Issue 3: A bulletin for big ideas and better business.

Truth equals power. Average LLMs. LFW. Swiftonomics.

ISSUE 3 /  



Truth = power

💬 Sir John Hegarty 

In summer 2022, those walking along London’s South Bank might have noticed a cheery-looking exhibition featuring a dozen or so portraits of smiling folk. At a glance, it’s hard to see the link between the pictures. There was a shot of a girl at her 21st birthday party, then a lad standing by a quay holding a crab in the air – and plenty of others where subjects are surrounded by loved-ones. They all look as though they are having a nice time.

Except they aren’t. Each person featured died by suicide in the days or weeks after the pictures were taken. The Last Photo, by the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is one of the most affecting campaigns so far this decade. The source of its poignance is that it expresses a fundamental (and in this case, a crushing) truth. That “suicide doesn’t always look suicidal”.

Truth equals power

This is a fundamental law of creativity: an idea becomes more powerful the more truthful it is. Whether you are painting a masterpiece, writing the next great bestseller, or hatching a brand campaign, truth is your friend. Finding one and expressing it with freshness and verve moves audiences universally. Anyone who doesn’t believe this ought to take a quick study of instances where companies have felt it necessary to fib.

Avoiding the truth lands your brand into a tight spot. But confronting it can help companies out of them too. When KFC faced a chicken shortage in 2018, it created a print campaign featuring an empty bucket with the famous acronym re-ordered to spell “FCK”. Acknowledging the oversight with humility and humour boosted the brand’s reputation. Hiding it would have probably caused an outcry. Truth wins again.

Truth is the ‘zag’

Truth matters more when people are used to being lied to. And evidence shows that consumers are growing more cynical of brands. A survey of 1,000 people in the UK by Clear Channel and JCDecaux found that only 34% had trust in the brands they used, despite 81% stating trust being a deciding factor in purchase decisions. The idea of a brand is unhelpful if it's synonymous with being untrustworthy. In a world where people are running out of confidence in political leaders, CEOs and companies themselves, telling the truth is the most refreshing course of action.

Here’s a useful adage that helps to keep truth top of mind. A picture that expresses a fundamental fact – whether that’s about civilisation, the human condition or why cereal is better with warm milk – can be art. A picture that doesn’t is just decoration. It’s obvious which category The Last Photo falls into.

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The Miami International Boat Show cruises into the Miami Beach Convention Center. This year’s big splash? Yamaha Motor’s hydrogen-powered outboard motor, which signals the brand’s decarbonisation plans. Buoying news all round.
14th – 18th February

Dry January is a distant memory. But it’ll be even harder to remember after an outing to The Great British Beer Festival Winter 2024 in Staffordshire, UK. The shin-dig is organised by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) which has a more sober purpose: demanding the government does more to support pubs. We applaud this. Ideas propagate in places where the beer flows.
15th – 17th February

The 11th annual Investec Cape Town Art Fair takes place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, South Africa. The theme this year is Unbound. And a key question associated is “how can the experience of art liberate the mind?”. That ought to free up discussion.
16th – 18th February

Those looking for a zesty experience should head to Menton, on the Côte d'Azur in France this week for the Lemon Festival (Fête du Citron). Towering floats decorated with lemons and oranges celebrate the fact that the town owes its prosperity to citrus fruit.
17th February – 3rd March

Anime is a major creative export for Japan. To impress its importance further, Katsucon 2024 will come to the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Centre in Maryland, US. Expect hyper-real cosplay creativity.
16th – 18th February


your shortcut
to mediocrity?

Sam Altman, CEO, OpenAI / Credit: Newscom Alamy Stock Photo

OpenAI is on target to hit a key milestone this year. A report in the Financial Times revealed that in December 2023 the company’s yearly run rate was $2 billion. This puts the AI company in the Meta and Google leagues when it comes to growth speed. To scale up further, CEO Sam Altman (pictured) needs more processing power, so is trying to raise $7 trillion to build chips to power his products. Altman reckons that 92% of Fortune 500 companies were using OpenAI tools as of November last year. And that the chatbot ChatGPT had 100 million weekly users. What does such wide adoption (if we take Altman at his word) mean for creativity?

Tom Goodwin, author of Digital Darwinism: Survival of the Fittest in the Age of Business Disruption, thinks it could mean mass mediocrity. “The mechanics of large language models (LLMs) produces likely combinations of things. So you’re getting the average of the internet,” he says. “It's groupthink, truisms, banality. It's not wrong, but it's worthless. The average poem doesn't make people famous. The average tennis player doesn't make any money. The average songwriter is a failure. Averageness doesn't even deliver average results. We are in business to deliver the remarkable.”


Got brain blockage? Freewriting helps you de-clog and get those good ideas flowing again.

  1. Get a notebook or a laptop

  2. Take a second to clear your mind

  3. Write down everything that comes into your head
    (in whatever order it spills out)

  4. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar, just get it down

  5. Do this for 10 minutes 

  6. Stop

 This exercise should help you to...

🕺🏻 Break free from your inhibitions
🙇 Overcome anxiety
💡 Figure out the hierarchy of your ideas
✍️ Write better


Thought couture:
London Fashion Week

London Fashion Week (LFW) kicks off in the UK capital this Friday. It’s the 40th anniversary of Britain’s biggest industry get-together. The milestone offers brands an opportunity to play on heritage, and industry watchers are anticipating the show to feature an abundance of nostalgia. Looking back fondly on the past might be soothing for overwrought designers and CEOs. With new post-Brexit trading terms, a luxury slowdown and regulations associated with net zero targets, running an apparel brand is getting trickier.

Leanne Elliot-Young is co-founder of The Institute of Digital Fashion (IoDF). She thinks that the show should try to alleviate some of these pains and offer support to UK designers. “There is a lot of pressure on brands to deliver. Exhausting show schedules and the push to create hype and traction,” she says. “Fashion SMEs in the UK are in one of the worst positions in Europe. I’d like to see these issues brought to the conversation more at LFW.” Indeed, UK fashion is a major creative asset. Sprouting companies need plenty of runway.

London Fashion Week / Credit: Paul Iwala / Alamy Stock Photo


Office theatrics:
ad-libbing aids

Team building cultivates annoyance more efficiently than it does camaraderie. Rather than insisting that employees take an indoor rock-climbing course, or suffer the tedium of an escape room, some businesses are awakening to the unifying power of the performing arts. That is, putting people through exercises usually reserved for comedians and actors. Theatrical improvisation techniques require teams to run through a dramatic scene, making it up as they go. To succeed at this, individuals must pay attention to others and open up space for colleagues to take the lead in the dialogue. It means managing uncertainty, meeting little creative challenges and trusting teammates. It’s a fine example of art enhancing commerce.


Taylor Swift / Credit: Sam Kovak / Alamy Stock Photo

Creative capital:
Taylor gets
her “onomics”

It isn’t uncommon for a world leader to get an ‘onomics’ suffix. Currently the US presidential race is expected to be a slug-fest between ‘Bidenomics’ and ‘Trumponomics’. It’s less common for an artist or musician to be bestowed with one. Yet researchers in Japan are hailing the effects of ‘Swiftonomics’, following Taylor Swift’s run of concerts in Tokyo. These are estimated to generate around ¥34.1 billion ($230 million), according to a report compiled by the Economic Impact Research Laboratory. The Swift effect can be seen everywhere, most recently in cut away shots at the Super Bowl. She’s reportedly brought an upsurge in fandom to the NFL through the highly publicised romance with Kansas City Chiefs player, Travis Kelce. Where the economy is concerned, creativity counts.

You can’t wait
for inspiration,
you have to go after it
with a club.

/ Jack London

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