THE WOMEN WHO BUILT DDB, 4: Rita Selden

After the first post in this series a friend got in touch to say he liked it, but wasn’t that ‘built’ a bit of an exaggeration? No. Look at ‘Bill Bernbach’s Book – The advertising that changed the world of advertising’, written by Bob Levenson, a 30 year veteran, both writer and Creative Director. (When Creative Director meant head of all creatives.) EXHIBIT A: The picture above, it’s from the cover of that book (women involved in all six adsRead more

THE WOMEN WHO BUILT DDB, 3: Judy Protas

Unusual names are more likely to be remembered. So I knew that the writer of the Levy’s campaign was called Judy Protas. I didn’t know she’d written one of my favourite ads – Ohrbach’s ‘Back to school’. I knew the Crackerjack ads but didn’t know she’d written them. I didn’t know she’d written the Ohrbach’s cat ad (probably the most famous DDB before VW came along). I’d seen the funny Crackerjack commercials on a 100 Greatest ads reel back inRead more

PODCAST: STEVE HARRISON.

When I started out, lunch with my old writer Sean would end with ‘Right, let’s shift some product’. It was irony, of course. It’s rare for creatives talk like that. If you’d have asked me at that time about the performance of one of my ads, I’d have given you a ton of awards data, but nothing on sales. To be fair, awards won are what creatives are salaried on, not units sold. And if you’ve ever sat on anRead more

CHEMISTRY LESSON.

It’s like a blind date; Agency and client get together over coffee to find out if they have any chemistry. Either party can bail if they’re not ‘feeling it’, or take the relationship to the next stage if they are. It’s a good idea, but unlike a blind date, the two parties don’t sit at the table as equals. For one party this is just one of multiple coffees they’ll be sampling, for the other it’s their only coffee. OneRead more

GREEN BOOKS: Type 3.

It’s always weird looking back through these books. Like looking at those insects trapped in a chunk of amber.  There they were, right in the middle doing something, simply walking or picking their nose, frozen in time. These books are a bit like that, a snapshot of what was happening at a certain moment in time, captured chronologically. (Encased in green this time, not amber.) This moment is ’93 to ’94, type & graphics, and what an odd moment itRead more

JUST LIE.

Advertising is like kryptonite to us human beings. Just as our instinct kicks in to ensure we don’t look directly at the sun, we now do the same when advertising appears in our peripheral vision. We know it’s there; jumping up and down desperately trying to get our attention, but we manage to shield our eyes from it. Like everything else, the internet can throw us a bit of data on this – last year, ‘25.8 percent of internet usersRead more

BULLSEYE!

I worked with Sean Doyle for roughly 12 years. One morning, about six years in, Sean threw a scruffy ball of paper over to my side of the desk – ‘I did us a logo’. It was like a miracle; Our names fit together perfectly, symmetrically, what were the chances? It was worth putting it together even if just to enter for awards. I turned the scribble into type. That wasn’t how Sean had imagined it. DYE was too dominant.Read more

WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING?

If you lived in Britain in between 1937 and 1958 there’s a reasonable chance you were spied on. It wasn’t called spying, it was called Mass Observation. Armies of clip-boarded volunteers quietly observed Britons, recording their behaviour in the most minute detail, unearthing invaluable insights on our society. Like this one, “the average time taken to drink half a pint of beer in pubs on a November Saturday night in Brighton in 1938 was 7.3 minutes.” (It also discovered thatRead more

PODCAST: Gary Goldsmith

Pick up any New York Art Directors Club Annual from the sixties and you can feel the heat coming off the pages. The Writers are using words previously confined to conversation, the Art Directors are trying to find new ways to present the information (‘Creating new pages’ as Helmut Krone put it.) Then, the seventies. A whole different story; the experimentation and energy appear to have dried up. True, there are still lots of good thoughts and lines, but inRead more

FOUND: BERNBACH STUFF.

I’ve no idea where this came from. I’ve had it for at least twenty or so years. Looking at that high-class screw holding it together and thick cell cover, it probably once belonged to a Creative Director. (Me and my friends didn’t have access to that kind of luxury at the time.) If you recognise it, get in touch and I’ll return it. It’s one of the best, most thorough interviews I’ve ever read with Uncle William. So thanks andRead more

PODCAST: David Kolbusz.

When you start out in your advertising career, Pentel in one hand, MacBook in  the other, you seem to be surrounded by good work. Awards books are choc-a-bloc with it. As you go on, year by year, you seem to see less and less. For example, the first D&AD Annual looked at probably had an 80/20 ratio of good to bad. 10 years later those percentages are likely to have flipped. As you move on you become less swayed byRead more

PODCAST: Trevor Beattie.

‘Recorded any new podcasts lately?’ I get asked this a few times every week. The askees range from college attendees to retired adman. As I pick the people I interview, they seem as famous as The Beatles to me, but they’re often unknown to the askees. After offering up a name and watching a blank expression appear, I reach for a quick handle, something from culture that I think they’ll know. Occasionally it’s an ad fact; ‘Set Up Fallon beforeRead more

GUT.

Facts seem to have lost their resonance in may areas today, but in marketing, they’re still king of the castle. They call the shots. Whether it’s big data, qual, quant, O.T.S, ROI, A/B testing, name any marketing abbreviation, if numbers are involved they must be obeyed. These numbers get distilled into rules. It makes sense, who wouldn’t want to use previous learnings to improve future performance? But somehow, applying these learnings to creative work often feels uncomfortable, less like improvingRead more

THE WALL.

It’s what you hit when you run a marathon. A sudden loss of energy followed by your body telling you ‘I’m done, it’s all over’. But keep putting one foot in front of the other and pretty soon you’re through to the other side, with renewed energy. I was teaching students at the SCA2 last Friday, and was reminded that as creatives we also face a walls, (not physical ones, obviously, they were torn down years ago to make roomRead more

MARK DENTON HAS A BOOK TO SELL!

A weird thought popped into my head on my way to record this interview. Weird, because I’ve been reading books on designers for thirty odd years and I’d never spotted it. Also weird, because it’s the opposite of the received wisdom. The thought was this ‘Good designers can work in many styles, great designers have a distinctive style’. As Art Directors and Designers we are taught to put their skills at the service of the brand. Let’s say you’re designing forRead more

Radio: Paul Burke interviews Nick Angell.

Back in the seventies there was a tv show called The Waltons. A depression era family mooched about Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains dealing with various social and moral issues. It was very wholesome. At the end, after some member of the family had realised the error of their ways, they’d cut to their familiar end device: A shot of their quaint wooden house at night. We’d hear a voice ‘Goodnight John Boy’, then gradually we’d hear all the other membersRead more

Hands Up Who’s Heard Of Frank Budgen?

We’re smack bang in the middle of the age of collaboration. Any press release for a creative hiring now contains that reassuring phrase ‘Known for being collaborative’. (To me it always reads ‘We’re pleased to announce we’ve finally found a creative who will listen to us’.) The feeling the team had creating the work is as scrutinised as what they created. But collaboration means different things to different people. For most of the team it conjures up enjoyable meetings onRead more

Hands Up Who’s Heard Of MAD DOGS & ENGLISHMEN?

Remember Alessandro Volta? Douglas Engelbart? What about Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis? Thought not. Even if I asked who invented electric light, the computer mouse and social media, those names are still unlikely to come up. More likely, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg will spring to mind. They didn’t invent those ideas, they either stole from those guys or ‘built on their thinking’.But although now virtually forgotten, their work was crucial, take away their thinking would be likeRead more

THE LOOKY-LIKEY AMALGAM.

I few months back I recorded a podcast with Richard Shotton, one of the brightest people in the business. Whilst preparing I read Richard’s book, The Choice Factory, it’s great, full of fascinating insights and observations on human behaviour and how we respond to marketing. Whilst taking in all this intelligent insight an interesting theory occurred to me; why don’t we just create ads that people like? Granted, it’s no theory of relativity, but it’s odd that it’s barely aRead more