Things I have been thinking about

Ideas are jokes.

Best common example of what an idea is, and why our brains like them so much can be found in jokes.

A joke is an idea.

This is the second funniest joke in the world according to the UK website Chortle:

A woman walks onto a bus holding her baby.

The bus driver says, “That’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen”.

The woman doesn’t know what to say, she bursts into tears and takes a seat next to an old man.

“What’s the matter love?” The old man asks.

“That bus driver just said my baby is the ugliest he’s ever seen” She whimpers.

The old man goes red with fury.

“That’s terrible, you should go back up to him now and tell him off! here I’ll hold your monkey for you”.

The setup opens up a loop that tells our brain that we are dealing with a horrible bus driver, the punchline connects ugly baby with monkey, this new relationship and the taboo of baby looking like a monkey hits us so hard and fast that the resulting endorphin rush effects us physically, we laugh.

Ideas are exactly the same, the best ones are three quarter complete circles, they require us to input what we know to complete what’s being communicated.

In ads, this is what allows us to know that Volvos are safe.

In movies, this is what let’s us know that a simple look, or gesture from a character is hinting at their past so we connect that moment to how they will react in scenes in the future.

So to make more ideas, you need more things to connect.

As Steve Jobs, arguable one of the most creative people ever put it this way.

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.

Creative people often just have more dots to connect.

We’ve heard the cliché that creative people are sponges.

I think a more accurate description is creative people are vampires.
They suck the blood of culture, of books, movies, music, conversations, popular culture.
And more importantly, they suck the blood of others.

Meaning, if they meet someone with a certain talent, or way of doing things, they’ll slowly start adopting that to their own practice.

Sometimes it’s not just skills they absorb.

Picasso was said to be a vampire in many senses, he’d spend his days entertaining and interrogating friends and contemporaries, leaving them spent. He’d take the energy he’d sapped off them and use it to fuel him to paint through the night.

Quentin Tarantino spent his early days in a video store watching and talking movies in a frenzied obsessive fashion. Again taking all of conversations about Hong Kong Action revenge pics and 70’s Blacksploitation  and piecing them back together in ways that paid homage and lifted genre filmmaking to a whole new level.

So to have ideas, you need dots.

Good news is that dots are everywhere and endless, which means once you’ve worked out how to connect them, you ability to do so will be endless.

So will be your ability to come up with useful and original ideas.





Have you noticed that everything is going meta?

This is a note to myself really.

Ive noticed that everything from movies, to advertising campaigns to podcasts are fast becoming stories within stories.

Birdman, the Startup Blog are two startiling examples – no doubt there will be more.

Will expand on this later.

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Creativity is just connecting things.


The internet isn’t a marketing tool, it’s a relevance engine.

The internet is essentially a relevance engine. It allows you to navigate a path of your choosing, digging deeper into topics that interest you and bypassing the things that don’t.











So, when it comes to trying to tell people about your product or service, relevance is your secret weapon.


You should do solutions and not ads. You need to think like an inventor and a storyteller.

Do a demonstration

A collective action

A creative platform

A phone app

An interactive video

A tool

A product

A game

A character

A world

A visulisation

An experience money can’t buy…

In-fact, an ad should be the last thing you should be doing.

Do something RELEVANT to the medium

The above is a TV ad done by the agency I used to work out.

This is a digital execution of the same thought.  We could have just created some banner ads with the funny looking kid and the same endline. This lazy approach to digital advertising is known as “Matching luggage”, and should be avoided as a rule.

Here are some other examples as you how you can make ideas relevant to the medium.

Be interactive

Subservient Chicken is a legendary example of an interactive campaign. It needed you to interact with it to bring it to life. It was unexpected, discoverable, bizarrely hilarious and super successful.

This Skittles You Tube video also asks for your interaction to close the loop in an unexpected and surreal way.

Put the audience inside the idea


Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice gave you more than just a free burger for offing your sham Facebook friends, it gave you a story, kudos for calling bullshit on the whole competitive Facebook friending phenomenon. It put you inside the idea, and the story of your participation became yours to tell. The fact they turned Facebook shutting it down into PR victory, doubles the genius of this legendary campaign.

My agency did Remote Control Tourist last year. It put our audience in charge of the story and where it went.

Museum of Me literally built your personalised story using your own Facebook information. As well as being an incredible technical achievement, its true cleverness lies in creatively feeding back on everyone’s favourite topic – themselves.

Do a product demonstration

This is a project I worked on a few years back. We were luckily given a product that had a unique feature which allowed you to send prints to a printer from anywhere via email. So we demonstrated this capability by sticking it into an art museum and turned it into an inclusive art project.

Orcon Broadband in New Zealand could have just said our broadband is fast, instead, they did this.

Be useful

The brief for this project was to show that the Yellow Pages is still useful, so we used its API and catch-up TV of a renovation show to create a whole new way of using it.

Everyone got a bit carried away the promise of Augmented Reality a few years back. USPS using it to size-up parcels was a perfect application.

Bring data to life

Wearable tech is coming in all shapes and sizes, which means we will be able to feedback on peoples behaviour in new a meaningful ways.

Create a product

Make your idea relevant by adding to what is already going on rather than distracting from it.

Stay Smart, America! from Ben Jones on Vimeo.

Songs written on the same night

Did you know that Dolly Parton wrote the songs “Joelene” and “I will always love you” on the same night?

Also, legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr wrote the indie classics “This Charming Man”, “Still Ill” and “Pretty Girls Make Graves” in a single evening because they needed songs for a John Peel session.

Wish I had nights like that.

I should also stop listening to such campy music.


Yes, the notion of tricking search engines via keyword stacking and other tricks
is over.

Now Google has changed its search algorithms, you must now be genuinely engaging your audience to ensure a good ranking.

In the digital advertising hinterland, there is an eternal struggle between the storytellers and the inventors, the content makers and the platform builders. It seems the storytellers and makers might have won – thank God.

This, and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any specific courses on writing for digital and social media because it changes so quickly, has sparked this short course/workshop I’m conducting for AWARD.

It’s a field guide on how to formulate engaging ideas in digital and social media – and techniques and strategies you can use to make emerging technology and platforms relevant to your work.

It’s also going to be fun. I love this area, and am as obsessed by unpacking and teaching it as I am about working in it.

Please join us Friday week, there are still a couple of places left.


Copywriter & creative advertising friends, I need your sizeable brains and niche knowledge.

I am teaching a workshop later this month for AWARD on writing for digital and social media called Giving Data A Soul.

A big part of this will be equipping those who come with some valuable online resources.  So at the end of the course, they can actively keep updated on the ever-changing world of ads, ideas and innovations.

I have my own lists of sites and people I follow, but greedily, I want yours so it’s a much-rounded resource. Each contribution will be gratefully credited.

So if you’ll indulge me, can I ask for:

1. Your top three blogs for ads, ideas, online?

2. The top three people you follow in social media for up to date and relevant knowledge.

Post them below.

Thanks. You rule.

Copywriters needed to give data a soul. An AWARD workshop on writing for digital and social media.


I am very excited to be teaching two day intensive workshop for AWARD later this month.

It’s a practical field guide built out of my own experience as a Senior Copywriter/Digital Creative Director in the digital space over the last nine years, and my time as web designer and developer several years before that.

Because the truth is, although the roles of strategists, UX specialists and technologists have become essential. The role of the creative storyteller to give digital work a relevance and humanity is more valuable than ever.

Or to put it another way, we need Copywriters to give data a soul.

This workshop is for anyone working as an agency copywriter/communications specialist who uses writing, ideas and online to create their work.

Enrol here, or feel free to ask me any questions below.

‘a commercial campaign doing more to promote multiculturalism than our government seems to want to.’

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 12.19.50 PM

This Saturday, our client NAB has trained ten commentary teams to call the AFL Grand Final in their native language live via Footify FM.

Whatever happens, it’s great to know that we’ve won over one skeptic, and our idea has been embraced in the inclusive spirit in which it was intended.

Might send my Mum this article.