American Airlines? You never know?

“Wanna do some 48 sheets? They’ll probably get rejected?”
Who could turn down an offer like that?
100% honest and also throwing down a challenge.
BMP/DDB used to adapt American Airlines work dreamt up in the States,  simply making their ideas fit our quirky British poster sizes.
But the feeling in the agency, was that we should at least offer to do creative work occasionally, if only to justify the fees.
So here was one such offer, who knows it might lead to us creating as well as adapting American Airlines work?
BRIEF: American Airlines announce six flights a day to New York and once a day to New Jersey.
As usual, the idea is in the problem.
The problem was that surely that’s two briefs, or two posters, one saying 6 flights a day to JFK, the other saying 1 flight a day to Newark.
Why combine them?
Trying to combine the two briefs lead us to this:
AA New Jersey LR
Bizarrely, the British client says yes.
We just needed to wait for his American bosses to reject it, and we could all get on with our normal work.
Feedback from the U.S. “Yes, love it!” Even more bizarre.
We buy the image rights to the photo and start printing.
The day before the posters are delivered we get more feedback from the U.S. “PULL IT AT ANY COST!”
It’s obviously made its way up the stairwells of some fancy New York tower until it found some cigar munching Vice President of something who didn’t like the idea of making fun of America’s most beloved President, “NO WAY…NOT ON MY WATCH MISTER!”

About a month later, the same account guy ambles in: “I’ve just been chatting with the American Airlines client, he feels really bad about what happened and says he’s got another brief, six sheets and he can sign it off. D’you want another go?”

BRIEF: “You can now go New York via Newark.”
Cool, is it quicker?
Better, more modern airport?
Quicker to pass through?
Er…ok, why would you choose it over JFK?
“You wouldn’t.”
What’s good about it then…anything…nice colour lounges?
What the hell do you want us to say then?
“You can now go New York via Newark.”
Ok, great.

Soooo…if you want to fly to New York via a different route, this is for you.
If you want to land in different part of New York, then bingo, we’re your guys.
If you’re bored with landing in the same old New York airport every time, then try us.
If you want to approach New York from a new angle when you fly in, then we’re the boys.
Hang on, there’s a neat visual bit to that; new angle.
“New York from a new Angle” and we show bits of New York from weird angles.
That could look cool.
We could do the type like Saul Bass’s cool North By Northwest titles, so the type is at a new angle too?
NxNW_Saul Bass

I sent the photographer John Offenbach to New York with the brief: Shoot iconic bits of New York from odd angles. (A terrific brief for a photographer.)
He came back with some very cool shots.
Looking at them, I thought we should add a little plane into each image, to make the images more relevant.
As usual, typographer Dave Wakefield also did a great job, first he rejected the easy option of angling the text on a Mac, instead taking on the painstaking task of redrawing it.
Then he fused the two together by clever placing of text and image. Check out the cab one for instance.
AA Angles 05 LRAA Angles 01 LRAA Angles 04 LRAA Angles 06 LR

This one didn’t run. In fact it’s not quite finished. Cool shot though.
AA Angles 03 LR

A client who doesn’t want creative work, interference from the States and bad briefs.
I guess the moral is; be optimistic, you just never know.


THE PROBLEM: Panorama wanted to grow its audience.
The Guardian, Times and Telegraph were the best places to find likely viewers, so we had to do ads.
But Panorama was one of the BBC’s most serious, straight talking, truth-seeking programmes, and advertising is rarely in the same sentence as those words.
When someone looks at an ad the words most likely to be in their subconscious are ‘selling’, ‘lying’, ‘bullshitting’, ‘schmoozing’, ‘tricking’ and ‘spinning’. (Hope I haven’t missed one?.)
We couldn’t do anything about advertising getting itself a bad name over the last century, but we didn’t have to look like we’re in that gang.
Ads tend to look like ads.
A small logo bottom right, for example, tells you that you’re not looking at editorial, which is handy for most people because it allows them to ignore ads very quickly and go straight to the editorial.
Panorama had gravitas, so we needed a format we put our ideas into that didn’t scream “AD COMING! LOCK UP YOUR CHILDREN!”
The ideas themselves were straightforward: People rarely watch a season of documentaries because of the brand, they dip in and out according to that weeks story, so we needed to turn their stories into hooks, or ads as they are sometimes known.

To me, problems are good.
They give you direction.
Without problems you are just doing “visual and verbal gymnastics”, as Bill Bernbach put it.
If you find the right problems you’ve got a chance of finding the right solution.

With Panorama, there were two problems:
a) Their weekly stories didn’t link together and they weren’t even unique.
E.g. ‘The O.J Simpson Trial’, who wasn’t covering that? I think even the Beano ran a pull out on that at the time.
We would need exceptionally strong branding to solve both issues.
b) It shouldn’t feel like an ‘ad’.

The two problems got to thinking about magazines, they dealt with serious issues all the time, sometimes using humour, but the issues didn’t seem to lose gravitas.
I remembered a book from my first agency Brooks Legon Bloomfield.
In fact it was their library, it was the only book on advertising they had in the building.

Consequently, I read it a lot, really a lot.
I became very, very familiar with its contents. I didn’t love all of George Lois’ stuff, but I did love his Esquire covers.

GQ 2-GQ-ES01.27tumblr_lyl8deDiLx1qaw2tq

They managed to put over complex issues with simplicity and wit.
We took this as our inspiration.

Logo size is debated every day in agencies.
Agencies want them smaller to make the brand classy, clients want them big so that the public at least see their name, even if they don’t engage with their message.
But here’s the odd thing, size doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it.
(I’m aware that sounds a bit Carry On-ish)
Making the Panorama logo look like a masthead on a magazine meant it didn’t feel like a logo.
It was as big as humanly possible, but it didn’t have that ‘desperate big logo’ feel.
BBC Panorama %22Bart Simpson%22-06
Panorama whole 006
Panorama whole 003
Panorama whole 004
Panorama whole 005
BBC Panorama %22Female Spy%22-01

I couldn’t find many discarded roughs for this campaign, a shame because knowing Tim Delaney, we probably wrote ten for every one that ended up being a made.
(Although there could be good reason why they were rejected and I haven’t got them.)
The only ones I could lay my hands on were for the episode covering the O.J. Simpson trial.
On the face of it, this is a very clever neat idea:
Panorama %22State%22 Rough-01

As is this:
Panorama dollar
But, I think our ‘clever’ ideas are getting in the way of the story.
The story doesn’t need our spin, it’s the O.J. trial, at least show him…
Panorama whole 002
In retrospect, two massive letters ‘O’ and ‘J’ would’ve been even more direct.
They used to say there’s only one O.J. Simpson?, Who? Who used to say that? I’ve never heard anyone say that? Why lie?

Loot. If it’s scruffy, make it scruffy.

Capture a company’s personality or create one?
When you’re developing a new campaign you’ve got to do one or the other.
It’s not always possible, but I prefer trying to capture what’s there rather than fabricate something.
Your message has more chance of being believed if it ties in with your perceptions of a company.
Conversely, if say, a bank start telling you about interest rates in the manner of an eighteen year old street hustler, it raises suspicions.
It’s like seeing an old uncle you are used to seeing in cords and cardigans suddenly turn up in black leather trousers and mirror shades.
You can’t help think there’s a problem.
Bottling the essence of a company means putting your own pre-conceptions and prejudices aside.
It’s not about turning dull into cool, it’s finding truth and reframing it.

When I was at Simons Palmer the agency won The Sun.
Exhibits A & B:
Ypaddypantsdown freddieate
Traditionally not a magnet for awards.
So I was curious to see how Chris and Mark would represent this sensationalist sensationalist, trashy product with ‘good’ creative work.
At the time ‘good’ creative work all seemed to be intelligent and sophisticated.
They didn’t turn it into something cool like they had with Nike…
nike_billboard_jordan2-600x450 ,
or … hip like Wrangler…

…or stylish like The National Railway Museum…

They made it appear sensationalist, trashy and argumentative, like The Sun.
They celebrated the truth.

When we pitched for Loot at CDD, I did the same.

Initially, we fell in love with the idea of producing contradictory ads next to each other.
The same object, only in one it’s seen through the eyes of the seller, in the other through the eyes of the buyer.
E.g.;Small ad on the left hand page; Picture of an old chair next to the line “it’s junk, sell it in Loot”, small ad on the right hand page; “Antiques. Buy them in Loot.”
Or like this on posters:
Loot- Opposites
The clients loved it.
But good old Captain Integrity, Sean Doyle, found a similar ad in an old copy of the One Show.
So we withdrew it.
We told them it’d ‘been done’ they couldn’t have it.
We’d go again.
It’s a fine line between integrity and stupidity.
(Not sure exactly which side of it we were on in that instance.)

We went again.
New thought: Anti-new.
Why not celebrate the second-hand, the used, the stuff with previous owners?
Loot roughs
It was different and VERY them.
So how do we turn that into a style that best represents Loot?
Loot had terrible printing, dodgy star bursts everywhere and exclamation marks on every square inch, everything was shouty.
Cool, that’s our ingredients then.

Dave Wakefield found this old cut of a font we scanned.

Graphique type sheet-01
Then we used graduated course screens, drop shadows, clashing colours and all the things that we would usually avoid.
(We were generally too cool for school.)
LOOT 'Underpants'-01 LOOT 'Woolies' -01LOOT 'Hate'-01 LOOT '501's-01LOOT 'Picasso-01LOOT 'New Shoes'-01
We recovered from not letting the client, Stephen Miron, have the work he’d wanted from the previous meeting.
But we couldn’t recover from the fact that I was the only person from the agency in the pitch.
It fell on the same day as our agency’s first briefing by our biggest, in fact only account, Mercedes-Benz.
It felt wrong to rearrange them in favour of a pitch.
But, we didn’t look terribly committed to the Loot cause.
A shame, I haven’t had the opportunity to bad printing since.

The Economist. Venn.

I worried about The Economist.
It was an open brief, which meant the whole AMV/BBDO creative department would work on through the year, in downtime, lunch hours and weekends, depending on hunger levels.
This had been going on for about ten years.
When I was Creative Director on the account, on average, for every ad I’d approve, fifteen would be rejected; there were twenty something creative teams.
So, with four bursts of ten posters every year for ten years and a few one-offs and specials thrown in, I’d say that about a thousand executions had run and about fifteen thousand concepts had been created.
But my main worry was whether they had lost an element of freshness to the public.
Awards were certainly down. No campaign continues to win as much once it becomes very familiar.
Here are a few of the 48 sheets Sean and I did at the time.
Economist artwork 48 sheets The Economist - %22Lose The Ability...%22-01The Economist - %22Mind%22-01

One day, whilst driving home, I spotted a big red poster in the distance, I couldn’t tell for quite a while whether it was one that Sean and I had done.
It got me thinking, the format is unbelievably well branded, but ten years on, do civilians approach the posters in a similar way? Thinking “Oh…there’s one of those red Economist posters, I’m sure it’s saying something witty about intelligence, but I can’t be arsed to read it.”
In a nutshell: Were they getting too predictable?
I thought the colour and font were so distinctive we could try and add an element of surprise and freshness by producing a mini campaign every quarter, that continued with the same messages but had a slightly different graphic look.

I spotted a venn diagram in Vanity Fair, a red circle overlapping a blue circle,
a bit like this one:

I thought it’d be a great variant on the red look, and different, but a clever structure to write to.
I had a go at writing some.
The Economist Venn Scribbles (g)-01 The Economist Venn Scribbles (e)-01
The Economist Venn Scribbles (c)-01 The Economist Venn Scribbles (a)-01
It was a like a Mensa Test: One circle is red and says: “Reads The Economist”,
the blue circle says something else that’s clever, and the bit at the bottom says
something that is the summation of this that is both clever AND funny.
I couldn’t do it.
I just couldn’t unlock the formula.
I explained it to Sean.
He rattled off a load:
The Economist Venn Scribbles (b) *-01
Once he’d unlocked the formula, I started start writing them too.
The Economist Venn ScribblesDPS (a)-01
We loosened up a bit and started swearing.
But as the scamp below indicates, were still to discover the spellcheck filter.The Economist Venn Scribbles %22Tourettes%22-01

They were sold, bought and art-worked.
c2587af0df018aacb9db0bef851d54be0049d7e2e4782bb2fd2574389e11999bb8863393bc08ffc2f1c5272da59acf3beddeff54e390924c5ee8566e27672ca3The Economist , venn, No 106b9484e970a027acb66e1779fac3a602e77a2ad0e48b1a67db8fde60235d93b0

Then, C.E.O Andrew Robertson came in: “I can’t do it, The Red campaign was David Abbott’s gift to the agency.”
It was decided we should run them along side the familiar red ads.

They worked well as cross-track posters, people could get the structure, then see how it played out, whilst waiting for their delayed train.

multi line 

These ideas were bought, proofed and cromalined.
They got pulled at the last minute for various reasons.

REASON: You can probably guess. (It’s surprising it got so close to running, it’s funny though.)

REASON: It’s a bit weird. (Although one of my favourites.)

REASON: Why risk offending Jezza?

REASON: It mentions a brand name.

REASON: It’s a bit childish, although it does use a lot of long words.21aedc1f4a91b64721d8f82b362661e3

A whole bunch of rejects were ganged up as a possible cross track, but didn’t happen.
The Economist - Venn, Rejects-01

The following year, posters in the red style were deemed sufficiently fresh to win a D&AD pencil ( “Jigsaw”) and a Campaign Posters Gold (“Long Copy”).
So perhaps Andrew was right, it was ‘David Abbott’s gift’.

THINGS I HAVE GLEANED 4: It’s never finished.

Simons Palmer was the home of the Nike poster, they produced endless great posters which produced endless awards.
So getting a brief for one, even a little 6 sheet for the Rugby World Cup was like getting a ticket to the ball.
When I first got there I was handed this approved line written by my shiny new writer Mark Goodwin.
I didn’t really get it to be honest, I’m still not sure whether I’m missing something?
But I toiled away, arranging and rearranging the squashed up Futura font to try and give it its own look, but still very Nike.
A warning sign seemed to be the way to go, the font was a given, the things to be decided were what colours? Red and white were a given as they were Nike colours and the most warningy of the colour wheel.
Bars: With? without? If with, how many and how thick? I settled on putting a bar between each line, because it looked designy and cool.
I showed my new boss Mark Denton.
“Yeah, I like that, it looks great… right do you want to do a completely different looking one now, do whatever you want, let’s see how it turns out.”
Tourist Information 2
Jesus! He likes it, but wants one that looks nothing like it.
What a waste of time!
Why can’t I just work on other briefs and get some more work out?
In retrospect it may have been because they didn’t have any new briefs to hand out.
Me, (impertinently): “Like what?”
Mark: What about that book you showed me, on that old Dutch bloke?”
The old Dutch bloke was H. N. Werkman.
Typographer, printer, artist and all round show off.
4f27c04330031dbba75b3b50f1fdfc38 Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 16.02.37ekran-resmi-2013-01-22-17-45-14
Brilliant, now I’ve got to put together my Nike ad in the style of some old Dutch geezer whos work called for spiritual resistance against Nazis. Easier said than done.

I spent the next few days trying Anti-Nazi, H. N. Werkmans frame of mind.

Maybe his two colour design stuff could work?

Eventually Tis, (typographer John Tisdall), and I came up with this:
Tourist Information

It got into D&AD for typography.
The first layout wouldn’t have done, the idea wasn’t strong enough.
Perhaps there was method in Mr Denton’s madness.


Newspapers deal in stories, they have to find them and write them up every day.
If they find good ones their sales increase.
So when agencies try selling them brand campaigns, they tend to think it’s a lot of namby pamby nonsense.
Instead they prefer their marketing to be based on specific content.
That could be anything from a scoop to a serialisation of an autobiography.
The problem is that the stories are rarely on brand, they are often the kind of thing that any newspaper could print, it just depends on who gets there first.
So having a very branded template is crucial to tie that story with your newspaper.

Here’s some stories we had to promote:


Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.49.40
Why, when it’s about Brando, by Brando would you not lead on Brando?
Why go all existential? Weird?
This was better, it has a much higher percentage of Brando.
Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.49.09

This was rejected.
Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.44.42
In favour of this one. Shame.
Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.50.44

It’s six o’clock when Tim Delaney walks in: “We need to send some ads over to The Guardian in about an hour, about a new book on the Fred West case”.
Some people would hate that kind of brief, I loved it.
Two full pages.
The Guardian have to buy.
They’ve no time to fiddle with the art direction.
The only issue is actually coming up with something good within the hour.
Two were bought.
(It’s odd how much of an icon that cheesy house sign became.)
The second one looked very dramatic in the paper.
The idea was to say “xx people go missing every day, this is the only mention it will get in a newspaper.”
I can remember thinking “Shall I put one ‘x’ or two? I’ll put two, it makes the headline more dramatic.
15? 16? Who knows? Hopefully the information department won’t come back with a number too miniscule.”
(Note to editor: He hopes more people go missing because it helps his little ad? TWAT!”)
The information department came back and the ad ran. It said: “273 people go missing every day, this is the only mention it will get in a newspaper.”
the guardian

Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.44.28

What strikes me most about these now is how aggressive they are.
We had a couple of goes at Jeremy Beadle.
Once on a 96 sheet.
Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.48.22
And once on 6 sheets. (Sorry Jezzlington.)

Then Tottenham.
Not so personal but did we pick them for any other reason than myself and the writer Tony Barry were both Arsenal fans? I can’t remember.tottenham

… and Lady Porter, although to be fair she had just been caught robbing London.
lady porter

Then we implied everyone reading our posters was boring, or bored.
nothing better to do (2)

We spoofed this very famous BBH campaign of the time.
3.boddingtons_0boddingtons-bitter-milk-bottle-small-82975 boddingtons-bitter-scoop-small-38264

Like this.
Cream of London - The Guardian

We made a naff old, Benny Hill style joke, looked good though.
Bill Stickers - The Guardian

Got this one rejected for being too clever.
your chance

And finally, had another pop at Tottenham, well their diving new striker.

Even in the trade we were having a pop at various individuals and companies?
Here some disgraced newly available Politician gets it in the neck.
The Guardian %22New Job%22-01

Here, a whole agency is abused.
The Guardian %22Trade - Y&R%22-01

And Pablo Picasso.
There are exclusive extracts on a book revealing a different Pablo Picasso.
Obviously we zoom straight in on the fact that he stole and went to brothels.Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.43.43

Brothels again.
Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.43.49

Presumably, a bad joke about Damien Hirst’s shark, sheep, cow stuff?
Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.44.08

Quite literally a knob gag.
Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.43.20

A bad gag, implying his models  looked  in real life like the do in his pictures.Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.43.29

And then the finished ad.
Somehow unlike all the other ones that look like they were done by a couple of giggling schoolboys.

So the question is: Who’s the culprit?
Why were we having a pop at all and sundry?
Was it Me?
Tony Barry?
Tim Delaney?
Leagas Delaney?
The Guardian?
Or was that just an attractive vibe in the 90’s?

Answers on a postcard to…

The Economist. (Black.)

Not long after setting up DHM, we got a call from Media Guru and all round clever clogs Mark Palmer asking whether I could help The Economist out with a presentation.
Of course, they’re The Economist.
Essentially I put together a fancy looking power point presentation for them to present to different parts of the world.
Titled ‘The Ideas People”, it set out the argument that The Economist wasn’t a dry factual business publication, it was stimulus for creative minds to generate ideas.
I used the universal, possibly clichéd symbol for an idea, the lightbulb.
It helped unify the presentation, and made complicated words and charts simple and charming.

Here are some of the slides:
The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation, City%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation, Iceberg%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation,Turnips%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation,Turnip & Sons%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation,Turnips Department Store%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation,Turnip.Com%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation,Globe%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation,Find Your Idea%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation,Hand%22-01

We waved goodbye and they went off happily to share their presentation around the globe.

Six months later they call up “Hey….That presentation went down great, could you do us some ads on the same subject?”
“Of course, you’re The Economist.”

At the time, the famous old red style was being replaced by a brand new shiny black style.
 economist-dissection new-ads-posters-economist-various--large-msg-119160728005 economist_ill_3 E2 economist-curiosity
I thought we’d better tie it into this new style.
At first glance, I liked it.
It’s always bloody tough replacing famous campaigns, and this looked clever cool and modern.
But the more I tried to break it down and try to figure out how it worked the more I worried about it.
It wasn’t fish nor fowl.
It didn’t have big powerful headlines like the famous red ads, and it didn’t have visual ideas.
As someone who used to creative direct the previous campaign it felt like people had written to the previous campaign only to discover their ads had been given to some skinny-jeaned Hoxton types to add some pictures.
The result was that the pictures didn’t seem to be imparting any information, they felt like a whimsical adjunct to the headlines. In some cases just making them difficult to read.
There’s nothing wrong with that, I just prefer things that are clearer, if the picture doesn’t have a role bin it.

So I briefed out creatives: “I want pictures that say The Economist helps you have ideas. No words please.”

The beauty of having such a focussed brief is that it means you get a lot of ideas handed in.
These are the ones I picked.

IDEA: Reading The Economist helps you think of ideas.
PICTURE: Someone reading a copy with a lightbulb going off above their head. (Very basic and a bit obvious, but very clear.)

The envelope from the illustrator arrived with a first rough, but the idea must’ve fallen out on the way over, because I just couldn’t see it?
Also, it didn’t feel very ‘Economisty”.
The Economist %22Book%22 Rejected Rough

We tried another illustrator.
The Economist %22Idea%22

They lost the idea in exactly the same way. Spooky.

We got a new one, Noma Bar.
I’d wanted to work with him for years.
I’d tried and failed to track him down for Merrydown after seeing a little illustration of his in The Guardian.
He sent in a bundle of ideas.
They were all good.
The issue for me was trying to hold onto the idea being communicated and not get seduced by the cool illustrations.
Take this one, it’s probably better looking than the final one we used, but do you get the idea from it?
The Economist, Noma Bar, rough 5-01
Same with this, it’s a bloody clever twist; the bulb being the head, but I don’t think anyone would get the idea.
The Economist, Noma Bar, rough 3-01The Economist, Noma Bar, rough 4-01
This one was nearer.
Again, I thought it was clever, but worried the face would distract from the very simple, basic idea: You’ll think of ideas when you read The Economist?
The Economist, Noma Bar, rough 1-01

No face and turning the bulb the right way up helped.
I increased the dead black space around the illustration to make the ad stand out more.
The Economist %22Idea%22

IDEA: The Economist will set your mind racing with connections.
PICTURE: A copy of The Economist with a mind map coming from it covering a boardroom table.

The first rough.
The Economist  %22Head%22
Now I must point out that I like to give people enough freedom to re-imagine an idea in a way I might not have thought of.
It’s like Film Directors, if they cast well, they don’t have to direct as much.
So I figure I’m picking an Illustrator Photographer or Director, I’m buying into their world, shouldn’t feel constrained.
Sometimes I don’t even give Photographers or Illustrators layouts, I just describe the idea, that way they can imagine it picture the idea the best way they can imagine it.
But sometimes you have to say thanks for that, it doesn’t work, I want you to now do it exactly like this.
So as much as I liked the look of the illustration above, the idea wasn’t really coming through, it needed to be much more tabley, more mind mappy.

The second attempt.
The Economist %22Boardroom%22 Rough a

It was definitely tablier and mind mappier.
But the idea still wasn’t coming through clearly enough.
Firstly, because the mind map was 3D it didn’t look like a mind map.
Secondly, it didn’t feel as though the thoughts were coming out of The Economist.

Third go.
The Economist %22Table%22 3

Much better.
Bit of a weird table though? Maybe we should cut a chunk out of that big blank bit at the end?
The Economist  %22Table%22 Rough 2

That’s it. Colour it in!

IDEA: Be switched on.
PICTURE: Replace the red bit on a switch with a logo.
The Economist %22Light Switch%22 Rough 3-01
The first rough looked good but didn’t feel switchy enough. Too oblong.
(Perhaps that’s the shape of the switches in his country?)

Another go:
The Economist %22Light Switch%22 Rough 2-01
Better, but the actual switch, button bit looks too small.
Also, aside from whether it’s technically accurate, this would make the logo too small.

Let’s simplify the switch by losing the fold, and make it bigger.
The Economist %22Switch%22

IDEA: The Economist sparks ideas.
PICTURE: The Economist logo as the spark jumping from one connection to another on a spark plug.

The first rough looked great, very graphic.
The Economist %22Spark Plug%22 Rough 1
But shouldn’t we zoom in to the idea bit?
The Economist  %22Spark Plug%22 2 Rough
Looks nice and graphic, but shouldn’t we zoom in to the idea bit?
And isn’t that spark a bit big…for a spark?
The Economist, %22Spark%22

IDEA: Er…The Economist creates ideas ?
PICTURE: Idea shaped bubbles coming from a bubble blowing instrument(?). (Not the best.)

The Economist %22Bubbles%22

IDEA:  Syphon ideas from every issue of the Economist.
PICTURE: The contents of The Economist being poured into one end of a funnel and lightbulbs/ideas coming out the other.

A whole bunch of interesting graphic interpretations came in.
The Economist  %22Funnel Roughs%22 x 6

In the end we plumped for the curvy, rainbow like one.
It felt more upbeat and dynamic.
The Economist %22Funnel%22

IDEA: The Economist helps you think of unique, money-making ideas.
PICTURE: Replace thought bubbles with copyright bubbles.

First rough. Yep, that works.
The Economist %22Copyright%22

IDEA: The Economist attracts ideas. (I thought we were saying it generated them? Oh well.)
PICTURE: The Economist as bait, the ideas as fish.
The Economist %22Fish%22

IDEA: Surprising ideas come out of The Economist.
PICTURE: An idea springing out of a Jack In The Box.

First rough.
The Economist %22Jack In The Box%22 Rough 2Why is the bulb grinning insanely…more to the point, why has he, I mean it, got a face? It doesn’t look like an idea bulb with a face on it. Rub it out.

The Economist %22Jack%22

IDEA: The Economist helps you make connections, which leads to ideas.
PICTURE: A dot to dot drawing of a lightbulb next to a red pencil.

For some reason, the mad cap illustrator drew the pencil being held by a little brain? cloud? Marshmallow?
The Economist %22Bulb-Brain Boy%22 Rough-01

We decide to keep Marshmallow Boy, he was just so cute, but insist on the dot to dot drawing being on paper.
The Economist %22Lightbulb Man%22

IDEA: The Economist makes you brighter.
(Whoa! that’s a bit off brief isn’t it? I thought this was about idea generation?)
No illustrator required.
The Economist %22Brightness%22

IDEA: The Economist is like mind fertiliser, it’ll help you grow ideas.
PICTURE: A plant in a pot with idea/bulbs growing from it. The logo is on the little dibber thing that tells you what the name of the plant is.

First rough.
The Economist  %22 Bulbs%22 Pencil 3
“Bit realistic isn’t it? The bulbs look like they are made of glass?
This is an analogy, metaphor…it’s not real life.”
The Economist %22Bulb%22 Sketch

“Too real!”
The Economist  %22Bulb%22 Rough, 6
“The pot and dibber thing are there, which is good, but make it more diagrammatic.”

The Economist  %22Bulb%22 5 Rough
“Better, but go even simpler…like a diagram – flat colour, simple”

The Economist %22Plant Pot%22 Rough-01
“Great…good be by the way, TOP BEE!…Maybe lose the currency symbols and make the pot 2D, like a diagram”

The Economist. %22Plant%22JPG

Putting this stuff together, it’s a good reminder that however good an illustrator is, you have to constantly check they don’t stray off into creating a nice picture, rather than interpret the idea.


It’s tough for newbie creatives to get noticed.
If you aren’t in an agency that produces good work it’s hard to produce good work. If you don’t produce good work it’s hard to get a job in an agency that does.
One of the ways around this is to find a client that will accept good.
Up and coming copywriters Mike McKenna and Alastair Wood spotted one of these opportunities back in the late eighties.
The IPA Society held a lecture every month, and to let agencies know about it they sent out a sheet of paper with details typed onto it for their pinboards.
If a typographer, photographer and printer would donate their time they could produce a poster.
A poster that would be seen by every single agency in London.
The first one they did got into the D&AD Annual, a first for each of them.

Cut to a year later.
I was Alastair’s Art Director, and we got an opportunity to promote a talk about Desert Island Ads.
A difficult brief because it didn’t have a single focus or reference point.
Eventually we settled on an idea which involved me scribbling glasses and bow ties onto an old, cheesy film still.
The first people we got to show our shiny new proof to was Mark Reddy and Richard Grisdale, over at BMP.
It was going pretty well until they got it.
Mark: “Oh no! No…No…No…It’s such a cliché! Silly glasses and bow ties?”
We scuttled back out with our cliche.
(I’d like to point the jury to exhibit A Homepride- Mark and Richard around the time the incident took place.)
reddy & grisdale

Shortly after we got another brief: Christine Barker’s Review of The Year.
Alastair was on holiday, so he suggested I work on it with his pal, Mike.
How do you sum up a whole year in a single image?
What unifies all agencies?
mike_mckenna IPA
I got my mate with a camera, Malcolm, to shoot it for the £50 budget the IPA allocated.
We made the pencils ourselves and used the back of a layout pad as the background.
It got into D&AD.

After this successful dry run, Mike and I teamed up and got a job at Publicis.
In our first week we got an opportunity to produce a poster for a talk on ‘Advertising under a Labour government.’
Our Head Of Art at Publicis, Derrick Hass, insisted he draw Fred, the little flower grading dude, but wanted a name check on the poster.
The front page of Campaign two weeks later: HOMEPRIDE FURY AT NEW AGENCY PUBLICIS”
It had been brought to Homepride’s attention that their new agency had used their character without permission.
To make it worse, in a political context.
A secretary called to arrange for me and Mike to have tea with C.E.O. Michael Conroy.
Derrick: “Keep me out…you’re kids, you’ll be fine, but don’t involve me… I didn’t even want to draw the bloody thing!”
Mike: “Er…it’s got your name printed on it…you asked us to print your na…”
Mr Conroy was fine, he simply asked us to explain what had happened.

In 1992, at the height of the recession, we got a brief to promote an The IPA Bowling Evening.
At the time, news of redundancies seemed to be coming in on weekly basis, so making the event topical seemed a good way to go.
Eventually, the lovely illustrator David Holmes agreed to draw the ad.
The £0 fee wasn’t the problem, he said he couldn’t beat my free and easy scribble, and we should just use that. Unfortunately I didn’t have the balls to use my own drawing, feeling I needed a ‘professional’ illustrator.SorryLuv_IPA

BRIEF: The repackaging of John Major.
We tried to court controversy like those great George Lois Esquire covers.

Solution: Show the Prime Minister bum out, socks on:
John Major
(The drawing must’ve been a homage to John Lennon’s ‘Two Virgins’ cover.)

A talk by the then D&AD Chairman Edward Booth-Clibborn: How to win more at D&AD.
(Would love to know what he said?)
The previous year the D&AD Annual looked like this:
So we literally helped the character win more.
How to win more at D and AD_Laughing man_IPA Society

The next brief: Tony Brignull on the glory days of CDP.
By this point I was trying to make the layouts less basic, more creative.
I liked this one, it looked cool and honouring all the creatives who’d contributed to CDP’s success but picking out the speaker.
The line seemed good too, the clever thing was that he was an old boy as in the school terminology, and an old boy as in old, (Oh you got that, you’re ahead of me.)
We just needed Brignull’s sign off, excitedly we took our fancy layout down to Marylebone Road and waited and waited for him in the cafe part of the AMV reception.
Eventually he came down, weary, not full of the joys of spring.
Not much small talk: “You have a poster?”
We unfurl this A2 rough with a proud flourish.
CDP scamp

“I hate it.”
He got up and walked away.
We looked at each other trying to figure out whether to follow him or slunk out onto Marylebone Road.
We opted for the slunk out.

Over the years lots of teams hustled IPA briefs, lots ended up in D&AD Annuals.


“We have a bit of an image problem with Merrydown, its main constituency appears to be students and street tramps” Chris Carr, Merrydown Chairman.
These were the only ads of theirs we’d seen, they were written by Chris Wilkins.
wm_nightclub.lg-1    wm_opera.lg
wm_bank.lg     wm_cricket.lg

6 sheets and fly posters were booked, so posh, long copy ads like those were out.
The creative department came up with various routes, some good, some less so.
Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 20.20.35
The thing that worried me was who’d read an ad on a fly poster?
You wouldn’t even notice it, regular ads have too many elements: end lines, headlines, logos, visuals.
I felt we needed something simpler, more like graffiti than advertising.
Like the Milton Glaser ‘I love New York’ logo/poster thing.

I’d doodled something shortly after meeting the client, it wasn’t really an ad or idea, I’d simply split the brand name in two.
“Happy and sad in the same name, how weird?”
I quite liked it, but dismissed it as it didn’t seem to have any meaning.
BUT… it was really simple,  like that Milton Glaser poster,  and branded.
I tried to think about how to  to give it more meaning.
I remembered those Victorian of faces that worked both ways up.
Two faces poster    Woman's head

Maybe if one way up had a full glass of Merrydown and was smiling; Merry, and the other way up was sad; Down, because the glass of cider was empty.
I mocked them up.
Picking very contrasting images, colours and fonts to suggest a variety of styles:

Merrydown were in such dire straits, so the ads weren’t over scrutinised. It was more of a “Yeah…why not?”.
Right! Illustrators…erm?
There are thousands of great illustrators out there, I was finding it difficult to narrow it down to five.
Sod it, instead of getting five illustrators for a £1000 a pop, why not get ten for £500 each? It’s a good brief and I could give them complete freedom to compensate for the little fee, what the hell, they can only say no.

Michael Johnson, the cool, bespectacled designer stopped by to update me on the progress of our agency book he was designing.
I talked to him about the Merrydown idea, trying to pick his brains on illustrators he’d worked with.
Two days later, instead of sending recommendations for illustrators, he sent over ideas:
I bought this one. (I say bought, we didn’t pay him a penny.)
229_merrydown_up_400  229_merrydown_down_400

Next, Martin Haake faxes over a long stream of ideas, all good.
In retrospect, I was a bit too sensible, I loved the cowboy/Indian and cop/robber ideas, but worried their occupations may get in the way of the idea.
Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 11 %22Down%22-01 Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 11, %22Merry%22-01
Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 10 %22Merry%22.jpg-01Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 10 %22Merry%22-01
Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 9 %22Merry%22-01Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 9, %22Down%22-01
Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 8 %22Merry%22-01Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 8 %22Down%22-01
Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 7 %22Merry%22-01Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 7 %22Down%22-01
Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 6 %22Merry%22-01Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 6 %22Down%22-01
Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 5 %22Merry%22-01Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 5 %22Down%22.jpg-01
Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 1 %22Merry%22-01Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 1 %22Down%22.jpg-01
Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 4 %22Merry%22.jpg-01Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 4 %22Down%22.jpg-01
Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 2 %22Merry%22-01Merrydown, Martin Haake Rough 2 %22Down%22-01
Merrydown,Martin Haake Final, %22Merry%22png-01      Merrydown,Martin Haake Final, %22Down%22-01

I picked someone straight out of college; Helen Wakefield.
She had a very idiosyncratic way of thinking and drawing, and produced these.
Merrydown, Helen Wakefield,  Rough 3,-01Merrydown, Helen Wakefield,  Rough, %22Merry%22-01-01
Merrydown, Helen Wakefield,  Rough 2,-01Merrydown, Helen Wakefield, Early Rough,-01 Merrydown, Helen Wakefield Final, %22Merry%22-01Merrydown, Helen Wakefield Final, %22Down%22-01

Olaf Hayek sent in his scribbles.
I couldn’t imagine these  finished:
Merrydown, Olaf Hayek Rough 2, %22Merry%22-01Merrydown, Olaf Hayek Rough 2, %22Down%22-01
Merrydown, Olaf Hayek Rough 1, %22Merry%22-01Merrydown, Olaf Hayek Rough 1, %22Down%22-01

But I could picture this one working…
Merrydown, Olaf Hayek Rough 3, %22Merry%22-01Merrydown, Olaf Hayek Rough 3, %22Down%22-01
Merrydown, Olaf Hajek Final, %22Merry%22-01         Merrydown, Olaf Hajek Final, Down%22-01

Jeff Fisher, always a classy act, sent in this in.
It didn’t look great, but he always does great stuff, so I thought it’ll probably turn out well.
Merrydown, Jeff Fisher Rough %22Merry%22-01 Merrydown, Jeff Fisher Rough, %22Down%22-01
I was right, it did:
Merrydown, Jeff Fisher Final, %22Merry%22-01        Merrydown, Jeff Fisher Final, %22Down%22-01

One of the cleverest illustrators in the world did this one, Brian Cronin.
Merrydown, Brian Cronin Final, Merry%22-01    Merrydown, Brian Cronin Final, Down%22-01

Even a fat wallet illustrator like Gary Baseman agreed to do it for our micro fee.
Top illustrator, top bloke.

Merrydown, Gary Baseman Rough 1, %22Merry%22-01Merrydown, Gary Baseman Rough 1, %22Down%22-01 Merrydown, Gary Baseman Rough 4, %22Merry%22-01Merrydown, Gary Baseman Rough 4, %22Down%22-01Merrydown, Gary Baseman Rough 3, %22Down%22-01Merrydown, Gary Baseman Rough 3, %22Merry%22-01

They all looked great, but this one made me smile widest…
Merrydown, Gary Baseman Rough 2, %22Down%22.jpg-01Merrydown, Gary Baseman Rough 2, %22Merry%22-01

Merrydown, Gary Baseman Final, %22Merry%22 -01Merrydown, Gary Baseman Final, %22Down%22-01

Without thinking it through, I asked my mate and in-house photographer at CDD, Giles Revell, if he could shoot one.
What a ridiculous request, how was that going to work then?
But, Giles being Giles, he said “Yeah…I’ll give it a go.”
Merrydown, Giles Revell Rough 1-01Merrydown, Giles Revell, Rough 1 %22DOWN%22-01

Merrydown, Giles Revell, Rough 2, %22Merry%22-01Merrydown, Giles Revell, Rough 2, %22DOWN%22-01
Merrydown, Giles Revell Final, %22Merry%22-01
Merrydown, Giles Revell Final, %22Down%22-01

Mick Marston, still a college tutor at the time, did this one, which has a younger, funkier vibe:
Merrydown, Mick Marston Final, %22Merry%22-01 Merrydown, Mick Marston Final, %22Down%22-01
Because it was so simple and graphic, we used it on the new packaging we did for Merrydown.
Merrydown -Bottle, Mick Marston

I’d always loved Sara Fanelli’s work, a stylish mixture of collage and inks.
Merrydown, Sara Fanelli, Rough. %22Down%22-01Merrydown, Sara Fanelli, Rough-01
Merrydown, Sara Fanelli Ink Rough, %22Merry%22-01    Merrydown, Sara Fanelli Ink Rough, %22Down%22-01-01
‘Onion Boy’ was different…
Merrydown, Sara Fanelli Ink Rough 3, %22Merry%22-01-01      Merrydown, Sara Fanelli Ink Rough 3, %22Down%22-01-01
…but got pipped by the less oniony ‘Little Hat’…Merrydown, Sara Fanelli Ink Rough 2, %22Merry%22-01-01    Merrydown, Sara Fanelli Ink Rough 2, %22Down%22-01-01Merrydown, Sara Fanelli Final, %22Merry%22-01     Merrydown, Sara Fanelli Final, %22Down%22-01

I thought the illustrations would do well at the awards, but the idea wouldn’t.
What was the idea anyway, a sort of Happy/Sad branding thingy?
I got it completely wrong , the illustrations won nothing, the ads won Best Poster campaign and Best Press campaign pencils at D&AD.


Something struck me upon finding this little batch of G.Q. ads;
What magazines would run 48 sheet posters today,just to promote the August issue?

Me and my writer, Tony Barry, had three stories to turn into posters.

It’s easy to see why these two were rejected, it’s never good business to start ‘outing’ Royals and pop stars.
GQ %22Prince Edward%22 ScribbleGQ %22Cliff Richard%22 Roughjpg
This was the one that run.
You can see my time at Simons Palmer hadn’t been wasted, such an un-Leagas Delaney like poster.
(Ron Mueck made the baby, I should’ve robbed it from the shoot.)
GQ 001

Foreign women reveal all about British lovers? I’m sure it’s based on very robust research findings and empirical evidence, but what a waste of space.
For those not born at the time, in 1994 countries were stopping the imports of British beef due to Bovine Spongiform, or “Mad Cow Disease’, as The Sun calmly called it.
GQ %22Sausage%22 Rough
It was rejected in favour of this one, which I drew.
(I say drew, I actually I traced over an old Saatchi & Saatchi Health Education ad.)
GQ 002

Then Mick.
This one was rejected.
(Probably for being garbage.)
GQ %22Hip Joints%22 Scribble
This one was good.
GQ 004 Jagger
But with Mick Jagger being notoriously litigious, it was felt we should run it past him before it went to print.
It turned out he wasn’t keen on seeing posters all over London implying he was a decrepit old fogey.
Bit touchy?

We seemed to have had another shot at insulting old people, but I don’t think this ran either.

GQ %22Old%22 Roughjpg

Two things strike when looking at this stuff again: Why were we always having a pop at people? Old people, Cliff Richard, Prince Edward, Mick Jagger.
Admittedly there was an article on Mick Jagger At 50, but we could’ve celebrated him rather than berated him.
Also, Franklin Gothic Wide, what a great font, must use it again.