When I was a child dyslexia and other learing difficulties were all lumped together and labelled as stupidity.  What was worse is that instead of trying to “help” so called stupid children the teaching model was to punish these children.

Punishment could take the form of physical beating, some used canes or sticks, others used their fists.  Psychological punishment was widespread, putting children in corners, I never saw anyone wear a dunce hat, but we were not far off, putting children into stress postures, such as making them stand on a chair or making them hold up a heavy bag.

This was not for “bad behaviour”.  This was for getting questions wrong.  And many of these kids could seldom get a question right.  When they looked at a page of text they saw something like this:


Thank goodness now we understand that genuine stupidity is rare and unfortunate.  Most kids who struggle to learn in traditional modes have some type of learning difficulty.  In the right environment, with the right diagnosis and the right teacher they shine through.

I went on to do some mentoring of kids with learning difficulties.  Reading with one young lad who had dyslexia showed me that when he looked at a word he saw it upside down and backwards at first glance.  The word “WAS” looked to him like “SAM”.  But more damaging to him than that glitch was the dent in his confidence and it was a pleasure to help him build it.

Later I did some teaching at 3rd level.  I began to spot clues that some students were using practiced techniques to overcome issues.  Widespread use of different coloured pens is a pretty good indicator.  But what impressed me about dyslexic students was the clarity they brought to their answers.  They could not disgorge 5 foolscap pages of waffle on an answer, but they communicated the vital elements of their understanding of the subject in one or two well thought out and clearly crafted pages.  Less is more.  Say little but say it well.

A perfect example is this poem.  Posted on Twitter by Jane Broadis @Jb5jane it is from one of her 10 year old students.  AO wrote a poem that can be read from top to bottom or from bottom to top.  Personally I prefer bottom to top.  It is a work of genius.


For those with old eyes I’ll type it out here:


Dyslexia ; by AO

I am stupid.

Nobody would every say

I have a talent for words

I was meant to be great

That is wrong

I am a failure

Nobody could ever convince me to think that

I can make it in life.



Digital; where amateur beats professional.


In the digital world of marketing there are no prizes for bland professional output.  Your product can be great, or it can be terrible, but if you are simply alright then you are nothing.

With traditional media, where you pay for placement, there is plenty of room for a professional job that is a bit ho-hum.  What you don’t achieve in standout you can make up with placement.  So your ad agency may not have made the most exciting ad in the world, but it will be seen by your target audience.  Let’s face it, if you are selling computers or financial services you are more interested in portraying professionalism than you are in achieving fame.

There are famous TV ads that are fondly recalled and pop up on TV programmes that review the “Greatest Ads” but lets face it, most mainstream ads are delivering in a reliable, steady manner without setting the world on fire.

If you get a bunch of amateurs to make an ad for traditional media, it looks like an amateur ad.  The cost of media placement means the amateur operator cannot balance poor production quality by wallpapering the media with placement.

Digital is different.

In the digital world success is achieved by fame.  If you capture the imagination of the digital consumer public and go viral then the amateur can beat the socks off the professional.

There is a lot of random chance involved in what goes viral.  I have worked with many clients who asked us to make an ad that would go viral.  As an ad agency you can never promise it will.  Yes, you can make an ad that is more disruptive, more edgy, funnier, surprising, all the things that make for good viral videos.  But you can never predict what is going to be a big hit.

There is also the issue of target audience.  If your ad goes viral with teenage boys and your target market is middle aged women your fame will not convert into sales.

A great example of how random success can be is the Thorne Travel ad.  It is simply awful.  It is so awful that it is brilliantly awful.  Awful enough to go viral.

The travel agency know people are laughing at them.  Do they mind?  Get this, since the ad went viral, bookings have increased by 110%.  And believe me, this is only the beginning.  Good work Thorne Travel.  Long live the amateur!