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: Alan Brooking.

I’m guessing you’re not as familiar with that name as were with others I’ve posted? But you’ll be familiar with his work. Saatchi’s ‘Pregnant Man’? BBH’s ‘Black Sheep’ poster? CDP’s ‘Wolf In Sheeps Clothing’? Yes? All shot by Alan. Because they’re such a fantastic ideas, they look as though anybody could’ve shot them. The images are so simple and clear you can’t imagine done them any other way. But each is the end result of a series of choices. TakeRead 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

Minneapolis, U.K.

I’ve spent over thirty years working within a few square miles of Soho Square. Historically, it’s where the majority of the client’s headquarters were situated. It’s also where country’s magazines, photographers, printers, film companies based, so it became where the bullseye for the country’s ad agencies. Leaf through a bunch of awards annuals and you’ll be hard pressed to find work from another city. Birmingham and Manchester pop up periodically, but not regularly. But in the eighties, one city turnedRead 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

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

Hands Up Who’s Heard Of GEOFFREY SEYMOUR?

ADVERTISING’S OSCAR WILDE. An appreciation of the work of Geoffrey Seymour. By Mike Everett. It is one of the great ironies of the advertising business that one of its most talented writers is better remembered for his salary than his work. When he joined Saatchi & Saatchi in 1982, Geoff Seymour was paid £100,000 a year, a sum of money that soon became known in advertising circles as a ‘Seymour’. It may have been as an eye-watering amount at theRead more

PUSHING WORDS AROUND. Pt 1.

Pictures are great. As everyone knows, they’re worth a 1000 words, but they offer so much more; emotion, drama, humour, shock, surprise, information, style, etc, etc. So what do you do if you can’t use one? If you’re an art director it’s especially tough, because your job is to make people engage against their will. So the temptation is to overcompensate with graphics. But it’s a risk, as Bill Bernbach warned ‘Merely to let your imagination run riot, to dream unrelatedRead more

GREEN BOOKS: New Yorker Ads 4.

The Advertising Standards Council wouldn’t let that title pass. I guess it was my intent when I cello-taped it to the cover. There are a few old New Yorker ads in there, but the majority are English, from the early seventies. It’s odd collection, looking at it now is a bit like wandering through a car boot sale. There’s the finds that have famous attached, so may be worth something:   1. Illustrator/Artist Glen Baxter’s Gilbey’s Gin ads. 2. Photographer ArtRead more

The Wall Street Journal’s CREATIVE LEADERS SERIES.

The haircuts have dated. The clothing looks dated. The puns feel very dated. The page layouts look dated. The screen treatment of the photographs look dated. But a lot of the thinking, not so much. As Bill Bernbach said “It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive toRead more

THE BENEFITS OF LONG-TERM BAND CAMPAIGNS.

Played at 78rpm, one side of a 12’’ shellac disc could play up to five minutes of music. In 1948, Columbia Records came up with an alternative; a PVC disc with finer grooves that, played at 33rpm, could play up to 22 minutes a side. It not only changed the way we listen to music, it change the music we listened to. First, these ‘Long Players’ were seen as ideal for theatre musicals and film soundtracks. Consequently, one group dominatedRead more

GREEN BOOKS: New Yorker Ads 1.

‘‘Alright fatty, what you after?” How do you react? I’m guessing it would taint your opinion of that particular bookshop, making you less inclined to buy. Nobody likes being disrespected or patronised. What about if that bookshop owner had said “Oh, just to let you know; the new Proust collection is just in”. Sure, you’d look behind you to check that they were talking to you, but you couldn’t help but be pleased that they’d presumed you were intelligent. ItRead more

PITCH: David Abbott/BT.

“Hey Dave, I’ve got something you might want to share on your blog. It’s 30 minutes of David Abbott pitching the famous BT Bob Hoskins campaign, direct to camera, apparently for some BT big-wigs who missed the original presentation. Not only is it a lovely piece of advertising history, it’s also a masterclass for any creative about to step into pitching. I found it when I was at AMV and had to present a re-pitch for the entire BT account.Read more