Richard Neish of Dare picks his Desert Island Ads

Richard Neish is managing director of pioneering London digital agency Dare, now owned by Oliver Group. He began his career at Tribal DDB before moving to another DDB agency Red Urban. He joined Dare in 2009, becoming managing partner, before being promoted to managing director earlier this year.



Desert Island Ads


Health Education Authority – ‘Still dying for a fag?’ (‘Michelle’ TVC) AMV 1997/98


I grew up with an IPA Effectiveness Award hung on the wall of our downstairs toilet. Dad was an adman. Arguably a Madman, but if you take away Madison Avenue’s ‘M’ and position it in 60’s London ‘Ladman’ becomes a less appealing moniker. By 1997 having crossed the great divide from agency to client-side, he was working with AMV on a series of hard-hitting anti-smoking ads featuring smokers who knew their days were numbered and were trying to convince others not to follow their path. Before the campaign aired Dad attended the funeral of Michelle (above), one of the subjects. It affected him, and that affected me.

(Campaign film below).


‘If you drink then drive you’re a bloody idiot’ – Transport Accident Commission (TAC) Australia 1989


By 2002 I was working in New Zealand as Nasser Hussain’s England cricket team were mid-tour. Gazing over the top of my mid-afternoon pint I was struck by the blistering simplicity of a pitch-side hoarding from NZTA that read ‘If you drink and drive you’re a bloody idiot’. Imported from Australia’s TAC, there was no hidden metaphor or over intellectualised craft. Its sledgehammer directness and brutal honesty opened my eyes and released me from a belief that great work had to be ‘clever’ or have hidden meaning to be successful.


‘Big Ad’ – Carlton Draught, Y&R Australia 2005

The Aussies have remarkable pedigree at poking the establishment firmly in the ribs. In a brilliant parody of BA and Quantas, Carlton Draught held a mirror up to the industry and gave us the ‘Big Ad.’


Volkswagen ‘Lemon’ – Bill Bernbach


I studied history at university, which taught me to look at not what someone has said or done, but what the motivating factors were behind it. In 2003, I joined BMP DDB and was indoctrinated in the cult of Bill Bernbach whose lasting legacy appeared to be a quote for every conceivable agency dilemma. His work was exceptional, and while the adman in me admired his execution, the historian in me had overwhelming respect for the brilliant Jewish brain who had the strength to put his heart and soul into Volkswagen, the people’s car of Germany, less than ten years after the Red Army liberated Auschwitz.


The Guardian – Points of View, BMP DDB 1986

Thirty years later, BMP DDB were driving reappraisals of a different kind. ‘Points of view’ took us one way -then slapped us on the wrist for our presuppositions in a conceit that’s been heavily imitated, but never bettered.


Hasbro – Monopoly Live

Innovation is a much-maligned word. Briefed badly it produces whizzy whim; executed well and it takes something that has a place in your heart and simply makes it better. By 2005 I was working at Tribal DDB when the Hasbro Team wired fledgling GPS into London cabs and created a real life game of Monopoly on London’s streets. They’d gamified Uber four years before Uber launched. This was my first window into the collision of virtual and analogue worlds and I was smitten.


Adidas – David vs. Johnny

Though by this point my heart was now firmly in digital, it was won by a piece of film from Adidas back when content was still labelled ‘viral’. To this day I want to believe that this just happened. David Beckham and Jonny Wilkinson; two athletes at the peak of their sports bound together by infectious dedication, oblivious to the film crew, production company, creative team, suits and clients around them. Professional sportsmen doing what they do brilliantly, rather than uncomfortably living out a soulless endorsement. Everything about this felt natural and it resonated hugely.


Guinness Rugby RFID

In the mid-noughties success in sports sponsorship was blanket branding. Job done. Working with the Fraunhofer Institute, and the outstanding team at Gilbert, we placed RFID chips (used for locating boxes in warehouses) onto players and suspended one in the epicentre of the ball, creating data that quantified the sport in an entirely new way. It was outstanding, but taught me an important lesson. We’d created an innovative product from a marketing budget, and in doing so moved subconsciously away from the liquid and brand we’d been tasked to promote. That wasn’t lost on Guinness, and funding for the programme dried-up quicker than the time it took to pour the perfect pint.


Penguin Books – MyFry


I’d long been a fan of Dare, excited by a generation of talent who were increasingly proficient at crafting firsts. New to the agency in 2009 I watched the Penguin team deconstruct Stephen Fry’s autobiography and thematically rebuild it with staggeringly intuitive interaction design. They’d reinvented the linear book into a highly personalised experience, and to his endearing credit, Stephen had rolled his sleeves-up and pitched-in throughout the journey.


Like my addiction, Addict Aide, BETC

There’s a cultural deftness and patience to this that I really admire. Rather than project onto culture, Addict Aide hid in plain sight this year and waited calmly for the blind to see. If ‘Points of view’ sold us a dummy, ‘Like my addiction’ drew a generation in and then dropped the mic.

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