Thought Leadership

Where are you getting your inspiration from this summer?

We asked a selection of industry leaders and thinkers what they are reading this summer.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

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Creativity, culture, curiosity. In the marketing industry’s buzzword bingo there are three words that you will almost certainly find on almost every given agency presentation deck. It is little surprise when you consider that creativity is the industry’s competitive advantage. 

Yet if creativity is a muscle then the people within the industry need to exercise that muscle everyday. A discipline which requires the industry’s most elusive magical ingredient: time. If you can’t control your time you cannot control your career, nor can you find the time to invest in nurturing your creativity.

Talking the time out from the day to day is the lifeblood of the creative industries, because you can’t possibly hope to reflect culture if you are not part of it. 

Building brilliant cultures and engaging curious mind is an ongoing process founded in the belief that our best work is still ahead of us. To ensure that these pursuits don’t simply languish as generic statements, rather than statements of intent we asked a selection of industry leaders where they are getting their inspiration from this summer.

Sue Todd

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CEO

NABS

My reading group has selected My Brilliant Friend and How to Kill Your family for the summer, the second of which might be needed with the long school holidays. My daughter has already glanced at the cover and asked if she can read it next so the feeling is clearly mutual! I read Where the Crawdads Sing last year so I’ll definitely go to see this at the cinema too. Apart from anything else the cinema (and the Co-op) has the best aircon and we might need it again after the 40 degree spell. I’m a big podcast junkie too so will still be devouring Sam Harris Making Sense, The Daily, Pivot and All in the Mind as well as Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat for stimulus on the future of work. I’m also on new puppy books and podcasts because despite being nearly two my lockdown miniature schnauzer is still quite badly behaved (I blame the owners). My personal book for holiday is Gabor Mate – When the Body Says no: the Cost of Hidden Stress. At NABS we’re seeing a big increase in the number of calls to our advice line around emotional wellbeing and mental health, and I think for personal and professional reasons Gabor Mate’s work is fascinating. For light relief we’ll take in some summer festivals – Latitude being the first - and I have plenty of theatre too. Jerusalem, Mad House and Eureka Day are all in the diary. Can’t wait.

George Cartwright & Lucas Robin

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Creative Team

SNAP LDN
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Creative Team

SNAP LDN

We love stealing things. We just can’t get enough of some good old-fashioned thievery. Obviously, we’re not talking about real-life heists (although that would make Tuesday afternoons more exciting) but stealing from the world around us to make our work better and richer.

You might nick a joke construct, a bit of music, or a typeface that draws your attention.

You’ll also probably do your best stealing outside of the office, so we’ve put together a list of stuff we have been pinching inspiration from. Don’t say we don’t treat you.

Podcasts

Start with this - Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink get you writing with little starting points as they believe “the only bad writing is not writing”. It’s a great way to break through that creative block and get something down on paper.

The flip side - Hosted by Paris Lees, this podcast puts two people with opposing views on a topic in the same room. The conversations lead to interesting revelations and insights into how other people think.

Off menu podcast - Comedians James Acaster and Ed gamble welcome a guest into the restaurant, and we learn about the food they love and why they love it. This podcast will leave you feeling peckish, so have snacks within arm’s reach.

Sub stacks

Austin Kleon - This newsletter from Austin Kleon is perfect to steal from. It’s a list of inspirations from across the Internet. Each newsletter features artwork, design innovation and just beautiful things. You are sure to find something in every letter that will grab your eye.

Books

The Anthropocene Reviewed - John Green reviews things human stuff on a ‘five-star’ review system. His analysis will leave you feeling differently about the strange world we’ve built around us.

Driving Over Lemons - This book is the equivalent of 10 days of annual leave. Chris Stewart tells the story of how he and his wife set up a new life in a remote region of Spain on a farm. The way he describes his memories will leave you searching for your own small remote homestead.

The Psychopath Test - John Ronson examines the concept of Psychopathy and how it relates to people in places of power like world leaders and CEOs. It also comes with a test so you can see where you land on the psychopath scale.

 Happy reading, listening and stealing!

Lots of love, from your new favourite petty criminals, George and Lucas x 

Matt Brown

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Managing Director Brand

Edelman

I’ve just read ‘I don’t take requests’ by DJ Fat Tony. Fat Tony has always been an enigma. He grew up with all the DJing greats – Jeremy Healey, Paul Oakenfold and Pete Tong, as well being heavily involved in the music scene in London, New York and Ibiza. He’s best mates with Boy George and has worked with some of the best in the game. However, whilst the DJ’s all found world-wide fame, Fat Tony slipped into a dark world of drug and alcohol abuse. As a result, Fat Tony is one of the world’s biggest DJ’s that you probably won’t have heard of, or at least until a couple of years ago when he set up an Instagram account and is now at the heart of shaping social media meme culture with his zero f*cks approach to commentary on modern life.

I stumbled across Fat Tony by chance, a repost of a meme by someone I follow led me down the wormhole of his Instagram page, and I’ve never looked back. He’s been very public about his past and now he’s 13 years clean and sober, he’s rebuilt his career, is active on the recovery mentoring circuit, passionate about making people laugh and has launched a book sharing his story. It’s certainly a rags to riches journey along with a fascinating narrative on how culture was shaped during the 80s, 90s, noughties, right up the present day.

Leading the Brand Practice at Edelman, culture is everything. I’m passionate about bringing the outside in and I’m always on the hunt for what’s new and different, I adore sub-cultures and trends. This is why this book was a summer read must – I couldn’t put it down.

I love how the Gen Z crew at Edelman are living all things 80s and 90s and so to discover how Fat Tony shaped these decades was fascinating. Fashion and culture have always been cyclical, but in a mobile first world, the speed at which trends come back around has been supercharged. I lead a team made up of quite a proportion of Gen Z, and so that concept really struck me when reading Fat Tony’s book.

Fame also seems to come from many avenues in today’s social platform led world, and you don’t really appreciate that back then, to make great things happen, required dedication, motivation and a great deal of serendipity and luck. Seeing the worlds of fashion, art, music and culture collide, played out across the gay scene, club scene and fashion scene was mind blowing. Tony brings to life this time with a great deal of humour, and it’s a fascinating glimpse into another world.

I thoroughly recommend this book. It will make you laugh, cry and want to create.

Ed Brittain

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Head of Digital

Pitch Marketing Group

I’m not much of a reader, and that may connect to many of you. There is always that someone that can name drop a title, mention a legendary name or quote an ancient piece of gospel research.

I’m not one of those, and importantly each to their own.

Difference keeps us growing and going forwards.

So where do I get my info, inspo and influence…

Reddit

Start with the frontpage of the internet. I love browsing reddit, to keep on top of breaking news and the language / comments that go around it. From r/awesome to r/technology.

Seeing new posts, potentially random at first, (like this) can start to sow the seed of an idea – What other role could drones play for remote reach? Fire safety? Waterdrops during matches? Seeing innovations and stories from the world over just fuelling creative concepts.

Linkedin

The more professional one, here I follow interesting and pioneering people, a way to get out of the weeds and look at some applications of where technology and creativity meets brands. I follow {Diego Borgo}, {Tom Goodwin} and {Zaria Parvez} as great examples.

Dropping handy perspectives and the occasions useful stat. Importantly, it’s never to copy paste their thoughts, but to be inspired and take forwards new perspectives. Or challenge the current way of thinking.

Other socials

For me, I follow influencers that occasionally talk about the craft itself, about their understanding of social, their reflections on culture and trends. Mr Beast is great at this, hidden among plenty of entertaining content. Even in downtime, watching Netflix or Disney+, looking at thumbnail construction, production techniques or cultural reaction (Kate Bush #1), everything becomes food for thought, just figure out what you like about it.

General behaviours

Lame advice time, but be curious. It is very easy to put blinkers up and stay within industry or sector, but looking at everything with a curiousity, falling down hashtag rabbit holes and getting really into #KnitTok. Exploring subcultures and trends. How audiences are engaging, the behaviours that are evolving as a result, and the innovators that are capitalising in that space… AKA BeReal winning against TikTok / IG currently. 

All in all, just be a sponge. You never know what may translate from a bad display banner into a creative concept (300yr old hidden garden revealed at Chatsworth house) – How could we create a temperature reveal given the increasing summer heat…

Translation of news, data and concepts, figure out the mechanic, the reaction and why it works. That’s what keeps me moving forwards and learning. 

Emma Potter

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Marketing Manager

iCrossing UK

Now I am reading two books – one called ‘Think Again’ by Adam Grant. Inside Adam talks about the power of knowing what you don’t know and champions how rethinking can lead to excellence at work and wisdom in life – and who doesn’t want a slice of that? Very early on I was hooked when I read ‘We don’t just hesitate to rethink our answers. We hesitate at the very idea of rethinking’. There is so much value in having the way we think challenged, yet why are so many people uncomfortable with the concept? I enjoy a good debate and I’m curious to hear everyone’s views, it makes for an interesting, diverse, and lively conversation.  

The second book is called ‘Atlas of the heart’ by Brene Brown. Here Brene maps meaningful connections and the language of human experience whilst exploring eighty-seven emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. Packaged in a way that’s easy to read, digest and understand, she investigates and explores many emotions from stress, wonder, and curiosity, to love, joy and humility. I’ve been a fan of hers for a few years, read many of her books, and listened to her Ted Talks – she’s witty, direct and a truly charismatic storyteller.  

Where else am I getting my inspiration from this summer? I’d say it’s listening to podcasts. My current top three are Diary of a CEO hosted Stephen Bartlett (the most recent dragon in the den), Conversations of Inspiration hosted by Holly Tucker MBE, and the Savvy Painter hosted by Antrese Wood. All three nod to expanding my mind, exploring creativity and my love of colour, and having an adventurous spirit at heart. Without a doubt, every week there are numerous amazing conversations had and insights shared.   

I also really enjoy listening to one person being interviewed on many podcasts, and that’s Peter Crone. Known as The Mind Architect, he’s just brilliant! As the Financial Times says, “Meeting Peter Crone is like meeting Buddha, Einstein, and Austin Powers at the same time”. He’s fascinating to listen to, always truthful and fun in his delivery, and every topic is on the table.   

Other than that, it’s being in nature that inspires me the most. Now that we have a hybrid working structure, I absolutely LOVE going for a walk first thing in the morning or for a bike ride. I remember reading that once awake, we benefit from exposing ourselves to daylight within 60 minutes. “When we expose ourselves to morning sunlight, our bodies become better at increasing or decreasing melatonin levels. Without sun exposure, our sleep-wake cycle is thrown off, which can lead to poor sleep” (*). I know that when I do get up early and go outside, it makes for a more productive, creative, and fun day – it’s a great routine that serves me well and provides loads of inspiration for the day ahead. 

Micky Tudor

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Chief Creative Officer

The&Partnership

In a summer where you feel continually bombarded by bad news - Women’s Euro 2022 excepting - It’s good to have some stuff that cheers you up and nourishes your mind.

So this summer I’ve been reading Tall Tales and Wee Stories by Billy Connolly.

It is a tiny bit dated in parts, but it is very funny and the essence of the book has a lot to offer anyone in advertising. It’s basically a collection of his works. Or should I say stories. You see, he doesn’t tell jokes he tells tales, and as an advertiser, that really resonates with me.

Jokes are fleeting, hard to tell well and not that memorable. A lot of ads are jokes. Whereas stories touch our souls and what it is to be human. They are far more emotional and involving. And we all love stories. We can’t help it. We even love rubbish ones - how many times have you sat through a dreadful film just because you want to see what happens in the end.

In the industry, we often talk a good game about creating brand stories but too often we just create a lot of one-off jokes. The brands that are truly successful at it are few and far between.

What gives his stories an added nuance is how they meander, weave and digress in glorious tangents - but then always somehow come back to the path. And like all great stories, they are never dull along the way. Or to use his terminology, “beige”.

It turns out that Billy Connolly has a nemesis. A mortal enemy that he fights against at every opportunity. And it also turns out that if you are in advertising, this nemesis is most likely the same as yours. His demon is; the beige. The dull, The bland. The safe. And so he tells the story of being at a “beige” party at Edinburgh Fringe one year. A corporate event he needed to attend, full of beige people talking about beige things with one of those beige buffets. So strong was his need to add some colour to it that he unzipped his fly and popped his “wee” willy amongst his salad plate that he was holding at crotch height. His anatomy resembling a cocktail sausage amongst the covering of salad leaves. Then he continued as normal talking politely with Lord This and Lady That. (Of course he tells it better than me!) His need for irreverence and subversion is palpable through the pages. And this is another parallel with our world. Subversion, irreverence and disruption are at the heart of all our most memorable ideas.

And if you find this image he conjures distasteful, he doesn’t give a fuck. He says so on the very first page.

Care about people yes, but don’t be a people pleaser - it’s an impossible task and only leads to “beige”. Much better to stick to your guns and bring people along on the way. And again, so it is with the strongest brands. They have no fear of alienating some people when they know strongly what they stand for.

Billy would approve. In fact, he would have been a stella creative in advertising I am sure, but the world is better with him as a comedian - after all real people don’t really care about advertising. 

But they do care about stories.

Alixanne Hucker

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Strategist

Missouri Creative

Newsletters
The Marginalian: Formerly known as Brain Pickings, The Marginalian is what founder and writer Maria Popova calls the record of the reckoning. The Sunday weekly digest features a cerebral array of commentary and thought-provocation across science, art, philosophy and literature. It seamlessly interlinks the pillars of humanitarian experience with contemporary commentary and an abundance of creatively-adjacent cultural references. 

Adultish by Nude: Adultish is the news-literary offering from next generation home financing app Nude. Nude was founded with the intention of standing up for first-time home buyers. Between breaking down the process of getting a mortgage all the way to boosting deposits with their own Lifetime ISA, Nude is a real challenger for the calculatedly complex world of mortgage finance. Adultish naturally follows within the same vein, describing itself as ‘a weekly newsletter about the mind-bending path to becoming a real human adult’. With advice from their entrepreneurial but grounded guests and hot links to a host of other adultish internet reccs, it’s a chill approach to the serious stuff.

Readjpeg: If you’re forever adding stuff to your reading list tab but never seem to find the time to get through it all, JPEG might be your bag. A strikingly curated collection of only images is delivered weekly by the zip, often with a contemporary culture spin but also not shy of a vibey bit of visual brain food from the archives of yesterday, the odd twitter screenshot and rogue meme. Some images come with dotted border links you can click-through for a surprise and some are just left for our interpretation and appreciation.  

Podcasts 

The McKinsey Podcast: Helping people make sense of the world's toughest business challenges, the McKinsey podcast makes use of the consultancy’s mega-web of second to none sector experts. From the changing face of apprenticeships to a walk-through on the global food supply crisis, The McKinsey Podcast has the perfect blend of horses-mouth reporting and instantly applicable strategy.

Books 

All Good Things - Stephen Ellcock: A selection of ethereal visual delights, All Good Things by Stephen Ellcock is a cornucopia of esoteric art and imagery spanning 3000 years of meaning-making through our natural and supernatural world. The author’s collecting of curiosities began by filling volumes of shoeboxes with magazine cuttings and then went on to take the form of a Facebook group of like-minded epicurean aesthetes, equally in awe of his online museum of wondrous imagery. 

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