PHD & eatbigfish dissect a new generation of challenger brands with new book, app and seminar in Cannes


“Overthrow”, co-authored by Adam Morgan whose publishing credits include Eating the Big Fish, will explore a more evolved model and the communication implications. A clichéd and superficial view of what a challenger brand actually is still persists, according to a new book launching at the Cannes Lions Festival on Wednesday by PHD and eatbigfish, the consultancy set up by author and brand strategist Adam Morgan.

“Overthrow: 10 Ways to Tell a Challenger Story” explores an evolved model, looking at a new generation of challenger brands and the communications implications each faces. The conventional challenger stance of David vs Goliath – in today’s world an Avis vs Hertz, Virgin vs BA or Pepsi vs Coke – is rarely the most common. Overthrow goes beyond this one-dimensional cliché and makes the case for 10 new challenger types including The Enlightened Zagger, The Visionary, The Irreverent Maverick and the Game Changer.

Some industry luminaries that have identified their challenger type include BBH founder John Hegarty (an Enlightened Zagger), BMB founder Trevor Beattie (an Irreverent Maverick), DDB’s Andrew Robertson (a Visionary) as well as Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts (a People’s Champion).

An app, available within the official Cannes Lions festival app, allows people to test which challenger type best represents them as well as the brand they work for.

Guest speaker Adam Morgan, author of “Eating the Big Fish”, examines the very different approaches of successful challenger brands and the communications strategies employed by them. The eleven chapter book looks at the characteristics of each challenger type and includes interviews with some of the most interesting contemporary examples, such as Paddy Power, One Laptop Per Child, Audi, Zappos and Airbnb.

PHD launched in 1990 as a challenger brand – a strategic planning focused media agency when everyone else was talking about buying scale.  So as a challenger brand ourselves, we have long been a fan of the work done in this area by Adam Morgan and his eatbigfish organisation.  It’s great to be partnering on the launch of this book, which offers marketers the chance to explore a new model.  I’d say that PHD is a Visionary with a splash of Real & Human Challenger

Mike Cooper

Worldwide CEO PHD

Far too much of the chatter around challenger brands in the marketing world is dangerously uninformed and simplistic. Our ambition with PHD here is to offer a model that is both more substantive and more useful than most of the shallow soundbites that pass for critical thinking in this area.

Adam Morgan

author “Eating the Big Fish” & founder eatbigfish

Marketers and agencies are invited to use the model as a practical framework for those that want or need to challenge something about their category to succeed.  Whether entering a crowded category or maintaining challenger momentum once it starts to fade, the book looks at how leaders, teams and brands can structure their communication approaches in a way that drives breakthrough.

“Overthrow: 10 Ways to Tell a Challenger Story” is available on Amazon, and all profits from book sales will be donated to UNICEF.

Founded in London in 1990 as the first planning-led media agency, PHD, part of the Omnicom Media Group, is a proven innovator in communications planning and buying across broadcast, print, digital, mobile, social and emerging media. PHD is a global network with over 2,500 employees in more than 60 countries and is built on a culture of thought leadership, creativity and innovation.

eatbigfish is the world’s leading expert in challenger brands. An independent international consultancy working in geographies from the US to New Zealand, recent client successes have included Audi, PepsiCo, Newcastle Brown Ale and Lark. At the centre of everything eatbigfish does is The Challenger Project (, a 14 year study into over 300 challengers around the world. The published outputs of The Challenger Project – the books ‘Eating the Big Fish’ and ‘The Pirate Inside’ (both published by John Wiley)  – have between them sold 85,000 copies and been translated into eight languages.