Endangered Species The Hack Briefing


Have you seen our latest video?

Next week, on Wednesday, October 3rd at 9:30 AM at Makerversity (www.makerversity.org/london), we will launch the Design Hackathon – The Future of Global Branding & Packaging. Check out www.designhackathon.com: the brief and the issue will be live shortly, but there are a few interesting films to view, especially the legendary Michael Wolff and the design guru Stephen Bayley

As I have said before, the idea we can trust government and legislators with the design of information to educate people to lead healthy and responsible lives is ridiculous. Brand owners and the creative industries need to take some level of ownership, and the Global Design Hackathon is a demonstration of the alternatives to potential ‘Graphic Horror Labels’ on some of our favourite brands.

On the launch day itself, we will have some leading designers on-site at Makerversity, working on initial ideas we can share later that day. After that, designers around the world can participate via the website until the end of October, and once we have collated and curated the ideas, we will share online and potentially in print. 

To keep it fair, only participating designers and agencies will have copyright access to the work and have permission to share the work with their clients. Lewis Silkin (www.lewissilkin.com), a leading law firm to the creative industry, will be helping us in managing all intellectual property rights (with a special thanks to Dominic Farnsworth, the partner leading trademark and IP). 

If I haven't approached you directly and you want to take part in some way, please email me at ron@endangered-species.co.uk and I will respond directly. We need as much creative support as possible, and as much media coverage as we can generate. If you are a brand owner and would like to see the results, then please mail me directly also.

Speaking of brand owners, there seems to me to be a reluctance among them to discuss or engage in labeling and legislation. In fairness, I completely understand their position, as sticking your head above this parapet is an invitation for a sniper attack or worse. Hopefully the Design Hackathon will create a confidential space where creative agencies and their clients can discuss, debate and develop strategies to address future challenges.

Here is a link to a short film you may find interesting.

Very Best, 



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Many of the threats and dangers to the global packaging, design, marketing and advertising industries that make an event like the Global Design Hackathon a necessity are hiding in plain sight. Its title, “The Future of Global Branding and Packaging” is not hyperbole.
ES has covered most of them over the past months. The brief tour below of those closest to home gives us an insight into why it is just too important a subject, with too many freedoms and jobs at stake, to leave educating people about leading “healthy and responsible lives” solely to the short-termism, mercy and favours of government legislation (wherever that government may be).
What’s clear with regards to creeping legislation is that there is a domino effect. One country’s initiative legitimises another country’s follow-up. Before you know it, what happens in Lithuania happens in Ireland or France or Britain. It is a pattern repeated time and again when the government turns nanny state under the guise of health and safety. And often with an extremely powerful lobby group turning up the pressure.
Further afield, it is even more apparent that there is a need for those involved in design, packaging and marketing to take control of its future wherever possible, before that future is dictated by governments, influenced by forces ranging from pressure groups to corruption.
Here – in the week that Ireland again (just) failed to rubber stamp its new Public Health (Alcohol) legislation – is a recap of just a few of the very real and present dangers both in the UK and Europe:


The wide-ranging Bill was supposed to have been passed in late September, but there were not enough members of parliament present in the Dail (House) to vote it through. It includes plans to restrict alcohol advertising with a new watershed on television, segregate alcohol  packaging in supermarket aisles, enforce minimum pricing and cancer and other health warnings on packaging. It has had a tortuous, controversial journey since first being proposed by the current Taioseach, Leo Varadker, three years ago.
This is down not least to the multi-faceted complexity of the bill, which presents threats to already challenged mainstream media revenues, tight supermarket margins, struggling advertising and design agencies and – of course – Ireland’s crucial alcohol industry with its many iconic brands. Not to mention a tax on the poor. There is no doubting that Ireland has a significant problem with both binge-drinking and liver-related illnesses and deaths, but the draconian nature of the legislation may have many, serious unintended economic consequences.


It’s too easy to dismiss as typically French hyperbole the 60 French wine producers who wrote to Le Figaro newspaper in July to demand that the government stopped “damaging the soul of France” via proposed new legislation regarding the introduction of compulsory health warnings on wine. But the initiative by the Health Minister, Agnes Buzyn, which would see two-centimetre wide red tags on the front of wine bottle labels, go right to the heart of French culture. Not to mention its £11.5 billion wine and spirits export trade.
The proposed labels would warn in particular of the laws against under-age drinking and the recommendations around no alcohol consumption for pregnant women. Wine consumption in France is actually in long-term serious decline and the new rules seem primarily aimed at fending off potential future lawsuits. It remains to be seen if President Macron, himself an advocate of drinking wine with lunch and dinner, will risk his slumping popularity still further to support the proposals.


In May this year, members of Britain’s parliamentary Health Select Committee proposed a ban on cartoon characters such as The Honey Monster (Sugar Puffs) and the Milky Bar Kid, demonising them in the service of what they deemed “unhealthy food.” Not a ban on all characters, you understand, so the Jolly Green Giant is safe – as sweet corn is deemed “healthy.” But, who decides what is “healthy?”
The characters ban was one of a series of proposals made by the committee, including no “junk food" ads before the 9 PM watershed; supermarkets removing sweets, chocolates and other “unhealthy” snacks from the end of check-out aisles; a restriction on multi-buy packs; a potential ban of sports clubs and tournaments being sponsored by “unhealthy” brands; a restriction by local authorities on the number of junk food outlets in their areas and putting pressure on social media giants to restrict the amount of “unhealthy” food adverts that young children can see.
It is one of the clunkier examples of MPs pandering to health lobbies in search of easy headlines and votes. Because the “other side” is currently not so public in its defence of such draconian proposed legislation, MPs will continue to take the easy option instead of the far more difficult and expensive long-term public health education campaign required.


There is no specific legislation in play here, but it is worth noting that the global counterfeit industry is now estimated to be worth some $2 trillion a year and estimated to be worth $2.3 trillion by 2025. Beyond all the headline-grabbing around luxury goods, there are profound resulting problems ranging from product safety (most notably — but not limited to — pharmaceuticals), to the loss of millions of jobs in industries hit by counterfeits. Some 80 per cent of the world’s counterfeit goods are manufactured in China and Hong Kong and, if anything, the problem is getting worse.


All of these issues, plus other threats to the global packaging, design, marketing and advertising industries ranging from warnings on labels to punitive pricing are hiding in plain sight. But these industries’ responses continue to be limited, reactive and largely defensive. It is time to get on the front foot and to use a familiar phrase — “take back control” — by regaining influence over one’s own destiny. The consequences of not doing so could be dire.

Endangered Species July 2018 Briefing


School’s out, and girl are we happy! Lie-ins, swimming, ‘parklife’, tennis, inflatables, shorts and tee shirts. Dreaming of a clear, water-stony turquoise shore in Greece (add your destination of choice), chasing the local fish for fun (and perhaps for dinner): these are the joys of long, languid, lazy days of summer, casually interrupted by a picnic lunch and a cold beer.

Happy holidays to one and all.


The reality: today we are actually living with, as Suzanne Moore says, “the running down of creative subjects like art and music.” Some stats from The Economist for you: “Of those students taking GCSE maths (a rough measure of the overall pupil population), the share who also sat the music GCSE rose every year this century until 2007, since when it has fallen in most years, from 8% in 2008 to 5.5% last year. Meanwhile, fewer pupils are studying music at A-level.” And from the online design magazine DEZEEN: “The National Society for Education in Art and Design said art and design in schools was being eroded while the Creative Industries Federation described the failure to educate a new generation of creatives as ‘economic suicide.’”
"Curriculum time and provision for art and design is being significantly eroded," said Lesley Butterworth, general secretary of the National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD). "The value given to art and design is under threat."’
I am just getting warmed up. As I write, the US Department of State, led by ex-CIA man and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has yet to appoint an artist to represent the USA at the 2019 Venice Biennale. The lack of decision making may be in part due to picking the right ‘artist’ to represent the current ‘values’ of the President. As a progressive liberal (non political), I think that design, creativity, art and music are now being threatened by a powerful combination: firstly, lack of financial and priority investment by Government; and secondly, by a political agenda that controls public funding of the arts unless they are ‘on message.’ According to the Fox News commentator Sean Hannity writing on Twitter, “The ‘left’ loves art and especially taxpayer funded art that is ‘provocative.’” We know from our history this all ends up on a cultural and social bonfire of one sort or another. We naively thought to ourselves ‘never on my doorstep.’

“And what,” you may ask, “has this got to do with your normal stream of consciousness on the subject of branding?”
Here’s a headline:


Now we all know life is not ‘joined-up,’ but sometimes I think more investment in cross-communication across our elected and public servants would be very cost-effective in the long term. However, that’s yet another dream of mine. Reading about the ‘Creative Industries Council,’ a joint forum between the creative industries and government, I found the following statistics: “The creative industries contributed a record £91.8bn to the UK economy in 2016, official statistics show. The contribution of the UK creative industries — as measured by Gross Value Added (GVA) — rose by 7.6 per cent in 2016, or more than twice as fast as the average 3.5 per cent growth rate in this measure across the UK economy. Between 2010 and 2016, the creative industries sub sectors — which include advertising, film and TV, architecture, publishing, music, design, games, museums and galleries, fashion, crafts, and the creative use of technology — grew their economic contribution by 44.8 per cent, outpacing even the purely digital sector which increased its GVA by 23.3 per cent during this period.”

Copyright Estate of Alan Fletcher.   https://www.alanfletcherarchive.com/

Copyright Estate of Alan Fletcher. https://www.alanfletcherarchive.com/


I recently came across The Daily Mile. Rather than rehash the data, let’s get straight to the story:

Over the course of an academic year, a team of experts from Stirling University compared nearly 400 children, aged four to 11, from two primary schools, with one group doing the Daily Mile and the other not. The Daily Mile kids were put through a series of tests to calculate whether they became fitter and whether they lost fat.
The findings, which have just been released, show how they lost an average of four per cent body fat. They were also fitter and more active during the day, while time spent sitting around dropped by an average 18 per cent. These findings have relevance for teachers, policymakers, public health practitioners, and health researchers.
If you are a teacher or parent who would like to get your school doing the Daily Mile, or simply interested, check out thedailymile.co.uk or go to @_thedailymile on Facebook. There is lots of information showing how easy it is to incorporate into the school day and support materials for schools that want to get involved.
This month’s editorial looks at recent news from France where the wine producers have understandably reacted angrily to health minister Agnes Buzyn’s call for larger health warnings on wine bottles. As I said in my response at the time (link here and below), yet again, we are seeing that the default is to legislate through creating fearful graphic warnings on packaging as opposed to education to help change consumer behaviour.
This took me back to a quote I read in medical journal, The Lancet, last year: “It is not unimaginable that bottles of Château Mouton Rothschild, which once bore the artwork of Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, might one day be required to have plain packaging and images of oesophageal cancer or a cirrhotic liver.”
Now that really would be the death of Culture and Creativity. The vultures are circling.
See you again when we really go back to school.



What to make of the 60 or so high-end wine producers who wrote to Le Figaro this month with characteristic hyperbole to urge the French Government to stop “damaging the soul of France” via proposed new compulsory health warnings on wine?
The workers of France are not known for taking any perceived threats to their livelihoods lying down. From the almost weekly air traffic controller and train strikes to taxi drivers demonstrating against Uber by burning tyres and the regular dumping of manure on the steps of some or other food manufacturing plant, there is nothing subtle about the protests.
Highly subsidized farmers almost single-handedly offer some glimmer of justification to wavering Brexiters and the most ardent Remainers. They disrupted the Tour de France this week by throwing hay bales onto the road in front of the peloton as it passed through Languedoc in response to the mere suggestion of a reduction in EU funding. If stunts are dramatic, then the language of protest is almost cataclysmic.
The wine producers’ letter was responding to proposals sent to the industry last month by the Health Minister, Agnes Buzyn, to introduce two-centimetre-wide red tags on the front of wine bottle labels, which would warn in particular of the laws against underaged drinking and the recommendations around no alcohol consumption for pregnant women. A version of the latter already exists without any rules regarding size, shape or colour.
In the face of 25 per cent of French mums-to-be continuing to drink alcohol and France’s teenage binge drinking problem, you can see why the spectre of the nanny state has reared its head. However, once again, packaging appears to be a soft target: an easy option in the face of the required more profound, long-term mindset change – similar to drink-drive attitudes, for example.
You don’t have to be an aficionado or even merely a user of the wine label app Vivino to appreciate just how much of a role labelling plays in the wine purchasing decision-making process. For years, the French have withstood pressure from international competition and changing tastes to largely cling on to the traditional design of their wine labels — bar a relatively token response to contemporary New World wine labelling in the early 2000s.

Credit: Akira Suemori/AP

Credit: Akira Suemori/AP

The stakes are incredibly high. Since the slump in both domestic and export sales over a decade ago, the wine industry has bounced back. French wine and spirits sales were just under €13 billion (£11.5billion) last year, making it the second largest export sector (behind aerospace). A boom in sales to the US and China and the growth of rosé, in particular, have fuelled growth. But at home, changing tastes and a small 2017 harvest are causes for concern. The industry clearly believes that the new labeling plans will help shoot itself in the foot.
Except that producers from Petrus and Yquem to Pol Roger and Roederer used slightly more flowery language. The proposals would not just damage the soul of France, but turn wine into a “criminal product”: “We are the guardians of an exceptional heritage: French wine making,” they wrote. “Every day, by exporting our produce, we share with the world, novices and wine buffs alike, a part of the soul of France… Every day, our cellars, our domains and chateaus, our wine-making landscapes, welcome thousands of tourists come to discover this France, bosom of the art de vivre that is the envy of the world and where wine plays a leading role.”
The French government, they said, was now threatening this heritage and “spreading fear.”
“Are we going to have to, minister, send to France and the whole world our wines…with labels covered in lugubrious and deathly signs for the image or our produce?” asked the letter.
Pierre-Henri Gaget, of Maison Louis Jadot, later told the Daily Telegraph the draft proposals had gone “beyond the pale:”
“We don’t carry the plague,” he said, warning next time there would be hundreds of chateaus lined up in protest.
Somewhat dramatically, the Le Figaro letter had asked whether the Government’s long-term aim was to ban all alcohol consumption. It’s unlikely, given the scale of the industry: Some 3.5 billion bottles of wine were consumed in France in 2017, despite a long-term decline in domestic consumption. Although 60 per cent of French production is still consumed domestically, that total amounted to 100 litres a year per inhabitant in 1975, and is now “only” 40 litres a year.
The more likely motivation is fear of lawsuits. Some 8,000 babies are born per year in France with mental or physical health problems that some have claimed are linked to mothers-to-be consuming alcohol. Warnings were first introduced on labels in 2007 after several women who had given birth to babies with foetal alcohol syndrome accused the government of not having done enough to warn them of the dangers.
Buzyn’s draconian proposals need to be seen in this legal context. They have resulted in her now having to fight to cling on to her job. It is unlikely that President Macron, a public advocate of lunch and dinner-time wine drinking, will be willing to take the potential political hit such measures would entail. As is so often the case, labelling would appear to be an easy, lazy target with questionable effectiveness, in the face of the much more challenging, expensive and difficult prospect of long-term education and cultural change.

Endangered Species June 2018 Briefing


I have fondness for Mr. Potato Head. Beyond the obvious Irish connections and affection for all things spudlike, Mr. P, later joined by Mrs. P, Brother Spud and Sister Yam, was born in the USA in 1952. The original version was a plastic set of accessories that could be stuck into an actual (wow) potato. He was also the first toy to be advertised on television, and directly aimed at children as opposed to pitched at parents. A little bit of our advertising heritage potato. However, and as is always the case, the green-eyed Mr. Health & Safety (who had no Equity Card of his own) decided that the pieces were too sharp for children, and hence a plastic body was added. In 1975 Mr. P became the man he is today, doubled in size to comply with new US child safety regulations. Mr. P’s film career finally topped-out, when he landed a starring role in the blockbuster franchise, Toy Story. And you all shed a tear there Mums and Dads. The rest as they say is Frites.

And so to the headlines: ‘Why potatoes could be fuelling the nation's obesity crisis: A baked spud contains the equivalent of 19 lumps of sugar - almost three times the amount in a can of Coca-Cola’.
Yup, and you heard this from me years ago on my Soapbox. Just to be clear: "Potatoes are botanically classified as a vegetable, but they are classified nutritionally as a starchy food," says a Department of Health spokesperson. 'This is because when eaten as part of a meal, they are generally used in place of other starchy carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta or rice’. 
And crucially, the NHS does NOT define a potato as one of your ‘5 A Day’. Are we clear here? Not really. My children are told in school that potatoes are vegetables and healthy, and Baked Potatoes have long been considered a ‘Healthy Lunch’ for Mac jockeys dining al desco. However as ever, the headlines are for dramatic effect, not really for nutritional or healthy guidance. So, keep on at the spuds, but just enough, not too much. And speaking of too much, I am reminded of a legendary (in my family) Easter Sunday lunch that featured ‘potatoes 5 ways’; Roast, Mash, Dauphinoise, Salad, and Chips!! The joy. Oh the salt & butter & garlic.


The material of the 20th century. Having trained as a Product Designer (a noble profession that is bookended by Raymond Lowey and Jony Ive), plastic was an integral material in the creative process but that ran in parallel with a sound education and understanding of the environmental impact of materials. Plastic as an engineering material has saved lives through among other things innovation in medicine, distribution of clean water, and the increased lifespan and portability of foods and beverages. It has added to and increased the quality and length of our lives. It is with great sadness that we now face a growing threat, in particular to our marine life and the life of our seas and great oceans. Positive signs are coming in the control of single-use plastic and it is encouraging to see some Brands taking the initiative. We live in an aspiring transparent world thankfully, so traditional CSR messaging and Corporate Green Wash have no traction and in fact are even more toxic that doing nothing and sitting on your hands (a traditional Corporate Communication Position). And as consumers who have good recycling habits, we are sending our recycling to cash starved Cities and Public Authorities’ who do not have the money, time or will to manage the reprocessing. We are all in this together, although as in the story of a Bacon and Eggs Breakfast where the Pig is ‘Committed’ and the chicken ‘Involved’, we need to be as committed as the creatures of the sea.
Better for Brands and our Creative Industry to start the dialogue debate and action, rather than to sit passively waiting for Teacher to keep us back after school for not doing our homework and being naughty. Reassuring to hear that McDonalds have committed to replacing plastic straws with paper in the UK and Ireland initially. More and faster, grasp the nettle, make a plan.


Under a marine biodegradable wrapper for now, but will be in the media soon. Keep an eye or two out and please get involved, sponsor or create.


Finally, as we are all now not dreaming of, but actually packing the cases (unless you have peeps that do that for you) for our summer holidays, here is a reading suggestion to add to your list. ‘Room to Dream’ by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna. Lynch had a profound impact on my visual cortex and literally gripped my imagination in his creative fists with his first film Eraserhead in 1977, followed by The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, Wild at Heart, and the global mania that was Twin Peaks. As a creative maverick this is not your standard menu du jour, rather it was written as a person having a conversation with his own biography, achieved through a form of written response in collaboration with the critic and journalist Kristine McKenna. I am just reading about his childhood in the 50s, before TV and the Internet, when kids ran care free outdoors like packs of wild dogs outside an England team base in Russia. And before homogenization. Perhaps the rise of Craft Brands is a subconscious response from our DNA that creates our desire to be different and unique. Just thinking.
There is also an audio adaptation for those of us who go full sun lounger and headphones. I’m actually thinking of adopting his iconic hairstyle in homage, at least whilst I am out of this country!

Happy reading, happy holidays.

An exhibition of original paintings from France and India by Ron Cregan on show at Florians 2, London, N8.

An exhibition of original paintings from France and India by Ron Cregan on show at Florians 2, London, N8.


You do not have to read the stark statistics to be aware Britain’s childhood obesity epidemic is worsening, and badly so. You only have to walk down any British high street, or see children coming out of state school or stand near a fast food outlet to witness with your own eyes the obvious truth: our kids are getting fatter younger and staying so longer.
Inevitably then, our craven MPs have just ignored the root causes of obesity and looked for someone to blame; an easy target that will win them cheap headlines and potentially, votes. Nobody, as we have said before on Endangered Species, believes they will lose votes taking on the forces of the giant food, drink or alcohol manufacturers. They are easy targets for the lazy or simply misguided.
There is little surprise then, that the members of the parliamentary health select committee this week latched on to cartoon characters such as Tony The Tiger (Frosties), the Honey Monster (Sugar Puffs) and the eponymous Milky Bar Kid and demonized them, proposing a ban on such animated characters and other superheroes in the service of promoting what they deem “unhealthy food”.
It was one of a series of proposals they made including a ban on junk food ads before the 9pm watershed; supermarkets removing sweets, chocolates and other “unhealthy” snacks from the end of check-out aisles; a restriction on multi-buy packs; a potential ban of sports clubs and tournaments being sponsored by “unhealthy” brands; a restriction by local authorities on the number of junk food outlets in their areas and putting pressure on social media giants to restrict the amount of “unhealthy” food adverts that young children can see.
Not that all animated characters faced a ban, however. The Jolly Green Giant would be safe because he promoted healthy sweet corn for example – no matter that there are some well documented downsides to eating too much of the stuff. And that – as ever - is the point: who is to decide what we should and should not eat, and how it can and cannot be advertised and otherwise marketed at us: MP’s? The NHS? Public Health England? Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and other celebrity chefs? Our schools? Or do we, the public, take responsibility for the nutrition and health of our children and ourselves?
To be clear, we do have a problem. Perhaps not on the same scale as Houston, long regarded as America’s fattest city, a place where one-in-five residents is expected to be suffering from diabetes by the year 2040. Nevertheless, one in 25 children in England and Wales aged ten or 11 are now classified as “severely obese”, with one in 40 at reception class (aged four or five) so regarded. It is worth noting that it is not the same measurement as for adults – which requires a BMI (Body Mass Index) of over 40 – but is calculated on reference growth charts instead.
However childhood obesity is calculated, the evidence of its epidemic status is clear and the future health implications for this generation and its impact on the NHS and the wider economy are nothing short of terrifying. We are eating ourselves to death at an enormous cost on an unprecedented scale. But is it really Tony The Tiger and the Honey Monster’s fault?
Both Frosties and Sugar Puffs are in serious sales declines. Kellogg’s has reduced the sugar content in the latter and its other iconic brand, Coco Pops by up to 40 per cent. For Frosties, which are essentially Corn Flakes covered in sugar, this is much harder to do. Indeed, a lower sugar (30 per cent less) variant of Frosties failed with consumers and instead Kellogg’s has tried to promote Frosties as an “adult cereal” - a bit of a stretch with a cartoon Tony The Tiger on the packet.
It would be foolish to the point of obtuse to argue that the advertising doesn’t work. But, as with so many of our politicians’ easy targets, the real culprit is a much bigger issue that is hiding in plain sight and far too politically difficult for them to tackle: poverty and its intrinsic relationship with bad education, particularly among certain poorer demographics like immigrants from the Indian sub-continent and the Caribbean or working class white families. After all, Tony, the Milky Bar Kid and the Honey Monster were around long before the obesity epidemic.
Why do so may parents prefer serving up a bowl of sugar-coated cereal rather than say the millennials’ favourites, avocado on toast with poached eggs? Where do we begin in terms of cost of acquisition, length of time to make in the busy morning and then educating uneducated palates into the joys of the avocado?
The likes of Jamie Oliver are much maligned and perhaps guilty of lapsing into sanctimony born of privilege, but we all know that his heart is in the right place  – should any government care to take notice. His real argument is based on a need for improved education primarily, and a greater degree of personal responsibility to be taken by parents with regards to what their children are putting inside them.
Spend money on advertising campaigns showing parents how to make a healthier breakfast at speed might be a start. Why not introduce price incentives on healthier foods and beverages rather than tax penalties on the unhealthy; educate parents, and then educate them some more on what the positive and negative effects of the food products we feed our children are. We need to make allowing our young children to become obese as socially unacceptable as drink-driving is.
How about starting with re-introducing home economics and nutrition  as a compulsory subject at school from years four to nine? And how about trying to involve as many parents in possible in those lessons and extra-curricular activities in the subject? Let’s make physical education more directly linked to health too – rather than the easy to avoid chore that it is for so many of our non-sporty children.
Perhaps if the government was to stop withdrawing funding for public health education programmes both at school and beyond, put a halt to the selling-off of school playing field land to property developers and introduce price incentives on healthy foods, not the above-mentioned tax penalties on what’s “unhealthy” – then, and only then, might we all be a little less cynical. This would be the nanny state put to positive use – not making arbitrary judgments about our freedom of choice and what we choose to eat. Not to mention punishing the poor – yet again!
But in this case, cynicism is not the only reason for doubting the new proposals. On the one hand, they won’t actually work as they are not the primary driver to purchase (cost and convenience are); and on the other, as the Department of Health has pointed out, Britain already has a childhood obesity plan “which is among the most comprehensive in the world”. Perhaps a little less finger pointing at manufacturers and a little more educating and even fat-shaming of parents might be the politically incorrect, more effective solution.


BBC News, 11 May 2018: London Mayor Sadiq Khan plans TfL 'junk food' advert ban

Drinks Industry Ireland (Ron Cregan), 24 May 2018: Disproportionate ‘solutions’

BBC News, 30 May 2018: 'Ban cartoon characters' on unhealthy food, MPs say

The Jakarta Post, 31 May 2018: Plain packaging halts creative efforts, hurts economy

The Times, 01 June 2018: Jamie Oliver accused of having his cake and eating it after using animated monster in video

Reuters, 01 June 2018: WHO panel split on soft drink sugar tax to cut obesity

The Guardian, 05 June 2018: Channel 4 tells Jamie Oliver he's wrong on junk food ad ban campaign

Le Figaro (France), 06 June 2018: Medicines: the course of « neutral » packaging is controversial

New Zealand Herald, 10 June 2018: Growing support for 'cigarette-style' warnings on fizzy drinks

Daily Mail, 11 June 2018: Activists push for COFFEE CUPS to be plastered with grotesque cigarette-packaging warnings to highlight environmental damage

Morning Advertiser, 14 June 2018: Minimum unit pricing on trade sales would breach EU law

The Irish Times, 15 June 2018: Labour accused of ‘stunning U-turn’ on alcohol health warnings

Daily Mail, 20 June 2018: Watchdog calls for mandatory traffic light food labelling after Brexit

World Trademark Review, 20 June 2018: As Canada legalises marijuana, research finds majority of Canadians want branded packaging for cannabis products

The Irish Sun, 26 June 2018: New health warning label to be plastered over booze bottles is enough to drive you to drink

BBC News, 29 June 2018: WTO backs Australia over plain cigarette packets

Endangered Species May 2018 Briefing


April showers and sunshine, four seasons in one day, and a trip to Slovenia. I had never been to Slovenia I reckoned, but in fact, I had, when the country was a part of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and I was an eighteen-year-old Irish boy on his way to the Greek Islands on his first Inter-rail adventure. That journey was on a train passing through, not a plane, a brief stop in Ljubljana, and swiftly onwards to the sunny Ionian Isles. This time around it was to be three days, work and culture trip with a speaking part in the SOF, the Slovene Advertising Festival. And can I say this was as well an organised festival as I have ever been to, so thank you to my friends at Agency 101 for their invitation. Here is a link to a short interview I did in the sunshine on the Friday morning before I left.

On arrival at my hotel in Portoroz, an hour from the city, and a seaside resort town on the Adriatic, much favoured by the aristo families of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, I fancied a spot of room service to ease me to sleep. As I find pasta a soporific food drug, I spotted a pasta and local black truffle dish on the menu for €18 and reckoned that was good value for a 5-star pasta dish even if the truffle was just an oil splashed on top to add the distinctive fragrance. But when it arrived I was astounded, it looked like they had shaved a few grams of the stuff on the pasta and crammed it into a creamy sauce to boot. As they say, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. This was the real deal, Isterian Peninsula truffle (not a fake from China), and more than a few shocking grams of it, pungent, punchy, paunch giving. For fiscal reference, in the latest series of the TV series ‘Billions’, running on Sky Atlantic (love this dark drama), a New York belle has 20g of truffle shaved on her pasta at $14 a gram by a leering maître to the squeaky discomfort of her alpha fiancé who has just lost his fortune. 

Leading me nicely on to one of my favourite subjects, food! The last week or two have seen the re-emergence of two ex-River Café (not the greasy spoon) Alumni, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver, both campaigning  for action on obesity and the causes of obesity. Tellingly they both are asking for more explicit labelling, whether a traffic light system for cereals from Hugh or any improved labelling so people know what they are buying from Jamie. Is it time for us Creative Agencies, Brand Owners, and Packaging Manufactures to take that baton, or shall we leave it to the legislators in Government to hoist the Jolly Roger and plaster it on everything?

At the end of April we celebrated World Intellectual Property Day, and the role that IP rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity. With this in mind, our editorial this month looks at the global explosion in counterfeit goods, making the point that intellectual property crimes are far from victimless, as many of you will be only too aware.

Best for now,

Photo credit: Ziga Intihar

Photo credit: Ziga Intihar


We’ve all been there. From Barcelona to Bangkok, Milan to Marseille, New York’s Canal St to any street market in London, the temptations of counterfeit or “fake goods” are everywhere. Sometimes it can appear just too good a deal to pass up the opportunity – no matter what we know it is wrong; that we are otherwise so utterly law-abiding that we wouldn’t even jaywalk across the street to buy fakes. It is strangely guilt-free intellectual property theft, dressed up in our otherwise honest, “honourable” minds as simply “getting a bargain”. But, at what cost, and to whom?

The global counterfeit market is already worth just under $2 trillion a year and is expected to reach an astonishing $2.3 trillion by 2025. A report last year by Frontier Economics estimated that the broader costs, taking into account law enforcement and investment, could be as high as $4.2 trillion. Translating into as many as 5.4 million “legitimate jobs” placed at risk. 

The pace at which counterfeits are spreading around the globe is growing fast. As some 80% of the world’s fake goods are produced in China and Hong Kong, then it is evident that the speed at which China has industrialised, opened trading links and grown economically, has enabled an astonishing boom in the volume of fake goods flooding the global market.

Beyond the obvious economic cost, it is difficult to say with absolute certainty what the health and safety threats inherent in the ubiquitous nature of “fake”-ness are. But it is clear that from counterfeit pharmaceuticals flooding Africa (in which India is the chief production culprit) to the fake food, electronics and cosmetics sweeping Europe there is no guarantee of safety in so much of what we are buying.

The significant technology-led change in recent years is the rise of mail and courier services as a means of distribution via hubs such as the UAE, Hong Kong and Singapore. Free trade zones make it even harder for customs authorities to fight back, while the internet has made it easier to avoid detection. So much so, that the Chinese online commerce giant Alibaba was placed on a watch list at the end of 2016. Last year, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said: “counterfeit goods and fraudulent medicines pose a serious risk to public health and safety”. So what can be done?

As long as there are Louis Vuitton and Prada logos in the world there will be a trade in their counterfeits, so it is not a surprise then that those two brands – alongside the likes of Adidas are at the forefront of brands’ attempts to cajole a complacent European Union for one into stricter, more proactive and tangible action, requiring websites, in particular, to act against counterfeits rather than the current voluntary code.

As the data breach scandal affecting Facebook has revealed in case, we had any doubts, the law, and law enforcement officers, are running to catch up with seemingly inexorable technical innovations. In the sphere of counterfeits, this means the type of transformation that enables the logistics of transportation to be made much more underground.

In manufacturing, the astonishing quality of mimicry inherent in forgery standards is a huge challenge. There is no logo, packaging design or product that a Chinese or Thai forger cannot approximate. The sophistication is such that holograms, watermarks and other devices used on everything from passports to expensive electronics and bottles of wine are no longer an absolute guarantee of authenticity. Jeremy Oliver, an Australian wine critic, estimates that 50% of wines retailing for $35 or more in China are bogus — either through a fake label, a refilled bottle or a copycat brand — with the average bottle of Champagne there filled seven times.

To see why it matters, take just one sector. Does your fake Burberry scarf, Louis Vuitton luggage or Prada sneakers cause that much harm – at least when contrasted with the obvious inherent dangers of the glut of counterfeit Viagra on the world market or fake cosmetics, vehicle parts, booze and cigarettes? The answer is a resounding yes. Luxury alone is a $1.2 trillion global industry. Hundreds of thousands of jobs depend on us paying for the quality, reassurance and safety of genuine branded products. Microlocal economies and macro national economies need us to pay for brands.

In fact, China’s relatively near neighbours in nations such as Vietnam and Thailand are leading the fight-back against being swamped by fakes to the detriment of their burgeoning economies. Anti-counterfeit packaging is a fast-growing industry in its own right - set to be worth $126 billion in 2019. Programmable particles and DNA tagging are much more effective than digital coding alone in ensuring the authentication and tracking of legitimate goods. 

But in the end, there is only so much that governments, police, customs and the global security industry can do in the fight against the fake.  The consumer, as ever, is the driver. If we cannot be persuaded to care enough about quality and safety standards and allow cheaper price points to be the principal driver of purchasing decisions, then the counterfeit explosion will only continue to grow exponentially. In a world where we no longer value “real” enough, we are increasingly prepared to ascribe imagined value to what is counterfeit: from leather goods to news and politicians. We should all be careful of what we wish for.


Business Day (South Africa), 03 April 2018: Alcohol adverts ban ‘will not banish thirst for booze’

The Mirror, 05 April 2018: Health experts want fizzy drinks to carry warning images of rotting teeth to curb kids sugar intake

BreakingNews.ie, 11 April 2018: Irish alcohol label reforms will create cross-border barriers, industry warns

Food Matters Live, 12 April 2018: The sugar tax: what you need to know

The Grocer, 13 April 2018: Red Bull flies high as Lucozade Energy has wings clipped (£) 

Climate Depot, 15 April 2018: Nanny State: EU To Regulate Color Of Bread, French Fries

The Wall Street Journal (USA), 16 April 2018: Coffee Brands Fight California Ruling on Cancer Warnings (£)

BBC News, 16 April 2018: Recycling hope for plastic-hungry enzyme

Drinks Industry Ireland, 17 April 2018: Packaging Legislation – the plain truth

Dobre Zgodbe (Slovenia), 19 April 2018: Ron Cregan: Brands at the Brink of Extinction (YouTube)

The Spirits Business, 20 April 2018: Plain packaging on spirits could ‘stifle innovation'

B & T (Australia), 20 April 2018: Study: Booze Brands Are Breaking Advertising Codes

The Independent, 21 April 2018: Campaign for Real Ale agrees to campaign for more than just real ale

The Guardian, 23 April 2018: Time, please: is drinking becoming as socially unacceptable as smoking?

World Trademark Review, 27 April 2018: “Keep it simple and natural” – research finds consumers are eager to buy sustainable packaging (£)

The Telegraph, 30 April 2018: Whisky shops in England braced for Scottish booze cruisers as minimum alcohol pricing hits

Endangered Species Spring 2018 Briefing


When was the last time you were moved by all that data? On what occasion did the astonishing, terrifying gigabytes worth of information that Facebook and others have amassed about your habits, communications and preferences actually move you to make a purchase decision? It’s one of the side issues thrown up by the Cambridge Analytica Facebook revelations – and it’s one that the creative community should jump on as a sword with which to defend itself from the inexorable attack of the “math men”.

You might argue that the Trump presidential campaign proves data can move people. But, it’s not the data that inspired his “base” to rally for him: it was the “creative” messaging, however unpalatable. “Crooked Hillary”, “Build the Wall”, “Drain the Swamp” and “Make America Great Again” became virtual packaging design for Trump’s core message of fear: “they” are all out to get you and only I can stop them. Yes, advertising as packaging design. 

Perhaps it is less discomforting to view it from the other side of the coin: packaging design as advertising, based on hope not fear. From Donald Trump then, to the Oxo cube. The first time you saw all the Os and the Xs on the side of the little boxes lined up together on the shelves to form the word Oxo may well have been the first time that packaging stopped you in your tracks in the supermarket. Not a life-changing moment perhaps – unless it inspired you to become a designer – but nonetheless, a momentary pause for appreciation, perhaps a smile: a small grace note in an otherwise mundane experience. Certainly, a genuine impression.

It’s extraordinary how deep those impressions can go, how much more powerful they are than data. Think of the memories jogged, reveries started by a simple glance or sighting of a piece of packaging. That can range from the obvious - extraordinary-shaped packages that force themselves into your consciousness:  Toblerone, Grolsch, the Mateus rosé bottle, Illy Caffé, a Zoom ice lolly – to the more sublime: Absolut vodka, Corona beer, Heinz baked beans and Domino’s pizza. 

As Domino’s proves, it doesn’t always matter what’s inside the box – that is, until you try it for the first time. The complex emotional interplay between advertising messages received and stored in our sub-conscious and the trigger release of recognition inspired by great packaging design is marketing creativity’s holy grail. 

It is also the legitimate use of the subliminal, which is to be cherished in a world where the crass, the bombastic and the invasive are the norm’ where some 94% of ubiquitous online pre-roll video ads are skipped. And the measurement behind the six per cent is questionable. Perhaps there really are more subtle ways of attracting our attention that forcing us to watch a 30-second ad before we can access a 60-second piece of video, however “targeted”? By way of contrast, it is extraordinary how many people don’t actually realize the little blue and red designs on that pizza box are actual dominoes. And as for that Pizza Hut logo…

So much of “programmatic” tells you what you already know based on all those mounds of data, based on prior browsing or even actual history:  when you were moving house and looked at sofas or you actually went on holiday to Oman.  It’s after the event. Which is why it is so deeply annoying to have to then endure months of ads for sofas and UAE vacations.

In truth, the advertising and packaging communities have long known this. Before digital “targeting”, before media planning and programmatic and social media, when mass marketing was not a dirty concept, marketers had to use creative guile to attract consumers’ attention: to create the myth of their brand icon. Well, those of them that were not endlessly pummeling jingles into our heads that is.

No-one understood this more of course than Andy Warhol. Campbell’s Soup packaging became art in his hands, but those hands had started out working as a commercial artist in advertising and design. His entire oeuvre is about understanding the myth of the icon – be that Elvis, Marilyn, Chairman Mao or Coca-Cola.

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, knows this too. “We would never have got into this situation” was his rather smug response to being asked about what Apple would do if it were Facebook post the CA revelations. Apple, of all brands, understands that design and packaging create desire and an iconic myth: to relish and open Apple packaging is a large part of that myth. To believe you are “thinking different” when you are buying form the world’s largest corporation is too.

And yet, most of the marketing community is currently worshipping at the altar of programmatic-based digital “targeting” that serves us up those goddamn ugly Mahabis slippers to people who will never, repeat never, want to buy them. Please make it stop. Actually, really: please make it stop. Speak up for, promote and defend creativity in advertising and packaging, not just because your careers depend upon it, but so too, the quality of our lives.  


I am not sure when you will get to read this as we are in our various ways held loosely in the slack jaws of a holiday period. A time for reflection for some and a time for feasting for others, a few days or a few weeks, depending on how much chocolate, board games, and exasperated multi-device management is required.

In the throws of this I have brought a few friends to keep me company in the white spaces left after the rest has been coloured. First up is A. A. Gill, or Adrian to his friends and family, I did not actually know him, but I did smile at him as he took the stairs to the basement restaurant called Zedel. He did not smile back. 

A. A. Gill died in 2016 and the world is a much poorer place for his passing. He left behind a loving and young family, a body of work, but most importantly a spirit that helped us look at the world in ‘new and rewarding ways’. My Sundays will never be the same, his writing in The Sunday Times, on life and restaurants, replaced my anticipated early joys of Nigel Starmer Smith and Rugby Special. He helped me with laughter, gossip, adventure and trivia through ‘Sundaynightis’, that dark sense of anxiety that precedes the week ahead. 

Published in 2017, ‘The Best of A. A. Gill’ is my current companion, and it covers ‘all the various shades of his writing over the years-funny and excoriating and thoughtful and outrageous’. His writing is surprising, his love of family, of children at the heart of all of it. His refugee articles, one of which inspired a CNN campaign by Christiane Amanpour that helped change a drug company’s policy was his proudest composition. His farewell piece was on the NHS, to say thank you. Thank you A.A. Gill.

Colour. What a word. ‘There as so many colours in a rainbow, so many colours in the morning sun’. I am not really sure where this ditty is from but I remember it from my own childhood or my children’s childhood. The morning sun piece is spot on. I have the records of my many attempts to capture a South Indian sunrise, never even got close, at least a sub-continent away!

David Hockney. Colour. Go together like a horse and carriage. Leaving Yorkshire and London for California, to paint not surf, canvas not boards, attracted to the light like a seagull to a stray chip, that man breathes liquid colour. In Los Angeles in 1996 and 1997 Hockney created a series called ‘Flowers, Faces and Spaces’. ‘People are timid about colour’ he said. What is the opposite of timid? What ever it is, he is it... bold, ballsy, bright? What I learn from Hockney, and I expect he affects others in a similar way -his exhibitions are a riot of the ages, is that there is not enough colour in our lives, yet there is in life. Living a full life is about looking and seeing, he captures what he sees on a trapped canvas space, then puts you in front of that image, and then you see what you have been missing, colour. As I look out the window at the middle English rain on the lake, it’s a grey steel and sodden and still day. But as I look harder I see a majestic mallard, bright emerald green medallion, chest out, waddling towards me, and I see the colour. 

Photo: Jeff Moore

Photo: Jeff Moore

Earlier this month I was having a glass or two with fellow Irishman Richard Corrigan. For some reason Irishmen are fellows, not sure why, but I respect the lazy literary tradition. Which reminds me, did you know a group of teenage girls in Ireland will refer to themselves as ‘lads’? Now you know. Crack on. So, Corrigan was, in his contrary manner, pointing out the challenges of the restauranter, bar owner and chef in these, as always, challenging times. Restrictions and legislation on how food can be cooked and served, and the economics of how a bad day in business creates empty lunch tables. He ranted, I listened. We hatched a plan, a perfect storm of Irishness was looming, The Cheltenham Festival, a feast of horses, mud and madness, followed by March 17th, the day of St Patrick, Ireland’s adopted Welsh son, and finally a pitch at a Grand Slam for the boys in green. Richard wrote a letter to Jeremy Hunt, the man in charge of the nations health, and simply asked him to save the Irish Coffee. We reckoned as it contains Coffee, Sugar, Dairy and Alcohol, it must now be the worlds most toxic beverage, and therefore an Endangered Species.

Best for now,


Endangered Species Feburary 2018 Briefing



The recent half term for once became more of a joy rather than a chore. With some rare early planning we had organized the family and were all spending five days in one of Europe’s great capital cities, Vienna. As an Irish family, and myself being of a certain generation, we christened the city O’Vienna, cheesy I admit, but some how appropriate. Breakfast daily was in my case freshly baked Rye bread with the cheese, a typical ‘Mittel Europe’ snack and courtesy of our host Dr. Robbie, a prominent academic at the Austrian Institute of Advanced Studies. 

Over the years I have worked in or visited most of the ‘Grand Capitals of Europe’ and although having much in common, in particular a river and the Italian/French Neo-Classical architecture. Oh, and also a fair spattering of men on horseback mounted on plinths, and epic memorial stone works erected ‘in memoriam’ of fallen hero’s and the like. However, the most striking aspect of Vienna for me was space. The sheer width of the boulevards allows you to walk in space and light, and to approach beautiful buildings from distance, the view and detail revealing gently as you approach. I have always believed that the site and relationship is as important as the architecture, and nowhere have I seen it more elegantly and effortlessly demonstrated than on the streets of Vienna.

The end of the 19th century for Vienna saw a bit tree shaking, in art, architecture and in authenticity. Klimt and Schiele led the revolution wielding paintbrushes and poking at convention, and Sigmund Freud was playing with the furniture of the mind down the road. (For my foodie friends, Freud was a fan of Rebhun, a St. John ‘esque restaurant near the museum, Schnitzel heaven, do visit.) An Architect called Albert Loos joined in the fun, and created not a gem, but a jewelry box of a space, a direct snub and finger in the eye to the surrounding pale stone Baroque meringue like structures, called America Bar. 

Completed in 1908, and now really called Loos American Bar, this place literally shook me to my boots with joy. We visited on a Thursday night, a romantic tram ride of four friends to get there, and walking through the door was akin to the first time I walked into a dimly candle lit cathedral, no less inspiring for a space smaller than my kitchen at home. Everything, and I mean everything is here. From the fascia sign in back illuminated Kaleidoscopic onyx, the typography in black and white, the floor in green and black check, the bar, back-bar, seats, infinity mirrors to reflect the sculpted ceiling in every direction, the glowing bottles and shimmering labels, and finally the smiling faces of the safest hands that create bowls of liquid magic. Phew.

We smoked our cigars Robbie and I, they had been planned for the walk home, but Austria has its own rules. I drank a Manhattan, amber rich with a luminous cherry, and for the first time in a long time, felt totally immersed in an experience of pleasure. It was a moment captured, to be treasured, from a ‘high day or holiday’, so rare now, so threatened. I vowed then to gently push back against the grim reaper who has us in his gaze and brandishes his rulebook called ‘The Death of Pleasure’.



Earlier this week I was speaking at Packaging Innovations at the NEC in Birmingham. I am also booked to speak in Europe and the US in the next month or so.

If you think my insight is of value to your business, more than happy to do a 30 minutestand-up. Just contact me and I will make it happen.

Could have used ‘The Snow’ as an excuse for the late delivery of this issue, but no!


Among the joys of being a child is that you see fun and adventure where adults sense hassle and danger; that the unexpected is relished, not feared; and that enthusiasm and energy hold sway over caution and fear. So when it snows, as it is currently doing all over Europe, children everywhere have only one thought: let’s get out and play; build snowmen, have snowball fights and slide on makeshift sleds. Because, it is just plain fun. 

Step forward Ges Smith, head teacher of East London’s Jo Richardson Community School, who has not only banned his pupils from having snowball fights at school, but even “touching snow”. “We’ve got a duty of care,” argued Mr Smith, explaining he was worried that children might place grit or a stone into a snowball to deliberately hurt each other.

This daftness is but the latest in a long series of events where, under the “health and safety” catch-all, well-intentioned rule-makers impose disproportionately draconian measures upon activities, pastimes and products that may contain some element of risk to those enjoying them. Or being more sceptical: acting to pre-empt potential lawsuits in case of mishap. 

Let’s be clear. Kneejerk criticism of health and safety initiatives is lazy, sometimes cynical and ignores the huge improvements to our lives in areas ranging from the industrial work environment to the building of our homes. Britain has one of the best health and safety at work records in Europe across a range of measures, which is something to be proud of – as is the United Kingdom’s position as one of the safest countries in the world in which to drive. The change in our collective attitudes to, for example, drink-driving over the past decades is entirely commendable.

But it is a small leap from these manifest successes to the easily mocked examples of “elf ‘n’ safety” gone mad. How else to explain the scourge of the modern packaging warning? The OTT alarm that sees packets of peanuts carry the warning “contains peanuts”, or washing machines that caution “do not put any person in this washer”.  How to explain the need for “do not use while seeping” on a Vidal Sassoon hairdryer; “may cause drowsiness” on a packet of sleeping pills; or the infamous “do not eat” on both the printer toner cartridge and the original Apple iPod Shuffle box?

In a world where we need to be told not to hold the wrong end of a chainsaw, packaging is the tip of the iceberg. It is the ostensibly laughable restrictions on everyday life that collectively form an insidious assault on our freedom of choice and ability to live freely and without fear. It is why in the past, the Health and Safety Executive itself has criticised unnecessary or extreme health and safety initiatives. The ridicule they inspire alters the context in which necessary measures are received.

When a lollipop man is told to stop high-fiving children as they cross the street in case others cannot see him; when pupils are banned from playing conkers, marbles or leapfrog in the playground; when plasters are removed from first-aid kits for fear of allergies and Butlins bans bumper car drivers from, “bumping”, it is clear that we are losing sight of proportionality.

Hard cases make bad law is an adage central to the health and safety debate. An extreme case is notoriously a poor starting point for introducing more general legislation or regulation that encompasses less extreme cases. Look at the growing debate about the nature of trauma, particularly head trauma in football. Whatever our sympathies for the family of the late, great Jeff Astle, does the WBA legend’s death from degenerative brain disease mean we should ban all heading of a football?

For football, read other everyday activities: eating unpasteurized cheese or steak tartare, skiing, the use of ladders, police chasing moped gangs, rescuing those in water, the rugby scrum. Already some aspects of life – notably air travel – have been rendered almost unbearable by the need to demonstrate safety measures are in force, rather than the measures themselves making us safer.

`Many issues lie behind this creeping over-protectiveness: a genuine desire to improve public health and safety; the concept of proportionality; our human right to take risks; legal liabilities and the litigation culture. What place does common sense hold in society and what about our freedom to choose that which may just possibly do us harm? Is risk assessment to be solely the preserve of government, corporations and the legal system?

That leads us to a place where Abellio East Anglia enforces a mass cancellation of trains in anticipation of a dusting of winter snow that doesn’t actually materialize and America allows teenagers to acquire assault weapons freely, but bans the sale of Kinder Eggs and haggis. Health and safety culture may not have “gone mad” but it is increasingly going rogue; losing sight of its purpose: the invaluable contribution it has made to saving lives and making them healthier. It is instead in danger of stopping us living them.

Endangered Species January 2018 Briefing


If you read last month’s Briefing, you will remember I mentioned that I want to hold a major event to generate awareness of the challenges we face as creative agencies and brand owners. So far I have had a great response from potential speakers, industry leaders and legends that are keen to debate and share stories. Please pencil in the morning of Thursday April 19th somewhere in central London in your diary, full details next month. 

What Endangered Species needs more than anything at this stage is a core group of supporters who share in our concerns and aspirations. You can support as an agency, an individual or as a brand owner. Ultimately the more support we have the more we can engage in the debate and be proactive about how we tackle the issues in creative ways.

Can I ask you to give your support by clicking on the button below and emailing me at ron@endangered-species.co.uk. We are in the process of finalising our manifesto – and I will be very happy to share with you hot off the press.


The Year Ahead

So, we have got (Dry) January behind us and now with a sigh of relief, we have the next eleven months of 2018 to look forward to. On a personal note, the month of February means the kick off of the Six Nations, quickly followed by March which brings the bedlam of the Cheltenham Festival, overlapping my national holiday of St. Patrick’s Day. After that let’s see what happens! On reflection what strikes me about these events and their attraction apart from the sport and entertainment, is the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and enjoy a selection of appropriate beverages, Guinness for Rugby, a Hot Whiskey for Cheltenham, and anything goes for Paddy’s.

I am also planning to ‘get out more’ and I am lining up speaking opportunities in the UK and abroad. First up is Packaging Innovations on February 28th at the NEC, and by the next Briefing, I will share the full schedule for the year.

Have a Fantastic February.




“First, they came for the Irn Bru, and I did not speak out because I do not work for AG Barr - nor have I ever tasted the Scottish fizzy pop drink…” If it seems sacrilegious to borrow from Martin Niemoller’s famous lecture in the service of the soft drinks industry, then it would appear equally so to change the sacred recipe of the cult brand. But, despite consumer objections, that’s just what’s happened at the start of 2018, a year where the threats to brands from overzealous regulators around the world are hiding in plain sight.

If you missed the story: AG Barr has changed Irn Bru’s classic recipe by more than halving the sugar content in anticipation of the UK’s new “Sugar Tax”, which comes into effect this April. The exact details are unknown – part of Irn Bru’s folklore is that its recipe is only known by a handful of staff, mostly Barr family members.  However, the sugar content is reduced from 10.3g per 100ml to 4.7g, taking it under the 5g level at which the levy kicks in.

Irn Bru’s taste, whether the drink really is made from girders or not, is the brand. Its recipe change is the latest in a series of developments that threaten the future of some of our most loved and popular brands as regulators and law-makers internationally score easy points on behalf of the health lobby. Points that they believe will translate into votes.

Marketers’ eyes and ears should be hyper-alert to Ireland, where the controversial Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, passed by the Senead (Upper House) just before Christmas 2017 will see the introduction of compulsory warnings on labels, minimum pricing and restrictions on how alcohol is displayed in shops. The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland has criticised the bill, singling out the compulsory cancer warnings which may take up to one-third of the labelling space, as particularly “devastating”.

The lower house has yet to ratify the bill. Consultations are taking place about how alcohol is displayed (behind barriers?) in smaller shops which stand to lose out significantly. Nevertheless, health lobbyists describe it as"the most progressive piece of public health legislation advanced by any government in recent times”. This, despite surveys among the Irish public doubting the efficacy of the legislation. Almost 100,000 people signed a petition to halt the proposed hiding of alcohol behind curtains or other barriers in stores. The proposed legislation also affects Duty-Freee display at airports, much to the alarm of the packaging and design industry, for which Duty-Free work is a hugely lucrative revenue source. The political balancing act here, as elsewhere, is a potential health risk versus a very tangible threat to jobs.

If you doubt this is a can of worms, look at Canada. The Yukon Liquor Corporation, which regulates the territory’s sale and distribution of alcohol, this month abruptly abandoned its own alcohol label warning initiative after mere weeks, under pressure from the Canadian Vintners Association, Spirits Canada and Beer Canada. The main sticking point was the disputed claim that alcohol causes or can cause cancer, which Beer Canada claims is “way too complex an issue to be discussed on the label”.

“…Next they came for the coffee and I did not speak out because I do not work for Starbucks or Keurig.” The latest eye-catching US lawsuit sees the health lobby group CERT (the Council for Education and Research on Toxins) bringing a case against multiple coffee companies for not declaring the dangers associated with the Acrylamide chemicals in the roasting of coffee beans. It’s also in grains and potato products.

It’s all down to California’s infamous Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, which dates back to 1986. At least once a year, the state has to publish a list of chemicals that have been found to cause birth defects, cancer or potentially harm reproductive health. The number of chemicals is now some 900 strong, which begs the question: who is paying attention?

Ironically, the World Health Organization did once refer to Acrylamide in citing coffee as a carcinogen. However, in 2016, the WHO rowed back on its warnings, choosing instead to warn that all “very hot” drinks are carcinogenic. Despite this and recent survey findings that drinking coffee daily is actually beneficial in the reduction of liver or colon cancer, let alone cirrhosis or heart failure, the introduction of more stringent Proposition 65 regulations in August requires more specific labelling between products and whatever substance in them is linked to cancer. It’s a potential legal minefield.

The UK and Ireland’s “Sugar Taxes”, The Irish Alcohol Bill, this month’s new national alcohol advertising ban in Lithuania, further Proposition 65 restrictions – just a few of the regulations that threaten consumer choice and brands this year. The health policy timeline in the UK alone encompasses everything from the current Change 4 Life campaign through the soft drinks industry levy, new salt targets and a potential NHS soft drinks ban.

Each new piece of legislation brings with it the threat of huge financial penalties to marketer and retailer alike. So much so that at least one major manufacturer has refused to follow Irn Bru or Lucozade, whose sales slumped four percent last year post its own sugar reduction. At 10g of sugar per 100ml, Classic Coke will be hit by the new “sugar tax”, but it is getting its retaliation in first; decreasing the size of bottles and increasing its price. Memories clearly linger long of the one time Coca-Cola did try to reformulate its secret recipe: the disastrous launch of “new Coke” in 1985.

Either way, whether such “project fear” labelling actually works or not has long been lost among the wrangling lawyers, lobbyists and politicians. But unless industry verticals band together when “they” come for the latest sector or brand, they may come for you.


Ireland – Alcohol Labelling, Retail and Duty Free:

Irish Times, 15 December, 2017: Alcohol labels to display cancer links under new regulations
Times, 23 December, 2017: Drinks bill leaves lobby with glass half full (£)
Times, 13 January, 2018: Alcohol brands could abandon airports over duty-free reform (£)

UK – Cigarette-Style Warnings for Alcohol and Beyond:

Spectator, 8 January, 2018: Don’t put graphic warning labels on drinks – we need to inform rather than alarm
TRT World (Brand Finance), 19 January, 2018: Plain packaging could cost alcohol, carbonated drink and snack brands $187bn (YouTube)
Guardian, 26 January, 2018: UK health body calls for cigarette-style warnings on alcohol

Canada – Alcohol Labelling Reversal:

National Post (Canada), 2 January, 2018: Liquor industry pressure puts abrupt stop to unique alcohol warning-label project in Yukon
New York Times (US), 6 January, 2018: Yukon Government Gives In to Liquor Industry on Warning Label Experiment

Lithuania – Alcohol Advertising Ban:

The Drinks Business, 11 January, 2018: Lithuania enforces national alcohol advertising ban

UK – Sugar Tax:

Spectator, 4 January, 2018: In memoriam: Irn-Bru (1898 – 2018)
Guardian, 5 January, 2018: Coca-Cola to sell smaller bottles at higher prices in response to sugar tax

US – Cancer Warnings for Coffee:

Wall Street Journal (US) , 24 January, 2018: In California, Where Cancer Warnings Abound, Coffee Is Next in Line (£)
Daily Mail, 24 January, 2018: California to declare COFFEE a cancer risk amid claims it contains toxic chemicals

Endangered Species 2017 Briefing



Disruption can take many forms and it is not only technology-led, much as the VC and tech communities would have you to believe otherwise. Far less glamorous is the slippery slope of other FMCG marketing and branding restrictions that the threat of further global plain packaging legislation represents. From restrictions on advertising at particular hours to controlling messages to certain demographics, there is a path to eventual outright bans that is clearly delineated by the prospect of plain packaging legislation.

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” No, this time we’re not using Bill Gates’s famous aphorism to refer to AI, AR, VR - or any other scarcely-understood acronym behind the new, new thing that potentially poses the next threat to western civilization. In this instance, the change “being underestimated” is wrought not through new technology but the curbing of old skill-sets: design, branding, advertising.

It’s a story that has been bubbling under the business world and media’s radar, in part because – with the exception of the existing packaging restrictions on tobacco products – there is little tangible evidence of the threat with which to capture and engage the public imagination. To date, feared plain packaging restrictions relating to alcohol, sugary soft drinks, savoury snacks and confectionery have been more mooted than meted out.


Such hard evidence as there is has happened piecemeal, mostly in non-primary markets, and largely – as in South Africa, South Korea, Thailand  or Mexico – in the form of increased size health warnings rather than plain packaging restrictions per se. 

And for brand owners and the global marketing community this comparative lack of evidence can give rise to complacency. “Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction” is the sentence that followed the Gates aphorism quoted above, It is often left off the media’s citation of one of the business world’s more profound truths.

“Don’t be lulled”. Too late for the seemingly endless stream of legacy companies in verticals that continue to find no answer to the digital disruptors that have eaten their lunch. From retail to publishing, taxi services and restaurants, too many have watched the sands disappear from beneath their feet, doing too little too late.

We tend to forget that disruption does not come merely from technology, because the pace of technological revolution is so relentless and – by necessity - public. Disruption via legislation creeps up on us more by stealth – perhaps being debated in what would once have been “smoke–filled rooms” first and then made public through legislation that can take the pubic by surprise. 

There is a long and depressing history of what is forbidden.
— Stephen Bayley, Signs of Life

Look at the Trump administration’s sudden reversal of Obama-era defences of net neutrality. Who among the general public really saw that coming? Truly understands its implications? What does the public really understand about the difference the advent of EU GDPR legislation will bring next year? 

You might argue that it’s not the public’s job; that it’s the role of the politicians and other law-makers to protect us, taking into account factual evidence and the impact on wider society – navigating a course between conflicting lobby groups in so doing. Which is where the plain packaging issue hoves back into view.


There are few governments globally that would lose votes by dressing up plain packaging restrictions in the clothing of health concerns. Worries about alcohol, sugar and other addictions, the global obesity crisis, and the ever greater power of NGOs and other lobby groups mean the latterare pushing against largely-open political doors. Branding’s defenders have so far relied largely on emotional and hypothetical arguments.

The emotional defence of branding relies on suppression of choice; the creeping Nanny State versus passion, flair and gaiety in public life; the right to freedom of choice and the need for plurality. They can sometimes appear difficult lines to take,because the argument is largely still hypothetical.  Plus, in the one area where it is not hypothetical, it is likely that most ordinary people would not now advocate a return to distinctive branding on cigarette packaging. The other argument surrounding potential “theft of intellectual property” is even more removed from the general public’s emotional engagement.

However, this past month has brought a step change in awareness, in part because – arguably - for the first time there was a serious attempt to put a value on the potential threat to brands in the “at-risk” sectors via the Brand Finance consultancy’s “Plain Packaging” report.

The primary finding was that brand owners like The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Heineken and Nestlé are in danger of sleep-walking into a multi-billion hit on their finances if they don’t wake up to threatposed by plain packaging regulations being extended to other areas. The potential losses to brand valuations ($47 billion to Coca-Cola’s brands, $43 billion to PepsiCo’s, 24% and 27% of their total enterprise values respectively) made for stark reading – even without a thorough contemplation of the resulting job losses.  They are figures of a magnitude that journalists find impossible to resist; that can actually capture and engage the public’s imagination.

Which begs the question, why isn’t there more outrage, more pushback, more campaigning and lobbying by both those threatened brand owners plus the global advertising, design and marketing agency networks whose business could be decimated? “Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction” exhorted Bill Gates. The focus on quarterly and annual profits and inter-sector competition can do just that. Meanwhile, the global incursion of plain packaging may look very much more tangible in a decade’s time, if not next year. And the only way to really get business to notice is to focus on the money.



Over the last twelve months, I have been on the road explaining my idea for a ‘thingamajig’ called Endangered Species, but without any real idea of what shape it should take. In September I finally got my idea to fly, helped in no small way by Mahesh and Danny at Mr.D who created the animated identity to reflect the regulatory ‘Dangers Ahead’. 

The kiss that started it all, was the one that a Dad gives his son, loaded with love, but shouldered with the responsibility to guide this boy to adulthood, no balls dropped and no hospital passes, as he makes the hard yards of growing. Sugar was on my mind, and I had just downloaded the ‘Change For Life’ App, with a view to helping my boys get a better read on what was a healthy intake. This new bit of tech elicited some major wows and shrieks as the two lads ran up and down the supermarket aisle scanning every pack they could. 

The sugar debate still rages on, however, it seems that a more balanced approach is being adopted by Public Health England, as their CEO Duncan Selbie saying last week that they would be moving from a single focus on sugar to a wider debate all about ‘all calories’. This has to be a more healthy approach, and a more informed strategic decision, and one that will that allow brand owners and manufacturers to innovate and respond in a positive way rather than being treated like naughty children.

As we all know, ‘sugar turns to alcohol’, hic not (sic), and having spent my design life to date advising and designing for alcohol brand owners, my attention was drawn to an earlier report from PHE at the end of 2016, saying there was strong evidence in support of “a range of policies” to clamp down on harmful drinking, including plain packaging and tobacco-style health warnings. 

At first, I thought this a bit ludicrous, but a recent bill being readied for the Irish Parliament has put the reality of the challenge in clear view. From the Irish Times, December 2017: “Health warnings about alcohol, its ingredients, calories and links to cancer will take up one-third of the space for labels on bottles and cans after the Irish Minister for Health Simon Harris accepted amendments to drinks legislation. The controversial Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which tightens down on the sale of alcohol, initially provided for labelling through regulation, the label warnings will be in both Irish and English. Mr. Harris also changed provisions so that alcohol can be imported without the labels but an offence will be committed if alcohol is sold anywhere in Ireland, including airports, without the health warning labels.”

landmark legislation, the first ever piece of public health legislation on alcohol
— Simon Harris, Irish Minister for Health

So the game is afoot as you might say! Last month I had an informal breakfast with industry friends to test what knowledge and insight were in the creative industries and what were our plans to address it. The answer was pretty simple, low to medium awareness, a sense that it may not happen, but no real plan if it does. So I am calling on the creative community, through Endangered Species, to gather together, discuss, debate, inform and educate so that we can help lead both our clients and government in a positive and responsible approach to labelling, packaging and communication.

‘It’s better to be a pirate than join the navy’, said Steve Jobs, and although I have often quoted the man in extolling creative disruptance, in this case, I do not want to stick the Jolly Roger on the front of my favourite spirit bottles, or even on the back. 

My plan for 2018 is to publish an Endangered Species Briefing each month, this document will have all the relevant media content from around the world, summarised and ready to share with your clients, agencies and friends. In addition, we are planning a one-day event to be held in London in March, this will provide a forum and platform for healthy debate and planning. If you would like to be a part of Endangered Species, email me at ron@endangered-species.co.uk and we can discuss how you can help.

Best for 2018,

Ron Cregan, Founder.

I am an Endangered Species.