Category Archives: Finance

Dear Nationwide

nationwide-logoDear Nationwide,

Thank you for brilliant new campaign Voices Nationwide – and for reminding me that poets and poetry, like stand-up comics and observational comedy, are, when good, brilliantly insightful. #voicesnationwide

Thank you for doing “authentic” without trying too hard.

Thank you for doing “real”, without doing “gritty”.

Thank you for creating something that has the potential to run and run and run.

And thank you for helping me remember the positive impact on me of listening to poetry.

I’ve never really got on with poetry when I’m reading it on my own.

I don’t know why.

But when I listen to poetry it’s a totally different experience for me.

And the good news is that there’s an App for that. Probably.


And finally, thank you for reminding me of BBC Radio4’s The Listening Project…in addition to the project itself, I just love simplicity and purity of the line: It’s surprising what you hear when you listen.

Thanks again



Dear Aviva

Aviva Logo

Dear Aviva,

Thank you for recognising that car insurance is boring and rather than trying to make it interesting, for opting for the branded entertainment route with comedy genius Paul Whitehouse.

Your – or rather his – latest Country House Rescue inspired effort featuring Lord and Lady Brasswick had me in stitches.

“Still, these modern motors are really jolly good. Brum, Brum…and so forth” has to be one of my favourite ever lines in advertising.

There has always been a strong link between comedy and advertising. It’s not that surprising when you think that (observational) comedians and marketeers are in effect both chasing the same pot of gold – that hook, that connection, that piece of understanding the connects a comedian to his audience or a brand to its target consumer in a way that genuinely stirs their emotions.

Or put another way: Insight.

It’s just that for marketeers, it doesn’t have to be funny.

People do degrees in Comedy these days (I’m not joking) so no doubt they would have far more insightful observations than me on this topic – a spot of google research in a spare moment methinks.

Degree in Comedy

The typical image of artist and corporation trying to collaborate is – in my mind at least – one of conflict. Artist (comedian in this case) wants to express himself in the way he sees fit, corporation (you) has key objectives, ROI measures to consider and the rest of the constraining cultural facets of the business world.

So I am left wondering how the relationship with the advertising agency works. Does Paul create the character and the ad agency the script? Not sure that would work. Does everybody sit down and work together? Cannot really see that working either – and if I were the agency I would be particularly nervous that my every move was being monitored by Paul making observations for his next not so flattering “ad-man” character. 

But I guess there is a common thread – the quest for insight…and great work. As a comedian, Paul wants to connect with people and make them laugh – it’s in his blood. You want to connect with people and make them remember you. And the ad agency wants to product great looking work. Which in the case of Lord and Lady Brasswick they certainly have – the styling and executing is spot on!


Thanks again





Dear Snapchat



Dear Snapchat,

Thank you for helping me ponder the difference between price and value – and more specifically, how the Price someone is willing to pay for a company is not the same as its Valuation. 

Much has been made of Snapchat’s $3bn “valuation”, on account of the buyout approach made by Facebook.

People left, right and centre have been throwing their hands in the air, chuntering about how seeing as you’re yet to turn a profit, you cannot possibly be worth $3bn.

Evan Spiegel

And of course they’re right. You’re not technically worth $3bn. Not in the sense of a traditional, objective, valuation (some kind of multiple of turnover or profit) anyway.

But $3bn is the price that Facebook were apparently willing to pay for you. You were clearly worth $3bn to Mark Zuckerberg and his shareholders. So “value” it seems is in the eye of the purchaser…which is then reflected in the price they are willing to pay in exchange for the value they perceive, a somewhat more subjective matter altogether.


The “value” Facebook saw was in your potential. Or perhaps the danger of not having you. Or maybe in someone else getting you instead of them.

I know it’s only semantics really, but when the likes of the big auction houses or even estate agents value a painting or a house, what they’re actually doing is providing a guide price and then hoping that someone values the item enough to match or exceed that price*.

The Scream

Which clearly was the case with the individual who was willing to pay $120m for one of Edvard Munch’s hideous messes. I’m guessing they saw value in its potential, scarcity and what others seemed willing to pay for it, as well as artistic value – the first three I get, the last, well, not so much.

Perhaps this confused and cyclical relationship between value and price goes someway to explain why Vince Cable and Goldman Sachs are getting it in the neck to such an extent at the moment.


They valued Royal Mail using objective criteria for the basis of the listing price. But as soon as shares became available, people were willing to pay a significantly higher price for them than the listing price. Which leads people to conclude that the valuation was wrong in the first place. But has Royal Mail actually become more valuable because its shares have a higher price now? Does it turn more profit, create more jobs and deliver economic growth now that people are willing to pay a higher price for its share?

My suspicion is that once the furore has died down – and a few years performance have passed under the bridge –  the share price will stabilise and the original valuation will be proved to be about right.

But what do I know?

Not a lot to be honest.

But it’s diverting to think about it.

Thanks again

PS – I would have taken the $3bn. You crazy?

*In fact I suspect it’s the hoopla-makers in the Media that bandy the valuation word around, not the auctioneers, but anyway




Dear logo


Thank you for keeping up the fantastic work with your latest ad: Astronaut.

Thank you for the details – they make all the difference:

  • The kids’ lunchbox
  • The cycle helmet
  • The salute
  • The choppers
  • The fact that Alan is about a foot shorter than his fellow astronauts
  • The helmet bump
  • The slow-mo jog
  • The boxer-swag
  • The “initiate lift-off sequence” face
  • And of course, the Top Gun backing track

All genius.

And building perfectly on your previous work which I thanked you for here.

Thanks again


Dear Virgin Money

Dear Virgin Money,

Thank you for giving me a bit of a brand dilemma…

On the one hand, I really admire your parent brand’s “simple aim of making things better”…40 years of championing the consumer, audacious PR stunts and zagging whilst the established brand leviathans zig…

All highly admirable. And I hope you do shake the banking industry up a bit.

As a consumer, I’m a big fan of Virgin Atlantic in particular…as a brand consultant, Virgin has provided ample material for the eternal debate about brand architecture and brand equity vs brand stretch…so thanks for that.


And I’m on the other hand now.

With communications like yours, it’s beginning to feel a little bit like your parent brand is plotting to take over the world.

Which I’m not sure is a good thing.

Maybe it’s just because you created a model world (which is somewhat reminiscent of Thomas’ Island of Sodor as it happens) for your ad and populated it with your brand.

It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to picture Sir Richard sitting on his island, playing with a similar model of the world, nefariously laughing, Bond-baddy stylee, as he plots to develop an infrastructure so extensive that governments all over the world end up handing over legislative powers to the Virgin brand…

Now of course this won’t happen, and I don’t believe for a second that Richard Branson has any such aspirations (being an apparently fundamentally decent bloke), but the idea of it makes me laugh.

In banking, inertia is going to be your biggest problem. Which means you’re going to have to work a hell of a lot harder than taking a retrospective view of the good stuff your parent brand has done in the past to shake things up. Got a feeling you’ll manage it though.

Thanks again,




Thank you for showing us that things can get better…

…And for finally realising that just because someone is “famous” (and has some distant traits that are vaguely relevant to your business), that it doesn’t mean you should pay them to be associated with your brand…

You went from this horror show…

…To this Razzie worthy cringe-fest…

…But now you’ve given us this…

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Yes, yes, I know it was all about building brand awareness and making sure people knew who you were and what you did with Peter, Omid and Nigel, but boy am I pleased that you’ve reached the stage you’re at now…

Who knows, maybe “You’re so moneysupermarket” will go the way of “Should have gone to Specsavers” and creep into our vernacular.


Would be great for you if it did.

Thanks again – whatever happens, Jeff’s a legend in my book.


Dear Virgin Media

Dear Virgin Media,

Thank you reminding me of how brands can (and should) use music to create distinctive memory structures…you pass the “will people know that it’s us, even if they’re in the other room” test with top grades:

And thanks for weaving together (or should that be “mixing”) multiple musical elements to create something that’s not only distinctive and ownable but also familiar.

I had to look all this up, but I love it that you’ve used:

  • The lyrics from Madness’s “Our House” (which I had heard countless times before, but didn’t recognise in the ad)
  • The tune from Dan Black’s “Symphonies” (which I hadn’t heard before, but which samples Rihanna’s Umbrella, which I had heard before)

Thanks should also go to a few other brands that successfully used music to create distinctive memory structures:

OK, it’s pretty silly and deeply annoying, but the brand is now ingrained into our collective memory structures to the extent that can do this:

And even these:

I guess only time will tell whether Bill Bernbach’s adage that “Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising” will be proved correct yet again, as I’ve heard that dealing with webuyanycar can be a somewhat sub-optimal experience.

The team at have done the same thing, with the hateable – but memorable – Gio Compario:

Here’s a few more brands that have used music to get a 10/10 in the “will people know that it’s us, even if they’re in the other room” test:

This one is actually quite funny, but as a general rule I find the “bloke-bashing” theme of these Boots ads to be unoriginal at best, and deeply aggravating at worst.

Boots also face the challenge that – in my mind at least – “Here Come the Girls” has a memory structure centred around gaggles of chanting 30-something women  who have shared a few gallons of after-work Friday night rosé by 6.45pm, and are inaccurately teetering their way from a wine bar to a “night” club via a Big Mac and 3 or 4 B&H.

But that’s just me.

Muller have mixed it up a bit with their tracks, but I just love this one, so I put it in here for good measure.

Thanks Virgin Media – distinctive memory structure established.