An interview with Dave Trott

An interview with Dave Trott

In the week of his masterclass at The Marketing Society, Dave Trott speaks to Elen Lewis about worrying that people don't even know you're alive and why John Webster wanted to fire him three times over.

Describe what you do in 26 words.
I’m a creative director, when I haven’t got any creative directing to do, like now, I write books or give talks, which makes twenty six words.

What does creative marketing look like?
Lots of free media. What’s now called going viral, which used to be called getting into the language: people repeating our strapline, singing our song, using our ad in newspaper headlines – turning £5 million into £25 million.

Where do you find your stories?
In the pub, in newspapers, on the History channel, the same places as everyone else. The only difference is I carry a pen and paper and write them down so I don’t forget.

What do all brands need to know about storytelling?
The real client is the brand, not the person who currently has the client’s job.

What's the bravest thing you've ever done?
The first time I put my house up against a bank loan to start an ad agency.

What’s the best piece of copywriting you’ve seen?
Charles Saatchi 1968.

How do you define creativity?
Creativity isn’t a particular discipline or craft, it’s a quality in whatever you do. Mohammed Ali was creative, so was Brian Clough, so was Steve Jobs, whereas many painters and poets and designers aren’t. As Edward de Bono said “Creative is an adjective not a noun”.

You said John Webster should have fired you three times over - what did you do?
When he was my boss I would often get so angry with him I would just refuse to even speak to him, for months.

What advice would you give your 17-year-old self?
Don’t worry about what people are thinking about you. Worry that people aren’t thinking about you: they’re not even aware that you’re alive. Worry about that.

What advice would you give a marketer wanting to make a mark?
The real media is the human mind, learn how that works, not just the latest brand-babble jargon.

Which of your ads are you proudest of?
Third World Debt campaign, we created that from nothing: no client, no budget, no brief, no agency. We made millions of pounds worth of commercials, posters, press ads, and got them to run, for free. Hopefully we saved some lives.

You say that 90% of all advertising is rubbish. How do we make it stop?
Don’t worry about that 90%, in fact be glad about it. Just make sure you’re not part of it. That 90% is wallpaper, make sure your ad is the picture hanging on top of the wallpaper, that everyone notices.

You say you're not a marketing person, but a creative. Should marketers be creative or not?
The great ones are, but the great ones in any field are. Creative is another name for ‘street smarts’ – out-thinking other people.

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