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“Purpose” is fun, but it doesn’t often help get a response or sell anything.

Have you ever looked in the mirror of a morning and thought “Who is that”? Have you ever thought: “I’m looking so much older than I feel”? Or “Do I really look like that to others”?

It felt something like that recently when I read a new book from an old colleague.


Steve Harrison is indisputably one of the most successful creative people in the business. I enjoyed batting ideas around with Steve many moons ago in London.

His new book will engage. And you’ll probably feel, as I did, a little uncomfortable too. But that’s the purpose.


You may find yourself wondering “Is that me?” “Am I an ‘adland’, ‘unaware’, ‘Anywhere’ who believes that everyone who doesn’t think like us just isn’t ‘woke’ and will come around in the end?”

If you’re at all interested in marketing and what’s going on in the minds of your audiences this is a must read. The book is titled: can’t sell, won’t sell: Advertising, politics and culture wars. Why adland has stopped selling and started saving the world.

Being on the response side of the business I have oft chosen to hold my tongue, or politely dissent, when Brand Folks (agency and client alike) have pushed woke brand purpose concepts ahead of useful selling themes like, oh, I don’t know, consumer benefits. Steve doesn’t pull any punches.

Read this book and you’ll get a grasp of why at least 48% of our audience don’t think like we do in adland – they have more important things to worry about.

Apart from the (very British) Nicolas Parsons reference (which I enjoyed by the way) I suspect everyone in advertising and marketing this (US) side of the Atlantic will benefit hugely from reading this book. It's global in outlook.

Dan Goldgeier reviewed it better than I ever could (and certainly more bluntly) https://www.adpulp.com/cant-sell-wont-sell-will-piss-off-many-ad-people-if-they-read-it/ .


And if you want to listen to Steve himself talk about the book and his thinking you can listen to this great interview: https://www.adpulp.com/ad-chatter-special-edition-with-steve-harrison/

I finished the book with David Ogilvy’s phrase ringing in my ears once again: “We Sell or Else”. And asking when many of us forgot that purpose.

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