Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tuesday Tip No.47 - What Would Paul & Nigel Do?

Stuck on a print brief?

Ask yourself... What Would Paul & Nigel Do?

This is the first in a sub-series I am planning on what we can learn from some of the masters of our craft. And there is no question that Paul Belford and Nigel Roberts are among the best print teams ever to have walked this earth.

In fact if I were given a print brief and told that the resulting ad HAD to get in the D&AD annual or I would lose my house... I would ring up Paul & Nigel.

They have a very specific approach to print advertising, and I am going to suggest that - if you are stuck on a print brief - it might be useful to give it a try. Maybe you come up with nothing. But at the very worst, you have had a half hour break from your normal working method.

Funnily enough, although Paul & Nigel's ads always have a fantastically modern sensibility, I suspect that their approach is an old-fashioned one (N.B. I have never spoken to either of them about how they work. Everything I am writing here is reverse-engineered from their product).

We all know how a normal print ad is constructed:

The headline and the visual work together in harmony. Take away the line, and the visual doesn't communicate anything. Take away the visual, and the line doesn't make sense either.

This has been the standard approach, ever since Bill Bernbach first decided to have art directors and copywriters sit together.

Now here's a Paul & Nigel ad (you may need to click on some of these to enlarge them).

As you can see, the entire message is carried in the headline. The visual is, strictly speaking, unnecessary. Technically, it's a piece of graphic design, that illustrates the ad, rather than an advertising visual that works hand-in-glove with the line. Basically, they've written a great line about soup, and then just illustrated it with a cool picture of a splash of soup.

Here's a couple more examples.

Here, even more obviously, we see that the visuals are 'mere' graphic design, accompanying the headline. In actual fact they are full of little ideas - the mouse and the sound waves all being relevant to sound, for example. But again, they're working to amplify the line, not complete it.

Of course, this method isn't easy. You almost certainly won't be able to do ads as good as these - Nigel's headlines are among the best in the world, and so is Paul's art direction.

But if you fancy a change, try their approach. (Don't worry that your ads will end up looking like theirs. Paul & Nigel's campaigns don't look like any of their other campaigns).

First of all, each of you must sit down and write headlines. Don't try to think visually at all. Write lots of them. Paul & Nigel were part-schooled at Leagas Delaney, where Tim Delaney is notorious for 'weighing' a pile of print ads in his hand before a review. The man reveres quantity. Perhaps he understands that, as I think Dave Trott said - "the way to write a good ad is to write a lot of them."

So write lots of headlines. Literally, at least a hundred. (It isn't so hard, when you free yourself from trying to write 'ads', and just write headlines). Then leave them for a day. Then pick the best three.

If you can, think of a really interesting way to set these headlines (here's a couple of examples, again from Paul & Nigel):

Then choose which part of your line you are going to illustrate (either photographically or via illustration).

For example if the line is about eggs, get hold of the most interesting photo ever taken of an egg. Try a crazy crop of it.

Use that in the layout as reference, until you can shoot your own.

Anyway, that's today's tip, sorry it was on a Wednesday again. Do let me know what you think.

Previous Tips:

The Hidden Flaw; How To Write Copy; Be Funny All The Way Through; How To Do Virals; How To Get A Pay Rise; Be Wary Of Punding; Challenge The Brief; Tell The Truth; Playing To Lose; How To Write Headlines; How To Do Direct; How To Do Radio; How To Do Press; How To Do TV; How To Do Digital; How To Do Posters; Look At Weird Shit; Presenting To The Client; Presenting To The Team; Presenting To The Creative Director; How To Deal With Rejection; Look Creative; Don't Be Afraid To Ask; Your Idea Has To Be 120%; Read Iain's Tips; Don't Behave; How To Discuss Ideas; Read Hugh's Tips; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part IV - How To Turn A Placement Into A Job; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part III - How To Approach Agencies (re-print of Tip No. 7); How To Get A Job In Advertising Part II - How To Put A Book Together; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part I - FAQ; Make Friends With Traffic; Get Reference; Don't Stop Too Soon; Be Very; Breaking Up; Working Well With Your Partner; Finding The Right Partner; How To Approach Agencies; Never-Seen-Before Footage; Dicketts' Finger; Two Blokes In The Pub; Play Family Fortunes; Should You Take A Bad Job?; Don't Overpolish


Anonymous said...

Are you kidding?

Those are 5 of the worst print ads I've ever seen!

You get the Hyundai one in 2 seconds tops. The copy in the other ones is probably longer than the brief itself and the visuals are totally pointless because unless you read read the attached essay you have no idea what they're illustrating.

I'm sure they'd put together some cracking brochures but print wise, well, frankly we haven't got all day...

Anonymous said...

re anon 5.27pm.

Are you fucking blind.

Paul and Nigel have produced some of the best print ads over the past 10 or so years here in the UK.

They have bucket loads of awards to prove how good they are.

Nigel is a brilliant writer and Paul is one of the most awarded Art Directors in the UK.

When they worked together as a team they not only created amazing ads of their own but also helped their entire department make better ads than they would have done on their own.

I should know I worked for them a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

oi lunar, what with the anonymous posts?

Anonymous said...

I thought you said nobody reads copy Scamp?

Anonymous said...

Blimey. I don't know which one's the art director but he clearly doesn't have the automatic knee-jerk reaction to headlines over three words long that I'm used to from art directors I've worked with. Namely ..ahem...
"Can we make it shorter?"

Apparantly, to most art directors, typos, designers (you know, arty types), the rule about there being no rules in advertising applies to everything except headlines over three words long. Then there is a rule.
Rule 1. It's too long.

Anonymous said...

5:27 PM

I'm presuming you're a client?

Anonymous said...

They all look fantastic.
Can't remember what any of them were about.

Anonymous said...

Scamp you old rascal,
are you pulling our collective wangers again?

Anonymous said...

re 5.47pm twice and 5.51pm once.

I'm not actually 'Lunar BBDO'.

I'm sure Lunar BBDO will have something to say no doubt.

Anonymous said...

Re 6.01pm

I thought 5.41pm was a client, or maybe an account man.

Lunar BBDO said...

@ 5.47

Not me, but I second that sentiment.

They were brilliant to work for. Always pushed you; always got a better end result. Good blokes, too.

(why are we back to writing xzhhqu to post a comment?)

Anonymous said...

scamp, this blog has become the pub you're frightened to go to lest you get your head kicked in. time for some crowd control.

Anonymous said...

First comment person, you are a complete retard.

Scamp - you should have posted The power of Books for Waterstones. Best print ad EVER.

I'm a junior creative, 1 year in the business, and Paul Belford and Nigel Roberts are my heroes.

Aside from Roberts being the only decent copywriter of the last decade, Belford somehow takes it and lifts it an even greater scale.

He's left a huge pile of rules that art directors, especially AMV, stick too. It's very rare that you see anything come out of there anymore without the logo being on something.

Look at Lunar's Snickers campaign from a few years back and it's totally influenced by them (still great though).

Everything they did, just had a sense of class and thought behind it. I wish they still worked together.


Anonymous said...

i think that makes complete sense to be honest. best tip yet.

i'll certainly be looking up their work too.

Anonymous said...

i was lucky enough, as a young planner, to work with paul and nigel at tbwa on waterstone's and some other stuff. always produced lots of good work on every brief in order to get to the great idea and talked me three important things. first, what mattered in a brief was distillation - make the information clear and inspiring. second, they taught me the gosaagism that what matters is to make the ad at least as interesting as the stuff around it. finally, their work is proof that the details are what separate good ads from the great. it was all about sweating the details.

Anonymous said...

I've worked with Paul and Nigel or, as they were known somewhat unfairly, Grim and Grimmer. The nickname derived from their utterly uncompromising dedication to excellence. They wanted every single thing they did to be groundbreaking and attention-grabbing. They were passionately opposed to mediocrity. And they worked unbelievably hard to make stuff brilliant.
"What would Nigel and Paul do?" - long after the rest of the creative department had gone to the pub, they'd stay up in the studio all night, again, fiddling with the artwork and the copy (often even after the ads had gone to press). Huge talent, massive commitment and extremely hard work. It's a powerful combination.

Rob said...

Personally, I like the first one best. The $12,00 dollar one. It's old (but then so is 1 +1 = 2) But it made me laugh and got the message through.

I don't really like the rest. Too showy. Which I know kind of contradicts the post. But it's opinions in the end. Joe Satriani is an amazingly technical guitarist. But, subjectively, I prefer John Frusciante.

My favourite print ad was a flat drawing pin and a pirelli logo. And nothing else.

Interesting post. I hope it doesn't attract a whole bunch of boring invective.

Scamp said...

Making people type xzhhqu is crowd control.

I agree I could have posted Waterstone's, those are also great examples of the classic 'Paul & Nigel technique'

There are many, many more. Oddbins also springs to mind.

Lunar BBDO said...

Check out D&AD 2001.

49 entries, my friends, 49 entries.

You do that in a career and you're a superstar (advertising variety).

Anonymous said...

Scamp. I read your blog religiously everyday. I should get a life. Or a hobby. But both are too time consuming when I have to do WORK!
I like your blog because it's easy on the brain. It's the most ugly blog around, but it's v.v. interesting. Being so interesting on-line, I presume you must be really interesting in real life, or utterly dull.

Charles Edward Frith said...

Great post as usual. I think print will become more important as the quality divide between analogue and digital arrives. I always learn stuff from these posts. Very generous.

jingwei said...

Scamp, I NEED to read to copy.

I don't get it because I can't the read the copy of these ads.

stupid award books who print ads too small.

Anonymous said...

No-one ever talks about effectiveness over here.

Anonymous said...

I just got my faith in copywriting back. /copywriter

Ted said...

As you said it's an old-fashioned way.
But still beautiful, And very hard to get!

Anonymous said...

RE Lunar @ 10.48

yeah the 2001 D&AD annual is almost just a catalogue of P&N's work but wasn't Paul a judge on most the juries?

Anonymous said...

To echo the above, as a copywriter it's particularly thrilling to see.
It does seem contradict your hasty post about no-one reading copy.

Lunar BBDO said...

He judged art direction and got two pencils and over half the entries but they got plenty in press, copy, posters, graphic design and various crafts.

Paul has five art direction pencils (2 in 1999, 2 in 2001 and 1 last year). Nigel has two copy pencils (1999 and 2001). In addition they have pencils for typography and graphic design and several nominations in press and poster, as well as entries in radio and TV (I think). They have been ever-present in the book since at least 1995, gaining over 100 entries (David Abbott managed around 250 when there were fewer categories), and have Cannes golds and One Show Golds, Silvers and Bronzes.

As far as print awards go, it's between them and Justin and Adam and Dave and Sean.

Personally, I prefer P&N's work. Always thought-provoking writing and art direction that you couldn't even begin to conceive of.

And yes, I do need to get out more.

Anonymous said...

8.42 PM:

There are no rules in creativity. People who do nothing but follow the precedents set by others will never be capable of thinking for themselves, although it does get you through your first year.

Others who decry my post:

From reading your various responses it sounds to me like Paul and Nigel are very well respected and much liked by the people who have worked with them and that's great but unfortunately it doesn't change the fact that these 5 ads are shit.

If they were any harder to decipher I would venture that they had been written by Agatha Christie.

5:27 PM

Anonymous said...

re Lunar BBDO @ 10.11

Ben, thats very interesting but we have a pitch tomorrow for gods sake.

Get off that bloody computer for five mins.

Anonymous said...

Surely Scamp is playing a game with us here. From everything he has written in the past, particularly about the BBH approach to print advertising, he must surely think these ads are terrible (particularly the Nissan ones).

He just wants to see the debate between those who can see the Emperor has no clothes on and those who are in awe of the retarded juries who have awarded this kind of stuff in the past. Probably in an even more obscure form than we see here, given the team's record on cheating to win awards.

Remember - real people confronted with that Nissan rubbish would simply turn the page.

So Scamp, here's the thing - would you swap your Merc Chicken and your Levis Originals Don't Fit for any of the rubbish you've used in this latest post? If yes, then you're insane!

Anonymous said...

anon 10.12
Let's hope you never make CD
Though it seems highly unlikely.

Anonymous said...

"What would Paul & Nigel do?"

Looking at the evidence they would do some hugely stylish, psychedelic swirly D&AD-friendly art direction to hide the fact that they can't think of any decent, witty or interesting ideas.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame to see that budding creatives these days just blindly run after the opinions they hear and read without forming an educated opinion by themselves.

In our trade prizes are often the result of backdoor politics. So blindly connecting prizes to briliance is slightly short sighted.

Paul & Nigel made some excellent work, but also a lot of mediocre material. They know that and will be the first to acknowledge that, so no reason why fan boys need to come here to defend em.

Anonymous said...

Can they make the logos a bit bigger?

Anonymous said...

For the experts:

motivate why this ad for snickers is good/bad:

More fruitfull than trashing other people's opinions.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious that one cannot even post an url fully...

Mike Reed said...

So I assume we need to ignore all the other advice about forgetting words? You're right: great ads.

Anonymous said...

Mighty Ishtar
Quick glance, don't get it.
Ergo shit.

Anonymous said...

The criteria for judging good advertising in award schemes are there because they reflect methods that lead to engagement and interest. These ads don't look like ads (great, you won't ignore them), they don't have screaming logos (you have to find out who they're for rather than simply turn the page) and they contain interesting and relevant human truths in the writing.

Do any of you haters have ads that do that? If so, well done. These do it too and are therefore not to be slagged-off, except by idiots.

Anonymous said...

i think paul and nigel kick butt. especially in the craft department.
none of their stuff feels like the beginnings of huge ideas. but they sure know how execute the fuck out of something.
d and ad nominations out tomorrow.
one club noms already out.
the season is upon us.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2.19pm - "you have to find out who they're for..."

I hope you don't work in the business. Hilarious that you could think any normal person can be arsed to sit and work out who an ad is for.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone checked they actually ran?

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:16 PM
I hope you're not in the business either. You've obviously have never met any planners.

J said...

Long copy. Who cares. They're beautiful. It's the sort of stuff that actually looks worth reading.

Great post, Scamp. Specially now that print is being looked at with disdain by the so called "hot" shops. It's all about doing Gorilla Jr. and then picking a boring still of the ad as print campaign. Genius.

Now, I'd love to read what would Justin and Adam do? In fact, any one knows what they're up to?

Anonymous said...

Justin is doing the worst ads of his career at the Red Brick Road. Tucker doesn't seem to be doing anything at Fallon. Not sure they care. They could sink a battleship with their awards.

Anonymous said...

Scamp, I love you, but I didn't get these. The scans might have made them tougher to see, but the tomato soup one did nothing for me. I read halfway through the copy on the right and got bored. The Nissan one's visually stunning. The egg is also a great image, but I didn't know what the copy on the right was doing for it.

A coworker explained that it's more about concept, and looking at the traditional ad differently.

So often it comes down to your audience and your client. If your client doesn't get it, it's tough to convince them the audience will. If you don't have a sophisticated audience, you may confuse them, causing them to never actually get the ad.

Obviously Paul & Nigel have the pedigree to prove they know what they're doing, but these were not my favorite ads ever. Or maybe I'm just not sophisticated enough to get them.

lazbash said...

I work in house and have the benefit of being the client and the creative. I wonder if any of the ads you guys discuss on this blogg actually have a return on investment. I.e. sell anything??? Great ads, a lot of fun to produce, too much money down the drain.

Anonymous said...

Bore off ROI

Scamp said...

A few people are calling me a hypocrite because I said "don't write copy" and then I say I like these ads, which have lots of copy.

Well, it wasn't a rule. There are no rules. Except to engage and be interesting. The vast, vast majority of ads with copy (probably most ads with anything but the shortest of headlines too) look boring and put people off. Paul & Nigel's ads can have copy, and yes long headlines too, because they look absolutely incredible.

It's a bit like seeing a stuntman ride a motorbike across six buses and through a ring of fire. It's unbelievably impressive, but you probably shouldn't go straight out and attempt it yourself.

Lunar BBDO said...

Last word on this: the new, different Economist campaign and the museum of childhood stuff, both from AMV have employeed the P&N technique to excellent effect and numerous D&AD/One Show entries.

I know no one will ever read this. The posts have moved on, but I just thought I'd say it.

And anyway, you're reading, aren't you, Simon? Hi.

Anonymous said...

never too late to lick a bit more, is it?

Anonymous said...

I had a D&AD workshop with paul yesterday. The guy is an absolute inspiration, and no ego.

anyone who slates those ads shouldn't even be in this industry.