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“Always Postpone Meetings with Time-Wasting Morons” — Scott Adams

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.” ― Dave Barry

I look back fondly to the day when I became Copy Chief of a London Ad Agency.

It was 51 years ago as far as I can make out.

Many things have changed since. Nowadays I would be called something utterly absurd like Chief Executive Creative Officer.

And thanks to the efforts of a procession of free-spending politicians my annual salary of £2,200 – which funded countless alcoholic lunches, frolics and failed attempts at extra-marital fornication – wouldn’t last me a fortnight.

But one thing hasn’t changed since then. Even though we only had 80 staff I was always being asked to attend meetings. I attribute much of the little success I have since had to the fact that I quickly learned the importance of turning them down.

My technique, which I pass on at no charge, was to say I was very busy but if anyone wanted my opinion on the subject I would write it. I think this is better than the one Scott Adams suggests, but you can do some split-run tests if you like and see which wins.

I was reminded of all this when one of my colleagues was asked to attend a meeting without being paid about a project which is not yet funded and even when someone does cough up cannot begin until the spring.

For those forced to attend these things, here is a ready-made agenda provided at no charge by my friend Ryan Wallman from the fair city of Melbourne … outside whose Royal Yacht Club I was once attacked by an enraged Chihuahua, ruining a sexy pair of trousers I had just had made in Bangkok.

That is a different story, but for the benefit of the countless legions who like to talk endless ill-informed horse-shit about them, the agenda Ryan has “crafted” (a popular word among the semi-literate) is about brands.

Do not despair, though. This is a multi-purpose agenda and can quickly be adapted  to a range of topics favoured by the witless such as Social Media, Content Marketing, Thought Leadership, Native Advertising and Was Jesus Gay or Just Transgendered?

Agenda – Brand planning workshop*

Time Topic
9.00 Unnecessary introductions
9.15 Presentation of biased market research results
10.30 Some bollocks about emotional laddering
11.00 Breakout groups: Meaningless diagrams on butcher’s paper that nobody will ever look at again
1.00 Hypothetical game based on an inappropriate military metaphor
2.00 Three hours discussing the tagline ‘Progress is our passion’                          (more time available if needed)
5.00 Agreement on next steps that will never happen because everybody will be too busy planning next year’s workshop

*Subject to change depending on the number of irrelevant digressions by the guy from head office who loves the sound of his own voice.





“Sainsbury’s Christmas ad is a dangerous and disrespectful masterpiece” – The Guardian

“This above all: to thine own self be true” – Polonius’ advice to Laertes in Hamlet. Unless what you say is true to what you are, you’re onto a loser.

Over 50-odd years in this business I have noticed two recurrent maladies.

That’s not true: I’ve noticed a great many more. But after seeing the new Christmas TV ads from John Lewis and Sainsbury’s these occur to me.

  1. Copying other people’s advertising
  2. Talking about what you’d like to be – but are not.

For years John Lewis have run fine advertising – especially at Christmas. So brilliant that the lady who puts up with me said today “John Lewis owns Christmas”.

If you want to see what I mean, it’s here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iccscUFY860

If you’re interested in what makes great marketing, don’t just watch the ad. Invest a couple of minutes seeing how Monty’s little story has been followed though in every possible way.

Relevant products. A display in their biggest store. An app. Mabel – Monty’s mate. A link to a children’s charity. These are professionals at work.

What about the Sainsbury’s ad? It’s here https://www.youtube.com/user/Sainsburys.

To me it absolutely seems like an attempt to do with John Lewis have done so well, so often.

But even despite a good choice of charity link, it fails.

The Guardian calls it a masterpiece. I disagree. This is bloody conflict sanitised. The Guardian also said: “In making the first world war beautiful to flog groceries the film-makers have disrespected the millions who suffered in the trenches.”

As one cinema viewer commented, “When the “Sainsbury’s” logo appeared at the end fifty-odd people let out a collective “for fuck’s sake!”

Apart from anything else, does anyone associate Sainsbury’s in particular with Christmas? Aren’t they just another store flogging stuff?

To do this sort of thing well you need relevance and a delicate touch, which John Lewis have managed to apply year after year but Sainsbury’s haven’t.

I know things that make John Lewis stand out. They don’t play piped music in their stores. Their staff are partners. They’re “never knowingly undersold”.

What are Sainsbury’s? They’re just the big store down the road that runs ghastly messages ending “Live better for less”. The ones who can’t train the people on the fish counter to clean fish – and never got back to me when I said so.

First, improve what you do. Then worry about how to communicate it. Not the other way round.


Tawdry half-truths from Virgin. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on it

“You’ve been specially selected for this exclusive offer (not available to the general public)” Is this tosh good for your brand?

“Don’t miss out” it says in a little red flash on the big envelope from Virgin media that pops through our letter box.

I don’t worry too much that I might “miss out” (a phrase high on the list of cliches deployed by second rate copywriters). That’s because they send me the same envelope at regular intervals

So it must work, otherwise they wouldn’t keep sending it out. But for how long? And how well?

Do you or or I really think I’ve been “specially selected”? Do you or I really believe this offer is “not available to the general public”? Are we not both damn sure that if any member of the general public asked for this deal they would be greeted with a resounding “yes”?

I believe such guff steadily but surely eats away at your brand’s credibility, because it demonstrates no clear point of difference. In the end people just go for what seems to be the best deal.

As my favourite client, Victor Ross of The Reader’s Digest, once observed, “Loyalty is what is left when you take the incentives away” – one reason why loyalty programmes are a zero-sum game – a race to the bottom.

If you look at all the various Virgin businesses, only one – the airline – runs human, sometimes witty messages that reflect what the name stood for originally. The rest rely on the name and common visual elements.

And oddly enough it is the only Virgin business that is really different to its competitors. I hope their merger with Delta doesn’t drag them down to the dreary depths of all the American airlines.


Why research so often fails: sound advice from beyond the grave

Leo Burnett

Leo Burnett

What people say they think or will do often has no bearing on what actually happens

As you may be aware, dear reader, nearly all new product launches fail. Last time I looked it was over 80%.

My first employer in London, the late, great Leo Burnett, explained why:“The public does not know what it wants… there is no sure way of finding out until the idea is exposed under normal conditions of sale.  If people could tell you in advance what they want, there would never have been a wheel, a lever, much less an automobile, an airplane or a TV set.” 

I was reminded of this when I saw today a list of 10 marketing tactics Americans say they “despise”.

The culprits  are:

1 – Direct mail that looks like it has a bill, fake check, or is otherwise official-looking

2 – Pop-up ads on web sites.

3 – Ads for nutritional supplements with exaggerated claims.

4 – Videos you have to sit through before reaching web content.

5 – Products advertised as “made in America” that are not.

6 – Free offers with strings attached.

7 – TV ads louder than the program.

8 – Ads targeted based on purchases, demographics, or behavior.

9 – Product placement in movies and TV.

10 – Billboards.

Well, I can tell you that of those 10, numbers 1,2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10 generally work if they are carried out competently.

I don’t know about number 7. But as for number 5, many lagers are successfully sold here as being French, American, Australian or for that matter Indian yet are made in the U.K.

The only way you know people will do something is to get them to act, as the following true story suggests.

My friend Brian Thomas once worked for a mail order company which sold cheap gifts to a pretty unsophisticated clientele. Each year they  ran Hall Tests.

They would get customers into a hall and get them to choose which proposed products for the new catalogue they liked best.

After the customers left they would throw away all the forms they had filled in, but leave the products on display and wait for the cleaning ladies to come in.

They knew the products that would be winners were the ones those ladies stole most.

If you want to know what a lifetime of studying human behaviour has taught me – and how it may teach you to do better marketing, check out AskDrayton.

A little treat from Australia

Fondly dedicated to everyone who scratches their head and wonders about the way things are in business

There are a few people whose emails I look forward to with pleasure. Ryan Wallman from Melbourne is one.

Yesterday he sent me this little prayer. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The CEO’s Prayer 

Our Boss, who art in the penthouse office,

Hallowed be thy acronym.

Thy vision embedded,

Thy strategy be actioned going forward,

On Earth as it is on the 58th floor overlooking the bay.

Give us this day our 1/330th of your daily bread,

And forgive us our unmet KPIs,

As we forgive those whose own unmet KPIs jeopardise our modest livelihoods.

And lead us not into mergers,

But deliver us from team-building.

For thine is the Company,

The political influence, and the Bentley,

For an average of 4.4 years.

A man (usually).



How procurement zombies strangle creativity …

… And why what seems perfectly logical kills initiative, destroys morale and is fatal to long term profits

My first job, 58 years ago, was as Assistant Editor of a magazine called “Cotton”.

Every week one firm ran an advertisement that read:

“There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey”- Ruskin

This sprang to mind when a colleague told me what was happening in his business, which is Experiential Marketing.

He went to see a client with a new idea. She said “If you’d like to submit it, we’ll put it out to procurement.”  This means that about seven other companies were also asked to quote prices to put his idea into effect.

My colleague has been dealing with this firm – a household name all over the world – for over a decade.  He has had some amazing ideas for them, one so good it was used for a famous advertising campaign.

As he was leaving their offices he ran into the head of marketing and mentioned his idea. “Brilliant!” said the man, “Let’s do it.” Then a few days later, sure as eggs are eggs, he received an invitation to submit a quote to procurement for his idea. I think firms should always try hard to make sure they’re not ripped off. But is that fair?

But there is more. Currently his firm is competing with a dozen others for a big job in the U.S. with another firm, as famous as the first. Procurement assesses each quote on the basis of a series of criteria. After you quote you are told how you are doing on each criterion. This gives you the opportunity to improve your bid.

That makes sense, right?

Yes: until you realise that these criteria (I think there are 15) are fixed. If your idea has elements that don’t relate to them, too bad. It is price and price alone and those criteria alone that govern choice of supplier.

Procurement is not in itself a bad idea. In the case of government Sir Philip Green pointed out that there are over a thousand suppliers for identical articles like stationery. The National Health Service is the same.

But ideas are not identical articles.

Thus we see how what seems so logical is insane.

By the way, if you want to give yourself an edge when submitting proposals, one man is the most knowledgeable person I have ever met on the subject.

You’ll find him at AndyBoundsOnline.







“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics” – and you’ll find plenty in your in-box

Why I don’t believe for a split second that this man was telling the truth – and nor should you

If you haven’t received a few emails like this. I’ll be amazed.

It is headed “Web Listing” – which didn’t exactly set the tired Bird pulse racing – then reads:


My name is Alex and I am an Online Strategist.

I’ve been tracking the success of your website while doing some research on your industry—I’m impressed with your company, but there are some real opportunities for growth that you currently are missing.

Are you interested in several proven strategies to use content and social media to drive relevant traffic to your site? In 20 minutes I can show you how to fuel your brand and generate more revenue from search engines and social networks. This is a $500 value free of charge. I’d like to follow up about this with a quick phone call. Can I call you this week to discuss your campaign?

But I would be even more amazed if Alex really had looked at my website and spotted these opportunities. And not even one tenth as amazed as if I actually got anything worthwhile out of talking to them.

The truth is such messages are sent out by the thousand. They are spam, aimed at people who know little or nothing about search engines and such and fall for this flim-flammery.  And they work pretty well.

I would love to know precisely – and quickly – what Alex the strategist found so impressive about my site, because that is just flattery. And I’d ask what exactly he was going to do to “fuel my brand”. And I wonder which campaign he was talking about.

If you spoke to Alex you can fairly safely bet the initials SEO would come up at some point. This is your cue to run a mile. The days when you got a good ranking by clogging your prose with all the right key-words have long gone.

As far as possible Google simply looks for good content. And if you know what you’re talking about, you don’t need anyone to provide that. You just do what Google tells you to.

Yes; they want to make money out of you. But they know that this will only happen if you do better. The days when they were unbearably arrogant are fading fast. The faster Facebook and the others get better, the more helpful Google will get.

If you are one of those who can’t write or think of anything interesting to say I suggest a swift career change. Maybe you could become a “strategist”. After all, everyone else no matter how piddling their job seems to be nowadays.

But if you can write and have something good that you’d like people to buy, AskDrayton.com may be just the ticket for you.

And this is a very good time to improve. You’re probably too busy to lie awake worrying, but there are many economic danger signs. And they are going to stifle your ability to make a living if you don’t get better at what you do.

The US is divided as never before, still printing funny money.  The UK has one of the world’s highest levels of national debt **.  Germany – the powerhouse of Europe – is floundering. The entire EU teeters on the brink of a third recession. Nobody knows what to do about the Islamic maniacs who threaten our oil supplies. China’s economy is slowing down. Australia – which escaped the last 8 years’ slump – is suffering because their minerals sold to China created an artificial boom.

I have survived two rotten recessions. I started my most successful business in the ’70′s recession, when things were so bad we had a 3-day week.  We didn’t do well because my partners and I were brilliant. We did well because we knew more that our competitors and we promoted like crazy.

** When politicians talk about the deficit “reducing” did you realise this is not the debt we all owe. It is the rate at which that debt is growing. Things are getting worse – but not as quickly as they were.

Don’t you think this is a pretty good time to improve your marketing knowledge and abilities? That is how AskDrayton.com helps you.


The gentle art of corporate masturbation with free advice on what not to do in your emails

Why are email open rates down to as low as 3% on average? This sort of guff gives you a clue.


I am sitting in a hotel room in Vancouver – an excellent city – going through my emails when I see the e-mail above.

It reminds me that after people had stopped snoring through my keynote speech, my kind host at Canada Post showed some interesting statistics.

It seems that email open rates have slumped to 3%.

To give you a comparison open rates for direct mail when I looked some years ago were around 50%.

If you wonder why you and I don’t read our emails, look no further than the example I’ve shown.

  1. The chief reason why people open or don’t open emails is, as a rule, the name of the sender. We tend to read stuff from people we know rather than those we don’t.
  2. As I haven’t the vaguest idea who Andrew Lyons is, I only noticed this for professional reasons: I am always looking for examples of incompetence.
  3. And since I didn’t know Andrew or what he does, I didn’t care that he had changed his looks, his name, or whatever services he renders. Maybe his mother does – who knows?
  4. The whole thing is reversed out which will make it twice as hard to read.
  5. It does not look like a personal message, which will slash readership further.
  6. Having told me about the dramatic changes in his life it turns out that what Andrew really wants to talk about is getting my office clean. A lost cause – the landlord does all that.
  7. I do not believe for one fraction of a second that “the marketplace” – whatever that is – asked his firm to change its name. I would suggest that “the marketplace” doesn’t give a toss.
  8. It is just possible that “the marketplace” might be interested in some of the terrifying statistics bandied about after it has stopped reading, but I doubt it.
  9. I doubt it because people only change cleaning firms when they are pissed off with the one they’ve got.
  10. All this is a shame because someone has gone to great trouble to produce something almost entirely wrong. They may even have paid someone to do it.

If you think your email or direct mail or advertising or marketing or just about anything in your business could be improved, come to EADIM and we’ll tell you how.

It will probably cost you less than paying people to produce stuff that doesn’t work.

And I guarantee it will be more entertaining or your money back.


“Is this the worst-ever salesletter?” asks Denny Hatch

Plus not one, but two apologies for my slack incompetence – and the return of the Hound of Newton Abbott

basil drayton

What’s he doing here? Read on.

The splendid Denny Hatch put up the following literary turd  yesterday as a candidate for the worst-ever salesletter.

It has to be a serious contender, neatly adding pig-ignorant incomprehensibility to boastful, jargonesque twaddle, with a dash of pushy ignorance.

The opening is sickeningly familiar. I regularly get stuff from people who “missed me”, or want to “set up time to talk”.

The feeling is rarely reciprocated. Here is the abortion in question:


I missed you in the office today when I called. I would like to set up an appointment with you as soon as possible to discuss some enterprise marketing solutions that are leading the industry. 

I want to bring you up to speed on what we are doing to shorten the distance between advertising dollars spend and ROI with today’s digital marketing. If you are like my other advertisers, you will like the targeted buyer-behavior-based-marketing-campaigns that are leading the industry with great quality engagement all across the web. We now have almost a year on these campaigns and I am so excited to say that we are exceeding industry averages in results on every campaign we have because of the additional proprietary data we use to target your right buyers.  Guaranteed impressions to the right buyer with measurable results and emailed lead reports to you every day are standard in our full service campaigns! 

Can we set up a brief phone call to discuss where exactly we can help you gain the most market share? I assure you, the information we share regarding these advancements will be beneficial to you regardless if we move forward or not. I would like the opportunity to share how these are driving greater ROI for all of our advertisers.

Kindest Regards,

Are you open to discussing how we can help you build more effective marketing strategies to efficiently target all your buyers all across the web in real time? This allows us to get you and your message in front of those buyers who are actively seeking you, your services and even those engaging with your competitors in real time but all across the internet on the sites they visit most. The campaigns are scalable and can be designed to fit any geographical target audience all the way to global.

I  often wonder what unreal time is, by the way. But not as often as I wonder exactly how incompetent I am.

For instance a while ago I floated two contests. One was to caption a picture of me with my partner Al’s ferocious hound Basil – seen above in a rare moment of repose. The other was to do with a dreadful website for a restaurant on The Shard

That offered a prize (or penalty) of a free dinner with me.

The Basil one offered a free place at Eadim.

I then completely forgot about both of these brilliant wheezes.

Actually, that’s a lie. Every now and then I felt a guilty twinge.

This has now become so painful that I shall return to both soon, asking for new entries.

If you have already bought a place at EADIM and you give the best answer to the caption contest, I will refund your investment.

If you have not, then you can get a substantial discount if you:

a) Read this blog regularly

b) Are now or have ever been my client

c) Follow me on facebook or twitter or are a friend on linked-in

d) Have attended previously

If you come up with the best comment on the Shard ad, I will honour my promise to wine and dine you.

More about that one shortly. Dinner can wait; EADIM can’t.

10 really great ways for your kids to have fun with guns

Since the NRA has put out a  piece telling kids how to have fun at the shooting range, here’s a list of some they missed out

Forgive me for butting in; I know it’s not really my business, but I have children and a grandchild in the NRA’s own country.

And I apologise for my lack of imagination: eight of the ten  have already happened.

So here goes:

1. Kill your instructor.

2. Shoot your girlfriend.

3. Shoot your 2 year-old baby sister.

5. Go to class and see how many classmates you can shoot in 3 minutes

6. Don’t forget to shoot your teacher.

7. Go to the mall and just generally have fun shooting anyone you happen to see.

8. Shoot your parents.

9. Get a petition up asking for the Right to Bear Arms to include Guided Nuclear Missiles.

10. Give some thought to whether it might be fun to shoot the Head of the NRA. Wouldn’t there be something rather poetic about that? And think of the headlines!