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That’s roughly how he looked to me too. Photo taken from here.

Seems like I’m on a roll. I recently managed to do an interview with a #1 US Fencer and now I got to listen to Patrick Collister for 2 hours. This was ’cause my lecturer at Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information Tim Clark managed to invite his old friend.

Patrick is the former Executive Creative Director of Ogilvy Benson & Mather Europe. He currently runs his own website and a magazine “Directory” which is a quarterly magazine focusing on the best direct marketing in the world. It is beautifully constructed (premium art paper, accurate colour reproduction and the works) thus you can almost feel the painstaking love it took to curate it.

Needless to say, quality demands accurate pricing. The quarterly issues costs £600 per year to subscribe. That makes it SGD$300 an issue. It’s impossible for a student like me to afford! Thankfully, something good happens for me at the end. For students, I highly recommend you subscribe to the e-newsletter.

The presentation felt like a torrential rain. There was frequent exchange of ideas but most of all, the ideas were bouncing around very quickly and it was impossible to document all of them well no matter how hard I typed.

However I did leave with many key ideas and his 7 ideas of advertising and I will share them here.

Key Concepts

  • As we move along the educational system, we get used to thinking in abstract terms. We remove ourselves from the material we are studying and we become comfortable thinking in such terms. Yet, advertising is about making ideas concrete. This becomes a paradox that we as university students and future ad people would have to reconcile.
  • The problem with an abstract brief (and briefs often are) is that it forces you to respond personally which may not be applicable to everyone else. One man’s definition of “fun” is different from another person’s but how often do you see this word pop up in advertisements?
  • Creativity is about using imagination and originality to solve problems.
  • Every war is to the death; big brands come and go. No one wants to increase their market share by x%, everyone wants to to see the executives of the competing brand out in the streets, their children and wives weeping. That is commitment to your cause.
  • Warriors for fights for brands, and it is the competitive spirit that keep advertising people going.

The 7 Ideas

The 7 ideas refer to advertising concepts that are always used. Distilled to its bare basics, advertisements always follow one of these 7 templates.

These 7 ideas are neat because you can create a concept from each template and then choose the best out of them which suits your target audience best. It also creates a framework within your own mind, a foundation to expand on.

  1. The Presenter
    Someone is talking and explains the product or concept. Someone can be:Ordinary people – Dove, Someone with expertise – Colgate, Clients testimonials, Celebrities endorsements
  2. The Demonstrator
    The demo can show product superiority, side by side comparisons between competing brands: Pepsi vs Coke, M1 vs Red and Green.
  3. Problem/solution
    Shows problem, and then offers the solution that the product offers.
  4. The Analogy
    Give an example, a comparison with something similar in life. For example, comparing your body needing constant tweaks like your car engine, hence keeping fit is important.
  5. Inversion
    Take your proposition and then show how unreliable it is to show how reliable it actually is. Or life without your product.
  6. The slice of life
    Tell it like it is, powerful observations of what really happens. Commonality of experience creates resonance, Can you (a) observe and (b) show your brand in the lives of its users?
  7. Borrowed interest
    For example, during F1 or Olympics. Ads that go in conjunction with some major event. These ads only work if you know the story behind it. It usually ends in mediocrity if it’s not done with right intent.


I volunteered quite a fair bit of ideas during the seminar and Patrick kindly offered to mail me a copy of “Directory”! Looking forward to getting my signed copy!

I have no idea how much he charges for giving speeches but coming from someone like myself who has already read a ton of advertising/business/marketing/popscience related books, I still took away a lot from him. It was a pity the talk was only 2hours. If it were longer, it would definitely have been more beneficial for the students.

Still, for not paying a single cent and gaining 2 hours of knowledge and a free magazine issue worth SGD$300, it’s pretty darn awesome. Thank you Patrick, Tim and WKWSCI!