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Book review: Dave Trott's Creative Blindness And How To Cure It

By John Newton, Synergy

Legendary creative director Dave Trott has become a bit of a soothsayer for the industry in recent years. Providing a rich vein of clarity in an industry that's become obsessed with complexity and technology over the last two decades, Trott, also a regular columnist for Campaign, has produced a number of dip-in-and-out books that use real-life stories to illustrate a point about the application of creativity of which ‘Creative Blindness’ is the latest.

Trott structures the book around some key themes; creativity in unusual places, creative communication, creative impact, practical creativity, creative surprises, creative illusions and creativity in real life. Each theme contains 10-15 stories of 2-3 pages in length, such as the story of the de Havilland Mosquito, a sparse wooden plane half the weight and twice the speed of other bombers to illustrate the point that strategy requires sacrifice - a point that each of us has to remind our clients of frequently. Trott also recounts the creation of the first limpet mine from a washing up bowl, aniseed ball and condom to illustrate that smarts can overcome imposed constraints. 

Most stories take an unexpected turn, which makes for highly entertaining reading, before bringing it back to creativity and often disappointing things that Trott sees happening within the advertising and marketing industries. A frequent refrain across all the author’s work is the imperative for marketing communications to capture attention, entertain and maintain clarity, three key factors in ensuring that a message is seen and remembered. Brands that follow the herd are destined to be forgotten. 

In an amusing, if worrying tale we’re told about how a group of researchers were able to get admitted to a number of psychiatric institutions and then the trouble they had getting released as their every move was interpreted through the lens of mental illness, the psychiatric staff unable to question what they had been told about each patient - a parable designed to illustrate the industry’s inability to question the wisdom of digital-first campaigns even as we are now learning the true extent of online ad fraud. And Trott also looks at creative techniques that are currently out of fashion, such as the use of rhyming mnemonics to drive home a particular brand message (Beanz Meanz Heinz or Drinka Pinta Milka Day). 

And most memorably Trott writes the Chairman’ wife syndrome to highlight the absurdity of poring over every detail of online ad creative at length when Facebook defines an ad impression as one pixel showing onscreen for more than zero seconds, advocating instead sliding print-outs of ads across a table as fast as possible to see what you can remember.

For those who have read ‘Creative Blindness’ I doubt I have picked out your favourite stories here - indeed, I’m not sure I’ve even picked my own favourites, which demonstrates just how many gems Trott has collected together. Every single story in the book has something to say about creativity. 

Trott remains a welcome voice calling the industry back to the side of sanity, and doing so in such a charming, disarming, and entertaining way that it’s no wonder that, if Twitter is to be believed, Creative Blindness is on so many marketers’ summer reading lists. Can you imagine what would happen if the entire industry came back from the tropics prepared to put even half of these ideas into effect for their clients’ or employer’s businesses? Buy it, read it, apply it.


By John NewtonCommercial Director at Synergy

Dave Trott's book can be purchased on Amazon here. If any members are interested in writing a book review for our website, email Zoe.