Dave Birss is an educator, a recovering creative director and man used to spelling his last name over the phone.

Listen on Spotify, Apple or YouTube.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Why producing unique work is hard
  • What a creative director really does
  • How Dave became a leading voice in AI
  • Where AI can really help companies
  • Where AI shouldn’t be used
  • Why Dave won’t ever be employed by the Belfast Tourist Board

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Dave Birss

Dave Birss has quickly established himself as the top AI instructor on LinkedIn Learning. His first AI course on the platform has attracted over 100,000 students and receives rave reviews daily.

Beyond teaching, Dave advises numerous companies on practical AI implementation, including leading Fortune 500 firms.

He has launched the Sensible AI Manifesto to provide organizations of all sizes with guidance on incorporating generative AI into their activities in the most effective ways.

In addition to his AI expertise, Dave is an acclaimed author, speaker, and broadcaster on the topics of innovation, creativity, and ideation. He speaks professionally at events around the world, wowing audiences with his insights and humour.

Dave has authored several bestselling books dissecting the creative process, including “How To Get To Great Ideas,” “A User Guide To The Creative Mind,” “Friction,” and “Iconic Advantage.” Find them all here. His upcoming book will focus on applied AI.

Dave has taught university courses on multiple continents, from Singapore to Santiago and New York to Newcastle.

He is an occasional broadcaster, having written, directed and presented the 6-part TV series “The Day Before Tomorrow” in the UK. Dave also wrote and presented the world’s first Virtual Reality history documentary “Secret Spaces.” And he has lent his expert commentary to news programs on the BBC and Channel 5.

With his prolific output across books, courses, speaking, advising, and broadcasting, Dave Birss has established himself as a leading global authority at the intersection of creativity, innovation, and AI.

He’s currently working on more courses, a video series, a couple of books and releases content on an almost daily basis. Find Dave on LinkedIn or at DaveBirss.com

Strategy Sessions Host – Andi Jarvis

If you have any questions or want to talk about anything that was discussed in the show, the best place to get me is on LinkedIn or Instagram.

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Interview Transcription

This transcript has been done automagically using Happy Scribe and hasn’t been checked by a real person, so there may be some hilarious mistakes where the AI can’t work out our accents – I’m sure they’re trained on just the American accent.

[00:00:00.880] – Andi J

Ey up, and welcome to the Strategy Sessions. My name is Andi Jarvis, and thank you for joining me on this very special episode of the podcast. It is episode 23, season 4. It is also the last episode in this season. I’m going to take the summer off from podcasting, put my feet up, work on my tan, do very little, to be honest with you, and come back in September with a new season and possibly maybe a new angle. Who knows? We’ll see about that over the summer when I’ve got some planning time. So I just wanted to do a quick wrap of this season because it’s been a little bit different to previous years. Before I introduced today’s guest, we have got a guest as usual, and that guest is Dave Birss. Dave is a wonderful man with a great career. We talk about creativity, We talk about education, we talk about technology. And Dave builds his career at the intersection of those three things. So he’s a creative director. He’s worked at Ogilvy. He’s got a classic advertising amazing background, 20 years there, but now creates a lot of LinkedIn courses, is a leading voice, or one of the world’s leading voices in AI for marketing and advertising at the moment.

[00:01:10.220] – Andi J

And he’s just a brilliant person to be around. So Dave’s coming up in a couple of minutes. Stay tuned for that. Or if you’re fed up for listening to me already, just hit that little fast forward button and then get to the interview with Dave. But hang around. Give me two minutes. Indulge me for two minutes just while I talk about this series, because we tried a couple of different things this time, and I’ve loved them. I hope you have, too. I kicked off with a Black History Month mini-series. So Black History Month is October in the UK, and I started off with five guests, Sheris, Anu, Kevin, Colette, and Thierry. An episode a week for the five weeks of Black History Month. And I followed that up because I felt it worked so well with a Women’s History Month mini-series as well. Shorter month, but we had three guests, Alaya, Géraldine, Emma, and Catherine did the review episode. So that was, again, just a hyper focus on voices that you maybe wouldn’t always hear from. But what I found was that if you listen to all of those episodes, the Five Black History Month and the Three Women’s History Month as a collective, it takes us into different places that we didn’t necessarily expect to be talking about different things.

[00:02:21.760] – Andi J

Now, to be clear, we didn’t bring five black people onto the podcast to talk about them being black. I wanted to talk about their work and their marketing, advertising advertising background, whatever. But the different perspective was really interesting to hear, the same in Women’s History Month. I would say as well, I don’t have favourite episodes. It’s a bit like picking favourite children, difficult to do and fraught with danger. But Some of the memories I have from those episodes, I talk about weekly with clients, with friends, and messages, and things that stay with me and will stay with me forever. A couple that stand out, so Sherissa and Hibaba opened the series. I’d never met Sherice. I did a bit of research, came across her, reached out and said, Would you come on the podcast? And she was like, Yeah, that’d be great. And we just had an amazing chat. And Sherrice’s background is in McDonald’s and various other companies as well, but is a real believer in getting off your backside and going and engaging with your customers. Now, I’m sat here, if you’re watching the video, in my on-design T-shirt, let’s say, Talk to your customers.

[00:03:26.680] – Andi J

And it really just appealed to me, but not Just the fact that she did it the way she did it, and also how important it is to those businesses like Speedo, like Robinson’s, like McDonald’s. Big, big businesses take the time and invest in getting out and talking to your customers. That really stuck with me. The episode with Kevin Mourowski was… Listen, I think I fell in love with Kevin. He is one of the greatest thinkers in the advertising world as far as I’m concerned, and doesn’t pull his punches, is happy to cause a ruckus, as Seth Godin would say, to make changes, and really does the right thing for the industry, for his community. It just felt like I’d known Kevin for years. Never met the guy. We just talked on a screen. But I took a lot personally from that episode. It meant a lot to me. He’s a child of a Windrish generation as well, and it just felt really personal episode for me. I really loved that one. But it wasn’t just the Black History Month and Women’s History Month. We’ve had David Mannheim, who’s now a good personal friend who’s building Made with Intent, some interesting stories there and some fascination with personalization and how that works.

[00:04:44.240] – Andi J

Rory Sutherland came back, two episodes with Rory Sutherland. Rory was just fantastic, as he always is, which was followed up pretty quickly by an episode with Seth Godin. Thanks to Trina for helping organise that. It still feels like a fever dream doing Rory and Seth Godin back to back. Yeah, definitely a fever dream. And then followed up like one, two punch, and then bang, the third one comes in. Darryl Fielding. Darryl was behind. She’s one of the people behind the Dove Real Beauty campaign. And Again, I don’t want to call her a grandi of the industry because she’ll probably kill me if she ever sees me again for that. But a real great career and great experience, all of which comes out in the podcast with a huge view on how we diversify in the industry, how we bring better talent in. And she said, the bottom you fall out of shouldn’t guide where your career goes. So doing a lot there. Duane joined us from Canada to talk about performance Marketing People. Then we’re into Women’s History Month. Then Lydia came after that to talk about dating data and how she found her husband.

[00:05:54.030] – Andi J

I’ve never felt less qualified to do an episode with than that, which was fantastic, really. If you listen to that when you just hear me cringing and laughing the whole way throughout, I just don’t know anything about dating apps. James Hayhurst talked about agency-client relationships. If you are in an agency or in a client struggling with that, you want to listen to that and reach out to James. He’s got a product that will help you. And then Ikram joined us from Sri Lanka to talk about, well, basically how everything’s broadly still the same in terms of customers and people, yet really, really different. I would love to know if you have a highlight from the series, please do I’ll put it in the comments where you are or send me an email. That’s details in the show notes. But I think of all the people I’ve spoken to, my one highlight stands out from Women’s History Month, which was Alaya Harris. And it was very little to do with marketing, but Alaya may well be the most LA person you’ve ever met. I met her at a conference. We’re having a conversation, and she suddenly drops in a story about Stevie Wonder, which was the single most LA story I’ve ever heard.

[00:06:58.250] – Andi J

An absolute standout moment. Go back and have a listen and see what she says. So thank you very much for tuning in. Don’t go anywhere just yet because Dave Birss is going to wrap up the series in a fantastic way. If there’s anyone you want me to interview in the next series, starting in September, again, send me an email, send me a message. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. If there’s anybody you want to come on, I’m not going to promise I’ll get them on, but it’s always good to hear what you say. And have a listen. Listen to Dave, then go off, enjoy your summer holidays, and I’ll be talking to you again in September. Here we go. Dave Birss, what do you think? What one thing do you wish you’d have known 10 years ago?

[00:07:37.930] – Dave B

I wish I’d known that NVIDIA was going to become the biggest company in the world. And I also wish that 10 years ago I’d had money to invest in NVIDIA because I’m sure that even investing 27 pence in NVIDIA 10 years ago, I would have been a millionaire by now.

[00:07:54.780] – Andi J

I think that’s the case. So the news is broken today that NVIDIA have just overtaken Microsoft, is it, to become the world’s most valuable company, having overtaken Apple fairly recently. And I don’t think anybody saw that coming, did they?

[00:08:09.370] – Dave B

No, it was just extraordinary. It just ended up being in the right place at the right time. And what they’ve been offering is these GPUs, graphic processor units, to do AI work, which is why they’re so sought after so much in demand. But basically, they’re not the right product. We need AI chips, not graphic processor chips. But anyway, that’s getting nerdy. But yes, nobody really saw this coming. It’s been a big surprise for everyone. I think the founder of NVIDIA is just as surprised as anyone else.

[00:08:44.070] – Andi J

I suppose the big question is, with the strategy sessions being famous for being an investment podcast, but the big question is, is it a bubble? Is it just the hype? Obviously, the stock market has become easier to invest in and becomes slightly more prone to hype cycles, I think, in the last decade. Do you think they are overvalued and this is just hype, or do you think they are going to continue to sit in the top two or three biggest companies in the world for the next 10 years?

[00:09:15.420] – Dave B

I think they’re going to find more competition from the other chip manufacturers. It’s going to spread out across the industry. They’ve just been the one who’ve been delivering what’s been needed up until now. They’re going to find a lot more competition. But you’re right, with all of these things, the Gartner hype cycle comes into everything. And I think that the whole AI thing is probably at the initial peak, we’re over here, peak of the… I’m just about to go into the trough of disillusionment. I think that that will be happening within the next couple of years.

[00:09:48.420] – Andi J

Yeah, absolutely. Well, look, we’ll not get too much into investing because I think I’ll probably have to give various legal caveats about the whole investment advice we’re about to give. And as someone who’s famously said, I don’t think Tesla will be around in a decade, and I don’t believe Netflix will be around in a decade. I still hold that I’m going to be correct about Tesla. I’m less convinced I’m going to be correct about Netflix. But don’t get your investment advice from me, kids. That is the big bit That’s the big takeaway from me. So Dave Birss, let’s move on from investment advice and tell everyone who you are, and then we’ll start talking about AI some more.

[00:10:26.150] – Dave B

Well, I’m a bloke who spent 20 in advertising as a creative, and that was really the main part of my career. But I’ve had a strange journey through careers. When I left university, I had a degree in computer programming, and As soon as I left, I then became a session musician. I worked for a record label in Scotland and toured with the bands. I did that for a couple of years. Then I accidentally fell into stand-up comedy. I got offered a part in a BBC comedy show the same week I got offered my first job in advertising. I chose advertising because I thought it was better paid, which it wasn’t at the time. I thought it was being a sit-down comedian, but it wasn’t. I spent 20 years in advertising. In 2010, I had enough and left the industry. I was creative director of I was a big agency at the time, and I left the industry. I’ve been meandering the last 14 years, writing books and teaching. I did a TV series at one point, and I’ve consulted for companies. Now I do what interests me. That’s basically what it’s all about. I’ve got very little to do with advertising and marketing anymore, and so I’m quite happy about that.

[00:11:57.290] – Andi J

I would say from the conversations we’ve had previously and from looking through your LinkedIn as well, the two pillars that scream out to me from your career are creativity and learning. And that flows through the black pool through a stick of rock, everything you’ve done, being involved in creativity and being involved in learning. And where those two things come together, that seems to be where you do your most enjoyable work, perhaps.

[00:12:27.110] – Dave B

Yeah, and technology. I think technology has been That’s been a big part of what I’ve done over the years as well. Even when I was working in traditional advertising agencies, in the late ’90s, early 2000s, because I could speak code, I started to build websites for campaigns that we were doing because I’d be like, Okay, we could do this web thing. And it just like, How do you do that? I’ll do it, and I just code it. I can speak fluent HTML and CSS. I could handwrite a website for you at the front end of your background.

[00:13:00.700] – Andi J

That’s unusual for a creative, isn’t it? Very unusual. Well, certainly back then it was unusual for a creative.

[00:13:05.680] – Dave B

But to me, it didn’t feel unusual because it was where the cutting edge was. I think that truly creative people very often are at the cutting edge. They’re trying to discover new technology. I see discovery as a very big part of creativity. You’re trying stuff that hasn’t been tried before. If you’re doing stuff that has been done before, that’s not quite as creative. If you’re doing stuff that hasn’t been done before, that is something that is creative. Technology, when you’re at the cutting edge of that, it gives you the opportunity to do what’s not been done before. That, I think, is why I was very much drawn to that, as well as being somebody who, well, I’ve got my degree in it and I’m a bit of a nerd that way. I’m always interested with what hasn’t been done yet. That is a big part of what has driven me throughout my career. If there is that red thread that runs through everything, it’s trying to be there doing the stuff that’s never been done before.

[00:14:05.510] – Andi J

In fact, I’m not even going to attempt the quote because I don’t know it exactly, and I’m going to butcher it too badly. But there’s a quote which I believe was attributed to Ogilvie about originality being overrated and all the best stuff he ever did was copied or lifted or borrowed from other places, but done slightly better. If you know the quote, please jump in and say it for me. But there was something about that. You’re saying about doing stuff that’s not been Was that a strength in your creative days or was that something that maybe held you back a little bit?

[00:14:36.060] – Dave B

It held me back. It became… It’s something that I didn’t necessarily enjoy about the industry. I mean, there is a lot of plagiarism within the industry. There’s a lot of incredibly derivative work. There’s a lot of stuff that is formulaic, and that isn’t where I could play. That was not something that I could play in, but that is what the majority of the work in marketing and advertising is. I always find myself at odds with that majority in the industry. But it’s where I’m drawn and I have to go with it. But there is the idea of originality is nonsense anyway. I don’t think there are many things that have ever been original. When we look at stuff very much, we’re just building on what’s been done before. We’re taking one existing element and we’re merging it with another existing element in a fresh combination. It’s not original. It’s just fresh combinations of existing elements, and that’s That’s really breaking you grand.

[00:15:48.810] – Andi J

If we’ve seen fire, it’s because we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. And that’s the thing. I think the best creative people I’ve worked with have had the widest experience, not necessarily age experience, but they’ve been different places. They’ve seen different things, they watch different things, and they managed to magpie it and pull all different bits together and create something that feels different. But, oh, that’s original. But if you know what you’re looking for, you go, and It’s not original. That’s just from Japanese mythology. That’s from sport, and that’s from this. It’s all just been put together into a slightly different treatment. And that’s not to criticise people. It’s amazing when it’s done well. It’s fantastic when it’s done well. When it’s done badly, though, it does feel a little bit as you said, derivative.

[00:16:32.230] – Dave B

Yeah. I mean, that’s when the flashmob thing, everyone was doing that. It just looked, oh, facepalm. It was just like, really, could you just stop that?

[00:16:41.510] – Andi J

Look, everyone got the phone call from their client within six months of that going, should we do a flashmob? Everybody had that phone call.

[00:16:49.520] – Dave B

And it was like in the early 2000s, everyone wanted a viral. And I’ve got to say that I was one of the people responsible for some of those virals. So I remember There was a big technology company came to the agency I was at and they said, Hey, we want a viral. And it was just like, Really? And they wanted They wanted a viral to advertise this thing that already was supposed to be viral. They wanted a viral to advertise this viral campaign they’d done. It was absolute nonsense. They were expecting me to say, Right, we’ll do a video on this to promote this viral video, which made no sense. Instead, I did something which was an online calculator, which was to see how much time the nation was wasting by watching this other viral thing. You could put in how much time you’d put in, and it would tell you, you put in your salary and it told you how much of the GDP you had damaged. Then it gave a running total of the impact on the GDP of people wasting their time watching this video. When I tried to take that to the client, they were like, No, we create productivity software.

[00:18:06.920] – Dave B

We’d never be able to get this through. We like the idea, though. And I’d gone in really bold. I’d said, Look, we’ve done the contractual obligation. We’ve got three concepts to present to you because that’s what it says in the contract. We always have to present three ideas to you. I took two of the ideas and I ripped them up and I just put them on the floor. I said, I’m not going to show you those two. Brought them, not showing you. This is the And they said, Look, we see that the idea is really good, but we just feel uncomfortable with it. And this was a Friday. And they turned down the ideas and we’re supposed to go back to the drawing board. And over the weekend, I thought about it. It’s just that they really should buy that idea. So I went in on the Monday morning and I got the account director and said, Could you get the client on the phone? I want to try and resell them the same idea. And he said, You can’t do that. I said, Yeah, I can. I really think they need to buy this idea, please.

[00:19:01.090] – Dave B

I’m the creative director. I want to talk to them about this. And we got the client on the phone. I said, I’m just asking for your permission to try and convince you that what you said no to on Friday is It’s not really the right idea. And again, they said, Look, we see it’s a really good idea, but we just feel nervous about it, and we don’t think we’ll be able to get that through. I said, this is my Trump card. I said, What if I take full responsibility What if after this call, I send you my resignation letter and you hold onto it? And if anything goes wrong, this letter says that I forced you into this and I take full responsibility. And they said, Yes.

[00:19:45.670] – Andi J

That’s a bold move, Dave.

[00:19:47.590] – Dave B

Well, I’ve never valued any of my jobs that highly. I sent them a resignation letter and they held on to it and we ran. It was incredibly successful. It picked up a bunch of awards, and I was never on stage to pick up any of these awards. It was always the client every single time. And that, to me, is understanding when you’re selling stuff, I think that selling is a big part, not just trying to sell to customers with our advertising, but selling to clients and selling internally is a really big part of the creative’s role. And most creatives are unbelievably bad at that. And I think having conviction that this is the right idea, I will put my job in the line. I’ve never seen anyone else do that, but it’s worth a go from time to time.

[00:20:42.210] – Andi J

There’s a version of this story has been told by a couple of people who have had on the podcast and by a couple of people I’ve seen at various conferences and interviewed sometimes at conferences. I interviewed Walter Campbell, who was involved in the Guinness Surfers ad at an event recently. He’s hopefully going to be on the next season of the show. But I also saw a thing with some of the team behind the Cabri’s Guerrilla ad, where they basically were told if they ran it, versions of that, if they ran it, they’d lose their job. And then they went back and went, We really believe it? And it just had to go through more and more layers. I think the thing I take away from it is that if everything you get feels comfortable from the agency, it’s boring. It’s just derivative work. If something is challenging you and making you say no, initially, or you got to have to find a way to make me more comfortable with this, in that tension that you have, that’s where the greatness exists, isn’t it? That’s where genius and great work happens.

[00:21:45.330] – Dave B

Yeah. There was an old guy in New York that used to know. He worked for Bill Bernbach back in the day in the 1950s, 1960s. He’s a legend, George Lois. I would sometimes go and see George when I was in New York and go I didn’t visit him at his apartment. He was telling me one time, I was telling him this story, and he said, Oh, he said there was one time, it was in the 1960s, and it was a really famous campaign for, I think it was Levy’s Bread, which was one of the real iconic campaigns in the 1960s. He’s in the boardroom with all of these people, and it’s in Madison Avenue. They’re up on the 10th, 12th floor or like that. He tries to sell them an idea. Again, they say to him, No. George goes over and he takes his chair and he puts it beside the window. He opens the window and then stands there, puts his hands on the sides of the windows and leans out over the street And he says, You will buy this campaign, leaning out over the street in Madison Avenue. And they went, okay, we’ll buy it, we’ll buy it, we’ll buy it.

[00:22:55.280] – Dave B

And they ran the ad and it ended up being one of the most famous campaigns of the 1960s.

[00:23:00.580] – Andi J

The old ad stories. I genuinely could make this podcast an episode a day, an episode a week about the old stories from the good old days of advertising. I just love them. But you gave a resignation like, you’ve never had to hang out of a window or a moving train or anything like that to get a client to sign off. So things have improved slightly in the industry since then.

[00:23:23.180] – Dave B

Yeah, the jeopardy of emailing a word document is not quite the same. It’s hanging out over a street.

[00:23:32.060] – Andi J

But the stories just aren’t as good. I once sent an email with some strong words in it to a client. It’s not quite the same as I was hanging out on the sixth floor on Madison Avenue. I did want to start with what you’re doing now, but We’re in the old days as a creative director, so we’ll stay there. One question people sometimes ask me from outside the industry more than anything else, what does a creative director do? And having worked with many creative directors, I’ve never really been able to give them a good answer because people go, Oh, they’re the one who comes up with all the ideas. I go, Well, they come up with some of the ideas, a lot of the ideas, but not all of them. If a good creative director will bring them in from everywhere. But I couldn’t quite How do I put my finger in on what a creative director does versus what maybe a more junior creative does other than, smoke bigger cigars.

[00:24:24.120] – Dave B

What a creative director does is not necessarily what a creative director should do. As I looked through the years, very often what happened is that the people who were really good creatives ended up being promoted to be creative directors, which was a really bad idea because they wanted to keep doing the good work. The job of a creative director, there’s a lot of admin in it. You have to give people reviews, you have to hire people, you have to have meetings with the client, you have to go to board meetings, you have to talk about what’s the strategy that we’re going to be working on, you have to review work. From that, there’s very little time left to do any of the good work yourself. Why take the people who are doing their amazing great work and make them resentful? Is it the Peter principle?

[00:25:18.460] – Andi J

Everybody gets promoted to their own level of incompetence. It happens in car sales all the time, doesn’t it? They promote the greatest car salesperson in the organisation to the point where they’re not selling cars anymore. I wonder why they’re not selling as many cars. So that happens in creativity as well then.

[00:25:37.530] – Dave B

So to me, that is wrong because the best creative directors I’ve worked with are not necessarily the best creatives, but they’re people who love great ideas. The clue should be in the title Creative Director. You’re offering direction to the creatives. And it’s like when I got to know a lot of the people who had worked for Bill Bernbach back in the 1950s, 1960s. I think they’re all dead now, actually, all the people I got to know there. But they would say that he was not You couldn’t point at an ad that he’d done and go, That was Bill. That’s a beauty, isn’t it? It wasn’t like that. He was the person who had this amazing group of people coming up with ideas, and he helped to make sure that those ideas were the they could be, and they were picking the best ideas, and he was supporting them. That is really what the job of a creative director should be, is to get the best ideas out of their team and to make sure that they happen. It’s not necessarily what happens. We end up getting resentful creatives who become creative directors who then take the best briefs for themselves.

[00:26:56.600] – Dave B

This is a great brief. We’ll do this. Because they still want to do the good stuff. That’s not what their job should be, but it does tend to be what their job is. You also get the people that they like to shit on those below them. There’s been a lot of that historically in the ’80s, 1990s, early 2000s, there was a lot of that from creative directors. It’s mellowed a bit now. I think there’s more human people in creative director roles, but there was a lot of a-holes. That’s Yeah, that seemed to be what the industry attracted.

[00:27:34.250] – Andi J

Yeah, it certainly had a reputation, didn’t it? Which hasn’t fully gone away, but I think I’d suggest it feels like it’s improving and diversifying a little bit as well, which is good. So to jump from your all day job, we’ll go through the middle phase quite briefly. Once you left there, you did, as you said, some TV work. You were editor at large for The Drum. Now, in my mind, it feels like you’ve just escaped from somewhere. What were you doing there, editor at large? Running around the country hoping they don’t catch you?

[00:28:09.780] – Dave B

I never understood what the title was or what the role involved. Seriously, the whole time I was there, I spent Gordon, the founder of the drum, the two of us were and are very good friends. We had enjoyed hanging out together. When the two of us got together, it was almost like the way it was in a really good creative team, that we just start battering ideas together and then something would happen. We’d come up with an idea, we just have to make that happen. And initially it was a bit of an honorary title. I’d be working two days a month. They’d pay me for two days a month. And a lot of what it was was I would be out there looking for good stories and occasionally writing stories myself. And then from that, I ended up starting the TV department in the drum. That’s when we did a TV series, was the first thing that we did there. And then Yeah, it was interesting, but Gordon and I would just keep coming up with these ideas, and we would just go ahead and do them. So we created something called Do It Today that ran for a few years, which was this.

[00:29:32.580] – Dave B

One day a year, we wanted all the marketing talent in the world to stop what they were doing and take their talents, their ability, their connexions, their knowledge, and apply it to making the world better. We would have these briefs that we would get from charities and from even governmental organisations. We worked with a UN, and we would get these briefs, and then we would get marketers around the world to work on them and to come up with ideas. Then a lot of these ideas happened. It was a fantastic thing. I wish we were still doing it. That was something that Gordon and I came up with. We were walking, we were in New York for an event, and I remember exactly where it was. We were walking down to just off Times Square, where the New York Times building is, which is where we were doing stuff. We were walking from Harlem, which is a big long walk, down towards Times Square. That’s where we came up with Do It Day, and then we ended up making that happen. It was great. We ended up getting Dame Tessa Jowell when she was alive. She was a big supporter of that.

[00:30:43.300] – Dave B

It was great. So a lot of that was just Gordon and I coming up with ideas and then having fun.

[00:30:50.650] – Andi J

We said about creativity, originality, and derivative work. You went to New York and you came up with the advertising industry’s version of Bob a Job Week is what you said. Yes.

[00:31:00.060] – Dave B

For the younger listeners, we have to explain what Bob a Job Week is.

[00:31:07.740] – Andi J

I am just old enough to remember Bob a Job Week. It was Cubs and Scouts, wasn’t it? Basically, back in the ’70s into maybe the mid ’80s. I remember doing it once, so maybe up until about ’87, ’88, something like that. In a way, that just couldn’t happen now. You just used to go around and knock on people’s doors and do jobs for them, like cut the grass or clean the car or whatever, and they’d give you a bob, which was what, 50 P? It was still called Bob a Job Week, even a decade after decimalization. And you get, was it 50 pence a time? And then it’d go to the scout. I don’t even really… I just have a very faint memory of it. But do you remember Bob a Job Week, David?

[00:31:50.850] – Dave B

I do. I was never a cub scout, but I do remember it.

[00:31:54.510] – Andi J

Wouldn’t have you?

[00:31:57.230] – Dave B

No, they wouldn’t. I was rejected It’s good from the Scouts.

[00:32:03.420] – Andi J

Always anti-establishment. So anyway, look, let’s move on from all things. And yes, no one else will remember Bob a Job week. Quick, move on, move forward into something much more modern. So where I thought we were going to start today is right at this intersection of the things you’ve talked about, creativity, learning, and new technology. It’s probably fair to say that you are one of the country’s foremost AI thinkers, practitioners, experts.

[00:32:30.260] – Dave B

Certainly, I’m the foremost thinker in this room right now.

[00:32:33.850] – Andi J

Excellent. I’m the second most foremost thinker on AI on this call. But you are trying to educate trying to inform, trying to demystify, which I think is really important with AI, how AI works, what it’s good at, what it can do, because I think certainly there’s a lot of people in the space who are quite happy to paint a very complicated a picture for you, so you have to pay for their services. And I think what I’ve seen, what you’re doing is trying to demystify it, at least, so that it becomes much more open and accessible. So what took you into AI initially? That might be quite an obvious thing for people, if you’ve listened to the whole interview so far. And what are you doing with it now?

[00:33:18.690] – Dave B

Well, what took me into it was, a lot of what I do is by accident, Andi. And just something happens, there’s an open door. I believe in luck, not as a fatalistic thing, but as an attitude. And what happened was when ChatGPT was launched in the end of November 2022, as a geek, I threw myself into it. I wanted to understand how it worked. I played a bit with ChatGPT before that, which was in something that was like a sandbox playground that was a really nerdy back-end thing, and there wasn’t much I What can you do with it. Then ChatGPT 3.5 was released to the public. So I started to look online to see, how do you use this in a good way? And I found that most of what was on there I would describe as BS. People were just talking nonsense. I didn’t agree with what they were saying. And so I thought, well, how do you actually speak to this AI in a proper way? The way I do things is I go away and I start researching, I start doing tests, I start coming up with my own theories, and I developed this framework for how to write good prompts, thinking that this framework will be superseded in the next couple of months.

[00:34:39.780] – Dave B

We’ll find a better way of doing things. And that framework is now still, it’s even more important now than it was back then. So I came up with this framework and I already had some courses on LinkedIn learning. So they were wanting some more courses for me. So I said, Look, I’m doing some stuff on AI. Do you want a course on how to write prompts? They were like, Yes, definitely. I did that and it ended up becoming one of the biggest AI courses on the platform last year. From that, they then wanted me to do more courses. I did another five AI courses for LinkedIn Learning last year. I’ve got some more in the works at the moment. I’ve got some more coming on my own website as well, on my own website. There we go. I just started creating that stuff. And because of that, companies started coming to me and saying, Look, could you help us? We don’t really know what to do with AI. I ended up working with companies like Fortune 500 companies. I spent probably about two months of last year in the US working with companies, teaching them, working with the boards, helping them come up with strategy.

[00:35:58.660] – Dave B

Then Because AI does need a strategy, and it needs to marry in with the company strategy and the marketing strategy, really. It all needs to work together and complement each other. I was all over the world speaking on AI, which is how we got to know each other last year. And then, it got a bit much for me at the end of last year. I did so much travelling. And the 12 weeks before Christmas, I was on the road 10 weeks. I was just like, Okay, 2024 can’t be like that.

[00:36:33.270] – Andi J

Everybody’s telling you, Oh, it sounds great. You’re in New York, you’re in Philadelphia, you’re doing this, you’re doing that. And it gets to a point, doesn’t it, though, where you just open your eyes and you go, Which hotel am I in?

[00:36:43.500] – Dave B

Yeah, I’m in that one. Yeah. What city am I in? I mean, everything, a lot of the time, all you are is you’re in a beige conference room. You could be in Slough for all you know. It’s just… So When you’re travelling, you’re not seeing anything. You’re not experiencing much. You’re just spending a lot of time in airport departure lounges. Yeah, I got a bit tired of it. This year, I’ve been mainly doing stuff that’s been virtual. It’s interesting to see what happens. That last year, when I was teaching people about generative AI and how to put it into their business, a lot of the people I was talking to were teams, further down the ladder. It’s just somebody who’s a department head is interested in this and we want to look at it. At the moment, it’s actually the C-suite is the people that I’m spending more time talking to. It’s interesting that it’s gone from AI being something that happens in pockets of the company to now we’re looking at the actual leadership of the company going, actually, how do we make the most of this? How do we put this in? But I was spotting that there were problems and that the way that a lot of organisations were going to implement AI or were talking about implementing AI would actually damage the company.

[00:38:12.130] – Dave B

It’s not because AI would damage the company. It’s the becomes the catalyst for bad management damaging the workforce. It becomes the catalyst for that. One of my favourite books is Drive by Dan Pink, Drive, the surprising truth of what motivates us. And he talks about three things that motivate people in the workplace. You’ve got autonomy, where you’re having some control over what you do. You’ve got mastery, which is feeling as if you’re getting better in some way and improving over time. And you’ve got purpose, which, of course, is that you’re doing something that actually means something to you. And AI, badly implemented within a team, will damage all three of those. When you damage the motivation in a company, you end up losing the most talented people first, and you end up making everyone else less productive because they’re less motivated. That is going to be a real problem for a lot of companies, because if they feel that they’re not being respected in the way that AI is actually being implemented, then the good people will go. I think there are some stats, a recent recently that I saw that are indicating that that’s starting to happen with some companies.

[00:39:33.740] – Andi J

So is that what was behind the creation of the Sensible AI Manifesto, which you are the author of?

[00:39:43.000] – Dave B

Oh, that’s my diary. That’s not what I meant to show you.

[00:39:45.100] – Andi J

That’s your diary? Yeah.

[00:39:47.200] – Dave B

There we go. So people can see that my diary is quite free this week. I freed up my diary. Yeah, the Sensible AI Manifesto. Yeah, so if you’re interested, sensibleaimanifesto. Com. Yeah, I’ve had over a thousand people supporting this now, and it’s got seven promises that I ask leadership in companies to make because these, I think, are really, really important. So the first of these, I I think actually is the most important. We promised to use AI to augment skills because a lot of people in leadership don’t seem to know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. This is just where I was going to take this conversation, Dave, because this is my big book, Bear With AI. So these organisations think that it’s all about using AI to become more efficient. It’s about, let’s get people to do things faster and cheaper. It’s about getting people… That whole thing of how can we use this to improve our performance this quarter or this year? Because, of course, the leadership in the company is very often motivated by the bonuses they’ll get and The only way to get a bonus is to reduce costs and increase profit.

[00:41:04.700] – Dave B

That’s what they’ve been looking at. A lot of the companies have been looking at how can we use AI to replace humans and to automate things. Now, one thing there is we need to separate automation from AI. Yes, these things will be coming together, but at the moment, they’re really not.

[00:41:24.260] – Andi J

They are separate. The number of times you see in print someone going, Oh, the AI solution, and you look at it and you No, it’s not even machine learning that you’re using. It’s not AI. So yeah, a lot of complication. Sorry.

[00:41:37.670] – Dave B

Yeah, so that’s a big problem. The way that I look at it is the best way to use AI tools is not to try and replace tasks, to outsource them to AI. Instead, it’s about looking at the skills that you inherently have within your workforce and how do you use AI to amplify those skills, to help people achieve more than they’ve ever achieved before, not do less. Because, of course, some of the promises we’ve seen with AI is actually quite, I’ll put that side again. It’s actually quite similar to some of the stuff that I saw in the early ’90s when I started in advertising, the Internet was starting to take off. And all the briefs seemed to have the same thing, which is, Hey, now you can do this in technology so you can spend more time in the golf course. And of course, that’s not what happened. Did anyone spend more time in the golf course because Microsoft Word? No. What happens is if you are more efficient, you are able to do work faster, the people above you go, great, here’s some more work. You’ve freed up some time. We’re paying you from nine to five.

[00:42:51.740] – Dave B

If you’re getting more stuff done. Brilliant. There’s some more stuff. And that approach is then what will happen with AI. And the thing we have to understand with generative AI is that it produces adequency. It does not produce excellence. In essence, it tends to produce adequency. And that is okay for some stuff. So maybe responding to some emails, yes, it produces adequency, and adequency might be all you need for that. But if you are really, particularly in marketing, wanting excellence to stand out, and I wish more marketers actually actually tried to stand out rather than fit in. That’s another bug bear in mind. But if you actually do want to stand out, then AI can help you do that if you use it as a collaborator to help you achieve more, for. But this outsourcing thing, it’s the poisonous thing that there’s those people who are always looking for hacks. I think that that’s poisonous. I think that there is something that’s really valuable in doing the work to good at something. I guess as somebody who’s a former musician, I know how dysfunctional a lot of musicians are that they will do this try, fail, try, fail, try, fail cycle to get really, really good at something.

[00:44:15.930] – Dave B

Now, if you are not going to do that try, fail cycle and you’re just going to outsource stuff to AI, you have not improved yourself in any way whatsoever. In fact, probably what it’s going to do is increase this idea that you’re an imposter. The imposter syndrome will increase because you’ll be producing stuff that you actually don’t really understand or don’t really know. And I think that’s a horrible place to be. But taking the stuff that you do know, getting good at something, then using AI to amplify that, I think really is where the real talent will be.

[00:44:52.040] – Andi J

I think certainly you’ve hit on a number of points there, things that I love. I was at an SEO conference the other week and listening to SEOs talk about doing keyword research. And I’m like, Have you spoken to any customers? No. Well, that takes time. But we can ask a computer to tell us what customers might be saying. And you’re like, Yeah, but why not just ask them? Because that’s an easier… It’s more effective, but it’s not more efficient, so it doesn’t get done. And this hacking your way to 20-minute abs or 20-minute… Do everything in the shortest possible space of time. As far as I know, the only way to get good at anything is to be bad at it first. And that’s the only way to get good at something is to be bad at it and go again and go again and go again and then be less bad and then be a bit better. And then you get to that excellence through trying and failing, like you said. I just think we seem to be building a society where the shortcut is the way, and it’s not, is it? It’s not the way at all.

[00:45:55.950] – Dave B

So I’ve got some theories round about this, and my The publisher has asked me to turn the sensible AI manifesto into a book, so I’m starting to think about that at the moment. One of my theories that I’m working on just now is that there is something amazing about AI, is that it can take people from zero ability to being adequate at pretty much everything. Now, that is quite incredible that it’s going to be able to do that. But the thing is that one of the many things that I’ve done is I was a poet at one point. I used to do poetry for the BBC, and I would do on Radio 4 and Radio 7, I would do poetry, and I would write poems live on air with kids. That was what I specialised in.

[00:46:45.450] – Andi J

That sounds terrifying.

[00:46:46.900] – Dave B

Absolutely terrifying. Basically, it’s improv in many ways. I would have three minutes to write a poem. One of the things that people very often do when they start playing AI tools is they go, Write me a poem about a sentient slipper. And yeah, they get that back. They get the poem back. And most people look at it and go, That is amazing. And they think it’s amazing because most people are shit at writing poetry. So if you think of it in terms of we’ve got on this axis here, you’ve got level of skill. So down the bottom, you’ve got zero skill, and up the top, you’ve got extreme skill. Now, is here. If your ability is down here at the zero skill level or the very low skill level, you’re looking up at adequency and going, That is incredible. But if you’ve got any decent level of ability, you’re looking down at that and going, That is crap. That’s what I was finding. I was looking at the poetry that was created by the AI, and it’s not good. But it’s why we need to look at it and not go, That is amazing. If we’ve got low level of ability.

[00:48:03.430] – Dave B

The problem is that if people are then going to use that, say they’ve got a low level ability in marketing strategy, and they start using it and they get something that’s adequate, if that adequency is actually being accepted and is okay for them, they will never go above this level, and they will never truly learn. And what that does is, in many ways, it becomes a ceiling for them in of their learning and their ability. And that, to me, becomes a difficult thing for me to consider for the damage that that will cause in the workplace when it comes to people’s skills and their abilities. If we allow adequency to be okay, then people are not going to improve above that. And in many ways, that will then bring the whole industry down. That concerns me across all industries.

[00:49:00.590] – Andi J

And you start to see it as well, don’t you? Copywriting is probably one of the industries that’s terrified of AI tools at the minute. More should be, but copywriting is probably feeling the first effects of its cold breeze, if you want to use that fairly over the top language. But that’s all been driven from the prompts, isn’t it? So if you go, we can write loads of copy really quickly. But if all you’re doing is letting an AI tool write it, your tone of voice is gone, which is probably the only place you can really truly stand out as a company, or most companies can, is how you communicate with your audience. And everybody’s writing variations of the same thing. And then they say they’re hitting adequency, which just feels like the very lowest level of acceptance anyone should take on anything. Never mind the thing that is going to communicate with your audience to make you money as a business.

[00:49:53.070] – Dave B

It’s also misunderstanding what makes great copy is that, yes, being able to with a flow is important, but what’s actually more important is being able to resonate with your audience and touch them in a way that makes them feel understood. And that is something that you can actually do with some pretty shitty written copy, you can still do something that will actually touch people, and that’s the more important thing. All the AI is doing is stringing words together in a way. If you use the default tone of voice that you get out of ChatGPT, it is horrible. As somebody who’s been head of copy in agencies, it is horrible. And it will very often, when you ask it to be creative, it’s got this thing it’ll very often put in. It’ll say, In the realm of motor cars… In the realm? What? Who uses that? In the great dance between this and this. What? Why? It will come up with these ridiculous flowery pieces of nonsense. What I do when I’m teaching is I say that I never, ever take the output from an AI and expect it’s ready to run. It is not. It is, at very best, a first draught.

[00:51:21.120] – Dave B

There’s three steps that I tell people. There’s the three Cs that tell people that they have to do when they’ve got the output. To take that output and you direct it through the human brain. That’s the most important thing. And the three Cs, the first one is confirm. So you’re going to confirm that it has actually done what you asked it to do. And Siri is trying to talk to me here. No, Siri. It’s okay. Thank you. So the first is confirm. Confirm that the AI has done what you asked it to do. That’s really, really important. The next is check. Check that what it said is real, true. Validate it. And one of the things that’s really disturbed me is when I’ve been saying to people, you need to validate the information. You need to check that it’s true. They say, How do we do that? Are you serious? You look for the bits that are the facts, and then you check that those facts are true. You go online to make sure that there’s quality places that confirm and corroborate that. You may even need to go to a library. You may even need to speak to a human.

[00:52:26.610] – Dave B

It’s quite simple. Then the third C is craft, and that’s making sure that you’re going to put it into a tone of voice that is appropriate, that is correct, that you’re after, but also that you’re going to craft it to make sure that it’s something that you would be proud passing off because it’s your arse on the line. And that, I think, is really important is to understand that you cannot ever use the excuse of going, It was the AI? Wasn’t me. It was the AI. Nobody’s going to forgive you for that.

[00:53:03.870] – Andi J

It’s you.

[00:53:05.030] – Dave B

It has to be something that you would be proud of to hand over. And you are not using the AI as that much of a shortcut. What you’re doing is you’re using it as a rung in the ladder to help you reach higher. That, I think, is really interesting.

[00:53:21.130] – Andi J

Sorry, Dave. Is that where you see the great opportunities then in terms of speeding things up? Let me Because we’re not talking about a fishing agency, but speeding up the initial steps of getting up that mountain. So instead of having to start at the bottom, you can start at base camp halfway up, which gets you to the top quicker. Don’t stop at base camp because that’s not where we want to be. We want to get to the top of Everest. So you can just get halfway up the hill and then go from there and be quicker at getting great things out of it. Is that the opportunity with AI?

[00:53:53.830] – Dave B

It can speed up one part of the process. But the truth is that to get A really good value out of an AI, a crappy prompt does not do that. A crappy prompt is one that you’ve not put much thought into yourself. You’ve not put enough information in there. You’ve not thought strategically enough. So There’s really limited thinking going into a prompt of saying, just write me a blog post about high heels. Yeah, it will, but that’s a crap prompt. You’ve not given it enough information. You’ve not told it who your audience are. You’ve not given it any of your strategy. You’ve not told it the points you want to make. You’ve done nothing there. And because of that, the little thinking that you’ve put in, it doesn’t activate the thinking of the AI. And it means that if you want something quality at the end, you’re going to have to put in a lot of work at the end. So what I recommend people do is they put loads of work in upfront, thinking about all that stuff. Who is the audience? What is it that other people are already doing out here? What’s the research I need to do?

[00:54:55.610] – Dave B

What’s something that’s going to be a position that’s going to give me a unique voice here? What are the points then that I want to make? What’s the call to action that I want? All of that stuff. You end up writing a prompt that is huge. All the thinking that you’ve put in at the beginning, that then will activate the The full power of the AI, which means there’s less work to do at the end. It’s not that the process is shorter, it’s that it’s just different. You’ve moved where the process is. I think that that’s where a lot of people get it wrong, is they think that they can put in something that doesn’t… Very little effort has gone in to their prompt, and they think that the magic will come from the AI, and it doesn’t. It’s not the way it works.

[00:55:39.590] – Andi J

It sounds like you’ve talked about briefing an agency there, almost, in terms of giving them all the factors and then just almost what you might call marketing basics. That’s still valid. That is exactly it. This is my hobby horse.

[00:55:55.760] – Dave B

Yeah. Well, you know how bad most briefs are. It’s exactly It’s the same with prompts, because prompts are briefs. You are briefing the AI on what you want. And the way to think about the AI is, it’s the world’s most intelligent intern. Okay, this intern has eaten a library, it’s swallowed the internet. You want this intern on your pub quiz team because they know everything. But what they don’t know is your expectations, the assumptions that you make, how your organisation works, the way you I want this information delivered, and all the information that it needs to work with to be able to deliver on this. When you’re briefing with a prompt, the AI, you need to be thinking, what is the information that a brand new intern would need to know to be able to do this job well? I need to write a written brief for this brand new intern. You have to work out what is the information they need to know to work with this and what is it that I want them to deliver How will they know that they’ve done something that is good, that will make me happy? All of that information needs to go into the prompt, which is why good prompts end up being really long, not just like two sentences.

[00:57:13.910] – Dave B

And what’s happened is a lot of people in the creative industries have been putting in shoddy prompts and then going, Yeah, but it’s rubbish. I tried an experiment just over six months ago where I took a brief that I’ve been using in my trainings for nearly 15 years. And this brief had to be very specific when I come up with this. So I was doing training for the IPA, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. So I used to run training workshops for them on how to come up with cross-media advertising ideas was something I specialised in back then. And this brief had to be something that people People couldn’t plagiarise something they’d seen previously. That was really important. But they had to understand the product without me having to give them information about it. That was a very difficult thing to do, but I came up with this brief, which is, Generate test drives for a self-driving car. There’s a lot of complexity and difficulty in there because you’re generating test drives for something you don’t drive. You’re having to understand what is it that people might be resistant to when they’re driving a car. There’s a lot to think about here.

[00:58:34.480] – Dave B

People understand the product, but they can’t go, Well, Mercedes did this, so I can copy that campaign. And that was a really important part of it. Now, I’ve used this in workshops. So I’ve probably had 2,000 or 3,000 responses to this brief over the years because I’ve run these workshops a lot. And I know what people tend to come up I created a really good brief. All the information that I would give a human to work on this, I put it into a prompt, and I asked the AI to come up with five ideas. Now, it came up with three ideas that I had seen quite regularly coming from humans. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s saying that it’s coming up with stuff that humans would tend to regularly come up with. That’s not bad. That’s putting it up there at the level of the average human. But it also came up with two ideas I had never seen before. And both of those ideas from a creative director’s experience, I looked at both of them and go, I could develop those into campaigns. I could definitely do something with those. It was showing to me that it was the quality of the brief is really what matters most.

[00:59:52.230] – Dave B

To be honest, it’s the stuff that if you’ve got a fantastic brief and you put it into a very average creative department, you will get better work than if you put a bad brief into a really good creative department. So the brief matters more than the talent of the people in the creative department. And it’s very much the same with the AI. It’s the brief that matters more. So that’s why I teach prompting.

[01:00:21.230] – Andi J

There’s a similar thing, I think, I’ve heard a couple of people talking as AI is developing, that it’ll be able to develop your marketing strategy. And friends said to me, are you worried about that? And I was like, I don’t know that I am. Because the couple of things that for me, I always try and fight against this idea that there is a perfect marketing strategy or even the best marketing strategy. I don’t necessarily think there is because there’s so many things that happen that are completely outside your control that it doesn’t matter what your marketing strategy is. It could matter how great it is. It could end up failing completely because Amazon have just moved into your sector. And it doesn’t matter how How wonderful your thing is, how much of a genius Andi Jarvis is. And he came up with this fantastic strategy. It’s going to fail because you’ve been outranked by a company with a lot more money than you or whatever. And this idea that there’s this perfect marketing strategy and it can synthesise 400,000 bits of information and come with the right thing for you to do. If you implement that badly, it’s not going to happen.

[01:01:20.740] – Andi J

It doesn’t matter how wonderful that document is. If it’s not put into practise, it isn’t going to happen. And I would rather have something that action happens with. You come up with a strategy, you create buy-in, and the movement happens because people believe in it. Even if you don’t think it’s the best solution, I would rather have that because the movement that occurs from getting, as you said, the organisations to move, which is difficult. I keep saying organisations are inert by default. And if you can create something that people believe in and will move forward with, that’s infinitely better than coming up with the perfect marketing strategy that people think is dog shit and they’re not going to do anything with. So I’m not concerned that a computer can throw out a better marketing strategy than me. Crack on, do it, because the companies who are probably going to do that in the next 10 years are going to be the ones who aren’t going to implement it properly anyway. So we’ll probably come back going, Can you bring your magic wand? No, I can’t. Sorry, I don’t have one. But I don’t think it’s the be all and end all, as you said.

[01:02:21.860] – Dave B

Yeah. I mean, that’s so true. I think the action is more important. I like to see brands actually doing stuff. There’s I created a briefing template because I got very frustrated by the traditional advertising creative brief. I felt that not enough creative briefs were actually focused on transforming a customer. And that’s And really what our job is in marketing, or particularly in advertising, is when they’re exposed to something that we have created, you want them to be in state A before that, and you want them to be in state B after that. You want to have transformed them in some way. If you haven’t, you have failed. I created a brief that is completely based on state A and state B. So state A is what the audience currently thinks, feels, or does. State B is what we want the audience to think, feel, or do after they’ve encountered our work. And then your transformational statement is the thing that is most likely to get people from state A to state B. And that is not necessarily words. That could be an action. And that, to me, I think, opens up the of marketing, and it takes it away from advertising clichés to start looking at actually what would be the best way of moving people from state A to state B.

[01:03:39.880] – Dave B

And at that point, we can start looking at Rory Sutherland’s ideas, and we look at behavioural economics when we look at actually how do we make people feel something so that it’s not necessarily even conscious. That’s a briefing format that I came up with, and there’s quite a few agencies that use that now. I see the effect of it. I use it a lot myself.

[01:04:05.520] – Andi J

Excellent. Look, I think it’s often missed out, isn’t it? We have an assumption sometimes in marketing that people just want to buy the thing we’re selling because we love it and don’t realise that most of our customers just don’t care. They will love your product when it does the thing they need it to do and they will not give a shit about it the moment it’s finished doing its thing. And they often say, oh, well, Apple gets this. It’s like your product is not an iPhone. It really is not. So I think that moving people from states is a wonderful thing. And with a really uncomfortable segue, when we’re talking about moving states, because I’m aware of the time, and I don’t want to keep you back all day, but I want to talk about a time when you moved state and came to Northern Ireland, where I am now. And I just thought it might be a really nice way to finish because it’s not about AI. It’s a very different story. But you’ve You’ve been to Belfast, have you? Once or twice?

[01:05:02.750] – Dave B

Yes, many, many times. When I was a musician, I used to play in a band in Belfast. I would come over, play for the bigger gigs the band did and do studio stuff. I spent a lot of time and it was while the troubles, the tail end of the troubles were happening. I remember there’s one time I was over playing at a festival in Irma, and on the way back to Belfast, they came and said, Look, we’re going to have to get you back sooner. We’re going to have to leave two hours earlier to get you back to the airport. I said, Well, why? I mean, it’s only an hour back to the airport. They said, Yeah, there was a riot last night and most of the streets are blocked with burning cars. That was quite something. Driving through and you’re looking down the street and you’re just seeing this pile of cars burning as you’re on your way to the airport. It It was interesting times at the late ’80s, early ’90s when I was doing that.

[01:06:05.870] – Andi J

What I find about Belfast, particularly, is how the music scene united people, but also thrived in what couldn’t have been worse conditions for a music scene to thrive. People didn’t go out after dark. They didn’t go into the city centre. They didn’t do lots of things because the fear of terrorism was ever present. And there are people now, my daughter now, she’s coming up to 15, and you talk to her about the Troubles, and I didn’t live here during the Troubles, but you’d see it on the telly every night in the news. And she looks at you like you’ve got three heads, and she’s like, In Belfast? But I got a school in Belfast, and I get the train there every day. And I was like, 30 years ago, you wouldn’t have been getting the train to Belfast every day, kid. I just wouldn’t have let you do it 40, 50 years ago. It’s just amazing how the place has changed, but the music scene still thrives and still goes strong. So it must have been a great place other than the additional nonsense that went on, but it must have been a great place to come and tour and play.

[01:07:07.600] – Dave B

Yeah, I only caught the tail end of the troubles, but there still was a fair amount of nonsense happening. I still looked down the barrel of a gun a couple of times, which the story that I’ve told you, the first time I was on tour with the record label I was working with. We were all in tour bus on the way driving from Belfast down to Dublin.

[01:07:33.660] – Andi J

I do love that. Sorry, there’s a first time someone pulled a gun on your head. It’s not just a one-off. There’s the first time somebody pulled a gun on your head. That’s going in the clips to promote the show. Sorry, go on. The first time someone pulled a gun on you, you’re on your way to Dublin.

[01:07:50.320] – Dave B

Yeah. There was an army person stopped us as we were going there and looked to the side and there was all these army guys dressed up in ferns. You looked down and you’re looking right down the barrel of a rifle. You realise that you are the target. Somebody is actually pointing a gun at you with intent. That’s something that’s quite surprising.

[01:08:20.320] – Andi J

It makes you twitch, doesn’t it? It makes a certain part of your anatomy twitch very, very good. It never happened to me, but it does make you very awkward.

[01:08:27.120] – Dave B

I hope it never, ever happens to you.

[01:08:29.880] – Andi J

So my first visit to Belfast was a couple of years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed, so 2000, maybe 2001. And I landed at Belfast City Airport and the military was still patrolling then. And the British military doesn’t walk around the streets of Great Britain. The only place in the United Kingdom they walk around or walked around at the time carrying guns was Northern Ireland. So you come out, flew from Leeds, Bradford, landed in Belfast. You walk off the plane, you come down and you are greeted by soldiers in hard hats, flat jackets, carrying the guns that you only see on Vietnam War films when you’re a kid growing up. And you know what’s going on because you’ve seen it on the news. But it’s terrifying. You’re like, these guys are carrying live ammunition. And while I sat around casually looking, there’s one of them sat behind them with the gun up, just in case anybody starts to carry on. And you think, yeah, where have I come? And then you go into Belfast, then there were still checkpoints then. And I was like, right. Now, the second time I went, the soldiers were in the distance wearing berets and side arms.

[01:09:33.420] – Andi J

And then the third time, I’ve not seen a soldier since on the streets. But I still remember the feeling of seeing someone with a very big gun and thinking, Shit. And he wasn’t even pointed at me. So it must have been terrifying to see it pointing at you.

[01:09:48.680] – Dave B

Yeah, but the second time.

[01:09:53.000] – Andi J

Is this the final time? I’m still alive.

[01:09:58.110] – Dave B

There might be another time. I was coming out of a recording studio and I didn’t actually know what part of Belfast I was in. I didn’t know whether this was a Protestant area or a Catholic area. I came out of the studio and I was just coming out for a cigarette. These two guys grabbed me, came out of the darkness, grabbed me and shoved me up against a wall. One of them, the thing that the gangsters would do with this gun down the backs of the trousers. He pulled I pulled out this handgun and stuck it to my temple. It was, Are you a proddy or a finian? I was like, I’ve got no idea what area I’m in. I don’t know what. I said, Well, I’m mainly agnostic with Buddhist leanings. They had no idea what I was talking about. They started to get quite irate. Are you a proddi or a finian? Because see right up there in that tower, there’s a sniper, and he’s got his sights on you right now. All we have to do is give him the sign in your dead. I was like, Yeah, he’s a long way away.

[01:11:03.650] – Dave B

You’ve actually got a gun to my temple. I’m slightly more worried about you. I’m not worrying about him right now. I’m trying to placate these guys. I’m trying to use humour to disarm the situation, and it’s not really working. I’m not connecting in any comedy level with these angry terrorists. Unfortunately, at that point, the band came out of the recording studio and What’s happening? Is he a proddy, Ruffinian? He’s a proddy, he’s a proddy. He said, Yeah, I’m a proddy agnostic of Buddhist leanings. They were like, What are you guys doing? Are we recording an album in here? What band are you in? He told the name of the band. They had seen us at a concert a few weeks before. They were like, No way. They lovingly, at that point, helped us with the gear back into the van. As we were driving away, they’re waving, going, Great to see you guys. Lovely to meet you. It was about 10 minutes later that the adrenaline kicked in and I just started shaking uncontrollably. But up until that point, I’d been going with laughing the whole thing off. But yeah, then realising how close I was, the adrenaline kicked in.

[01:12:20.890] – Dave B

But it’s a bizarre experience, but one, I’m glad to say that it ended happily.

[01:12:28.840] – Andi J

Ended happily. And just so all my work that I do with visit Belfast doesn’t disappear immediately after this podcast episode release. I would like to add a public service announcement that Belfast is not like that anymore. But no, look, it- That was 30 years ago. It has a history of Belfast, which is what I think one of the reasons people come. The taxi tours of East and West Belfast and the bus tours go around there and explain it all in a really accessible way and show what happened, the senselessness of much of it. I know for some people it hasn’t moved on. In some communities and for some people, they feel let down by peace and the peace dividend hasn’t come to them. But on the whole, I think Northern Ireland has moved so far forward. Sometimes when you hear people don’t quite realise how far it’s come, but it’s only when you talk to the tourists and when you go back, I go back to England all the time, and people are like, I’m going to come to Belfast. Nobody said that to me 15 years ago. I moved 13 years ago. People were like, Why Why are you moving to Belfast?

[01:13:31.830] – Andi J

Now people are like, I’m going to come. Where should I stay? I hear the food scene’s brilliant. Where do I go for music? I hear there’s comedy. And just the same questions they would say if they’re like, Dave, I’m coming to London. What do you recommend? Nobody says, Is it safe anymore? They just know it is. So that journey that Belfast and all of Northern Ireland has been on, yes, we still have problems, but everywhere has got problems. And I’m just really pleased that it’s moved on and developed the way it has done. All I must taste into it since I moved here. So if you know, say two or three years after the Good Friday Agreement was my first visit, look at the trajectory. Correlation causation, you can draw your own…

[01:14:09.820] – Dave B

So what I’m trying to say is, Andi, is that because I used to come over when the troubles were happening, you’re putting the blame on me. Is that what this is coming to?

[01:14:17.700] – Andi J

It was entirely your fault, Dave. The agnostics with Buddhist leanings were the ones who started all the bother, and they were the ones responsible for most of the trouble. I moved over here, stopped all that nonsense. Yeah, there we go. I’m just saying. That’s all I’m saying.

[01:14:32.500] – Dave B

Just saying.

[01:14:35.110] – Andi J

Listen, Dave, this is the last episode of Season 4 of the Strategy Session. So thank you very much for wrapping it up in a tremendous way. If anyone wants to get in touch with you, I mean, we can see how they get in touch with you on the screen, but if anybody wants to get in touch with you, what is the best way to do that?

[01:14:52.550] – Dave B

Well, I’m LinkedIn is a really good way to get in touch with me. I do quite a lot of stuff on LinkedIn. I’m very easy to find. If you spell my name correctly, I’m very easy to find. But the problem is it’s very easy to misspell my name. So you just B-I-R-S-S, Bravo India Romeo Sierra Sierra, as the police would say.

[01:15:15.360] – Andi J

You’ve done that over the phone a few times, haven’t you? Yes, exactly. No, no, no, no, no, Bravo?

[01:15:31.180] – Dave B

Yeah. So if you spell my name correctly, you’ll find me. I’m all over the Internet. And yeah, LinkedIn learning. I’ve got some courses up there, but LinkedIn is probably the best place, and my website, davebirss.com.

[01:15:44.310] – Andi J

Dave, thank you very much for your time. And thank you to everyone for listening. Please come back in September when the new series starts, and have a wonderful summer. Thank you.

[01:15:53.080] – Dave B

And you, Andi, enjoy your time off from the podcast.

[01:15:56.310] – Andi J

I can’t wait, honestly. I love podcasting, but I can’t wait. All right, cheers. See you later. Bye