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"What's the most resilient parasite? An idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules ..."

Now, I'm very certain I won't have been the first to seize on this quote from Inception and bend it to fit some hinky marketing theory about social sharing.

I thought the quote had a beautiful simplicity of expression about it. We all know that, at the end of the day, powerful ideas spread. As we navigate the layer upon layer of modern communications, though, it's the how and why we're increasingly trying to unpick.

I found a post by Douglas J Eboch, who's a screenwriter (and a fine fellow, I reckon, given he uses his middle initial ... that's always a mark of good character).

Douglas writes: "I define the MacGuffin as the object or goal that the characters' mission is focused on. For example, in Inception, it is the idea that Cobb and his team are trying to implant in Fischer's dreams. In Casablanca, it is the letters of transit. In Sweet Home Alabama, the divorce papers. In Avatar, it's the goofily named Unobtanium."

The thing that gets people moving, doing things, makes you care about finding out what happens. It doesn't matter what it is called, or what diagrams you use to draw it. What matters is what happens to the people who are talking about it, debating it, remodelling it, chasing the perfect version.

It changes us. It plants an idea, a seed inside our head, which starts to grow. And when we talk about it to others, it starts to change them too. We can express it however we like, and it will take many forms, but that idea will continue to spread.

And that idea is that we've got to change the way we do things. The idea that the future of marketing, branding, advertising, media and so on is very different from the past, and indeed from the present.

The idea that companies whose purpose isn't a social, spreadable idea actually might not have that much of a future.

It's an idea that can transform the world and rewrite all the rules ...


I was taking afternoon tea with the man-legend Russell Davies this week and among many random things we chatted about was the idea of Unspecial. I suppose at its heart, Unspecial is about how similar we all are. While we all have our idiosyncrasies, we aren't that special or unique as human beings, we like being part of the herd. Segment away you direct marketers but the truth is that more unites us than divides us. That's why we have been able to take the Food Lover strategy authored in the UK for Lurpak and take it right round the globe - it turns out that while the food people love is culturally distinct, a love of good food is not. People are Unspecial and so are you.

And I want to try to apply this idea to planning - perhaps we might call it Unspecial Planning.


Let's start with a quick test. I want each of you to think of five great creative directors. Five stellar talents. Quick, you have 30 seconds. Got 'em? Good.

Now, how many of them are women?

I would be very surprised if even 5 per cent of you had listed just one woman. I would be even more surprised if two women had made anyone's list. But why? It's not like women don't have talent, dedication or drive.

As a quick example, if I had the chance to work for Tiger Savage (who just launched Tiger's Eye, by the way), then I would crawl across broken glass to do so. She's a living legend.

Unfortunately, she's in a small minority of creative women in advertising who are easily recalled. I wish I could rattle off a list of stunning female creative directors, but the usual suspects always come up first, and they're all men.

Watching Mad Men on AMC gives you a quick glimpse into the chauvinistic era of advertising, when men were men and women served the coffee. Even though the show does have a female copywriter, she's got about as much chance of filling Don Draper's shoes as I do of, well, partnering with Tiger Savage.

Some will say we have come a long way, and it's true. Women are definitely taking their place alongside men in this business, with female art directors, copywriters and designers filling the agencies in droves. But how many of them make it to the top spot? It's a small percentage.

And it all seems quite unfair.