Professionalism is Killing Your Brand: Here's the Cure

Download MP3

Louis: some would argue that it's, you know, you can say whatever the fuck you want, but then what if those brands, those people working for those big brands read you and feel offended and therefore don't work with you, right? The risk is also quite high.
Dave: Yeah. But equally I've set out from the outset to really only purposefully want to work with brands and the people at those brands who are comfortable with maybe me swearing, maybe not any, the fi, you know, the first interview to the CEO or maybe, but two or two or three emails in, or when we're on the first call, straightaway, as soon as they hear me, they'll know.
They'll know that I'm not gonna be using any buzzwords. They'll know I'm gonna be speaking to them straight, and it's like. If they've got an issue with that in meeting one, it's going to be a fucking nightmare working with me once we get further down the line, because I'm just going to be honest and I'm going to be trying all these different ways of bringing out their personality, which don't, I mean, I know that's the kind of thing I do on social, like all in on the funny.
It's when I'm working with clients. It's probably only like 40 percent like want me to do funny stuff for them. The others are just like, we just need to be a bit clearer or we just need to use, you know, get our, get our real authentic personality out.
Louis: Bonjour, bonjour and welcome to another episode of everyone hates marketers. com the no fluff actionable marketing podcast for people sick of marketing bullshit. I'm your host Louis Grenier in today's episode, you will learn where to find the funny and write about it. My guest today is the world's least dangerous superhero.
His superpower is that he knows loads of rare and obscure words, which makes him better than most at Scrabble. So not super helpful when it comes to fights like Sluiter or other villains. For two decades, he's been writing funny stuff for businesses and brands who want to stop boring people to tears.
I've discovered him years ago now on LinkedIn. Always laughed at his posts. Which takes a lot of energy to make me laugh when I'm fucking browsing LinkedIn at like 11 PM trying to fall asleep. So anyway, he's also the agency owner of Copy or Die. I don't think I need to explain what they do. Dave Harland, welcome.
Dave: Thanks so much. What an intro. That's ace. And yet there's the whole thing about Scrabble, me knowing loads of words. Vocabulary is not amazing. I just know where to put all the small words and that means everything in Scrabble.
Louis: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You're, you're this kind of guy who would just, you know, I would like to, to make them feel like, you know, they're just average, but you're not.
Clearly from your copy, from the way you, you write, from everything, you're far from being average, man. So anyway, enough compliments, fuck that. There's something that we both agree on, that I love. For you to talk about a bit more. And it's something that, you know, if we go to your LinkedIn profile or if you just come across your work, it's clearly not your usual like behavior of a marketing, copywriting professional who's selling a services to brands who are so well established. In other words, some people might call you not professional and downright like rude or whatever else. So I love to know, how do you, how do you interpret that? How do you explain that professionalism doesn't necessarily mean wearing a three piece suit and talking like a British Lord?
Dave: Yeah, it doesn't. I get that quite a bit, like, you know, Dave, you're so unprofessional in your approach or you're not like, you don't, you don't kind of follow this, the same old ways of, of doing your marketing and your stuff. And yeah, I, I always come back and say professionalism doesn't have to be all, like you say, like a British Lord doesn't have to be really corporate and buzzword heavy and really forced professionalism can be.
Exactly how I like to do things, which is just part of the time, just being nice and normal and honest and open and simple in the way I, I talk about things like forever. Whenever I go into a shoe shop, the one thing I hate is when someone comes over to you and goes, hi, can I just, it's like, fuck, leave me alone, get away from me.
Like I'm, I'm doing this in my own, in my own time. And I think like in life I've, I've always. Kind of preferred, preferred taking my own time over, over kind of buying decisions. And, you know, obviously there's those little impulse things where you're like, fuck, I've got to have that like right away. But yeah, whenever I've signed up to anything or whenever I've kind of followed a brand or anything like that, it's because they've entertained me first or they've made me smile or they've, they've given me something first rather than asking for some random sale.
And yeah, I find that that's, that it feels most comfortable to me because I'm not. You know, I'm not a marketer and that I've kind of grown into that. My background was journalism, so I know how to tell stories. Yeah, I know how to tell stories and how to write the headline. And I've kind of learned how to persuade, which is the copyright inside of it.
But like your traditional marketing, all of that. You know, like market and terminology about, you know, attribution. I don't know any of the lingo. I've just kind of, I've just kind of found it as I've, as I've gone. And by asking a load of really smart people out there.
Louis: That's what I want you to know. It's like you didn't arrive in this world knowing all of this, right?
So, was there, when you started your career, did you act like you think, like you thought you should have acted like, you know, like being a professional wearing suits, being super proper and not so honest about what you're thinking? Like, what was the journey like that?
Dave: Yeah, I think if I was to look back at you know, emails I used to send when I first graduated, like my first job was a football writer. Worked for the Premier League website doing football reports and stuff. And if I was to look back at some of the emails I'd be sending, even like to get the job, it would be like, you know, dear such and such, and at the end I'd probably write many thanks.
Like now, I just don't do that every email starts, hiya, and at the end it's always cheers. And it's just, it's just me now. Where is she? Like, yeah, back then it, it, it was just that, it's like that, what you're taught in school, isn't it? Like you must write professionally, this is the way to write. You must always, you know, structure things.
It's almost like you're writing to, you know, your kid's headmaster at school. You're trying to impress them by using all of these big words. So it's the moment you actually get into the actual copywriting, get into the weeds. It's like getting the message across, communicating the message as simply and as quickly as possible is like paramount.
And, and all of the other stuff is yeah, by the way, so I've taken, taken a while admittedly to, to find my natural voice. So like the funny stuff that I'll, I'll try and put out on LinkedIn, even say like six, seven years ago when I, when I really moved over and started doing most of my, most of my work. My market and my, my lead gen on LinkedIn.
It certainly wasn't like formal or anything, but it was, it was nowhere near my, the voice that I I put out today. That's taking time. And I say that to people when they get in touch. They go, oh, you've got, you know, such and such followers. And you know, how, how do I craft my voice? You know, have you got any quick wins?
And I'm like, you fucking post every day for the next five years. It'll come. You'll find it. You know, so to yet, there's a stark difference between how I used to be and how I am now. And I was in house for 10 years before going freelance in 2016. And those 10 years, even though fun and being a little bit daft has always been, it's always been there.
It was a little bit kind of sheltered when, yeah, when I was in house, when I was more fearful of losing my job for perhaps, you know, speaking my mind in a meeting because I wanted to appease the marketing director than anything else. Really. Whereas now I run my own, I am, you know, I'm a freelancer, got my own agency, basically say whatever the fuck I want.
Louis: Yeah, but some would argue that it's, you know, you can say whatever the fuck you want, but then what if those brands, those people working for those big brands read you and feel offended and therefore don't work with you, right? The risk is also quite high.
Dave: Yeah. But equally I've set out from the outset to really only purposefully want to work with brands and the people at those brands who are comfortable with maybe me swearing, maybe not any, the fi, you know, the first interview to the CEO or maybe, but two or two or three emails in, or when we're on the first call, straightaway, as soon as they hear me, they'll know.
They'll know that I'm not gonna be using any buzzwords. They'll know I'm gonna be speaking to them straight, and it's like. If they've got an issue with that in meeting one, it's going to be a fucking nightmare working with me once we get further down the line, because I'm just going to be honest and I'm going to be trying all these different ways of bringing out their personality, which don't, I mean, I know that's the kind of thing I do on social, like all in on the funny.
It's when I'm working with clients. It's probably only like 40 percent like want me to do funny stuff for them. The others are just like, we just need to be a bit clearer or we just need to use, you know, get our, get our real authentic personality out.
Louis: So, so that's something that is very important to unpack here, what you just said, and then I want to go back to something about your journey.
But first, what you said here about you, you went all in with the funny on LinkedIn. So it's clearly like a lead gen strategy. You purposefully. Like all in on to that. So you would, when you get a message from a scammer, like someone, you know, is like fake profile or whatever, you entertain them, you take screenshots.
It's, it's fucking hilarious, but that's not the. You lead with this, right? So it's kind of your beachhead, your whatever you want to call it, right? You live with this. So people know you for that first, but then when they start working with you, it's not just that, right? So it's also happy, help us make that clear, help us make it make sense, help us explain it.
So people understand and stuff like that. So I'm repeating that. Because for folks listening, I know this is a big issue, where they are afraid of being pigeonholed into a specific skill set, discipline, sector, industry, category, whatever you want to call it. And they are afraid that their entire identity is going to wrap around that single thing.
They are afraid that their brain is going to shrink because that's the only thing they do. And so like, you know, and I think it's a good example of what you described, the fact that no, it's not about just picking one thing, it's just you start with one thing, right? Do you agree with this? Do you disagree?
Like what's, do you see it this way?
Dave: Yeah, a hundred percent. I mean, it's the strategy I've gone with. Be the go to person for funny copy. That's the reason I put out 19 and 20 posts. I stick on LinkedIn or either, you know, sarcasm or parody or piss take, or it's made it's very rarely that I'll, I'll ever, I mean, I never asked for the sale.
My call to action is always, do you want more like this German newsletter? That's all it ever is really, because I know back to what I said about that salesperson in the shop. I'm like, I'm not going for the sale. It's just not, it's just not, not what I'm comfortable with. It's not what I'd feel. I feel right doing.
Not that I've really had anything to sell. Like I've got, I've just opened the agency, copy or die the back end of last year. I will be asking for the sale. Like we have website isn't a hundred percent launch yet. We just got a few tweaks, but it should be, it should be launched next week. And I'll be saying, like, if you ever, if you ever wanted to work with me, I'm open for business.
Now, now's the time, like fill in a form. I will actually be inviting people to do it. So, but yeah, but I thought you saying that, yeah, definitely purposefully going all in on a funny, and I don't mind being, being known for that because it's a way to grab attention and be remembered. And once we do have that first meeting.
It's, it's net, like I said before, only 40 percent I'd say of the jobs, they want me to work on stuff that's humorous. The rest is, is more clarity and you know, more often than not, it's hi Dave, you know, we're just a bit boring. Can you bring our personality out? They're not, they're not expecting me to go, you know, all guns blazing with a load of.
You know, yeah, yeah, no, I mean the other way, like finely tuned, like jokes and puns and, and like over the top shit, which a lot of the time just getting the, just like putting contractions in instead of saying, you know, we will, you say, we'll, it's like the simplest, the simplest little tweak in the book.
Just, just gets the humanity across a little bit more. And sometimes that's, yeah, that's all it takes.
Louis: I love that, man. I like the fact that it's intentional, which goes back to the journey and what I wanted to ask, like, can you pinpoint a specific event, a specific thing, specific story, something that happened that led you more to this all in, funny kind of strategy versus more of a average, like, yet another professional in the space who's just saying best regards at the end of every email?
Like, was there some specific moment in time where things change or? Was it more of an evolution?
Dave: I think in terms of the all in on the funny, I'd say the start, the start of the COVID pandemic really hit home for me when quite rightfully, a lot of, a lot, a lot of people were panicking about, you know, massive changes in the way they work, you're getting shifted, you know, to work from home that, you know, pupils were worrying about their vulnerable family members who would, you know, deaths shooting off left, right and center.
So the kind of general consensus in the mood everywhere was pretty bleak. And then, you know, you add on a one hand, I was getting emails from CEOs of, you know, businesses that I hadn't done business with for eight years saying, hi, Dave. Well, hi, Mr. Harland at this time, we really cared about you. And it was just, just so insincere.
And I was like, fuck, like I was straight away. It was just parody worthy. I was just rewriting us, just slating them and saying, this is not how you do marketing. So I first thought, right, I'll just do some parodies of these or explain almost like explainers. This is not the way to do it. But then of course.
You had like government slogans come out with like, you know, I can't even remember the worst one. One of them had control the virus in the middle of it. It's just the worst bit of it. Like, what does that even mean? Control the virus? Like how? You're going to give me a net and fucking get it out the window.
Like it nuts. Some of the, some of the government's communications was, was insane. My favorite one was when Priti Patel, who was the home secretary at the time, came on national telly and said that shoplifting was down 90% on on the previous year. . It's like, no, fucking, no, no wonder, oh, fucking shops are shut you lunatic . Like the maddest, the maddest communication thing going on. So at that time, it wasn't really a strategic decision at that time to go, I'm just gonna do funny stuff Now. It is more for a mix of sanity, and also my own sanity, just thinking, like, how am I going to keep my mood light, but also, yeah, as you started, just taking the piss a bit more, really, and being less, yeah, less, less caring about, like, prior to that, I was putting out, you know, your classic listicles, never, like, 10 ways to do this, they always had a little bit of weirdness to them.
But never, yeah, never from the kind of start of the pandemic, I probably had my, yeah, my, my most successful year during those three months that everyone was locked down. The first one, like the leads flooded in, it was nuts. And I was like, Oh, I've hit on something here. Like, let's do more of that. And I wasn't getting, you know, Roderick from, you know, dreary IT solutions, asking me to write a case study anymore.
It was like household brand. This is really funny dave, can you help us do stuff like this? And I was like, bang, there's the reason to do more of that and lean more into it.
Louis: Great. I'm glad I asked because I could feel that there was something there. Uh, there's always a turning point, right? Do you think the influx of leads coming through was primarily because of the new angle you had picked as a, as a reaction to what was happening?
Or was it also because the demand was sky high? Like everyone was staying at home. And so people are taking courses and fucking improving what they had. And like online was like, everything was thinking online or was it a bit of both?
Dave: I think a bit of both. Yeah. I'll attribute it to my change of approach to make me sound all smart, but it was probably to bring me down.
Yeah, it's probably, um, no, that was just a thing that, you know, inspired me to go all in on the funny. I think it was probably a bit of both, you know, people were never that their dickhead boss over their shoulder. So they could probably be on LinkedIn a little bit more and they were maybe, you know, discovering all of these new people that they'd never connected to before.
And I went from like probably 5, 000 followers to 25, 000 in that three month period on LinkedIn, which, you know, as anyone who'd It gets past like 10,000, the reach then of your posts kind of goes, and that's when you start going like commenting on, put on me. Posts on LinkedIn is almost like a part time job at that point.
Um, so, so yeah, it was a bit, it was a bit of both more people, yeah. Doing courses and stuff. And yeah, my, my reach kind of growing as well, just because I'd had that kind of influx of followers and just yet because most, most people on there were still doing what they'd always done. Really boring stuff, talking about themselves, which I'd never, ever done.
And I just think more people were seeing me doing slightly different stuff that they were used to and going out. Yeah, I'll have more to that.
Louis: So let's go to a more practical, applicable topic for folks listening. Right. And because at the start of this episode, I said how to find where to find the funny, which is your words, like I'm dumb, right?
I just use. guess words, and then I make, I just mash them up. So how to find things that are funny and how to write about it, right? Now, I don't think the aim is to turn every folks listening into a copywriter, but it's more in terms of how can they get the courage to try things that might seem counterintuitive.
You started to mention a few like the, about clarity, about contractions, about, you know, jokes. You know, even if you're a fucking, how do you call them? The places where you're, when you're dead, you go to, and then you go in a coffin and then you go to a cemetery. What's the name of those before?
Dave: A funeral home.
Louis: Yes, that's one. Yeah. Right. Anyway. So, okay. Long, long winded intro to this, but when folks, let's say, you know, solo planners, consultants, agency owners, small business owners, whatever, you know, ask you, okay, I want to be, I want to. You know, do something, write something that makes more sense for my people, but also want to try to, yeah, be a bit funnier, or at least be more myself.
Where do you start?
Dave: Two, two areas, really. The first one is I'll make sure that they have actually got a personality and they are actually like genuinely a little bit funny in, in certainly the, you know, with the one man bands, I'm talking kind of entrepreneurs here who asked me to do that. So my first bit of advice is don't try and go all funny if you're not actually funny and you haven't actually got a personality, you know, if you are quite boring and techie in real life and you try and force funny, it will quickly become apparent.
When you pick up the phone or when you start replying to emails in your actual, you know, tone that I haven't written for you and they're really dry. So forcing it, it's probably the bad way to go. I mean, I can certainly run them through some ways of bringing out their actual personality. You know, I do a tone of voice workshop and I do one to ones with people where, you know, I delve into, you know, what their actual personality is like, and we look at different ways of doing that.
I'll get onto in a sec, but I'll usually know in that first meeting or the first email, you know, or the moment we start delving into that personality or tone, whether they've actually got something and they can really kind of run with it authentically on their own. And then the second part is key. Like it's like, you're just doing it for you or will your audience kind of take to it?
Because if your audience hasn't got an appetite for humor. It's, it's like, what are you doing it for? It's pointless. And I, quite a lot I ask just some simple questions. I'll ask them to ask their customers or do a survey or something. We'll just put a poll out saying like, you know, which of these comedians would you sooner go and see stand up and make them as different as possible. Make it like, you know, Jerry Seinfeld all the way to like, what's his name? The Scottish guy, Frankie Boyle. So like household name kind of observational or Peter Kay all the way to, you know, really Jerry Sadowitz or someone a little bit wacky or something. Maybe tell a couple of jokes or even do a little bit of testing.
Read some really light testing with a little bit of humor within. You know, an email subject line just to gauge whether, yeah, whether the stuff that you're doing is funny or not. And you might just see replies to your emails. Like if you've done a funny subject line one week and they're normally really, really straight and boring, you might get five people go, Oh, I, I don't normally open your emails, Louis, but I've opened this one because you did X, Y, Z.
Or even just like, I don't know, changing the button text on your website. There's a few little, yeah, a few little ways.
Louis: So don't say too much. You've already said a lot, which is great.
So let's backtrack a bit. How do I know if I'm funny?
Dave: Oh, that's a good question. I suppose deep down, you'll probably know.
You don't need me to tell you whether you're funny or not. I think if, you know, when you're in a room and you say stuff and people laugh. It's like, we're talking like, we're talking like, I'm talking like caveman stuff here, aren't I? This really basic stuff. I think deep down you'll know if you're not funny, like I get people come to me quite often.
Hi Dave. I'm not, I read your stuff and laugh. I'm, I'm really not funny. Can you make me more funny? It's like one of the most popular. And I go, well, I can make you funny. I can make you sound funny, but are you funny? Cause it'll be weird if you're not. And you try and run with this yourself or you then start doing.
Yeah. You know, speaking gigs and it's all, Oh, let's have a look at the Q2 results of the, and it's just like, it doesn't work, but yeah, I think deep down, you'll know. And if you don't, I haven't really got any kind of tests to draw that out. No, that's okay. It's like, yeah, you, you either, I think, yeah, I think you either, yeah, you know, you have an inkling or you, or you don't.
Louis: Yeah. And you talked about personality. So what do you think is the difference between the two? Like between. being funny and having a good personality or whatever objective you want to add to that. Cause surely one can go without the other, right? You can have an interesting personality without being funny.
Would you work with people like that?
Dave: Yeah. Personality and humor are completely different. Humor is just, is just one kind of one element of your personality, really. So, you know, you can be, you can absolutely have a personality without being funny, some of the most, you know, interesting people, they might have a little bit of dry with, or they might have something else interesting with regards to the type of stuff that they're into or passionate about or whatever. But yeah, I think there's the kind of mutually exclusive.
Louis: So how do you know if somebody has an interesting personality or not?
Dave: Yeah. Again, another interesting question. I suppose that's back to when I, You know, when I delve a little bit deeper, probably even before I, I, you know, work with them in, in terms of like a one to one session or a deeper tone of voice session, I'll just ask them some questions on the first call and just tell me a bit about your business.
And usually in sense, like if they've got a little bit of a, a kind of quirky story or if they've went like way in the way into their industry or whatever. And if they're not just making everything about work, you can normally go. Ah, yeah, there's, there's something there, there's little nuggets that, that, um, I'll be able to sense.
I don't know, maybe that's the kind of journalist training in me where we're kind of, you know, taught to sense those kind of newsworthy moments. I think, yeah, personality and like interesting things. I often say I've got a slightly, you know, finely tuned radar for stuff that's like a little bit interesting.
And I'll tend to spot that in people as well.
Louis: You learn that, again, you are not born this way or maybe a bit, but you learn that in journalism, right? Like, I mean, that's one of the core things is like, how do you recognize a good story? How to know what is interesting, what is not. And there is this sort of sense taste, there is something that some people have that others don't, but like, I want you to like channel that energy or whatever it is.
You know, when you're listening to someone trying to like, maybe, you know, how it makes you feel or whatever, when you hear something interesting, but like, what are the telltale sign where you feel, okay, there's something like, is it, how does it feel for you?
Dave: Well, in terms of like their interest in personality or whether, for example, like, you know,
Louis: like you talk to someone and you have goosebumps or something for like a few seconds when they say something or like, what are the telltale signs for you?
Like in your own, like, how does it feel when you hear something that is like, Ooh, that's interesting.
Dave: It's usually something that I've never heard before, which is, I think, intrinsically linked to, you know, a lot of the way I'll write headlines. Like I'll say, like, if you can Google a phrase, rewrite it. If there's 10, 000 search results for whatever phrase you're using for your headline, rewrite it because people aren't going to notice it.
Whereas if it's something that makes you stop in your tracks and go, fucking hell, there's five words that I've never seen put together before in a sentence. That's going to make you, your ears prickle. And, and stop you in your tracks and be interested. So I think the same is, yeah, it's probably true for like you say, when I'm listening to someone tell their story, if they then say, you know, just something like, you know, yeah, when I was younger, I was into, you know, donkey farming and then, uh, and then they'll go off and I'll go, Whoa, tell me more about the donkey farming.
I want to know that. Like what, what's that backstory there might not go anywhere. But it might do, or just, yeah, a little interesting hobbies and, you know, on podcasts, you hear people talking about that, how they got it, how they got into what they do or what's, what's your founder story. What's the, what's this.
And more often than not, there'll be at least one little quirky story within those, which might, may or may not be a, a, a representation of kind of real authentic personality there that, or, or interest in personality that you could maybe dig a bit deeper and dredge out. Oh, so that donkey stuff, how did you get into that?
Oh, I was one of my friends, we were doing such and such and actually that friend of mine, she now works for, and then before you know it, you might've gone off on a mad tangent. You might, you might have your questionnaire that you normally your 10 questions that you ask them at the start, but you've gone off on a, on a completely kind of mad.
Yeah. On a mad tangent. Like when we do briefing calls at the start with new clients, we'll just say, so tell it like, even though they've already filled in a questionnaire, we'll say, tell us about your story then. So how have you come to launch in this business? Go back to the start, but like you've done it with me.
I'd go back to the start, tell us where it all began. And then like, there'll be something within there that you'll find. And if not, yeah, it's quite difficult.
Louis: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I, I, I exactly know what you mean. Like for me, when, when I try, when I feel like there's something interesting, it's, it's, as you said, I think you've mentioned the word so many times already, which is great.
It's like, it's, there's a story there that is unique to them, obviously, because you know, that's what happens. And, and you want to know more and you're curious about it and it makes you laugh or it surprises you or it shocks you a bit. And, and that's when then you dig deeper and you feel like that could be an entire yeah, and that's your blog post, and that's your podcast episode, and that's your something, right?
Something that I feel you're doing very, very well, that I think that teaching in journalism as well, is not being afraid to pick an extremely specific story, angle, whatever the fuck, right? Something that is extreme, so specific that if you were to Google it, you wouldn't find anything else. Right? So a lot of folks are afraid of that.
They're afraid of specificity. They're afraid of picking something narrow whenever they write something whatever, because they are afraid of missing out on other stuff. Right? So what do you say to people like that, like who think this way, like how, how can we try to convince them to go ultra specific and ultra niche and try whatever you want to call it?
Dave: Yeah, it's, there's a, um, like an analogy that I, when I was chatting to one of my clients about, like, if someone throws five baseballs at you at once, What are your chances of catching all five? Fucking no chance. One, maybe two, three if you're lucky. If you throw one at them, they're gonna catch that every time, aren't they?
So, bit of a tired, a tired analogy, I suppose. It's probably been done before, but Yeah, I'll, I'll say to, I'll say to clients, like If you've got five messages don't say them all in one email, or don't try and squeeze them all into one ad. Split them over five different ads, and just focus on one, in each one.
But more than that, like the ultra specificity. It's like, it's one of the, it's one of the key techniques that I, that I teach. When I'm trying to show people how to, how to dive into these, these areas for being funny. It's just zooming into a subject almost to an uncomfortable, uncomfortably detailed degree.
Louis: Yeah. We don't say almost like to an absolute uncomfortable detail degree, you will feel uncomfortable doing this, right? Yeah. Yeah. When you're not used to it, like you'll probably don't feel that uncomfortable anymore doing it. Folks trying that will feel uncomfortable, right? That's one of the telltale sign.
Dave: Yeah, a hundred percent does push back and it's like, like, we're not used to doing this, but the more you zoom into something that you're trying to convey, it makes that thing extra relatable to the audience.
Louis: So visualize it, right. It makes them feel it. It makes them. Right.
Dave: A a hundred, a hundred percent.
Like I was working with a travel agent a couple of, a couple of years ago here in the uk. I don't, you know, I'll name them like on the, on the beach travel agents. Big, big travel agent. They're more like a, the working class travel agents. So they're the travel agent for the people. So, whereas, you know, all the luxury escapes and all of them, uh, are all about like, you know, cocktails by the pool, like on the beach at about like, you know.
Drawing, drawing stuff on your mate's back with sun cream and throwing your kid into the pool and all of that type of stuff. And one of their offers was, when you book a four or five star holiday, you'll get free airport lounge access. So, rather than kind of, you know, extol the virtues of the luxuriousness of kind of free time in this airport lounge and being able to relax and blah de blah.
We, we went ultra specific on how you can absolutely fill your boots with the free ale and all the free food there. So we zoomed into, like, I was talking about like specific stuff that you'll be, you'll be shoving onto your plate. Like the, the, um, the sandwiches without crusts and extra fluffy croissants.
And, you know, like taking, taking an Instagram photo of that cocktail to send to all your mates to make them jealous. I like, I probably wrote about three, two or 200, 300 words just about what it's like being in an airport lounge, whereas the other brands may have just gone, you know, spend a fuss free three hours in an airport lounge, but now on the base said like.
Like we want to, we want to make this more relatable. So I was like, zooming in is the way you're going to do that. So yeah, brilliant, a brilliant little, little technique to get more relatable.
Louis: So ultra specificity, that's one of the things you like to teach, right? Yeah. What else do you like to say about that specific topic?
Right. Is there anything else that you tend to go back to explain that to clients or use it for your own? So I can share with you all in your own work, right? You shared that example, which is fantastic, I know. Is there anything else there that you like to talk about?
Dave: I've just, like I said, a couple of times I've just started these.
One to one power hours, almost power, but everyone calls them a power hour. So I've called him 63 minutes at business stuff or where they stop or whatever. I thought, let's just kind of go elongate the name of this thing to a ridiculously stupid, silly degree. And then when I'm explaining what goes on, I don't just say like, you know, come to me for business advice for such and such.
My bullet point list is about nine long and I go just really stupid. And it gets to the point where like, once you get to number seven, it's like fucking it. And at the end they go, but don't ask me about cooking. I'm shit at cooking. So just, just finding any excuse to take that read that on, on. A little bit of a, a weird tangents or an odd little journey through away from what they're expecting.
Because I know again, you know, 19 and 20 people out there who've got a power hour. We'll just be saying, I come to me for advice on your business strategy and I can talk you through dah, dah, dah. Whereas if, you know, if someone's read the mind and he make it all the way to that bottom bullet point of nine, I'd have made them smile along the way.
I reckon they're probably more likely to go, yeah, you know what, this would be, this would be a laugh. Let's do 63 minutes of that weirdo and click buy. So that's, I think that's one way that I kind of zoom into the real specifics of what's a relatively standard offer. Just in a bit of a, a bit of a wacky way.
Louis: Yeah. If I were to reverse engineer, why? A lot of the stuff you write makes me laugh. It's definitely because you go very deep, weird into one specific thing or a few specific stuff. And I can, I can tell why it's catching on just today. I sent you a message saying, what did I say exactly? Hold on. Let's reverse engineer what I just said to you this morning.
I said,
Dave: it was quite restrained. I was going to go deeper, but I held myself back.
Louis: Yeah. I sent you a message. I say, I hope your balls are already getting sweaty. As a way to prepare you for the episode to say like, you know, I'm ready. And you replied by, I made sure to smother them in talc, talc, talc. Is it talc?
Talc this morning, right? Talc. So like, again, that sounds like a stupid answer, but if you were to reverse engineer it. You went very visual and very specific with like the type of things you would use on the action you take. Right. And I know I might overly read into this, but to me, that's what makes it then ultra funny.
Dave: Yeah. Nail on nail on head. It's like as vivid as you can make something, if you can just paint that picture in someone's mind and almost worked and almost like, cause Like, I've got the audio book, Stephen King's audio book on writing, and he's all about like, you know, I let the reader fill in the, yeah, let you read in the audience, sometimes fill in the blanks.
I'm like the opposite. I like go, I like go, yeah, let's go uncomfortably close to this and focus on it.
Louis: Yeah.
Dave: But yeah,
Louis: it's like I was with you. Yeah. Now you
Dave: say, now you say, yeah, see what I mean? I do that shit without even thinking about it. No. Is it, is it a curse? It's probably a curse.
Louis: Yeah. I think your partner is sick of you.
Yeah. She doesn't laugh at any of my jokes. Yeah. That's how, you know, she's the same. She says I'm not funny. She doesn't understand how people think I'm funny. Ultra specificity is one thing that you like to teach and talk about a lot. What other aspects do you like to talk about when you talk about tone of voice and.
All of the stuff we've talked about so far.
Dave: I think in terms of like comedy approaches and using humor, there's, there's like, I'd say three or four of the sort of first one, which is massive. I think on LinkedIn, if you can do this, I think you're going to win people straight away and that's self deprecation.
So being able to laugh at yourself is so likable. And when I was 15, we had a new English teacher. He joined us from a different school and we were all stood outside the classroom and he walks up and there was like audible gasps from me and my fellow classmates because he had the most bulging, biggest bulging eyes any of us had ever seen.
We were like, we were like, like, like shock, shock, horror. And he goes, you know what he said? He went, I'll never, never forget it. As long as I live. He went, first thing he's ever said to a group of, whatever, 15 lads. He went, all right, boys, I know I've got dead big eyes like a frog, but I'll let you laugh about it today.
But if you laugh about it and take the piss after today, you're all in detention, but we're going to have a boss here. How's that sound? We will all like. Oh mate, that's the best thing a teacher has ever said to us because he had a little bit of a pop on himself and but at the same time he like he let us know that like he took no messing so like we respected him for it immediately.
But brands can do that. I don't know how many listeners will be familiar with Lewis Capaldi, the singer, Scottish singer, Lewis Capaldi.
Louis: I wrote about it on my newsletter a few times.
Dave: Constantly takes the piss out of himself as pops about, about, you know, suffers badly with his mental health and he has Tourette's syndrome and he's really open about that, but like in the main, even the way he talks about that, it's just so open and yeah, just as pops about himself and Ryanair do it a lot as well.
Like Ryan, like Ryanair, they're really, really open about how they would charge you to go for the piss on a plane if they could, like, I know it's just, I know it's just tongue in cheek, but the way they do it is just, they own the whole, like, no, low budget, no frills, and I think brands that can do that, it's just, it's such a quick win to get people on your side, it's like, they don't take themselves too seriously.
Like, does anybody really like people who take themselves too seriously? Unless they're like the CEO of some big kind of, you know, a big healthcare company, you kind of want to be nice and serious all the time. If you can have a bit of a pop at yourself, I think you can, yeah, get more people on your side.
Louis: So it's interesting that you share the example of Lewis Capaldi, because I think it's a very British, Irish. British Isles, whatever the fuck you want to call it, humor. Like the self deprecating humor is something I think that, you know, the UK is known for, right? By, worldwide in terms of type of humor.
Yeah. And it's not as frequent in America and, not as frequent in, in France, definitely not. So it's interesting to pinpoint that. And I think it works everywhere because of the, what they call the pratfall effect. You know, like it goes back to when you're willing to admit to weakness, you're more trusted because you're not perfect or whatever.
I just found, I wrote a piece about Lewis Capaldi and an example of that very thing. So I'm just going to read what he was saying. So there was this Alison Hammond, who's British journalist, ask him, how would you promote to the viewers out there your new album? And he replied, don't waste your time. It's a complete and utter joke that I've been allowed to do a second one.
If anything, I've got worse. Don't bother yourself with it. Go buy it. Sharon's latest offering and everyone's cracking up already. And then the other John, and he said, do you enjoy the performing? He said, no, no, I hate this. This is like just paying the bills. And then he went, no, no, sorry. I really do. It's better than to have a real job.
I'm not really good at anything else except, except that love making. And until I can make a career in that. So everyone's just cracking up. So, yeah, I think it's a great example of self deprecation, but you've got to be, I don't know if you've seen this. I'm sure you have. I'm sure you have watched The Office, the American version of The Office.
Dave: Not as much as the UK one because there's about 7, 000 episodes, but I am familiar with it. I know, I know all the characters. I know, you know, Jim and Pam and all of them. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay.
Louis: Okay. Anyway, there is this episode where Michael Scott, the boss, falls into a koi pond. And, and Jim tells him after a while that, look, everyone's laughing at you.
If you were laughing at yourself first, people would stop really laughing at you. And he starts by saying, You know, oh, can you believe I fell into that Koi pond and whatever. And then he doesn't stop where he should and he starts to like, say that he's basically an idiot and that no one likes him. And you know, he goes too far.
And at the end, he's in tears. And I think this scene is so fucking funny. So anyway, to go back to what we were saying, where do you stop with this? Because it's easy to just overly do it, no?
Dave: Yeah, I think you have to stop because I think overdoing it just makes it look insincere and almost like you're humble bragging.
So there's definitely a fine line. I think in the first, in the kind of the first time someone sees an ad of yours or in your first message to a prospect or the first email that you send, having a little bit of a laugh at yourself can help. Definitely break down barriers for that first time. But if, you know, if you're into email two and three and you're still taking a piss out of yourself, I think it smacks of lack of confidence.
I think you've got to quickly flip it on its head and maybe delve into all the areas of kind of humor and, and, and bringing out your personality. Which leads me nicely on to number three, but yeah, that's, I'd say, yeah, don't, don't, certainly don't overdo it because you know, People aren't soft. You'll see someone on LinkedIn after having a pop of themselves too much.
It's like, like I said, lack of confidence or this is, you're just using this as a, as a device to get people on your side. And you're not, you don't really think of yourself like that. Like again, talking about comedy. Have you seen, um, Tim Robinson? I think you should leave. Yeah. US sketch show. So this is brilliant sketch.
So there's three women sitting around. And a little bit like what you said about the office one, where they go too far. Three women sitting around, just having a little lunch date and they've just taken a selfie of, of like them having coffee and one of them's posted it. And she goes, Oh, just, just had lunch with these three dumbos.
And the other one goes, Oh, that's so cool. And then the other, the second one goes, Oh yeah, just, um, just chatting, chat, chatting about nothing with these dummies. And then the third, the third one, like you hear bing, bing, and she reads it out loud. And she goes. Just having lunch with these two fat hogs, I wish these two would fucking die and like it's just takes this takes like so far removed from like where's it where's appropriate and it's exactly that it's like you can you can have a tiny pop it yourself the first time but if you're doing it every time like ripping into yourself, it's like it's just a bit weird, isn't it?
Louis: Yeah, like anything I suppose.
Dave: Yeah, I, yeah, I mean KKFC. When KFC ran outta chicken, they did that now famous ad didn't he? Where they changed KFC to FCK and it was just an empty bucket of chicken. Like fuck, we fucked up, you know, we ran outta chicken, it won't happen again. Like I know, I know they do funny stuff, but that was the last self de that self-deprecate the first I last self-deprecating thing that I saw KFC do, where they, they openly admitted that they'd messed up.
And I think that's probably, that's probably the best way to go if you're doing it too much.
Louis: Yeah, it's probably so. Ultra specificity, self-deprecation, what else?
Dave: Oh man, my favorite one, picking a fight. Picking a fight is, is the most fun you can have. And there was a, there was a shop, there was a carpet shop when I was growing up called Taffy's and it was on the direct bus route on my way from my little village to our town center, 10 minutes on the bus.
And every day or whenever I'd be going down, we'd drive past this carpet shop, never really took notice of it, but. I'd say I was probably nine or 10. I was really, really quite young. What the hell were my parents doing? Allow me to get a bus to my local town at nine. But anyway, that's by the by. Opposite this carpet shop, there used to be a load of houses and they all, overnight it seemed, they all got dragged down one day.
And a big, massive, like superstore sized carpet world was erected in place of these houses. So this little local kind of family run carpet shop, Taffy's, which had been there for years, all of a sudden they had a big, nasty national chain competitor over the road and you know, they were, it was probably taking a load of their custom.
So the best thing I'd ever seen at that age was probably secretly what got me into copywriting. They had a billboard on the side of their building, which they used to just rent out to local businesses, but they clearly never this one time because they just put in big massive 3000 point type wealth warning crossing the road will seriously damage your wealth.
And at the time as a kid. I was like, this is, this was incredible because I was like, they're picking off. They're like, they've got this scrappy underdog mentality, picking a fight with the big nasty bully boys over the road. They were very shrewdly competing on price saying, don't spend money over there.
You know, spend money with us. And yeah, thirdly, they did it in a way that makes me, made me smile and made me laugh and I'm, yeah, I'm, I'm still talking about it 30 odd years later. So yeah, for me, that kind of picking a fight mentality, which for me, Tends to only really work with the smaller brands against the big boys or the underdog brands against the bigger ones.
Like in the UK, Aldi supermarket, they had quite a famous lawsuit that they had to defend against Marks and Spencers. So Aldi, the budget, relatively budget, some of the stuff they do is quite expensive now, but yeah, relatively budget supermarkets made almost like an imitation of Marks and Spencers, Colin the Cuthbert, uh, Colin the Caterpillar cake.
It was about two or three years ago. So Marks and Spencer's are like high, like maybe, maybe on a par with Waitrose in terms of kind of quality of stuff that they do and everything's decadent and indulgent and luxurious. And their adverts are all about oozing chocolate cakes. So yeah, so Marks and Spencer's issued, yeah, a lawsuit, copyright infringement or intellectual property infringement against, against Aldi.
And on the day that it got announced, Aldi tweeted, Marks and Spencers? More like Marks and Snitches. And I was like, oh, here we go. And like, their Twitter for the next three weeks was just an absolute piss take of the whole lawsuit. It was incredible. They were showing artist's impressions of Colin the Caterpillar in court, like a pencil drawing of Colin.
The actual box that that it wasn't Colin, it was their imitation. One was Cuthbert, uh, Marks and Spencer's was Colin, but their Cuthbert the caterpillar, I think it was just a mock up. They changed the packaging to look like he was in jail and it was just, honestly, it was just, just relentless and all they were doing was exactly what Taffy's did.
They were picking a fight against the big boys because, and I think this is key, whenever you pick in a fight, exactly like the carpet shop, the carpet shop knew that their main audience was working class families from Birkenhead who don't like paying over the odds for stuff. They don't like being ripped off.
So they knew by having a pop at the big carpet shop over the road, they'd win back anybody who was maybe thinking about going there because they knew that their audience don't like being ripped off. And exactly the same with Aldi. They know that the bulk of their audience They come to them because they're a budget, a budget supermarket, and they're probably more working class and like, quite like, you know, having a little bit of a pop at anyone who tries to do them over.
So I think they very smartly aligned themselves with huge swathes of, you know, their audience and, you know, what did he say? No, I always, I always get it wrong. No publicity is bad publicity, is it? But yeah, they spun it on its head and, and yeah, made it really, really work for them.
Louis: I'm a big fan of this approach as well, because exactly as you said, when it's used to protect or defend the people you're serving against the thing you're fighting against, right?
If you're just picking a fight for the sake of it, then you're missing the true essence of what it means. And you're missing what storytelling is about, right? Like when you have an enemy, a monster or whatever in a story, it's a representation of the, like, it's the representation of the origin of people's struggles or like why, you know, they're in this situation and whatnot.
So yeah, speaking of fight, not for the sake of it, but in order to defend the people you serve works really well in your worlds. Do you see it really as a picking a fight against a big brand, against a big competitor or have you tried with your own client, let's say, to pick a fight against other stuff that might not be like material, could be like a, the culture of something or?
Dave: Yeah, I, I quite like advising people to pick or brands that I work with and we'll get onto kind of our agency positioning in a minute and what we pick fights against. But yeah, when I'm doing it with clients, it's usually kind of behaviors and systems. If you can pick a fight with what you deem to believe behaviors that the types of clients that you don't want to be working with anyway, or the types of brands that you want to be competing against.
If you can. Pick a fight in those people who are following those behaviors or systems or AI, AI, a perfect example at the moment, certainly for, you know, for, for my agency and any, any brands that, um, I'm working with in a market and capacity, I'm advising them to, if they want to lean into this kind of, everyone wants to be human and have a personality.
If you want to show your humanity. Fucking fight, let's fight for team human in these early days of this, this age that we're in, where you can press a button and these, these chatbots will spit out whatever, and you know, there's businesses out there using them, horror stories, businesses using them in an unfiltered way, if you can just pick a fight with AI and the businesses that they, you know, the types of lazy kind of emotionless businesses that are planting, you know, all of their trees in the AI field at the moment, you're going to win.
The customers and the clients who are also against that and are also a little bit like this isn't all it's cracked up to be, you know, which in the early days of new tech, it's a risky thing to do. And there's been a few conversations I've had, certainly from our agency position and I'm, you know, I'm taking the piss out of it all the time, but about kind of just blindly pressing a button and spitting out, you know, copyright and content and they believe it or not, there's some ghostwriters out there who are actually like doing courses on.
How you can ghostwrite client stuff, like here's the right prompt to do. I'd like to do the worst prompts ever. It's like, use the, the copywriting skills of Justin Welch. Add in the thought leadership of Sahil Bloom. It's like Frankenstein's most terrifying monster. So yeah, there's, yeah, back to what I was saying.
So like, picking a, picking a fight with something that you are comfortable that the types of clients and customers that you want to win over, if you're comfortable that they're also they're the enemy of theirs, go all in and bring them along for the fight. If you're a little bit unsure, yeah, it's a bit, it's a bit rocky, rocky ground.
Louis: Kind of naturally used to be something that you like to fucking rant about in the pub or whatever that you naturally pissed off about. And I know that some folks don't really agree with my way of doing stuff. Um, people will see it as very negative or pessimistic or whatever, but it's not that. It's like, I like to channel the negative.
The hate, you know that everyone has like your human brain just naturally recognize the things you don't like whatever and I like to channel that a lot to see okay what pisses me off right now in the moment i'm i'm not pissed off about it all day every day but right now i'm fucking pissed off and I try to channel it to go back to what you're saying about the fight so I actually advise folks to do exactly what you described as well.
And I like to give them a list of like the four types of kind of enemies, monsters, whatever you want to call them. So one is giant corporation. So like something that is very faceless, it's became so big. So Google is a big one in marketing, Facebook, whatever. An alternative. So it's like, not direct competitors, but what they could do If you didn't exist, if your category didn't exist.
So like, let's say just a crude example for your carpet store. That could be making your own fucking carpet, right? The culture of the category as a whole as well. So it's like, it's not a person, but it's more like the culture of get rich quick and all of this kind of stuff. So you don't point at a specific brand, specific person, but like the culture and then inside us.
So it's like the last one is usually the things that you can't control about yourself because you're born this way, because it's in your DNA. It's millions of years of evolution. Like, you know, the monkey brain and stuff like that, that could also work. So those are the five I like to give people. Okay.
We've been at it for fucking 55 minutes. So. It's already quite a long time. I'll ask you one last advice or one last thing that you love to fucking rant about or give advice about. So we talked about your trust specificity, self deprecation, picking a fight. If you had to name another one.
Dave: You know, you know what I love.
It kind of, I suppose it kind of falls into what I was saying before about, um, the ultra specificity. If you take ultra specificity too far, you can be in danger of going into something that isn't quite true sometimes, which takes you into hyperbole. And hyperbole is, again, a masterful way. Of getting the right people on your side, because if the types of clients that you want to work with understand that an ad of yours is hyperbole, you're more likely to win them, I think.
And if they don't get it, then they weren't really meant to be one of your clients at all, I don't think. And one, one of my favorite examples is there's a, I think Richard Shotton maybe tweeted it or stuck it on LinkedIn. It's a restaurant called 321 East and the headline was how good is our steak last week, a man who was choking on a piece refused the Heimlich maneuver.
And as a headline, I just remember saying, I think it was just in, I think it was like in a newspaper, newspaper cotton. And it was like, if, if, if the thing you're saying is so ridiculously, like unbelievably a falsehood, it can make it such a really surprise and an unexpected headline. Again, there's dangers to it.
You know, if you do it too often, you might be seen as the brand that cries wolf, but there's ways of getting out of it as well. Surreal, Cereal, who have been, yeah, they've had a bit of a rocky couple of months, Surreal have, but they did a campaign last summer. I think it was where they were naming or using the names of celebrities in their headlines.
So big, massive headlines. Serena Williams eats our cereal and then in, you know, little tiny asterisk underneath. It was Serena's a student from London and she really loves it. So, yeah, that's a way she's a real student, like they went an actual student, yeah.
Louis: Actual people.
Dave: Massive hyperbole in the kind of setup and the way they've done it.
But yeah, they've used an aside underneath. Which loads of brands do a little asides, put stuff in brackets afterwards. You can kind of say whatever you want, but we're only messing. We're only joking. So you can kind of get out, get out of it. So I think brands who are probably a little bit unsure whether the readers will get the joke, like the fucking Heimlich maneuver one, you can imagine them putting an asterisk, actually this didn't, you know, this is just a representation of events that never actually happened.
So that like hyperbole for me. I'm always telling lies that are like blatantly, so obviously ridiculously untrue. Yeah.
Louis: So you want to go ultra specific, but then there is a kind of no man's land where it could be, it's too much and it could be believable. And so it's like, ah, it's a bit weird. But then if you go past that, then it's like ridiculously stupid.
And most people would get it.
Dave: Yeah. Yeah.
Louis: I can't tell you the number of times that happened to me when. Like I'm not comparing myself to the examples you gave far from it, but in my little world on LinkedIn, a few times where I was being, I thought extremely sarcastic and stupid people falling for it. You know, that's always my favorite thing.
It's like, Oh, I just joined this whatever stupid company, like this hyper growth startup and people sending me like congrats and stuff, you know, like, I like to do that as well, to play with that, that buffer as well a bit. And like, how stupid can people think I am?
Dave: Like, is this real here? I get it all the time.
Like about the, about the scammer stories and like I use characters as well. Like I've got me, I reply to the, I've got my infamous uncle Tony, who responds with his weird and wonderful, yeah. Anti thought leadership messaging with tales from his life. I know. Yeah. All the time I get. I get, I get messages, I'm called Tony real, like, is he, is he real?
So to add a bit of spice, I introduced my mom and then my mom, my, my fictional mom was getting asked about fictional Tony, or is he fictional? It's like, what's real? No one, no one believes anything anymore.
Louis: Yeah. I think there's a lesson there about alter ego as well on, on, on to create alter egos or whatever you want to call it, characters to, to really double down on something and play with it.
Right. Which is why. Yousef Balthara, whatever, Balthara is Freddie Mercury's real name. It helps you to like act out a bit in different ways. Anyway, we can go on for hours. I'm cautious of your time. You have a young boy and I have a girl of around the same age. So we need to go back home and take care of them.
What are the best The top three resources you'd recommend folks listening right now.
Dave: Top three, definitely a website that I dip in and out of probably weekly called deckofbrilliance. com, which is, it's like a compendium of little angles that could spark creativity. So it talks about dramatizing the problem or challenging the customer or championing the underdog, like I mentioned before about Taffy's and it gives you a load of examples and links to campaigns that have happened.
So. You know, if you're not that blank page and it's just like, Oh, how can we come at this? Use that. Cash wise. I know I said, I don't listen to podcasts, but Call to Action podcast from Gasp is just a belter for me in terms of how it really delves into the, the kind of really normal side and proper marketing.
And it tends to include a lot of people talking about marketing in a really normal way, which as a non marketer and a journalist, I need. And then the last one, I suppose it's a community called, The Keynote Club, which is a really safe space to practice your public speaking skills. So they meet every, every other Thursday.
So if anyone's we all need to present stuff and, you know, find ourselves in pitches and even tough meetings, trying to persuade CEOs to take awkward decisions from time to time. And what, yeah, what the Keynote Club does is, you know, get you past those nerves and teaches you how to structure the presentation deck and how to, yeah, how to do all the stuff that terrifies most people. And it's helped me loads. Like I, about a year ago, I would have kind of, uh, I would have broken out in a, a really sweaty talc laden, um, underpants situation if people would have asked me to do a talk. But like I'm booked for three talks in foreign countries this year. So, and the Kino club has helped, helped me do that.
They're my three mates.
Louis: Great. Great recommendation. I've never heard of the deck of brilliance. I'll, uh, I'm on it now. I'm going to definitely take a look tomorrow.
Dave: Superb. Superb.
Louis: Love it. Well, they've been a pleasure. I was not expecting anything else, but still, it was really good to talk to you. Thank you so much.
Dave: Enjoyed it, mate. Nice one. Thanks for having me.

Creators and Guests

Louis Grenier
Louis Grenier
The French guy behind Everyone Hates Marketers
Professionalism is Killing Your Brand: Here's the Cure
Broadcast by