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How Can Strategy & Creative Work Better Together?

July & August 2017 | Andy Palmer & Vic Polkinghorne

Andy Palmer

Strategic Partner | Sell! Sell! London

Andy is an entrepreneurial and creative business leader and strategic heavy hitter with over 25 years experience of making highly impactful, category-defining advertising campaigns. He’s been fortunate enough to work at some of London’s best advertising agencies, including Bates Dorland, Lowe Howard-Spink and St.Luke’s, helping to mastermind many effective and famous campaigns for some of the world’s best brands, including Heineken, Bass Brewers, Stella Artois, HSBC, Heinz, Clarks, IKEA and the COI. In 2005 he teamed up with Vic to form Sell! Sell!

Vic Polkinghorne.jpg
Vic Polkinghorne

Creative Partner | Sell! Sell! London

Vic is a strategically smart and entrepreneurial creative driven by creating powerful and successful ideas. He cut his teeth at some of London’s top ad agencies, including Lowe, Saatchi & Saatchi, St.Luke’s and Karmarama, before founding Sell! Sell! with Andy in 2005. He has created successful campaigns for brands including Boots, Sky, IKEA, BT, Clarks, MTV, Drambuie, Fentimans and the COI. His work has breathed new life into ailing brands, successfully launched new products and turned challengers into serious contenders.

7 July 2017

“The cobbler’s children are always worst shod”

“The carpenter’s home always needs work”

“Physician, heal thyself!”


There are loads of old sayings about people not applying their skills to themselves. This might suggest there’s some kind of universal truth there?


As advertising people, we’re tasked with interrogating other people’s businesses and looking at how we can help them grow or improve what they do.


But like the physician, I think we would benefit from looking at some symptoms a little closer to home…

When CEOs and senior marketers come to talk to us, something we hear over and over again is that they find working with ad agencies painful and laborious.


When we chat to agency people, it’s frightening how many tell us they feel undervalued, overworked and stifled by poor processes.


And when you look at the output of the ad industry – the real work out there in the real world, every day – it’s clear that the poor old punter is mostly faced with advertising that is at best forgettable, and at worst insulting to the intelligence.


To us these are symptoms that indicate there is a real problem.


We think the way agencies organise themselves and work with clients, and the way agencies work to develop strategies, ideas and advertising can be improved. And need to be improved.


Looking at the way that ad agencies work is a bit like finding rock that was once lava. You can tell that it was moving at one time, albeit very slowly. It crept along shifting very slightly (the last major change being the widespread introduction of account planning in the early 70’s). Until one day it just stopped moving and set into stone.


Agencies have a way of working that just sort of happened, rather than being designed, but it is set so hard in stone that challenging it is often received like challenging religious views at a bible convention.


But as we all know from our day jobs – the only way you improve things is by challenging them.


So that’s what we want to do over the next four weeks. We’re going to unpick the way that planning and creative work together (or don’t) in ad agencies, and look at the things that seem to be getting in the way of people being able to do their best work (and are also frustrating the hell out of clients). And we’re going to suggest a different way of doing things.


A different way of doing things, by the way, that has worked very well for us, and our clients, for the last ten years, so it’s not just a theoretical exercise. But we are just a tiny speck on the periphery of the world of advertising. And these kinds of conversations normally only happen on the periphery of the industry, either at the pub or on blogs like our SellSellBlog, Bob Hoffman’s, or Martin Weigel’s.


So I think it’s great that the APG have invited us to be guest editors for a month and challenge things from the ‘inside’.


We hope that you find the next four weeks thought-provoking and challenging. We understand that you might not agree with all of it, and we’re okay with that – we’d love to hear your thoughts and challenges in return.


Most of all we hope it helps stimulate a desire to improve how we work, and most importantly, improve the work we produce.



Week 1

The Meatpackers Of Advertising

14 July 2017

This story starts not on the hip streets of Soho or Shoreditch but in the shipyards and mills of England and the Chicago meatpacking industry in the 1800s.


These are the earliest recorded examples of linear assembly lines where, for the first time, rather than undertake a task from start to completion, workers would do just a part of the task. When they had completed their part, it would move on to the next person. What we know now as the modern production line.


The Chicago meatpacking factories where the inspiration for the production lines developed at Ford in the early 20th Century, but the practice had already been put in place by Ransom Olds. Henry Ford is often wrongly said to have invented the production line, but it was Olds who used it to build the first mass-produced automobile, the Oldsmobile Curved Dash.


Which all seems a long way from the advertising industry in 2017.


But when you think about it, in 2017 most advertising is produced using an industrial-style, linear production line process.


It’s one of those things that we don’t really notice, because pretty much everywhere operates in the same way, and the process is just taken for granted. We are the fish that don’t notice the sea.


But is the way ad agencies develop advertising the best way to get to great ideas? And does the way they work contribute to some of the problems we’re seeing in the business? The biggest one, in our eyes, being a decline in the quality of advertising being produced by agencies.


A clear sign that something is wrong somewhere, is one of the great contradictions of advertising, which is this:


To clients, the development of advertising seems unbelievably slow and laborious. But, to the creatives who have to come up with the big ideas, there never seems to be enough time.


How can these two contradictory things both be true? The answer has to lie in between those two people doesn’t it?


And what is between them? Ad agencies and agency process.


They have become these huge, complicated and bureaucratic organisations. Which brings us back to the beginning. To deal with the scale, they’ve forced creative thinking into a production line process. It’s been industrialized.


We all know how it currently works right? Some people meet the client, they look at the targets, and the problems, and the competitors and market. Then they go off for weeks, or even months to work out the strategy.


They go back to the client with the strategy, and then there’s a lot of charts and presentations and then...  They get to a brief – which is the result of possibly hundreds of hours, and many, many thousands of pounds-worth of budget.


And then the brief gets passed on to the next people in the production line. This is often the time when creatives are given their first glimpse of the client’s problem. And that’s a problem.


Industrial processes don’t produce individual pieces of brilliance. Production lines were designed to very efficiently churn out identical products.


Exactly the same, every time.


That’s the opposite of creativity. Creative solutions are, by their very nature, different to what was right last time.




A client came to us a few years back. They were smart people, and had been working with a big, well-regarded London agency.


They’d gone through the usual planning and strategic process, you know, months in the making. The only problem was, the agency were struggling to come up with any good creative ideas.


The agency had some talented, creative people working there. But they were, struggling. So in the end the client came to see us…


Well, it didn’t take long to unpick what the real problem was.


It was the brief that was causing the problems – it might have looked watertight and logical. But it wasn’t a start point for great work.


But the agency had spent so much time and budget getting to this point, the brief was probably a hundred grand piece of paper – do you think that agency was ever going to turn round and tell the client they have to start the process again from the beginning?


That’s the problem with the production-line process.


And the bigger the brief – the bigger the problem, because the greater time there tends to be between the client coming to the agency and creatives getting anywhere near the problem.


Let’s think about what happens when an agency had to solve some crisis, or it’s trying to win a very important piece of business, what do they do?


They tend to get their best people in the room and say ‘Okay, what should we do?’ And then those people will work out what to do. (Although these days at large agencies, the process of pitching is starting to resemble the production-line process.)


There’s a clue here. What if we just got the team together from the very beginning of the process, from the very first meeting?


Why don’t we get creatives involved up-front working with planners, as soon as possible in the process?


We think you need creative and strategy working side-by-side from the beginning. Working out together how best to solve the problem from that first meeting with the client. Discussing thoughts, questions, observations, insights, potential challenges from the moment the client brief is issued.


Let’s get rid of the production line that keeps creatives at arm’s-length from the real problems and give them some responsibility for authoring a brief alongside a planner rather than seeing them primarily as a resource to execute an idea from a creative brief.


Clients, creatives, account people and planners, we’re all wired differently. And this is a great thing – because we think differently – and we ask different kinds of questions.


Sometimes creatives ask the kind of stupid or difficult questions that make everyone else in the room groan – we know, we’ve been there. But sometimes those questions, can lead you to somewhere different.


We think there’s huge value in getting people working together properly more as a team from the beginning.


By the way, this is not about the dreaded C-word: ‘collaboration’. It’s not about those horrible gang-bang brainstorm sessions. People still have to go away and do their specialism, and should be given the space to do that. But we think that the start points for work will be better, and the end ideas better, when the people on the project are all discussing it and interrogating it together from the beginning.


We stumbled upon this way of working by the way. It wasn’t a grand plan. Although we set-up Sell! Sell! to get rid of the things that were getting in the way of good ideas, we didn’t necessarily sit down and painstakingly design a process. We were just people who respected each other’s skills and thinking and wanted to work together, we just started working on stuff, and this was how it evolved.


We know we’re not the only example of this. There are other people we’ve spoken to in advertising who have said their most productive times and best work has been when they’ve found a planner or creative who they just work well and closely with to get to the most interesting solutions.


By now, you’ll have clocked that we believe that tighter planner/creative partnerships lead to better work.  It’s a shame that most agencies are so conservative and stuck in their ways. We’d certainly advocate experimenting with a way of working that encourages these partnerships and challenges the baton-passing approach that invariably always end up with a brief falling in the lap of a creative team. It seems bonkers that this approach hasn’t changed for years.


We totally appreciate that there may be some immovable cultural or organisational barriers that may prevent this kind of revolution from within happening. Nevertheless, we’d encourage all smart strategists to find a way of bucking the system.


Spend as much time with the creatives as you can discussing the business problems as early as you can. Seek them out on a regular basis. In their office (if they still have one), in the pub, in the queue for lunch. Don’t leave the big conversations until set piece meetings. Make sure there’s a constant dialogue about the client business, the brief, the work. Swap ideas about different ways to solve the problem. Challenge each other. Inspire each other.


It’s certainly true that great ideas can come from anywhere and that ‘creative’ is not a department.


However, it’s equally true that strategy isn’t a department.


An ad agency should be a group of smart people, not a process. And smart people should be able to have the freedom to explore many different ways of solving a client’s business problem without feeling constrained by the tyrannical straitjacket of a traditional creative brief. Which, as it happens, is the topic we’ll be expanding upon next week…

Week 2

The Sacred Text

26 July 2017


In this week’s piece we are daring to challenge the sacred text of advertising. The creative brief.


The creative brief is obviously part of the process of developing ideas. And if we are saying that the standard of the work of agencies is generally not good enough, and looking to improve it, shouldn’t we be interrogating all parts of that process to see if it’s fit for purpose or can be improved?


Problem solving and coming up with ideas could be broken down into reduction and expansion, making decisions and exploring options.


The question is - are these two things being done at the right time and in the most useful order?


So let’s look at the creative brief with a critical eye.


It can take ages. That’s emotive language isn’t it? But the agency brief sometimes seems to take longer to develop and be agreed than the creative work. You can decide for yourself if that’s a good thing.


A side effect of this is that it’s often quite a long way into the process before creative people get access to the problem. We increasingly hear that the process is being weighted ever more in favour of the ‘strategic phase’, with the creative time often crunched and squeezed to a kick bollock scramble minimum.


By and large, creatives tend not to be involved at this early stage (they’re often disinclined to take this responsibility or actively discouraged) so you have a situation where strategy is being worked out in a creative-free vacuum, and key, reductive decisions made without involvement of the people who will be ultimately tasked to turn the strategy and brief into a brand-defining idea or powerful piece of communication.


Sometimes you can get a situation where a planner tries to have the big idea in the brief or very tightly dictate what the idea should be. This reduces the role of creatives to being mere executional stylists and massively underuses their skills and input. In a way this is perfectly understandable because the brief is often seen as the planner’s product. And when something is your output and the fruit of your labours, you naturally want to be proud of it.


This can lead to any direct challenging of the brief becoming adversarial.

Now, we are actually big fans of a heated debate and think that disagreements and differences of opinion are all part of a healthy creative process. But because the brief is often someone’s product, that person can become protective of the brief along with the thought and time that have gone into it, and these challenges can sometimes be taken personally.


The longer a brief takes to be conceived, crafted, fine tuned and the more work that goes into its every word then the less likely that any questioning of that brief is going to be received in the spirit of positive challenge that should naturally occur.


Plus, the sheer amount of time and money spent in the planning/brief-writing phase means that so much is invested in the brief by both client and agency – especially if it has gone all the way up the agency chain, been signed-off internally by the many signatories and stakeholders, then been signed-off by the client.


What does it say about the agency, its process and the time and money it took to get there, if someone is questioning or challenging the brief?


Quite often the point of no return has been reached without a creative person being seriously involved.


Let’s remember that the creative process is never linear. There are often blind alleys, or ideas that don’t work in themselves but help to generate other ideas.


A system where reductive decisions have been made before the problem gets passed to the creative can reduce the chances of these non-linear, organic instances happening.


Sometimes creatives don’t challenge a brief directly but instead re-write their own brief after the briefing that they then work off, and hope that the strength of the work will then justify the approach. You can understand the thinking behind doing this, given everything we’ve just discussed. But what a waste of time and energy this is.


So having examined some of the pitfalls of the current way of doing things, let’s think about an alternative.


Go back to the agency process, rather than it being split 50-50 as above, imagine if all of that time was given over to a non-linear chunk of time where creatives and planners could go back and forth, between themselves and with the client trying and testing different approaches – how that time is split is completely organic – if you find a very rich area or clearly powerful approach all the time can be spent find the most powerful way to express it, or if it’s clear that there are different ways of tackling the problem they can be explored more thoroughly to help rule them out or  - it’s still a reductive process, its just that the creatives are involved in the process of reducing.


That’s how we’ve worked here for the last ten years, and it’s helped us to get to different ideas that we don’t think would have happened with the currently orthodox linear process.


This may be heresy to some, but we don’t obsess about the writing or crafting of an agency creative brief. It may be a terrible mixed-metaphor to summarise our approach, but we always view the brief as springboard rather than a straightjacket.


And when we say brief, we’re often talking about working directly from a client brief. Providing that it has clearly identified their commercial objectives, target audience and contains a shared view of the role for communication and what we hope the work will achieve.


In our experience, when there is an upfront agreement between agency and client about exactly what the key issue is that the advertising is trying to help then that gives you the freedom to get strategy and creative working more closely together in the early stages, experimenting with different ways of solving the problem.


This means we can always go very wide in the initial phase of development and we deliberately force ourselves to look at a problem from several different and diverse angles before we start filtering our ideas.


This way of working takes the pressure off the strategy or brief having to be a unique, brilliant piece of thinking in its own right. We know the pressure felt by the planner for the brief in isolation to be brilliant and clever (because of the time and budget being spent on it) when really it’s a part of a wider process of problem-solving and idea creation.


This may be very controversial but we believe that the brief is a means to an end. And if the best brief to get the best solution is really quite simple, that should be okay, shouldn’t it? (Sometimes it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it because that’s what gets results.)


As we’ve said, creativity is a not a linear process. We believe that a less rigid, more fluid approach to the brief enables creativity to thrive and flourish and that ultimately enables more unexpected and interesting work.


How often have we heard the phrase “I like it but it’s not on brief” kill an interesting thought in its fledgling state before it’s allowed to be nurtured and fully grown?


There are things that creatives need in order to do their job well. For example, properly understanding the target/consumer and their motivations and behaviour. But these can come outside the formality of a brief and probably should. In our opinion, it better serves the end result if creatives are doing some of their own legwork on this too, rather than rely on planners to spoon-feed them information. Let’s free creatives from their laptop screens and headphones, and get them back out into the world.


By the way, all this assumes that you work in an agency where there are actually some creatives who are interested the business problem and the audience, and some planners who are interested in working more closely with creatives and open to working differently.


In our experience, these are qualities that the best creatives and planners possess. But it seems the current, process-heavy, linear way of working actively discourages people from straying out of the strict confines of their discipline (“Hey creatives – you leave the hard thinking to us” “Planners – your bit is done now, leave it with us”).


It’s one of advertising’s sacred cows. But can you imagine killing the brief?

Week 3

Eight Things That Help Us

3 August 2017

Welcome to week three. So far we’ve talked about the idea of planning and creative working more closely together. And we’ve discussed re-thinking the process and the way we use briefs to make the most of people’s thinking. This week we thought it would be useful to share a couple of the general principles we use as guidance to ourselves (and everyone involved in the process).


We say everyone in process, because we don’t think this stuff should just be up to planners. We think these are things that everyone should be thinking about. By now you’ve probably got the gist that we are evangelical about a collegiate approach. Not horrible brainstorms or this modern notion of collaboration which really seems to mean interfering with the detail of other people’s specialisms, or everyone trying to have a creative idea.


But a proper collegiate approach where a team of people from different disciplines can work together, having their area of expertise, but all feeling responsible for the approach and the final outcome.


And by the way, when we say principles, it’s important to say we have a strict no absolutes policy. Nothing is ever set in stone. You can challenge any principle. And nothing is absolutely right for every problem. To us this job is all about constantly learning, improving and developing your thinking and approach, and you can’t do that with absolute rules. But these are a few points that have pretty much held true and helped us over the years…


Respect for the Customer


We always start with the customer. I’m sure you do too. But in our eyes, ad agencies and marketers seem to be increasingly treating people as if they’re morons. It seems that much current advertising is created without even a passing thought for what the actual benefit to the customer might be. In our view this shows very little respect for people – as if they can be brainwashed into their decision-making, or won over with brainless advertising that exists only for entertainment value.


People aren’t just ‘consumers’ on a chart waiting eagerly to nod along with whatever we say or buy what we put in front of them. They’re real people. They are you, your mum, your best friend.


They’re smart – certainly much more intelligent than most current advertising gives them credit for. Given the choice, they would quite happily do without advertising altogether, but if they have to be faced with it, they don’t want to be patronised or treated like idiots. They want, and deserve, to be treated as intelligent people.




“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act,” George Orwell is reputed to have said.


We think the strongest advertising has truth at its heart. Of course, ads are quite rightly regulated to make sure they are factually correct. But we live in a time when advertisers increasingly appear to be avoiding saying anything of real substance or worth, and we think this lack substance is in itself a kind of deceit.


People know when you’re trying to pull the wool over their eyes, and they can see when you’re using the old look at the cute animal trick. We think people are far more likely to relate to what you’re saying when it has a point and is genuinely relevant to them (and there’s a chance it may become that rare kind of advertising that people actually appreciate or find useful).


Clearly, it’s sometimes difficult to find worthwhile and truthful things to say about a product or brand, and it’s even harder to distil them into something pithy, memorable or entertaining. That’s why we’re here isn’t it?


But sometimes it seems like advertising people have got out of the habit or worse, in some cases, lack the ability or even the will to do it.


They either give up too early or fail to even try in the first place. There isn’t anything worthwhile to say, so let’s just make a funny cat video and hope people like it... appears to be an increasingly common response.


We think the ability to seek out and distil honest and worthwhile things to communicate is still extremely valuable – one of the most valuable skills that advertising agencies can bring to business.


Being a Normal Person at Work


There are some folk (they shall remain nameless) in advertising who seem to have developed a habit of expecting unrealistic behaviour from people in the real world.


But ask advertising people if they themselves, outside of their professional life, have ever shared brand content, or used a brand hashtag, or got involved in making or editing or uploading their own experiences of a brand, or any of the other things that they often expect customers to do, the answer would be rarely,

if at all. Yet they regularly expect other people to do them.


Contrary to what appears to be popular belief inside some agencies and marketing departments, most people do not want to ‘join the conversation’ or take part in interactive, two-way dialogue with brands, even in relatively

high-interest categories.


We always remind ourselves to be normal people at work – make judgements based on what we, and other people, are really like.


Conversations Not Presentations


Give more weight to conversations and dialogue and reduce the reliance on one-way presentations, both between agency and client, and within the agency.


Dialogue leads to better understanding and is crucial in the process of developing better work. Honest conversations allow people to ask the vital, difficult questions – and answer them. They encourage exchanges of views, clarity, and depth of understanding, and they avoid the deck-fatigue of endless rounds of rehearsed presentations and PowerPoint charts.


Resist the tendency for every meeting to become about one group showing a presentation to the other, right from the very first meeting between client and potential agency.


Be diagnostic


We like to be more diagnostic and less prescriptive.


Some agencies favour a kind of blind absolutism, where one approach is right for everything. And we know, it is tempting for agencies to have this kind of dogmatic approach to problem-solving, because they feel it gives them something interesting or differentiating to say to clients.


Unfortunately for clients, as the old saying goes the hammer always sees the nail – but the problem isn’t always a pointy piece of metal, nor the solution a heavy knocking implement.


There’s no one-size-fits-all, one way to do advertising that’s right for every product, brand, category and business problem. To suggest there is makes the advertising industry look quite stupid to those in the business world.


We should always start with the business context, the situation of the client, and what they’re trying to achieve, rather than some rigid ideology that you force the problem to fit into.


Keep it Bullshit-Free


We think this one is so important that we made a Bullshit-Free Zone poster and sent it to everyone we know to put up in their office. You can still buy them at if you’d like one (I think they have mugs and all sorts with it on now, too).


Because we need to lose the jargon. This culture of business bullshit has slowly polluted the commercial world. Engagement, low-hanging fruit, synergy, media-neutral, content-led, always-on, ideation, adcepts, holistic approach, storytelling, user-generated content, leverage, realtime 24/7, cultural currency, the list goes on (and on).


This language is symptomatic of a move towards the unnecessary complication of the world of advertising and marketing. These terms allow people to hide behind them, and mask flimsy thinking. They confuse and conceal, where the aim of the advertising process should always be to simplify and clarify.


Fear Fads


It’s worth remembering that all that glisters is not gold when it comes to new technology and advertising fashions. Ad people are often guilty of allowing their desperation to appear up-to-date with the latest technology, or on top of the latest fad in advertising, to distract them from their real purpose.


In their rush to show they can come up with whatever happens to be that day’s latest thing, they lose their ability to be analytical and judge the merits of new opportunities or approaches dispassionately.


We need to remember to look at the client’s problem and goals first and work down from those, rather than being seduced by the latest technology or technique.


And Lastly, Have Belief


There is a strong correlation between brands that have advertised consistently well, and the most successful brands in each category. Strong advertising is one of the best and most proven ways to inject pace, momentum and growth into business.


But there seems to be a lack of belief among many in advertising that it can actually work, or that it has a place. Possibly caused by a decade and more of advertising being criticised as outmoded by all and sundry (who just happen to want a slice of that advertising budget for themselves).


Let’s keep a confidence and self-respect for our core specialisms – and the value those skills can add to business. Believe in the power of advertising done well, because great advertising can have real impact on the bottom line of a business over the long-term. Remember, we have at our fingertips one of the most powerful tools available to the business world.


These are just a few of the things we always try to remember to keep us on the straight and narrow.


We put them and quite a few more into a book we published last year called How To Make Better Advertising and Advertising Better.


Now, at this point a much slicker operation than us would have linked to said book in the hope you might buy it. But we aren’t very slick, truth be told. We’re writing this piece at a point where the book is sold-out, so rest assured we aren’t trying to sell you something (despite our company name).


Mind you, if you’re interested, you can always follow us on the old twitter at @wearesellsell so you know when the next run is out (see we couldn’t help ourselves). And anyway, it would be nice to hear from you and what you think of the pieces so far.

Cheers and please check back next week for our last piece.

Bullshit free zone.png
Week 4

And Finally...

17 October 2017

Hello and welcome to the final instalment of our guest editorship. To wrap things up this week we have put together a reading list of some of our favourite books on advertising creativity.


As we’ve discussed over the course of these pieces, our belief is that a better partnership between planners and creatives, including creatives getting involved in the process earlier, leads to stronger work.


We’ve found that the best planners understand creative people and how they think, so these books are not only chock-full of great work, but importantly contain narratives about how the ideas came about and the challenges faced along the way.


You’ll probably notice that quite a few of these are from a time when the process of developing advertising wasn’t split into separate stages, I don’t think that’s a coincidence, as often in these stories you find it’s very difficult to separate the strategic idea from the creative idea (even if we can unpick what they were in retrospect) – there is just great thinking from smart people that attacks business problems head-on.


Hopefully there are a few interesting suggestions here that don’t feature in the usual planner book lists…


The Art of Advertising. George Lois. Abrams, 1977.

George is a force of nature who is still going strong. This book is a great collection of pithy, autobiographical write-ups of his most famous work.


Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads? Alfredo Marcantonio, David Abbott, John O'Driscoll, 2014.

The latest edition of the seminal book about the seminal campaign doesn’t really need any introduction.


A Book About the Classic Avis Advertising Campaign of the 60s. Henri Holmgren and Peer Erikson, 1995

A sort of partner book to the above, it tells the story of the classic challenger campaign. A note here – lets always be cautious not to get carried away with golden ageism, but there is some great thinking in this book. Also see…


Ally & Gargano. Amil Gargano, 2009.

A stonking book which charts the rise and fall of one of the best ad agencies of the 20th Century. Full of superb campaigns with punchy strategies and ideas, it’s also very interesting to read the story and thinking behind Ally & Gargano’s campaign for Hertz which famously takes on the Avis campaign featured in the book above. For us, Ally & Gargano produced some of the strongest advertising work ever created, work that relied far more on sharp thinking and a punchy attitude than executional cleverness.


United Colors: The Benetton Campaigns. Lorella Pagnucco Salvemini, 2002.

Some of the most daring and provocative advertising ever created is covered in this book. Was it a positive use of the power of advertising or cynical exploitation of human tragedy and social ills? What we do know is that if ever there was a book to remind us of the potential power of the media we use, this is it.


Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. Hermann Vaske, 2001.

A series of conversations with thirty of the biggest names in advertising, including Cliff Freeman, Frank Lowe, Paul Arden, John Webster, Dave Droga, Neville Brody, Ridley Scott and Tony Kaye gives an insight into how they work and how the great work they’re associated with came about.


Inside Collett Dickenson Pearce. John Ritchie & John Salmon, 2000.

An inside look at the London agency that was at one time considered to be producing the best advertising in the world, with background to some of their most famous campaigns.


Chiat/Day: The First Twenty Years. Stephen Kessler, 1990.

Chiat/Day were known for being all about ‘the work’. Their infamous tee shirt “Good enough is not enough” tells you all you need to know about their attitude. This book contains interesting background to the work, including how “planners have made Chiat/Day’s creative work more than just creative, they have made it consistently and thoroughly effective.”


The Book of Gossage. Howard Gossage, 1995.

A man we are proud to call one of our greatest advertising heroes. This book is a compilation of Gossage’s best work, his own writing (including the great Is The Any Hope For Advertising?), and writing on Gossage from Barrows Mussey, Jeff Goodby and others. That Gossage isn’t more widely known or influential is a real shame for the industry.


To be honest there are tons more we could add to this list, but that seems like enough. The only thing to add to it is Dave Dye’s blog, Stuff From The Loft at which is a fantastic collection of work and the stories behind them, as well as interviews with some influential and talented creative people.


Well all that’s left is for us to do is sign off. A huge thanks to the APG for inviting us to be guest editors, and of course to you for reading our pieces. We really hope that you’ve got something out of it, and we’d love to continue the conversation, so please get in touch with us on our twitter @wearesellsell or visit our blog or if you’d like to get in touch in person you can email us at and

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