Rory Sutherland – Mad Men

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Without thinking you can hum the McDonald’s jingle. Instantly you recognise the Apple logo. I say Starbucks, you see that little New York mermaid. I say London Real and you say, “it’s about the journey” right? Branding is everywhere. It’s identity, it’s product and it’s experience. For perfectly crafted, think of last Christmas and the Sainsbury’s World War advert – human experience, emotion and connection. The fact that it went viral is proof that it hit bullseye. You’ll not be surprised when I tell you that it’s not accidental…

Filled with the sharpest minds and creatives, agencies devise the writing, images and video that drive the consumer machine forward. They tap into our psychology and passion, raise our adrenaline, navigate what makes us human and sell us the product.

Our guest this week, Rory Sutherland, is one of the minds behind the work. With a career spanning almost almost 30 years at one the world’s most respected and innovative agencies, Rory has watched advertising evolve from print to online. In fact, he was one of the first in the industry to endorse the internet and all it’s possibility and promise. Understanding the internet didn’t just change his career but the entire way we experience it today.

Rory is a TED fellow, an author, writes a column for The Spectator and brings his vision, wisdom and charisma to the London Real hot seat. You’ll never look at an advert the same way again!

[0:06:40] Introduction.

[0:07:20] Life lessons as an ad man.

[0:09:40] Frame of mind.

[0:10:10] Where value is created.

[0:10:50] Value depends on the context.

[0:11:50] Great business that fail because of the way they are advertised.

[0:12:14] Royal Mail.

[0:13:10] The value of a First Class Mail depends on the belief that the mail will arrive the next day.

[0:14:10] If perception is much worse than reality, what the hell are you doing trying to improve reality.

[0:15:20] Digital revolution is psychological not technological.

[0:18:15] System 1 brain is more telling online. The Philips Air Fryer.

[0:20:30] System 2 is post rationalising. The Rightous Mind.

[0:20:50] The conscious part of the brain think its the Oval Office when in reality its the Press Office.

[0:22:00] Why we avoid poo, when we didn’t know about germs.

[0:23:20] Things that people hat but didn’t know why. Explaining why people don’t like poo.

[0:25:10] Designing pydhical objects, experience for what Richard Thaler calls Econs.

[0:26:55] Selling to the frontal lobe. The amygdala keeps us alive.

[0:27:15] The imaginary species that makes economic decisions.

[0:28:00] Business decisions taken by finance people who believe that neo-classical economic theory is a guide to likely human behaviour.

[0:28:00] Economic world only prices efficiency.

[0:29:10] We disproportionately appreciate the things that a business gives us, which we don’t have to.

[0:31:11] We judge people by how much we are prepared to give them a little extra.

[0:32:00] Designing trains.

[0:35:00] Savings is just consumerism postponed.

[0:38:35] Akio Morita of Sony on getting rid of the REC button on the Walkman.

[0:40:00] Deleting features.

[0:43:00] Ubse removes the System 1 uncertainty. Where is my cab?

[0:46:00] Overpaying the call centre employees.

[0:47:30] Ogilvy. What drew you to be an ad man.

[0:48:44] Corporate environment where you can make stupid suggestions and still get promoted.

[0:49:28] Value of stupidity in business. Nase Taleb said that the brilliant thing about capitalism is that it doesn’t just reward hard work, it rewards luck and opportunity stupidity.

[0:50:40] Can you design tax in a way that people want to pay it.

[0:51:19] Tiny recognition for being rich enough to pay the super tax.

[0:53:32] Having a space where you can go silly without being ridiculed.

[0:54:00] Mad Man

[0:56:00] A very successful ad agency is a very strange mix of people.

[0:57:00] Having diversity is an advantage.

[0:59:30] What is most commonly missed piece in the digital startup world.

[1:00:00] Big Blues The Unmaking of IBM

[1:02:00] Is too much focused in the area of media consumption.

[1:04:30] Chrome cast. Watching Russian Dash Cam.

[1:07:45] Success secret.

[1:08:20] Value is subjective.

[1:09:30] Peter Thiel. Mimetic desire – wanting things simply because people want them.

[1:10:15] The nice thing about working in advertising vs banking.

[1:11:15] Location, location, location to architecture, architecture, architecture.

[1:13:40] Who comes to mind when you think of the word successful?

[1:14:00] Over optimising in one field vs discovering the overlap between two.

[1:17:10] Maximising wanker. Satisficers vs Maximisers. Learning to reframe.

[1:18:30] Seneca, richest man in Rome travelling with couple of possessions every year for 2 weeks.

[1:20:00] American’s are missing the monarchy. Moving from epicureanism to stoicism.

[1:21:30] Phone call to the 20 year old Rory Sutherland.

[1:24:00] Best advice ever received.

[1:29:40] Collect mental maps.

Rory Sutherland on Wikipedia

Rory Sutherland on Twitter @RorySutherland

Rory Sutherland on Twitter @OgilvyChange

Rory Sutherland’s TEDTalk:

Life Lessons From An Ad Man

Perspective Is Everything

Sweat The Small Stuff


43 Comments on "Rory Sutherland – Mad Men"

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1 month 2 days ago


1 month 18 days ago

So strange, Rory said Amazon don’t change their website because we are creature of habit… and Amazon just changed the website as I buy a book he recommend 🙂

Love Rocket
Love Rocket
1 month 29 days ago

I love London real, real people not those plastic ones on TV talking shit and selling more shit

6 months 2 days ago

Fascinating interview

9 months 18 days ago

Excellent content
Extremely useful

11 months 19 days ago

Brian managed to ask some questions that very few people manage to ask Rory (at least the interviews which are accessible). There is an underrated book and documentary people on this thread might enjoy as well called, “How Art Made The World” (Dr. Nigel Spivey). Thanks for this interview Brian.

1 year 2 months ago

Anyone take note of the books he mentions?

1 year 17 days ago

Thinking Fast and Slow (system 1 and 2), The Righteous Mind and Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. I think there was also one more later on.

1 year 2 months ago

thanks for sharing this

1 year 3 months ago
Took some ideas down during my morning thinking time… I thought I would share: may have some utility to others. Concept is: How are we happy (or not) with our endeavors in life. We each assign value, whether or not it is conscious/proactive or reactive to our environments. Rory points out that when individuals “assign value”, they increase their happiness. In essence, we can (if we are aware) establish the criteria upon which we will determine that we are successful. What if we do not consciously decide/assign value? The alternative to assigning value might be to create a floating mental… Read more »
Jacob Smith
1 year 3 months ago

This one is one of my favs

1 year 3 months ago

Thank you Brian for yet another great interview. Rory’s comment about how progress is not coming from specialization but from discovering the overlap between disciplines, was particularly appreciated 🙂

1 year 3 months ago

Really interesting interview. A lot of overlapping with Tai Lopez’ words on how humans behave (referring to Jonathan Haidt and “150 people tribe”) and to Oren Klaff (Oren calls it “The crocodile brain” and Rory calls it “System 1”). Practical tips on value perception, overpaying your staff and choosing real estate – I will implement them.

1 year 3 months ago

Very interesting. I never really thought about this ad stuff, before. I like the British quality metric at 14:23..14:35 😉

1 year 3 months ago

I actually really enjoyed this one. When I hear “London Real” I think… “From Ayahuasca to Dan Pena; the Journey will surprise you.”

1 year 3 months ago

So many pearls of wisdom! My notebook is littered with them: “The brain is not the Oval Office, it is the press office.” Bingo.
“Savings is just consumerism postponed…” Huh..! Another fantastic interview, thank you, Brian.;-)

Chuck Parker
1 year 3 months ago

Another interesting association with this excellent conversation – handled well by Brian, as a facilitator – is the importance of identifying and avoiding reductionistic thinking. The commonplace, mundane world is filled with a disregard for complexity, and for dynamic/change thinking. Preparation for change, awareness of the change process, and responsibility for moving change forward synchronizes anyone with the Natural order of the Real world. Real… get it?

1 year 4 months ago

Man was dropping knowledge bombs all over the place! Very fascinating interview, could be longer as guy has more to say haha

Taimoor Chatha
1 year 4 months ago

Can you switch to youtube? Vimeo won’t let you speed up 1.5x faster.

Jeff Briggs
1 year 3 months ago

That sounds like a good lesson in patience for you. There is a lot to be learned in the inflection of a sentence, the body language of the speaker or a thoughtful pause before a response but much of that is lost by increasing the speed of the video. You may get the vocalized information at an increased speed but that comes at the cost of many nuances that give you the true, deeper experience.

1 year 4 months ago

Why does he not let Brian talk and keeps talking over him? Found that a tad annoying.

1 year 4 months ago

Great episode. Top 5 contender for sure


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