Many years ago, before Cathy and I were married, I went to visit her family in Singapore.

It’s a very hot country so I did what Brits always do, I put on swimming shorts, went into the garden, lay out in the sun and started sunbathing.

A little while later one of Cathy’s little nephews came running into the house shouting for Cathy’s mum: “Grandma, come quick there’s a crazy man in the garden lying in the sun.”

In the UK we hardly ever have any sun, in Singapore they have sun all the time.

When we see it we make the most of it, to them it’s a nuisance like rain is to us.

Similarly, Cathy’s mum would always carry a paper parasol when she went outdoors, not for the rain, paper is no good against rain, but to protect her skin from the sun.

Things were the opposite way round to what I was used to in the UK.

It was the same in cars or restaurants, I would want the windows open so I could feel the nice warm air, they would want them shut so they could feel the ice-cold air conditioning.

It’s very important to understand that people don’t always think the same as us.

It’s particularly important in our business.

Cathy is an art director and a few years back she was working at a London agency that was asked to pitch on a cosmetic product for south-east Asia, a skin-lightening cream.

The planners in the agency were horrified, they refused to work on it, they thought the concept that darker people would want to look white was racist.

Cathy was confused, she didn’t think the product was racist at all.

It wasn’t that Asians wanted to look like Caucasians, they didn’t, they just wanted to look like slightly lighter versions of themselves.

Asians thought that way hundreds of years before they’d even seen a white person.

It stemmed from exposure to the sun turning the skin dark so people who worked in the fields had darker skins, people who wanted to look refined wanted lighter skins.

That’s why Cathy’s dad was dark brown below the elbows and knees: his head, arms and legs were exposed to the sun while working outdoors all day.

But the planners who worked in the London ad agency didn’t know any of that, all they knew was that anything encouraging people to have lighter skin must be racist.

They’d never been around people who didn’t think like them, so they assumed everyone thought like them.

At GGT we once made a very funny commercial for Walkers Poppadums.

We had a young, good-looking Indian guy dressed like Vegas-Elvis singing ‘Keep Your Gums of My Poppadums’ to the tune of ‘All Shook Up’.

The Daily Mail phoned the actor and asked how he could appear in such a racist ad.

I remember his answer, he said: “It’s a particularly white conceit that you think you are the only people confident enough in who you are to laugh at yourselves.

You think non-white people must regard their race as a disability and it should not be mentioned. Well, I am a Sikh and we consider ourselves second to no-one.

We do not regard our race as a disability, so we have a sense of humour and can laugh at ourselves.”

Incidentally, I asked my daughter, who’s half Chinese, about skin-lightening cream.

She said she used it for blemishes, it didn’t occur to her that it was racist either.

It didn’t occur to any of my Chinese in-laws, who saw it just another item of makeup.

As Mark Ritson says, “The first lesson for every marketing person is that you are not the target market.”

What planners are supposed to do is help creatives know how the audience thinks.

But some planners seem to just tell creatives about what planners think.

This stops them from being useful to creatives.

Creatives can do subjectivity on our own, we don’t need planners for that.