WHAT I LIKED before I knew what I was SUPPOSED TO LIKE.

I read this psychologist’s theory once; everything we say we say to impress others. Everything. Like that, me starting this blog by quoting some psychologist’s theory in an effort to come across all intelligent. If it’s true, it could explain why asking people to name their favourite ads becomes an exercise in creating a cool, intelligent persona. You’ll can watch this live if you’re on an awards jury. This year there will be a lot of jurors positioning themselves asRead 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

THE WOMEN WHO BUILT DDB, 8: The Copywriters

‘Truly original creative work doesn’t tend to win awards.’ – John Hegarty. He’s right of course, (he is, after all, John Hegarty). It not only means that great work didn’t get the recognition it deserved back in the day, it means it’s not on the record for people like me to check today. Because awards annuals are the only reliable place to check who did what when. I’ve grouped the people in this post because they had far fewer entriesRead 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, 5: Lore Parker

‘What was the most effective headline I ever wrote? ‘Dear Mrs Robinson’. Without a scrap of work to show, Lore Parker’s letter to Phyllis Robinson landed her a job as copywriter in the best ad agency on the planet. She stayed nearly thirty years. As with the subjects with all of these posts, the work feature is just a fraction of their output. So although I wish I could unearth more of her work, Lore’s talk on what it’s likeRead 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

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: 4. A RIBBON.

It doesn’t have to be a ribbon. Could be anything really – a pattern, shape, lemon, hedgehog, just something visual associated with your brand. It’s beyond a logo. It should run through your communications like the name of a seaside town through a stick of rock. Not appearing alongside it, but informing what ‘it’ is. Why? It increases your chances of your messages being remembered as yours. The boffins at the Ehrenburg Institute call them ‘Distinctive Assets’. The bottle saysRead 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

FASHION MUST-HAVES FOR THE COMING SEASON: 2. FAME.

Streaming killed Blockbuster. iPhones killed Nokia. What killed Gap? I know, I know, technically they’re not dead, but boy are they diminished. Back in the day, everyone I knew had something with Gap written on it in their wardrobe. Not any more. Did they just happen to be in the right place at the right time? Or maybe it was their advertising? Put simply; when ran good ads they were successful when they didn’t they weren’t. I realise that’s notRead more

FASHION MUST-HAVES FOR THE COMING SEASON: 1. A CONSCIENCE.

I hated this campaign. It didn’t follow any of the rules we were supposed to follow at the time. It didn’t focus on something uniquely Benetton. (History, products, ingredients, process, etc.) It didn’t even attempt to persuade anyone their products were better than the competition. And frankly, it didn’t seem very clever. It felt like a generic solution that just happened to have a Benetton logo stuck to it. In retrospect, I was wrong. It wasn’t generic, it shone 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

PODCAST: RICK SITTIG

Many of you won’t recognise that name. You won’t find it attached to tweets his latest ‘hot’ campaign, or next to a picture of his latest lunch; he doesn’t do social media. You won’t find his agency in any new business tables; they only handle three clients at a time, so tend to have long client relationships. You won’t find their scripts in any production companies; they direct them in-house. This is because, when, 23 years ago, the goal forRead 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

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: 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