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On Strategy

In this edition of the B+G Book Club, Margaret Gilsenan, Chief Strategy Officer, rips up the brief and tells us about a podcast instead of a book – Fergus O’Carroll’s podcast “On Strategy”.


Let’s swop the word episode for chapter, and then think of On Strategy as a compendium of stories about great contemporary campaigns, told from a “behind the curtain” point of
view, by the people who actually worked on them.

The podcast host is Fergus O’Carroll who has made his way to Chicago and the On Strategy Podcast by way of Stillorgan, Martin, Ogilvy and through the various levels of Planning and/or Strategy.

He interviews his Podcastees, but has very obviously done his homework and asks a series
of relevant and probing questions that take us beyond the PR version of the campaign
stories and case studies to give the audience more insightful, useful and I think more honest campaign backstories.

Find it on your podcast platform of choice or at

What did I think

Too often campaigns are written, and we read about them as pieces of history, with words
carefully selected and stories crafted and manipulated in a manner similar to a
photoshopped Kardashian image.

What I love about On Strategy is that we hear the ‘I was there’ version. And we learn about the hoops that were jumped through and challenges that had to be overcome before the idea ever touched the creative department. Fergus asks questions, that segue the stories
from the usual well-trodden paths to uncover hidden nuggets of information.

It is also interesting because although the work is key, the focus is less about it, and more
about the journey to the work. But for those of you, who are most interested in the work
itself, links to each episode’s work are on the website.

Having listened to many of the episodes, my recommendation is that to get the most out of On Strategy, treat it like a lucky dip, don’t just slavishly listen to the stories related to your own brands. There is often more to learn from other categories and different challenges.

My other personal takeout is the importance of going out into the world (Covid permitting) and actually meeting your customers, not the 2D version of them described in a research report, or relying on the characteristics of the generational cliché (did you know that those who floss have a greater sense of group cohesion than our much mentioned/maligned Millennials?) but actually getting out there and looking into the whites of your customers eyes. Time and again there are examples of the interesting truths uncovered from a casual observation or comment.

If you are looking for some episodes to get your teeth into, I would suggest our own Rory
Gallery talking about New Zealand Tourism’s ‘Good Morning World’ campaign; Free Range Planning by Gareth Kay (which is not about a campaign but about finding better problems to solve; The Marmite Gene Project and how Durex found a really interesting point of view during the pandemic. And just posted (and about to be listened to) Jennifer English and Sheila Cunningham of Diageo talk about the story of Baileys.

Try at least one episode of On Strategy out, I think you will find it’s a 30 minute investment well worth your while, and I suggest will leave you hungry for more.

Who should read listen to it

  • Anyone involved in any discipline of creative development.
  • People interested in contemporary culture.
  • Clients and agencies.

Star Rating (out of 5)


Lots to learn from it.