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.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday Tip No.69 - The Truth Is Not Enough

If you're putting a book together to get your first job, you have to write your own strategies for campaigns, and I already wrote a tip about the importance of telling the truth, not for moral or ethical reasons, but because it leads to more powerful advertising.

I was reminded of this when a jobhunting team e-mailed me some strategies yesterday, which included:

Gola - Sporty, but not too sporty

Sky HD - Make the most of your sofa

In a sense, the team have done what I suggested - found an unusual and interesting truth about the product or target market. It is certainly true that Gola is for people who are sporty, but not too sporty. And if you get Sky HD, you will definitely spend more time on your sofa. These are good insights.

And teams gunning for that first job often have entire books of strategies like this. However, to actually get that first job, there's a level beyond this that you need to break through to.

Now, this may seem obvious, and it probably is obvious to even the most junior Planner, but it doesn't seem to be obvious to young Creatives, judging from the number of books I see which haven't yet grasped this principle, but... the truth is not enough.

When you come up with an interesting and unusual truth, you have to test it against whether it is also a good sell for the product. Good sell means makes it seem more interesting, desirable, better value etc.

So, taking the Gola strategy... I'm not sure that 'outing' me as someone who is sporty but not too sporty makes me want to buy these trainers. In fact it might put me off. It's like saying "Porsche - for rich guys who want to ensure everyone knows they're rich". A true statement, but not the way to get people to buy a Porsche. And for Sky HD, pointing out the fact that you'll be spending more time on the sofa may also come into the 'true, but a turn-off' category.

It's when you can find strategies where the insight is equally fresh and surprising, but which also does a job on making the product seem more desirable, that you've hit pay-dirt.

Previous Tips

Monday, February 16, 2009

Maybe I'm Getting Old

And soppy.

And sentimental.

But I liked this.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bus Slogan Generator

My lovely colleague NT found this.

How it works: you type in a slogan, and it comes out in the style of the atheist bus ad.

Write one of your own in the comments, and if it's any good, I'll wack it up here as a pic. Can't promise to do them all though, as I am a bit hung-over.

Here's one, from 'Anonymous'

Here's three more. All from our old friend 'Anonymous'

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You Can't Fake This Kind Of Madness

And if you don't know why it's good, I can't help you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday Tip No.68 - What Hours Should You Be Working?

Our survey showed that the most popular time for Scamp readers to leave work is between 6.30pm and 7, having arrived, most commonly, before 9.

That's not a killingly long day, certainly compared to professions like banking or law.

I reckon there’s still a widespread belief that ‘a natural talent for it’ is the essential criterion for success in creative fields - like art, music and even advertising – far more so than in less creative fields like management consultancy, where it's believed that hard work is the key.

But are we Creatives really different?

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers he explains something he calls the “10,000 hour rule,” which states that to become expert at anything, one simply needs to put in 10,000 hours practicing it.

The 10,000 figure comes from the research of Anders Ericsson, who in the early 1990’s studied violinists at the Berlin Academy of Music.

“The curious thing about Ericsson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any ‘naturals’ - musicians who could float effortlessly to the top while practising a fraction of the time that their peers did,” writes Gladwell. “Nor could they find ‘grinds’, people who worked harder than everyone else and yet just didn’t have what it takes to break into the top ranks. Their research suggested that once you have enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. What’s more, the people at the very top don’t just work much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.”

Some Creatives cling to the belief that success is down to luck – getting the right brief at the right time, from a Client who just happened to be looking for great work. But if that is your view, you’ll be in a minority.

The pop culture quote: “The harder I work, the luckier I get,” attributed variously to movie mogul Sam Goldwyn and golfer Gary Player, is gaining greater and greater acceptance.

So even if you're a Creative who believes in the primacy of natural talent, or luck, you should be aware that attitudes are changing.

Hard workers are believed to be intrinsically more valuable.

Therefore, when you start a new job, it’s vital you establish a reputation as a hard worker - arrive before your boss arrives, and don’t leave until after he leaves. There’s an old saying that goes: “The man who has a reputation as an early riser, can get up at whatever time he chooses.”

However, if you are naturally a hard worker, my advice is don’t work hard gratuitously. Take your full holiday entitlement, and take your weekends – unless there’s a screaming emergency – else you’ll either burn out, fall out of love with the business, or end up depriving yourself of essential external stimulation, and your work will suffer. It’s easy to get into the habit of always leaving the office late as a matter of course. Don’t do that. Keep an extra gear in reserve, so you can kick up your work-rate when there’s a major crisis, or a major opportunity.

But the question of how hard you should work is partly answered by the prevailing culture of the Agency you’re working at.

In some Agencies, everyone works hard. “If you don’t come in on Saturday, then don’t bother coming in on Sunday” – words supposedly said by Tim Delaney. Wieden & Kennedy has such a reputation for long hours that it has acquired the nickname ‘Weekend & Kennedy.’ If you don’t work hard in an Agency like this, you’ll have a double problem – not only will you not produce as much work as everyone else, but also, you won’t fit in.

There are plenty of Agencies where Creatives normally work normal office hours. If that feels like what you want to do – perhaps you have a family, or other interests, you’re just not that into advertising, or you’re mentally exhausted by six o’clock – then you’ll be a lot happier if you work at one of these places.

I personally don't spend long hours in the office. However, I do seem to do a lot of thinking outside office hours. When I’m working on a brief it gives me a kind of psychological eczema, that I find myself scratching in the shower, on the bus, and on the toilet. So maybe that makes up for it.

Previous Tips

Kill Your Speed Or Live With It

I'm jealous of this ad.

Not saying it's the best road safety commercial ever made, ever in the history of the world ever, but it's very hard to come up with new angles on this subject. They have.

I also liked an anti-drink drive campaign I saw the other day, that was about how if you get caught drink driving, you get processed just like any other criminal. No car crashes in that one either. Just the humdrum reality of getting interviewed by a desk sergeant, and giving a urine sample.

Reminds me of what Richard Huntington (now Head of Planning at Saatchi's) reckons is the main thing planning should do for Creatives: "Start you in an interesting place."

Friday, February 06, 2009

Ever Ranted With The Devil In The Pale Moonlight?

Have you heard Christian Bale's rant at a lighting cameraman? There's now a dance remix of it (above) which is pretty funny, and as a bonus, reminds you of some of his cool movie roles.

The Bale rant set Scamp reader RS to wondering about rants that we in advertising have been on the receiving end of.

I don't have many to report I'm afraid.

A production company producer once sounded off at me for about 3 minutes after I suggested a change to the edit, which included the line "in my 24 years in this business, that's the stupidest idea I've ever heard."

And a Creative Director once told me: "You think you're so fucking intellectually superior, with your university education and your long words" after I exposed his lack of understanding of the difference between 'surreal' and 'hyper-real'.

Oddly enough, following those blow-ups I became good mates with them both.

Come on then, spill it. What's the worst rant you've been hit with?

ComputerTan - Free Desktop Tanning App

I'm not going to tell you what this is, because that would spoil it.

It's good though.

After you've watched the film, the website is here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Help Settle An Argument

Scowling A.D. has very kindly read the first draft of my book for me, but he disagrees with a bit I've done about the differing personalities of Art Directors and Copywriters.

I wrote that Copywriters tend to be the talkers, and the strategists, whereas Art Directors prefer to say less and do more (even if what they call 'doing' I call sitting in a photographer's studio reading the newspaper).

Scowling A.D. complains that "Art Directors aren't always strong silent types - just as likely to be stereotypically louder, more energetic, more colourful, harder-partying, more passionate than Copywriters."

Who is right? If you meet a team in the pub, can you always tell which is which? Or is there no real difference between the two breeds?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Revised Heat Chart

So I've revised last week's chart.

The biggest change is I've moved McCann's significantly to the right. Several people posted to say I'd been unfair on them; maybe they all work there, I don't know, but in any case I went to the website, looked at their output, and... you know what? It's really quite good. The Halo 3 campaign won a Grand Prix at Cannes.

When I was a nipper, the only certainties in life were that McCann and Grey were both big and both crap. No longer the case. We are all going to have to adjust to this new reality.

The other changes are fairly minor. One biggie is I've moved Langland way, way over. Their ECD pointed me in the direction of a TV ad they have done, warning people that medicines you buy on the internet can contain rat poison, where the guy pulls a rat out of his mouth - a fine ad. I also went to the Langland website. They are a healthcare-specialist agency, but I have to say much of their work is excellent, and it all looks fantastic.

I've also moved Big Communications over a bit, since I do rather like a couple of their WKD spots.

If you think the chart is still wrong, feel free to let me know in the comments, but I won't be revising it till next year now.

Note - the vertical axis represents income (not profitability), the horizontal axis represents creative heat (not new business success) and is based purely on my perception, not any awards tally, because that would take too long.