Friday, January 30, 2009

When Will Agencies Learn?

Stop making fucking wacky promo videos for YouTube.

It's not as cheesy as this, nor as tragic as the Ogilvy Athens one, and the girls are nowhere near as hot as the ladies of Provid Ukraine.

But it may just about be worth watching the first 60 seconds if you would like to see how bad the staff of Mindshare Paris are at dancing and lip-synching. Even walking backwards proves to be a struggle.

It was found by top digital planner and top chap ewarwoowar. Go to his blog for good bits like this:

As Jeremy "I-wish-he-was-my-grandad" Bullmore says: Preparation H is of limited interest to a bunch of twentysomething creatives, but it is of incredible interest to someone with piles. We should all give ourselves piles before we make judgements on the effectiveness of comms.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Is This Really The Best Press Ad Of Last Year?

Went to the ANNAs last night (national newspaper advertising awards).

I really like the do they put on. Superlux food drink & service, but in a nicely informal atmosphere.

The overall winner, however, was greeted with a resounding shuffling of the audience's feet.

Lovely campaign, and not a bad ad within that campaign... and yet... it took me a while to get, and that's a worry, since I'm a person who looks unusually closely at adverts.

I try to avoid bigging up work from my own agency, but heck it's not me doing it this time, it's the ANNAs. This is an ad from a really nice campaign by Brad Woolf and Dan Bailey, which won the 'Best Media Partnership' category. I think that means 'campaign that feels perfectly suited to the medium'. If so, that's very true.

Deserving winner in the 'Best Copywriting' category, from my main man Mr P McClelland.

So what do you think - did the best ad win?

Be Cervix Savvy

This ad was on a London bus.

It's not a good ad, but that's not the point. My question is - why oh why did they use a guy?

Does he look like the type of guy who just generally knows a lot about cervical health? Or is he the hot man that having a healthy cervix gives you the confidence to pull?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday Tip No.67 - VO or Super?

When it comes to finishing-up a TV advert, there always seems to be a big hoo-ha over whether to deliver the endline as a VO, a Super, or both. And Creatives spend endless hours sweating this.

Don't. It's really very straightforward.

'Super only' is the best thing to have, because it's the purest and the simplest.

The next best thing is VO and Super together.

The 'VO only' option? I can't recall a single ad that uses it. Reason being that the client will always want to see at least their logo on the ad. And why not?

This means there will always be a Super of some kind. Therefore, if you want your ad to be as pure and uncluttered as possible, you should focus your energies on trying to eliminate the VO. You will never eliminate the Super.

I don't think I've ever worked on an advert where we failed to try every possible combination of VO / Super / endline / brand name. So it may also be beneficial to simply stop worrying, and accept that you are going to end up having to try them all.

Most likely you will end up having to have both a Super and a VO. If this is the case, at least make sure they are saying exactly the same thing. There's nothing worse than an ad which is trying to have you read one set of words while they pour another set into your ear. It's like trying to rub your tummy and pat your head at the same time.

Previous Tips

Monday, January 26, 2009

Heat Chart

Here's the state of our industry in 2009, in the form of a Heat Chart, an idea I've borrowed from top Aussie ad blog Campaign Brief.

The vertical axis shows agency income, from the figures supplied by accountancy gurus Kingston Smith, and published in Campaign last week. Some might look a little off - for example, Y&R is at the top - but that's because these are group figures, so the Y&R figure might include things like their Direct and PR units. With that one caveat, this is an objective measure.

In contrast, the horizontal axis is entirely subjective. It's not based on any figures of awards won. It's purely my personal perception of how hot that agency is right now, creatively. (Not business performance, just quality of work).

I've excluded BBH from the chart, since it wouldn't be fair for me to sit in judgement on my homeboys and girls. But I think it's safe to say we would be somewhere in the top right quadrant - the 'big and good' area - or what you could call Powerhouses.

The bottom right hand corner - 'small and good' - shows today's Hotshops. There aren't many, are there? And BMB is growing so fast, it will surely soon be out of this niche.

In the north-west we have the Big Dumb Agencies. Again, quite sparsely populated. McCann has been on the uptick creatively, and Grey is improving dramatically, so the two bankers for this quadrant have let us down.

In the south-west we have the agencies which are small, and not currently setting the world on fire. If you work for one of these shops, I apologise. I admit that I have put you in the extreme cold, without actually knowing any of your work. On the other hand, the fact that I can't name a single one of your ads is not the best of signs. If you have done great work, please put me right.

That goes for every slot in the chart. If anyone thinks I've put an agency in the wrong place, feel free to say so in the comments. Back up your case with a couple of good examples and I'll be happy to admit I'm wrong, since that will give me an excuse to waste even more time mucking about moving these little boxes around.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Eyebrow Dancing

The new Cadburys ad is out, and like Gorilla before it, it's a Category Three advert.

What's a Category Three, I hear you ask?

Well, all ads can be divided into three categories.

Category One - shit.

Category Two - good. You are a bit upset, and want to hurt the team who made it.

Category Three - so good, you're not even jealous. You're actually happy. And the status of the industry you work in just went up a notch.

Do The Facts Matter?

Planners and Account Handlers seem to spend a lot of time gathering facts about the product, to put in the brief.

Personally, I don't really care about facts, and I'm sure the general public doesn't either.

Who gives a monkeys how beer is made? Or what type of metal is in a car? I just want products that are cool, fast, economical... etc.

In fact I can't think of one occasion where I've ever used a fact in an ad. And I find factory visits completely boring.

However, there was a brilliant post by Dave Trott yesterday, in which he describes how he visited the factory when he was working on Tower Pans (wonderfully '70s name, isn't it?) and discovered that whereas ordinary pans have a handle-stud welded to 95 psi, Towers are welded to 110 psi. So they're stronger. He then did a compelling magazine ad about an unfortunate woman who tips boiling water in her lap, when the handle of her inferior pan snaps off.

I love the fact that Dave didn't like the initial brief, so went out and found a better one - we Creatives are often viewed as the mavericks within an Agency but the truth is that we are saps, who rarely question the briefs we are given.

But to get back to the question of facts, does Dave's story mean that we should care about them? I still contend that no one cares about handle-stud welding.

But they do want strong pans. So maybe there is a use for facts after all. Not to actually use in adverts. But to make good briefs from.

What do you think about facts? Do they matter?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Grandmaster Flashmob

No top international club DJ - not one with any credibility anyway - does requests. So it looks like I will never make it as a top international DJ, since all it took was a couple of people asking me to feature the new T-Mobile ad, and here it is.

In a way, what I think about it doesn't matter. In just four days, it has nearly 900,000 views on YouTube. It also has nearly 2,500 ratings - averaging the full five stars.

So it clearly works - people like it, and they're sharing it.

For the record, although I love to see agencies trying something different, I don't like this ad... purely because those improv everywhere / flashmob things give me the willies. It's just a personal thing. I also don't like horses or broccoli.

Midgets Are Funny. Fact.

This ad for the Shoreditch Short Film Festival made me smile.

Along with puppets, and talking animals, midgets are always funny.

This is my order:

1 Talking animals
2 Puppets*
3 Midgets

*Puppets No.1 if swearing. Like this.

What's your top 3 of "things that are always funny?"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

How Much Can A Dog Know About Advertising?

There's an urban myth about a Creative Director who would critique students' books with a glove puppet.

Semi-legendary portfolio critiquer

"Sooty likes this one," he would say, or "Oh dear, Sooty says he thinks he's seen that idea before."

This never happened to me. But I did once get a crit from a dog.

It was at Lowe in about 1994. My partner and I went to see a senior creative one afternoon... I'm not saying he'd been drinking, but he did smell of alcohol, shambled unsteadily around his office, and slurred his speech in the manner of someone who had been drinking. So if he wasn't drunk, he was a fine impressionist.

Anyway, after first telling us in a sinisterly over-effusive manner that our book was "completely brilliant" and that instead of looking for a placement, "you should go straight to setting up your own agency", he then proceeded to show our book to his dog.

Sadly, his dog was not so keen. "Oh dear," the senior creative informed us. "[Dog's name] doesn't like this campaign. Or this one. Sorry lads. I'm not going to be able to pass it on to our CD after all."

Well you know what? That dog didn't know shit. Because that exact same book got me a job at Saatchis a few weeks later.

So, that's the worst crit I ever had. What was yours?

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Chip Shop Awards

Regular readers will know my feelings about Cannes.

So I was delighted to be asked to judge the only awards scheme that admits all its entries are scam.

Entry into The Chip Shop Awards is only for work that has not been broadcast, printed or mailed. You do not even have to have the client. You just have to have a great idea. Rejected and rude work is fine too.

This was the ad that inspired the contest.

And here are some of last year's winners.

Please enter, and give me some decent shit to judge.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Real Men Write Long Copy

That's the title of an interesting new blog by a DM copywriter.

This chap (who so far, remains anonymous) "just got rid of my old, slightly broken art director" and has a new partner who is "competent, but rather demanding." As a result, he is beginning to miss his old art director. "The old one said embarrassing things, which at the time I felt reflected badly on me. But now I wonder if he made me look good?"

He also opines quite eloquently on the relationship between below- and above-the-line.

"It’s definitely true that we letter writers have an inferiority complex the size of Soho towards ATL-ers," he writes, before going on to point out that ATL-ers feel inferior to novelists, screenwriters etc.

Then he consoles himself with the thought that "presumably, there’s some group of professionals who feel inferior to us. Prison guards, perhaps. Or McDonald’s employees (the ones who do the rubbish and the toilets – maybe not the ones at the tills with five stars on their badge)."

Finally he concludes that "the reality is, there’s not that much difference. If you were magically transported into our department, then the creative department of WCRS downstairs, I’m not sure you’d be able to tell which one's which."

Good blog, this. I'll be keeping an eye on it.

Do you agree with the writer? If you work in DM, do you feel inferior to ATL, despite that fact that the creative departments (and salaries) are really not that different?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

No Escape

Nice post from freelance team Ben & James about a flight on Icelandair.

"When I first stepped onto the plane and noticed that my headrest had been branded with a little message, I was quite charmed," says Ben (or perhaps James).

But by the time he gets his meal... and finds that even his napkin has been branded, he's had enough. And lays into them.

It seems like airlines are particularly overcommunicative. I recall coffee cups on Virgin telling me: "Watch out, I may be hot!" and sugar sachets announcing: "I'm sweet."

Shut up already.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Director of the Month: Dan Chase

From now on, I am going to review a director's reel once a month.

Partly it's because I feel like championing some new talent this year rather than just slagging everything off, and partly it's to get us talking about the craft of making ads, and not just reviewing the actual ads themselves.

First up is Dan Chase, at QI commercials.

As you probably guessed, Dan works at Film4, where he is in charge of what the TV promotions world calls "On-Air" - basically trailers and idents.

I'm always interested in directors who come from TV promotions. It gives them a chance to make hundreds of little ads before anyone really notices what they're doing. Valuable practice. And no less a personage than Jonathan Glazer himself came from a TV promo background.

Dan is by no means yet in that league, but I do think his reel shows a hell of a lot of promise. It's high-style stuff, and he shows a great filmic eye - for example in the ident where the bottles are being shot. Some interesting touches on sound too, which suggest to me a more rounded talent than for the purely visual.

In terms of content, the man seems to have a mild chair obsession, but there is plenty to enjoy here. I love the shot where the cars smash into the street in slow motion, and I could listen to Maggie Gyllenhaal say the words "a little jolt" all day long.

The challenge for Dan will be to move beyond his film niche. There is one non film-related piece on the reel, but I don't think it's his best work. However, his high-style aesthetic does, I believe, give him an excellent shot at cracking the ad world, where we often need to make stuff look great. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen a brilliant director's reel, but with an aesthetic so gritty that it's hard to imagine what one could use him for.

Please note I'm not being paid to big up this geezer, although I am mates with the people at QI, I'm mostly doing this Director of the Month malarkey as an experiment. Hope you like it. Feel free to share your own view of the reel, in the comments.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The New Creative Circle Annual Is Out

And it's brilliant. (Full disclosure: Mark Denton has invited me to be on next year's jury. And if anyone thinks I'm being too fulsome in my praise, feel free to assume he is also my secret gay lover).

The annual is lovingly crafted in the style of the Beano - its official title is 'The Bumper Book Of British Advertising'.

Why only British advertising?

In his President's Statement, Mark Denton succinctly explains the issue he has with the D&AD annual:

Anyway, there's tons of good work in the annual, and some lovely tributes to 'Hall of Heroes' inductee David Abbott. Peter Souter reveals that Abbott is a "car slut", "always said Ron Brown was the genius", and had "hair that never grew longer or moved in the wind."

I also like this cartoon.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

It's All About The Meerkats

I like this ad. Talking animals are funny. FACT.

And they've put a lot of love into creating the spoof site - - where you really can search for a meerkat, by size, hobby and location. The organisation boasts that "We search from vast database of meerkats" and "Your meerkat will be displayed in less than one minute." It also has a list of FAQ ("Fairly Annoying Questions").

Meanwhile, Aleksandr the Meerkat already has over 3,000 friends on facebook. Blimey.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Virgin 25th Anniversary Ad

It seems like this is the ad everyone wants to talk about at the moment, so in a way, that means it 'must' be good.

But personally, I'm conflicted. Although I love all things 80's, and can certainly appreciate an array of beautiful women, I'm less keen on sexism.

Does the fact that it's set in 1984 make it okay, in the same way that the sexism of Mad Men doesn't indicate a prejudiced writing staff, but rather a desire for authentic period detail?

Not really. Mad Men critiques sexism. This ad celebrates it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Most Fun You Can Have With Your Clothes On

That was the title of an enjoyably skewiff canter through the history of advertising, hosted by Robin Wight (the 'W' in WCRS) on Radio 4 last night (available for the next 7 days here).

If anyone is an expert on 'fun with clothes' then it is surely Robin Wight...

I already knew a lot of the stories from those days, through having read Get Smashed, but I did like the bit where Alan Parker described the decor of CDP in its golden era as "like a public lavatory, or a comprehensive school."

As usual, Robin and Alan ascribed much of CDP's success to the talents of their creative department (which also included the likes of Charles Saatchi, Paul Weiland and Tony Kaye) and its "insane" CD Colin Millward.

But they also touched on another factor. Today we think of the CDP work as 'classic' - we forget how radical their work often was for the time. CDP were the first Agency to cast commercials outside London. The first to run full-page newspaper ads. The first to run colour print ads.

That set me wondering whether we should be making more effort to find 'firsts' we could be doing today. I guess Mother are doing it, with their Pot Noodle musical, and Eurostar film. Are the rest of us?

Part 2 next Monday, 8pm.

Monday, January 05, 2009

One Or More Agencies Will Go Under. But Which Ones?

Little surprise in the news that WPP is to axe thousands of staff, and we've already discussed our fears that many of us could lose our jobs.

But is it possible that entire Agencies could disappear?

In the Guardian today, Lucy Barrett writes that in 2009 "there is a real chance that we will see the collapse of some famous agencies."

I suppose if famous retailing names can disappear from the High Street, there is no reason to believe that well-known firms in our own industry are immune, and we should expect that one or more Agencies will go under.

But which ones?

I don't know the answer to that. The person who might is Lorna Tilbian of Numis Securities. She is the City's most respected media analyst, having covered the sector for 22 years.

Obviously for City investors, it is crucial to know which firms might go bust. Lower profits are painful, but they can bounce back. A dead body can't.

Alas I have lost the link - perhaps someone could point me in the right direction - but Ms Tilbian had a great piece of analysis on this, which as a Creative I found hugely thrilling.

She found that Agencies which declined or went bust were ones which had stopped winning awards.

Okay, at first sight, I know that sounds unbelievable.

But think about it.

Awards are an indicator of good work. Not the only one, and by no means a perfect one, but an indicator nonetheless.

And in advertising, as in every other industry, producing a quality product is the surest path to success.

Of course there are many other factors that can bring an Agency down - such as financial mismanagement - but poor product will eventually lead to business failure, just as it did for Woolworths, MFI, and the American auto industry.

Remember, it's not me, a Creative, making a self-serving argument here. It's Lorna Tilbian, the City's most respected media analyst, suggesting a set of data (awards results) that hard-headed number-crunchers should use to determine which companies to invest in.

So hold your heads up high, my brothers & sisters, and let's remember that it's us, the Creatives, who have the power to get our Agencies through this recession.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Poll: Job Insecurity

Disturbingly, 4 in 10 Scamp readers are worried about losing their jobs in the forthcoming 'year of pain'.

And 13% of respondents already lost their jobs LAST year.

On the other hand, nearly half of you aren't worried in the slightest.

So here's a picture that can be interpreted as either bleak or smug, depending on your outlook.

From the ever-amazing PostSecret

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