Rory Sutherland – Mad Men

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

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ramlansally967Jody KirwanPatryk WawerLove RocketPoselski Brothers Recent comment authors
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Jody Kirwan


Patryk Wawer

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

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

Poselski Brothers

Fascinating interview


Excellent content
Extremely useful

Michael Ash

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.


Anyone take note of the books he mentions?

Dragan Stjepanovic

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.


The other book is Antifragile

SoRoosh Eg

thanks for sharing this

Jamie Wright

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

This one is one of my favs

Dominic Jones

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 🙂

Max Hug

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.


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


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

Elias Andrinopoulos

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

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?


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

Taimoor Chatha

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

Jeff Briggs

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.

Baron Bennett

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

Aaron Campbell

Great episode. Top 5 contender for sure

Russ Patchitt

I loved this podcast. I guess his thoughts on most of life would be valuable. @brianbrose questions really made him think hard…☆


Why the bloody hell wasn’t this man my Semiotics lecturer at college!

Aman K
Aman K

Rory didn’t mention a specific book by Dawkins. Can someone recommend one?

Russ Patchitt

Amon. Tai lopez says THE SELFISH GENE is his Top 3rd book. I guess thats the book Rory was referring too..

Joe Turner
Joe Turner

Great interview. The advertising world is like no other industry. The range of skills and personalities required to be successful is vast. When it works, the atmosphere in a creative studio is a wonderful place to be.

Leland Wolfson

Seemed a bit tired on this one Brian. Take care of yourself. 🙂

Owen Bain

Great podcast. I’ve been reading alot of psychology books recently, including Richard Thaler’s that he mentions, so was right up my street. Of course being in advertising he has such a good way of story telling, something I’m trying to improve on. Facts & science are great but there is nothing like wrapping that up in a story to persuade.

If you enjoyed this I highly recommend reading:
Nudge – Thaler & Sunstein
Misbehaving – Thaler
Thinking fast & slow – Kahnemann
Switch – Heath
and of course Ogilvy on advertising (particularly chapter 2)

Think I might listen to this again

Swithun Gibbs-kennet

Finally audio download thank you !!!!!

Russ Patchitt

Iam only 50 mins in & love it.. he telling me that” iam looking through the wrong end”.


I haven’t watch London Real in awhile… this video got me back. Great interview.


The full episode isn’t chromecastable as it is in vimeo 🙂

Arwa Stone
Arwa Stone

Amazing guy! Love him!
The part where he said that he’s in awe of people doing two things, totally agree.

Matthew Milligan

The comment about reading for pleasure vs work really resonated with me


What a fella, I’m cracking up all the way through. I hope the non uk members appreciate how English’ly funny Rory is 🙂


I went into this one on the fence. It turned out great. I really like unconventional thinkers. What a fascinating guy.

Swithun Gibbs-kennet

No audio download again !?



Anita Z.
Anita Z.

The quote about Seneca was great… Thanks Brian for another great episode.

Luis Solarat

A comic by bansky calling to arms against advertising 🙂

reminds me to No Logo by Naomi Klein! (There is a chapter based on Adbusters, a terrorist group against billboards 🙂

Fighting the enemy with their own weapons!

What you think about this?

Rick Jesse

Sounds good always loved the big Ad companies from a creative point of view. And in answer to his last question the government are using “Nudge” to make it “Bad” for rich people to avoid paying tax, which filters through the media to the average man on the street, who at a subconscious level then think’s it’s their civic duty to also pay more tax… tricksy they is!