A couple of weeks back I went to a D&AD drinks party to celebrate many years of their Advertising Students’ Workshops.
Jeremy Sinclair should have been there, but he hadn’t been invited.
Which was a shame, because without him they would never have happened in the first place.
Many years ago, when I was a junior at BMP, I had the idea for the workshops.
I wrote to most of the creatives in London asking them to come to BMP to discuss it.
To select a Cahirman to run it, arrange dates of classes, etc.
I laid on beer, wine, crisps, little sausages on toothpicks, paper plates and napkins.
Then I waited.
Jeremy Sinclair turned up.
And we waited together.
Eventually it became obvious no one else was coming.
I felt humiliated and angry.
I said, “Fuck it, if everyone feels like that we just won’t bother. Bollocks.”
Jeremy was much more rational.
Consequently much smarter.
He said, “Calm down Dave. This is a good result.”
I asked him what he meant.
He said “No one but you and I knows that no one turned up.
Everyone will think they’re the only one who didn’t come.”
I asked why that was a good thing.
Jeremy said, “Think about it. We can decide whatever we want. Tell people that’s how everyone voted, and they’ll feel guilty enough to go along with it.”
I said “But there’s no one here but you and me.”
He said, “Exactly. So first, let’s elect a Chairman: I nominate you.
Are there any other nominations? No. Then that’s carried unanimously.”
I wasn’t convinced, it didn’t feel right.
Then he said, “Secondly, I propose we issue dates to everyone about which classes they’ll be taking. Any objections? None. Good, carried unanimously.”
Afterwards, we circulated the ‘minutes of the meeting’ to everyone who hadn’t turned up.
We told them that, by a unanimous vote of everyone present, Dave Trott was elected Chairman.
And, by unanimous vote of everyone present, these were now the dates of the classes everyone would be taking.
I didn’t think anyone would buy it in a million years.
But Jeremy was right.
Absolutely everyone who got the letter meekly accepted.
They each thought they were the only person who wasn’t there, and they didn’t want to be left out.
No one turned up, but nobody knew no one turned up.
Thanks to Jeremy, the D&AD Workshops have been going for decades.
His thinking was Machiavellian.
Just the sort of thinking that would later get three successive Conservative governments elected.
I was telling Marcantonio this story at that D&AD drinks evening.
Marc said “I had a similar thing happen to me.
There was a copywriter at the agency I was working at that had split up with her boyfriend.
She was very sad so I thought I’d cheer her up.
I began leaving little notes around her office “From your secret admirer” that sort of thing.
Well they didn’t have the desired effect.
Far from it in fact.
She thought someone was taking the piss.
She tried everything to find out who had written the notes, but no one would own up.
So I just kept quiet and waited for it to blow over.
Then one day the door of my office burst open.
Mike Smith and Paul Everett walked in and said “Right, we know it’s you, why did you do it?”
I couldn’t believe it, I said “How did you find out?”
They said, “Oh, it is you is it? We didn’t know. We’ve been opening everyone’s door and saying the same thing.
Everyone else denied it, you’re the first one to admit it.”
It’s amazing isn’t it?
All we can ever do is interpret reality.
But we believe that the interpretation is the reality.
Our mind doesn’t know there’s a possibility outside the one it immediately perceives.
It never doubts it.
I was talking to James Price the other day, a planner at our agency and a philosophy graduate.
We were talking about Descartes’ principle “Cogito ergo sum”.
James was telling me that most people think it means “I think therefore I am”.
James said some people believe it’s more correctly translated as “I doubt therefore I am”.
The true mark of intelligence being the ability to doubt the evidence of your senses.
To question the conclusions your mind presents to you.
To think for yourself, in fact.