Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tuesday Tip No.10 - Breaking Up

There are as many horror stories surrounding the dumping of a partner as there are around the dumping of a girl or boyfriend.

Like the copywriter who went on holiday, and when they got back, found someone else sitting in their chair.

Or the time I got dumped, when my art director went on a trip to the U.S., and simply never called me when he got back. Good holiday was it, Al?

I've dumped once and been the dumpee once. So I don't have a great deal of experience. But I do have a little bit. And I also asked around a few people.

So here's the collective wisdom:

1. If you want to break up with your partner, it's down to you to go and get another job. They get to stay. You don't. That's just the way it is.

2. Have the courage and decency to tell them in person. I'm pleased to be able to report that when I dumped Helen, I did tell her to her face, along with the reason why. She was shit. Sorry Helen, but that's the truth.

3. Honesty is good, but only break the news if you have a concrete offer. Don't pointlessly destabilise the team by saying you're breaking up, and then not do anything about it.

4. Find another partner before you break up with your current one. Sounds mercenary, but again, it's all about avoiding limbo and uncertainty. That's not good for either of you.

5. When things aren't going well, and you're feeling frustrated, it's a natural tendency to blame your partner. That is perfectly normal and sensible. Well you're hardly going to blame yourself, are you?! But just remember, it may not be your partner's fault. Or yours. You're probably just feeling frustrated because you work in a frustrating job. A job where you spend the whole day making wonderful creations that other people stomp on. So pour yourself another glass of whatever you can find in the fridge, and have a good old bitch to your wife/ girlfriend/ boyfriend. That's what they're there for. And only break up with your partner as a last resort.

Tip No.9 - Working Well With Your Partner
Tip No.8 - Finding The Right Partner
Tip No.7 - How To Approach Agencies
Tip No.6 - Never-Seen-Before Footage
Tip No.5 - Dicketts' Finger
Tip No.4 - Two Blokes In The Pub
Tip No.3 - Play Family Fortunes
Tip No.2 - Should You Take A Bad Job?
Tip No.1 - Don't Overpolish

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Argument That Won't Stay Dead

A witty and passionate marketer by the name of Vando, who is based in Sydney Australia, picks up on last week's poll, which showed that 82% of readers of this blog would rather do the ad of the year than double their client's sales.

He is cross.

He feels it confirms a post of his entitled Do Agencies Give A Shit?

This debate is like one of the zombies in Dawn Of The Dead which was on TV here last night. You think it's dead, but it comes back to bite you.

It seems some clients still don't believe there's a correlation between creativity and effectiveness.

What to do?

In the words of Ving Rhames - "You've got to go for the head."

Okay, so he was talking about despatching zombies. In our context, it means proving to clients, over and over again if necessary, by means of solid, reasoned argument, that great ads work better than average ads.

If anyone has a link to a suitable article or research paper, do please post it up.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Friday Poll

83% of you prefer Glory to Success.

Rock on!

That was last week's poll.

This week - as we begin to abandon those promises of a detox January - I'm asking "Which department in an advertising agency drinks the most?"

Is it Creatives, seeking inspiration from Stella?

Is it Traffic, "liaising with the printers" in some ghastly strip-pub in the East End?

Perhaps it's those little minxes in TV, and their easy familiarity with the cocktail menu at the Charlotte Street hotel?

Or is it our beloved Suits - always out getting wasted - which they refer to as "team-bonding".

I can't believe it could be the Planners... though there's a few dark horses amongst you...

Vote now, in the top right hand corner of your screen.

Friday Poll No.7 - Success Or Glory?
Friday Poll No.6 - Is Reading Blogs A Waste Of Time?
Friday Poll No.5 - Job Satisfaction
Friday Poll No.4 - Ad Of The Year 2006
Friday Poll No.3 - What's Your Favourite Medium To Work In?
Friday Poll No.2 - Agency Of The Year
Friday Poll No.1 - Which Department Is The Most Overpaid?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Where Ideas Come From

Interesting piece in the New York Times about Ronald Burt's theory of Where Ideas Come From (summarised in Apophenia, via Russell via Rodcorp)

Got a good idea? Now think for a moment where you got it. A sudden spark of inspiration? A memory? A dream? Most likely, says Ronald S. Burt, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, it came from someone else who hadn't realized how to use it. "The usual image of creativity is that it's some sort of genetic gift, some heroic act," Mr. Burt said. "But creativity is an import-export game. It's not a creation game."

This is complete rubbish, isn't it?

He's clearly never had an idea in his life.

But to prove him wrong, I decided to look at where my own ideas come from.

I looked back as far as the beginning of 2003, and worked out what the source was for all the ideas I'd had. (N.B. it only includes ideas that actually ended up running, and it doesn't include the many ideas that came from my partner or from a creative director, as I can't say with certainty where they got them from).

Here's the result.

(My first-ever pie chart. I've probably done it completely wrong, but I don't care, it was fun.)

Amazingly enough, it seems that most of my ideas actually come from - shock horror - the Brief. By that I mean I made some kind of leap (probably a feeble one) directly from the proposition, or one of the support points or something.

Source No.2 is Autobiography, by which I mean that something in the brief or product triggered a memory of some personal experience, that I was somehow able to hammer into the shape of an ad.

At No.3 is (shamefully) 'Another Ad', i.e. I was "inspired" by a pre-existing ad to solve the brief.

At No.4 is ''Someone Else' having the idea, and suggesting it to me, which in both cases was actually my wife (thanks Suz.)

And in 5th place, there was one solitary idea inspired by a film.

I've no idea whether these proportions tally with other people's experience, but I'd be interested to hear...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Millward Brown Strikes Back

The other day I did a post about David Bonney's theory of Sad-vertising, which contained an attack on Erik du Plessis of Millward Brown.

It draws an instant e-mail response:

"Hi Scamp."

"I am Erik du Plessis, from Millward Brown (hssss)."

"I don’t think I mentioned that I am against advertising that raises a negative emotion. In fact I am a great one for advertising that raises an emotion, any emotion. The Maxwell tape ad on David’s blogsite is a very good example of using emotion in advertising (or sadvertising)."

"Emotion has two functions: getting attention and setting a framework inside which the message is interpreted. Sadvertising can do both, and often more effectively than Gladvertising. I would warn against Gratuitous negative emotions in an advertisement, but then I think gratuitous positive emotion has a similar problem."

"My view is that there must be emotion in an advertisement, and hopefully compatible with the product."

So there. And he can cause death by strangulation without even touching you.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tuesday Tip No.9 - How To Have A Good Relationship With Your Partner

Following on from last week's tip about finding the right partner, this week's tip looks at how to work well with them once you've found them.

But first, I reprint verbatim a discussion between two creatives, overheard through the wall.

CW: It's shit.
AD: What do you mean it's shit?
CW: I mean that it's shit.
AD: But why is it shit?
CW: It's shit because it's shit, that's all

Yes, this is what it's like for everyone. Don't worry about it.

General tips - as ever, the key analogy is with a marriage, and the same rules apply. Don't go to bed on an argument. Always listen to your partner's point of view. Remember their birthday. And don't look at other art directors in the street.

Other than that, here's the 10.

1. You've got to be a united team, so never disagree with anything your partner says in a meeting, even if by rights it should get them sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Sort it out behind closed doors.

2. If they write a nice headline, or come up with a good visual, tell them. Sounds basic I know, but we're all praise-whores in this business, aren't we? Your partner is no exception.

3. Agree between you exactly what the brief is about before you start writing ads. There's nothing more frustrating than your partner spending two hours drawing pictures of snakes having slightly misheard that vital briefing on snails.

4. Be aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses. If your partner hates presenting work, don't make him. If you're no good at speling, get him to check your headlines.

5. Have regular chats about 'what we want to achieve this year' and 'where do we see our careers heading'. The boat will go better when you're both rowing in the same direction.

6. Never say 'no' to one of his ideas. People hate being told no. Instead just say 'yes' in an unconvinced sort of tone. This one really works! Avoid hours and hours worth of arguments!

7. There will be times when you carry him, and times when he carries you. Don't worry about this. It is normal. Only if you have been carrying him for a period longer than about six months do you need to have 'a chat'.

8. Don't worry if other teams seem to do things differently to you, like work longer hours or shorter hours than you do, have more or fewer arguments, socialise with each other outside work or don't, drink or don't drink at lunchtime. All that matters is if your relationship works for you.

9. In general, you should only present ideas that both of you like. But if he really really wants to present an idea that you absolutely hate, let him. We call it 'playing a joker'. What's the worst that can happen?

10. Avoid long arguments. Time is your only resource. By all means tell your partner that an idea has already been done, is illegal, or is off brief, but don't spend 20 minutes trying to kill it while he tries to defend it. Just move on, and use those 20 minutes to have a better idea instead.

Next week: Breaking Up.

Tip No.8 - Finding The Right Partner
Tip No.7 - How To Approach Agencies
Tip No.6 - Never-Seen-Before Footage
Tip No.5 - Dicketts' Finger
Tip No.4 - Two Blokes In The Pub
Tip No.3 - Play Family Fortunes
Tip No.2 - Should You Take A Bad Job?
Tip No.1 - Don't Overpolish

Monday, January 22, 2007


David Bonney, a top planner at DDB London, noticed my post asking Should Ads Be Happy? and sent me an excellent piece he has written titled 'Sad-vertising', which is about "the emotional resonance of downbeat communications."

I won't put up the whole thing as it's copyright (appeared in Admap December 2006, if you can get hold of a copy) but here are some highlights.

"Sad-vertising is my term for those rare and beautiful brand communications that reach a little deeper," writes David. "Communications with the confidence to make consumers feel something more sophisicated, meaningful and lasting than momentarily cheerful or excited."

"Nearly all advertising deals in happiness... but life is far richer than that... Surely advertising's reluctance to embtrace [the] full spectrum of emotional life distances us from consumers, reducing the effectiveness of communications?"

"Many great brands have sucessfully flirted with sad-vertising, e.g. 'J.R. Hartley' for Yellow Pages... [the Paula Hamilton 'Changes' ad for] Volkswagen."

"But for some reason, most brand communications continue to be superficial, inanely cheerful and unrealistic... nothing frustrates me more than having to watch surfing cars, chocolate-induced giggles or blokey slapstick."

David then goes on to question the assertion by Erik du Plessis of Millward Brown (hssssssss) that "we are all programmed to seek out the positive and shun the negative."

"The emotional adaptations that define us as humans... to serve the social needs of hominid group-living, for example jealousy, love, hope, empathy... are more complex and surely cannot be reduced to... simple positive and negative motivational terms."

"Humans can be drawn to negative affect.. [and in any case] positive emotions are experienced more intensely when preceded by the experience of negative eemotions... For J.R. Hartley, finding his book is all the sweeter after repeated failures to do so."

Wonderful stuff.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday Poll - 'Show' or 'Business'?

We ad people are motivated by a combination of things - money, glory, a desire to help small children and animals.

Okay, just kidding on the last one.

But what's your prime motivation?

Would you rather be able to tell your mates 'you know the ad with the millions of coloured balls going down the hill? That was me, that was'... or are you all about the business, the kind of person who swings their hips to the sweet, sweet sounds of the cash-tills ringing?

Vote now, in the top right hand corner of your screen.

And you will be pleased to see that in visiting this blog you are officially NOT wasting your time!

The result of last week's poll shows a clear majority of visitors believe that reading blogs helps their career.

You are reading this outside working hours, right?

Friday Poll No.6 - Is Reading Blogs A Waste Of Time?
Friday Poll No.5 - Job Satisfaction
Friday Poll No.4 - Ad Of The Year 2006
Friday Poll No.3 - What's Your Favourite Medium To Work In?
Friday Poll No.2 - Agency Of The Year
Friday Poll No.1 - Which Department Is The Most Overpaid?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bell, Hamsters, Axed

Nick Bell, Executive Creative Director at JWT, has been fired.

At first sight this is insane. JWT have done better work under him than EVER before. Really great campaigns for Golden Wonder, Smirnoff, Vodafone and others. They placed seventh in the Gunn Report, having never previously featured on it before.

What more is a creative director supposed to do?

Then again, they did lose £150 million worth of business on his watch.

The truth is, JWT has never been about great work. It's about solid work. They probably told him they wanted great work. But they didn't.

Today also came the announcement that Mother is losing the Egg account.

This, I think, is a terrible mistake.

Clients go to Mother to get brilliant work. And Egg got brilliant work. (See below). Modern, relevant, and wonderfully engaging. What more is an agency supposed to do?

The Nick Bell thing is understandable. But Mother do not deserve to lose Egg.

Should Ads Be Happy?

Nick is cross because we are being asked to make an ad 'joyful' and he doesn't like happy ads.

At first I assume he's just being a contrary bastard as usual.

But thinking about the first 5 great ads that spring to mind, I realise maybe he has a point (as usual):

Apple '1984'
Guinness 'Surfer'
Guardian 'Points Of View'
Volkswagen Polo 'Protection'
Levis 'Drugstore'

All dark, all weird, and all melancholy.

(Honda 'Grrr' could be an exception of course.)

Sometimes people ask me what my favourite ad of all time is. It's Drugstore.

My good friend FishNChimps put it up on his blog the other day, and it never gets old.

But then with the genius touch of putting techno over depression-era smalltown America, I suppose it never will.

The part where the drums kick in, when you see the train, gives me goosebumps every time.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tuesday Tip No.8 - Finding The Right Partner

Having a partner is quite unusal in the world of work. But it's great. You've always got someone to talk to at parties. You have someone to bounce ideas around with. And as someone without a partner told me yesterday, it stops the voices.

Creative partnerships are vitally important, so I'm going to spread the topic over three weeks - Finding The Right Partner, How To Work Well With Your Partner, and Breaking Up With Your Partner.

For once, this week's subject is one I'm mildly qualified to talk about. Nick and I have been together for ten years. Most of them miserable of course, but nevertheless, it's lasted.

It's often said that a creative partnership is like a marriage. And it is. Except you'll probably see more of your partner than you do of your spouse. And you don't have sex with them. Or you shouldn't, anyway.

So you have to make sure it's the right person.

Here's a checklist to help you choose.

1. Trust your instincts. Don't 'talk yourself into' a partnership. If it doesn't feel right, it isn't.

2. Don't team up with someone just because they're already in a job or a placement, or have more experience than you so they "must be good". Judge the person not their situation because the situation will change, the person won't.

3. Don't leap straight into a partnership. If possible, do a trial run first. Work together for a week or two and see how it goes.

4. Don't be embarrassed to check them out. Google them. Talk to people who know them. Are they a psycho? Avoid them.

5. Look under every stone. If you're looking for a partner, tell everyone you know. Maybe they know someone. Speak to all the headhunters too.

6. You MUST MUST MUST find someone who thinks a bit different to you. No point having two people who think the same way. If that is the case, why have two?

7. On the other hand, you MUST find somebody you have quite a bit in common with. If you are a 36 year-old male from Manchester, and your partner is a 21 year old female from Moscow, then you are going to have big problems. You are going to say "we could art direct it in the style of the Clangers" and she is going to say "what is this Clangers?"

8. It helps if you find them a bit funny. Whether you laugh with them or at them doesn't matter. As long as there's some humour there.

9. Find someone as committed as you are. In other words, if you want to work Christmas Day, find someone else who wants to work Christmas Day. And if you are lazy, find a partner who is equally lazy. A mismatch here and you are in trouble. How did Tom Carty meet Walter Campbell? They were constantly running into each other in their creative department's kitchen, making coffee at 10.30pm. Everyone else had gone home. Including their respective partners.

10. Find someone you find interesting. You are going to have to sit opposite them for upwards of 9 hours a day. You are going to have to take aeroplanes with them, sit in edit suites and soulless conference rooms with them. Pick someone who says something interesting now and again.

Oh, and you've got to rate their work.

Tip No.7
Tip No.6
Tip No.5
Tip No.4
Tip No.3
Tip No.2
Tip No.1

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Does It Matter What You Say In A Voiceover?

I'm struggling with a piece of VO at the moment.

Nick (my partner) has no sympathy, as he "never listens to a word of what a voiceover is saying."

When I challenge him, he adds that he rarely takes in song lyrics either. Although he loves music, he doesn't really know the words to even his favouritest songs.

Do you?

I could probably bluff my way through Bohemian Rhapsody, but that's about it.

Maybe Nick has a point.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday Poll - Is Reading Blogs A Good Use Of Your Time?

My friend Damiano's computer calculates that in the last month, he has looked at over 12,000 blogs.

He wonders if this is a good idea.

So this week's poll (top right of your screen) asks you to settle the question. Is reading blogs more of a help to your career, or a hindrance?

UPDATE. Damiano wants me to point out what 'looked at over 12,000 blogs last month' actually means as "I'm guessing some of your readers might not have heard of RSS readers and think I don't do anything else with my life!"

Here's what he actually does.

"My glorious google RSS reader gives me the opportunity to filter 120 chosen blogs, which all together post approximately 12,000 blogs between them, (these include BBC news, guardian, digg and reddit sites which produce a significant percentage of the 12,000 and of those I mostly skim through). With the magic of RSS you can easily zero in on what you want to read, which I usually tag or star."

"I tag or star approximately 150 blogs (mostly business blogs) per month for future reference once I've read them. This means I actually read 60 to 70 blog entries a day which is approximately 2000 a month."

P.S. if Damiano's boss is reading this - he is very good at his job, despite all that time he wastes looking at blogs!

Meanwhile, the result of last week's poll is very encouraging.

I'm not too clever with the calculators but I did manage to work out that the mean job satisfaction of readers of this blog is 7.4 out of 10. And the median is 8. Pretty high, no?

Or you could say it proves for definite that we're not artists...

Friday Poll No.5 - Job Satisfaction
Friday Poll No.4 - Ad Of The Year 2006
Friday Poll No.3 - What's Your Favourite Medium To Work In?
Friday Poll No.2 - Agency Of The Year
Friday Poll No.1 - Which Department Is The Most Overpaid?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Wieden & Kennedy have pulled it off YET AGAIN

What would I do if the Old Spice brief landed on my desk?

Burst into tears, probably.

This is what W&K did with it.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Gwen's Visit

In her own inimitable style, Gwen has documented her trip to see me & Nick at BBH.

It's incredibly flattering to see oneself as a cartoon.

That was our advice to Gwen on how she should get appointments to see creative directors - email them the drawings of the appointments she's had with other CD's.

Then simply let vanity take its course.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Tuesday Tip - How To Approach Agencies

Calling creatives is hard.

Usually, they don't pick up. So you have to keep phoning and phoning. It's no good leaving a message - no one ever calls back.

And when you do get through, it's awkward. Most creative people are introverts. They don't give good phone.

So forget calling.

Simply send an e-mail to the team you would like to see, explaining who you are.

Why not personalise it a bit? E.g. if writing to Juan Cabral, you could start with "loved your Sony 'Balls' ad".

Other than that, the only trick is to approach an agency as you would a ladder. Start with the bottom rung, and climb.

a ladder, yesterday

So see the junior teams first. They're normally easier to see anyway. They won't be able to give you a job or a placement, but they will give you lots of advice. Find the ones whose advice you find useful, and go back and see them again and again.

Only when the junior/middleweight teams like your book, ask who is in charge of bringing in teams for placements/ freelance/ hiring (not before, you'll sound pushy). Then make an appointment to see them.

You'll rarely if ever be able to get an appointment to see a creative director. But that's ok. You don't need to. See a senior team and get them on your side, and they'll pass your book on to the CD.

Have multiple copies of your book. That way, if one gets 'stuck' in some CD's office you still have another one (or two) to take round.

Finally, smile.

Yes, I know it sounds American, but the fact is they're not just looking at a book, they're looking at two people.

It's probably no coincidence that in a galaxy far, far away, a long long time ago, the first people to give me and Nick a placement (thankyou, Richard & Markham) were two guys that we happened to get on with.

Tip No.6
Tip No.5
Tip No.4
Tip No.3
Tip No.2
Tip No.1

Gwen. In person.

My partner and I were honoured to have Gwen Yip come in to show us her work today.

Gwen is a unique, delightful and highly talented individual who will get hired very soon I'm sure.

Here she is talking Nick through her presentation.

And here's a YouTube embed of a short film Gwen made. It's mostly in Cantonese and takes a little bit of time to load, but worth watching if you would like to see the workings of an ad agency depicted using cut-out paper puppets.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday Poll - Job Satisfaction

The result of the Festive Poll shows a majority of you still prefer your Christmas greetings in envelopes not inboxes.

Now that we've all had a chance to reflect on our tawdry lives over the holidays, no doubt the item atop many an adlander's New Year To-Do List is 'call headhunter'.

Or did the break with your family just make you miss your co-workers?

So this week's poll, in the top right of your screen, simply asks 'On a scale from 1 to 10 - how much do you like your job?'

Friday Poll No.4 - Ad Of The Year 2006
Friday Poll No.3 - What's Your Favourite Medium To Work In?
Friday Poll No.2 - Agency Of The Year
Friday Poll No.1 - Which Department Is The Most Overpaid?

More Creative Blogs!

The ever-valuable Beeker has discovered four newish blogs by aspirant creatives.

First up is Creative in London by Kristin & Waldemar. Here they are, licking envelopes. I do hope it's for their Christmas cards, and not for any direct mail or anything...

Then there's What If... by David & Phoebe. Their sparky blog includes this wonderful idea.

Number 3 is Ads Are Boring by Jeff Pseudo. He suggests we refuse to accept receipts from Tesco, rather than just chucking them in the bin, which is somewhat environmentally-unfriendly.

Finally there is Niazipan by Martin McAllister. He hasn't posted much recently, but previous offerings include the idea that DFS should create a lazyboy that has a universal remote built into one arm and a fridge in the other.

Sounds good to me.

In other creative blog news, Willoughby of A Fly In My Soup has announced that he has ceased blogging, in order to spend more time with his family.

This is understandable - blogging can take up a lot of time - but it is a shame, as not only was Willoughby the only commercials director with a blog, it was also a very witty read.

He will be missed.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Uke Can't Be Serious

An inexplicable new craze is sweeping adland - playing the ukelele.

Ed Morris (ECD at Lowe) plays.

Mark Reddy (BBH Head of Art) plays.

Even our own Russell Davies plays.

Weirder still, not only do these people play the tiny backwoods instrument, they also collect ukeleles. Mostly buying them on eBay.

If anyone can explain this phenomenon, please do.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tuesday Tip No.6 - Use Never-Seen-Before-Footage

Happy New Year!

Great to be back, isn't it?

Today is a Tuesday so, here's another 'tip for young creatives' (N.B. no liability assumed for careers ruined as a result of following these tips).

When creatives start out writing TV scripts, they often write them around stock situations.

These include:

- Man on a desert island
- Two blokes in a pub
- Two ladies in a kitchen
- A couple having dinner in a restaurant
- Man or woman walks into a shop

Avoid stock situations.

Yes, you can sometimes get a good ad if you come up with a really radical twist. For example, there was an ad for shoe polish with a man marooned on a desert island. Plane flies over. Man waves frantically for rescue, but the sun glinting off his shiny shoes blinds the pilot, causing plane to crash.

But if you start from a stock situation, you're starting at a disadvantage - you need something incredible to get over the predictable set-up.

Avoid setting ad here

It's better to start with never-before-seen footage.

No one had ever seen paint exploding out of a block of flats, rubber balls bouncing down the streets of San Francisco, or a crowd coming together in the desert to make a face.

Notice that if you start with never-seen-before images, you don't have to do that much with them. The ad can be simpler.

Plus, you have less competition in the jury-room. Whereas if you do a comedy sketch set in a pub, your ad is competing with all the other comedy sketches set in a pub there have been.

Finally, if you create your ad from elements of the brand (e.g. the paint or rubber balls representing the colours of a Bravia TV) rather than from scenarios from films, TV or other ads... then the ad will be more relevant. So more likely to get bought by the client too.

That's always helpful.

Tip No.5
Tip No.4
Tip No.3
Tip No.2
Tip No.1