July 20, 2023



The people are loving fakes. And by fakes, we mean CGI advertising.

Yup. Deeply good fakes are having a moment.

Why go through the hassle when you can whip up something larger than life without leaving the office?

The fact of the matter is that people love CGI campaigns. Take the recent viral Maybelline campaign or the internet-breaking Jacquemus version that came first (both from the same creator btw). People are loving fake collabs. People are no longer ashamed of dupes or even good fakes.

We recently were in a pitch for some work and we pitched that the photography and campaign didn’t actually need to be photography. The product was safe and entering a very saturated but slightly stale market and this could have been a great way to differentiate and shake things up.  We wanted to land with a splash. A big computer-generated one. The potential client however, was deeply confused and likely, it lost us the pitch. 

There are other great examples of ‘fake’ work that’s great. What Haruko Hayakawa is doing—stunning. It’s not as stunty but it’s fun and sophisticated.

Obviously, Midjourney and AI have primed a path for otherworld imagery. Machine-learning has taken up right up to the center of the Uncanny Valley. It was shocking and then it wasn’t. 

This Mission Impossible CGI ad of marble run theme song is also pretty magical (and has over 120M views!)

What does CGI ADVERTISING TREthis mean? Are consumers becoming more interested in possibility than reality?

The Shinola watch that was fake and then because reality is another interesting extension of this. It's not exactly CGI advertising but they made a fake watch for April Fools and then ultimately made it in real life.

Fake doesn’t also have to be true 'CGI advertising' to get the love. Take this Self-lender ad. Hugely popular.

Beloved Truff brand also has a shining and funny example with this fake news report to announce being stocked at Walmart.

While we’re seeing more and more brands clam up and do the bare minimum because they’re scared or just wholly unsure,  you have to question if they are missing the opportunity of the moment. 

Consumers are also worried, tired, overthinking. 

How can you inject more joy into their world? More whimsical meanderings.  More out of this world imagining. More banality-busting brilliance that stops you in your tracks or at least gives you a few seconds of “what was that?”

Time for brands to embrace possibility. 

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May 30, 2023



‘Taylor Swift is a marketing genius’. 

If you’ve read one article this month with that headline, you’ve read 12. 

And why is TSwift a genius? 


She’s mastered it. Web3 loves it. And every CMO is asking themselves if this is the new frontier.


Does anyone else remember 2010’s favorite boardroom chant:  ‘surprise and delight’?

"Worldbuilding is surprise and delight on steroids."

It’s ‘easter eggs’, it’s weaving an interconnected story across platforms, it’s allowing your brand to get in on the fun of fandom. Worldbuilding is inside jokes, grand gestures and unexpected ‘add-ons’. It’s curating playlists to match products, celebrity partnerships that actually make sense, showing up at cultural events to actually support your community.  It’s niching down. Gestures that build goodwill. Doing the little things because they matter—and show you care. 

Worldbuilding endears customers, plays into FOMO, and when you capitalize on it, you’re able to build longevity and connection—it’s a deep investment but it pays off.

For example, Taylor Swift, in her latest tour, sported a manicure where each of the nails was painted in a hue to signify each of her albums. She incorporated a dance movie made viral by one of her Swifties on TikTok, insinuating she keeps an eye on her community’s comings and goings online. Swift even brought a prop golf club (used to bash in a car in her music video for Blank Space) to serve with on stage. 

"If ‘storytelling’ was brands giving you a peek behind their behind-the-scenes, worldbuilding is the ‘choose your own adventure’ novel."

Worldbuilding is full-on immersion, just like the name implies.

But who else can we learn from in the world of worldbuilding?

Good question. Much like brand purpose, worldbuilding applies more to B2C brands. If you’re selling backend software, no, it’s likely not for you. But if you’re a brand that sells products or experiences, worldbuilding is where the world is going. 

But before you go and study the TSwift playbook, take a step back and ask ‘What world am I looking to build?’

Worldbuilding isn’t about being on every platform. It’s about living inside the hive with your community. 

Entertainment properties have been doing this a while. Disney is a masterclass. But who else can we learn from?

1) DuoLingo. They are moving into Math, they are moving into music. Duo Lingo doing worldbuilding. They have created a language, rules, and world around learning. In their world you go on ‘streaks’, language and prompts are delightfully weird and fans revel in their weird world.

2) Yowie. Once a small, socially-beloved store, now a hotel/coffee shop/store/product creation studio. Yowie’s not worldbuilding with inside jokes, they are literally creating a way for you to engage with their brand on a variety of levels from visitor, to regular. Shopper to creator. What’s interesting about Yowie is how its founder Shannon Maldonado has continued to take us on the journey in the building of the world. With every table developed, every color picked, the hive is there engaging with her along the way. 

3) Vacation. Since its inception, Vacation has constantly brought us into their perfectly odd 80s world. From hysterical content series that weave fictional tales of couples enjoying their vacations, to surprise and delight products like their Classic Whip sunscreen, to their always on-point 80s campaign-inspired imagery, to their Ball Boy Prince collab candle that you can practically smell through the screen, the world is inescapable. 

So how to begin to build your world?

"The success of worldbuilding relies on your brand positioning."

  1. The success of worldbuilding relies on your brand positioning. If you must be clear on what makes you unique to the world. Not every world is a parody. Your world must be authentic to your brand but it is a big do or don’t bother exercise.
  2. Consider every sense. From the physical to the digital. Architecture to scent. The more small but considered elements the deeper the world.
  3. Grow it actively. As they say, worlds weren’t built in a day. Every action, campaign, content series, event, each Easter egg is a moment where you build the world. Active positioning in everyday and extraordinary ways is the key to worldbuilding.
  4. Move your mindset from us and them to we. Worldbuilding is about joining in on the fun. Ego goes out the window. You have to be in on the jokes or it just won’t work.
  5. It’s part plan, part Jesus-take-the-wheel. Related to being in on the joke, you can’t tell where a world will go. You can work on crafting it with your lens but when it’s going well it will have a life of its own. Go on the ride. Live in the world.

"The way to world domination is in the details."

Time to build your world.

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April 3, 2023



Brand Purpose Aka your raison d’etre, or your whole deal. 

The ‘Why Are You Here, Beyond Making Money’ question. 

A brand purpose is essentially a brand’s motivation. Some equate it to a mission statement but it’s also your positioning. It takes everything from external elements like culture, competition, and customers and what you stand for and rolls it into one big ‘HELL YEH’ statement for you to rally around. 

But recently ‘Purpose’ has been the latest target of ‘debunked marketing trends’. It’s gotten bad PR and been unfairly attributed as your ‘cause.’  It’s found itself in a grey area. A middle zone between ‘do we even need it’ and ‘we can’t live without it’.

Recent research suggests that purpose is not a major driving factor in decision-making.

But when you dig deeper into the research there’s more to tell.


What the data shows is that much like everything in the world, if you do a s**t job, it’s not effective. But if you invest the effort to do it right, the benefits are beyond your expectations. 


What this graph shows is that ineffective brand purpose hurts more than it helps. 


Solid, meaningful brand purpose moves your brand into another tier and out-performs everything else.

So how do you ensure your brand purpose doesn’t read like AI wrote it?? 

Some cold hard realities about brand purpose:

  1. It’s not easy 

If it’s not obvious, no brand should be spouting generalities like ‘we connect people’ and call it their purpose. Purpose, why, mission, whatever you want to call it, is a rallying cry for your company. If you aren’t investing the effort in making it distinctly different, ask yourself why you are doing it.

Your purpose is your difference. 

  1. It's not a nice thing to say

Much like company values, generalities are boring and unimpactful. As many times as we have heard ‘‘integrity’ stated as a company value—it’s not one—we have heard ‘we care’ listed as a brand purpose. Integrity is not a company value because it is a given. Are you hiring people that don’t have integrity? No. Company values have to be truly unique things that only your company values—not just decent-human-being traits. ‘We care’ is not your brand purpose for the same reason. It is a generally assumed belief that brands aren’t there to rip you off and not care. Purpose can’t be a nice thing you want to say and it can’t be a pay-to-play. Get specific, get detailed, get into the nitty gritty and own it.

Your purpose must be true and ownable only to you.

  1. It’s not charity 

Causes are great. But they aren’t your purpose. Mental health, women-rights, race equity, climate change? Donate to them, live the values but unless these are directly connected to you as a founder or to the operations of your business then they are causes you support, they don’t qualify as your brand purpose. The former is admirable, the latter is opportunistic. Consumers can smell opportunistic from a mile—it’s not cute.

 Purpose must be intrinsic to your brand.

  1. It’s not a CSR program

Successful brand purpose is holistic and integrated. It drives decisions, it’s factored into all things. Gone are the days where you can do one thing on the left and behave differently on the right. If purpose isn’t IN your brand you are better off accepting you simply sell goods and are there to make a profit and that’s that. Consumers would rather hear that than say one thing and act another. In short, it’s better lived than said. 

Purpose integrated into the operations of your business

  1. It’s not a nice to have

The power of purpose is that it gives you words to define your unique brand position in a powerful way. It allows you to consider that your brand position is not just a tool for market and category difference but an opportunity to shape culture. 




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February 7, 2023


How brand positioning makes good brands great brands.

Every morning I make a cup of tea. To get more specific: English breakfast*. Without fail, it’s PG Tips. For me, there is no other tea. Sure, it’s the quality. But it goes beyond that. There’s no messing with little strings and tags—because good English tea is made in a teapot. The taste is so distinctive its referenced in their tagline. And there’s the generational tradition: my mum drinks it, my brother drinks it, my nan drank it. Every sip is a little taste of home. PG Tips is a treatise on brand positioning. They have leaned into what makes them, them. And they are winning. Started in 1930, they are the #1 tea sold in Britain and are on international shelves worldwide. They hold the unique status all brands strive for: distinction + ubiquity. 


There’s a book about it. Many brands can be everywhere with good distribution but the difference between good brands and great brands is understanding your brand distinction—and living it.

Often, brand positioning, or what makes you distinctive, is C-suite activity that rarely trickles down into every aspect of the brand. And yet it should be the culture of the brand. It should be your main squeeze. 

As brands grow, extending into new categories or new audiences, there is often a race to grab every coin. In doing this, brands often lose what made them distinctive. They lose perspective in favor of widening their pie. Yet, historically, successful brands narrow their focus rather than broaden it.


When Crocs trimmed its product selection by 30-40% to focus its efforts in their main clog, business sky-rocketed. When they focused on their main squeeze—they grew. Perhaps they shaved off some underperforming products but that doesn’t explain this level of growth. They leaned into what made them distinctive. Crocs was always for the slightly weird and subversive. Polarizing but delightful. The deeper they leaned into this position at every turn, the stronger they became. They did it with Jibbitz, brand partnerships, the list goes on and on. They narrowed their focus on what made them great and they went big on being everywhere in an unignorable way. Distinction + ubiquity—achieved. 


Take Fishwife. They make tinned fish. They made their brand so distinctive it’s repositioning the WHOLE category. They have 48k followers on Instagram. The incumbents? Starkist, 17.8k. Bumble Bee Foods, 8k. Chicken of The Sea, 5K—Fishwife is clearly doing something right. They have a beautifully distinctive brand. From the illustration style, to their clear POV on who eats their tinned fish, to the partners they collaborate with. They are tuned in to what their consumers love. They ensured their spots at every shoppy shop* nationwide and they just inked a deal with Whole Foods. Distinction + ubiquity—check. If you’re not eating them yet, they’ll be improving your pantry any day now.

Liquid Death—another great example. They sell water. Everything about their success is positioning. And they lived it at every turn. They made distinction so core to their DNA it drove viral fame. Distinction + ubiquity status unlocked. Current valuation: $700 million. 


Tight positioning improves business, yes. And it drives ubiquity—the goal. But what’s often overlooked is how much a clear brand distinction will improve the lives of your team—business even gets better INSIDE the company. All decisions, from platforms to partnership, product categories to campaigns become clearer. When teams are guided by a strong position at every turn, living it daily, when they know your main squeeze, the how/when/where of the brand is clockwork.

This is not a plea to narrow your product categories down to one. The one thing you are good at is not a product. It’s your perspective. Your position is your distinctive take on your category, your audience, culture AND your product. Make it your guiding light. Make it the kool-aid. Make it WWJD. Make it something you live every day. Make it everything you do and everything you love.

Make it your main squeeze and see what happens. 

*Tell me you’re English without telling them you’re English

**We happen to love the shoppy shops

February 7, 2023


The Need for Clear Positioning

You know that feeling when you introduce two friends that seem different but yet glaringly similar? Lately I’ve been having that same feeling about two different types of clients: hyper-growth brands and incumbent brands looking to reposition. Different on the surface yet glaringly similar situations.


Beyond those that put them on this warp speed trajectory. Asking themselves (and us) how to propel the brand into its next phase of growth.

This inflection point often looks like:

  1. Growth into difference audience segments
  2. Product category expansion
  3. Increase in marketing spend
  4. Rapid team growth 

This often correlates with the 80-100* employee inflection point. That moment in team growth when fissures arise, processes no longer work, when retention takes a nose dive—when it all seems ready to implode or explode. 

At this point you need two things: 1. processes for 50 that will work for 300 and 2. an ultra clear brand perspective (brand positioning). This can be the difference between implosion and explosion. 

Why is brand positioning so critical?


Generalized data-driven audience profiles based on existing consumersDeep insight and data-driven new audience segments that further embed the brand in culture
Products for products’ sake. Frequently paired with the misunderstanding it will increase LTVProducts that advance what made your brand unique to begin with
Media buys that get you consumers that would have likely converted anywayStrategies that connect more deeply and campaigns that feel nuanced and IYKYK
Lack of clarity on what the brand stands for, resulting in individual interpretation at scaleClear, focused, unique audience mindsets and brand ‘why’ which drives sustainable growth

Interestingly, all four of the challenges in the left column are the same ones incumbent brands often face. Why?

More often than not, along the way, incumbents have lost a clear brand position. 

So, if you’re in hyper-growth or an incumbent looking to right the ship, the advice is the same. If you want to maintain your stake or re-stake your claim at being a GREAT brand, figure out your brand position and get ready for the explosion.

*Not counting store employees, speaking more to head-office teams.

February 7, 2023

THE FUTURE IS ON CO-PILOT—and we’ll love it

Filling the Hedonistic gap with bite-size, guiltless pleasure.

There’s something about the AI frenzy that recalls Y2K. A level of irrational panic that causes even the most logical among us to instinctively buy 6 bottles of water for a family of 5. 

I think this panic is misplaced. First, let’s face facts: AI will be everywhere. It’s not a question of if but when. And this could a good thing. 

We need to rebrand AI.

It’s not a bot coming for your job.

It’s a co-pilot to your life.

Just as you Google even the most basic fact or pull up an app to get you to a place you already know the way to, just with less traffic, AI will run alongside you. Assisting and lifting the monotonous burdens that we all secretly know we’ll be delighted to let go of.

Let us put aside the panic and ask: is AI the future of work happiness? A co-pilot to free up our time, allowing us to be our best human-selves? 

If I’m hearing Matt Klein’s research correctly, the answer is yes. Humans are better at making the magic connections happen. At bridging complex business needs. At finding synergies that no bot can see. At imbuing depth and meaning. But AI can sift through the muck and uncover bits of gold we might have missed. 

AI needs to be viewed as a super handy collaborator, not a nemesis. And we’ll all have a co-pilot soon enough. 

  • Electricians will have a co-pilot for the super complex raceways. Humans will still be there implementing the solutions.
  • Architects will have co-pilots to help them adapt to local codes, assist with the n-teenth stair solution or reconfigure because of a duct discovery. But there’s no AI that can navigate the emotional meaning of ‘home’.
  • Assistants will have assistance. But we all know a recap is just an outline.
  • We’ll scan giant documents without using keywords. But navigating the complex realities of business priorities—that’s a human superpower.
  • Dalle-2 will feature in every design field. But there’s so much more that goes into a design than what it looks like. 
  • Agencies will generate ideas for pitches, and even ads. But once the novelty of it wears off, humans will still need to uncover the deeply weird, unexpected realities that are the bedrock of great ads.
  • AI might write our quizzes (and we’ll be glad of it!) But something with of true substance is impossibly far off. 
  • Doctors will get AI-powered tools to translate bad penmanship. Perhaps this will free up time for the the human side of patient care.
  • Yes, there will be tools to make editing videos faster and easier but it will still require a vision, a director, to guide how it all unfolds. If you think AI will replace A24’s magic, you’re mad. 
  • Toy companies will play with making fun virtual prototypes but they’ll still engage with customers to see what actually matters. ‘Shop small’ has proven we don’t truly love to buy from robots.
  • There will even be a co-pilot for you. A digital twin to practice tricky surgeries on, to track and predict more preventable disease—this is the stuff of dreams not the stuff of nightmares.

Let’s be honest, there are a lot of potential applications for AI we’ve been wanting and needing.

If you have ever navigated applying and REAPPLYING for your elderly parents’ Medicaid, you will fall in love with the AI that helps ease that burden. 

Imagine when AI gets so good that moms will have reduced emotional fatigue from a few monotonous tasks being taken off her plate.

When the lonely have access to an AI that remembers all their stories and can engage them in meaningful conversation.

When an AI that let’s you find a specific piece of advice in a book you own without the hassle of flipping through the entire book yourself. Heaven.

Co-pilots will be amazing. 

That said, I think AI is still in its—to continue with our ‘aughts references—Limewire phase. We’re stealing on a daily and personal level. I don’t think this will last long. Once we get out of the ‘free fun’ phase and this becomes a truly entrenched part of our lives we’ll be paying for it like we do the rest of the internet. Some stuff will be free (mainly the stuff that makes money off you in other ways), the rest you will pay for. Artists will license their styles. Authors their books. Specialists their know-how. Already, tools are coming out to tell you if something is AI generated. These are growing pains. Annoying? Yes. Reason for panic? No. 

So if you need to buy 6 bottles of water to calm your nerves—go for it. But I think 6 will be more than enough. Spend the rest of your time planning  what you’ll do with the fraction of extra spare time AI might provide as it creates shortcuts to daily life. I for one am one mom ready for a trusty co-pilot.

PS. Obviously we had to make some AI generated image for the cover of this piece. I can tell you now that I spent way too long trying to smash the right words together to get something even passably acceptable. This no doubt will change but we’re not in the future just yet y’all.

Attempts prior to a mediocre finale:

March 26, 2020


‘Because good culture starts by doing the right thing’ — Chris Danton, Head of Creative Strategy

Today, along with a few other pioneering agencies, we planted our flag in the sand. We committed to being the change we wish to see.

Along with Pledge Parental Leave and 19 other creative companies, we committed to providing paid parental leave for our employees. We’ve long believed that becoming a parent is something to be celebrated, not feared.

Below is a summary of that commitment.



  • 3 Months Paid Leave (to cover those precious first months)
  • 3 Months Uninterrupted Medical Coverage (to ensure peace of mind)
  • 6 Months Job Security (to give employees the option of taking more valuable time without fear of losing their job)
  • Commitment to openly publishing the policy (to end the stigma of asking about parental leave benefits)


  • This goes for ‘Secondary’ caregivers too. We believe you are an important part of this mix.
  • You can delay your leave for up to 12 months to help manage that first year in stride.

Ultimately we hope these changes will be adopted across the board, by every organization. It’s time for change, good change.