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Without a little anarchy nothing gets done

My very first job was working for an advertising agency called Ogilvy & Mather.  It was an inspiring place, full of really amazing people.  I mean really; Salman Rushdie and Indra Sinha were just two of them. I hardly knew Salman as he was just about to embark on his next career, but he wrote the ditty “Happy Birdie” in a card for me that I had to send to a golfing friend; I wasn’t impressed, but what did I know about golf?  Indra I knew better and for longer and, to this day, I still think of him as the best example of what great writing is all about.  I learned a lot from him, and as kind and generous as he was, his writing was so sublime I felt like a child stumbling with the alphabet by comparison.  It wasn’t just his writing, it was his thinking, his passion for finding something to talk up that no one else had.

He wasn’t alone. At the agency thinking outside the box was everything and creative brilliance the goal. The passion for developing campaigns that could stand the test of time was like a drug; it permeated every lacquer work surface, marble tile and leather organiser.  It was impossible to accept borderline boring, samey or responsible ideas.

I was very junior, but was lucky enough to be at the agency when a ground breaking campaign was developed. It didn’t perform nearly as well as another with focus groups around the country, but the guidance given to client was to ignore the majority and take a risk.  The risk was taken and “Naughty but Nice”, developed to sell fresh cream for the Milk Marketing Board, went stratospheric.

Playing safe never got you noticed, never will; plagiarism and ‘borrowing’ ideas can never upstage originality.  But a little bit of anarchy can take you places you never imagined, and you’ll get there faster.

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We are all born originals - why is it so many of us die copies?
Edward Young