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?