The Library: Copy, Copy, Copy, by Mark Earls

Reviewed by Alex.

In every Creative department there is always that one person who knows the awards annuals back to front and can immediately point out when something has already been ‘done’ (even if it’s 15 years earlier), which is why I wasn’t too sure about this book from Mark Earls. Even the job title ‘Creative’ suggests that we’re always meant to be unique, imaginative and come up with the newest, most creative way to solve a brand’s marketing problem – and never copy.

However the book is designed to challenge that anti-copying sentiment and embrace the thinking that someone else has already done to short-cut your way to the truly creative part where innovation lives.

In fact one of the most useful parts of the book is about helping you to be able to define what ‘Kinda thing’ your problem is. The 4 quadrants system based on buying behaviour challenges most assumptions (e.g. not all problems are around convincing consumers that your product is better) and saves you hours trying to define your unique problem, when most likely there have been many similar problems from a range of categories with a similar choice structures that you can learn from.

The rest of the book, comprising of Earl’s 52 strategies, becomes a handy resource for brainstorming first thoughts - almost having someone in the room that’s asking ‘what if we did this’ to spark a new angle. Although the key is to copy well… that is loosely… to create something new.

The Library: Paid Attention, by Faris Yakob

Reviewed by Alex.

This book appealed to me as it suggested that it might answer the ongoing question in advertising – how do you get cut-through?

As much as this book is filled with great insights, behavioural science notes and relevant case studies, the bit that’s missing is any kind of answer that is promised throughout the back cover copy and introduction. In fact the last line of the book is: “No one has enough money to out-shout the rest of culture, so how do we get attention?” – showing that it’s a question that can’t really be answered in one book by one man.

Apart from this missing piece, and the subtle PR for the author’s agency (whole chapters dedicated to showcasing Genius Steals processes), the book covers a broad range of topics and does a nice job of firstly setting up how branding and advertising work from a behavioural point of view before moving on to the complex issues with the digital world and media planning. It then deviates into a few too many topics that feel like he was trying to pack too much in to one book.

Overall it’s nice that Yakob does go deeper than just giving an all-knowing answer, but at times can read like a mash-up of all the best theories he has read. It would make a great reference book if anyone was (in the spirit of recombinant thinking) going to create new planning theories from the numerous quotes and great studies that are referenced.

The Library: Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

Reviewed by Alex.

Once you get your head around the 2 Systems theory rather than left and right brain, this book is a revelation.

To explain, System 1 is your fast thinking, automatic operational system that makes most of your decisions instantly based on intuition, perception and memory. It’s the silent author of your choices, and operates without us knowing. It has bias, ignores logic and loves a good story.  System 2 on the other hand is the one we think of when we think of ourselves – your deliberate thought. It’s much slower, considered and allocates attention and memory to harder tasks that need more focus. It’s also very lazy.

    Illustration by David Plunkert


Illustration by David Plunkert

How they operate is that S1 is constantly running, suggesting impressions, impulses and feelings to S2, that if endorsed (and it’s easily swayed) become beliefs or actions. S2 only really kicks into gear when S1 is stumped or surprised, or is a mistake has been made.

The Systems are the basis for the book, and are key to explaining the great list of heuristics and behavioural science findings that are covered by Kahneman. Although most people have blindness to their blindness and wouldn’t believe they have an automated system they can’t control, the book has exercises throughout that point out where and how it operates, most of the time giving surprising and entertaining results.

The book does seem to work on a rule of two – two systems, two species (rational econs and irrational humans) and two selves (the remembering and experiencing self) that can be a bit confusing, but overall it’s an incredible piece of writing that’s the life work of the Nobel prize winning author. The decades of research and musing show how deep he’s explored his theories and not just accepted his first thoughts. Everything is considered, reconsidered and proven to make it into the book. It should be one of the staple books for anyone interested in marketing science.

The Library: Think Like a Freak, by Stephen J. Dubner & Steven D. Levitt

Reviewed by Alex.

Firstly I need to say that I’m a big fan of the Freakonomics books and their studies. Many years ago they were my introduction to the patterns in what seems like irrational behaviour – a topic that many other books have explored further since.

This book, the third from the economist and journalist authors, steps beyond the short story style of first two releases into a new self-help genre. It’s a guide for the everyday person that attempts to show them how to re-frame the way we look at problems and make visible the behavioural patterns that are usually missed because we don’t expect people to act like humans, responding to incentives rather than rational arguments. Most of the solutions are about changing the question to begin with.

Although very helpful in the business of advertising (chapters range from how to craft arguments to relationship frameworks), the methods are also explained in a way that they can be applied to life in general. In fact the last chapters of the book focus on how ‘thinking like a freak’ by simply letting go.

Although not everything is practical, it’s a book filled with a tonne of interesting facts and tactics, particularly if read with the mentality that’s suggested in the introduction – “to embrace ‘I don’t know’”.