Andy Law picks his Desert Island Ads

Andy Law is chairman of innovation consultancy Fearlessly Frank. Prior to joining FF he helped to found some of London’s better creative agencies including St Luke’s and The Law Firm. Here’s his choice of, mostly, ads.

Asked to pick my ten favourite ads and I’m stumped. Where to start? Fortunately the kindly folk at Moreaboutadvertising have given me an escape clause which I will mercilessly exploit. “OK, take the brief as you wish, just go for it.”

OK. Thank you. I will.

There’s a brooding debate in Adland (and wilder shores beyond) about the difference between Creativity and Innovation. (The debate is confined to narrow commercial communication, of course, and never embraces the creativity or innovation of Michelangelo, Leonardo di Vinci, Picasso or Grayson Perry, for example).

What stuff and nonsense. Just turn to Theodore Levitt and he’ll provide the answer. Creativity is thinking up new things, Innovation is doing new things.

So, if Adland agencies, the world over, want to employ an Innovation Director, (as I keep reading and hearing they do) the first job should be to innovate the agency not the client and garner some credentials in that field. Go on guys. Give it a go!! You’re all boring me with your titivating and window dressing. Truly re-invent, the way Bernbach did. But take note, it’s hard work. Trust me.

Any new thinking about how a client needs to communicate is the job of the creative department, aided and abetted by insightful planning (consumer insight, that is) and boldly sold in by the account management department whose job is still, surely, to inspire with “what was never thought possible”. In my experience stunning creative should be bloody hard to persuade a client to do, because it has risk at its heart. Look at all the breakthrough TV programmes and you’ll see what I mean. Monty Python, Extras and Black Mirror, for example.

The internet has provided just another medium; it’s no more complicated than that. Please stop telling me it’s an opportunity to be “innovative”. No, it’s an opportunity to be creative.

But, um, where’s the creativity? I find it so hard to find. So much Internet “creativity” reminds me of people, 30 years ago, trying to be clever with direct response advertising. Yawn.

So back to the brief. I have always felt that, in fact, the trail of true innovation has been blazed by big, bold, brave clients like P&G, Unilever, Apple, Microsoft and Nike. If you create an industry-changing initiative you have travelled 75 per cent of the way in terms of brand differentiation, consumer communication and consumer awareness. If you can emphasise such brand differentiation with communication that startles you from a completely different angle then you have a winning, stunning solution. I feel it a shame that Dyson advertising is, in my opinion, just workmanlike, while the products are stellar.

After six years of appalling behaviour in the banking market one brand has quietly shone. I don’t know the figures exactly, but I am absolutely positive that the customer satisfaction levels of First Direct have never fallen below 85 per cent, while other banks scurry to plead, vainly, “customer centricity”.

If you’re reading this and you are a client with a genuinely innovative product you could do no better than try to persuade Naresh Ramchandani and Dave Buonaguidi to join forces again and work for you.

You might need the sales team too: David Abraham, Louise Dean and John Robson.

And you’ll certainly need the client, Peter Simpson, (co-founder and commercial director of First Direct) to offer some sage advice.

I wanted only one ad to take with me to my desert island. It reminds me of the power that can be unleashed when truly great business innovation meets timeless, superb creativity.

Travel with me back to Chiat/Day London in 1994.

This is epic, relevant and startling and could run today. I can watch it again and again and again.

First Direct – Human Life from Pentagram on Vimeo.

Boo! The tyrannical editors at Moreaboutadvertising are now insisting I play fair. I have to have ten. But they still give me a little leeway.

So, I would be content to have these to mull over on my desert island:

Number two is the best pack shot I’ve ever seen.

Number three is the best sale ad I’ve ever seen.

Number four is the best recruitment ad I have ever seen.

Number five is the best use of Motörhead in an ad I have ever seen.

Number six is my current most puerile ad (I have a weakness for puerile advertising).

Number seven is one of the most innovative pieces of music ever written and never used in an ad.

Number eight is my current fave website

Number nine is Yoko Ono’s Meltdown (ha!)

Number ten was all the furore, analysis and debate about Margaret Thatcher.

‘Nuff said.


  1. Further to my rather short comment of yesterday in support of Andy’s selection I would simply like to say that I would urge any and every client to put Andy and his agency Fearlessly Frank ‘on their pitch list’. I can think of few other people currently in the business with Andy’s track-record of having invented and then managed a succession of arguably the most innovative (in Andy’s definition of the term) agencies to have evolved in London after the CDP/BBH era. His launch of Chiat/Day London was a spectacular coup, followed up in even more style and originality by St. Lukes, which was probably the most interesting ‘game-changer’ of all to me. During his time at CDP, Andy presided over several accounts, all of which quite apart from winning numerous creative awards, substantially increased the clients’ market-share, sales and value. The clarity with which he illustrates the difference between ‘Innovation’ and ‘Creativity’ and the relevance of the Internet purely as another medium is a masterclass in analysis and understanding. I would like lots of so-called ‘digital’ shops to take note. The medium is not always the message. Brilliant.

  2. I always liked Dyson for their ads. There’s a pure and golden thread that connects the spirit of Dyson and his boys… “solving the obvious problems, whatever it takes”… and the execution. Whenever they have cracked whatever it is (transforming 7 categories) they talk like the engineers and scientists they are… and focus on the single frustration they have answered. When true product innovation delivers total functional superiority, and everyone get’s the benefit immediately, admirable creative restraint is spot on.

  3. A great analysis of creativity versus innovation, and some memorable ads across the board. Very interesting read; always an interesting man. Am looking forward to the next ‘Law-instalment’ in the near future too.

  4. Good meaty stuff… But I am flummoxed to figure out how they got Justin Bieber in that 1994 First Direct spot. According to my math, he wasn’t even born then. Oh, and if you’re interested… Justin’s poor fucking monkey is still in a German jail.
    Cheers/George “AdScam” Parker

Back to top button