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Regulars / Bookshelf

Advertising guru Dave Trott and his inspirational Bookshelf

Dave Trott began his advertising career in 1971 as a trainee copywriter at Boase Massimi Pollitt (BMP), now known as DDB London. After BMP, Dave went on to found numerous agencies including Gold Greenless Trott, Bainsfair Sharkey Trott and Chick Smith Trott (CST). As a creative director and expert in his field, Dave has also written three books on his experiences in ad land, Creative Mischief in 2010, which detailed the things he had learned in his 40-year career, Predatory Thinking in 2013 and 1+1=3 (A Masterclass in Creative Thinking) in 2015.

To top it off in 2004 he was give the D&AD President’s Award for a lifetime achievement in advertising. It comes as no surprise then that the books Dave has selected are accompanied by knowledge and sound advice on how they should be used. Extracting the best ideas, Dave’s Bookshelf reads almost like a glorious manifesto that doesn’t just cover advertising but any kind of creative work. So whether you’re after some inspiration, would like to understand the human mind or just want to break the rules, read on.

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George Lois: The Art of Advertising

George Lois: The Art of Advertising

Half of George Lois’s advertising is crap and half is genius, and he doesn’t know the difference. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s all about energy and the half that’s brilliant is still ten times as much as most people’s lifetime output. You don’t read this book for the ads, you read it for the stories about the ads – how to out-think the competition, how to makes ads happen with no money, how to sell ads to clients. A young creative once complained to me that the suits refused to even approach a famous actor he wanted as a VO for a commercial so I gave him this book to read overnight. The next day he phoned up the famous VO himself and talked him into doing the ad for nothing. That ad won him a Silver at D&AD and a Gold at Cannes. It’s that kind of book.

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Al Ries and Jack Trout: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind

Al Ries and Jack Trout: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind

Most advertising books are dry and dull, pretending to be text books on university courses. The thinking seems to be: the more boring it is, the more intelligent it must be. This book isn’t like that. It’s simple and powerful, just the way an ad should be, because it has a simple powerful thought: it’s death to be the same as everyone else, so stop doing that. Find out where you are different, then create that as a category that you own. Put simply: everyone remembers number one. No one remembers the rest, they’re just a jumble. So don’t hide your point of difference, use it to dictate the game.

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Walter Isaacson: Steve Jobs

Walter Isaacson: Steve Jobs

I know very little about technology and I care even less. But this book isn’t about technology, it’s about a brilliantly creative marketing mind. There must be at least a dozen stunning ideas in here that turn conventional marketing on its head. Steve Jobs didn’t just break the rules, he ignored them. Consequently he revolutionised and ruled a world of people who were frightened to try anything new. As he said himself: “Life gets much broader once you discover one simple fact: everything around you that you call life was made up by people no smarter than you. And you can change it.” So don’t just answer the question. Always question the question.

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Dale Carnegie: How to Win Friends and Influence People

Dale Carnegie: How to Win Friends and Influence People

From the title, this sounds like a book about manipulation, it’s actually the opposite. It was written over 70 years ago and it’s a manual of explanations and tips about how the human mind works. But it isn’t a dry-as-dust textbook, it’s written for ordinary people. It tells you not to nag or bully people into doing what you want and instead to always ask yourself the simple question, what’s in it for them? Usually the answer isn’t what you think it is and usually it isn’t money. If you’re in the communication business, the human mind is your media. It would be nuts to work in that media without understanding it.

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Bertrand Russell: History of Western Philosophy

Bertrand Russell: History of Western Philosophy

Given the human mind is our media, shouldn’t we know how it works? Not just the latest two-minute-wonder theory, but the software: the programming, the basics. The mind creates everything in the world, so how does the mind work? This book is the sum total of all knowledge on the subject, but I could never read a dull textbook. This book is easy, conversational, and uses everyday language for punters plus it’s dip-in dip-out. You only need to read the bits that interest you. You follow a thought like a piece of string. You jump around and virtually create your own much smaller book every time you open it, it’s the very best kind of writing. You don’t have to concentrate, the words jump off the page. It’s effortless, you’re not even aware of reading it, but you feel much cleverer each time you do.