2. The Tiny Voice

The first D&AD workshop I attended was at Y&R in the 90s.

There was a placement on offer for the best response to the brief.

I knew very little about advertising.

I followed my instincts and went to the library. Remember those?

I found a book on all kinds of lighting and lightbulbs that had different coatings to soften the mood in different shades.

At the time mood lighting light bulbs were relatively new.

There were some great facts and charts about how the spectrum breaks down and comparisons to reflected light at different times of the day.

It was all great stuff.

I wrote a campaign and it was pretty good.

But it was quite factual and not funny or entertaining.

I was worried.

I looked at what was out there that seemed to be winning awards and attracting attention.

There seemed to be lots of the sort of ‘Heineken refreshes the parts’ funny stuff that we do so well in the UK.

My lack of experience and insecurity crept in.

I panicked and changed my campaign to something jokey and silly based on a more familiar claim of longevity.

It was quite amusing but ultimately not very competitive.

All week between workshops the little voice in the back of my head was trying to get my attention.

But my other worried internal dialogue drowned it out.

When the next workshop came around the Y&R creatives picked the best of one of several campaigns all on longer lasting lightbulbs.

I kicked myself.

If only I’d listened to by tiny voice I would have stood out from every one else with an original campaign based on a real differentiation.

In summing up, the creatives more or less described the process I had first gone through as the best approach to finding a competitive edge.

So listen carefully for your little voice.

That inkling of where the truth in the product lays.

What will truly attract and convince customers.

It may be faint, but like distant trumpets of a vanquishing army just over the hills, it carries hope.

Or you might call it your B.S. meter.

Your spidy-sense that tells you if something has any truth in it.

Whatever you want to call it, it’s there.

Learn to tune into it.

Practitioners of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) suggest an ecology check to gauge whether something is right for you.

Take a moment – go within – and in a calm and meditative manner search for how you feel about your ideas.


Try to see through insecurities about your capability or inexperience.

Forget about trying to do your job in communications.

Take a step back and listen.

The tiny will tell you whether you are ‘in keeping’  or ‘at odds’ with yourself.

Are you congruent and in agreement with yourself – your combined experience and instincts?

It’s no guarantee – but its the best gauge you’ve got.

And once you feel you’ve got something, be prepared to support your position fully.

That is, until you can gain any further information that further qualifies or disqualifies your thinking.

But till then, have faith.

As some one wise once said – your answer is in one place or another but never between the two.

It’s also far better to get it wrong on the back of your own ideas than borrowed thinking.

The lessons learned are more profound and more likely to stick.

Moreover, you’ll kick yourself more if a failure is the result of having resorted to hiding behind someone else’s ignorance.

And equally, if you benefit from borrowed thinking you’ve learned less and merely gained a hollow victory.

I know all of this may sound rather new-agey and impressionistic, but then in the act of creation we are generally trying to manifest something out of the ether – pulling elements together in a new form.

By its nature an endeavour in the ethereal.   Your tiny voice is your  metaphorical sonar guiding you through creation’s primordial mists – your north star in the darkness till enlightenment dawns.

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Thanks for reading.

If you would like help you with you brand communications please drop me a line at james@thebrandlodge.co.uk 

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