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Lecture Series – Advertising by Polly Dedman @Mr.President_sir – Ballard School

January 19, 2016

Creative Advertising by Polly Dedman

2016.1.14 Lecture 1 photos (1)

Question bravely. Answer boldly

Our first lecture of 2016 saw a large audience of well over 100 adults and young people from across four schools – Arnewood , Ballard, Highcliffe and Priestlands. Polly Dedman, managing director of an advertising agency called ‘Mr President’ (and shortly to be MD of ‘Atomic’) gave a very polished multi-media presentation laced with anecdotes, advice, great humour and challenging questions.

Barcardi anyone? Or is it ‘The Snowman’

Polly told us of her time working on adverts for Bacardi (rescuing a fading brand) and John Lewis (desperate to reclaim a market which was leeching away to online purchases). She helped with the £1 million 2013 ‘John Lewis’ advert (‘The Snowman’) and described how this short film was a year in the planning and making, even going to New Zealand for filming to find somewhat elusive snow. Some £8 million was then involved in launching and promoting the advert worldwide! She explained that the ‘creative industries’ in the UK produced £71.4 billion of wealth annually, of which advertising amounted to £10.2 billion and employed over 500,000 people. She highly recommended a career in this industry which she joined after university at Oxford somewhat despairing of the ‘regular’ professions many of her contemporaries were joining. (Her husband is a financier and so one member of the family was ‘normal’ she explained!)

Key skills recognized

It was clear from Polly’s presentation that there were certain key qualities being looked for in those considering joining a branch of the advertising industry be it the media, digital, PR, experiential or branding agencies. Whilst a degree and further exams were not essential, a candidate must have a ‘can do’ attitude, to be prepared to work hard and put in long hours, to be organised, to be interested in brands, to have an opinion to share (it’s a meritocracy she explained) and, above all, to be personable. Within an advertising agency such as ‘Mr. President’, ‘Ogilvy’ or ‘Atomic’, there were ‘creatives’ (developing ideas often with very fussy and awkward clients), ‘strategists’ (who get a feel for a brand such as ‘John Lewis’ concept of the ‘thoughtful giver’) and ‘producers’, the ‘suits’ of ‘Mad Men’ fame who, she explained, were always busy, always thinking and often socialising (those less so than in the 1950s!).

2016.1.14 Lecture 1 photos (2)

It’s all about the animal

For those of us who like animals, it was evident that businesses seeking to promote themselves should consider a ‘catlebrity’ such as the O2 ‘more dog’ cat, the ‘Go Compare’ meerkats or the birds of ‘Grey Goose’. Polly used several animal movie clips to illustrate the way the ‘cry and buy’ philosophy tugged at our heart strings and ensured we contributed to the mega-millions of the big brands.

Most impressively, at the end of the presentation we had some of the best questions from young people we have ever had over the several years of the lecture series and these aptly illustrated Polly Dedman’s mantra, ‘Question bravely. Answer boldly’.

Alastair Reid (Headmaster – now reconsidering his career!)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Andrew Donaldson permalink
    January 21, 2016 11:52 am

    Sounds great, sorry I missed it.


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