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As the sun sets on the main street, a gnarled old figure known only as "the ad industry" rides into town. His eyes are narrowed against the setting sun. But in the head of the old gunslinger there are just memories. Memories of the time he could outshoot anyone in the town.

The old gunslinger sighs, wipes his forehead and hacks up a goujon of phlegm. It's a hot day, and the heat saps him quicker than it used to.

The younger gunslingers are in the saloon, assuring the clients that SEO has grown by 8 per cent in the past year, that data will lead us ever closer to a world of precise no-spill targeting, that algorithms are the only answer.

The old gunslinger wants to point out that online advertising has a click-through rate of less than 0.1 per cent, which makes it a far less successful tool than junk mail, the scabby end of the industry where people used to go when their creative reputations were shot to bits. But he knows he's wrong. He knows the world is turning towards the science of data. He knows that if he was a client, that's what he'd turn to.

The barmaid leans over to talk to him. "Those three guys over there", she says, pointing at a small group playing poker. "They've invented a machine that can take you from town to town using vegetables as fuel."

"That's amazing," he said. "How come they're not shouting about it?" "Doesn't happen like that any more," the barmaid said. "Nobody wants to shout from the rooftops."

The gunslinger paused. Maybe, just maybe, there was a glimmer of hope in what the young lady was saying.

"They just want to whisper it to people who have self-selected their interest in the category," she said.

"But the idea's got to be overheard outside the core target if you want to build a brand," he said. "Too darn tootin' right," she said. "And only Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Mother and Droga5 seem to get that."

"It's got to be innovative and mass-market at the same time," he muttered.

"That's what marketing will always need," she said, her eyes flashing. "Big ideas. Big creativity. Something that gets everybody talking. But that only comes from unfettered creative thinking. Without it, you're just pissing into the wind."

Steve Henry,


The recent story on is the perfect place to add a little social media flavour. The image of Miles (Nadal) and me ripped apart and the suggestion that our relationship is not unlike a fresh divorce surely makes great copy and helps create traffic to the FC site, but it just isn't accurate. I've been divorced and the suggestion that divorces are friendly and then get ugly later doesn't jibe with my recollection. So the idea that Miles and I are civil now because the split is fresh is unlikely.

We're civil now and say nice things about each other because we're friends. And that is something we both are planning to continue to be. I would love to work with Miles again someday if the stars align. Unfortunately, our friendship just isn't newsworthy.


Last week, John Tylee asked me why the UK isn't doing so well at Cannes. Why haven't they won much? What's happened to UK creativity?

Well, let's see what's changed recently. Because of the rise of multinational agencies, much of the advertising that agencies turn out has to be international.

But that means the ad can't just be in any one language. Which means it must be visual. That means we've left the area where we're strongest. And now we're competing in the area where other countries are stronger. The purely visual.

Tony Hardcastle told me he was on the D&AD poster jury. An Economist poster came up. The headline said: SOMEBODY MENTIONS JORDAN. YOU THINK OF A MIDDLE EASTERN COUNTRY WITH A 3.3% GROWTH RATE.

Now that's a very funny poster. We all get the joke straight away. We get the joke because we all know who Jordan is.

But an American guy behind Tony said: "I don't get it. Is this referring to Michael Jordan, the basketball player?"

And a Chinese girl next to him said: "Oh no. I think it must be referring to Jordans, the cereal bar."

Because it was verbal, not visual, two of the people judging it didn't even understand it. So what would have happened if the Economist campaign had been done for an international audience instead of just a UK one? All those intelligent "word" jokes wouldn't work. So it would have to have been a purely visual campaign instead.

And some of the best poster advertising of recent times wouldn't have seen the light of day.

Dave Trott,