ITIAPTWC Episode 44 – Libby Brockhoff

Libby Brockhoff is the current CEO/Founder of the agency Odysseus Arms. You can read all about them here.

We discuss how that agency came about, but we also discuss how Libby became one of the founders of Mother.

It was a somewhat circuitous route, but when it finally happened she was just 27 years old.

I think that’s pretty amazing: to have started the most revolutionary ad agency in living memory (and given it the name which then spawned a million other agency names that weren’t actual names), come up with it its internal structure and creative blueprint, and turned the London advertising scene upside-down at the age of 27? Hats off.

And, let’s not forget – very, very few women had ever been creative leaders of ad agencies at that point. So Libby broke through the conventional age and gender conventions to change the ad scene forever.

Colour me impressed.

Here’s a brief rundown of what we discussed:

Hooked by exposure.

A crazy Cajun at the University of Delaware.

5000 started. 5 finished (including Libby).

D&AD education.

Lots of great US agencies then GGT.

And Tom, Dick and Harry. I mean Mother.

You have to keep moving.

The creative core of an agency is what’s most important.

Launching Channel 5.

The genius of Robert Saville.

Everyone does everything.

Leaving Mother to become a mother.

Then back in.

Starting up again.

Why ‘Odysseus Arms’?

Why Odysseus Arms?

Caitlyn Jenner.


A creative and female agency CEO.

Here’s our chat, the iTunes link and the Soundcloud link:

I’ve been run down and I’ve been lied to, and I don’t know why I let that mean woman make me a fool. She took all my money, wrecks my new car. Now she’s with one of my good time buddies. They’re drinkin’ in the weekend.

14 things you didn’t know about The Game.

Passive aggressive work email lines.

A cobbled together Paul McCartney song:

Typeface made of piss (thanks, J):

Mid-movie twists (thanks, J2).

Best of the century

The other day this ad campaign popped into my head:

Man, those ads were good. Until they got a bit less good. But even then they were better than 99% of ads out there.

But they literally had not crossed my mind for over a decade.

Great campaign, big brand, many awards, as an avid cinema goer I watched them countless times… but utterly forgotten (by me, at least).

Which got me thinking: what are the ads that spontaneously pop into my head when I try to think of the best work of the century so far?

So let’s give this little test a go (try to do it before reading my answer; it’ll give you a clean list): spend one minute thinking about the best ads of the 21st Century. Any country, any medium. Then lost what comes up…


Keep going…

I’m not going to nudge you in any direction (although you might now be thinking of more Orange ads…)

Are you finished?



Here’s my list:

Honda Grrr

The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

Nike Write the Future

Dumb Ways To Die

Chipotle Back To The Start

Honda Cog

Honda Choir

Guinness Noitulove

Guinness Dreamers

Channel 4 Meet The Superhumans

Cadbury Gorilla

Skoda Cake

Playstation Mountain

Levi’s Running Through Walls

Reebok Sofa

Playstation Life on the Playstation

John West Bear

Levi’s Twisted

Met Police Knife Crime

And… I’m done.

So… Almost entirely TV. Most over a decade old. Almost entirely English.

I think it’s because that’s when and where advertising was most important to me.

Anyway, that’s my list, and it cannot be denied.

What’s yours?

Your everlasting summer, you can see it fading fast. So you grab a piece of something that you think is gonna last, but you wouldn’t know a diamond If you held it in the weekend.

Brilliant low-cost cosplay (thanks, T).

Fun/cool editing/lighting:

Postcards of locations that used to be lovely but are not any longer.

Lots of construction workers die of skin cancer. Here’s an excellent solution (thanks, S, D, M).

How to put shit-hot dominoes together:

Fun photoshop shiz.

Cool animation (warning: mature!):

Get a shitload of amazing stuff when you support an excellent cause

Just click on this clickbaity link!

ITIAPTWC Episode 43 – Ben Priest

I sent Ben an email a while ago to ask if he’d do the old podcast.

He kindly and politely declined, saying he’d done a few already and didn’t want to repeat himself.

So I waited a bit then asked him if he’d do a more start-up based conversation and he even more kindly said yes.

We had a delightful chat, after which Ben revealed to me that he’d just done Dave Dye’s podcast.

Darn, I thought. Dave’s podcasts are much longer than mine, so he’s bound to have covered everything I did, and more.

So I listened to Dave and Ben’s chat to see where any repetition might have occurred. I’m not going to lie to you: if you’ve heard Dave’s some of mine will sound familiar. But (oddly enough) there are enough differences that you’ll hear a ton of really good stuff here that isn’t covered by that conversation. This makes me think that there’s one really great 2.5-hour Ben Priest podcast that you could create by splicing the two together.

Anyway, as I said, this one is more about the genesis and progress of A&E DDB and…

Starting in account management.

The promised land of Lowe Howard-Spink.

The loneliness of the creative director.

Slight rewind to Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow and Johnson: one week on placement and an ad in the Book.


The leap to CD.

Finding the other founders of Adam and Eve but doing nothing about it.

Then doing something about it.

The importance of chemistry.

A ‘difficult’ legal situation…

We ignored all the advice/It’s not rocket science/Everyone’s winging it.

A bit of an outsider.

It feels like it’s all happened to someone else.

The name.

Never do any training.

John Lewis Superbowl.

Starting up is the most fun you can have in advertising.

The good thing for lazy old me is that Dave already collected Ben’s best work together on his own site, so check it out there.

So here’s the chat, the iTunes link and the Soundcloud link:



And in the end, the love you take Is equal to the weekend.

Making a dragon’s egg from Game of Thrones (thanks, T):

Everyday objects in macro:

Satisfying video:

Unsatisfying video:

Kind of an oral history of Mad Men (thanks, T).

38 jobs that no longer exist.

The best bird photos of the year (for the unreconstructed men amongst you, this is strictly avian. Thanks, B).

Is confidence a preference?

Here’s an interesting article.

It talks about the confidence gap between men and women. Here are some of the more interesting findings:

Half the female respondents reported self-doubt about their job performance and careers, compared with fewer than a third of male respondents.

Men initiate salary negotiations four times as often as women do, and when women do negotiate, they ask for 30 percent less money than men do.

A review of personnel records found that women working at HP applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job. Men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements.

When Estes had the students solve a series of these spatial puzzles, the women scored measurably worse than the men did. But when he looked at the results more closely, he found that the women had done poorly because they hadn’t even attempted to answer a lot of the questions.

In a study he published in 2011, men consistently rated their performance on a set of math problems to be about 30 percent better than it was.

True overconfidence is not mere bluster. Anderson thinks the reason extremely confident people don’t alienate others is that they aren’t faking it. They genuinely believe they are good, and that self-belief is what comes across. Fake confidence, he told us, just doesn’t work in the same way.

Perfectionism is another confidence killer. Study after study confirms that it is largely a female issue, one that extends through women’s entire lives. We don’t answer questions until we are totally sure of the answer, we don’t submit a report until we’ve edited it ad nauseam, and we don’t sign up for that triathlon unless we know we are faster and fitter than is required.

The more senior a woman is, the more she makes a conscious effort to play down her volubility—the reverse of how most men handle power.

So when it comes to confidence, men simply have more than women, and that gives them/us a ridiculous advantage in many areas of life.

Those of you who have yet to read the article might be wondering why this is. The ultimate reason is testosterone: men have ten times more of it than women do. That makes men faster and stronger but it also makes us more inclined to take risks. Sometimes this can result in problems caused by overconfidence. Look at how many of these feature men:

But overall, in most everyday situations, the extra confidence seems to be a help rather than a hindrance.

There’s also the anterior cingulate cortex – the part of the brain that helps us recognize errors and weigh options. It’s bigger in women because, as the historical nurturers and protectors, they have to be more aware of possible threats.

Then the whole thing becomes self-fulfilling: boys start to take risks and behave in a more knockabout manner from an early age. Girls then socialise and assimilate societal norms more readily, but then they don’t put themselves forward as much as men do. Confidence breeds confidence, and the ability to skim past setbacks is very useful if you want to get ahead. Try for three jobs you’re not quite qualified for and you might get one. Try for zero and you’ll probably get zero.

So what I’m saying is that this isn’t a sexist impression borne out by mere anecdotal evidence; this is chemical, measurable, real and utterly pervasive (although I should add that of course very confident women do exist; they’re just rarer than their male counterparts).

But one could reasonably argue that we prize confidence because men have been ‘in charge’ for so long that they’ve bent the world to become an environment that prizes the very thing they’re good at. It stands to reason that people tend to value the things they’re good at more highly than the things they’re crap at – partly because you could probably make a case for the primacy of pretty much any character trait if you were so minded (for proof of this, try reading the ‘description’ of characteristics of any star sign and see how they’re all somewhat positive). That means the world has been set up for men to succeed over women, and it’s been the case for so long that we now see male characteristics as ‘good’ because they are exactly what you need to succeed in so many of today’s situations.

We could instead have created a world where thoughtfulness and caution are thought to be the best attributes. There are certainly many instances where they do come in handy, but we also tend to see them as weaknesses. And nowhere is this more prevalent than in business, where you could say that the current way of doing things is a version of traditionally male territories, such as war. Companies work out how to ‘destroy’ the competition with a ‘campaign’ where you ‘take no prisoners’. It’s spoken of as a form of conflict when it could easily be discussed in completely different terms. Why can’t business be a collaboration, where we see how the greatest goals can be achieved together?

This became more of a problem for women when they were allowed to leave the domestic world and enter the offices and cubbyholes of BUSINESS. That was all well and good, but they started to play a game designed by men for men, leaving them at a disadvantage. When a manager assesses a woman and decides that she is not ‘assertive’ or ‘confident’ enough, that’s partly because she wasn’t designed to be. But instead of recognising and appreciating those differences, we use them as a badge of failure. Rare is the assessment of a man that complains of his lack of caution, even though this might be a deep and problematic failing. The rules were unconsciously written over hundreds of years and we now think they’re simply a set of universal truths.

This may be why, in industries where front and bluster can take you a long way, men are more often at the top. In advertising I’d argue that the reason creative department leadership is far more likely to be male is down to this testosterone factor: when you’re building a career as a creative it is very helpful to present your work with confidence because no one really knows for sure if your idea is brilliant or not. Then that confidence breeds confidence in the people you’re talking to (usually men) and may lead to the work getting through a client more easily, then finding a better director (usually a man). Do that enough times and you’ll be a CD, then an ECD. Then the snowball starts rolling down the hill: confident people (men) are likely to be attracted to other confident people (other men) and before you know it, 75% of creative departments are male, as are 89% of creative leaders.

But doesn’t that mean we’re going to lose a huge amount of valuable input? I’ve worked at agencies where the conversation, often amongst 10-15 people, moves fast, and at a high level of quality. If you want to join in you need a bit of bravery to think your words are worthy of interrupting those of the other people in the room. But if you don’t have that bravery others might well be thinking that you’ve got nothing good to say, otherwise you’d surely be saying it. They’re less likely to be thinking: ‘Oh, of course: as a result of various evolutionarily-inspired chemicals, Person X is too timid to jump in to this intimidating mixture of jokes, opinions and decisions. Let’s slow down and ask what’s on their mind’. I mean they might be thinking that, and in an effective company those moments of inclusion do happen, but they’re very much the exception rather than the rule.

Here’s another factor: confidence isn’t only down to gender. I’ve certainly been in situations where I’ve been worried about speaking for fear of looking stupid, and I know certain of my male bosses have felt the same. Confidence can come and go from moment to moment, situation to situation, dynamic to dynamic. Put a male CCO in a room with teenagers discussing the latest Childish Gambino tracks and his front might melt faster than an ice cube in Death Valley.

So are we OK with missing out on a bunch of good stuff from the less confident minds in the room, or are we going to find ways to be more inclusive? Or to prize caution and thoughtfulness? Should we have a formalised system of pauses to go around the room and scoop up any unsaid words of wisdom? That might work, but I think you’ll still get people who won’t want to speak up simply because there’s now a spotlight on their face.

The real solution is to go upstream and find ways to make less confident people more comfortable with speaking up and more inclined towards the value of what they have to say, and to think about the benefits that come from less strident characteristics. The kicker is that increasing confidence takes practice: the more times you jump off a diving board the less scary it becomes, but of course that means you still have to do it the first time, even if it scares you to death. But the other path, the one where we become more considerate, is surely easier, even if we think it’s a bit odd at first.

If we start nudging things in the direction of inclusivity and compassion, maybe the snowball will stop rolling down the hill – it might even start rolling in the opposite direction. It’s going to take effort, awkwardness and being OK with those two things, but think of how much better things might be as a result.

ITISPTWC Episode 42 – Jay Coen Gilbert

A bit of a different chat this week: it’s not a start up and it’s not an ad person, but it is someone who is deeply embedded in a conversation we all need to have right now: how do we do what we do in a such a way that it has a positive impact on the planet and the people on it? That’s an enormous and complex question, but if you’d like to explore it, this episode might be a good place to start.

Jay is a very successful businessman who built sportswear company And1 to $250m. You can find a more detailed bio here, but I wanted to talk to him because he started B Lab, a nonprofit organization that harnesses the power of private enterprise to create public benefit. In other words, he is helping companies to consider their impact on the world beyond their bottom line. Current B Corps include Ben and Jerry’s, Etsy and Patagonia.

That’s not to say that the bottom line is unimportant; the B Corp ethos will only spread and grow if it demonstrates that it brings economic viability to social and environmental improvement.

So we discuss all that and…

What’s best for the world rather than best in the world.

Using business as a force for good.

And1 vs Nike and capitalism.

Fair/unfair advantage.

Stakeholder governance vs shareholder governance.

A global movement.

Spreading the word beyond the early adopters.

Interest from Fortune 500 companies.

Financial compromise?

How does this work for ad agencies?

Convenience vs doing good.

What makes a ‘good’ company and why?

Diversity (particularly ageism).

The B Corp scoring system (complete with baseball analogy).

Other resources: B Corp’s site; assess yourself; steps for start ups; a company that makes starting up as a B Corp easier; and an article about that company.

How to assess your impact (are you ready to become a B Corp?).

It’s worth pointing out that in the US there is a similar thing called a Benefit Corporation. Here’s an explanation of what that is and how it differs from a B Corp.

Here’s Jay’s twitter feed, along with his TEDxPhilly talk on better businesses:

And here’s the chat, the iTunes link and the Soundcloud link:

If you’re still there when it’s all over I’m scared I’ll have to say that a part of you has gone since the weekend.

When will you be replaced by a robot?

Your brain hallucinates your reality:

Brilliantly dark miniature scenes (thanks, D&C).

How movies make money (thanks, J).

And here’s part two of that.

Movie dialogue coach runs through some accents (thanks, J2):

Kubrick: practical lighting:

Pop culture characters if they were real (thanks, T).