died of dementia. As a private doctor in the US of course you are able to take a shared role in patients lives, becoming in some instances part of the family. Private health care has the luxury of time, which allows the physician to practice the ancient skills of the family doctor. Evidently this involves quite a lot of crying.


Still she pulled us in. She used Mark Rothko as a metaphor for becoming part of a patient journey. You are pulled in to his paintings; you do not see them as you do a patient with a bio-marker and a diagnosis. They cannot be distilled down or reduced to simple words or numbers. Rather you experience them, they surround you with a wealth of feelings and intangible emotions, they are sensations like sleep, skin, doubt or death. She likened her patients to unfolding stories that are narrated over time and encouraged the scientific community to embrace and enjoy the doubt and mystery of what it means to exist, to share the lived human experience with patients. It seems to me that Rita was calling for a return to a more ancient role for physicians, someone with whom we go on the strange mystical journey. In the context of Silva’s bio-tech future where today we are all citizen-journalists, tomorrow we will all be citizen-doctors, it may be that the traditional values of caregiving will become increasingly important.


The final speaker of the day, the director David Nutter likes to share a tear or two as well, he seems to take great pleasure in making his crew and actors cry. Predominantly his presentation was a series of clips from stuff he’s done, from Game of Thrones to Band of Brother’s. Frankly it could have done with a lot more footage of Damien Lewis, still it was entertaining to a point. One of the most compelling things he said however, was about what he looks for in a successful character, what is it that will pull you in to a programme? He looks for the void, or the flaw: the element in someone’s history or character that has caused some kind of dysfunction. It is this void that pulls us in, makes us connect, makes us care about them and keeps us coming back to his shows again and again.

Our health makes us who we are. Physical and mental disorder and dystopia are the fabric of some of the world’s greatest stories. And good story telling, like good advertising pulls you in.

I am now going to contradict myself. Frankly Health Cannes should not exist. In fact Cannes should not exist at all in its current form. Judging communications based on channel is from the dark ages. No one makes just a press ad anymore; every single agency in the world has gone through the seismic shift required to create ideas not ads. Cannes could learn a lot from the Oscars and think about restructuring based on skill. Best idea, best content, best filmic, best static, best regulated, best product design, best art direction, best user generated. But we all know this is a money making machine and we can look forward to Cannes Car, Cannes Beauty, and Cannes Baby in the near future.


Still Cannes Health was a fantastic and inspirational experience and restored my faith in advertising to do good things and not just add to the noise. Helped by the fact that we walked away with a silver. And I learnt a few things along the way:

–        I work with a really lovely and smart bunch of people, both agency & network
–        Jim Stengel is utterly affable
–        You are never too old to party til dawn
–        It’s not a good idea to say ‘Ghurka’s foreskin’ to the guy at passport control

Sian Dodwell, PLBR Head of Planning

Don’t forget to be a human

happy fingers

It is safe to say I was a late adopter to Twitter and whilst I was busy meandering through the wilderness of who to follow, I stumbled across an account dedicated to delivering content that aims to ‘blow our minds’, which naturally ignited my curiosity.

The account’s aptly titled handle is @TheMindBlowing and as you would expect, it is tremendously popular – currently hosting a whopping 1.21 million followers; making the insecure of us feel that we need some sort of sports car to validate our existence.

My inquisitive nature with @TheMindBlowing opened up some questions—why would someone have an account like this? What do they gain? Was this just bragging rights or was it about business?

After looking closer, it was quite obvious that it was business orientated, and then looking closer still, I could see a method to their success, which I have termed push-push pull.

So, what do I mean by this?

Well, push content delivers something your customer wants. It gives them content they crave and satisfies their needs. It doesn’t matter if it is a well written blog *cough cough* or a funny cat video; content that pushes gives the user a feeling of added value.

Pull content is what you would expect—the opposite. It is content that puts your needs first; it is a request to share, to retweet or to download—it is asking followers to buy your next album or book. Pull content meets a business need, where push content meets the consumers’.

What @TheMindBlowing does is exactly this, they give-give-give you content and then they send you a link to their website, where they can make money through advertisements whilst also improving their search ranking through quality engagement.

So why is this so successful?

Well to me, it works because this type of interaction has a real human quality to it. Think about your closest friends and more importantly, why you are friends with them. I hope it is because they are fun, intelligent, caring, helpful, or when you are moving house, own a van! Whatever the reason, the time you spend with them more often than not feels valuable to you.

Even so, you know that one day your phone will ring and you will have to do something for them. It could be problems with their family or their partner, it could be help moving house—it doesn’t matter. Your relationship is a balance between your needs and theirs—a similar model to push-push pull, albeit less forced.

And therein lies my point. We live in a world where we spend large portions of our day immersed in technology—some of our friendships are entirely maintained through it. So although it is clear to see why these human-based models succeed, it is also important to remember that the words you write, the visuals you show, or the ideas you are selling are reaching out to mothers, to fathers, to your next door neighbour…to real people.

So whatever work you create next, don’t forget to be a human.

Tom Wordley, Senior Copywriter

Who do you think you know?

You know that Nigella Lawson?

No. You don’t. But I bet you could close your eyes and picture her if you tried.

You know her face, recognize her voice, and probably know at least 3 distinct facts about her.

The whole cocaine thing seems to have shocked people, because that doesn’t sound like something she’d do.

Similarly, if I made up ten different stories about David Attenborough, I would bet a year’s salary that 90% of people (including me) would agree on which stories were out of character for him.

Not something she’d do? Out of character for him?

These are people you’ve never met or even spoken to, yet you seem to feel you know them. At least a little.

Just as importantly, you see them on their own, seemingly looking right at you, and talking just to you. You, them, no one else.

And yet, they have never spoken to you at all, because, like public speakers or bands, they are talking to everyone and no one at the same time.

So, while in reality they have no idea you exist, it doesn’t feel that way. And now you feel like they might know you a little.

Now, think of the work colleague that you reckon you know the least.

You know, the one you’ve shared a room with 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 3 years, but have never had an actual conversation with.

Could you say the same about this faceless, hapless coworker?

Could you repeat the above David Attenborough exercise with them?

Would finding out they did cocaine shock you?

No, no and no?

So, you feel no connection whatsoever with the person you’ve shared a small enclosed space with for years, while you feel you know the person you’ve never met, and never will.

Isn’t that really, really strange?

Why do we do this?

It made sense at the time…

I think we do it because our minds evolved to cope with life as hunter-gatherers and haven’t changed much since then.

I suspect our subconscious still works by applying rules of thumb that served us well previously:

  • If you see a face or voice repeatedly, this person is part of the tribe
  • If you’ve only seen them behaving a certain way, you can justifiably assume they behave like this all the time
  • If everyone else confirms this, you probably know their character
  • If this person you recognize is looking into your eyes and talking, then obviously (i) they can see you (ii) they know you and (iii) they are talking directly to you

Before TV, or theatre, or realistic paintings of individuals, the above assumptions were entirely reasonable – how could you possibly have a familiar face looking at you, or talking to you, unless you knew each other?

Obviously nobody (sane) consciously thinks that celebrities are talking to them individually – no one with a properly functioning mind would say:

Good point Nigella, I WILL ensure I use only the freshest of cantaloupes


You’re right David, it IS difficult to watch cheetahs being chased off their kills by opportunistic hyenas”.

But subconsciously? I think it’s entirely possible.

If modern society is made up of modern humans with decidedly un-modern minds, I think it likely that this explains the very existence of the celebrity (and maybe even the fictional character).

If you don’t agree, it doesn’t matter.

I know I’m right.

Brian Cox told me so.

– Kevin Morrison, copywriter

Weird and wonderful world

I have always been obsessed with the nature programmes of David Attenborough, and enthralled by their exploration of the weird and wonderful world that we live in. The sheer number of creatures that have yet to be discovered, and the beautiful landscapes which remain largely untouched by mankind, never cease to amaze me.

Therefore, it was Attenborough who sprang to mind when I recently visited Fraser Island, approximately 200km North of Brisbane off the East coast of Australia. I was fairly ignorant about what lay in store for me, initially thinking that we could just pop across in our rental car and explore the island at leisure. Wrong! Fraser is the biggest sand island in the world, with some of the sand dunes reaching almost 250m above sea level and going deeper than most deserts. This means that only four wheel drives are permitted or else you’ll get stuck – sometimes for up to four days according to our guide, as the tracks are one-way only!

Measuring 120km by 24km, Fraser Island is home to over a hundred freshwater lakes. In turn, forty of these are “perched” lakes, meaning they sit above the ground-water table; in layman’s terms, imagine a giant puddle gradually filling up with rainwater to create a lake. The water is essentially stagnant, but is still so clean that it acts as a natural cleanser for the body, while the lake sand is nearly pure silica. Each grain of sand can also be described as a miniature pearl, being almost perfectly spherical. For this reason, you’ll see tourists exfoliating their entire bodies whilst bathing, including their jewellery. I couldn’t help but join in, and can testify that it definitely works!


Surprisingly the beaches are classified as highways, so jeeps can zip along at a speedy 80km/hr; a pretty weird sensation when you usually associate the beach with sunbathing, swimming and general relaxation. I wouldn’t dip a toe in here though, after being warned that tiger sharks often beach themselves trying to catch fish and have to aggressively wriggle their way back into the water, jaws gnashing. Thankfully we didn’t see any! I thought I spotted a white dolphin during the ferry crossing, but was informed it was more likely to have been a manta ray. There goes my aspired future career as a marine biologist!

Wildlife is diverse on Fraser Island, with the resident dingoes having become fairly accustomed to visitors, and often making themselves busy attempting to capitalise on BBQ leftovers. Their dog-like appearance is not to be taken at face value, however, as the young ones often try to gain “street cred” in their pack and can occasionally steal food or attack. Check out the claws below!

Fraser-3 Fraser-4

Fraser Island is also known for its coloured sands, comprised of 72 different shades – predominantly reds and yellows. According to Google the hues are caused by the leaching of oxides that coat each grain of sand, causing bands of colour.

Another “Fraser fact” for you – it is the only place on Earth where tall rainforest grows in sand. Some of the trees are over 300 years old, and reminded me of the Sequoia trees found in Yosemite National Park in California. They also have strangler fig trees, which essentially strangle another tree in their attempt to grow up to the rainforest canopy to reach the light. I didn’t realise that they often start as seeds dropped by birds in the tree canopy, so they occasionally germinate and grow their roots down the host tree as well as up! The host usually dies leaving a hollow central core, which can be fun to climb inside.

With more than 865 species of plants, 74 species of reptiles and 19 species of bats (!) recorded on the island, it truly is a mini Attenborough paradise – and is thankfully now protected as a World Heritage site. In the words of the great man, “people must feel that the natural world is important and valuable and beautiful and wonderful and an amazement and a pleasure.” I certainly do!

Fraser-5 Fraser-6


Camilla, Account Director

What makes a great story?

I’m a weirdo

I am.

I’m a weirdo because I love to revisit the same stories again and again.

I’m a weirdo because I watch the same films and read the same books over and over.

I’ve seen Aliens (1986) about 30* times, delighted in The Thing (1984), Predator (1987) and Terminator 2 (1991) around 10 times each and watched both The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966) and Casablanca (1942) at least thrice.

I’ve also seen every episode of Bottom at least as many times as I’ve seen Aliens, but I’m fairly sure that’s not for the story.


The two great heroes of the Hammersmith Iliad

And I’m even worse when it comes to books, because not only do I read, reread and re-reread the same novels and novellas, I sometimes do the same for specific scenes or chapters.

So I’ve been trying to identify what it is about these specific stories that keep me coming back and I’ve come up with a theory….

*I might actually be underestimating here.  It’s this kind of behaviour that makes my girlfriend mutter about me “being on some kind of spectrum”.

It’s all about betrayal

My favourite series of books currently stands at 25 novels and the same number again of novellas and short stories. Tens of thousands of pages, 9 years of work, 2 months’ worth of reading – and all entirely concerned with the events preceding and following one colossal betrayal, which largely destroys civilisation.

In fact, when I think of the specific books and passages I reread the most, they often feature the moment true colours are revealed, or describe the first confrontation between betrayer and betrayed.

Similarly (spoiler alert!), the plot of each film I mentioned earlier pivots around one or more betrayals:

  • In both Aliens and Predator the men are repeatedly and fatally back-stabbed by their superiors (the Company/Carter Burke, and Dillon respectively) resulting in their deaths
  • The entire premise of the terminator universe is that mankind builds an artificial intelligence which then immediately turns on its creators, deliberately instigating a nuclear holocaust
  • The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is entirely driven by cross and double-cross, as each character continually switches their allegiances, leading to that unforgettable Mexican-standoff scene
  • Part of what makes Casablanca amazing is the ever-present threat of betrayal and death, which never actually occurs (mostly because Rick acts honourably)


It’s everywhere

In fact, it’s not just me that loves stories of turncoats and traitors; once you start looking for it betrayal is ubiquitous in fiction.

Take Shakespeare:

Macbeth, the trusted friend of King Duncan, murders him in his sleep:

Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood

Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather

The multitudinous seas incarnadine,

Making the green one red

Julius Caesar
recognises his friend Brutus among his assassins:

Et tu, Brute?  (You too, Brutus?)

s uncle ruminates on having murdered his own brother:

O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;

It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t,

A brother’s murder.


Are you sure it wasn’t you Macbeth?

Or what about Ephialtes betraying King Leonidas at the battle of Thermopylae?

This legendary battle took place in 480 BC and saw King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans defend a narrow mountain pass against over 100,000 Persians. Leonidas and his 300 were unbreakable… until the deformed and corrupt Ephialtes led the Persian horde along secret shepherd paths, allowing them to surround and ultimately annihilate the Spartans.


Hell hath no fury like an anatomically-impossible-human-being scorned

And then there’s the Bible. The single bestselling book of all time, and three of its most important stories are of horrifying disloyalty: Cain slaying Abel, Abraham preparing to sacrifice his own son and, of course, Judas betraying Jesus.

It could equally well be argued that these stories are actually to do with temptation, or being tested, or of ultimate sacrifice, but that doesn’t change the fact that each still involves one person trusting another and paying (or nearly paying) the ultimate price.

In fact, being that Christ’s rise and fall has been dubbed “The greatest story ever told”*, it seems that stories of betrayal grip us like little else.

But why?

*A slight oversell. I’d go for On the origin of species, or Guns, Germs and Steel myself.

Amateur/Evolutionary/Group psychology hour

Here’s my suggestion: What if we’re all born with an instinctual revulsion of betrayal?

If that sounds stupid, read the next paragraph. If it still sounds ridiculous, feel free to hunt me down and slap me.

Evolutionary psychology tells us that we are born “primed” to fear things like snakes, spiders and heights, because they were likely to kill us if we weren’t careful. Being that our survival has always depended on co-operation with others, could we also have an inbuilt fear of betrayal?


You’re making Darwin angry.

If we do, then the reason betrayal is such a popular topic becomes obvious: everyone knows humans love scary stories (it’s why the horror genre exists).

Is that it?!

No, of course not.

Obviously I’m not suggesting that the formula for the perfect story is:

  1. Invent some characters
  2. Make sure absolutely everyone betrays absolutely everyone else
  3. Retire a millionaire

What I am doing is pointing out that betrayal features heavily in many of the world’s most popular stories, admitting that I certainly love plots that feature betrayal, and suggesting that there might be sound psychological reasons for why everyone does too.

But who knows, I could be wrong about all of this. Or lying.

Don’t trust me.

Or anyone….

– Kevin Morrison

A Purrrfect Exhibition


Thanks to everyone at PLBR for exhibiting some of my prints and originals in their Kensington offices. if you work anywhere else in Kensington Village, swing by and take a gander. Ask nicely if you can pop in as opposed to staring through the window though. This has the unfortunate effect of making the staff feel like they are residents of a zoo. That’s doubly so if you wave bananas and scratch your armpits. So cut that out… we know who you are.

Anyway, things have changed a bit since I was regularly freelancing there and working on briefs to promote eye drops, cancer drugs and the plight of the homeless. Back then I learned an awful lot about medicine and other advances in science, all of which I’ve now completely forgotten!

I’m now doing a daily ‘Learn to Speak Cat’ cartoon for the Metro newspaper and ‘Learn to Speak Dog’ for the online edition of Cosmopolitan magazine, as well as various other bits and bobs.


Do check out a couple of books I have in the shops or online, Learn to Speak Cat & Bad Dog, No Biscuit

They make ideal Christmas presents, although they are possibly not suitable for very young children or elderly people with a bad disposition. Or people who don’t like cats and dogs. Or indeed, people who don’t like cartoons about cats and dogs. Actually, I should probably stop giving you reasons not to buy these. It just demonstrates how rusty my advertising skills are.

Anthony Smith