NOT IN-CAMERA: GILES REVELL

Where did you grow up?
The sleepy town of Sawbridgeworth, it’s on the Hertfordshire and Essex border.

When did you take your first picture?
There was no eureka moment, I inherited my grandfather’s Silver Ilford Sportsman.
silver-ilford-sportsmangiles-revell

I do remember being intrigued by its beauty; a matt silver finish with shiny brown hinged leather case.
I wore it across my waist in my early teens, but had no idea what I was doing with it.
It felt sophisticated, technical, way beyond anything I’d ever come in to contact with at that age.
It was the act of making that I enjoyed, rather than ever believing that I was making anything important.
I liked the idea of editing a scene through the viewfinder.
Most of the time it wasn’t even loaded, film was too expensive.
It was in a time when a roll of film had to last you the whole summer.

What was your first job?
Express fruit & vegetable delivery man.
A white van man 
at 17, straight after passing my driving test.
Deliveries at extraordinarily dangerous speeds, I was compelled to drive as fast as I possibly could on every journey.
I went on to be a geologist, mainly because I wanted a job outside in the landscape.

How did you make the jump from white van man to photography bloke?
Was it a wise move? I tussle with this nightly, I might have had my own van by now.

One thing is for sure; we didn’t operate six month credit schemes before you got paid.
It wasn’t such a jump, photography was becoming an everyday activity.
The geology degree was a brilliant insight into the English landscape and how it was made.
I had aromantic vision of a career roaming the World recording and mapping extreme environments, physical and mental challenges.
I ended up in the gold fields of Western Australia, it was an experience, I was very fit then, surviving the elements as well as a very male dominated high testosterone environment.
But it wasn’t for me.

After a year full of the bullshit of travel I returned to the UK and started applying for jobs as an assistant.

Who did you assist?
Steve Rees gave me my first job, he was a good tutor and generous employer.
Then Bob Elsdale, he was the first photographer to own a Mac in London.
People would visit just to see it, they’d crowd around, scepticle if it would ever take off.
Both good people who showed me the ropes.

ls3 cats-bob-elsdale

(The work above is Bob’s, not 100% sure whether Giles assisted on this job.)

What was the first image someone paid you to produce?
Rubber Plants for a brochure,  a tropical plant rental company paid me 250 quid.
Ludicrous money at the time! I was on £100 a week as a full time assistant.
My first ad job was a series of nudes for a medical insurance company, commissioned by the Marshall brothers at Leagas Delaney.
Just before I startedI vomited with fear.
I had gone from table top still life to a full on big production over night.
I didn’t really know what advertising was, I h’d previously only worked in design.

Who were your photography heroes?
Many.
Henri Cartier Bresson; informative social documentary imagery with an exceptional graphic eye and sense of timing.

jump-henri-cartier-bressontrafalgar-square-henri-cartier-bressonAndrez Kertez, he found beauty in the mundane, presenting it in a very simple reductive way.
fork-andrez-kertezsnow-andrez-kertez
William Klein for his fearless, confrontational portraits, shot on a 35mm lens.
He clearly had built up a rapport with his subjects and tried to capture people from afar in voyeuristic way.
I also think the ease with which he experimented with other media shows an artistic man way ahead of his time.
smoke-veil-william-klein
cinema-william-kleinSebastao Salgado for his social documentary.
The body of work that explored international mining and heavy industry in the developing World is exceptional, highlighting working practices that hadn’t changed since the Industrial Revolution.miners-sebastao-salgadowater-sebastao-salgado
Jeff Wall.
One of my favourite images is a ‘Sudden Gust of Wind’.
T06951_10.jpgIt’s based on an Hokusai painting.
'The Great Wave At Kanagawa' Hokusai.jpgIt took months to construct, the airborne papers have all been placed in post production.
I don’t care how long it took, compositionally it’s brilliant.
milk-jeff-wall

Karl Blossfelt; a botanist with an artists eye.
He made photographs to catalogue plant specimens.
I’m really interested in the interaction of Art and Science.
common-male-fern-karl-blossfeldtmaiden-hair-fern-karl-blossfeldt
The illustrator Haeckal is another example of a body of work born out of a fascination for science. 

I first became aware of your work via Big magazine, did Vince Frost get you going?
Yes. it was a big break.

You come across a handful of people in your working life that are true talents, Vince is one of those.
He is instinctive and trusts in good work, the work comes before the reputation.
We became very good friends and have worked a lot together ever since.
The images were raw, and when combined with letterpress typography made a very bold, confident magazine that everyone wanted to contribute to.
screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-10-32-59-am
Do you prefer tight or open briefs?
It depends what it is.
Commercially I like to work on the best idea whoever has conceived it.
I’ll always give my view on a campaign, it’s up to the agency whether they listen.
I’m a wasted resource when used just as an art worker, but some jobs are like that.piccadilly-circus-london-underground-bmp

What’s the difference between shooting for an ad agency and a design company?
Advertising employs you for your technical ability or aesthetic, in the States they call you a ‘shooter’, which sums up the role.

All of your energy is focused on executing a collective vision, one an agency team has championed for a brand often weeks or months in advance.
You take on the commission with the commitment as if it were your own.
It’s all about the production of the shoot and building a team, the bulk of the thinking has been done for you.
It is a tried and tested model so who am I to criticise, but it but seems a little outdated.

Stronger ideas result from photographers being involved earlier in the process.
There are some talented photographers out there whose creative abilities are underutilised, I’ve noticed a generic quality to a lot of recent photographs, probably as a resulting from countless references found on Google images, I know it helps to sell an idea to a client, but it can limit the imagination of the creatives.
Advertising is fixated with being first, building a story around a technique, but being first today is old news tomorrow.
Designers are out of a different mould, the life span of the work tends to be longer.
Budgets are smaller but their i
deas are ambitious in a different way, the limitations encourage more thought and imagination.
It’s also a relief not to have to spend two days writing a treatment every job you do, to justify your creative credentials.  

The application of images is also more diverse.
I’ve worked on design projects from postage stamps through to huge interior installations.

‘Can you shoot me a face that works upside down as well?’
I can’t think of another photographer I’d ask to do that.
Or one who’d take on that ludicrous challenge
?merrydown-giles-revell-rough-1-%22down%22-01
merry-giles-revell-01

It’s one of the trickiest challenges you’ve ever given me.
But it was such a good idea, all the artists involved in that campaign produced wonderful work.

Your work is more like Art than any commercial photographer I can think of.
Wouldn’t you be far more famous in in that world if you were more pretentious?
Or spelled your name in a more exotic way? Gilles Revelli? Gilmondo Rev-El?
Probably, I think the public warm to an aloof, renegade facade.

You are what you are though.
If you play that role then you have got to sustain it.
I’m hoping that the latest projects will make an impression on the Art world, without having to take on a tempestuous, rockstar persona.
However, I’ve often thought about trying a pseudonym like Sebastian Conti; a new photographic presence in the fashion world.
Try it, but swap that ‘O’ for a ‘U’, it might give you a bit more attitude.
Giles Revell - Fish 2, Dave Dye
Do you think digital technology has helped photography?
Yes, undoubtedly when used intelligently and creatively.

It has allowed quicker workflow and more possibilities creatively.
The draw-back is that there’s this obsession with sharpness.
‘Hyper real’ is one of the most annoying terms attached to imagery at the moment.
I’m excited by imagery that takes away and refines .
Half of the images we value today in the galleries around the World are ‘soft’ by modern-day standards.
The speed that images can be made encourages sloppy practice, multiple versions are made to cover all eventualities, then cobbled together in post-production.
The expectation of how much can be achieved in a single day are being pushed so hard now that photographers are having to cut corners.
I’m excited by modern photography, but I am certain that when film was the dominant medium the whole team were sharper, because there was more at stake.
You had to be confident that when you walked off a shoot with just a few polaroids and half a dozen rolls of film that you’d executed the job.
You didn’t have the luxury of cross-referencing every frame.
Commercial imagery seems creatively very static at present.

The platforms on which we view the digital imagery has evolved beyond any of our expectations.
photography-book-giles-revell
Unlike a lot of commercial photographers, you don’t have a ‘look’ or style?
At first glance I’d agree, but when you look at my work as whole there’s a common thread; the subject matter is revealed minimally, through the use of a line or a plane.
The Port ‘Ten Ten’ cover is a good example, revealing the watch elements through hard shadow and silhouette, the geometry of the plane defined by black.
tenten-cover-giles-revell
It was a lesson to myself of making a composition where every corner of the frame needs to be considered, as well as balancing the proportions of black white and grey.
The great Bauhaus influences played a part in this composition.
Also, I’m interested in the content not the gloss.

Different ideas employ different processes, it means the images have a variety of looks rather than always using the camera optics route.
The common characteristic of the work is it’s stripped back with a definite intension.
The commercial world is obsessed with look and feel, it’s an irritating development over the last few years.
I’m always looking for discoveries and new ways of approaching themes.
Giles Revell - Heals Shaddow 1, Dave DyeYou’re always trying new things, lighting with an estate agents digital ruler, taking portraits with a photo finish camera.
Why? 
It’s not enough just to point off the shelf lights at objects.'Gold Leaf' Giles Revell-01.jpg'Gold Leaf 2' Giles Revell-01.jpg
autumn-leaf-giles-revell-01leaf-2-giles-revell-01flower-giles-revell-01Giles Revell - Pink Squiggle, Dave Dye

Are these photographs or illustrations?
One is photography, the other motion capture.
They’re both about an image developing over time.
100 frames is a collaboration with Ben Koppel to create form from movement.
All the red images are made from the body movement of a dancer, the black version from the movement of a British gymnast training on his floor exercise routine.
The idea was developed for a 2012 Olympic Park proposal, the idea was to create life-size sculptures tracking body movements that would be fabricated in resin.

Giles Revell - Red Squirly Thing, Dave Dye'Blue Car Shape' Giles Revell-01.jpgGiles Revell - Red, Curly, Spiky Thing, Dave Dye
They were printed as 3d sculpture moquettes.
The big red shiny thing, studded with relief, was a commission I made with Matt Painter.
I was asked to make a sculpture of the Manchester United v Barcelona European Cup Final.
I’m not sure I’d choose the aesthetic of this now, but the idea was interesting at the time.
We were given all the data captured as the game unfolded to analyse.
These statistics are used by managers and trainers to assess the performance and tactics of the players,individually and as a team.
Every event, such as a pass, corner, header, shot or goal is logged on a time line, as well as spacially on the pitch.
I decided upon two evolving hoop shapes, representing each 90 minutes that grew over the course of the game.
Each stipple marks an event on the pitch, the largest peaks are the goals. car-bar-giles-revell'Green Car Shaft' Giles Revell-01.jpg
Experimenting is easier today, but I seem to see less of it?
Yes, it’s disappointing and surprising.
Especially in an era where there’s so many opportunities to collaborate using different source material, homogenised though digital formats.
Science / medicine / engineering use incredible methods the gather imagery.
CGI is used widely and is a very powerful tool, but tends to be used in a bland way, as a replication tool mimicking photography and film rather than expressing ideas within its own medium.
Commissioners seem uncomfortable to make imagery from the data and information available to them.
The Man Utd vs Barcelona data sculpture is a good example.
Replication seems dull and needless when there are ways of achieving the real thing through another viewpoint.
Which goes back to my point about style over content.

Giles Revell - Red Stripe 1, Dave DyeGiles Revell - Oil People 2, Dave DyeThey say copying is the highest form of flattery, you must feel great, you’re flattered on a regular basis? 
I used to feel that way in the early days.
Plagiarism is the one aspect of the business that’s made me think seriously about a different career.

There is a  lack of integrity in the business.
Ideas and methods of working are my professional identity and security.
I can spend months developing a project or idea, to then discover it’s been infused into the work flow of others can be demoralising.
Not to say financially bruising.
Agencies, magazines and photographers are all guilty, it’s a symptom of the speed with which we all have to deliver.
Images are now referenced rather than conceived.
Consequently, new projects need to be kept under wraps until a suitably scaled, appropriate project surfaces, or better still, released as an exhibition, which would mark the date and occasion to the work.
Without such launches images are copied wherever they are seen and the origin is lost or hijacked. It’d be very easy to slip into a rant at this point, it may sound like sour grapes, but I crave a  workplace surrounded by genuinely talented people.

What makes up a good picture?
I read an article a decade or so ago that crudely broke it down into four ingredients;

1.   Image needs to be flawlessly beautiful, regardless of message.

2.  Image should be shocking, controversial or taboo.

3.  Image should be either informative, telling us something we don’t know or show us something we thought we knew, but with a new perspective.

4. Image should have an extraordinary narrative or back story. 
In 20 years I‘ve come close on a couple of occasions where I’ve made something that I’m still happy to look at ten years later.
But it’s rare that you achieve more than one of these in any image, when you do, interesting work is made.
 

What image are you most proud of?
I guess my finest moments would be 
The Insect Techtonic Project, also known as the ‘Fabulous Beasts Show’.
It was the summer show at the Natural History Museum and is now in their and the V&A’s permanent collections. 
Giles Revell - Insect, Dave Dye'Bug 4' Giles Revell-01.jpgGiles Revell - Fish, Dave Dye
Giles Revell - Fly, Dave Dye

Also, the recent Battlefield Poppies stamp.
It was part of the Royal Mail  Ww1 Centenary series, it’s out now. 
stamp-giles-revell


ww1-1916-battlefield-poppy-stamp-giles-revellww1-1916-battlefield-poppy-stamp-giles-revell
What the hell are these stripes things?
It’s a bouquet that’s broken down into petals, then distributed over time.
Oh yeah!Giles Revell - Colour Bars, Dave DyeGiles Revell - Colour Bars 2, Dave Dye'Stripey 4' Giles Revell-01.jpg

How did you start your collaborations with Matt Willey?
We met when he was running the Frost London office, he was designing the magazine Zembla with Vince Frost and Dan Crowe.
Dan and Matt went on to set up Port magazine, followed a couple of years ago by Avaunt.
We used to The Kings Head in Clerkenwell regularly, a special pub, for our enthusiastic conversations about topics we wanted to explore, ‘At This Rate’ was the first project we did together, it came out of those conversations.breathe-giles-revellGiles Revell - Leaf 2060, Dave Dye

The idea was to produce a booklet and poster illustrating the rapid destruction of the rainforests.
It was a simple set of timings from every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every month, every year with corresponding area of loss in that time.
They are an alarming set of statistics; every year we lose an area three times the size of Sri Lanka. We produced and sold them to raise funds for the Rainforest Action Network Organisation.
Giles Revell - Leaf 2, Dave Dye
The Photofit project was was another that came from those King’s Head conversations, very rewarding.
It was about identity and how you see yourself, most of us observe ourselves everyday for at least two minutes.
We were curious about how people would make an image of themselves from memory, without using a mirror.Giles Revell - Photofit 4, Dave Dye
Making drawings of oneself alienates those that are not artistic, so we decided to democratise the process by using a police photofit kit.
These were used in the 1970s in criminal cases to build a picture of a suspect for posters and news papers.

Each kit is extremely tactile, made up of 100 or so printed strips of images of eye, mouth, nose, hair and face shapes to select from.
That finally came together as a photographic montage in a perspex frame. Giles Revell - Photofit 1, Dave Dye
A broad demographic were gathered with each participant taking around 45 mins to make their portrait, accompanied by an interview.
The results were fascinating.
The physiological comparison was immediate, yet some of the participants revealed a more emotional response than they’d revealed in their interview.
Some picked a more youthful version of themselves, when they were at their physical peak.
Some had suffered trauma and were dealing with their new lives, others had clearly spent a lot more than two minutes in front of the mirror every day, marking every mole or line with pin point accuracy.
Giles Revell - Photofit 2, Dave DyeI think t
he project was successful because we had designed a democratic framework for the participants to express their own vision of themselves, without any intervention or bias.
It was published in the Guardian, we also repeated the project in Canada for the Walrus magazine.
Giles Revell - Photofit 3, Dave Dye
Matt’s a great talent, he’s in America now, designing the New York Times Magazine.
Giles Revell - New York Times Cover, Dave Dyechanel-giles-revell-01avant-falling-man-giles-revell
What photographers do you admire today?
I don’t tend to follow photography closely.
Having said that, I was blown away by the William Klein show at the Tate last year.
Photography meeting design and film and social documentary.red-x-william-kleinyellow-william-kleinboy-with-gun-william-klein-1955
Also, Tim Hethrington, who lost his life in Libya in 2011.
He was an special man, regardless of the photographs that he took.

He left an incredible body work from conflict zones, not only the wars, but the aftermath, which few photographers would cover, most would move on to the next conflict.
A couple of years ago I watched an astonishing BBC4 documentary about his life and achievements, it reduced me to tears. mid-battle-tim-heatheringtonsoldier-at-war-tim-heatheringtonburning-tank-tim-heatheringtonI love your new Shots front cover, any retouching involved?
shots-cover-giles-revell-01
This image is part of a large body of work that is about breaking down form and concentrating on colour alone.
How it’s made isn’t important as long as it’s engaging.
Each block of colour is accurate, sample by hand and accurate to the original flower.
The leaves are similar in that they attempt to look at the 
palette of a specific Acer tree in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.
The black and white  accompanying image of a Lily and Helibora were made with the opposite intension; to look at form alone.
flower-giles-revell-01flower-2-giles-revell-01Giles Revell - Flowers:Black, Dave Dye
Thanks Giles, by the way, love the new tests.
Thanks, the work is becoming more minimal over the years often, crossing over into graphics.
Giles Revell-07.jpgGiles Revell-03.jpgGiles Revell-02.jpgGiles Revell-01.jpg

Andy McLeod Interview.

 DAVE: Why advertising?
ANDY: I was quite quick tongued, bright at school, without being very academically gifted or driven.
I cared about ‘stuff’ in general, zeitgeisty stuff; trends, tribes, what was cool what wasn’t, what was funny what wasn’t.
I liked art and English at school and not much else.
Got not very good A-level grades, which led me to Bristol Polytechnic to do a two year course in Business studies with advertising.
The advertising bit of it was 1 hour a week with a guy who had obviously worked at a printers or something so it was all about type and copper rollers and stuff like that, which didn’t seem very relevant but did leave me thinking about the creative side of advertising.
Also I met a mate on the same course who kept talking about how he was going to leave the course and do a D&AD course – Davie Hieatt, who remains a top bloke.

 DAVE: What did Hounslow College teach you?
ANDY:
So Hounslow was at the time considered the second best (out of two) courses teaching you how to get an advertising portfolio together.
I did a copy test thing for Watford (no.1) – do an anti smoking storyboard, how would you describe toast to a martian, that kind of thing – and enjoyed it.
Evidently more than they did because I didn’t get in.

Which actually made me realize I REALLY had wanted to get in, and was left a bit stung by it. My first real taste of putting your soul out there for others to criticize which is what its all about after all.
So I got into Hounslow. Where Dave Morris was busy making sure his course became the number one. He made a lot of us out and about in the industry.

 DAVE: You met your partner of the next 20 years there. Love at first sight?
ANDY: Not really no, but we kind got pushed together by dint of the usual merry go round of copywriter art director couplings and recouplings.
But after a couple of projects it felt right. We both meant it.

DAVE: Which agencies didn’t you get jobs at?
ANDY: All the best ones. But we learnt from very good people when we were taking our book round them.

 DAVE: If you’d had a magic genie who could’ve granted you a wish to have a job in any agency of your choice, where would you have chosen?
ANDY: Well initially GGT; they were our Shangri La, the holy grail. Creatives at GGT in ’87, ’88 were like Gods to us eager students, or premier league footballers with razor sharp brains. Walking around in socks eating toast being brilliant.

DAVE: Who did you want to be; Trott? Webster? The spiky haired one from Kajagoogoo?
ANDY: I wanted to be any of the GGT creatives, or Chris Palmer, Mark Denton, or Tom Carty or Walter Campbell.
We were in awe of them, but they took time in their evenings to slag our book off when they could’ve done something more interesting.
We learnt so much from them.

DAVE: You’re offered a job at a new third wave agency Butterfield Day Devito Hockney.
ANDY: Kind of.
DAVE: There’s a previso.  You’re told ‘You’re one of two teams we’re taking on, but we’ll let go of the second best one in three months’.
A pressurised start?
ANDY: Yes, but brilliant. And no harder than getting anywhere near an agency in the year or so before; that taking your book round, changing it, going back, getting rebuffed, going again- that makes you or breaks you, doesn’t it? Even before that, 6 months into the college course, you knew the casualties would be heavy, that most of the class were going to be crucified out there.Andy McLeod, UviStat 'Children' BDDH Andy McLeod, UviStat 'Woman' BDDH.jpg
DAVE: Derek Day trained some great people. What did he teach you?
ANDY: He taught me intelligent writing, thoughtful thoughts, and go go go again.Andy McLeod, Honda 'Measure' BDDH-01Andy McLeod, IPA 'Cards', BDDH-01Andy McLeod, ITV 'Doomed' Radio. BDDH-01Andy McLeod, Thames 'Darts', BDDH-01DAVE: Why leave for DFGW?
ANDY: We loved Dave Waters and Paul Grubb, who had gone from GGT to start DFGW. We had idolised them since those days, and couldn’t resist.

DAVE: What was the difference between BDDH and DFGW?
ANDY: We learnt how to write ads at BDDH, we learnt about the job, the whole thing.
At DFGW we learnt how to do TV.

DAVE: What did you learn from my Emirates stadium neighbour Dave Waters?
ANDY: How fun and silliness are absolutely viable tools to make powerful advertising.
The economic value of fun and sillines.

DAVE: What did you learn from Grubby?
ANDY: Endlines.
Short form writing.
Grubby was known as the king of the end line.
I can’t think of an accolade I’d rather have.

Andy McLeod, 'Taxi'
DAVE: You reluctantly leave DFGW to go to a better agency, BMP/DDB?
ANDY: Reluctant because we loved working for Dave and Grubby.
But BMP was premier league, with a heritage of great work.
And we had to do it.
Andy McCleod, Schweppes 'Non', BMP:DDB.DAVE: Pre-match nerves on your first day?
ANDY: Of course. They had a strong squad.

DAVE: I joined BMP/DDB a few months later and my leaving card from Leagas Delaney said ‘Goodbye’ on the outside, and on the inside  ‘…to awards’.
At the time BMP/DDB was seen as quality, but slow and research dominated.
How did you find it?
ANDY: That probably says more about Leagas Delaney than anything else.
I’m sure you remember every single (admittedly brilliant) press ad that came out of Leagas. And there were thousands of them.
But what people in the real world remember is Cresta bear, ‘Watch out there’s a Humphrey about’, the Honey Monster.
I seem to remember Webster saying no research had ever made his ads worse, only better.Andy McLeod, London Trnaspot 'Out Of Your way', BMP:DDB Andy McLeod, London Trnaspot 'Eros', BMP:DDB
DAVE:  You told me recently that you were only there two years.
That’s astonishing, you did a mountain of work?
ANDY: Thanks. I think it was 2.5 years. But not sure._522_5_b4473ff856414235d1b18c35c9ded53b Andy McLeod, Labour 'Laurel & Hardy'DAVE: Did you work with John Webster?
ANDY: Yes, in our second week we presented a Walkers TV spot to him. Webster had started the Gary Lineker campaign a year or so before I think?
We wrote one which had Cantona doing his Crystal Palace kung fu kick (he’d executed it that season), but it was on a crisp-eating Linekar in the crowd.
I thought is was brilliant. When I’d finished reading it to him, he laughed (so far so good), smiled broadly (yes, yes), and said “it’s not just wrong, it’s a thousand percent wrong”.
We walked back down the long corridor and nearly kept walking back to DFGW.



DAVE: Everyone is a bit anxious until they ‘get something good out’, What piece of work settled you in at BMP?
ANDY: We did a Unison ad about public service cuts. Something like “come to a demonstration in the park, just past the old school, by the closed down hospital”.
And we did a party political broadcast for the labour party. John Major’s Pork Pie factory.
And a campaign on the light boards at piccadilly circus; watch out Ken Clarke operating in this area.Andy McLeod, Labour 'Wallets' Piccadilly Circus, BMP:DDB
DAVE: You managed to get the Simpsons to appear in a Doritos ad, ‘Doh!-ritos’, That should’ve been great shouldn’t it?
ANDY: Yes it could’ve been.
Things don’t always go brilliantly though. I think the core idea of Doh!ritos was a good one. Ambitious. But, you know, it just ended up being a bit so-so.
One thing I remember though is it was based around Homer in the nuclear power plant, and we only got clearance from the BACC if we agreed to stop running the ad if there was a nuclear war or a core meltdown in the UK. Erm, yeah, ok.

DAVE: You’re a bit like Marmite Andy.
Twenty years ago that would’ve meant you’re black and gooey, but thanks to you and Rich, people know it means polarising.
Was there resistance to the idea in the beginning?
ANDY: The brief was nothing to do with that, it was still all about my mate Marmite and kids and soldiers of toast and growing up and stuff.
But Rich loved it and I hated it, and it just seemed to us the most polarizing thing on the planet, and had to be useful as a property.
My bravest ever client.
Skoda U.K. were brave, but this lady was something else, hats off to her.

We launched with two 30 second ads; one was ‘my mate marmite’ to that tune, with people loving it, and the jar at the end with the “my mate” logo.
The other was ’I hate marmite’ sung to that tune, with people spitting it out and stuff, and the jar at the end with an “I hate” logo.
She cried on the shoot for the second one, but still had the balls to do it.
I hope she’s as proud of starting that ball rolling as I am.

And no, Dave, I am not like Marmite; everyone loves me.Andy McCleod, Marmite 'Honk if' 48, BMP:DDB. Andy McCleod, Marmite 'You'll honk' 48, BMP:DDB.DAVE: I’ve always thought it was a shame the ‘Use your vote’ campaign didn’t have major backing to run up and down the country, it’s one of the few political campaigns that makes me want to vote.
ANDY: Thanks.

Andy McLeod1490-01 Andy McLeod14ppp-01 Andy McLeod, M-01

DAVE: You reluctantly set up Fallon?
ANDY: Yes, at BMP we got a black pencil (back when they meant quite a fucking lot not absolutely fuck all like now) for a Doritos idents campaign.
And Tony Cox, our creative director, put his head round the office door and said, smiling “what you going to do next year boys?”, then walked out.

DAVE: Scary?
ANDY: Scary but the best decision we ever made. And it wasn’t that we were reluctant, that’s a bit misleading. It’s just that leaving your hardly fought for comfort zone thing, you know? The deep sigh when you know you have to keep moving on to the next thing. It’s not reluctance, it’s just the realisation that there is never time to bask, no wallowing. Clean your kit then straight back to the battle.
Starting the London version of Fallon McElligott was a huge leap of faith for all of us; Michael Wall and Robert Senior knew each other very well, and they knew Laurence Green a bit. Rich and I had never met any of them.
It could have been a disaster.
In fact as far as we could tell lots of people thought it would be.
The usual industry naysayers gave us about 6 months I think.

DAVE: Were Fallon McElligott a big influence?
ANDY: They were great. Really supportive, without being too constraining; they let us make our mistakes and learn by them.
Pat Fallon was a real mentor to all of us.

DAVE: How did you work in the same room as Rich for twenty years?
Let me rephrase that; how did you manage to work with the same creative partner for twenty years?
ANDY: We’d have killed each other apart from the fact that we loved the work we kept producing together.

Andy McLeod, 'Life After Divorce' Campaign article-01
Andy McLeod, Timex 'We've checked', Fallon-01
DAVE: When I set up DHM our schtick was all about truth, ‘truth cuts through’, ‘truth endures’, ‘it’s the age of truth’.
Compiling your stuff here I can see truth was equally important to Fallon London; Skoda, Umbro, Ben & Jerry’s etc.
But, perhaps sensibly, you didn’t bang on about it?
ANDY: We probably did bang on about, I think we are all told we have to have a thing by campaign etc, and we all walk around talking in sound bites for the next ten years.Andy McLeod, Umbro 'Sister', Fallon-01 Andy McLeod, Umbro 'We don't make', Fallon-01Andy McLeod, Skoda '2 logos', Fallon-01

 Skoda_’Motor_Show’

Andy McLeod, Fallon 'Skoda'
DAVE: You lucked out by landing the planet’s best Head of TV very early on? (It says here)
ANDY: Yes we did, she would talk about interesting new directors, and how to make work better, not about where the new place for lunch was.
She was also the world’s greatest Richard and Andy wrangler.

Lee_Jeans_’Bottoms’

DAVE: What did you look for in the scripts and scraps of paper teams handed over for you to creative direct?
ANDY: A truth, a difference, an ambition.

DAVE: Your house is on fire, you can only save one of your ads. Which is it?
ANDY:
Fuck the ads, let’s go.

DAVE: Okaaaay, what’s your favourite ad you’ve done?
ANDY: I’m very proud of Marmite “love it or hate it” being in the country’s vernacular.

DAVE: Your work is very direct. Has ‘direct’ gone out of fashion?
ANDY: Good has gone out of fashion.

DAVE: Which ads make you get all irritable with envy?
ANDY: The ones that are better than the programmes they’re shown in.

DAVE: What’s been the biggest surprise since you switched to directing?
ANDY: I didn’t think it would be quite so different, and in a way it isn’t – everyone’s looking at the same piece of paper albeit from different sides – but going from the big Fallon family, with lots of structure and back up, to the far more exposed world of little old self employed me waiting for a nice script was quite a jolt. I love it obviously, but the pace is very different.

DAVE: Who influences your work today?
ANDY: Everyone and everything. It can’t be about this style or that method. It has to be the right thing for the project in hand. I don’t want a house style, I want whatever is perfect for the idea in front of me, to make the spot as great for that particular idea as it can be. Really I’m just doing what I always did; it used to be all about trying to write absolutely the exact right idea for a brand. And now it’s about trying to direct in absolutely the exact right way for a particular script.

 

 

Budweiser

budweiser-labels-original-57492
This was a very popular ad when I turned up at Bishopsbridge Road.
When the client asked for more they were told the cupboard was bare, it was a one off.
Sean and I were briefed to create a campaign to deal with the rise of the new fangled beers that were popping up in the more fashionable bars.
We needed to run ads in the Face, Wallpaper and ID to talk to the fashionistas, opinion formers, hipsters or twats, whatever they’re called?
August Busch III and his gang wanted to really stick it to those newbies and say something like: ‘They’re kids, wet behind the ears, we’ve been making beer for over a hundred years, so we’re really good at it now.”
Account Man: “Heritage? In THOSE publications?”
Client: “But that’s the main difference between us and all these new lagers.”
Planning: “Nothing is less cool than banging on about being old, it’s so worthy and dull. We need a hip message to talk to hip people, and heritage isn’t hip.”
So the planners and client got into some kind of Mexican stand-off.
This was one of my bug bears at BMP, the planners were often too smart to say the obvious, they felt it was their job to turn the obvious into something ‘interesting’, so that the creatives could create.
A noble cause, but sometimes it would mean  ‘15% off Volkswagen Beetles’ becomes ‘The sixties is now even more attainable’.
Creative :Why are the sixties now even more attainable? Oh… because there’s 15% off Volkswagens Beetles …I get it…can’t we just say that?’
I’d think, just give us the most motivating thing to say and let us worry about whether it’s interesting, it’s what we’re paid for, if heritage makes people question buying those new beers,  let’s make heritage interesting. (It doesn’t have to be screeds of worthy copy banging on about the founders and their philosophy.)

First,  we thought of that old comedy staple, ‘she’s so old that… (fill in the crazy stone-age/prehistoric/Elizabethan reference of  choice.)

Then we thought: ‘America is virtually brand new’, hardly anything existed when Budweiser started, no Empire State Building, no Las Vegas, no Statue of Liberty.
Almost everything we associate with the U.S. didn’t exist when old Adolphus Busch started; 1876. (Yes, ok, I’ve read Wikipedia.)

Let’s try that in pictures:
Green book 28
We liked it, but worried that simply showing things that weren’t there might be a bit like the ‘Prohibition’ ad.

So what else was different back then?
Meanings! A Big Mac didn’t exist…it probably meant… a large bloke called Mac:
Green book 30

Any other ways we can slice this?
What about things that looked different a hundred years ago: ie; John Wayne wouldn’t have been so tall, he’d be tiny, in fact he’d resemble a tadpole.
We mocked them up.
Running the pictures left to right felt a bit traditional, so I ran them down the left hand side of the gutter, hipsters love the kind of shit.
We’ve got a bottle shot, we’ve got the word ‘Budweiser’ really big, do we really need a logo and pack shot? No, not if we want to look cool, and what’s less cool than desperately trying to flog your wares?
Budweiser001
The Estate of John Wayne didn’t want him portrayed as a sperm, (perhaps because he’d effectively be nude?)

Budweiser Roughs001
The Estate of Bob Hope didn’t want him portrayed as a sperm either. (He’s English anyway, isn’t he?)

Budweiser003
The two car companies didn’t want to  be associated with alcohol.

Budweiser004
The two American Football teams passed.

Budweiser005
That complete clown Ronald McDonald said ‘No!”

Budweiser006
Passed-their-sell-by date disco group also said no.

Which left us with these three ads.
To break up the look of them, I gave each a different colour bias: greeny, browny and yellowy, to get technical about it.
Also, Dave Wakefield picked fonts that related to the date in each ad.
(Although he’s possibly the only guy in the country who would appreciate that detail.)
Budweiser002
Budweiser008 budweiser-empire-state-original-47438Budweiser007
They went down really well.
They should’ve run for a number of years, but unfortunately Budweiser got obsessed with ‘Born on dates’, when their beer was first bottled.
What a terrible brief, is anyone worried they are drinking stale beer from a freshly opened bottle? It’s answering a problem people don’t have.
So we had to switch tack and start letting people know when their beer was born.
We got Platon to shoot them, they’re not bad, but not nearly as good.
Budweiser001 Budweiser002 Budweiser003 Budweiser004 Budweiser006 Budweiser005

Volkswagen Sharan X 2

BRIEF: Dads sometimes need time alone, The Volkswagen Sharan’s roomy interior
is perfect for them to enjoy a bit of “me time”.
(The Sharan was essentially a transit van with seats welded into the back and windows
cut out of the sides.)
A CD’s job isn’t to just oversee the creative work, they are a conduit between the creative and other departments.
So if a brief comes in that you don’t think you can turn into credible creative work, it’s your job to flag it up.
I don’t recall whether Sean or I challenged the brief, it was the first we had to CD when we arrived BMP/DDB, but we should have.
Sean is the consummate Creative, he figures it’s his job to turn a brief into good creative work, he can execute anything – “Shoes you can eat? Cool, when do you need it by?”
I’m a bit more logical, if I’m trying to sell something it’s as though I have to walk into a big room filled with suspicious people, and convince them I have a good product.
So if what I’m given to say doesn’t sound credible, I worry I might get laughed out of the room.

The Sharan brief was given to a team, a good team, and they were given two weeks.
They went right up to the wire, the night before the meeting, then came in and said “Couldn’t really think of anything…Soz.”
Only two weeks before we were at Leagas Delaney, where you’d be given a few days and “Soz” wasn’t an option.
You had to deliver creative work, meetings just weren’t cancelled due to creative work not being created. (It turned out that cancelling meetings due to the brief not being cracked was common at BMP/DDB, and probably resulted in better creative, we just hadn’t acclimatised yet.)
Anyhow, we stayed until about midnight “writing our way out of the problem”, as Tim Delaney used to say.

We produced this campaign:
VW Sharan Tip LR

VW Sharan Woods LR

VW Sharan Pebbles LR

VW Sharan Questionnaire LR

The ads were quite nice and even picked up a few awards, but the issue was the strategy, it was… was…what’s that planning term? Bollocks.
Nobody really wanted to drive around alone and luxuriate in the roomy interior of a glorified van.
People bought them because they had kids, and kids come with lots and lots of stuff.

The following year the brief came in again.
This time with an interesting insight; People traded down from very expensive cars to a Sharan because they felt like they were giving something to their children, and they quite liked being seen as people who put their children’s needs before their own.
(Also, they planned to trade straight back up to a good car the minute the kids were old enough not to need so much equipment.)
Now that sounds true, different and very Volkswagen – honest and self deprecating.
Sean and I were both going through the new Dad bit, so it struck a chord.

We listed all the things we’d given up or changed for the sake of our children – our music for their inane nursery rhyme cds, Tarrantino’s new film for a five hour Teletubbies marathons, etc.
It was a big list.

We translated it directly into an idea:
Volkswagen scamp-03
It was thought to be strong on empathy, but the idea was not quite clear enough.

We tinkered a bit and did these:
Volkswagen scamp-02

Volkswagen scamp-04

Volkswagen scamp-01
The client liked and and bought them.
Art direction issue; They look like a scrappy mess, too many bits.

We needed to bring some order and also differentiate one side from the other.
The ‘rose tinted’ view of the world was rose tinted, the truthful view of the world was made to look more Volkswageny – black and white.
Volkswagen_2

Volkswagen_3

Volkswagen_1
They were shot, made and supplied to magazines.
At the eleventh hour the client got cold feet and pulled them, they worried they were underselling the car.
A replacement campaign celebrated the Sharan’s “hidden power”, eg. A shark smoking a pipe.
Strategically that’s…now what’s that technical term planners use?