Why spending money does not buy you friends.

This week, Michael Bloomberg called time on his attempt to win the Democratic nomination to run against President Trump. The New York billionaire laid out roughly $550 million in just over three months of campaigning.

Bloomberg spent a mind-boggling $5.4 million a day.

He spent about $227,000 — which is a little less than three times the average American household’s annual income — every single hour.

And still no one liked him.

Hey advertising people, there may be a lesson for us all here. Spend does not equate engagement. If you talk to people who do not want to listen, you can talk to them all day and all night and still they won’t care.

And even worse, they will actively reject you, and sometimes seriously damage you. Yes I’m talking about you New Coke, you, Pepsi Kendall Jenner social conscience ad and you, Hoover flight giveaway campaign.


There are lots of reasons why people don’t want to listen, but chief amongst them is that you are probably talking about things they truly don’t care about. This is why the strategy behind your campaign is as vital as the creative route you take.

I once had a client who insisted we talk about the fact that when you pressed a button on their product it glowed blue, rather than the previous year’s red, forgetting that the consumer only cares about the benefit of the change not the mechanics of the change itself.

In the days when dinosaurs ruled the earth and advertising was a one way street, true engagement was less vital. There was only 1 channel showing adverts (2 when Ch4 emerged in 1982), so generally consumers were happy with whatever pap the ad agencies wanted to feed them, but woe betide the advertiser in 2020 who ignores the interests and opinions of their consumers, for they will end up like Bloomberg, unloved and unsupported, though unlike little Mike, they won’t be multi billionaires.


 I need to mask a question.....

Sitting on the tube this morning I counted 6 people wearing face masks. On the escalators at Angel, another 3 or 4 (one might have been a student fashion statement, it’s sometimes hard to tell). And these weren’t kooky Halloween masks or spooky Venice Carnival masks, they were slightly crappy surgical masks, clearly able to protect their wearers from absolutely nothing.

Surgical masks are this winter’s latest must-have accessory, battling with cashmere beanies and camouflage puffas for style icon of the year award. But really…Much like the nuclear bomb blast warnings of the 60s that suggested we take cover under a table, they have about as much safety effect as a pierced condom, plus you look like an out of work serial killer whilst wearing one.

I’m not belittling the Coronavirus, it’s clearly a serious issue, but guess what, flu killed over half a million people last year and I don’t remember Milan going into lockdown over it. 

Words like Pandemic, (epidemic’s, cool hipster brother) seem to send us into a tailspin of panic, desperate to clasp onto any snake oil that will protect us. The simple facts are that if you are in good health, you are far more likely to die from being hit by a bus than the Coronavirus.


Essentially, the Coronavirus is a success of awesome marketing over substance. It’s like flu could only advertise on traditional media, but COVID 2019 went all social media on our asses and suddenly it’s all we can think about.

Stay safe on the streets, be smart, wash your hands, don’t cough all over your work colleagues, but also stay sane, look both ways when you cross the street, avoid badly cut puffer fish and maybe don’t cycle, because you are far, far, far more likely to end up in an ambulance if you ride a bike than if you don’t wear a mask on the tube. And flu, if you want a far more effective social campaign, drop me a line, I’m sure I can up your likes and engagement.

How celebrating success can motivate or disrupt a team.

With Boris promising to ‘bung a few bob so that Big Ben can bong’, (which is surely the British entry to the Eurovision Tongue Twister contest), I thought it might be interesting to see how celebrating success can motivate or disrupt a team.

Years ago when working in Chiswick Park, my office was opposite the head office of Foxtons, and throughout the day you could hear them ring a bell and cheer like coked-up bond sellers every time they made a sale. It made us so angry that we used to play the soundtrack of High School Musical back at them to piss them off.
At christmas this year, i had to play in a team of one in our annual Trivial Pursuit game, because no one wanted to be in my sneering, preening, inevitably victorious team. Please note I filled my pies before one team of 3 even had a single slice. Just saying.
Essentially, everyone loves to win, it’s human nature and there’s nothing bad about embracing that spirit of success, but there’s a line where that joy can become damaging and disruptive to a team. Often you find individuals celebrating success rather than teams and that can cause instability in groups. It’s the auteur theory of film criticism, giving a director significantly more status than the writer, DOP, actors or editor, when we all know that all the best work is a joint effort.
So how can we celebrate success that is inspiring, selfless and motivating, rather than individual, self-satisfied and demeaning.
1/ Never stop celebrating success, winning is an addictive drug to the system – look at Liverpool this year, they are a positive joy to watch, not just because they genuinely believe that they are better than anyone else, but because they do it with an engaging swagger, and therefore, almost no-one begrudges them their success. Contrast Klopp’s smiles and self-effacing joy with Jose Mourinho’s bad-tempered, self-aggrandizing ‘the special one’ my ass. They are both winners. but no one likes Jose and everyone loves Jurgen (which is surely a sitcom in Germany).

2/ Don’t use it as an opportunity to demean others. At this point I hold up my patented loser dance that I snap into when I beat my 7 year old at Fifa, or tennis, or Connect 4. This is wrong. And no bottom-waggling, L on my forehead, random repeats of the word loser at him can justify these actions.
3/ Make sure you credit people. We recently created a campaign that the agency made a great amount of PR noise about, but casually forgot to mention the photographer or our agency on any of their releases. They didn’t have to of course, they paid for it, but it left a bad taste in the mouth. It’s really easy and polite to say thank you, and it’s surprising how far good manners can take you.
4/ Give something back. Not everyone can have success, so if you are lucky enough to be a winner, think about offering the secret of your success to everyone else, to ensure that they can have the skill level you have. My best bosses always shared how they had become successful, the assholes held on to it like it was Gollum’s ring, believing that if they shared it they would lose their power.
Finally, try to be a good person. No one ever minds good people winning, and in almost any situation, someone has to win, so unlike the current Brexit situation where half the country resents the other half, regardless of whether they won or lost, understanding that losers can sometimes be winners too, and that success is a cyclical mistress who can dump you as easily as she celebrates you, is vital in sharing the joy of victory.
Except in Trivial Pursuit, where I reserve the right to rub everyone else’s noses in it until my brain turns to mash potato and I fail to remember the capital of Australia, (Canberra).
Image by Muokkaa represented by JSR Agency

A 2020 Vision

So 2020 has started on a positive note with a threat of world war and fires the size of Germany raging over Australia, darkening skies almost 10,000 miles away, and how does the media world respond? Mild annoyance that weight watchers were using the hashtag #WW and a few Hollywood celebrities calling out climate change at the Golden Globes.

Clearly the communications world is continuing to disappear up its own nether regions as we face the dawn of a new decade.
So what does the year hold for us in Soho, Shoreditch and Bankside.
Sports is gonna be big in 2020; this summer we get the Euros, taking place all over Europe (we just qualified for that honour, but maybe not next time), the Ryder Cup, which seems to have become a media event darling and the big one, The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Tokyo is featuring mascots that look like Hong Kong flea market copies of Pokemon characters, morning finals to hit NBC’s prime time schedules and innovative events designed to attract a new audience such as softball and skateboarding. Sounds rad dudes.
So this is a good time to get your sports credentials front and centre in all proposals, and if you don’t have sports credentials, get your strategy director to formulate some links (no matter how spurious) between what you can do and sporting endeavour.
Brexit will continue to be a debate over the year as it clearly won’t get done by Jan 31st, and economic forecasts will continue to be buffeted as everyone fails to understand what the hell it means, how it will work, and most importantly, will we need a visa to visit Cannes in June and will our health insurance cover alcohol-induced heart attacks????
Instagram will prevent us liking posts which will see the seemingly inexorable rise of influencers grind to a halt until they learn how to use TikTok and take their nonsense to moving image creative.
Briefs will continue to get briefer; one recent conversation with a marketing director went something like this:
‘Please can you write the brief for me as i’ve never done this before…’
And then we didn’t get the job.

Budgets will continue to shrink and everyone will get squeezed as big agencies try to hold on to their margins and usage will become a word that no one wants to ever hear again as buyouts and IP ownership become a standard in every contract. Payment terms will stretch into months rather than weeks and advances will get paid after jobs have been started.
But, but, but, this sounds like all doom and gloom and yet there will still be opportunities for creativity to thrive, it’s just unlikely to take the form that it has done over the last few years. We will all have to work smarter and harder and embrace a new world of comms and revise the old rules that have been the advertising world’s mantra since Mad Men ruled the roost in the 1950s.
Brands will discover social purpose as they lurch towards providing meaning for their customers and differentiating themselves in a crowded marketplace and moving images (i’ve tried to avoid using the word content, but that’s what i mean) will continue it’s unstoppable march to fill our every waking hour with information and entertainment.
The quest for creativity won’t stop, but it’s more likely to be conservative rather than radical, at least in the short term, and this will have an influence on the new minds and new blood that want to enter the industry. Advertising thrives on a blend of experience and innovative thinking and part of our duty is to ensure that this flow continues to constantly re-invigorate everything we do.
2020 is a new decade that will completely re-invent every aspect of commercial communication, it’s both scary and exciting, and remember, it’s always going to be better than doing a real job, and as soon as it isn’t, it’s time to do something else.

Enjoy the ride.

Illustration by Alán Guzmán

Working with Dinosaurs

It’s a familiar question you hear in agencies all over the world. What happens to old creatives? Where the hell do they all go?

In England, clearly they go to the coast and raise puppies, but what happens to those who are allergic to dogs, or oysters? Those who still love doing what they do whilst the mean ages of everyone around them shrink to school leaver levels.
The trick is to stay relevant and engaged, to care about what you do and don’t act like a dinosaur. Experience gains knowledge but that doesn’t mean you are always right, it just means that you have a different perspective to someone who is experiencing the same brief for the first time.
Just because you’ve seen it before, you don’t automatically have the right answer to it, you just have an answer.
Fear kills a lot of creatives. Fear of sharing their knowledge. Fear of losing relevance and stature. Fear of youth. Agency life is rather like one of those planet earth films where the young pretender challenges the grizzly silverback, and even if the veteran wins you know it’s only a matter of time until his demise.
I’m fascinated by Asian culture that manages to meld the experience of age and the vitality of youth so that the two are not in opposition but blended, but even that seems to be being eroded by the constant quest for youth. Like a dowager vampire sucking on virgin’s blood in order to feel youth again, the desire to be young often over-rides any other creative consideration. I recently went to the website of an influencer agency and every one of their ‘talent’ was a pretty girl (or to a lesser extend an equally pretty guy) in their 20s. We all want to suck the social blood of these special creatures.

Perhaps it was ever thus, youth trumps experience, half of Shakespeare’s plays seem to be about this very subject, but perhaps now it just seems more brutal because the prize is not a crown or true love, but a shonky marketing brief for a start-up asking everyone to work for free.
I’m neither on the side of age nor youth, both bring something vital to the party, and the trick is to balance these two opposing elements to produce a space where respect for all skills is essential. Except at the xmas party, leave the dancefloors to the kids…. #dadancing

Immersive or submersive ?

Travelling up the escalators at Angel this week I noticed 3 posters for immersive events based on films or TV shows  – The Great Gatsby, The Wolf Of Wall Street and Stranger Things.

A quick trawl of London events this winter brings up around 40 experiences that develop other properties, from Sherlock Holmes escape rooms to the ‘cushty’ dining experience based on Only Fools and Horses.
Having worked at Disney, I am very aware of the franchise model that extends the life of properties far beyond their original medium, but i’m also aware that this constant regurgitation of creative can feel like flogging a dead horse (not the cart driving experience based on Steptoe and Son that i’m sure is in development).
There’s nothing wrong with theming an experience or developing an existing property in all sorts of weird and wonderful directions, but sometimes this can create a dilution of the original, failing to add to the legacy.
The ‘mother’ of all these events is probably Secret Cinema, who started in 2007 and have now run over 70 different screenings across the world. Nowadays their events are huge, even borrowing real props from the films and taking place in spaces that resemble genuine movie sets.

I miss the charm of their earlier events – the custard pie throwing craziness of Bugsy Malone at The Troxy or the claustrophobic chaos of Alien. Nowadays the crowds, the expense, the lack of surprise and to be frank, the commercialisation of every part of the operation has reduced it from a genuine joy to something you feel you have to experience just to be part of the in-crowd,
These should be events that you should truly, madly, deeply want to engage with not something where you just let them take the money and run.

What is Art?

That’s a big question, but 2 recent exhibition visits have led me to ponder, and think about the essential Duchamp revelation that if you put a urinal in an art gallery, it becomes, art.
The Kubrick exhibition at The Design Museum and The Blake exhibition at Tate Britain are two of this year’s blockbuster London shows but both throw up as many questions as they answer.
The Kubrick show explores his visual iconography, allowing the viewer to step into iconic film moments and examine details with a surgeon’s precision. It’s often a little like visiting one of those open house exhibitions where you see someone’s time warp house decorated from the 70s, it’s kind of funky and fascinating, but you wouldn’t want to see it everyday, unless you really loved a white plexiglass penis. Even the most familiar piece of design, the Overlook’s geometric carpet, has become so well known, it loses its power to surprise and delight.
Ultimately what makes Kubrick great is the combination of visuals, dialogue, acting, editing, tone etc, by choosing to dissect these elements and analyse them individually, they ultimately lose power rather than become more essential.
There is a similar malaise at the heart of the Blake exhibition in the Tate’s choice to focus only on his visual work and put his poetry on the back burner. I fucking love Blake’s art, I find it spiritual, dark, funny and engaging, but I would not for one moment hold it up as great art. It’s the dichotomy that exists in all visual arts about what you love and what you admire. The Scorsese film I love most is New York New York, but even I, would struggle to argue that it’s his best. I would rather own a Blake etching than a Rembrandt painting, but I’m not even going to pretend that Blake is on the same artistic level.

The Tate show unfortunately emphasises this, throwing multiple work on multiple walls and losing the focus and clarity you have when this when you see this work in isolation. The addition of a room re creating his failed exhibition and another that projects his work onto the walls both feel fanciful and faux genuine, adding a slightly amateurish feel to what is an otherwise serious show.
I really love this show because I love Blake, but I don’t believe it truly serves his art well. It’s a blockbuster exhibition for the least blockbuster artist in history.

So, what is art? It’s anything you really want it to be. It’s my kids crayon pictures on my fridge, it’s The Sistine Chapel, it’s a Provence sunset, it’s just not always what galleries tell you it is.

Win a project for your Charity or NFP Organisation

Christmas is not for receiving, but for giving, and this year JSR Content wants to give something very special to someone who really deserves it.  We are offering a charity or NFP organisation the opportunity to have an illustration/animation/photograph/content project made at no cost to them to promote their services in the first quarter of 2019.

We are inviting nominations from worthy organisations up till midnight on the 24th of December telling us why they want us to create this project for them and a what makes them the most appropriate recipient of this special gift.

The senior team at JSR will go through the entries and decide on a winner and contact them in the first week of the new year.We will then write a strategic approach as to how we will create the project and assign a creative route (either photography, illustration, animation or film) that we will develop in conjunction with the winner. We will then produce the work by the end of the first quarter of 2019 and the winner will have usage of our final creative output for 1 year across any channels that they choose to use it.

We look forward to your entries and can’t wait to make this Christmas a very special one for a truly deserving cause…

Entries have to be received at projects@jsrcontent.com, and explain in no more than 500 words why your charity or NFP wants to produce creative work in 2019 and what makes you deserving of this xmas gift.

Terms  & Conditions on this Xmas promotion

Method of Entry / Winner Selection:

  • Entries must be received by email at “projects@jsrcontent.com”,
  • Entrants must explain in no more than 500 words why your charity or NFP wants to produce creative work in 2019 and what makes you deserving of this xmas gift. All entrants must include the Charity / NFP name, contact details and registration number
  • No responsibility is accepted for any entries that are incomplete, ineligible, illegible, corrupted, lost or delayed or are unable to be sent because of any other reason. Proof of sending the entry will not be accepted as proof of delivery. Entries must not be sent in through agents or third parties. Incomplete entries, and entries which do not satisfy the requirements of these terms and conditions, will be disqualified and will not be counted.
  • The closing date by which entries must be received to be considered by the judges is 23.59 on 24th Dec 2018.
  • After the closing date JSR agency will consider all entries and may telephone an entrant for further discussion and/or clarification.
  • The judging panel will consist of 4 members of senior staff from JSR Agency who will, in their opinion, choose the recipient most deserving of the reward.
  • The judge’s decision is final, and no correspondence will be entered into with any party.
  • The winning entrant will be notified via email by 11th of January 2019. Should the winning entrant fail to respond to the email within 14 days or on checking does not meet or fails to confirm acceptance of JSR Agency standard contract and trading terms and conditions within a reasonable period, then JSR agency reserves the right to cancel the award.


  • There shall be one winner.
  • The prize shall include, but not be limited to, a strategic briefing meeting with the JSR Creative Partner and the client, a strategic treatment outing the creative response and methodology of creative route (illustration or animation or photography or content film or combination thereof), the delivery of the creative output in a file of the client’s choice in a format that can be used for 1 year in any capacity the client sees fit (this does not include media spend).
  • The creative process and delivered work will come at no cost to the winning client and will be worth up to £10,000 of creative output as defined by the JSR rate card. There is no cash equivalent and it is not transferable
  • The creative work will be delivered to the client in their required format by 31 March 2019 or earlier if suitable agreement is reached between the client and JSR agency.
  • JSR agency reserve the right to choose the creative format of the prize and the artist/artists attached to the creative proposal, with input from the winning client, based on their requirements.
  • This offer is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administrated by or associated with Facebook, Instagram or Twitter

JSR Agency’s Liability

So far as is permitted by law, JSR Agency and its associated companies and agents exclude responsibility and all liabilities arising from:

  • any postponement or cancellation of the Promotion, and
  • any changes to, supply or use of the prize (including without limitation any delay in delivering the prize or any part thereof), and
  • any act or default of, or claim by, any third party supplier,

which are beyond the Promoter’s reasonable control.

Nothing in these Terms and Conditions in any way limit or exclude the Promoter’s (or any other person or organisation’s) liability for (i) fraud, or (ii) death or personal injury caused by negligence, (iii) any other liability which cannot be lawfully limited or excluded.


If JSR Agency believes there are grounds to suspect any entrant or third party of cheating, deception or fraudulent or unsportsman-like conduct of any kind (including, without limitation, manipulating the promotion, choice of prize winner(s) or any entry) it reserves the right (in its sole discretion) to disqualify any entrant, entry or person it reasonably believes to be responsible for, or associated with, such activity.

Where the JSR Agency is unable to satisfy certain terms and conditions of this promotion due to circumstances beyond its reasonable control, it reserves its right to modify the terms accordingly or, if necessary, suspend or discontinue the promotion

By entering the promotion, entrants agree to be bound by these terms and conditions and that their Charity / NFP organisation name and county of trading may be released if they win. They also agree to participate in any post-event publicity, to include without limitation photo-shoots and press interviews.

Image by PEROU

Connect London Event

Last week, JSR Content hosted a debate at Creativepool’s Connect conference entitled What the Fuck is Content? Clearly the answer is JSR, but in the absence of anyone actually saying that, a 5 person panel of distinguished speakers from the BBC, The Economist, Facebook, Ogilvy and JOE Media debated what content means, how it has transformed the comms industry and what the future holds for social and digital creative work.

I was clearly the funny and insightful one and everybody else agreed with most of my views, but on the odd occasion when other people spoke, we debated whether content was being led by brands or demanded by consumers and how to measure the effectiveness of content work. We also touched on the merits of coming from a television or journalistic background and how that can benefit content creation. The ultimate consensus was that content offers up a new and hugely exciting opportunity for advertisers, brands and consumers to interact and engage, and that I was pretty damn clever and surprisingly attractive for a man of my age.

At least I think that was the conclusion….

Simon Amster, Creative Partner, JSR

The Daredevil Syndrome, or how I learned to understand a world without scent.

Around 6 months ago I had a serious brain injury, caused by a softball hitting me like a sledgehammer between the eyes.

Dealing with the fractured skull, broken nose and 31 stitches was one thing, but the long-term result has been more subtle, yet dispiriting. The ball sliced through the nerves that go from my nose to my brain and once the pain had lessened and I came out of intensive care, I realised that I had completely lost my sense of smell.

6 months later, nothing has changed; gross pub toilets have no fear for me, and picking up my giant dog’s giant shits is as easy and pleasant as picking flowers in a field, but despite these obvious good points, my life has changed an extraordinary amount. I can’t smell my kids, my wife or any of the things that are familiar to me. I can’t smell my own cooking, or coffee beans,  or wet grass, and perfume is like spraying water on my neck.

My sense of taste has also radically altered. Many foods have lost their verve and some taste soapy and bland. Salt, sugar and chilli have become my friends, helping to enliven the chorus of blandness. I’d say 50% has gone.

It’s like living life in an invisible helmet.

As a creative, who has spent the last 20 years experiencing and understanding the world through my senses and then transforming that knowledge into campaigns across the world, I’m suddenly deprived of one and a half of the 5 senses that give me the tools to produce work.

I’m not comparing what has happened to me to with someone who has gone blind or deaf, but I do have to re-set so much of my understanding of the world from a new perspective.

Many of the campaigns I have worked on over the past few years have a strong aspect of smell attached, from the obvious creative work for food and drink, to the smell of high performance engines or the scent of luxury products. It even  confuses my understanding of appropriate locations where to shoot.

One of my best friend’s is a very high-end photographer who happens to be colour blind, and who composes many of his shots through appropriate shading through his viewfinder when colours become muted or confused, and I’m learning to do something similar.

I rely on memory to create a kaleidoscope of smell triggers so that I can engage in a natural way. I search for foods and objects that are more textural so that my other senses can be stimulated. I pay really close attention to things I hear, see or feel, trying to fill in the gaps that smell and taste has left.

Oddly I can sense smell changes in a different way, such as the scent of diesel at a petrol station or a cut lemon on my fingers, neither smell, in what can be described as a traditional way, but they create a sense of change from the areas around them, almost like a pressure change detected by a barometer. Perhaps I am smelling in black and white?

But even this is more stimulating than nothing ,which is my usual perspective.

Perhaps most interesting is how I am attempting to develop this issue into a positive in my creative life. This article is titled the Daredevil Syndrome, and for those who don’t know, this is named after the Marvel superhero who lost his sight and then developed all of his other senses to become an unstoppable  righter of wrongs whilst having an alter-ego that was beyond suspicion.

I’m yet to be able to see or hear smells, but by attuning my other senses as high as they will go, I’m desperate to ensure that my creative faculties and skills remain undimmed and my operational skills are actually improved rather than reduced.

And if you ever want to shoot a rubbish dump, a skunk or some rotting fish guts, I’m your man.

Simon Amster

Creative Partner

JSR Content


Daredevil illustration by @Raid71