Don’t beat yourself up if you have an off day. We are surprised when we fail to hit the heights at something we are normally good at. We didn’t make the sale. I didn’t get the job. We lost the match.

We shouldn’t be surprised. We are humans not robots. There are days when it doesn’t work out – sometimes because we’ve goofed, but often because of competitive pressure or outside factors. Remember when we used to get excited about biorhythms? Perhaps I was having a triple critical last Thursday.

Why have I gone all philosophical this month? Partly because of my commitment to Mote, and reminding everyone that meetings should be a team game, where we compensate for individual weaknesses by picking balanced teams to maximise the chances of success. But partly because – after many decades – I think I have finally come to terms with the fact that I play bad golf as often (or more so) as good golf. I was starting to dread playing in case I had a bad day. Now I’m telling myself just to enjoy the exercise, the company and just being out there swishing in the fresh air!

After all kids learn to walk, not by standing up, but by falling over. We learn more from mistakes than when we get it right. Winning feels good, but we don’t always know why we have won. If we lose, it is useful – as well as therapeutic – to find out why. I’ve always offered agencies post mortem sessions to try and explain why they didn’t win the pitch. They might well have missed out because of poor chemistry or creative that the client didn’t like. Very often on the other hand they haven’t won because another agency performed better. Blaming the timing, the venue, or the unfair client can be a natural reaction. But it’s not helpful – any more than having a go at the referee or umpire.

What is a problem is losing the war, not the battle. There’s a difference between a poor press conference and a failed launch. Losing a sale is a not as bad as losing a customer. A bad meeting is bearable – being fired by a client less so. And this is where failing and not beating yourself up pays off. You can learn – and live to fight another day.

Kipling was write about treating the twin impostors – Triumph and Disaster – exactly the same. I’d just add that being a bit less excited about triumph, and a lot less depressed about disaster could be really helpful. Why do I know this? Because I have always been the worst offender.
This is David’s July article for the Marketing Society.

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David Wethey’s Twitter account playfully proclaims him a ‘survivor’ from the Mad Men era of advertising, but David’s much more than that. With over 50 years experience, including running his own advertising agency, he’s seen it change beyond recognition. He’s even helped shape it himself through his innovative approach with Agency Assessments, a spur-of-the-moment business that’s lasted 28 years.

David’s reflections on a life in the industry also yielded two published books, DECIDE: Betters Ways of Making Decisions (2013) and MOTE: The Super Meeting (2015). He now divides his time between speaking on those subjects and working at Agency Assessments. Luckily for us, he’s also found time to share some of his experience with Regus Re:think.

Was there a moment where Agency Assessments clicked?

I hadn’t written the defining business plan. It wasn’t a grand scheme. It was a client ringing me up, and his need to completely rework his marketing organisation – which wasn’t fit for purpose. Then, coincidentally, another friend rang up and said they wanted to buy a PR agency. When I asked why he didn’t rent one like everybody else he said, “because I’ve invented something”. That was Interbrand and they’d just invented brand valuation. So I found myself working for two clients, not as a direct agency but as a kind of consultant/recommender intermediary.

Nobody had done what I was doing, which was to build a consulting service entirely supported by clients. Everybody else represented agencies. To me the only sort of consulting that made any sense was to do do it direct for clients so you could be completely objective about which agency you recommend, and be completely allied with the clients.

Tell us about a lesson you learned the hard way

I’ve always been exceptionally enthusiastic about new things. New clients, new projects and of course Agency Assessments is definitively a project business so I’m constantly looking for new opportunities. I was never as good as I should have been at keeping up with the last lot, I was always really keen to get the next lot. Unless you’ve got a big infrastructure, you waste opportunities for contacts that way, I did it myself.

You also need to not just satisfy the clients, but learn something you can use to become a bit of a thought leader. I’ve really promoted the business over the years from articles and platforms, workshops and seminars, and learning and coming up with the bigger picture.

How important is it to occasionally step back and reassess?

Completely. I hadn’t realised it until I came to write the first of my books. If you’ve sat in what used to be smoke-filled rooms, although now they’ve been sanitised there’s still a lot of hot air in them, deciding which agency you’re going with, the whole science and psychology of how people and companies make decisions is fascinating. But I think in those processes I realised there were bigger lessons on decision-making, and the key thing in DECIDE was that I stepped back and interviewed 25 great deciders and learned an enormous amount from that. We’re taught to be iterative and logical, but gut feel is also incredibly important in everything we do.

Was there a moment when you looked around in a meeting and thought ‘this isn’t working’?

There were lots of them, but because of the Agency Assessments role it was the other way around. Every meeting I’ve organised for 28 years I’ve known what the objective was, who should be there, how long it should take. I had a clear expectation of what the outcome should be, and if the client was involved I would share that with them.

There was real contrast with other meetings where there hadn’t been any kind of preparation. Where it was managed badly and where they just ended without any real conclusion and people shuffled off to the next meeting. I think it’s because I knew what a good meeting was like that I could recognise what a bad meeting was. That’s why I felt like there had to be a constructive book about meetings.

What’s the biggest challenge to businesses today?

I think the biggest problem we have to deal with is the confusion between short, medium and long term. And the real challenge is maximising the possibility of keeping the long term goal in view. Financial reporting coming down to two months or one month has taken a lot leaders’ eyes off long term goals. For me, leaders need to have people guarding the gates, making sure short term things are being done. The moment leaders take their eye off the medium and even long term, organisations fall apart.

What are your tips for staying at the top?

Never stop learning. One of the depressing things about experienced people is how often the experience is just an aggregation of doing the same thing the same way, rather than being a considered and dedicated learner. In your 70s, I think a great deal of young people think you’re running on empty, a throwback to the old days, but I think most of the people who’ve stayed at the top, managed to succeed, are incredibly open to new ideas.

David works in our office at 100 Pall Mall, London. His books DECIDE and MOTE are both available to buy online, and you can find out more about the work of Agency Assessments through their official website.

This interview is from the Regus Re:think magazine and can be found online here

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We know all about presentations in marketing and advertising. Even if we aren’t too hot at French, and haven’t learned to code, we are all pretty fluent in PowerPoint. Yes, I know everyone says they hate PowerPoint, but we use it all the time, and how else can you do credentials or show the new strategy?
At AAI I have nearly 28 years’ experience of watching agencies present their credentials and pitch for new business. What insights and understanding has it given me? The main problem, as I see it, is that agencies (and it’s true of virtually everyone who presents to sell in business) only tend to concentrate on one aspect of the presentation – the input bit. All efforts are directed at the impactful opening, assembling the meat in the middle, crafting the segues, and finishing on a high note. So what is there to go wrong?
Even if the whole 58 MB has been meticulously prepared and punctuated with standout video and motion graphics, it is sadly not want you put into the presentation that matters. It’s what the audience takes out of it. This is another of those input/output/outcome challenges – like advertising or mass entertainment. We can say something telling, and say it brilliantly, but the success (or otherwise) of the presentation depends squarely on the guys across the table.
It’s like food. You can chuck in all the fancy ingredients, and follow the preparation and cooking instructions to the letter, but either the dish has appetite appeal, or it doesn’t. And the chef is not the final arbiter of that. The customer is.
At Harvard University these days, the hottest ticket is Michael Puett, Walter C. Klein Professor of Chinese History in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. How so? His lectures are sold out, and attended by students of many other disciplines, because Puett is spreading the teachings of Confucius and other Chinese philosophers from 2500 years ago about how even our smallest gestures and habits can mould our destiny, and influence others. Better still, he shows his students how they can change their behaviours (facial expressions, mannerisms, actions and words) to be more likable and therefore more successful. He advocates trying new things and new ways, as opposed to the traditional advice to ‘stick with what you’re good at’. He’s a big enthusiast for smiling, and not defaulting to looking serious or severe. He urges people to be far more self aware about those of our habits, expressions, and phrases that irritate or grate on even our nearest and dearest. In the West, we are taught to be clever, skilled, and full of rationality and knowledge. Puett promises to change his students’ lives by persuading them to concentrate instead on what they might think are the secondary and trivial signals they send.
Take these insights from distant millennia into the world of pitch and present, and what is the learning? For a start it gives new ammunition to the emotional intelligence movement. Beldoch and Goleman and their followers have been criticised by some of their fellow psychologists, but the early Chinese behavioural gurus provide convincing evidence for EI and EQ.
More specifically Puett’s teaching suggests that just as we know the importance of personality profiling (our own, our colleagues and those we seek to influence or sell to), we should also submit to merciless appraisal of how we come across in action. Pitch doctors need to get up close and personal. Team mates should agree to be both frank and less sensitive with each other. Winning behaviour needs to be encouraged. Annoying habits have to be acknowledged and, if possible, cured.
It’s not just what the audience feel about the presentation. It’s very much about what they feel about the team and individuals who are delivering it. We’ve always known about chemistry and gut feel. Professor Puett is telling us why we should take them very seriously indeed.

This is David Wethey’s May blog for the Marketing Society. To see more go to

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I’ve always steered clear of politics in this column. Marketing and advertising flourish in a free country, and periodic changes of government have made little real difference. But the In/Out Referendum on 23rd June is a new phenomenon. Remain in the European club, and life will go on more or less unchanged. On the other hand a “Leave” majority would have considerable implications: especially for parliamentary democracy. In last year’s General Election the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat parties and the SNP between them secured 97% of the seats with 80% of the vote. All four party leaders (Cameron, Corbyn, Farron and Sturgeon) who don’t often agree on anything, are in favour of voting Remain. But this may not be enough to prevent Leave. Let us suppose it’s a close run thing and Leave wins with 50.1% of the vote on a 70% turnout (it was 66.6% in the General Election). That would mean that Britain leaves the EU on the decision of 24.6% of the electorate.

Ludicrous, especially considering that the Leaders of 97% of MPs recommend staying in. Perverse, given that 80% of the electorate only last year voted for tribunes of the people who are supposed to be in favour of Remain.

But parliamentary democracy has been suspended. Ministers have been given not just a free vote, but the right to defy the PM from the front bench and campaign against the deal he has negotiated. Many constituents in favour of Remain can only watch as the MPs they elected try to persuade the electorate to vote Leave.

Logic has also taken a beating. What does ‘exit’ (As in Brexit) or Leave mean? How can we exit one aspect of Europe (the EU) while the country is committed to NATO, the UN and its agencies, The European Economic Area etc, quite apart from the accords which an exiting UK would undoubtedly sign with the EU and EFTA.

Nor has the British public been given anything like enough facts – by either side. The big decision is less than four months away, and there can’t be too many voters who can say with any certainty what would happen to them if we Leave or Remain.

My gut feel is that realistically we can’t leave or exit, because we don’t have anywhere to go! It’s also hardly the appropriate moment to turn our back on our nearest neighbours, when we are all facing terrorism, heightened international tension, the worst refugee crisis since World War II, and the possibility of another world economic meltdown. With all these storm clouds gathering, one would imagine that sticking together was a better idea than packing our bags.

Governments – particularly governments with a majority – are meant to govern, not allow a free-for-all. They are supposed to provide us all – and the organisations we work for – with a protective shield. It seems to me that if the Referendum is won by Leave, that protective shield disappears.

Quite apart from everything else, the data that is supposed to inform and quantify our decision-making is faulty. If we agree that the outcome could be very closely contested and the turnout modest, how can a simple majority be enough to cast us adrift in the European Sea, with less than a quarter of those entitled to vote in favour?

We have all been party to decisions on dubious maths, when the majority probably wanted to go the other way. But launching a new product, approving a campaign, or selecting an agency on dodgy numbers is one thing. To decide the country’s future relationship with our neighbours and trading partners on dodgy numbers and scant evidence, and with leadership abdicated in favour of illusory democracy, is quite another.
This is David’s Marketing Society blog for March. Read more at

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Do we buy all the tenets of behavioural economics? Are we convinced by these counter-intuitive insights and theories, where people apparently behave against their self interest, and can be persuaded by the way the argument is framed? We’ve all heard about the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for the Thaler and Sunstein approach, and the establishment of the Behavioural Insights Team (“Nudge Unit”) to advise on making government policy more acceptable and easier to implement. In advertising and marketing communications generally we have all become accustomed to cunning plans arising from behavioural insights. But are nudges all genuine, or are some of them fudges?

This is my fiftieth monthly blog for the Marketing Society in this series, and I thought I would try something different – something more interactive. It all started with the famous (infamous?) idea from Norfolk County Council and the Department of Transport to remove the broken white line in the centre of two lane roads, on the grounds that drivers will go more slowly, take more care, and cause less accidents if they can’t see the dividing line between the two carriageways. I read about the mooted experiment, and sided with the AA, who see the idea as frankly barmy.

Paul Watters, the head of roads and transport policy at the AA, said authorities should be looking to increase road markings, rather than decrease them. “Far from talking their use down we should be talking it up,” he said. “They have a vital role in keeping road users safe. Of course there should be places where they can
be dispensed with and this has largely worked, but unlike road signs, markings are already less intrusive but still help road users.”

For my own part I wondered if abolishing air traffic control might make pilots more cautious, and if taking out zebra crossings could promote more caring engagement between pedestrians and other road users.

So for this half century blog, let’s ask readers what they think, starting with the white line idea, but also about other insights, other theories that don’t seem to check out, or are less convincing. It’s also going to be a test of whether I do actually have readers out there!

Here are some questions to set you thinking:

  • Are all these pro-cycle initiatives a great idea? Is it sensible to encourage what might be a dangerous level of coming together between vulnerable bikes and better protected motor vehicles?
  • How much good will come from reducing sugar and salt content? Might consumers work out how to get their sweet and savoury fixes from other foods that still taste good to them? Evidence seems to suggest that the only effective disincentives to obesity are war, pestilence and poverty – none of which attract
  • Why target road users and pensioners to balance the books, when simply raising direct taxation would bring in more funds to the Exchequer without putting prices up and increasing the likelihood of senior citizens needing more welfare?
  • Does it make sense to subsidise further increases in the availability of tertiary education, when companies seem more interested in hiring school leavers and apprentices?
  • Why allow councils to save money by cutting rural bus services, thus ensuring putting more cars on the road?
  • Does getting rail passengers from London to Birmingham 15 minutes quicker justify HS2 and so much destruction of the countryside? And while we are in the wonderful world of railways, how many people want to go from Maidenhead to Stratford E?
  • Is it a greater good to guarantee the closure of vast numbers of country pubs by changing a drink/drive alcohol limit that has worked adequately for nearly 50 years – when in many parts of the country the pub is the only viable community centre?

– See more at:

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When you receive your next meeting invitation on Outlook, try something different. Instead of automatically clicking on ‘Accept’, try ‘Tentative’. I’m suggesting that you experiment with something that could become a new habit.
After all accepting meeting invitations isn’t in the same category as paying your taxes or observing the rules of the road. You don’t have to attend every meeting you are invited to. You are paid to be a responsible member of the team. You are paid to think and make good decisions. You are paid to assess your workload and deliver it in a diligent and timely fashion.
What clause in your contract compels you to spend 50% of your time in meetings? Why does it make sense to attend three meetings back to back?
And this meeting at 2pm tomorrow: what evidence is there that it has been planned carefully? What is the agenda, and more precisely the key purpose? Why have 13 people been invited, when it probably only needs six? How much time are we going to waste trying to patch in Patrice on that dodgy line from Mumbai? Have further meetings been scheduled to progress the project?
Who will lead the meeting? Tom? He seems to be incapable of controlling the meeting wreckers, based on what happened at the last two meetings. Or Fiona? She is so controlling that no-one can get a word in. The invitees are supposed to be members of the same team, but on recent evidence teamwork is unlikely to be a feature. In the unlikely event that the meeting does make progress, who is going to be responsible for selling the outcome upwards, downwards, and to the people who couldn’t make it?
You can probably predict the way this meeting will go as well as or better than the colleague whose assistant issued the invitations. So don’t accept. The meeting isn’t going to achieve much, and you could do with the time. Click on ‘Tentative’ to give you time to think, and send it immediately to flag the message that you may not be coming. Provided you are sure the sky is not going to fall in – and why should it, it’s only one meeting for goodness sake – follow it up with a graceful, but firm, ‘Decline’.
You’ve taken the first step on the road to meeting revolution. You have won yourself two hours to do some real work tomorrow. You’ll get home on time. The family will be amazed. You will be less stressed, and next week you can start coaching your boss and fellow team members on how to adopt the Mote: The Super Meeting system.

This is David’s January blog for the Marketing Society. Read more at

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Article published in Market Leader 2016 Q1.


Please click on the links below to read the entire article:

mkt leader jan 16 pp1&2

mkt leader jan 16 pp 3&4


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When Oscar Wilde coined this saying, he might have had business meetings in mind. Haven’t we all suffered in conference rooms at the hands of people who try to dominate, to interrupt, and to be generally contrary and uncooperative? We also know too many meeting participants who are, well, miserable….
In these circumstances it is only natural to celebrate quietly when they have to make a premature departure!
Happiness is one of those words we don’t readily associate with business. But that is almost certainly a mistake. There was an interesting study published last year by economists at the University of Warwick, and recently publicised by Damian Symons of the M&C Saatchi Group agency Clear at the Saatchi Institute event at the London Business School on 24th November. Symons reported that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive. As the research team put it, ‘we find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.’
Nor is it really about money. Financial incentives aren’t enough to make for highly productive employees. Professor Andrew Oswald, one of three researchers who led the study, said companies that invest in employee support and satisfaction tend to succeed in generating happier workers. At Google, employee satisfaction rose 37% as a result of those initiatives—suggesting that financial incentives aren’t enough to make for highly productive employees.
Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage, has found that the brain works much better when a person is feeling positive. At those times, individuals tend to be more creative and better at solving problems. And additional research has shown that when workers are happy they’re more effective collaborators working toward common goals.
Clear referenced another study – this time a paper published by the American Psychological Society in 1985, in which three researchers at the University of Maryland (Isen, Daubman and Nowicki) demonstrated through four linked experiments that happiness stimulates creativity. As the paper concludes, ‘the impact of positive affect on creative problem solving is that good feelings increase the tendency to combine material in new ways and to see relatedness between divergent stimuli. We hypothesize that this occurs because the large amount of cognitive material cued by the positive affective state results in defocused attention, and the more complex cognitive context thus experienced by persons who are feeling happy allows them a greater number and range of interpretations’.
In other words happy people are likely to out-perform people who are miserable in a challenging area like creative problem solving.
When I introduced my ‘Mote’ system for improved meeting culture in organisations I wasn’t aware of these studies. But I was very influenced by Tony Crabbe (who wrote Busy), and Roman Krznaric (the author of Empathy). Crabbe is passionate about the need to liberate successful business people from being ‘crazy-busy’, and feeling that at all times they must tell everyone how busy they are. Drastically reducing the amount of time they spend in largely unproductive meetings, will make these high-flyers not only far more effective, but also happier and better partners, parents and friends. Krznaric’s book is a plea to us all to try and feel how it would be to be in the other guy’s shoes. In his view, not only enlightenment, but also happiness, stems from not being dismissive, prejudiced and arrogant.
My own experience of a business lifetime spent in conference rooms was quite sufficient to be able to identify the negative and corrosive behaviours that make everyone, including the perpetrators, feel unhappy.
All of us have grown up in a business world built on the left brain pillars of efficiency, productivity and power. It is refreshing – to me at least – to realise that right brain values like happiness and consideration can prove just as potent.
This is David’s December blog for the Marketing Society.
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Despite a bewildering choice of smart (and not so smart) phones, you begin to wonder whether it is worth calling anyone these days. Most of the time you get either a voicemail, or the message that he/she (the object of your desire to communicate) is in a meeting.
Let’s dwell on this ‘Bob/Tracy is in a meeting’ phenomenon. Receptionists say it. Assistants say it. Colleagues say it. They don’t say ‘she’s in the loo right now’. Nor ‘he’s not back from lunch’, ‘on the golf course’, or ‘bunked off early’. Interestingly no one says, ‘he’s actually working now and doesn’t want to be interrupted’. Very few assistants are bold enough to admit, ‘David really doesn’t want to speak to you’.
But this ‘in a meeting’ excuse happens all the time. It suggests a number of things:
Either that meetings are intrinsically important. Or that I’m very important, because I’m in a meeting. Or possibly that this particular meeting is so important that I cannot be interrupted even by spectacularly good or bad news.

It is interesting how many genuinely busy and powerful people will respond to a text – even if they are in a meeting! That suggests to me that most sensible people don’t regard meetings as a bar to being interested in what is happening outside the meeting room.
What do I recommend, having researched the meeting phenomenon pretty thoroughly en route to writing Mote: The Super Meeting?
i. Don’t be in too many meetings, and in particular avoid back to back meetings at all costs. Two meetings in a row, and you waste the second half of the first one worrying about the next one. Three in a row, and you’ll forget everything about the first two, quite apart from being mentally drained in the third one.
ii. Leave messages or instructions for dealing with callers that are a bit more imaginative than the ‘in a meeting’ cliché. ‘He/she can call you back this afternoon’, or ‘Is it important? Because I could get a message to him/her’ would both be a tremendous improvement
iii. Tackle the problem at source by being less compliant in pressing Accept when you get a meeting request. You can always hit Tentative or even Decline. You could Propose New Time. You could also not respond, although maybe that’s a subversive suggestion
There are too many meetings. Meetings have too many people in them, and are inefficient.  Meetings drive us mad and frustrated by making us crazy-busy, and not allowing us to finish our real work in office hours. They destroy our life/work balance, and indirectly rob partners and family of quality time with us.
The next time you are desperate to get hold of someone, and you are told that they are in a meeting, resist the temptation to say, ‘tell me something new’. Reflect on how meeting fascism affects us all, and resolve to not be in meetings so much, and encourage your friends to do the same.
This is David’s October blog for the Marketing Society.
To read more see :
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Ours is a hire and fire culture. Perform or you’re out. We don’t have time to bring you up to speed, so we have found someone else.

It is such a limited view of the world, and completely at variance with everything we have learned in marketing and advertising – where persuasion is the fundamental model. Why would the techniques that work with consumers not work with employees?

There would be very little point in talking about behavioural change, much less recommending it, if people can’t or won’t change. Yet there is a strongly held view that leopards cannot change their spots, or as they say in France, ‘Chassez le naturel, il revient au galop’.

There’s a vast training and coaching industry that says how wrong that view is. Training and coaching are built on the same principles as the educational experience that has shaped every one of us. I don’t know. I listen. I watch. I learn. I try it out. I do. I succeed. Training and coaching are dynamic and transformative. Had you ever wondered why both words imply speed and travelling together? In ambitious companies changing behaviour has to be achieved quickly and in teams.

I have written two books designed to help people change behaviour for the better – Decide about making better decisions in a better way, and Mote about a radical reinvention of the traditional (and deeply flawed) business meeting. For the last 27 years I have worked with some of the world’s biggest companies, helping them make important decisions about which agencies to appoint, and how to work with them. This has involved sitting through many hundreds of meetings.

What have been the most important learnings?

1. Even the biggest decisions – maybe I should say especially the biggest decisions – are based on gut feel as much as on iterative, deductive logic. Slavish adherence to criteria and sub-criteria quite simply won’t work

2. Big meetings are normally hopelessly unproductive, largely because people behave badly when they don’t get enough airtime. But orchestrated meetings, as for example in a pitch process where both sides want a successful outcome, can work very well.

And my take after over a quarter of a century of managing pitches? Don’t assume that firing your agency and hiring a ‘better’ one will work. It may be better to put the effort into improving the partnership you have. My focus is increasingly on relationship evaluation and enhancement.

Changing people (and the way they think and work together) will often be more effective than changing the people.

This is David’s Marketing Society blogpost from August.

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