Category Archives: Strategy

Things for which I am grateful #365/365.


Some folks might think this is a bit of a cheat. I started with my kids and I’m going to finish with them. In my defence, I have two of the little rascals so I’m counting it as one post apiece.

There is nothing more precious to me on this Earth than my two daughters. Anyone who has children will know that something changes inside of you – chemically, biologically – and nothing else seems to matter.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to every parent, and true, the pesky varmints do get on your nerves a lot of the time. And yes, they bicker constantly. And they manage to talk in a stream of consciousness James Joyce would be proud of. But, when all’s said and done, they don’t outweigh all the adorable moments. I simply couldn’t live without them.

It’s been an epic year of blogging. Thank you for sticking by me and I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

Right, I’m going for a lie down.

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 16.32.04

Here are my 365 things that I am grateful for:

1 My daughters

2 Water

3 Poetry

4 Baths

5-7 Notebooks, pens, pencils

8,9 Butterflies and moths

10, 11 Softball and baseball

12 Fresh coffee

13 Sound / masts

14 Indoor toilets

15 Stepping Hill Hospital

16 Birds of Paradise

17 Roget’s thesaurus

18 Mother Earth

19 Clingfilm dispenser

20, 21 Yorkshire pudding and onion gravy

22 Jorge Luis Borges

23 Classic cars

24 Curry

25 Tim Berners Lee

26 Charles Bukowski

27 Yorkshire

28 Shiraz

29 Food

30 Katell Keineg

31 Tao Te Ching

32 A roof over my head

33 Peat fires

34 Street art

35 Friends (as in – mates, not the T.V. show)

36 Wilfred Owen

37 The Penguin Café Orchestra

38 The fry-up

39 Wolves

40 W.B. Yeats

41, 42 Cherry blossom trees and haiku poetry

43 Bread

44 Boules

45 Maps

46 Refuse collectors

47 Candy Chang

48 Sparrows

49 The tomato

50 Studio Ghibli

51 Oliver Jeffers

52 Johannes Gutenberg

53 Tom Waites

54 The cello

55 Mothers’ day

56 The Phoenicians

57, 58 Bacon and brown sauce

59 Tulips

60 Fish and chips

61 Giselle

62 Airfix

63 Firefighters

64 Rain

65 Libraries

66 Raymond Carver

67 Toulouse-Lautrec

68 The Goldfinch

69 Wings of Desire

70 Silence

71 Elizabeth Barrett Browning

72-99 Ireland

100 Talking Heads

101 Sylvia Plath

102 Yorkshire Sculpture Park

103 My mum

104 Modigliani

105 Kurt Vonnegut

106-128 Electricity

129 The pop man

130-147 Comedians/comedy

148 Commando magazine

149 Pastry

150-156 Social media

157 David Bowie

158 Football

159 D-Day

160-194 France

195-230 Novels

231 Graphic Design

232 Viva! Roxy Music

233 – 274 Art

275 Betty Blue

276 Writing

277 Joy Division

278 – 287 Scotland

288 – 324 Italy

325 – 352 Photography

353 Leeds Utd

354 Love

355 Universe

356 Advertising

357 Pan’s Labyrinth

358 – 363 Democracy

364 Miscellaneous

365 My daughters II

If anyone wants to read any of the previous posts simply type the title into the search box on the right. (It’s underneath the ‘topic’ cloud.)

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Things for which I’m grateful #356 – Advertising.


Yes, advertising. Nike,1990s,UK It’s hard to think of an industry more vilified by the general public than advertising. With the possible exceptions of bankers and estate agents. Oh, and insurance companies. We’re all wankers in the public’s eyes. It’s true that I’ve met quite a few charlatans in my time but I’ve also met lots of lovely people whom I admire, respect and have maintained long-lasting friendships. Advertising has given me many happy years coming up with ideas for stuff. Then having them bludgeoned to death by account handlers and clients. I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with some fantastically talented directors, photographers, illustrators, writers and art directors. I’ve also had the good fortune to have gone on the odd exotic TV shoot. come-along-gentelman In my 30 years in the ad industry I reckon I’ve only had three decent jobs out of about – actually, I genuinely can’t remember how many jobs I’ve had. The three best agencies I’ve worked for were BRAHM in Leeds, Owens DDB and Chemistry, (both in Dublin). They probably account for about 10 out of my 30 years in advertising. That’s a long time spent working in crap agencies. Of course, young hipsters will think someone like me is past it. I’ve heard a few digital johnnies bleating on about how traditional advertising doesn’t engage in a dialogue with consumers like online media can. Bollocks. As soon as you get a customer thinking about your ad you are engaging in dialogue. Whether that’s via the medium of television, press or on a billboard. Think_Different_poster_billbernbach Just because you have the capacity for a customer to literally respond to your message on social media doesn’t mean you’ve entered into a dialogue with them. In fact, judging by the mass majority of offer/promotion-based ads on social media, I would argue that this is monologue, not dialogue. The key to a successful engagement with a customer is to have an idea that resonates with what’s going on in their life. Without an idea, you have nothing. And, what digital johnnies lack is the ability and experience to come up with big advertising ideas. Of course, there have been one or two great online campaigns. (Old Spice springs to mind.) But not enough. And ad agencies today need to go back to the old ways of doing things but with today’s media and technology. Is it just me, or is there a dearth of good advertising around? interbrew-sheep-small-51151 Advertising is very simple: A great idea should contain two things: An insight into your target audience and a brand/product truth that will match the consumer insight. For example: If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen.

  1. A) ‘If only everything in life…’ = Life is full of ups and downs (consumer insight).
  2. B) ‘…was as reliable as a Volkswagen’. = If all else fails, you can rely on your Volkswagen. (Product benefit).

A + B =     Ta-dah! (Told you it was simple.) It’s often overcomplicated by people using big words to make themselves look more intelligent who try to portray it as a science. Great ideas come from great propositions. Here are a few straplines from yesteryear, when advertising was great. See how many you can match to their brand. (And they’d all translate brilliantly to online media.)

  1. Probably the best lager in the world.
  2. The world’s favourite airline.
  3. Think different.
  4. I bet he drinks…
  5. Good food costs less at…
  6. It is. Are you?
  7. …refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach.
  8. Australians would give a … for anything else.
  9. Beanz meanz …
  10. The Ultimate Driving Machine.
  11. Just do it.
  12. Vorsprung durch technic
  13. Reassuringly expensive
  14. It’s a new toy every day.
  15. We try harder.
  16. Happiness is a cigar called…
  17. The cream of Manchester.
  18. Hello Tosh, got a…
  19. You know, when you’ve been…
  20. I smoke ‘em, cos my name’s on ‘em.

That doesn’t mean that every ad campaign needs a strapline. (The Economist being a good case in point.) What a great strapline does is encapsulate the client’s strategy, which each individual concept/execution has to fit into for consistency of message. cream-of-manchester   So my advice to any young whippersnappers out there thinking of a career as an art director or writer is, whatever you do, don’t rock the boat. Tip the fucking thing over. There are too many safe-sailor-suits and bland-brand-bosuns as it is. N.B. None of the examples of great work I’ve shown here are mine.

Addendum:

Of the places of work I have really enjoyed working, I would have included TBWA Manchester – a really great team of people and a cracking account to work on. But, as I was only there a wet weekend, it seemed a bit of a stretch to include it. For the all too brief period of time I was there, I enjoyed every minute of it.

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Airfix – #62/365


airfix_big_50

Seeing as though we’re on the cusp of a third world war, I thought it might be interesting to talk about toys that glorify war.

In the olden days, we didn’t have X Boxes or PSPs. We had to make do with eating coal and playing on’t road with plastic figurines for entertainment. I had hundreds, if not thousands, of these tiny Airifx soldiers.

Airfix Mountain Troops

But, unlike the meticulously crafted dioramas that you see in model shop windows, my battlefield was the living room carpet. Cushions for mountain ranges and my mother’s ornaments for barricades. I wiled away many an hour pitting German stormtroopers against American marines. Or Japanese infantry versus British paras. And sometimes it was a free-for-all with Napoleonic cavalry and American Union soldiers thrown in to spice things up a bit.

l_air-s2-02067-9-1-72

My love of war wasn’t limited to reenacting battles – I was also partial to building second world war model aeroplanes too. When I got bored with them, or they got damaged, like when the props or undercarriage fell off, I’d “borrow” my mother’s lighter and set fire to them and throw them out of my bedroom window, imagining them in a dogfight during the Battle of Britain.

Airfix_He111H-20_cover

I thought it might be interesting to do an ad campaign that promotes these “old fashion” toys to a present day audience. What these toys lack in graphic depiction they make up for in the users ability to improvise and use their imagination. Not to mention the necessity to apply strategy – not that prevalent in your average shoot-em-up console game. Games that merely lead the user down a labyrinth of computer code rather than require said user to think creatively.

I used the illustrations that Airfix actually commissioned for their packaging, which I’ve always thought were brilliant, because that is exactly how you imagine it whilst playing.

Now, I know it’s not particularly PC to promote toys that glorify violence, but it was a large part of my childhood during the 60s and 70s and I derived huge amounts of pleasure from it. And I turned out okay, didn’t I?

I can’t hear you…

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A little application required


This is a recruitment campaign I’ve been working on recently for the Careers Service at The University of Manchester which is being rolled out at the moment, both on and offline.

Shot by the wonderful Jonathan Oakes in his Manchester studio using real students, and ably assisted by Anthony Cassell. The shots were styled by the fabulously talented Lisa Westwell.

Special thanks too, go to my clients: Tracey Campbell-Monks and Anne Milligan. (No relation.)

The colours look a bit fruity on here and are better when downloaded.

Photographer: Jonathan Oakes

Stylist: Lisa Westwell

Assistant: Anthony Cassell

Image manipulation: Jonathan Oakes

CAREERS1

CAREERS2

CAREERS3

CAREERS4

CAREERS5

CAREERS6

CAREERS7

CAREERS8

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The University of Manchester – World Firsts


This is a series of World Firsts that The University of Manchester can lay claim to.

I was going to go for a ‘cleverer’ headline. Something along the lines of: Coming first is second nature. However, on reflection, because the achievements are so incredibly brilliant and interesting, I don’t think the headline needs to work that hard. What do you think?

Feel free to click on the images and download the jpgs to see their true colours and read the text. For some reason, the logo looks blue on here, but comes out fine when you save it to your desktop.

Marie Stopes, The University of Manchester, World Firsts,

Marie Stopes

Ernest Rutherford, The University of Manchester,

Ernest Rutherford

Christabel Pankhurst, The University of Manchester,

Christabel Pankhurst

ARTHUR-LEWIS

W. Arthur Lewis

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Are you anti-advertising?


It really hacks me off when people spout on about despising advertising. To be anti-advertising is to be anti-choice.

More than that, it is to be anti the industrial revolution. Anti mass production, anti working class and anti democracy.

It is to deny people the right to possess things that were hitherto just the privilege of the middle and upper classes.

Someone close to me used to hate advertising. It didn’t stop her wearing the interlocking diamante ‘c’s on the side of her sunglasses.

Perhaps my hackles being raised is something to do with having spent the past 30 years plying my trade in the aforementioned ad industry.

Have I ever lied for a client? Not that I can recall.

Have I ever embellished a client’s product or service? Of course I have. That’s my job. But no more than the average person does on a dating website. After all, isn’t it natural to present one’s best side?

Of course, some advertising is misleading. But the clients, and their ad agencies, are invariably hauled over the coals for it. Not to mention alienating the very people they are trying to sell to.

But some advertising is just irritating?

You’re not wrong. I reckon about 95%+ of advertising is rubbish. Then again, 95% of most things are rubbish.

But that shouldn’t stop people trying to earn their corn promoting the toils of their clients’ endeavour.

What we need to do is come up with strategies to cut down on waste. Whether that be packaging, over-consumption or new energies to produce things.

I know one thing for sure; with the advent of the emerging Chinese and Indian economies, consumerism isn’t about to disappear anytime soon. Or would you rather the people of those countries be deprived of the luxuries you and I take for granted?

So, the next time a Chorlton treehugger feels like bleating about their moral high-ground, just remember, you’re only reading your copy of The Guardian because you have the choice to do so.

Oh, and here are some brilliant ads selling us stuff we don’t need. (Like I don’t need beer. Tsk.):

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Perfection


To achieve perfection takes trial and error.

If others are involved in your task, they may see your experimentation as indecision.

Ignore that gnawing urge to placate them for an easier life, and press on with your goal.

Only then, will you hope to attain something that you can be 85 – 90% satisfied with.

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