How the people of Proxima Centauri came to be subjugated by the people of Alpha Centauri is not important. It happened to have happened that way in those particular versions of their respective solar systems in a galaxy we call the Milky Way in that particular version of the multiverse. In another version of the multiverse it would have happened the other way around and no one would have known any differently. …


What do you do when you’re told your wife has cancer?

What do you think, what do you feel, what do you say?

First you learn.

There are tumours in the pancreas and the liver, too many and too advanced to resect. What does resect mean? To remove surgically.

Where is the pancreas exactly? He draws with a blue pen on white paper. Here, under the liver. Just behind it. More or less.

Where are the tumours?

Here and here and here. Blue circles.

So if you can’t operate…?

We need to know the tissue type. The biopsy will tell…


“Ultimately a thing exists only by virtue of its boundaries, which means by a more or less hostile act against its surroundings.”

Robert Musil, A Man Without Qualities

The instinct of those who fear the dilution of their identity is to build walls. In rare cases they are built of concrete; more usually they are built with words.

Trump’s wall is imagined as a barrier of concrete and iron twenty feet high and two thousand miles long. But he knows, as all populists and nationalists know, that walls don’t need to be built as long as they are imagined.

The…


“Planning should start not with what ads do to people, but with what people do with ads.”

—JWT’s Stephen King, in an address to the 13th Asian Advertising Congress, 1982.

I was at an brand planning conference in 2010 when, after a long night of presentations on the very latest communication theories, the audience was asked to indicate by a show of hands which methodology they would put their money on to outlast the decade.

Neuromarketing had a few rowdy enthusiasts. Herd-marketing raised half a dozen hands. Qualitative research pipped data slicing, but that old chestnut “the voice of the…


Or how to annoy your potential customers without hiring an advertising agency.

© Lickable Squid

Brand content that treats digital as an extension of the one-to-many media paradigm is advertising by another name. It’s the 20th century practice of force-feeding consumers with brand messages until they surrender their last shred of free will, transferred wholesale to the digital arena.

Until digital marketing learns the lessons that made one out of a million advertising ideas literally and figuratively exceptional we should call it what it is: “digiting” — the proverbial finger in the eye.

Digiting is to the 21st century what so much of…


Buckle Up #26

“No brain at all, some of them, only grey fluff that’s blown into their heads by mistake, and they don’t Think,” said Eeyore.

There were no consequences. The police pulled back the dogs and I sauntered past them as casually as I could into the Johannesburg evening, as if I were on my way to the library and happened to take a wrong turning by mistake. The chants died down behind me.

Blake was impressed by the “intimacy” of my recording, but the incident never made it onto the six o’clock news, the seven o’clock news or…


The problem with bureaucracy doesn’t lie in its inefficiency; it lies in its efficiency.

As of today, the 21st of January 2019, three and a half million people in the UK will have to apply for permission to stay in their own homes.

These are not illegal immigrants. They are professors, pathologists, pilots, painters, pickle packers and plumbers from the other 27 nations of the European Union who came here legally and voluntarily under the provision of the acquis communautaire, the policy chapter of EU law that guarantees the freedom of all citizens of the member states to work, to…


A clear brand positioning requires a compelling “reason to believe”. Problematically, as Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber have now so convincingly demonstrated in The Enigma of Reason: A New Theory of Human Understanding, human beings will find reasons to justify their behaviour, their beliefs and their brand choices only after the fact, and then only if pressed to produce them. More worryingly, the reasons we invent to post-rationalise our choices will be tailored to the meet the expectations of the social group that has pressed us to explain ourselves.

Their research has profound implications for the way we shape and…


There’s money in sin. And the deadlier the sin, the more valuable it tends to be.

We’ll start with lust because everything starts with lust.

Forbes estimates the value of the global pornography business at between $2.6 billion and $3.9 billion a year. Hard figures are difficult to come by because the monetisation of porn is messy, cabalistic and evolving rapidly into ever more complicated transactional postures between buyers and sellers. Individual purveyors can earn as much or more than the big corporate players, and Playboy’s recent decline in fortune suggests that niche markets can be more profitable than the…


Lord Ranfurly reads the Cook Islands annexation proclamation to Queen Makea on 7 October 1900.

Gordon Torr

Writer

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