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In general, do you think 2019 has been a good year for creative advertising?

I think it’s an exciting time. I really feel like we’re entering a new era of creative risk taking.

What piece or pieces of work have impressed you most over the last year?

I guess I could pick an ad or two to talk about but the real campaign of the year has been Dominic Cummings’ election campaign. The political advisor to Boris Johnson. Who resigned. But not really. Did he resign? No one knows! It’s fun this isn’t it? An absolute barnstormer of lies, more lies, blanket bombing personalised lies and big loud lies. 

He’s talked about as being a tactical genius, but I reckon I could have a pretty good go at advertising... well, anything, if I didn’t have to tell the truth.

A triumph of strategy, research, social media, micro-targeted ads and all out aggression. It was a case study for why political advertising needs regulating immediately. Looking forward to the Cannes Lions case study on that one; ‘Twitter blew up with hate crime soaring through the roof, almost doubling since the start of the campaign!’.

He’s talked about as being a tactical genius, but I reckon I could have a pretty good go at advertising... well, anything, if I didn’t have to tell the truth. Like, at all. Be a lot easier in our job if you could just make shit up and misuse people’s data to brainwash them. ‘Buy Persil, it’ll get your clothes clean and also make you look like Tom fucking Cruise'. Or Kendall Jenner. And it’ll get rid of immigrants too. Whiter whites. Buy Persil’. Maybe Persil could make a fake rival’s website called, I dunno, ‘WashingPowderFactChecker.com’ and it could have details of how a rival washing powder gave you herpes. Easy right? 

Cummings once said; ‘Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it’. It was either Cummings or Goebbels, I can never remember which.

88% of Tory online ads and micro-targeted ads are misleading, or ‘lies’ I guess would be another word for it. That’s fucking outrageous. Democracy cannot survive if facts and truth are not mandatory. Ask Berlusconi. Or Trump. Or fuck it, let’s ask Hitler, that democratically elected guy from Germany.   

Propaganda’s really not actually that difficult. As Dominic Cummings once said; ‘Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it’. Sorry, it was either Cummings or Goebbels, I can never remember which.

It’s hard to feel hopeful, especially today, but it’s important we do, because without hope we have nothing.

It’s probably not the done thing to talk about your own agency’s work but I am proud of Uncommon’s Guardian campaign. Change is Possible, Hope is Power feels like an important message in this age of cess pit swamp rats spaffing bile up the wall. It’s hard to feel hopeful, especially today [it's the day after the UK election day when I'm writing this], but it’s important we do, because without hope we have nothing.

Click image to enlarge

The industry landscape continues to evolve, with agencies broadening their creative scope; what do you think are the core principles by which an agency must operate? 

Push boundaries. Break new ground. And make sure it’s something people in the real world are glad exists.

2019 has been a year in which the Climate Crisis rose to the fore; can and should advertising be doing more to shine a light on this issue?

We can and must do more. This is one of the few instances where we can affect real change. Not just sell more shit but actually change behaviour that might have some kind of impact on the climate emergency. Greta Thunberg [below] proves one young girl can make a massive difference, and global brands with the world’s brightest minds and millions of pounds at their disposal should be able to change the world for the better too. 

What do you think has been the biggest challenge facing UK agencies this year? 

There seems to be a readjustment happening. Last year three of the big agencies were hit hard and that trend seems to be continuing with M&C’s dramatic news recently. I can’t see this being reversed anytime soon. But in every crisis comes an opportunity and if you’re nimble and can hit hard there’s a big space to play in.

Do you think that challenge will be the same in 2020 or can you foresee other issues taking centre stage?

Brexit is definitely going to happen now and if it’s a Hard Brexit, which a lot of Boris’ hedge fund backers want it to be, it’s going to be a very tough few years for businesses financially, with budgets being cut. It could be like another 2008 financial crisis, only this time we’ll be doing it on purpose.

The Christmas ads are all out now; what do you think of this year’s crop in general, and which have been your favourites?

I liked this year’s more than last I think. The John Lewis dragon was definitely one of their best. Very Dougal [Wilson], which is great. And Tesco’s Back to the Future-inspired spot was fun, and Sainsbury’s tried to modify the formula with a little post-modernism.

And then Boris turn[ed] up on the doorstep with Love Actually-type signs saying ‘I’m here to fuck the NHS’, or something. Can’t remember the details, only saw it once, but it was great.

My favourite of the lot though was the festive GET BREXIT DONE campaign. Fucking awesome. A kind of re-versioning of the classic Scrooge Christmas tale where the Tories create more food banks than McDonald’s while reducing tax on rich people. It had everything. A four-year-old suffering from pneumonia lying on a Leeds hospital floor, and then Boris turning up on the doorstep with Love Actually-type signs saying ‘I’m here to fuck the NHS’, or something. Can’t remember the details, only saw it once, but it was great.

Sainsbury's – Nicholas The Sweep

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Which three words would you use to describe the current state of the creative landscape in the UK?

WORLD. ON. FIRE.

What do you think the advertising’s New Year’s resolution should be?

Push the boundaries. Make a difference. We’re all going to die soon.

What will be your own New Year’s resolution, work-related or otherwise?

Finish my short film, TEA, about a Polish girl confronting racial aggression in Brexit Britain, and get it out onto the festival circuit. Dom should watch it. He’d love it.  [You can read more about TEA here].  

Tea – TEA

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