WHAT I LIKED before I knew what I was SUPPOSED TO LIKE – Mark Denton

A funny thing happened the other day…I saw an advert on the internet and I went out and bought something. Don’t laugh, IT’S TRUE! The advert was for a TRIO bar and after seeing it I urgently needed a toffee/chocolate hit. Of course I couldn’t find a Trio anywhere (do they still make them?) so I had to make do with a Toffee Crisp. They (I bought a multi-pack) were very nice. I can’t remember what their advertising was likeRead more

HANDS UP WHO’S HEARD OF SI LAM?

LOST AND FOUND. By Alfredo Marcantonio. I first saw the name Si Lam alongside “We’ll never make it big” a Volkswagen poster that appeared in 1967’s New York Art Directors club Annual. It was produced by DDB’s Los Angeles office and I reasoned that Mr Lam would be one of the many talented Californians who boasted Japanese extraction. It was a misapprehension that I fostered for 40 years or more. DDB New York’s legendary Beetle and Bus ads lived onRead more

WASHES WHITER.

In 1990, the U.K. had just four tv channels. Only two aired commercials. In that year the BBC aired this five part series about advertising. They didn’t skimp on time or money and aired it in primetime. I wonder whether this could happen today? True, they were only competing against three other channels. There was no internet back then. No Netflix to compete with. The gaming industry was like an amoeba at this point. There were no mobile phones. BarelyRead more

THE WOMEN WHO BUILT DDB: Addendum

I chanced upon this whilst researching this series. DDB News, 1966 – The Women’s Issue. It’s an odd little thing; one minute it feels progressive, the next..not*. (*Yes, I’m talking to you Legs Page.) But it’s a useful snapshot of the environment the women I’ve written about were working in at the time. Also, DDB would’ve been one of the most progressive agencies.  (See previous posts for details.)  Read more

THE WOMEN WHO BUILT DDB, 6: Carole Anne Fine

One of the frustrations of putting together these Women Who Built DDB posts is trying to track down their work. The journey starts with scouring old copies of The New York Art Director’s Club Annual and Communication Arts magazines. After that, it’s a desperate flick through the random old books and magazines my wife is forever on at me to get rid of. With a bit of luck I’ll find a bunch of grainy little back and white squares withRead more

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

THE WOMEN WHO BUILT DDB, 1: Phyllis Robinson

‘We used to have more female than male writers back in the 60s.’ Someone in the HR department of DDB NY told me that, about 5 years ago. Occasionally I’ll remember it and wonder whether it’s true, if it was; why it happened and why it changed. I just looked into it; it’s true. In looking into it, something else dawned on me. DDB in the fifties and sixties were, and still are in some quarters, considered the best, mostRead 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

FASHION MUST-HAVES FOR THE COMING SEASON: 3. ACCESS.

Beauty may attract, but it also repels. Look at the impossibly gorgeous, 0% body-fat models in most fashion ads and you’re confronted by how different you are. So rather than the desired response ‘that could be me’, you may think the opposite ‘no way is that me’. It’s like a gang rejecting your membership application in real time. The nuances of how these gangs present themselves is important. A recent documentary showed how Ralph Lauren puts his gang together, and it wasn’t how I’d imagined. For aRead more

THE MOST UNFASHIONABLE FORM OF ADVERTISING?

What was the last product demo you saw? Not on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, they’re all over those, but on tv, billboards or press (does press still exist?). You just don’t see agencies doing them anymore. Odd, because, and I hope I’m not giving away any trade secrets here, the goal of most advertising is to persuade people that the product featured is good. Ideally, REALLY good. So showing it in action, performing well, seems like it might be aRead 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

D&AD&ME.

In 1961, notoriously hot-headed photographer Bob Brooks arrived in London. The advertising scene he stepped into was a very poor relation to the one he’d left in New York. His biggest grievance was it’s annual advertising awards “it was put on by a printer, whose clients were the major agencies, so the ads were often credited as being ‘designed on a group basis”. No names were mentioned, and nobody knew who designed anything.” Rather than except the situation, he gotRead more

YE OLDE ADVERTS.

Before we start, full disclosure: I’m not anti old ads. I quite like them. But weirdly, a surprising number of creatives leaders don’t. At least, they say they don’t in public, I’m sure in private they must have a cheeky flip through the odd One Show annual now and again? They put out phrases next to their profiles like ‘All about the new’, ‘Future facing creative’, ‘Forwards, not backwards’ ‘I never look back’.
 It sounds so cool. Frankly, it makes meRead 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: 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

GREEN BOOKS: Ads 2.

I have a confession to make; not everything on this site is from the loft. Apologies to those of you who feel cheated. I feel such a fraud. The good news is that this post is 100% loft. Not mine, my old partner Mike McKenna’s. I started putting these green books together when Mike and I worked as a team at Publicis, back in the early 90’s. They were our internet. We’d split the cost of the pricey books fromRead more