Losing respect, unethical advertising and the wisdom of age

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Dave Harrison set up Bristol-based digital creative agency Spicerack in 2010. Independently co-owned with old school friend Justin Boynton, Spicerack creates digital campaigns and web platforms. They have a diverse mix of clients, many of whom appreciate their alternative to the smoke and mirrors often experienced with global agency networks.

Biggest fuck up?

My first job, post-university, was with a rising-star digital (new meeja) agency – Profero. 1998 was digital boom-time. I was only the 8th team member, and by the time I left 5 years later, they’d grown massively and were one of the best-known digital agencies.

The driving force was my 4 bosses’ self-belief, determination, and a strong dose of sheer bloody-mindedness. I spent the last 6 months caught up in a negative cloud of murmurings. A number of senior team members felt taken for granted and angry about business decisions we had no control over. I stopped working hard, drank too much, and generally let the side down.

Anyway, I left unappreciatively for another agency, and that was that. Looking back, that last 6 months was the low point of my career. My bosses, in their 20s, had never run a company before. They rewarded my efforts with promotions, pay-rises, shares, and eventually a position on the board. I had little to complain about, and even if I had, the time and place should have been a booked meeting as opposed to drunken rants at the bar.

Losing Respect for your boss - no wanky bollocks

Now, as a business owner myself, I have great respect for the pressures they were under, which I didn’t understand at the time – and gratitude for all the experiences they afforded me.


Grossly unethical advertising which shamelessly exploits vulnerable people bugs the hell out of me.

There is a company advertising on Global Radio stations that claim to secure car finance for people with poor credit ratings. Sounds like a great idea, like cutting your toenails with a chainsaw.

I would like to see more media owners taking a stronger stand on whom they’re affiliated with through their advertisers. I find it a weird juxtaposition listening to LBC’s Maajid Nawaz’s highly moral views being perforated every 15 minutes by car finance, PPI lawyers, and online casinos with their free £10 to get started.

Mens Mental Health

Another frustration over recent years is that I feel there’s been a frivolous jump onto the men’s mental health bandwagon. The message has been that men must learn to talk more.

Don’t get me wrong – it is good to talk, and I firmly believe that, although trauma, for example, can be compartmentalized for decades, it’s likely to surface more devastatingly the longer it’s contained. But I believe the message should be a lot more sensitive and a lot less sweeping. Yes, it can be very therapeutic to talk – but don’t feel obliged to announce your battle with depression on LinkedIn – unless you really want to.

Useful Advice 

Age isn’t just a number. Some of my best friends are quite a bit older. Why they’re friends with someone as immature as me is anyone’s guess; I assume my infantile humour makes them feel young.

I massively value the wisdom I absorb from my older friends.

First-hand life experience from someone you know, trust and respect is invaluable. We’re all different, but there are some rites of passage we humans go through which are in our DNA, and it’s helpful to be forewarned.

One of my older friends, Trevor, advised me some years ago that I should try looking after No.1 – i.e. myself.

Initially, this felt selfish and unnatural as a husband, parent, sibling, and son – not to mention business partner and employer. But that’s not what Trevor meant. He meant I should look after No.1 precisely because so many people relied on me. His point was that if I’m broken, I’m no use to anyone.

Great advice.


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