communicable ideas


If you’re immune to creativity, you may not find much to interest you here…

You can scroll the shelf using and keys

Beautiful communication via Faisal Ahmed of Life Healthcare Communications… fascinating stats about how people use digital in relation to healthcare. It’s interesting to see all this compelling information, but pharmaceutical companies have yet to make an impact in this field.

Regulatory issues have a part to play in pharma companies’ reticence to embracing digital media. It’s a significant part, but there are other reasons. The advertising industry has found many successful ways to make digital work for their clients. One major reason for that success is that ad agencies have long understood the strategic benefits to having a thorough understanding of their audiences. In my experience, pharmas have rarely seen the value of audience research and analysis. Generally speaking the pharma industry ignores the fact that the majority of patients don’t see themselves as being defined by their conditions. In fact, sometimes those people that pharmas define as patients, aren’t even patients! Does a woman receiving fertility treatment see herself as a patient? Or just a woman trying to have a baby? Digital solutions have to be tailored to the person you’re communicating with. And I choose my words carefully when I say “communicating with”. Web 2.0, or social media means people can answer back. And that’s probably the scariest part for the pharmas, which returns to the regulatory pitfalls and the ability to control information. But there’s also the question of choice. There is so much information on the web, and no time to read it all. People find ways to filter out the stuff that doesn’t speak to them. Now, more than ever, successful marketing communication relies on not just knowing who the audience is, but what will make them take notice.


Do you think digital is important to healthcare?

August 27, 2011

In case you’re wondering… the music used in this video is Tonight The Streets Are Ours by Richard Hawley. Love it.

Banksy iPhone app

August 1, 2011

The Vorticists – manifesto for a modern world

July 30, 2011

Go and see this exhibition at the Tate, which catalogues this short-lived movement. This group of not just visual artists, but writers and thinkers were producing ground-breaking works for the early part of the 20th century.

The page below appeared in the journal Blast – produced in 1914. The typography is quite radical for its time.


a graphic odyssey

July 30, 2011

Wim Crouwel is one of the great designers. The exhibition of his work at the Design Museum was sublime.

Wim Crouwel

Wim Crouwel


June 5, 2010

Today I have written to my MP, and London Assembly members, to highlight the appalling bigotry of a London pub.

Dear Bob Stewart,

I’d like to draw to your attention to an incident that occurred yesterday afternoon, Saturday 5 June 2010, that has caused me some concern.

I was shocked to hear from friends that they were refused service in The Greencoat Boy pub, 2 Greencoat Place, SW1P 1PJ. Following the Labour Party’s LGBT AGM today, delegates went along to the pub, but were asked to leave on account of their sexuality. The manager of the pub had been contacted in advance, to book the room for a function. But when they arrived, they were told by the manager that had he known the booking was for a group of gay people he would not have accepted it.

I’m sure you’ll appreciate that is appalling bigotry. It is in fact against the law to refuse goods and services to someone based on their sexuality. This incident has been reported to the Metropolitan Police.

A campaign to boycott the pub has been building on Twitter tonight. To have any effect, this boycott will only be effective if it is observed by everyone who believes that discrimination based on a person’s sexuality is unacceptable.

I hope you agree that this kind of attitude is unacceptable in this day and age, especially in a diverse and progressive city like London.

Yours sincerely,

Gareth Abbit

If you find yourself in SW1, please avoid the Greencoat Boy.

Fear of being found out meant I lost myself

May 30, 2010

First of all, let me start by telling you I’m gay. OK, it’s not a massive revelation, I’ve been out to friends, and most of my family for about 10 years. It wasn’t an easy time when I told my parents. Well, actually, it wasn’t my choice to come out to them at all. But at least I wasn’t outed by the Daily Telegraph.

We all now know that David Laws resigned his position as Chief Secretary to the Treasury for wrongly claiming £40,000 in expenses and, arguably, unwittingly outed himself in the process. He claimed the MP’s second home allowance, as he was entitled, but his landlord was someone with whom he had a close relationship. After 2006 this situation was against the rules, but he continued claiming until August 2009.

It’s likely that Mr Laws was well aware of the deception and carried on claiming. But he was using one deception to cover another. That deception was to hide his sexuality from his family and friends. He was scared of what those closest to him might say or think about him.

But fear is an irrational emotion and can affect the most intelligent and level headed.

David Laws and I were both 14 in 1979. We never knew each other, I grew up in north Wales, he grew up in the south east. But in 1979 I was personally moved by another story of a high profile politician who was hounded by the press over his sexuality. Jeremy Thorpe was a Liberal MP accused of conspiring to murder a man he was alleged to have had an affair with. At the end of the trial Thorpe was found not guilty – and he never publicly confirmed, or denied, the accusations concerning his sexual orientation.

As a teenager in the 80s, my political education began with what I saw as the unfair society created by the Tory Thatcherite government. It motivated me enough to want a career in politics. I was too scared to take that desire further, partly because of how Thorpe was treated in the press. And by my parents and friends reactions to the story.

Looking back, I knew I was gay. It was a painful realisation and I was scared and repulsed by my own sexuality. To act straight I became a master of deception. I convinced myself I was straight a lot of the time, but being a randy teenager, you are constantly battling to suppress your natural urges. I managed it, in a way. But what I discovered about myself is that I would camouflage myself. I just disappeared into the background. The fear of being found out meant I lost myself. Who knows if I would have made something of myself if I’d allowed myself to follow my dream? Maybe I’m kidding myself, I’ll probably never know.

I don’t agree with Laws’ politics and I don’t think what he did should go unpunished. He broke the rules and I have no doubt he feels he is paying for it. But I sincerely hope he decides to remain an MP, and I hope he comes back to a high profile governement role.

And I not only wish that for him. I wish it for the talented fourteen year old gay person out there watching how society reacts to Mr Laws. One day that young person could be a fantastic inspiration to us all.

Beautifully simple explanation of what branding really is – and dispels all the myths.

Branding explained

May 27, 2010

My complaint to the BBC

May 3, 2010

This is my complaint to the BBC over the lack of coverage relating to the Philippa Stroud story featured in the Observer on 2 May 2010. If you feel you’d like to have your say, here’s a link to BBC News Watch. If I have any updates, I’ll post them here.

I am writing to complain about the lack of coverage by the BBC of the Conservative PPC for Sutton and Cheam, Philippa Stroud, who was reported in the Observer on May 1 as running prayer sessions to cure gay people. If true, this is a shocking revelation, especially when you examine this alongside Chris Grayling and other Tory candidates’ views on homosexuality. But there are other issues relating to Mrs Stroud’s relationship with her church: Newfrontiers. Look at point 7 in their 17 values “A church where Biblical family life is highly valued, where husband and wife embrace male servant leadership and joyful female submission, where godly parenting is taught and practised and where the special value of singleness and its unique opportunities are affirmed.” If elected, how would Mrs Stroud act in the interests of her constituents when she is expected to practice “joyful female submission”? Will the people of Sutton and Cheam be voting for Mrs Stroud’s husband if she wins the seat? I am surprised that in the run-up to a general election, this news has not been covered by the BBC. Can you explain the editorial decision not to report this story?

Hitting an all time low

April 3, 2010

After a few days’ waiting, the crowd-sourced Labour campaign poster created by Jacob Quagliozzi is to be revealed on Easter Saturday by the Miliband brothers.

It’s no news that the Tories have twice as much budget than Labour for their election campaign. So, Douglas Alexander, Labour’s election campaign chief, had to get creative. And he did. He called on Labour supporters to come up with new poster ideas. Two briefs were developed with Saatchi & Saatchi, one highlighting Labour’s pledge to protect frontline services, the other to emphasise David Cameron’s lack of substance.

I really wanted to get involved, but rather than knocking the Tories, I chose to emphasise the excellent policy pledges that Labour has set out. And along with more than a 1000 other people, I submitted my idea. I was honoured to find out a few days later that my poster was chosen as a favourite and featured on Labour’s homepage.

What surprised me about a lot of the other entries featured was how few spoke to the positive policies this government has, or intends to introduce, if they win the next election. Rory Doona’s submission (below) stood out as being not only visually attractive, but it had a positive message.

Rory Doona’s Poster idea

In general, this country has a negative view of politics. The past year has seen politicians’ credibility plummet thanks, in part, to the Daily Telegraph, which leaked details of expenses records in May 2009. Then in January this year Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt challenged Gordon Brown’s leadership, and failed. Hoon and Hewitt, again, along with another seven politicians were secretly filmed in the “Cab for hire” scandal which was broken by The Sunday Times and shown on the Channel Four programme, Dispatches.

I think people feel alienated and powerless by this kind of behaviour. Oh for the days of popular satire, like Spitting Image which did a fantastic job of exposing politicians’ short-comings and probably, to a certain extent, kept them in check.

The lack of satire in popular culture seems to be fulfilled by opposing political parties these days.

The Tories’ recent campaigns based on ‘change’, and their recent posters which target Gordon Brown personally, all expose their lack of direction and ideology. They basically have nothing tangible to offer this country. They have nothing to say apart from don’t vote for the others.

David Cameron depicted as Gene Hunt from the BBC TV series "Ashes to Ashes"

I wish the Labour Party had chosen to not get involved in ‘gutter’ politics. They have so much more to say about how they are planning to secure our recovery, raise family living standards, build a high-tech economy, protect frontline investment and make our communities fairer.

Please leave the satire to the satirists.