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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Creative age Mark Earls

Welcome to the Creative Age by Mark Earls
published June 2002


Buy the book here, listen to the interview or read a review

Welcome to the Creative Age Mark Earls 2002 Wiley Click on the title and you can order the book from Amazon.

  • We have an exclusive interview with Mark Earls. See below.
  • And you can read my review of Welcome to the Creative Age below that. Click here to read the review.
  • What else? Oh well I’m informed that the book is coming out in Italian in a few weeks time.
  • And there’s a website to do with the book:


Listen to the Mark Earls Interview
The following extracts come from an interview I conducted with Mark Earls Planning Director of Ogilvy and Mather on Jan 31st 2003 at the O&M offices in Canary Wharf. Click on the icons to hear the mp3 files play back.

    play This seems to be a book with 2 titles creativity or the death of marketing. How come? (743K)

    play In recent years you’ve debunked focus groups, brands, and marketing. Was there a point you fundamentally shifted your view or are you just bolshy? (930K)

    play How do you challenge the banana snack mindset that adds clutter in the name of communications – aren’t agencies riddled with it? (969K)

    play Can you explain Bnard?(1446K)

    play Why has brand thinking got so lazy?(614K)

    play In the book you question the value of a respondent’s account of their behaviour, why is it that if Mark Earls comments on what beer I like he’s insightful but if he comments on what beer he likes he’s a blithering idiot? (2.7Mb)

    play Why is creativity forward looking?(1.2Mb)

    play How can the planning director of O&M say as you do in the book that there is no market for messages any more? (1.5Mb)

    play Do you ever get leaned on by someone saying This is a particularly big client would you mind shutting up this once? (763K)

    play How do you define a purpose idea? (925K)

    play What effect does a purpose idea have? (625K)

    play What’s an intervention? (680K)

    play How do you measure interventions? (254K)

    play Can agencies deliver purpose ideas or is this really something only clients can do? (1.8MB)

    play So it’s about changing the way we work? (429K)

    play Is marketing really over? (1MB)

    play So in summary.. (949K)


Review of Welcome to the Creative Age – bananas, business and the death of marketing

At the end of last year someone in my neck of the woods got into a Norman church carrying a couple of hand axes and did his best to smash it to pieces. After 10 minutes he was subdued and led out having done several hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage. But the church was still standing.

Anyone who asserts that marketing is over can be counted on to pull an audience. After all, with most of the UK population working in services we can all claim to be in the marketing business whether or not marketing forms part of our job title. And once the crowd is lured with the promise of blood they are as likely to turn on the challenger if he doesn’t speedily dispatch the champion. And Mark Earls is a man in a hurry – it’s inevitable people in ad agencies don’t have a lot of time to write books.

The book is full of ideas, casestudies and the latest thinking impacting communications – neuroscience, the herd mentality, and Ehrenberg’s critical studies on how behaviour and usage create awareness and attitudes (and not the other way round). But this vigorous attack on marketing and marketing culture doesn’t finish it off. Though any of the arguments alone if developed fully would I believe undermine what is now an established though not particular valued way of doing business in the UK. It would be a rash company which abolished its marketing department but not many feel the need to put the marketing director onto the board. What Earls shows is that marketing has become a process, an orthodoxy which grinds on whether or not the products are good or bad or even whether anybody wants to buy them. And the grisly handmaids of marketing: market research and the communications industry grind on in much the same way.

As Mark Earls says in the interview above – things are just too cushy – there’s no incentive to change. Ad people are well paid – no marketing department ever had it’s budget slashed because nobody could prove whether anything less would happen if it spent no money. Ideas are the only currency for creating a point of difference in an age of abundance. Ikea is once again rolled in to demonstrate the power of an idea. But how much less effective is DFS with it’s perpetual sales and it’s insistence on selling on credit? One of the biggest challenges Mark Earls cites is the war for talent. But if you can’t keep the talented people in your business then how can you build an industry built on creativity?

Welcome to the Creative Age is the third of a trilogy of books which have been written by people written at St Lukes, tribute to the power of its culture even if two of the writers John Grant and Earls himself have since left. But it reinforces that while the market is wide open to fresh thinking – it doesn’t punish mediocrity sufficiently to force the pace of change. For every St Lukes there are 20 agencies chugging along watching the margins getting lower churning out the same old stuff.

Click here to order your own copy of Welcome to the Creative Age.

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