Monday, June 08, 2009

The Last Post

After 3 years and 707 posts, I've decided to discontinue Scamp.

Reasons? Partly a desire to free myself from the daily commitment of having to entertain one of the world's most demanding audiences - time-wasting creatives. And partly a decision to redeploy my spare time into something else. (Yes, I'm writing a novel. NOT set in an advertising agency).

I've learned so much doing this. That there's no such thing as unanimity of opinion in our industry. That creatives are majorly riled by work that takes its inspiration from another source (much more than Shakespeare or Picasso were!) And that HTML is bloody fiddly.

I've also learned new words, such as 'low-involvement processing', 'blogroll', and 'meh'.

There have been many highs. The tons of amazing comments and contributions from my readers. Getting a book commissioned, based on my Tuesday Tips, which comes out next year. And perhaps best of all - getting to meet so many wonderful people in the real world, through the blog.

I won't put up a list of my favourite posts, but the Top 20 that you lot seemed to enjoy the most (or be most vexed by) were:

The Top 3 Advertising Cliches - 105 comments
Mr Strings - 116
Dancing Eyebrows - 135
Grandmaster Flashmob - 108
Virgin 25th Anniversary Ad - 100
A Terrifying Counter-Theory - 103
Advertising For Atheism - 105
A Ballad For David (Ogilvy Athens video) - 138
Tuesday Tip No. 60 - What Would Dave Trott Do? - 118
HSBC Lumberjack - 117
Tuesday Tip No.58 - Beat The Finger - 112
Job Opportunity In Paradise - 122
Fallon's Print Work - 151
Goodbye Lenny - 107
Dave Trott Live - 246
Fallon's Budweiser Campaign - 232
CHI Pay - 103
Cadbury's Trucks - 136
Top Ten Creatives, Directors and Agencies - 103
Dothetestgate - 229

Future internet historians picking their way through this digital ghost-town will find my Tuesday Tips of dubious use to young creatives here and the Polls here.

There are too many people who deserve my thanks for me to be able to name them all. But I will just single out Scowling A.D. Thanks for putting up with it, Nick.

Friends, readers, commenters - I wish you all the very best.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009


So I'm continuing to document, at possibly tedious length, the actual process of making a TV commercial.

Today the subject is "comments."

When you are working on an edit, here are some of the people who will make comments on it: the Client, your Creative Director, the Account Team, Planner, TV Producer, Production Assistant, the Editor, other Creatives, and sometimes even consumers - yes, some ads are researched as rough cuts nowadays.

It can happen that there are so many rounds of comments, from so many different people, that you lose sight of your original vision, and possibly even your will to live.

This is a very important part of the process though. And the ability to satisfy people's comments without ruining either the ad or your relationship with them is quite a skill.

Some comments will make an ad better and you're happy to get them. Others make it worse, and you begin to wonder whether you can ignore them.

There is actually a complicated invisible hierarchy of how much each person's comments matter; it determines which individuals, or combinations of individuals, get their way:

Here it is:

Client48 points
CD15 points
Director10 points
You6 points
Your partner6 points
Editor4 points
Account team3 points
TV Producer3 points
TV PA1 point
Planner1 point

So, for example, if absolutely everyone (49 points) disagrees with the Client (48 points) on something, the Client doesn't get his way. But all it takes is one Planner or TV Producer to side with the Client, and they win.

If you and your partner (12 points) disagree with the Director and Editor (14 points) then they will win, unless you have the TV Producer (3 points) as well.

Similarly, the CD (15 points) can overrule you and your partner (12 points) unless you have the Account Team (3 points) and a Planner (1 point) or TV Producer (3 points) too.

Let me know if you think the system needs tweaking. I think it's pretty good.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Soft voices. Low lighting. Comfy armchairs. A full belly of burger and chipz zz zzzzzzzz mmffpgh uur uh humph. Oh, sorry... where was I?


(For those who don't know what that means, as indeed I didn't for at least the first two years of my so-called career, grading is a process that happens in a high-tech post-production suite, in which your ad is adjusted for colour, contrast etc)

I actually love the concept of grading - applying a 'look' to your film, that enhances the creative idea. It's just the process of doing it that I find unutterably tedious. Do you agree? Or am I just being a copywriter?

P.S. One thing I hate is the 'gratuitous grade', by which I mean a very extreme colour treatment that bears no relation to the creative treatment. A few years ago there was an inexplicable fad for green-hued adverts. And after that, brown. Currently, the fashion seems to be for ads to look washed-out. Why? Please stop it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Editing Starts Today

Editing is actually my favourite part of the ad-making process. I've even read books on it. Possibly a copywriter thing? Do copywriters enjoy editing because it's a kind of narrative exercise?

Or perhaps it's just because I'm super-anal, and I really enjoy seeing what difference it makes to take 2 frames off the front of a shot, or the end.

In any case, the creative possibilities - and scope to improve the ad - are endless. And I'm always sorry when it's over, and I don't get to eat bento boxes any more.

The only bit that's tricky is the dynamic of seeing the first cut. The director and editor will have been working on it intensely for some time, and think it's perfect as it is. All they want you to do after watching their edit is to clap like a seal and say "fucking hell that's brilliant, I don't want you to change a thing."

This never happens.

So let's talk about editing. Do you enjoy being cooped up in a tiny room with five guys and some sushi? Or do you hate it?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Reflections on Shooting in Prague

1. I have put on half a kilo (shoot food)
2. The crews all look like roadies for a death-metal band
3. When you go into overtime in Prague, the production company producer begins a gentle nervous tapping of the foot, whereas in the UK, his head flies off
4. The average person in Prague is extremely dour. The only time I saw a local crack a smile was when the woman at airport security found a bottle of shampoo in my hand luggage. "No liquids!" she shouted, and really blammed it into the bin
5. When you watch nothing but CNN for a week, you see lots of very strange ads. Many are advertising entire countries. "Corporate tax of only 10%, personal tax only 10%, and average wages just 500 Euros a month. Invest in Macedonia." That is if you haven't already been seduced by "the wild beauty of Montenegro."
6. On-set wi-fi saved my life
7. Having an account man there with a fanatical attention to all the client & legal issues initially feels like having your bollocks in a fur-lined vice. But after a while, it becomes a liberation, and you're glad to have him with you
8. Everyone in Prague smokes. Quite weird to be sitting in a restaurant, and someone lights up, right next to you - I'd forgotten what that was like. Between cigarettes, they smoke cigars
9. Embarrassingly, I only learned approximately five words of Czech, and one of them was 'dezerty'. In case you hadn't guessed, it means 'desserts'
10. Very happy with the shoot, and very glad to be back in Soho

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Internet Is Now Graffiti

Here's a fine example of the traditional art of graffiti, as photographed on the back of a toilet door in Prague this morning.

But on the very same door... there was also this.

Is the internet now a valid form of graffiti?

Scamp is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Do You Enjoy Shooting?

The Czech Republic (as seen from the minibus ferrying me between the hotel and the studio)

Another view of this beautiful country

Could you concentrate with this sitting in front of you all day?

Shoots, especially foreign shoots, are supposed to be the 'glamour side' of our job.

Are they?

Monday, May 11, 2009

I Have No Idea What This Means

But I like the typography.

It's good morning from Prague, where Scowling A.D. and I are filming some ads.

I won't be blogging about the actual shoot because of client confidentiality, but I would love to hear any tips you may have about shooting in Prague in general.

It seems that, due to the quality of the studios and crews, and various cost and currency differentials, every man and his dog has shot here. Have you? What was it like? Where should I go for dinner tonight? And what can I do that will be more fun than staying in my tiny and slightly too-warm hotel room watching CNN?

Friday, May 08, 2009

Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space

If you enjoy visual stimulation, and want to keep up with current visual trends, but you’re faaaaaaaaaaaaaar too lazy to actually look at lots of different websites to do so, I can recommend a weirdly compelling thing called 27Letters.

It’s basically an app that you download, and then it displays the 27 images that are being most widely talked about, referenced, and reproduced across the internet this month.

It claims to cover everything from “advertising to art, through to politics and celebrity.” And as it’s put together by image behemoths Getty Images, I’m guessing that if an image has made their Top 27, it’s there by rights. There’s also a facebook group.

Each image gets a short and actually not-badly-written piece of text, although why they’ve made navigating the site feel like you’re floating in space, I don't know. Have a play yourself, and let me know how it was for you.

Is This The Best Coke Ad Ever?

Being a cynical hard-bitten atheist pedant, I don't like happiness, optimism, twinkly Santas, or people coming together to teach the world to sing.

However, I do like weird scruffy magicians who have suitcases that unfold into organs played by monsters. And this ad has that in spades.

I happen to know that the creative team are French - congrats on a fine ad, D&T - and is it just me, or is there something a bit French about this ad? A bit Daft Punk, perhaps?

So here's my All-Time Top 3 Coke Ads:

1= This One
1= The Grand Theft Auto one
3 Polar Bears


Thursday, May 07, 2009

You've Got To Have A Philosophy. Fallon's Is Generosity, Apparently.

A geezer called John King, "director of brand innovation" for Fallon, reckons that "brands have evolved past the baseline of trust and awareness; now they must learn how to give."

If you want to read the whole schtick, it's in this article, for AdAge.

I couldn't make it right to the end, due to the fact that my attention-span is shot to shit nowadays, but I did like this bit:

A planner friend of mine had this great line about a year ago: "I'm so over messages," she said. Aren't we all; aren't we all.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Director of the Month: Siri Bunford

I got a request last month to feature a female director.

Trouble is, there aren't many. It seems possession of a penis is almost mandatory before an individual is allowed to shout 'Cut' or 'Action'. And not just in commercials - it's the same in the world of feature films.

Why this should be, I don't know. If you have a theory, write it up as a comment. The best answer I can give is that you need to be part megalomaniac to want to direct, and just as history's foremost dictators have been men, so have the best directors.

But there is one very interesting director around right now who also happens to be female - Siri Bunford. Her 'Kubrick Season' promo has just been nominated for a D&AD pencil.

You've almost certainly seen it, and it is the best thing on her reel. If you like that, do watch the rest; it's in a similar vein. I met Siri in the flesh once, when she pitched for a Guardian ad when I was at DDB. Can't remember which one. But she had the same luminous intelligence in the flesh as comes across in her work.

Her sensibility is perfect for Channel 4, and arguably harder to apply to the rough-and-tumble world of product advertising. But if you have something that needs a bit of elegance and intelligence... I reckon you could do a lot worse than put Siri on it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I Will Care About 30% Of The Time

Thanks to those who've congratulated Scowling A.D. and myself on our two D&AD nominations.

I shan't try to be cool about it. I'm thrilled.

As regular readers will know, I do care about awards. (Yes, even when I'm not up for any. Perhaps especially then). I care about awards because they denote excellence and I care about excellence. We all do, don't we? Sure, the jury system may not be a perfect way to determine who should get them, but we live in a democracy, and some kind of voting has got to be the way to go.

So I will be caring deeply on the night of June 11. But... not the whole night. Because while of course I care about categories like Art Direction, Online Advertising and TV & Cinema advertising, there are other categories (like Book Design, Environmental Design, and Digital Installations) that I either don't care about, or only pretend to care about.

After a quick squizz at the nominations, I calculated that I care about just under 30% of them. What about you?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Doesn't Take Long Nowadays Does It

At 9.58am my inbox received "new Perrier ad directed by Frederic Planchon for Ogilvy Paris":

And at 11.12am it received "this is quite a lot like an installation The Glue Society did in Sydney a few years ago":

If Atheists Ruled The World

Graeme B. kindly sent me this clip, commenting that: "It's like they've stolen the idea from your Barnardo's ad [he means this one] and applied it to atheism."

Thieving bloody atheists.

I do like it though.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Placements - Golden Opportunity, or Blatant Exploitation?

A placement team, yesterday

I've had a few requests to do a post on the subject of placements, so here it is.

The industry is quite split on the issue.

On the one hand, there's the opinion (quite often held by the old-timers) that it should be a privilege for these kids to come in for two weeks, write some tactical radio ads or shelf-wobblers, and be generally ignored.

On the other hand, there's an equally ridiculous view that placement teams are an abused and down-trodden species, who deserve our support far more than pandas or polar bears do. In fact we should all be marching in the streets to save these emaciated creative geniuses.

And finally there's the (probably most widespread) shrug-of-the-shoulders type response, that while it's an unfair and demeaning system, there probably isn't a better one.

I'm in the last camp. Freakonomics pointed out that people are prepared to work for free (or for very little) in return for the chance to break into the 'glamour' industries of music, fashion, film etc.

We in advertising are only a second-tier glamour profession. Nevertheless, for as long as there are people prepared to be paid a pittance to get in, that is what the pay will be. Don't blame me. Blame whoever invented economics.

I actually don't think it's such a bad deal. Placement teams get free training (crits) whereas in a lot of industries you have to pay for training. You don't have to 'know the right people' like you do in some fields - our industry is pretty open and meritocratic. Placement teams aren't given a manservant to run a bath for them, but they're generally not treated badly by Agencies. They're certainly not ragged-on like a young 'un in a shipyard would be. And apparently even the wages aren't as bad as they used to be.

But what do I know. If you're on placement, tell me what it's like. Is it a fair deal, or a swizz?

And if you have an idea for a better system, tell us that too.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Two Weeks With No Internet

The most recent poll here showed that the internet is by far our favourite thing to do nowadays.

Can't say I'm surprised. It's so clearly better than talking to people, isn't it? I mean... what if you're talking to someone, and you start to find them dull? You can't minimise their window. And what's the likelihood they can give you the very latest news, and sport? Not high.

Personally, if I'm without internet access for longer than about 10 minutes at a time, I begin to feel anxious and unwell.

So I wonder how I'll fare for the next two weeks.

Scamp is going on holiday.

See you when I get back.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Nightmare Propositions

Okay. Last day of Planner-bashing, I promise.

I'm thinking of starting my talk by showing the Planners a few examples of bad propositions, while playing the music from John Carpenter's 'Halloween'. Not only will this be a fun way to start, I reckon, but also it's sometimes easier to see what to do, by looking at what not to do.

The biggest nightmare of a proposition I remember was one I was given many years ago, on the brief for the UK launch of scratchcards. It was: "The exciting way to win lots of money instantly." As you can see, this 'single-minded proposition' is really an embedded triple - exciting, wealthgiving, quick.

So... help me out... what's the worst proposition you've ever seen on a brief?

Oh, I've remembered another one - "the car for the individual". I shit you not, I've actually seen that. I guess the thinking was that 'not many people are buying this car, therefore the people who are buying it must be happy to stand out from the crowd, therefore they are individuals, therefore this is the car for the individual." The only slight flaw is that, last time I checked, we were all individuals...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Stop Me Cocking-Up The Next One

So it seems not many people liked my last presentation.

Well, I'm about to do another. This time it's to the nation's rising stars of Planning, at IPA 4.

One of the themes I've been asked to touch on is "what do Creatives want from Planners?"

My initial thought was something I got from Richard Huntington, that every Creative should be wanting the Planner to "start me somewhere interesting."

What else?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Childish Labour

This is a presentation I gave at a WARC conference the other day.

I've added some extra text, so hopefully it should communicate without me talking it through.

The goal was to give Clients, Planners and Agency managers some tips on how to get more out of Creatives, by means of an analogy that I hoped would help them understand us better, and would suggest some different behaviours in how they deal with us.

The analogy is that Creatives are a bit like children - both in the positives (curious, imaginative, playful) and the occasional challenges (sulky, fussy etc).

Let me know what you think, and then I can tweak the presentation... should anyone be foolish enough to ask me to do another.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Ad Blog Charts For Q1 2009

Here are the world's most popular ad blogs, as measured by traffic rankings from Alexa.

Top 25 Ad Blogs (world
1    (1) Ads Of The World 12,255
2     (2)AdRants19,832
3     (5)The Inspiration Room Daily44,725
4     (6)Adland48,746
5     (3)Creativity52,192
6     (10)Bannerblog57,780
7     (8)Advertising/Design Goodness  60,487
8   (new)Scary Ideas    63,258
9       (4)Coloribus64,365
10     (7)Adverbox71,632
11   (11)Adverblog72,714
12     (9)AdFreak73,249
13   (12)Logic + Emotion84,374
14   (14)AdPulp102,351
15   (13)Ad Forum 107,323
16   (15)ViralBlog109,799
17   (16)Best Ads On TV197,942
18   (17)Jaffe Juice218,359
19   (20)AdScam223,484
20   (21)Crackunit244,182
21   (18)Campaign Brief249,893
22   (19)Scamp262,988
23   (new)The Denver Egotist275,747
24   (24)Only Dead Fish287,856
25   (re-)Copyranter301,845

In for the first time this quarter is Scary Ideas, a well-put-together selection of the 'latest cool shit' from the worlds of advertising and design.

New at 23 is The Denver Egotist a sparky ad blog reporting directly from the state where the Crispin Porter creativity department is now based.

The ‘Ranter is a re-entry at No. 25 - he's the world's leading barbecuer of bad ads.

Top 10 UK Ad Blogs (world
1   (2)Crackunit244,182
2   (1)Scamp262,988
3   (3)Only Dead Fish287,856
4   (7) Interactive Marketing Trends365,570
5   (6)Rubbishcorp425,481
6   (5)Spinning Around449,877
7   (4)Welcome To Optimism    527,022
8   (re-)If This Is A Blog Then What’s Christmas583,219
9   (10)TV's Worst Adverts599,880
10   (8)Adliterate633,397

Re-entering the UK chart is my friend Ben Kay’s blog If This Is A Blog Then What’s Christmas. If you read Scamp then you should read Ben, as his blog is basically similar to mine, but a bit better.

For those new to this quarterly-published chart, I might just re-cap that it’s drawn from the rankings of web metrics company Alexa, who measure visits by users who have the Alexa toolbar installed. Since that means mostly bloggers and techies, the chart is somewhat biased towards blogs which are popular with other bloggers, or tech-heads.

Some people say the chart is extremely boring, others say it helps them discover new blogs to read. I just like charts. I also like maps, and statistics. Come on, there are worse hobbies to have, aren’t there? Some people collect turtles.

An ↑ means a blog's traffic has gone up by 15% or more in the last quarter, and a ↓ means it's gone down 15%.

UK means UK-based. Ad blog means ad blogs not marketing or PR blogs. I would love to be able to include Dave Trott’s brilliant blog, but there isn’t a way to count its visitors separately from those visiting the website of Dave’s agency, CST.

I'm only counting English language blogs.

If I've missed anyone out who should be here, please tell me and I'll put them in next time.

Friday, April 03, 2009

"All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to remain silent"

Beginning his article with that famous rallying call, a guy called Anubis has done a truly exceptional job of exposing the full extent of the scams of FP7 Doha (see post of two days ago, and thanks to everyone who drew my attention to this).

For example, he shows how they even doctored the packs in a series of print ads for a brand of mouthwash, to make them more aesthetically pleasing and hence awardable:

Read the full piece here.

As promised, I've been doing a bit of journalism - for you, my work-avoiding readers - and I've got in touch with an Asian ECD, to get a view from the region which is (perhaps unfairly) most associated with scam or ghost work.

He's a pretty big cheese - David Guerrero, founder, chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO Guerrero in Manila.

This is what he has to say on the subject:

The FP7 situation is a debacle, and I don't want to look like their apologist... which I'm most certainly not.

However, there is a genuine distinction between what they did and the genuine push for innovation that agencies everywhere undertake for major clients.

I think there's a lot of self-righteous bullshit about Asia being a scam factory coming from London (and other first world locations).

A flick back through old D&AD's will reveal all kinds of dodgy executions for car repairs, fish and chip shops, TV repair shops, school plays, architectural historians etc.

However it does have to be said that Jim Aitchison, Neil French and many others since have made a lot of ads for a lot of smallish clients out of Singapore which picked up a lot of metal at global shows back in the 90s.

And since then a steady stream of Aussies, Brits and Yanks have made their way there seeking to emulate their stellar rise to international stardom or even just a nicer job when they go home after a few years. I interviewed Jim Aitchison about this a few years ago for Campaign Brief and he said that the secret of Singapore is simply that there's nothing else to do at weekends except work on ads and get them into shows.

However to write off the entire continent of over 2 billion people because of a few expats in one city-state is going a bit far. Thailand has developed a truly vibrant and highly recognized TV industry with at one point two out of the top 10 directors in the Gunn Report coming from there. There's no suggestion that this is scam because you can see the work on TV every night and clients have come to demand great work.

Basically small clients and initiatives to big ones are seen as ways of raising the bar for creative teams and for clients themselves.

Western Multinational clients (with some honorable exceptions) in Asia tend to be extremely risk averse and prone to formulaic work. There are exceptions obviously but they themselves are subject to a lot of regional and global controls on the process. Locally-headquartered Asian clients can vary greatly in their appetite for interesting work. Local entrepreneurs tend to be braver because they think (rightly) that it will work better for them. However as they get larger they start to want to imitate the Western Multinationals clients...

So as far as a 'philosophy' goes it's probably something like: the only way we're going to compete in international shows is to push work to mainstream clients when circumstances allow and keep one or two projects on the go with pro-bono clients and/or Small and Medium size businesses in the hope that a) they will allow the agency to do more interesting work and b) that they will someday get bigger.

Our agency just launched a pilot scheme where we approached a local business organization and asked them to put themselves forward for 3 months free work from a junior team of creatives, planners and suits in the agency. They then pitched to us and we selected three of them (a chain of car repair shops, a high-end boutique cosmetics firm and a small chain of clothing stores.) Our teams (composed of around eight or so 'rising stars' were then set loose on these accounts with minimal supervision from senior management. We'll see the work before it gets presented - and then catch up with the client at the end of the program. If they want to continue the relationship they pay us at our regular rates. If not then they are free to take the work we've done for them and use it.

Interesting how we're all very quick to brand "Asian creatives" as the worst scammers... then Guerrero points out that many of the offenders in those parts are actually ex-pat Brits or Aussies.

Anyway, we can't expect Cannes or the other awards organisers to do anything about the problem. They depend on entry fees. And on Agencies' honesty.

And I doubt individual jurors can do anything. If we throw out a piece of work because it 'smells fishy', we run the risk of undermining the efforts of people who've legitimately busted their balls to get an ad shot and run on their own initiative.

The name-and-shame approach that Anubis is adopting seems like the best course of action to me.

I applaud him.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Director of the Month: Steve Reeves

I always like working with directors who are ex-creatives.

They just get it.

Steve Reeves is a typical ex-creative of a director, in my opinion, in that he doesn't have a personal style that overwhelms everything he shoots, but instead adopts whatever approach will best serve the idea.

As a result, he has a truly excellent reel... but you may find yourself saying "I didn't know Steve Reeves did that one" at times.

The only ad on his reel I don't particularly like is the first one, "Child Orators" for the BBC, purely because children speaking in the voice of a dead adult freaks me out.

But he's racked up more than a few gems: Agent Provocateur "Kylie", which has got a mere 360 million views, the brilliant Anti-Drinking "Batman", the Anti-Drinking one where the girl sucks up her own vomit, which I like, and McDonalds "Ruby", in which the (lack of) expression on the face of the guy in the brown leather jacket just kills me every time.

So, let's have a chat about Steve Reeves. Have you worked with him? Was he nice? Did he do a good job? And do you agree with my theory that, on average, ex-creatives make better directors?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In My Day, There Were Rules For Scam

You had to at least get the Client's approval.

Last year's Cannes saw a new low, where a TV ad for JCPenney won a Bronze Lion... until it turned out that JCPenney had no knowledge of it.

But today comes a new new low.

An Agency called FP7 in Doha created this ad for Samsung, which ran in Lebanon.

Not only did they not get the Client's approval... it isn't even their client!

Sunny Hwang, the president of Samsung Electronics Levant, said: "At no time was Samsung Electronics aware of these advertisements and the company has not approved or commissioned FP7 to create any advertising campaigns."

Full story here.

What next? Can I just mock up an Economist poster, slap it on a wall, and enter it for awards?

Fancy working on Nike? Or Honda? Don't bother getting a job at W&K. Just shoot an ad and send it out to the newspapers.

Someone needs to do something.

P.S. For tomorrow I'm going to try to get an interview with an ECD from Asia - the epicentre of scam - and hear their side of the story.

P.P.S. Thanks to Antony Mouse for drawing my attention to this unholy outbreak of wickedness

Monday, March 30, 2009

TV "Not Dead"

Sorry this isn't another post slagging off the latest viral, but I do think it's important.

Bob Hoffman (The Ad Contrarian) has written the best refutation I've ever seen of the "TV is dead" argument.

His jumping-off point was a story in The New York Times last week about a massive new piece of research conducted in America, which showed that “Even though people have the opportunity to watch video on their computers and cellphones, TV accounted for 99 percent of all video consumed in 2008."

If you're far too extremely busy to read Bob's full piece, here is the four-word summary:

TV still kicks ass

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fake Ones Are Better

I love this, but then I'm a sucker for all that post-modern shit. It's the perfect mode of humour for the smart-arse (because it's self-consciously 'clever') and the English (because it's indirect/ distancing).

However, it's well-recognised that the emergence of irony in a form indicates that it's no longer at the peak of its cool. Must we therefore infer that virals are no longer cool?

Thanks to GC for sending it.

Which LED Ad Do You Prefer?


or Honda?

I feel terribly disloyal saying this, because the director of the Samsung viral is a good friend of mine (Hi James, sorry, really sorry, he is a brilliant director, everyone, he did Nike 'Torres' for example, check out his reel at Outsider.TV) but I think I prefer the Honda one.

I like the vibe of it, it feels more real, and doesn't feel like it's trying to explain everything to you.

My correspondent MM's view was: "Love the idea of sheep covered in LED lights, but the post looks like it’s been done on a ZX Spectrum."

Anyway. What do I know. The sheep have 3.5 million views already.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How The US Airforce Responds To Blogs

And if that doesn't work, bomb them.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

When Real People Critique Adverts

This is a new viral for Stella, created by Mother, that remakes '24' in the style of 1960s French film director Jean-Luc Godard.

Other ads in the campaign feature Bruce Deville playing Jean Meqlain in "Dial Hard", and "8 Kilometre", in which two duelling literati face off in a war of words in a French jazz club.

I thought they were quite nice.

But on the Guardian Media website, comments from the public include:

"Has the credit crunch taken the talent out of advertising?" (this from kranl).

bumfight reckons: "That has to be the lamest spoof every made. It's also the laziest. And it's about as 'funny' as rectal cancer."

"Dreadful," reckons hitandrun. "The Truffaut one is quite impossible to watch till the end unless you're a severe masochist."

Crikey. And they say ad blogs are bitchy.

A useful reminder, I suppose, that we live in a bubble, within which "the latest new work from Mother" is very interesting. But outside of which, it's just so much more pollution.

Monday, March 23, 2009

When The Ad For The Ad Is Better Than The Ad Itself

You know those 2-minute films that Agencies put together, to summarise a multimedia campaign, to enter into awards? (Example above).

I know some people hate them, and would much rather judge the work itself, rather than a slick film that someone's made about the work.

But I must admit, they're a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. Rather than watching an ad, looking at three print executions, some direct mail, some store designs... all of which fall out of the envelope and onto the floor... all you have to do is watch a movie.

And now there's a website that collects these little movies. Other examples on there include the Night Driving campaign, and Lynxjet. Who knows, one day they'll have their own festival - the case study film festival.

Thanks D for the tip.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Does Anyone Walk Around Any More?

When I was a youngster, you'd often see Creatives 'hanging out' in each other's offices.

In the last few years, I think that's declined.

I'm sure we've all got busier. But I also reckon the internet has permanently altered our in-office socialisation (would perhaps be surprising if it hadn't, considering the transformative effect it's had on our social lives in general.)

Think about it. Whenever you have twenty minutes' downtime nowadays, do you pop in to see a mate, or do you click onto a website?

Tell the truth. Oh, and vote in poll (top right of this page).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sell! Sell!

Here's another blog I want to introduce you to.

It's called Sell! Sell!, is written by Creatives - good ones - and has cool stuff on it like these meatscapes.

And the Daft Punk console.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sympathy For The Boss

I do hope you've started reading The Ad Contrarian. I think it might be my new favourite blog.

Responding to all our unsolicited advice for Creative Directors, he has posted some thoughts of his own - not about how to be a good Creative Director, but how to be a happy one.

His most important tip is to hire good people.

If you have terrific people, the advertising business isn’t that difficult. If you have mediocrities, advertising is impossible. For your own self-preservation you must get rid of bad people and hire good ones. There is no other way to do good work and have a happy life. Talent is a rare and precious thing. The idea that "we're all creative" is absolute bullshit. Mediocre talent never makes terrific ads. Never.

This set me thinking how easy it is to whinge about one's CD/ECD. In actual fact, they have a pretty damn hard job... dealing with all the mediocre people around them like you and me. How many ads that you show your CD are actually any good? Not many, right? And he has to wade through all that shit... and then stroke your ego enough to make sure you don't go back to your office and sulk.

Read the rest of the post here.

Oh, I also like this cartoon of his.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Top Team

People used to discuss who is the 'top team' at such-and-such an Agency. I haven't heard the term in a while though... and that makes me wonder if it still has any currency.

Let's find out.

Who would you say is the top team at their respective Agency?

P.S. I can't really stop people from anonymously naming themselves. But just think how hollow you'll feel.

P.P.S. Also, no BBH nominations please, wouldn't be cricket

Friday, March 13, 2009

What Makes A Good Creative Director?

"Hi guys, do you have some ads to show me?"

There's an in-depth post on The Denver Egotist on this subject at the moment, Part 1 here, Part 2 here.

It's worth reading, though as I say, it is long. And I have a short attention span. So I thought I'd throw the question over to you guys with a challenge to put it more concisely.

What would you say makes a good CD - or a bad one - using as few words as you can.

Here's my entry. A good CD "says no nearly all the time" (6 words).

Oh, I've got one for 'bad CD' as well. A bad CD "is woolly" (2 words).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What They Really Wear On The Today Programme

This is what happened when viral agency Rubber Republic were challenged by BBC Radio 4's Today programme to create a viral film for them, after one of their guys was interviewed on there. So far, it hasn't gone massively viral, but it's early days. I think it's quite funny.

P.S. Evan Davis wrote an interesting blog post on his experiences of advertising - apparently he finds us ad people "intimidatingly cool"(?!?!?), and also shares his thoughts on the film. But what do you think?

The Ad Contrarian

Here's a great new blog for you - The Ad Contrarian - whose writer is "the CEO of a pretty big ad agency" and yet is honest enough to complain about Clients who "don't wipe themselves without first researching which hand consumers prefer."

He's wonderfully cranky. In one post, he discusses a plan to cull his facebook friends down to 50, except "every few weeks I'll drop No. 50 and give someone new a chance. If they perform they can stay. If I find out they're branding consultants, or don't drink, or think Whoopi Goldberg is funny, they're gone."

And in another, on corporate brand campaigns, he points out that:

Nobody gives a shit that...

* you believe people are your greatest asset.
* you believe one person can make a difference.
* you think the world needs to be more connected.
* you think we need to preserve our precious resources.
* you think the children are our future.

If I might be allowed to summarize... they've heard it all before and they don't give a shit.

There's even serious stuff too. Check it out.

Oh, and the ad above... is a real ad. For the Ukrainian Army.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Those of you who are interested in film-making may want to consider entering Straight8, the competition where you shoot a 3-minute film on a single cartridge of super 8 mm cine film. No editing allowed.

The clip above is pretty funny - it was the 2003 entry by Dave Buonaguidi, a talented creative whose career has encompassed stints CD'ing at St Luke's, 4Creative and Karmarama.

I do hope Stephen Hawking doesn't read this blog. Or his lawyers.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Return Of The 3-Day Week?

We all know the recession is getting worse. I am hearing about good people - good people - being made redundant.

And now, I have heard that Creatives at one Agency have been put on a 4-day week. Better than redundancies, I suppose, but where will it end? Could we return to the era, last seen when Ted Heath was in power, of the three day week?

And would you go for that... or would you rather take a pay-off and leave?

Saturday, March 07, 2009


"Whenever I go abroad," writes Bentos, in a comment on the last thread, "all the billboard ads seem to simply be a picture of woman smiling next to the product. All of 'em. Not being able to read the copy probably emphasises the similarity. Then you come back to Britain and notice the exact same thing!"

What do we think about this type of ad? Well, obviously, we think they're shit.

But. I remember one time I went on holiday to Cornwall. It was raining, we were staying in a shitty B&B and feeling miserable. Just then, a L'Oreal ad came on the TV. It was so glamorous, so exciting... presented such an image of perfection... it made me want to buy. And I don't normally even use eyelash-thickening products.

Does sheer glamour sell? I fear it does, doesn't it. I like to think that Scarlett Johansson + Idea would sell more product than Scarlett Johansson + giant packshot, but maybe I'm just living in an ivory tower of idea-obsession, and don't understand the world of fashion advertising...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Top Three Cliches

It is said (by my friend AT) that Larry Barker (former ECD of BMP, and prior to that, WCRS) had only three rules for his Creatives: no chameleons, no mime artists, and no ginger-haired people.

Apparently a team once walked into his office and he blew out their ad before they had even showed it to him, because he could see through the paper that it was a chameleon.

Mind you, this story is a few years old. Maybe the Top 3 Ad Cliches of today would be different. What would you nominate?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Director of the Month: Martin De Thurah

Being tagged "the new Ian Botham" has hindered the career of many a promising cricketer. Even Freddie Flintoff.

So hopefully I'll not be jinxing Martin De Thurah, by labelling him as a possible new Jonathan Glazer. (He's even at the same production company as the G-Man : Academy).

This dude is Danish, and started out life as a painter, and I think I can see both those influences in his moody and majestically-lit films.

He's mostly done music videos and shorts so far, which all look absolutely incredible - if you're after something dark & cinematic, you could do an awful, awful lot worse.

So, watch the reel, and tell me what you think. Am I smoking crack with this Glazer comparison, or does it have some validity?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Mind The Gap

Every year, top headhunters The Talent Business produce the authoritative guide to what everyone in the industry is earning, which they provide to Agency management. However, I twisted the arm of one of the lovely people over there and got them to send me a copy.

Are you on the right amount?

Looks like salaries in Above-The-Line have hardly moved since last year. Though they could well be lower next year, what with the economy going the way it is...

Now here’s the table for pure Digital Agencies.

Holy Dropdown, Batman!

This is what caught my eye in the report - the hoooooooj gap between salaries for ATL and Digital.

Why do Digital Agencies pay their Creatives less? Is it justifiable?

And an interesting implication: a lot of Creatives in above-the-line Agencies right now are thinking that, for the future, it’s essential they get Digital experience - and are considering making the move across.

But is it a case of ‘gain some skills, drop some salary’?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dubiously Useful Labels

Okay. Ambient Week is finishing early, because I've run out of things to say on the subject.

So here's the wrapper of a Snickers bar I ate last night.

It has instructions on it.

That's right. Instructions, on how to open a bar of chocolate.

Well, it is a 2-pack I suppose, so maybe that makes it a tiny bit more complicated, but... come on.

Reminds me of the label once spotted on a mattress - 'Do not swallow'.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Three Bugbears of Ambient

After attempting to celebrate the Ambient medium a little, it's time to list my three 'Bugbears of Ambient'.

Daddy Bugbear:

There's a nice book called Guerrilla Advertising by Gavin Lucas and Mike Dorrian that has a great selection of Ambient work. But you know what that book should really be called? "Photos Taken By Creatives". Too many Ambient ads are scams. They're not done for a real Client. They're whacked into place by the creative team, snap, then removed. There are plenty of award-winning Ambient pieces whose media lifespan was less than 2 minutes. Example:

(click if you need to make bigger)

Mummy Bugbear:

Too many Ambient pieces only work as a photo! They only work because the photo is taken from exactly the right angle. In real life, they wouldn't work. Unless you happened to be standing exactly where the photographer was.

Baby Bugbear:

Clients never buy it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Readers' Ambient

Scamp readers submitted over 100 Ambient ideas, here are some of my favourites. Just click on the pic if you need to make any of them bigger.

Ouch. By Stefan & Mark

Nice twist. By Rick & Barney

On a more serious note. By Javier

Fran & Chris placed these stickers in cookware shops throughout London. They say. Anyway, nice first use of the baking pan as a medium.

I think I may have seen this before. And I'm not too sure of the ethics of promoting anti-cellulite products, given that they apparently don't work. But it's a clever idea. By Cat



This student stuck a cutout of himself against the glass front doors of ad agencies he wanted to work at. Good wheeze. By Matthew

So... whaddaya think?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday Tip No.70 - How To Do Ambient

Here's my Top Five tips. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

1. Avoid stuff that's been done. True of any medium, of course. But with Ambient - when you have the whole world for your canvas - it would be a shame to do an ad in washrooms, on coins, or on escalators... when these have already been used so many times.

2. Don't expect it to actually happen. You need an anti-rejection suit to survive in this business at the best of times. But with Ambient ideas, the attrition rate is even higher than for other media. TV spots are booked. Press schedules are booked. No one ever 'booked' an Ambient ad, therefore it doesn't need to happen... the Traffic people don't have to push for it to happen, and the Client doesn't have to sign off on anything they don't absolutely love. So manage your expectations accordingly.

3. Make the location fit the idea. An ad is not more exciting just because it's on a crane or a toilet. It's exciting if it's relevant.

4. How to judge them. My criterion is very simple - 'Would It Get In The Metro?' (London's free morning newspaper). Every morning, they run a couple of funny or weird pictures, and quite often these are advertising stunts. This is free PR for the brand, and gets seen by many more people than see the physical Ambient piece itself. If you think your idea is funny or weird enough to get in the Metro, draw it up. Otherwise, don't.

5. Do it yourself. As I already said in Point 2, Ambient ideas almost never happen. So why not do it yourself? You only need one location. You can often use cheap materials, and take the photo yourself. Then if nothing else, you'll have a nice piece for your book.

Previous Tips

Monday, February 23, 2009

What Makes A Good Ambient Ad?

This week is going to be Ambient Week on Scamp.

I hope it will be fun.

Let's start off by asking the most obvious question - what makes an Ambient ad good?

Mostly it's the same things that make any ad good: clever, funny, relevant, well-branded, powerful sales message etc.

But there are certain characteristics which the Ambient medium offers that no other medium can. And a truly great Ambient ad exploits them. I would suggest these characteristics are Disruption, Provocation, and Super-relevance.

Disruption. Much more so than a press ad, an Ambient ad can be right in your face. A Swedish coffee brand that had the tagline 'for unexpected visitors' built a submarine bursting out of the middle of a city square. And several religious organisations have used inflatable churches - if people won't go to church, let's stick the church by their office, or at the beach.

Provocation. The fact that an Ambient execution is 'real' - i.e. not just a picture of a thing, like on TV, but the actual thing itself - makes it more visceral. This means that Ambient work has a greater power to shock and awe. And at its best, it is wonderfully provocative.

And finally, Super-Relevance. Because an Ambient ad is situated in the real environment, it can be used in a location-specific way, thus giving it a kind of 'super-relevance' that other media can never quite achieve.

This was the first Ambient ad I ever came across - it was given to us as an example in college. And it's still one of my favourites.

The message is tied in perfectly to its physical location.

So those are three examples, I could have picked hundreds more. But do let me know what you think of them, and whether my criteria are the right ones, or if there are other criteria for judging Ambient you feel would be more appropriate.

And keep your own submissions coming in, to simon dot veksner at bbh dot co dot uk. They'll be featured soon.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hello You. Now Please Die.

At last, definitive proof that there is no God. For if there was, he surely would not have allowed this commercial to be made.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who has sent me work for Ambient Week (see yesterday's post). Keep those Ambient ideas coming in to simon dot veksner at bbh dot co dot uk.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Taking The Ambient Temperature

Ambient used to be all the rage.

At one time, it was the world's sexiest medium... before the rise of Digital.

But is it still relevant today?

Mastercard's Valentine-themed Ambient piece, which I featured a couple of days ago, got a mixed reaction from readers.

Perhaps the medium's high point may turn out to have been Mother's wonderful Britart campaign - from 2002.

Last year, only 8 entries were accepted into the Ambient category by D&AD. And of those, only 2 were from the UK.

Can we still do Ambient? Do people care any more? Is it still something worth having in your student book?

I think so. I love Ambient. It's an opportunity to demonstrate pure creativity, unfettered by media restrictions.

So I'm making next week Ambient Week. Every day I am going to showcase the best of Ambient advertising. Feel free to suggest candidates.

And if you're a student and you have a cool Ambient ad in your book, I want you to send it to me, at simon dot veksner at bbh dot co dot uk, and I'll put those up too. (If you're looking for a job, it may showcase your work. Yes, some ECD's read this blog. Why they don't have better things to do, I don't know).

If you want to submit something and be anonymous, that's fine too. And if you're not a student but you just have a cool Ambient ad in your book that never got made, that would be great. Send it. I just think it would be fun for us to spend a whole week looking at Ambient.

For inspiration (or possibly criticism) here's a reminder of last year's Cannes Outdoor Grand Prix winner - HBO's Voyeur Project.