Gav Thompson on being a corporate pirate

Here I get to interview Gav Thompson from the Do Lectures Podcast. And it’s such an amazing chat.

Gav almost became an actor, was keen to get into a boy band at one point, but then worked in adland, and ended up going client-side, working as a CMO for one of the UK’s largest phone networks.

It was there that he realized something.

Many people out there think that there are only two options in life. Either do good and work for an NGO. OR do well and work in business. But as Gav puts it in his Do Lecture - what about And And.

I couldn’t agree more.

Here Gav and I talk about how you can change the machine from the inside. And he gives us some pretty incredible examples of how he managed to do just this, in the biggest phone network in the UK.

He talks to us about taking his skill-set, and turning it into something that he wouldn’t have naturally done, how he mashed them all together, and got to a solution that impacted a load of people. It’s inspiring.

We also hear about being amazing despite…

We all know it’s not easy to make a difference. But here Gav shows us that it is possible, what is possible and just how impactful it can be.

So grab a coffee, or throw on those running shoes, and get stuck in.

To check out the Do Lectures, click here.

To check out Gav’s Do Lecture, click here.

To check out the Do Lectures podcast, click here.

To learn more about Gav, check him out here.

00:00:07:19 – 00:00:29:13
Philippa White
So the questions are these How can we really activate the best of the private sector to meet the challenges of the real world? Is there a way to accelerate my career that doesn’t involve boring online or classroom courses? And can I really impact people in the developing world with the skills that I have? Can I finally feel proud of what I know?

00:00:30:04 – 00:01:00:16
Philippa White
Those are the questions. And this podcast will give you the answers. My name is Philippa Whiteand this is TIE Unearthed. Keep listening and you can follow us on our journey as we show you how we’re connecting the private sector with the social sector. To make change. Hello everyone. PHILIPPa Boyd here and welcome to Episode 16 of TIE’s Podcast.

00:01:00:16 – 00:01:11:13
Philippa White
Today I’m chatting with Gav Thompson and he’s going to tell us about becoming a corporate pirate from the inside out and the importance of the moment. Hi, Gav.

00:01:12:10 – 00:01:13:14
Gav Thompson
Hey, PHILIPPa, how are you?

00:01:14:03 – 00:01:19:01
Philippa White
I’m good. Thanks so much for joining us. We did this recently and it’s great to do it again.

00:01:19:22 – 00:01:29:14
Gav Thompson
It’s great to be on the other side of. Great to be another side of the desk. I tell you, it’s fun. I’m sitting here very relaxed. Normally when I’m doing the interviewing, I’m kind of posted.

00:01:29:21 – 00:01:30:15
Philippa White
On the edge.

00:01:30:15 – 00:01:36:17
Gav Thompson
Stressed on the edge. So I’m very, very chilled. So very good of you to have me on. I appreciate it. Thank you.

00:01:36:17 – 00:01:57:14
Philippa White
Oh, well, I’m honored to have you on. You’re amazing. So thank you. Now, before I go any further, because I want our listeners to understand a little bit more about you. So Gav has become a friend of mine. He is the host of the Do Lectures podcast and kindly interviewed me the other week. And if you haven’t heard it already, it was just launched on Friday, so look out for it.

00:01:57:14 – 00:02:20:17
Philippa White
If you haven’t seen it already, know the do lectures is an incredibly inspiring organization and I really enjoy listening to the podcast, so don’t just listen to mine, have a look at the other ones as well because they’re really, really great. They’re on my list and I get the update when they come out. And funnily enough, Gav was also the boss of one of our TIE alumni, Harry Dromey, after he went on TIE.

00:02:20:17 – 00:02:23:03
Philippa White
So yeah, which is funny.

00:02:23:03 – 00:02:38:13
Gav Thompson
I also actually started so I also think yeah, Alex, Alice Hooper is one of your own. Yeah. Yes. Well, I think I think I got out of the first job in advertising back in 2002 three TBWA. So yeah, I’ll also be intertwines. Yeah.

00:02:38:13 – 00:03:05:02
Philippa White
So after a failed attempt, these are, in Gab’s words, after a failed attempt to be an actor and to get into a boyband. That’s interesting. To have spent 13 mostly successful years in advertising agencies in various parts of the world. He’s a creative, brand focused, customer centric CMO, SEO, with 26 years experience across multiple brands and sectors in the UK, US, Asia and Australia.

00:03:05:13 – 00:03:31:08
Philippa White
And he tries to be the pirate inside when he can, leading to pretty incredible results so far. And so we’re going to be talking about all of this now. So first of all, what I’d love you to talk about, just to kind of kick things off is to talk about the do lectures, because I am so inspired by David Hyatt and when I found out about the do lectures and him and I just have to do a quick shout out to Michael Jagger because it was you that told me about them.

00:03:31:08 – 00:03:48:14
Philippa White
So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I started to get the emails and follow him on LinkedIn. Talk about inspiration and anyone listening. I just highly recommend doing this too. So please can you bring to life or do lectures for our listeners and all that they do because there’s so much that you guys do.

00:03:49:07 – 00:04:22:23
Gav Thompson
So the two lectures is, as you just rightly, rightly described, an amazing and a beautiful thing. I’m very, very, very lucky to be part of it. And it’s interesting. It’s from a kind of brand marketing point of view. It’s an amazing thing that has incredibly high consideration, but not quite the awareness it deserves. I don’t know a single person that’s aware of to do lectures that doesn’t love it genuinely, but also, you know, it’s such a it’s such a kind of under the radar thing.

00:04:23:03 – 00:05:01:11
Gav Thompson
And that’s part of what I’m trying to address with the podcast. So I’ll tell you the kind of history of a set up by by a husband and wife team David and Claire Hyatt, both interestingly X advertising and both had also set up a clothing brand from within their advertising world called Howie’s, which was a very, very cool, again, under the radar sort of skating skate where brand in the late nineties sort of early 2000s which they then sold on and and so and so in selling houses I think David and I made a bit of money and then they did two things.

00:05:01:11 – 00:05:23:21
Gav Thompson
They set up a denim factory in Cardigan Bay called Higher Denim HIIT, which is in itself an amazing story and brand where they they rehired lots of the old denim workers who lost their jobs, who’d, you know, Cardigan used to be, I think, the largest denim producer in the UK. And so they just got to rebuilding denim and jeans manufacturer in cardigan with hire.

00:05:23:22 – 00:05:48:13
Gav Thompson
And that’s an amazing story. And then the Dulux is is the sort of other side of the coin, which is it’s really hard to define it. It’s, it’s, it’s a similar format to Ted, but it’s very different in how it does things. It’s much less glossy, it’s much more earthy, it’s much more Welsh. It was set up in a in a, in a sort of chicken shed cowshed on a farm in 2007 in Cardigan Bay.

00:05:48:23 – 00:06:20:11
Gav Thompson
And it’s still, you know, 14 years later, still growing out of a chicken shed in Cardigan Bay. And the full format is, again, it was Ted, it’s 20 minute talks. But the beauty of it is there’s lots of pictures of it. But one is just the quality of guest. They’re not the kind of they’re not the kind of glitzy, perhaps more kind of ego driven Ted TED presenters, it’s much more people who’ve kind of had ideas, have brilliant ideas, and then just gone on and made them happen to do.

00:06:20:11 – 00:06:40:02
Gav Thompson
But it’s obviously very important to that. And it’s it’s just I was so lucky to go there in 2011. I was a friend of mine. So David’s colleague of mine when I was O2, I don’t know why I wasn’t aware of it. Again, it’s so it’s so kind of low. It’s so low key, kind of under the radar.

00:06:40:02 – 00:06:41:16
Gav Thompson
So to us, I’ve been for years.

00:06:42:02 – 00:06:44:22
Philippa White
I used to work with David. You didn’t work with David?

00:06:44:22 – 00:06:45:20
Gav Thompson
Oh, no.

00:06:45:20 – 00:06:48:03
Philippa White
I thought it was a colleague kind of thing. Oh, how funny.

00:06:48:03 – 00:07:07:12
Gav Thompson
Oh, well, we were just sorry. We were colleagues. I am very sorry. Back in the day. We’re going back a long time. No, late nineties, when I was the account director on the Volvo accounts, David was one of the kind of creatives on the Volvo. And so we made very well average Volvo ads. I remember saying that. So yeah, we worked together.

00:07:07:13 – 00:07:24:15
Gav Thompson
I made because in the late nineties, so we were sort of colleagues and friends and then and then I sort of, I went off to the States and went off to Australia and so I sort of missed out on the birth of do. And then finally after my friend Sarah said, You must come to this event, it looks amazing.

00:07:24:15 – 00:07:46:13
Gav Thompson
And I was looking and I saw David’s face. I’m like, Yeah, I’m, I’m coming. And we went and I just fell in love with it. I fell in love with the the energy, the people running out of the gas. David and Claire are just amazing, amazing people. And it was just it’s a three day event in those days, you know, you camped in this forest.

00:07:46:24 – 00:08:09:10
Gav Thompson
And So Cool is very kind of very cool, very kind of campfire. A very guitar, very just very chilled. There’s no phone reception there. So you you have to sort of disconnect from the outside world. And you meet some fab people, some of whom are still my friends now. And it’s genuinely it’s a kind of everyone I think who’s done it says it’s a life changing event.

00:08:10:12 – 00:08:32:14
Gav Thompson
They’ve kept it very small. There’s still only 100, 100 guests sort of allowed. It sells out within Lexi within minutes. Sadly, last year, they they couldn’t do it for for the obvious reasons. They’re hoping to do it in July 2021 or June or July 2021. And it’s amazing. And I guess we’re coming full circle back to you for consideration.

00:08:32:14 – 00:08:50:14
Gav Thompson
So the awareness, which is not a lot of I mean, not that many people are aware of it. And I that’s because probably there’s only 100 seats, but the lectures are all online. I was very lucky to be asked back to do my own lecture in 2012, which I guess we can talk about in a minute. Yeah, yeah.

00:08:51:00 – 00:08:58:10
Gav Thompson
Which is available for anyone who has 20 minutes of their life to spare. I think it’s 22 minutes, actually. He’s got a song at the end of it, but there you go.

00:08:58:12 – 00:08:59:12
Philippa White
It’s me. Yeah.

00:08:59:21 – 00:09:00:00
Gav Thompson
Great.

00:09:01:14 – 00:09:18:11
Philippa White
We’ll get to that. Yeah. Tell us, because I’d be interested to know how the podcast happened, but just really before that, if you just want to, because there’s so much I’m just impressed with the do lectures because they have books that come out of the lectures. It’s also such a genius marketing tool for such a worthwhile. I mean, it’s all about inspiration.

00:09:18:12 – 00:09:33:19
Philippa White
He talks a lot about being curious and in his emails a bit curious on the website speakers, but even to get to the website you have to give your email address and then you start to get, you know, the podcast. You get obviously updates to when they’re going to be doing these incredible lectures.

00:09:33:20 – 00:09:48:00
Gav Thompson
Yeah, I would echo what you just said, Philip, but it’s, it’s, you know, a few minutes reading some of David’s, he does daily emails is a few minutes of your day well spent the first. So you know they’re funny, right? Yeah.

00:09:48:00 – 00:10:03:13
Philippa White
They’re just they’re just I mean, his emails I think it’s daily. I mean, I don’t know where he gets his daily. I just don’t know where he gets the amount of content. But I mean, you just read it. I remember actually it was hilarious. It was about a few months ago. It was as if he was in my head.

00:10:03:20 – 00:10:35:01
Philippa White
He said, How many of you listen to the same music track or the same album with the same, you know, on repeat? And he said, I’ve been listening to it on repeat for 15 years, and he listens to this same album and he said, Whenever I’m writing, I put on the same who can relate? And I thought, Oh my God, I swear, because I have this one album that I’ve been listening to when it’s only when I write, it’s only when I write when I put it on, it’s the most it’s so hilarious.

00:10:35:01 – 00:10:55:02
Philippa White
It’s, I don’t even know where I got it from written. No. Right. I don’t even know what it is what it’s called. I don’t know. I put it into my it’s from, it’s from like 20 years ago and it’s, it’s note. There’s no words. There’s very small, but it’s this sort of it’s more electronic music, I think. But it’s the only thing I can block out the entire world.

00:10:55:02 – 00:11:10:17
Philippa White
My children can be having a war downstairs. I can’t hear them. I put this on as loud as they possibly can. It doesn’t distract me and it gives me a totally I just get the most incredible energy and then I can create the most. All my best writing has been to this one, actually. I need to get it now that I must.

00:11:11:04 – 00:11:12:02
Philippa White
Yeah. What’s yours.

00:11:12:02 – 00:11:32:03
Gav Thompson
By the way? You can’t. You can’t. You can’t plug it and then not tell us what it is. Because I know you’re right. You’re right. I actually don’t. I, I just I listen to I’m the deaf. I’m I’m totally opposite. I have kind of an album a week where I just listen to an album and I blast it and then I move on to the next thing.

00:11:32:23 – 00:11:34:01
Philippa White
Can I have two words?

00:11:35:01 – 00:11:53:10
Gav Thompson
Yeah, I have words. Kind of words. I mean, I’m kind of going through just the George Harrison sort of I’ve gone back to discover George Harrison’s Harrison’s album, All Things Must Pass, which is a brilliant album, 1971, which was the Year of my birth, which, as we discussed last time, I just had my 50th last weekend and I was doing the thing you do where you.

00:11:53:10 – 00:11:54:19
Philippa White
Go message and I didn’t send you.

00:11:55:01 – 00:12:18:15
Gav Thompson
Don’t worry what you got, what amazing things happened. 71 Thank you. And you get to very quickly George Harrison’s album, which I think was number one for like ten weeks in the US. So that’s how I rediscovered it, if you would. Anyway, we digress. David here is I would urge your listeners to definitely sort of tune into his his daily blog, his daily links in posts.

00:12:18:15 – 00:12:46:07
Gav Thompson
He he is he’s a very special individual for one reason, really, which is he’s exceptionally talented to the point of of it’s kind of unbelievable sort of wisdom and knowledge and just insight, he said, unbelievable creative. But and this is the kicker. He’s an unbelievably lovely man. David is incredibly talented. He’s built two businesses. He’s sold one reason amount of money, I suspect.

00:12:46:17 – 00:13:09:24
Gav Thompson
And he’s brought the two lectures from scratch, which is, you know, highly respected back to the consideration. People that know about it, love it. It’s been voted one of the best five ideas festivals in the world by various, you know, newspapers. It has had 150 million views of the lectures. Even the podcast, which is a much smaller part of it, was 110,000 listens.

00:13:09:24 – 00:13:27:15
Gav Thompson
And and he’s just very humble, normal, incredibly lovely, warm, just he’s amazing guy. I’m very proud to call him a friend. I know, you know, because he’s my boss on this project. And it’s just amazing how we can find the time to still to still be as amazing as he is.

00:13:28:00 – 00:13:42:14
Philippa White
Yeah. So just talk to us about the talk to us about the do lectures actually because you it brings us nicely to you. He there was a bit of a story though that you were going to tell us. He asked you to do it. And and also. Yeah, because I really want to hear about your lectures.

00:13:42:15 – 00:14:02:03
Gav Thompson
Well, sure. Okay. So, so like I said, I was O2. I was in this, you know, pretty corporate role. I was the head of brand strategy at O2, and it was my first kind of corporate gig, having been in agencies for 13 years and had a really good run to agencies, works for some amazing people with some nice people.

00:14:02:03 – 00:14:26:23
Gav Thompson
Andy and BBDO in New York and TBWA London and Mojo in Sydney. And then they had set up an agency with some sort of tech savvy partners. And I just, you know, Campbell, all day it was cool. It was it was amazing. We had a really good 13 year career. And then for a bunch of reasons, I thought, well, I’m going to go corporate with a lot of trepidation and a lot of sort of, you know, is this me?

00:14:26:23 – 00:14:48:21
Gav Thompson
And as you remember, PHILIPPa, in those days, there was quite a lot of that kind of S&M agency client, the clients generally perceived to be not very smart or very creative and, you know, a little bit of disdain, a little bit of, you know, you got the old you got the old one. We had, you know, our Guinness client obviously bought the fantastic work that we did, you know, the surfer eyes and all that good stuff.

00:14:49:18 – 00:15:08:13
Gav Thompson
He was, you know, and shout out to Andy and my vulva clients, you know, that did all we did the ferry stuff with them. But you know, generally there was a thing that clients, you know, that was a kind of sell out. You know, there was you’d kind of wear polyester, short sleeved shirts and have, you know, lots of pens in your pocket, all the kind of cliches anyway.

00:15:08:13 – 00:15:21:24
Gav Thompson
So, you know, which is sort of nonsense and not helped by the fact that Oates’s offices were in Slough on the Slough business estate, which is actually where the office was filmed, where, you know, Wernham Hogg is based. So oh.

00:15:21:24 – 00:15:22:18
Philippa White
My God.

00:15:22:18 – 00:15:46:04
Gav Thompson
Really. There’s lots of kind of cliches and madness. Yeah. And so I went and I actually had a fantastic time, but it was sort of still very aware that all my kind of cool mates to work in advertising and I drove out to the sly business every day and you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And anyway, my friend Sarah, who was also agency, we were out together and she said, let’s go to the do lectures.

00:15:46:04 – 00:16:11:08
Gav Thompson
And I was like, Great, you know, David I, it was one of those but it wouldn’t happen now because it’s but it was a last minute thing we got in and we literally were there like a week later. And I turned off and I hadn’t seen David for, you know, probably ten years, lots of hugging. I then had this amazing experience and on the last night, kind of somewhat sort of fueled by whiskey, I was just I was eulogizing about, mate, this is so amazing.

00:16:11:08 – 00:16:27:18
Gav Thompson
This is this has got me back in touch was kind of ideas and creativity and some of, you know, the thing you miss when you work outside of agency world is agencies are generally fueled by creatives and their ideas. Yeah. And when you got to corporate world, there’s just a different set of dynamics that keep the wheels turning.

00:16:28:00 – 00:16:49:07
Gav Thompson
And I missed that on the back of the do lectures, I was like saying, So this is amazing. You’ve kind of re-energized my daughter. And I did say, which was sort of this all set out and this was very late and again, much whiskey had been consumed. I said something like, but I’m I feel really self-conscious. It was like, well, I guess because everyone here is, you know, they’re all they’ve all done good.

00:16:49:07 – 00:17:06:03
Gav Thompson
They’re all just very strong DNA and sense gravity. People had made the world a better place. And I said, look, I’m a corporate dude. And frankly, I think everyone here thinks I’m a wanker. And, you know, this is great sort of line to feed him. And he said, why don’t you come back next year.

00:17:06:13 – 00:17:07:15
Philippa White
And also.

00:17:08:07 – 00:17:28:18
Gav Thompson
Tell them why you’re not right. It was so good. And it was it sounds like one of those kind of made up, but that’s how good he is. He just came straight back with it. So anyway, so yeah. So I came back and I did a I opened the do lectures actually in 2012 with a talk about somewhat borrowed from my friend out of Morgan who wrote a fantastic book after eating the big fancy write.

00:17:28:18 – 00:18:06:21
Gav Thompson
Another book called The Power Inside, which is all about how people within organizations, predominantly or not, not exclusively corporates, can actually be a force for good and can actually make things better from the inside and can actually be a be a kind of power from the inside. So I went back and did this talk on, you know, the cool, the power inside again, thanks to Adam for that kind of insight and and talks about how actually being in a big corporate place like like O2, which was, you know, the biggest mobile network in the country, which is part of Telefonica, which is one of the biggest, you know, businesses in the world, certainly the biggest

00:18:06:21 – 00:18:39:23
Gav Thompson
company in Spain, one of the biggest telcos in the world, but actually and I’ve been there I’ve been there five years at that point. And I was actually doing stuff I was proud of. I was actually doing some stuff that I was, you know, you know, making an impact on on the world, on society. And it was it was sort of that was the talk I gave was in essence, that I actually don’t write off corporates don’t write off people that work in corporates because there’s a lot of people within that environment that actually do have the tools and the skills and the resources to make the world a better place.

00:18:39:24 – 00:19:06:09
Philippa White
Totally, totally. And I actually because I mean, for just going to bring people up to speed a little bit. So our listeners that don’t know because I’m aware that some people have come across this perhaps don’t know much about TIE. We connect the corporate world, corporate professionals with social initiatives across the globe, and we create our sort of goal, if you like, is to create the leaders that the world needs now by allowing people to get out of their bubble and see the world through a different lens.

00:19:06:09 – 00:19:34:08
Philippa White
And it’s really fascinating listening to your cowshed, do lectures, initial kind of pre doing your lecture story of it’s asking you just need that opportunity to kind of snap out of the monotony of life snap out of kind of your usual. Yeah just a social network the your usual just information that you’re getting and the moment that you see things from a different point of view, it’s so powerful.

00:19:34:17 – 00:19:58:18
Philippa White
And so that’s what we create as well in obviously different ways, but obviously these new perspectives and new abilities and new insights give people the confidence in the knowledge that the abilities that they have are powerful to make change. And the idea is to inspire professionals to use their drive and energy and new vision to then be the change and you know that they want to see in this world, but also be that change maker in the company that they work in.

00:19:58:18 – 00:20:18:15
Philippa White
So obviously when I yeah, when I watched your do lecture and I heard about your and and you know, we often say, you know, you don’t need to or work in this helping people, industries or sell your soul to the devil and work in the private sector. You know, actually, it is possible to do both.

00:20:18:20 – 00:20:52:20
Gav Thompson
I like, you know, lots of people kind of joined advertising because I wanted to do the creative thing. I wanted to, you know, make ads. I was a frustrated sort of actor. You know, I studied drama at university. I thought I wanted to be a, you know, a director or an actor or even a comedian. Gosh, making a lot of I’d actually stumbled into, you know, advertising because like lots of people, you kind of go like, I’m not good enough to be a performer or professional creative.

00:20:52:20 – 00:21:11:02
Gav Thompson
I’m going to going to have just had such a good time, 13 years, a real blast. But but, you know, like a lot of people, an A your you know, your stories as we discussed last week, it was very similar. You do if you get to the point where you realize you are just flogging shit, you are just making cartoons for the TV, pretty pictures.

00:21:11:02 – 00:21:28:11
Gav Thompson
You’re the color in department. All those cliches. And after 30 years I’ve done really I’ve been lucky enough to work on really good campaigns like the Guinness campaign, like PlayStation, like Volvo, like Absolut Vodka, like three lot blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And you just go, look, there has to be something else to this. And that’s led me into corporate world.

00:21:28:20 – 00:21:48:07
Gav Thompson
And then I had this different frustration, which was, Look, I’m not you know, I’m building the brand and I’m doing really great things and I love to I tell you, it’s a fantastic business. They really looked after me, but I was then missing both the kind of creative bit of it and also the any form of altruism which which I hadn’t had in all my career.

00:21:49:02 – 00:22:03:15
Gav Thompson
I was I’ve done a funny thing or a funny thing. My, my. So but that was sort of this is a roundabout way of me getting to the point my dad was a vet in the army actually, and he began the top of the Army vet world. He was run the Army veteran recall. He bought all the horses for the cavalry.

00:22:04:00 – 00:22:26:01
Gav Thompson
He briefly was the Queen’s honorary honorary vet corgis and yeah, and amazing corgis and cavalry horses. Never did the Corgis again. That’s just for the sake of that story. Lots of dogs and stuff. And then he jacked it all in and went to work for charity in Egypt and Pakistan and Jordan and India called the Brook Hospital for Animals.

00:22:26:01 – 00:22:47:19
Gav Thompson
And what what he did was became the director. And what they did was, you know, help horses, working horses get better, you know, donkeys and horses that were someone’s livelihood and then getting by getting the horse better, that would feed a family, you know, for a lot for a year. So it was a lovely, indirect way of sort of making his skills as a vet.

00:22:47:19 – 00:23:03:21
Gav Thompson
And I’ve seen your fair play in in the charity world. And that kind of planted the seed, which was which was let’s use what you’re good at for the benefit of the world and society. And if my dad could do it, who was his very kind of stiff, formal colonel in the Army, that was an inspiration for me.

00:23:04:04 – 00:23:25:23
Gav Thompson
So I then after after sort of school preschool, I toddled off to to India to work in a leper colony with some friends. And I learned a very important lesson then, which was a lot of Westerners going to work in the West in those in that era. So when I was 18, 19 with zero skills, frankly, was a bit embarrassing, right?

00:23:25:24 – 00:23:41:03
Gav Thompson
Because I went to work in the subcounty for three or four months, you know, working on a farm, working building houses. And guess what? The lepers were much better at working on the farm and building houses. And I was and a lot of them didn’t have any hands or feet, which was kind of awkward where, you know, we’re building houses in that building.

00:23:41:03 – 00:24:11:19
Gav Thompson
They’re laying bricks faster without any hands than I can as a young 18 year old. Yeah. So, so and that taught me that thing, which is, you know, don’t by just turning up that doesn’t actually do good. And actually, in some ways it was a hindrance. No, there was some positivity because which I realized much later, which was the social impact of of of western white people coming to work with them side by side, you know, eating with them, hugging them was, you know, you see, is a social is the social disease as much as a medical disease, which they all get thrown out of their villages, their communities.

00:24:12:01 – 00:24:37:03
Gav Thompson
And to have me and my friends there kind of, you know, just done with them, helped them in some small way. But it helped me massively. But I was aware that, you know, I liked helping society, but I just didn’t want to be anyway. I’m sort of a long way round of going. So when I got to work too, I kind of finally had these tools, this, this budget and and will to, to, to make an impact.

00:24:37:03 – 00:24:56:09
Gav Thompson
And so so I worked so I worked on a bunch of things. I mean, I think I’ll be I’ll start with the one that gave me the permission to to be more of an ideas guy, which was, which was giffgaff. So I said I set up, I was the founder of Giffgaff, a satellite business up from within O2 with with a small team of kind of colleagues.

00:24:56:23 – 00:25:00:09
Philippa White
Tell people very quickly what would be the one liner of what people who.

00:25:00:18 – 00:25:24:16
Gav Thompson
Giffgaff is is a mobile phone network. The difference with it is, even now, you know, 12 years, 11 years after launch, it’s run by it’s community. So the the customers run the business effectively. They they help decide on all the business decisions they do. Most of the marketing is remember remember. MARTIN And the important difference is they they run all the customer service.

00:25:24:16 – 00:25:43:09
Gav Thompson
There’s no call centers, there’s no shops. The community run it run it for the benefit of the community. I know that sounds a little bit more optimistic than it really is, but it’s compared to most of its competitors. It is run on some principle rules. The manifesto that I wrote in 2008, it’s still the manifesto on the website that they run the business by.

00:25:43:19 – 00:26:08:07
Gav Thompson
And it’s still even now, you know, with a new management team, it’s still, you know, a very, very well-run, very kind of customer centric mobile phone network. And in some ways, for me, that that was rewarding because it was kind of the way I wanted to do mobile marketing. You know, that was one of our initial ideas was honest or straight lines was, you know, the mobile phone network for people that hate mobile phone networks.

00:26:08:07 – 00:26:23:00
Gav Thompson
And so what that allowed you to do was just take away all the crap, all the kind of contracts and, you know, just nasty long words and all the kind of time union, you know, cell phones anyway. So it’s a sort of free freedom, you know, free to come.

00:26:23:00 – 00:26:24:15
Philippa White
Through making it more human, right?

00:26:24:15 – 00:26:47:10
Gav Thompson
Just make it more human. And that in some ways helped me kind of, you know, manage my own sort of misgivings about working for the for the man. You know, that was another not completed, but also important gave me this kind of license within O2 to actually get other stuff done, stuff that was much more tangible. Tangible are going to help people.

00:26:47:16 – 00:27:09:09
Gav Thompson
So we’ll 2 to 2. So so I guess what I’m saying is sometimes it helps to, you know, you’ve got to play the long game, you’ve got to get the respect of your bosses, you’ve got to get some equity release and reputation within the business in order to then go off and do much more obvious positive outcomes. So, you know, and so, so on the back of Giffgaff, I did a couple of things.

00:27:10:13 – 00:27:37:18
Gav Thompson
One was, you know, really helped drive their kind of CSR program, which was called Think Big and really, you know, help to help the business take that really seriously and into the community and make sure we had proper marketing budget allocated to make sure that it became a bigger thing than it was. And again, that was a team decision, but a team a team effort, but it was to have me as the brand guy really leaning into that program and project.

00:27:38:02 – 00:27:59:09
Gav Thompson
I think, I think helped escalate it up the food chain a bit. And then the second thing, which is probably I’m most proud of, but again, a bit like we said about the lunch is kind of low awareness, high consideration was I set up a thing called Oh to learn now to learn it ran for about five or six years, was based on an idea I’d had when I was training to be a teacher.

00:27:59:09 – 00:28:14:19
Gav Thompson
So that’s something else I’ve done. I when I was considering being an actor, I also studied to be a primary school teacher with a view that when I was when I wasn’t working as an actor, which frankly would have been all the time had I ever become a professional actor, I could become I could be a teacher to pay the mortgage.

00:28:14:19 – 00:28:34:15
Gav Thompson
Right. So that was this logic. I qualified primary school teacher. And one of the things I learned doing what we used to teach in practice where you basically went, did as it sounds, you worked with teachers, was that every teacher in the world, even the ones who were less gifted or less flamboyant or less kind of A-list teachers, every single one of them has a great lesson inside of them.

00:28:34:15 – 00:28:55:18
Gav Thompson
And then the best ones obviously have thousands of great lessons inside of them. And my idea was, why don’t we get every teacher in the UK to film that one lesson? What’s your best lesson in the world? You got one lesson to give the world put out. Get it on video. You talk, it’s a camera, you know, a condensed sort of 20 minute lesson on whatever your best subject is.

00:28:56:01 – 00:29:37:01
Gav Thompson
Filmer Send it to us, Will Well, well, we’ll assess it and then we’ll, we’ll, we’ll structure it and we’ll actually build the curriculum, the British curriculum, with all these amazing video lessons from these amazing teachers. And we’ll we’ll will scale them. So the best ones come to the tops of the best lectures or the best, you know, GCE, GCSE, you know, on gravity will go to the top and so eventually you’ll have the whole curriculum of amazing lessons on video so that kids who either can’t get in school for either reasons late in school or they can’t get school for other reasons because they’re in hospital or they don’t get them on the teacher, or

00:29:37:01 – 00:29:53:03
Gav Thompson
they have to redo a whole year or or less or kids in in in Mozambique or kids in in, you know, Papua New Guinea can actually sit down and watch the curriculum, British curriculum of amazing lessons. And we had teachers today.

00:29:53:14 – 00:30:03:08
Philippa White
Yeah. And just because what I think is what was the benefit for the teachers to do this because I thought it was because you want people to it’s just how did the the model.

00:30:03:08 – 00:30:25:17
Gav Thompson
Yeah how do the so so the model was very simple. The model was we will build we built this website repository collective learn we will stimulate you with a competition. So we will every month the best rated lesson there’s literally like GIFFGAFF. Thumbs up, thumbs down. I love a bit of power of the community right? Yeah. That’s one of my little things in life is just wisdom of crowds.

00:30:25:17 – 00:30:47:19
Gav Thompson
Get the community to vote. So we would moderate the lessons to check. They were factually correct. Then the community, which was teachers and kids, would just would do a thumbs up, thumbs down. And the best lesson that months with the most views won a prize and they won a prize for the teacher because teachers are underpaid. And it was a serious prize, like a grand prize, and then also a prize for the school.

00:30:47:19 – 00:31:04:11
Gav Thompson
So it’s five grand for the teacher and five grand for the schools. And, you know, this this was it was so that was the that was the kind of tangible bear, the intangible. But it was again, I knew from most a lot of teachers were like me, frustrated performers, actors. They loved sharing their you know, they love showing off in front of a camera.

00:31:04:11 – 00:31:20:22
Gav Thompson
They love sharing their lesson. A lot of them got the kids involved and got the school involved. So and so, you know, so a great teacher. You often you we all remember the best our best teacher. And you go, isn’t it a shame that the best teacher we ever had couldn’t spread his message around the world or certainly around the country?

00:31:20:22 – 00:31:37:16
Gav Thompson
So you had this sort of insight into teachers psychology. You the schools obviously loved it because to have a willing teacher or no to learn something became a thing. A for a period of time. Philip It was a quite a big deal. At one point we were the largest lesson repository in the world. We had had lessons. It was amazing.

00:31:37:16 – 00:31:56:23
Gav Thompson
We had, we had all that we had. We had the government minister comment was no. Nick Gibb was was ringing me saying how amazing it was. I was awarded the prize by, you know, the government gave us some amazing innovation awards. We’ve had the unions behind us, we had the schools behind us. Like I said, we had eaten with Eton College on there.

00:31:57:03 – 00:32:03:15
Gav Thompson
We had it was it was one of those everyone loved it. The O2 loved it was really good for the brand. We had.

00:32:03:24 – 00:32:04:16
Philippa White
It still going.

00:32:05:19 – 00:32:32:00
Gav Thompson
To know what it was. So no, they pulled it. Not that long ago, probably maybe three or four years ago. So we launched in 2012. So the year I did my do lectures somewhat, probably inspired by David and it ran for about six years. So I think they pulled it two or three years ago and it was it was such a it’s so frustrating because I think it was the best idea of of how I think it’s a better idea and giffgaff and it was it was growing it.

00:32:32:09 – 00:32:51:18
Gav Thompson
The kids loved it, teachers loved it, the schools loved the O2 loved it. Was back to the win win win thing. We said, Yeah, but now Ty and I was really proud of it anyway. So that’s the gist of my do lecture is how within you can actually do take your skill set. So I had an insight in teachers.

00:32:51:18 – 00:33:11:14
Gav Thompson
I was a brand marketer, I had access to some CSR budget and I had fractured access to oatly’s lovely resources of building websites and getting ads on TV. And I managed to turn in something that you would never naturally do, which was a a website to inspire kids through better learning, through the best teacher lessons out there, massive all together.

00:33:11:14 – 00:33:14:02
Gav Thompson
And you’ve got a lovely little idea that the.

00:33:14:11 – 00:33:15:16
Philippa White
It’s powerful it impacts.

00:33:15:16 – 00:33:16:20
Gav Thompson
People it was a beautiful thing.

00:33:17:18 – 00:33:35:01
Philippa White
Well, that brings me because I’m just I mean a huge congratulations and my heart goes off to you because to be able to make change within a within any company is not easy. And, you know, you have so many barriers and you have to kind of come up with the idea and half the time you hear no and you have to keep pushing.

00:33:35:01 – 00:33:53:22
Philippa White
And so, you know, that’s one of the things that we really help people to sort of fire them up, to have enough confidence and energy to then say, okay, I’m willing to kind of make this stuff happen, whatever it is, because it’s not easy. And to have actually managed to do it for it to be so successful. Trying to run six years is a long time and fact.

00:33:53:23 – 00:34:13:04
Philippa White
So many people, you know, congratulations. It’s and it’s an example what I’m really wanting for our listeners is to understand, you know, like this kind of stuff can happen within massive corporations like O2. It just needs an idea and then you just need to have the yeah, just the confidence and the energy and the determination to make it happen.

00:34:13:04 – 00:34:34:23
Philippa White
And it’s amazing what can happen when you do that. And I think just one thing that I wanted to, because we are running out of time, but there’s another two questions that I have for you and I just this next one, I don’t know if you can do it quickly, but like just I think one of the other things that you do cover off in the lecture is just overcoming just obstacles.

00:34:34:23 – 00:35:02:22
Philippa White
And, you know, you faced some pretty significant obstacles in your life. You know, you talk about time being important. You talk about sort of, you know, embrace life while you can, but also, you know, there will be obstacles. And despite those, you know, keep fighting because good things will happen. And I guess maybe that’s where your podcast idea came from, which is obviously, you know, amazing despite and I just wonder if you can just where did that come from?

00:35:02:22 – 00:35:08:00
Philippa White
And again, we are running out of time, but I just really want to show that off because I just think it’s so important.

00:35:08:22 – 00:35:29:24
Gav Thompson
That’s a beautiful Segway. I love that. So my podcast is on behalf of the do lectures and it is been amazing to spot and what it is is is trying to talk to people who have achieved amazing things, but rather than just celebrate their amazing things and the success, which often is how we are trained to do, we always go, That’s amazing.

00:35:29:24 – 00:35:52:14
Gav Thompson
Aren’t you brilliant? Move on. What I tried to get in the podcast is to talk to people about some of the hurdles they’ve had to overcome to achieve that amazingness and in doing so, inspire the rest of us who are on the journey of amazingness. Who, when you get knocked backs or when you stuff up or when you can’t get funding for your idea, or when you lose your job, you can actually pick yourself up and crack on and keep going.

00:35:52:14 – 00:36:12:17
Gav Thompson
And actually the persistence and the perseverance and the dealing with the knock backs. Building resilience is a part of most successful people’s stories. And so what I’m trying to do in the podcast is, is, is sort of a lots of things. I’m trying to build the brand awareness of the two lectures, and so I’m trying to stay true to their brand, which is not difficult at all.

00:36:12:19 – 00:36:29:22
Gav Thompson
It’s amazing brand, but it can’t just be a chat with Gav over coffee with Gav. The second bit is, is to try and, you know, interesting stories that frankly people want to listen to. You know, there’s lots of podcasts out there and as you know, Filipino people tune that, you know, so you’ve got to kind of tell a story.

00:36:30:03 – 00:36:47:06
Gav Thompson
And then thirdly, you know, stories that I think I can I can get inspired by and animated by. So so that’s where the idea came from. It was, you know, came out of a conversation with David and Claire last summer where I was. I was feeling pretty down in the dumps, frankly. I’ve been unemployed for six or seven months.

00:36:47:06 – 00:37:02:24
Gav Thompson
I’ve lost my job just before COVID, and I was pretty down. And I went to see them the day, the day that Wales came out of lockdown. It was kind of funny. I was like, I just went for a long drive, my wife to go for a drive, and I ended up going off way for three days. That’s sounds weird.

00:37:02:24 – 00:37:18:13
Gav Thompson
Did it was and I literally drove I drove from London to their place in Cardigan Bay and kind of turned up and was sitting there. I said How I and I said, I’m pretty down. And we was like, How can we help? And it was one of those weird things. I have to just mention this because it’s so bizarre.

00:37:18:20 – 00:37:36:08
Gav Thompson
We were sitting in their farm having a beer. It was a beautiful, sunny kind of June-July day. And we just said, How can we help? And I said, I don’t really know. I want to help you guys, but I want it to help me. And I just sort of said, Have you ever thought of podcasts because everyone was doing podcasts in lockdown last year.

00:37:36:16 – 00:37:54:03
Gav Thompson
You guys never done podcasts, you know, have you ever consider that? And they were yeah, we sort of thought about it. We never kind of done it. And I was going, Well, how about, you know, why don’t I do a podcast series for you? Because it’s really I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a good skill for me to learn I don’t know anything about it, but it feels like it’s something that I enjoy.

00:37:54:11 – 00:38:23:19
Gav Thompson
And at the same time, because for you guys, we can, you know, we can just spread the word of do and also get into new channels and hopefully get some new, you know, new kind of awareness. And everyone was just everyone be clarity. We’re going, that’s a really nice idea. And in that moment. So with this sounds like I’m nuts this this massive kind of flock of birds like let’s say 100 birds flew over the Cardigan Bay coming towards us in a V-shape sort of arrow formation.

00:38:24:01 – 00:38:26:21
Philippa White
I don’t doubt it for a moment. I don’t know.

00:38:27:04 – 00:38:41:19
Gav Thompson
They were and they as they were flapping their wings, the sort of like sort of them is like a neon light. And I looked up and said, What is that? Assuming it’s this happens all the time, they won’t have those if they’re like 20 odd years. They weren’t we’ve never seen that before in our lives. We don’t know what that is.

00:38:41:19 – 00:39:02:12
Gav Thompson
That’s a phenomenon we’ve never seen before. And these birds were like pointing at us. It was it was one of those really weird moments. But I just went like, We’ve got it, we’ve got to do it. And actually, again, we just but what I love about David, they literally said that night, right, we’re doing the and I think the first podcast was, was live within like two weeks, three weeks.

00:39:02:12 – 00:39:18:21
Gav Thompson
It was sort of amazing. They gave me all the tools. They bought equipment for me. They said, look, we’ll support you with the marketing, will support you, but actually you’ve got to do it on your own, you know, and that was great for me as a as a CMO who used to have a team of 320 people to be given a, you know, a task and.

00:39:18:21 – 00:39:35:20
Gav Thompson
You go off and do this, find the guests, do the record, do the do the research, do the interviewing, do the edits. We’ll give you an editor, but you can write, do that and, you know, just get on with it. It was such a blessing. And actually, it’s it’s it’s helped me through lockdown and I love it and I’m really proud to be represented.

00:39:35:20 – 00:39:58:05
Philippa White
So and yeah, and I just like as a yeah, totally. So I think just because there’s one last thing I just want to quickly ask you before I do, just a quick shout out to the listeners, please do check in to the Do Lectures podcast because there are some really incredible I mean, I’ve listened to more of the amazing despite there’s a whole other series as well.

00:39:58:05 – 00:40:15:12
Philippa White
But I think I’ve listened to every single one of the amazing despite ones and there’s just some really incredible stories. And interestingly, I just feel all of them linked to tie. I swear every single time I listen to any of them, I’m like, Oh, that’s interesting. That’s interesting. Sort of leadership with a purpose leadership. I mean, it’s just amazing.

00:40:15:12 – 00:40:38:02
Philippa White
So I think anyone who’s listening to Tie Unearthed, I think you’ll also really enjoy the podcasts and of course the do lectures and your do lectures, particularly because I’m really wanted to hear some of your incredible stories of you being amazing despite but I don’t think we have time for it now. But you do get it from the lecture and I do highly recommend I’ll put the link to it in the in the, in the description.

00:40:38:02 – 00:40:56:22
Philippa White
So please all of you just click on the description and then you can listen to Gab’s amazing despite story, which is pretty incredible. But just as we wrap up, I it is. But I just yeah, I just want to. Yeah. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you’d like to tell our listeners? Just as we wrap things up?

00:40:56:22 – 00:41:22:23
Gav Thompson
Well, I mean, the question everyone sort of ask me is what next? You know, I have had I’ve had a very blessed career at 13 years and I agencies working with some of the best people in the world on some of the most successful campaigns. And I’ve had 13 years or 14 years as a client for amazing companies like O2, Giffgaff, Paddy, Power, Bola and you know, I’ve sort of I’m at this point I’m 50 last week and I know what is next.

00:41:23:07 – 00:41:44:16
Gav Thompson
I’ll be honest, I have spent a lot of the last 12 months trying to get another CMO job. Quite hard to come by, but actually in a way, having this time to reflect, having some time spend with my family. I have a three year old daughter and a 14 year old daughter and an 11 year old son. Having talks about my wife having time to do the podcasts has actually been a real plus.

00:41:44:16 – 00:42:03:22
Gav Thompson
Even now, you know, you kind of go, Gosh, that was a waste of a year. But it wasn’t really because I’ve done a lot of stuff. I am I am looking for another job, but at the same time, I’m also doing stuff I would never normally have done. I’m coaching a few people I’m hoping to do tie with you, but yes, I am looking for another CMO job where I can, you know, make an impact.

00:42:04:08 – 00:42:18:10
Gav Thompson
I’m also, you know, to do some good as well. So feel free to well hit me on LinkedIn. And my podcasts are every Friday, every fortnight, every fortnight, every Friday they come out in the morning and please, you know, do lectures, podcasts.

00:42:18:10 – 00:42:32:03
Philippa White
Do sign up, you can subscribe and your LinkedIn details will be on the bio. And yeah, just amazing. Honestly, you’re such a breath of fresh air. You are a very funny. So you do some standup comedy in your spare time.

00:42:32:22 – 00:42:34:09
Gav Thompson
Oh, that’s true.

00:42:34:09 – 00:42:44:23
Philippa White
Yeah, who knows? Good. Listen, it’s been a real pleasure. Thank you so much for joining to Unearthed. And yeah, I look forward to our next conversation.

00:42:44:23 – 00:42:48:10
Gav Thompson
Good. Thanks very much and good luck. It’s an amazing, amazing idea.

00:42:48:18 – 00:43:20:23
Philippa White
Take care. Thanks. Bye bye.

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