The Thin White Duke

September 7, 2010

I’ve never really got David Bowie. I know that to many that’s a sacrilegious thing to say but it’s true. I think he kind of freaked me out when I was younger and I’ve struggled to forgive him for that, never warming to him since. I’ve been threatening to open my mind to him (well at least listen to a bit of his music) for a few years now. I sat beside Tom Dunne, ( now Newstalk host, then Today FM DJ, ex Something Happens front man, general music aficionado, and possibly David Bowie’s number one Irish fan), on a flight once. He basically advised me of the error of my ways. And ever since Bowie has been on my cultural to do list, low enough not to actually inspire any action, high enough to remain on the list and to line up beside others such as twice yearly visits to the Gate (partial success), read Ulysses (less successful), frequent the Fringe Festival (partial success) and discover wine and practise new found skills (phenomenal success, but still room for improvement).

With Bowie residing in the back of my sub conscious, I read Paul Morley’s article on him at the weekend. Beyond helping me shortlist the Bowie albums I need to download to broaden my knowledge, I was fascinated by learning a bit more about Bowie’s chameleon like passage through his art over his career. He went through different personas like most us go through hot dinners. And in a funny way it was as fundamentally important to Bowie as hot diners are to the rest of us. Survival at the top of his art was what was at stake. Bono once described it that U2 (another band that has reinvented themselves more than once) were re-applying for the job as the best band in the world. Springsteen does something similar. His trips to Dublin over the last decade have ranged from solo acoustic sets to the full on E Steet Band Experience with The Seeger sessions in between. Each concert was completely different, all stunningly brilliant, and most importantly all fresh, ensuring that old fans remain loyal while picking up new fans on the way.  Staying at the top of the music business for a sustained period of time demands it.

In the advertising world, we come across this challenge all the time. Tempting as it may be to rest on our laurels of past glories, be it new business wins or a successful campaign, you’ll soon find yourself more of a Zager and Evans than a Ziggy Stardust and Spiders from Mars if you know what I mean. It annoys me when a sales rep rings us up and asks us where the ad that we booked last year is. The world continues to change, consumers evolve, brands evolve, and new younger fresher botox free iPad wielding folks are knocking on our door every day. Sometimes last year’s plan is the right solution but more often than not it’s not. The Thin White Duke would certainly agree.



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