Campaign podcast: John Cleese on why 'advertising is like a very good crossword'

John Cleese: said he 'always loved doing commercials'
John Cleese: said he 'always loved doing commercials'

Listen to Campaign's interview with writer and performer John Cleese.

This week’s podcast is all about the four “C”s: Cannes, creativity, cheese and Cleese.

First up, Campaign’s associate editor Kate Magee and UK editor Maisie McCabe discuss the notable winners at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, which took place last week.

The pair move on to “cheese”. At Cannes, the 2020 Super Bowl ad for Cheetos "Can't touch this Cheetos" by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, was the only humorous ad to win a Grand Prix. Why aren’t more funny ads winning awards? 

Then Kate interviews the writer and performer John Cleese about creativity. 

Cleese has made regular appearances in ads throughout his 55-year career. As he says in the podcast: “There was a time when I was very popular with the advertising fraternity, but it was probably forty years ago. At that time, somebody said there should be an award for the best use of John Cleese,” he says.

In particular, he mentioned the “lovely times” he had working on the Sony ads that he did with Tim Delaney, now chairman at Legas Delaney.

He adds: “I always loved doing commercials because it wasn’t such a massive thing like a movie, but it was like a very good crossword - it takes two days of your life but it's awfully interesting.”

Listen to the podcast, read the interview and watch some of his best ads below, including one from his mum. 

Listen below or tap ‘subscribe’ to get the podcast on Apple, Spotify and other platforms. 

Episode notes

3:00 What happened at Cannes: AMV’s big win 5:20 Why aren’t more funny ads winning awards? 8:25 The John Cleese interview 15:10 Why play needs to be separate from everyday life 20:30 The real bar to creativity is the people in charge 26:50 Children know how to play - and then we train it out of them 34:00 Why the key to creative collaboration is diversity 40:00 Ego and self doubt: "We're all more insecure than we like to admit"

Seven of John Cleese's best ads


Talking Pages





And one from his mum...


Start Your Free 30-Day Free Trial

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free