Paul Burke

Paul Burke is an award-winning advertising copywriter

The BBC’s betrayal of Steve Wright

Radio is my favourite medium. Always has been. It doesn’t shout ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ in the way newspapers and screens do. Radio informs and entertains as you drive a car, paint a ceiling or perform open-heart surgery. And there was no finer, more creative and more enduring radio entertainer than Steve Wright, who died on

The strange psychology of dog owners

I’m writing this in a coffee shop. I write most things in coffee shops but I’ve never been to this one before. As I paid for my latte, I noticed the sign (below). Never mind Brexit or Palestine, I can’t think of an issue that will divide the nation like this will. People will immediately

David Bowie: the man who fooled the world

In 1973, everyone loved David Bowie. Album buyers had put Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Hunky Dory high in the charts, while singles buyers had bought similar success for ‘Drive In Saturday’, ‘Life on Mars’ and ‘Sorrow’. Then right in the middle of this, he released ‘The Laughing Gnome’. In truth, he probably didn’t. It was a twee little novelty song

For one night only, I was back on the DJ decks

Hard to imagine now but I was once a hot club DJ. I now need to go to bed on the same day I got up but once upon a time – in fact, hundreds of times upon a time – I dropped big tunes at famous clubs including Le Beat Route, the Camden Palace

My terrible evening on a stand-up comedy course

A few years ago, I abandoned a five-year counselling course after just 40 minutes. Apparently, I couldn’t have a refund from the community college but could transfer to another course. I may have a writer’s fascination with finding things out but I have a strange aversion to being taught. Looking at the long list of courses

I hated counsellor training

In practically every respect, I’m a useless human being. This is not the vanity of false modesty – I really am worse than most people at most things. I’ve never picked up a musical instrument, a golf club or a foreign language; I can barely boil an egg and would find it almost impossible to paint

The pointlessness of being early

We all know that the saddest words in the English language are ‘too late’. We also know that ‘procrastination is the thief of time’ and that ‘punctuality is the politeness of kings. However, since this piece was published a couple of weeks ago, many have got in touch to point out that, very often, ‘the

The tyranny of the tidy

A few years ago, James Delingpole and I were two-fifths of ‘The Manalysts’ a clique of agony uncles employed by a women’s magazine. The idea was to provide five answers to each problem from five disparate standpoints. James was the trenchant intellectual, I was (supposedly) the metrosexual adman and the other three were a practising

Punk’s fake history

If you were born after 1970 and don’t remember punk, you’ve almost certainly been misled by people who do. You’ve probably been told – through countless paean-to-punk retrospectives, documentaries and newspaper culture pages ­– that it was a glorious, anarchic revolution that swept all before it. I can tell you first-hand that it wasn’t. Punk

What skinheads did for reggae

Let’s play a game of word association. I’ll start: ‘skinhead’. Hmm. I think I can guess which words instantly occurred to you: ‘thug’ perhaps, ‘hooligan’ probably and possibly even ‘racist’? Yet for anyone who remembers the original incarnation of skinheads, another word will always spring to mind: ‘reggae’. If you believe that Britain’s love affair with

Just do it

Am I allowed to mention Nigel Farage? Of course I am, this is The Spectator, and its readers enjoy analysing all kinds of people and ideas, even those they find unpalatable. Readers of Campaign, however, aren’t quite as broad-minded. Campaign is the trade magazine of the advertising industry, and when it published an interview with

The new elite: the rise of the progressive aristocracy

40 min listen

On the podcast this week:  In his cover piece for The Spectator, Adrian Wooldridge argues that meritocracy is under attack. He says that the traditional societal pyramid – with the upper class at the top and the lower class at the base – has been inverted by a new culture which prizes virtue over meritocracy. He

How the Tories should respond to Labour’s attack ad

When I was writing ads for Labour’s 1997 election campaign, I’d never have presented an idea as factually, creatively and strategically wrong as Labour’s recent ‘attack ad’ on Rishi Sunak. If I had, I’d have been the one under attack for failing to understand the simple principles of advertising. What you need when writing any

How the rebels plan to finish off Boris

45 min listen

In this week’s episode: Is the Prime Minister a dead man walking? Spectator Political Editor James Forsyth and MP Jesse Norman who expressed no confidence in Monday’s vote discuss the future of Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party. (00:45) Also this week:Why is there so much virtue signalling in modern advertising? Spectator Columnist Lionel Shriver and

How the Tories can salvage ‘Brand Boris’

Brand Boris is in trouble. It wasn’t long ago that Boris Johnson could do no wrong, having won his party a thumping majority at the last election. Even when some mishap played out in public – like being stranded on a zip wire or falling in a stream – the public still seemed to love

Of course cycling is right-wing

Three cheers for Jeremy Vine. At last someone has pointed out that cycling in cities is inherently right-wing. Full disclosure: I’m a cyclist. I may not own a square inch of fluorescent or Lycra apparel; I may not terrorise motorists with violently bright and flashing lights but I’ve been riding a bike around London since

Britain’s advertising industry has effectively been nationalised

Has the advertising industry been nationalised? It certainly looks that way. The run-up to Christmas is usually the time for UK advertisers to spend big. But not this year. While the John Lewis Christmas ad has been greeted with some fanfare, this is the exception, rather than the rule in 2020. Companies whose businesses have been

Would Alan Parker have made it today?

‘Hello, is that Paul?’ ‘Yes’ ‘This is Alan Parker. I’ve just read your new book. I thought it was terrific and I want to talk to you about it. Are you free for lunch next week?” ‘Yes!’, I practically yelled. The following week, I found myself sitting opposite one of my advertising and film-making heroes,

Why I regret inventing the innocent smoothie brand

We all have secrets which, when we remember them, shroud us in shame. I’m afraid I have a particularly dark one that I’m forced to remember almost every day of my life. Twenty years ago, I was a working in a big London ad agency with a smart and ambitious young man named Richard Reed.