Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Blair As Hitler

This visual is from an ad opposing the introduction of ID cards. Full story in the - sorry - Daily Mail.

It's not a very good ad. (What do barcodes have to do with ID cards?)

But I'm slightly perturbed by all the comparisons between Blair and Hitler.

First it was a UK Muslim leader comparing Tony Blair’s treatment of Muslims to Hitler’s actions against the Jews.

Then Northern Irish Protestant leader Ian Paisley describes Blair as "like Hitler" for "selling Britain out to Europe."

Type "Blair" and "Hitler" into Google and you get 1.3 million results.

He's not that bad, is he?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tuesday Tip No.2

Young teams often ask "Should I take a job in a not-so-good agency, or hang tough till I get hired somewhere great?"

Between a rock and a hard place

The answer is it depends on your individual financial circumstances. If your internal organs are about to be called-in by loan sharks, then obviously you have to take the job. But if you have rich parents, or some money saved, a cushy part-time job, or have found a way to survive by eating everyday household objects, then it's better to wait.

Plenty of great teams started in not-so-good agencies. The key is what you do when you get there. You don't settle. You don't sit on your arse. You spend all your spare time working on the one good account they do have. And the rest of your time working on your spec book. When my partner and I were at a rubbish agency, we spent every night working on our book. Not once a week. Every night.

There will be lots of nice people there, and probably quite a few good creatives too. Don't get suckered in by that. Keep focused on getting out. Because the vast majority of great work, is done by the great agencies. And sooner or later, you want to get into one of those.

Tuesday Tip No.1

Monday, November 27, 2006

What Inspires You?

Saw a great new ad yesterday, for the British Heart Foundation. Here it is.

My first reaction was pleasure and admiration. 'That's great'. A second later, the jealousy kicked in. 'Wonder who did it... hope it wasn't someone I know.' And then the fear. 'Shit, I've got to work harder. Got to write better ads.'

So if I ask honestly what inspires me... the No.1 is probably good ads. Even if what they inspire is mostly jealousy and fear.

At No.2 I would put blogs. I've been exposed to more inspiring thoughts and concepts in the year since I started reading blogs than in three or four normal years.

At No.3 I'm going to put people. I'm lucky enough to have many people around me - colleagues, friends, family - who say inspiring things, and do inspiring things. Why they choose to hang out with me, I have no idea.

So - ads, blogs, people.

What are your 3?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Friday Poll

We have endless debates within agencies about the relative contributions of creatives, account men, planners and traffic.

But forget nuanced discussion.

Let's look at the issue in the simplest way possible. Who's overpaid?

Do account men deserve to earn what they do, for ensuring cients have sufficient coffee at all times?

Are creatives paid too much for searching YouTube to find clips to rip off?

Do planners deserve to earn that much for drawing a parallelogram balanced on a pyramid, with some words in?

Or are traffic over-paid, for informing everyone that the 4pm meeting is taking place at 4pm, and it's 3.50 now, so you really should think about heading to the meeting room?

You decide.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Applying Creative Thinking

We're creatives, right? So I was wondering, would it be possible to apply our creative thinking skills to other areas... like politics? has a cool real-time ticker displaying the current total spent by the U.S. on the Iraq war. It currently stands at $344 billion.

Now... what if instead of dropping bombs on Iraq, we just dropped cash?

Think of the positives. Iraqis would be rich. They would feel much better disposed towards us. And much less interested in fighting each other. We'd probably get a lot of the money back too, because they'd spend it on western consumer goods. And it would be good news for the region, because rich countries don't tend to start wars. (With the exception of the U.S., of course).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

PS3 Not For Me

This film of the purchase and subsequent destruction of a PS3 has garnered 1.9m views on YouTube, and been favourited over 3,700 times. There's no doubt the launch of the new console is a very important event in the lives of a large number of people.

Which people? Well, judging from those in the queue to buy one... males aged 16-26. Sadly, I'm way older than that. And though I had a PSOne and PS2, I've decided I'm just 'too old' for a PS3.

But why? Why is it predominantly younger guys who are gamers?

Here's my five stabs at an answer. Feel free to add your own.

1. Time. Younger guys (especially those bloody students!) just have more time to play.

2. Open-Mindedness. When each new piece of technology comes along, a person has to decide - am I going to adopt this, or not? The 60somethings of today were enthusiastic adopters of the new-fangled 'television' when they were younger. And yet most (but not all) have 'decided' that they won't be adopting PlayStations. I suppose technology is like music. You get to a certain age, and you just 'decide' not to keep up.

3. Control. The true appeal of games is control. You are the manager of the football team, the leader of an elite squad of special forces, the builder and controller of an entire city. Younger men have less control in their lives. They've got parents telling them what to do, and bosses. As you get older, you become the boss, and you have your own kids to order around, so you don't need a substitute control fix.

4. Medication. Gaming is a form of self-medication, like drugs or alcohol. Men aren't generally as good at dealing with their emotions as women. Again, they get better as they get older. But for a young guy, dealing with gales of difficult emotions thrown up by relationship and work conflicts, the games console is a handy blockout.

5. Rebellion. Hey, where else can you steal a car and shoot cops, but in a game?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Tips For Young Creatives No.1 - Don't Over-Polish

Although there are many, many people in this world who are better at writing ads than I am, most of them don't seem to have blogs, whereas I do. So until something better comes along, I'm going to start trying to come up with a few tips for the young creatives out there.

And if the amount of wisdom a person has can be measured by the quantity of mistakes they've made, I have quite a bit of wisdom to impart.

So here we go with Tip No. 1

It concerns the age-old question... "when do you go in?" Do you wait until you have an idea that you would die on a sword for before you go in and see your creative director? Or do you go in when you have four or five ideas you like, and rely on him to pick the best one out - after all, "that's his job"? Or do you go in with 'just a few thoughts', and aim to work with him on turning one of them into something good?

Well, partly you have to be guided by the attitude of your creative director.

I remember one CD, years ago, telling me "I want you to run in". By this he meant, don't show me any work on a brief until you are so excited that you can't hold yourself back from physically sprinting into my office.

That much lack of guidance is rare.

But if you are getting too many insults - and a lot of creative directors seem to specialise in the finely-honed insult - then this is a clue that you are going in too early. (We once showed something to Jeremy Craigen when I was at DDB and he said: "That is a really good ad... for McCann's Frankfurt, maybe.")

At the other end of the scale is the "bring me your wounded, bring me your lame" attitude - i.e. show me anything you've got, and let's see if we can make it work. Apparently Dave Droga tries to see all of his teams every day. His attitude is that as a creative, time is your only resource. And he doesn't want his creatives wasting any. He doesn't want them working for more than one day on a thought that he might then not like. He'd rather see all their half-thoughts than one or two finished ones.

So be guided by the attitude of your creative director. But as a general rule, I think young teams should go in with more than one idea. Young creatives often have great ideas and they don't know they're great, because they don't have the experience to recognise it. So go in early, go in often, go in with anything you've got that's coherent, draw stuff up clearly but not beautifully, and don't spend hours crafting dialogue.

After all, you don't want to spend days buffing up some precious gem only to be told by your CD that you've been polishing a turd.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Christmas. Sponsored by DreamWorks.

So, the seasonal decorations have gone up in Soho. Fittingly for London's creative hub, they look like light bulbs.

The Regent St. lights look quite nice too, and apparently use 90 per cent. less energy than conventional lights, being designed from paper-thin panels that glow when a tiny electrical current is passed through them.

You can't get away from advertising though. These lights feature, integrated into the pattern, characters from the DreamWorks movie Flushed Away, released in the UK on December 1st, with voice talent including Sir Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sponsorship Rocks

Normally sponsorship deals are quite dull. Here's one that isn't. This BBC story describes how a boys' under-10 football team have got themselves sponsored by heavy metal band Motorhead. They have the band's logo (above) on their shirts, and even run out onto the field to the strains of The Ace Of Spades. Well that's one way to intimidate the opposition...

Be Like Jay-Z

The 48 Laws of Power is the book which has swept the world of hip-hop - Jay-Z and Kanye West have mentioned it in rap lyrics; Quincy Jones is making a documentary on it.

But could the book be useful to us advertising types?

Take Law 1 - Never Outshine the Master. “Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please or impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite – inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.”

Seems pretty sensible. Don’t outsmart your creative director. (Not that I could). He won’t like it.

Then there’s Law 4 - Always Say Less than Necessary. “When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.”

Now this is one I would like to see become more widespread. Imagine how much shorter meetings would be if everyone was determined to say less than is necessary!

You can find all 48 laws here.

My reaction? Well, I suspect author Robert Greene is basically a charlatan, who has simply cobbled together the best bits of Sun-Tzu and Machiavelli.

Then again, someone whose blog is called Power, Seduction and War can’t be all bad I suppose.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bond Misses Target

The new Heineken Casino Royale ad is not good. That much is obvious. But I thought it might be interesting to analyse exactly who muffed up here. Was it the client? The director? The creative team? The account team?

For me, the client has done a good job. He has briefed the agency to link his brand to an appropriate property. James Bond is global, suave and premium. Just like Heineken should be.

The account team too have done a good job. They have delivered an ad that delivers this link. The branding is clear, relevant, and not overpowering.

The creative team can't be blamed either. The script idea is sound. James Bond's girlfriend worries that a waiter delivering a Heinken to their room has in fact come to kill the celebrated British agent, so she decks the unfortunate minion... who in fact turns out to be completely innocent.

No, the guilty party here is the director. First off, he fails to establish that the woman is Bond's girlfriend. (He could have done this by showing them in bed together at the beginning, for example.) As a result, the viewer has no idea that she wants to protect Bond. For all we know, she could be wanting to kill him herself.

Then he fails to establish the misdirect that the waiter plans to kill Bond. Yes, the receptionist and the waiter are a little bit sinister, but there's not nearly enough false information to genuinely make the viewer suspicious of them. If anything, the viewer is just mystified as to why the girl is so worried.

Finally, he bungles the end gag. The part where she takes out the waiter is well handled. But then surely there should have been a reaction shot from the girl, a 'whoops' moment, where she realises she's just knocked an innocent man unconscious. Without that, the ending is flat, and phoney.

So in summary it's not the client, account team, or creatives who get the turkey sandwiches, but the director, Stephen Gaghan.

(Actually, this isn't his first over-confused strip of celluloid. Anyone seen Syriana?)

Monday, November 13, 2006

This Is Wrong

The Letterman 'Balls' clip has generated lots of interesting comment. I haven't changed my view that it's OK to borrow though. Especially if you're building on an idea, improving it, making it your own somehow.

(Having said that, I do take the point about acknowledging your sources. You look a bit mean if you don't. Like the creators of Honda 'Cog' always claiming their inspiration was the game 'Mousetrap' rather than the short film by Fischli & Weiss.)

But no debate about this one, surely. Compare the 2007 D&AD Student Awards Call For Entry with the promotional materials for the 4th Annual One Show Exhibition at the Ad Museum of Tokyo from 2005.

Listen closely, graphic design consultancy Lippa Pearce. You can steal from a movie. You can steal from a promo. But you can't steal from another ad. And that's just the way it is.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Fallon Are So Busted

But if you really think about it, does it mean we should lower our opinion of 'Balls'? It's the same ad as it was before.

And after all, it's not the first great ad 'borrowed' from another source - Hamlet 'Photo Booth', Honda 'Cog' and Guinness 'Dancing Man' are just the first three that come to mind.

For me, the debate about whether it's right or wrong to borrow is not the right debate. Everyone borrows - Shakespeare ripped off the Greeks, and Picasso was 'inspired' by African art.

In my opinion, the debate should be solely about whether it works. The point of advertising is to sell product. If you borrow something that people know well, it won't feel fresh, so it won't appeal, and won't sell.

But if you borrow something that people don't know about, or change and adapt what you're borrowing so that it's presented in an unfamiliar way, then it will feel fresh, and it will sell.

The Return Of Guest Suit

Account Handlers. They’re always there. Making coffee, laughing at the client’s jokes… But what’s actually going on in their heads?

I’ve asked Guest Suit - a senior account handler at a Top 20 London agency – to come back and straighten a few things out for me. (N.B. this is a real interview, not one of those comedy ones.)

Scamp: You guys are supposed to be the 'make it happen' people… so how come in reality you behave more like the 'No' department?

Guest Suit: I can understand that it may feel that way to creatives. It's your job to come up with ideas, and inevitably, not every single one is going to be right for that piece of business at that time, so we do have to say no quite a lot.

Scamp: Why can't you just take the idea to the client and let the client be the judge?

Guest Suit: That wouldn't be doing our job. We’re not just there to jump up and down clapping our hands like seals when you show us the work, you know. In reality, the client briefs us on what they want, and they expect us to get it for them. They don't want us to bring them things they don't want. If we did that, we would quite soon have no clients. However, we do work for the agency – the agency pays our salary, not the clients - so we're always trying to sell the best possible work, that they will buy.

Scamp: Why do clients so often ask for 'more than one route'?

Guest Suit: They don't like to be painted into a corner. And they want the best chance possible of seeing work that is right. The fact is that what we do isn't a science. There is always more than one answer. One may be more right than another, but there are always different ways to go. It's a game of subjective judgements and the clients like to be able to participate in that judging too.

Scamp: What can creatives do to help get their idea sold?

Guest Suit: Lots. Collaborate with the account team along the way - take them on the journey that you're going on and listen to concerns, barriers and issues as they arise. They're unlikely to go away. Present your work to them in the same way that you would expect them to present it to the client. Give them the strategic rationale, the creative leap, visual reference, everything.

Scamp: Do you treat all creatives the same?

Guest Suit: Probably not. After all, no one treats everyone the same way. There are people you like more than others and your attitude and actions towards them will vary accordingly. Friendliness and an appearance that you're listening and being reasonable goes a long way to getting an account team on your side.

Guest Suit's previous post

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Americans Do It Better

This viral ad for the Democrats is way better than any political advertising I've ever seen in Europe. It's 4 minutes long but well worth watching to the end.

They just seem to have a handle on how the medium works. Unlike the most recent effort by our own David Cameron. (And if you get to the end of this one, I'll give you £20.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tone Of Voice Is Everything

Here's a lesson in the importance of having a strong tone of voice - you can get people to believe anything.

Click to play A Telemarketer's Nightmare

Thanks to Feargal for the tip.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Will It Blend?

It's been said that the most powerful kind of ad is a demonstration, and that if you can do one for your product, you should. Here's proof. Via Seth's blog.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

We're In The Wrong Job

Yesterday's Campaign reports that Martin Sorrell earned £2.7 million last year. And two other unnamed admen (one at Aegis, one at Omnicom) earned £1 million+.

It's a lot of dough, for sure... but that's only 3 people in our entire industry. The BBC reports that over 4,000 City boys will be getting a £1 million bonus this year.

It's not fair.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Have We All Gone Crazy?

The most viewed video on YouTube today is a clip of John Kerry's comment about getting stuck in Iraq. It has been viewed 515,725 times.

That's not bad.

But what if you're not the most interesting thing happening in the world today?

What if you're - God forbid - outside the top 3?

The number 10 video is called "Marilyn Monroe on NCIS" and has 39, 218 views.

You will get more viewers playing out a TV commercial in the far north of Scotland in the middle of the night.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Are The PR People Writing Better Ads Than We Are?

Saw this ad in thelondonpaper yesterday.

Not bad. Relevant. With a striking and mildly funny visual.

Actually, there weren't many ads in the paper. But there was this.

Victoria Beckham, AKA Posh Spice, buying a dress in Oxfam (second-hand clothes store chain run by a charity). Now, don't tell me this is news. It isn't. (How come there were cameras there?) It was surely originated by Oxfam's PR agency.

And it communicates brilliantly. "Hey, Oxfam clothes are so stylish, even Posh shops here." I don't imagine an ad could do the job better.

Well, in a way this is an ad. It's got a 'visual', with a small 'headline' underneath it. (Oxfam... the new Gucci? The Oxfam marketing department must be cock-a-hoop).

But it's way better than an ad. For a start, it's ON THE FRONT PAGE OF THE NEWSPAPER. Plus IT WAS FREE. Media spend zero. Plus it's under the radar. It's not ignorable like ads are.

Then I saw this. Page 2.

A stunt from PETA. Shocking, visually stunning image. Gets the message across. And there it is. A PR 'ad' on page 2 of the newspaper. Cost them nothing. (Presumably the ladies taking their clothes off were volunteers).

Then this.

It's a 'news story' about audience-members fainting during the movie Saw III. Yeah, right. Of course they were. But no matter, it's a powerful advertisement for the film.

Are the PR people doing a better job of promoting products than we are?

Is There Something Wrong With Capitalism?

Hilarious deleted scene from the new Borat movie, via American Copywriter.

Thank God for advertising, I say. How else could we choose between all those cheeses?