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.