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Media Bounty Book Monthly: Brief Lessons in Rule Breaking by Frances Ambler

Richard and Judy, jog on. There’s a new book club in town. Welcome to the first Media Bounty Book Monthly – or MBBM, if you will.

Each month we’ll digest a book from the world of advertising, creativity or the environment, and distil it to bite-sized lessons for 9-to-5 life.

First up – Brief Lessons in Rule Breaking by Frances Ambler. A short romp through the process of thinking differently – perfect for copywriters, art directors, designers… anyone baffled by the bullshi*t in many of the other creativity manuals out there.



I dare you to find me a book about creativity that doesn’t tell you to steal things. But anyone who’s had to upload a uni essay to Turnitin will know this can have serious(ish) consequences.

The way to do it without getting a knock on your inbox from someone’s legal team is to study what you admire. Then reproduce it from memory as much as you can in 10 (or 20) seconds.

Naturally, the time constraint will mean you focus on the bits you think are most important. That’s what you should be putting in your back pocket to incorporate into your own work.

Admittedly this doesn’t work if you’re just writing out a tagline. And if you can recreate the whole thing in that time, well then you’re stuck.



If you’re struggling to think differently, write down everything you know to be true about the problem you’re facing.

Interrogate each one. Some will still be true. But you could be able to flip some of them on their heads – and you might just reframe your problem. Or realise that it isn’t a problem at all.

For example, we all know Red Bull tastes weird. It tested the worst for taste of any drink ever. The assumption is that people aren’t going to buy a drink they don’t like the taste of.

But people also think that medicines and health supplements are more effective if they taste a bit rank. So, with the right marketing, that horrible taste is an indicator of potent medicinal qualities. That’s what give you your wings.



We all know you’re not one.

Greatness isn’t inherited, it’s cultivated. The comfort that comes with being ‘great’ at anything is the first step to stagnation. Seeing yourself as a permanent work in progress is more likely to get you places.

That means you shouldn’t buy the creative genius myth. Don’t suffer for your art. Don’t lock yourself away. Contrary to common beliefs, most artists aren’t solitary misery guts. Warhol collaborated with lots of people, and Hirst does too. There aren’t many ideas that can’t be made better by showing someone.

Brief Lessons in Rule Breaking is available from bookshops, some of whom pay their taxes.


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