On the 4th of November, we welcomed the lauded creative director to YCN — to talk us through six publications that have informed and inspired his work to-date.
Responsible for some of the most memorable moments in British advertising — and a writer of fiercely popular books on the subject — Dave Trott has enjoyed an illustrious creative career. Awarded the D&AD President’s Award for lifetime achievement in 2004 (having decades earlier worked with the charity to establish some of it's most defining education programmes), Dave has caught the imagination of many a client, peer and aspiring student. We welcomed Dave to YCN on Wednesday 4th November to introduce six books that have influenced and inspired his life, work and creative thinking.
1. A History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell
After choosing to stand (albeit rather precariously) on some YCN furniture so he was able to see everyone in the audience, Dave started by stating that a major part of (good) advertising was understanding how the mind works. Frequently quoting Buddha, Muhammed Ali and Steve Jobs, Dave impressed upon us the importance of understanding that we are not our minds. "The mind is your computer, but you are the person operating that computer." To create the controversial campaigns that Dave achieved such success with, he has relied on going against the grain, challenging opinions and "acting, not reacting." He credits his understanding of the human psyche to Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy, which is written in an accessible, simple way that entices the reader. For Dave, the test of a good book is the first page; if he's lost or bored half way through page 1, he puts it back down. If he's on page 7 without realising, it's a keeper. As Dave rightly points out, jargon and complex language isn't particularly helpful. "If you can't explain what you've learned to an 11-year-old, you haven't understood it."
2. Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson
Full of admiration for Jobs and how he revolutionised no less than four industries, Dave called him a "multiple genius, but a complete arsehole." Steve Jobs' breathtaking creativity lay in his ability to not listen to anyone else's opinion, and to out-manoeuvre lawyers, engineers and even entire industries. This boundless vision was nicknamed his 'Reality Distortion Field' by Jobs' colleague Bud Tribble at Apple in 1981 – Tribble said that the term came from Star Trek, where it was used to describe how the aliens created their own new world through mental force. "He didn't believe what he was told, he worked things out for himself" Dave said, referencing the link to his earlier philosophy.
3. How To Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
Tragically, the contentious title of this book has been copied and skewed, when in fact it is a "great book on how people work." Plenty of people misunderstand, Dave says, believing it is about personal gain, when actually it is about making the world a better place. Instead of starting with a rant (now a common trait amongst writers that Dave condemns) each chapter begins with an interesting story about someone, instantly engaging the reader and subtly, but surely, communicating Carnegie's learnings about the ways in which you can change your behavior to get the best from people.
4. Shogun, James Clavell
This truthful account of the first Englishman to go to Japan in 1605 explores the differences between Western and Eastern culture. A point of special interest for Dave himself — his wife is Chinese — he is interested in the fundamental differences between the language systems; Western language being based on sound and phonetics, and Eastern on pictures and visual references. He uses this comparison to encourage people to "step outside yourself and what you know" to truly think laterally and creatively, considering other ways of doing things.
5. Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind, Al Ries & Jack Trout
Flowing on nicely from his last point, Dave confirms that "in repositioning yourself, you reposition the competition." He makes the very good point that if you are a brand that attempts to imitate the market leader in any industry, you'll just help to make the leading brand ever more successful. "If you copy Nike trainers, you'll sell more Nike trainers." Being different is scary and change is uncomfortable, but both are necessary to stand out and sell products in today's overpopulated marketplace.
6. Damn Good Advice, George Lois
Having attended art school in New York, where this author taught, Dave identified with Lois' devil may care attitude. This book taught Dave that "just by being different, you have an advantage" and that is the very definition of creativity. He rounded up with an interesting exercise – after stating a statistic that the average person sees up to 2000 adverts per day across print, digital and out-of-home – asking the audience to tell him of an advert that they remembered from yesterday. Not one person ventured an answer. After totting up the figures – around 80,000 adverts seen in that one day and not one memorable – Dave underlined his earlier point about the need to be different, carving your own path and courting controversy to make an impact.
In his book Creative Mischief, Dave writes that "Life is only an opportunity if we embrace newness and discovery." With that in mind, Dave's Reading List will be available for YCN Members to browse and borrow in our Lending Library.
Thanks to Dave to visiting us, to PROPERCORN for supplying us with snacks and to Owen Richards for taking pictures at the event.
Location:72 Rivington St,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:4th November, 2015 at 6:30pm
End:4th November, 2015 at 8:00pm