Leave now if easily shocked or politically correct. Otherwise, please leave your comments.

Statements such as "brilliant", "hugely perceptive", "what a splendid man" and "can I buy you dinner at the restaurant of your choice" are all greeted with glee.

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The sheer blithering incompetence of Barclays Bank

The man in charge of this utterly incompetent cock-up of a business gets paid up to £8,240,000 a year

‘The older I get the more I admire and crave competence, just simple competence, in any field from adultery to zoology,’ said H. L. Mencken.

You can be damn sure he wouldn’t have found much amongst retail bankers.

I suspect it’s generally agreed by all normal thinking people that the overpaid buffoons who run banks should by and large be hung drawn and quartered.

But even by their lamentably pathetic standards Barclays stands out.

Two friends of mine have been Barclays Premium members for respectively 16 and 24 years.

This membership is supposed to give you added privileges and generally make your financial life easier.

Recently they needed to open a joint account for business reasons.

Since Barclays must know a great deal about them you would imagine this would be a formality.

But no. To do so they were required to attend an interview at a Barclays branch. What idiocy.

Understandably they were a bit piqued by this. So they went to Nationwide who arranged the whole thing in minutes without asking many questions.

How can a firm that is so insulting and inconsiderate to its best customers hope to stay in business?

How can the so blazingly incompetent remain in employment? Do they ever stop for a moment and look at the everyday running of their shoddy business?

Who employs the grasping, overpaid slugs in charge? Who decides to pay them such obscene sums? (The answer is, committees composed of other parasites). What the hell are they doing? Why are they still alive? Do they take no interest at all in how their excuse for a business is run?

The fact that in almost every area of life we see useless vermin living high on the hog while most others scratch around for a living is causing the great wave of populism in Europe and America.

It all reminds me of the period before the French Revolution.


News from the clueless

Does this kind of witless rubbish irritate you as much as me? No wonder surveys reveal top management thinks marketers are clueless

On September 8th someone called Irene Labai wrote to me. She is a “Success Manager” at a firm called EasyERP.

I don’t know her. I don’t know what a Success Manager is – one of these silly titles people who have nothing better to do dream up, I guess. And I don’t know what EasyERP do.

Nevertheless she said “Hello Drayton, How is your day? I will appreciate a minute of your time to answer my, so to say, unusual question, could you? I am interested in which version of ERP system do you use in order to organize the working process?”

Well, my day was arranged in much the same way as usual – morning, afternoon, evening – though I have no idea why she asked.  And the question was not, so to say, unusual. It was, so to say,  utter gobbledegook to me and I was too damn busy to forage through the jargon-clogged world of acronyms to find out what it meant.

So rather than expose my ignorance I just replied “I don’t deal with this kind of thing.”

Then on September 22nd the lovely (and success-managerial) Irene returned to the attack, touchingly solicitous for the well-being of an old man she doesn’t know from Adam.

“Drayton, Hope you are doing fine. I want to introduce myself as your point of contact at ThinkMobiles. Here we specialize in native mobile, web, front- and backend development. I`d like to offer our services, experience, and knowledge in case you’re having difficulties in tech development or are overworked. I am really looking forward to your reply. Kindly, Irene.”

Actually the last thing I want nowadays is any more points of contact. And I am having grave difficulties with people, no matter how kindly, who waste my time with incomprehensible messages. Maybe you are too.

But for what it is worth I replied.

I have a great idea for you, Irene. It’s a brilliant new strategy called read your mail – for instance, the reply I wrote on September 8th. It’s quite easy to do as well. Look up about 5 inches.

I was able to say 5 inches because that’s where the first exchange was on the page. But since she was either too lazy to read or unable to understand my response to her first message, what chance do you suppose I have?

God, how I hate these time wasting people. Though not as  much as the ones who write assuming that I want to have a phone conversation with them about whatever it is they want to foist on me.

 If they could just take the time and  make the effort to explain, in plain language why I – or  better still a likely prospect – should want to know more about whatever the hell they are selling their profits would zoom up in the most gratifying fashion.

When the blind lead the blind, where do you end up?

One reason why your copy may fail is simple.

You didn’t pay enough.

That’s not because you’re stupid. Why pay more than you need for anything?

And there are two seemingly logical reasons why people don’t pay enough for copy (or content as they call it now).

1. You and your colleagues write stuff every day to people – and they reply. It’s not exactly nuclear physics. So why pay others to do it.

2. There are so many copywriters around that many offer amazingly good deals.

I saw a good example today. It is an offer to pay what you want for a course called “Build Your Brand More Effectively by Mastering the Art of Copywriting”. It usually sells for $69.

Well it took me about 5 years to learn to write good copy – and even then I was nowhere near perfect.

Now read how the course is described:

Copywriting is an essential component to building a brand. Many businesses may outsource their copy to ad agencies, but if you’re small and growing, this may not be such a cost-effective measure. A better option would be handling your copy needs in-house, and this is the foundational course to start you off on the right foot. If you’re looking to take on copywriting as a career, this course will make sure you the skills to succeed. With an all-encompassing examination of what makes good copy and exercises to help you practice, you’ll soon be getting any brand the attention it deserves.

Do you know what’s wrong with that? Maybe you do, but just in case:

1. It’s 101 words long.

That really puts readers off. It’s like a long thirsty trek through the desert to the nearest oasis.

My old boss David Ogilvy suggested the ideal opening paragraph is 12 words long.

2. It’s full of dreary, uninvolving jargon and guff – like essential component, outsource their copy, cost-effective measure and so on.

3. It’s sloppy: there’s a word missing in make sure you the skills.

You really can’t hope to get an essential part of your business sorted out for $69. And what I didn’t tell you is this course takes a year.

Can you wait that long?

If you want to get better results – as over 97% of our clients do –click here and Gerald will get in touch.

Do it now. We can only take on so many at a time.




Costly, Catastrophic, Mistake I See Every Day

Sometimes I feel like a broken record: saying the same old things, over and over.

But you know, I only say them because they are important and worth saying.

Take this for example.

Many people have never even thought about it. Most don’t do it.

You probably know it. Or perhaps you know it and have forgotten it.

Either way, you need to be doing it.

Have a look here right now and make sure you are.



The Triumph of Drivel: An Antipodean View

Don’t know I missed this hilarious comment on the kind of tripe that’s being purveyed by marketers

My friend Ryan Wallman of Melbourne has come out with another cracker. 

It reminded me of Hemingway’s remark: “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof bullshit detector”

The Emperor’s New Clothes Conference 2016

Marketing by the cynical, for the gullible







7.30 – 8.30





8.30 – 9.30



Making the simple complex: how to baffle people for profit


9.30 – 10.30



Emojism: storytelling in the age of illiteracy


10.30 – 11.30



Completely deluded: taking virtual reality to its logical conclusion



11.30 – 1.00





1.00 – 2.00



Beyond brand love: how do you get customers to actually have sex with your product?



2.00 – 3.00



Advertising is dead: why hypercontextual data-driven programmatic gamification is the future


3.00 – 4.00



Rectal insertables: the next generation of wearable technology



4.00 – 5.00



Buzzword innovation: what’s next in the bollocksphere?

Over £18 million: the reward for failure. Nice work if you can get it – but you can’t

Year after year Marks and Spencer fails. Their ads give you a clue. Their marketers haven’t got one. Why?

60 odd years ago I applied for a trainee’s  job at Mark & Spencer – at that time and for long after a safe first step on the road to success.

I wasn’t chosen – just as well, as with my fatal inattention to detail I would have been a failure.

Mind you, not as spectacular or costly a failure as Marc Bolland.

Bolland spent 6 years trying to resuscitate the firm – and failed.  I guess he’s not that bothered, though. By the end of this year (he’s currently being paid for doing nothing) he will have had about £18 million for his efforts.

Yesterday I went into M & S in Bristol and noticed what I am pretty sure is a chief reason why he and they have failed at everything except selling food.

Not a single person in there looked even remotely like the trendy models they’ve been featuring year after year.

The person who’s been taking the pictures is one of the world’s most famous (and expensive) photographers: Annie Leibowitz.

I wonder how much time that lady spent looking to see who actually shops in M & S. I wonder how often the grossly over-rewarded Mr. Bolland did. I wonder if the clever young marketers who commissioned the ads did.

If they did, would they have seen any cool bearded young men in there? The kind they were using in their online ads not long ago – and their female equivalents.

I wonder if – as I did in my first copy job for a retailer  –  they watched the Monday sales like a hawk to see of my weekend ads had worked. I suspect they were too busy having meetings and talking guff about social media, strategy and content to do something so fucking obvious.

In fact I wonder if they have the vaguest idea what they’re doing.

You can’t sell to the customers you want but don’t have. You have to sell to the ones you’ve got. Get out there and watch them.

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But as I once heard my friend the late Mani Ayer – one of the smartest people I ever met, and much admired by David Ogilvy – say: the obvious is always overlooked.

A footnote about Trump & Corbyn. When ordinary folk see people like Bolland and their U.S. equivalents obscenely rewarded for failure whilst their own wages and savings lose value, what do they do? They turn to extremists on left and right who promise simple – but infeasible – solutions

Cheese-paring insanity at the Marriott

How not to run a rewards scheme (or a hotel)

Recently I stayed at a Marriott hotel.

I quite looked forward to it. They are a premium group, so I expected something a little special.

What I got was something more than a little stupid.

This was not the staff”s fault. They – as usual mostly immigrants (where would our service industries be without them, Brexit fans?) – were polite and helpful.

No: it was head office or wherever they cook up their offerings.

First I discovered that wi-fi was not free. Are you taking the piss, Marriott? It’s free pretty much everywhere now.

But the helpful Czech lady on reception said all I had to do was join their rewards scheme – which is free.

So I wasted time filling in a form (they had my details. Why?)

Then when in the room I found I couldn’t get movies. I rang down. Oh, I could get movies – if I joined the rewards scheme. I already had. But it hadn’t been validated, or something.

Then I found I had to pay £10 for wif-fi … which I would get back.

WTF is going on in the heads of the bozos running the show?

A great way to lose potential customers.

What they need is someone to come along and disrupt their dumb marketing arses.


Why Theo felt aghast – the answer to a great conundrum

A copywriter asks why so much copy doesn’t even try to sell: here is the answer

Theo has been working in a job where he has to get sales. As he was pretty good at it, he thought he’d try freelance copywriting.

So like any intelligent person he did his research, to see what sort of copy people are running.

He was puzzled and wrote to me at AskDrayton.com with this question:

Hi! Is it normal to feel aghast to see ad agencies that seem to be more focused on winning awards or to see ad competitions done for “the most creative and strategic blah blah blah” with absolutely no mention of how much sales they brought in for their client? I almost feel like a fish swimming against the flow.

This is a slightly longer version of my reply:

OK, Theo, you have stumbled on one of the great truths – and ironies – of the ad business.

The only time most agencies worry about the results is if the client worries about the results.

In many large organisations people don’t. And if they do they may measure the wrong things.

Wondering why? Wonder no more.

Here is my favorite research over recent years, based on a survey of billions of $$$ worth of marketing, worldwide

90% of marketers are not trained in Marketing Performance & Marketing ROI
67% don’t believe marketing ROI requires a financial outcome
64% use Brand Awareness as their top marketing ROI KPI
58% place “Likes”, “Tweets”, “Clicks” and/or “Click Through rates” in their Top 5 marketing ROI KPIs
31% believe measuring audience reached is marketing ROI
“Every Tom, Dick & Harry is a Marketer” lacking scientific and financial knowledge.
—  Fournaise Marketing Group Global Marketing Effectiveness Program Report, 2014

What do Fournaise know? Well, they measure the effectiveness of over two and a half million advertising strategies each year all over the world.

KPI is the abbreviation for one of those pompous phrases that make marketers think they are doing something important. It stands for Key Performance Indicators. The only KPI you should care about is simple: does it make money?

ROI means Return On Investment. How much money you get back for the money you put in. The more you get back, and the faster it comes back the better you are doing.

The truth is that unless a client’s business depends on measurable results – money in, money out – agencies don’t care. They want ads that look good, or are clever. The kind that win awards. The kind they can boast about.

They never get round to learning about that really works in terms of ROI – unless their jobs depend on it.

Well, the people they deal with at their clients are also interested in their jobs. They tend to be most interested in getting promoted. And they get promoted if their bosses – who are as ignorant as them – see them running clever ads. So they end up running showy stuff that doesn’t necessarily sell.

You don’t want people saying “What a great ad”. You want them saying “What a great product – I must buy it.”


Congratulations to an idiot at the helm of an important business YOU are engaged in

You may not realise it, but this affects you – and it really upset a friend of mine

I don’t suppose you spend much time thinking about it, but everything that goes on in the world’s most pervasive and perhaps most powerful medium is based on direct marketing.

The medium is the internet.

Every communication on the internet is direct.

Either you write or talk to someone directly or they respond to you directly. 

That is how back in 1982 I defined what direct marketing is all about in Commonsense Direct Marketing– a book still selling today under a longer title with lots more pages and in lots of languages.

That is why what you’re about to read is important. It’s an email sent today by a very able copywriter called Andy Owen. Here’s what he wrote.

The Death of Direct Marketing

04 July 2016 09:36

In 1936 in the USA, Hank Hoke created a magazine that was to become the bible for the DM industry.

It was called Direct Marketing.

When I first got into this crazy business in the 80’s, I soon became aware of it and was an avid subscriber. 

It was a marvellous read and hugely educational, with most of the leading DM minds regularly writing for it.

A lot of them have become legends – Murray Raphel, Ray Jutkins, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Jim Rosenfield, our own Drayton Bird – and many others

The Hoke family were trailblazers and led the way, in what was an incredibly fast-moving and inspirational industry.

I can still recall the buzz I got from it in those days. I still crave that feeling.

Well, as we all know, things have changed.

And quite dramatically in recent times.  Direct Marketing magazine officially closed its doors many years ago.

Now, I believe, the direct marketing industry has done the same.

I am in regular touch with Hank Hoke III, who is the grandson of Hank who started it all off.  He shared some information with me on Friday, that cut me in half.

As you would expect, The DMA USA had a huge library of DM material – a lot of it compiled from Hank’s Grandfather’s time, all the way through to some present-day material.  

It was priceless stuff.

Well, listen to this:

The past President of The DMA – Linda Woolley – decided it would be best to throw out all the history, before she left.  

So, she did.

Can you believe it?   Really?

Did that crazy woman lose her mind?  And why didn’t someone stop her?

I would have bought every item.  And I know a few others that would have been interested, too.

It’s a criminal act in my view.  All that wonderful history lost forever. 

But, it’s just another example of how no one cares anymore. Even a past head of The DMA USA – the biggest DMA in the world. 

What was a vibrant and inspirational industry, is now finished.  It’s dead in the water.

Of course, those of us old liggers that are still in it, know it died many years ago.

And the final irony is, that the work we all see these days, both traditional and digital, is the worst quality ever in our business.

It has never been worse.  Total tosh, most of it.

Today’s marketers, writers and creatives, could learn so much from the greats of our business. And a lot of that education was in those archives, that this crazy woman dumped.

The greats that are no longer with us, must be rolling in their graves.  Because, what they left to us, is as relevant now, as it was then.

And it will always be so.

How you communicate with customers and prospects to get a response, is an art.  And the same techniques that worked eight decades ago, still work today.

They will always work.  Because times change, but people don’t.

All of today’s marketers, writers and creatives, could learn so much from the greats of our business.

But, they have no interest at all. They’ll have even less, now that this valuable material has been trashed.

It is simply impossible for a simple boy like me, to understand.

For the handful of us left, that still have a passion for DM, it is very, very hard to take.

Another few years and all that will be left of this once-great industry, will be a Wikipedia page.

I feel sick…

Well of course, as I pointed out above, Direct Marketing lives on – and always will.

Truth is, the principles I apply every day online are identical to those I applied in direct mail and direct response advertising all those years ago.

But what crass, arrogant, stupidity of Linda Woolley – if this is true – to destroy such an important part of its history – that so many could learn from – but never will.

The Curse of the New and the Triumph of Ignorance.

Which marketing weapons do you use? And why?

The other day I went to SpecSavers to get new glasses. Outside the shop was a man giving out leaflets. They have someone there every day.

They also send me regular letters telling me it’s time for an eye test.

On my way there I passed a vet’s. A big banner on the front of their establishment tells people to join their Pet Health Club.

I must declare an interest; I’ve been involved in such a Club. And I can tell you that the way it is promoted to vets and their customers is via direct mail and the telephone. I can also tell you that perhaps the biggest marketing challenge is to get the vets’ phones answered intelligently when prospects ring.

SpecSavers are hugely successful. The vet makes a fortune. Neither are blinded or muzzled by the endless river of guff about social media.

This polluted river drowns one important fact.

You must use the media that work best for you. Not the ones that are most fashionable or most profitable for those who promote them but the ones that do best for you.

I’m sorry to disillusion those who think they just have to follow the latest fad, but this means you must think. Even worse, you must think what marketing tools might work for you – regardless of fashion.

This means you must understand what is available. Hardly any marketers do. In large organisations most are far more concerned with how to ingratiate themselves enough to climb the next step of the corporate ladder.

Besides the man handing out leaflets and the big banner on the front of the vet’s, here are the marketing weapons I listed a while ago for the seminars I do for the Marketing Agencies Association.

You should understand a little about all of them. Do you?

Point of sale
Sales promotion
Direct and interactive
Product placement
Word of mouth (viral, MGM)
Sales people
Pack design
Workplace marketing
Cause related marketing
Guerrilla marketing

By the way, did you notice I didn’t mention social media or emails?

ALL media are social. Emails (and everything on the internet) are direct and interactive.

Why do I mention all this. Because, as Mark Twain observed, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

You need to consider how and when to use many tools, not just the ones that are fashionable.