“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.
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.
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.
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?”.
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.)
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.
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.
I was right, it did:
They all looked great, but this one made me smile widest…
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.”
Mick Marston, still a college tutor at the time, did this one, which has a younger, funkier vibe:
Because it was so simple and graphic, we used it on the new packaging we did for Merrydown.
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.