Tag Archives: Advertising

I [heart] America


There’s been a lot of hullabaloo this past couple of years because of the Cheeto-in-Chief of the good ol’ U S of A.

What with cosying up to dictators and alienating allies he certainly cuts a divisive figure. Unfortunately, this has had a backlash against America in general and its people.

So, to redress the balance, I wanted to write a positive post about some of the things I love about America. After all, one Mango-Mussolini shouldn’t taint the whole country.

In no particular order…

MUSIC

From Elvis Presley to Tom Waits to the Talking Heads. Who could argue that America has produced some of the greatest artists and genres the world has ever seen. Who are your favourites?

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Next up, MOVIES.

When we think of American movies we tend to think of Hollywood blockbusters. But there are so many unbelievable directors and actors. Here are some of my favourites, who are yours?

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As I have a penchant for the Arts, I’m going to pick out a few photographers who have inspired me over the years.

PHOTOGRAPHY

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Marilyn Monroe by Eve Arnold

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Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen

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Vivian Maier

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Ansel Adams

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Cindy Sherman

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Saul Leiter

Understandably, most people couldn’t give a rat’s ass about advertising. But I do, because I worked in it for 30 years. When Doyle, Dane, Bernbach set up shop in the 1960s they revolutionised advertising. They focussed on simple product truths. Their ethos/philosophy permeated continents and generations. Still does. I had the privilege of working for DDB Dublin.

ADVERTISING

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Leading on from advertising we have GRAPHIC DESIGN, and this iconic classic by Milton Glaser for the New York tourist board. which has been ‘parodied’ a trillion times. (Yes, including me.)

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Milton Glaser

Next up, ARTISTS. Again, a multitude to pick from. Here are a couple of my faves.

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Jean Michel Basquiat

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Edward Hopper

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Mary Cassatt

Moving on to something non art related – LANDSCAPE. America has such a diverse landscape, from snow-capped mountains to sun-scorched deserts.

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I’ve always loved CLASSIC CARS, Mercedes, Jaguar, Citroen, Volvo. But I also love American cars for their sheer ostentatiousness.

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I couldn’t write a post about America without including a few WRITERS. Too many to choose from. Here are a few of my heroes who have inspired me over the years. Recommendations anyone?

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What else do I love about America? I really like their ARCHITECTURE. Whether it be a monumental skyscaper or the traditional colonial white-picket-fence style complete with veranda.

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You won’t get very far in the States without some top-notch tucker. What is more quintessentially American than the humble DINER?

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Who says Americans don’t get irony? They make some fantastic COMEDY and have some wonderful comedians. Obviously, you’re not as funny as us Brits. But you’re getting the hang of it. (Benny Hill.)

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There you have it. Have I forgotten anything, anyone? What would you have included?

Obviously, there is one other thing I would like to give credit to. And that is the American people. (Well, only those that didn’t vote Trump.) You’re an innovative and inspiring bunch. Not only that, you saved our asses in two world wars! So, cheers for that.

My, (our), world would be a lot poorer without you.

 

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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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Shame on Sainsbury’s


The new Christmas ad from Sainsbury’s makes a mockery of the sacrifice of so many people during the First World War. It offends me on so many levels.

I didn’t see anyone with frostbite. I didn’t see any bodies on the barbed wire nor any shattered limbs in frozen shell craters. (If you want to see what it was really like in the trenches see my last post.)

This is schmaltz at its worst.

Obviously, it’s an ad that polarises opinion. Some people, like me, hate it for the reasons above. Others love the fact that it is on behalf of the Royal British Legion.

Well, let me tell you – it isn’t.

True, they may be donating all the profits from the sale of their retro chocolate bar to the Legion. (They’ll more than recoup their ‘charitable’ losses with sales of other products.) But, do you think that’s what the Generals down at Sainsbury’s had in mind when they first hatched their Xmas offensive?

Of course they didn’t. It’s just cynical piggy-backing. It was to get as many punters into their supermarkets as humanly possible to buy all their groceries in the run up to Chrimbo.

If, on the other hand, you think Sainbury’s are just being charitable with their advertising budget, then I suggest you go in and only buy the chocolate bar, then get your groceries elsewhere.

Some doubters about the idea of the ad are still raving about it as a ‘beautiful masterpiece’. I don’t even think it’s a particularly well made film. Whilst I can understand why we don’t see rotting horse carcasses or trees splintered by heavy artillery. Nor men screaming from having their entrails bayonetted out into the mud, or mown down in a hail of machine gun fire. There isn’t even a sniff of grime on their faces or uniforms. (Even the Lynx guys have stubble.) They all look like they’ve just returned from the Army Surplus Store in their brand new duds. And where the hell did all the barbed wire go when they came out of the trenches to meet each other!

It certainly isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. Nor do I think it’s beautifully shot. It’s a saccharin, sanitised, cynical piece of tripe that trivialises the horrors of WWI into a Saturday afternoon Disney matinee.

And, yes, the Jerries did win the match. On penalties.

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The Boating Party with Sean Hayes


Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881. By Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The Boating Party is a series of interviews with writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, sculptors, illustrators, designers and the like.

In times of economic hardship, the Arts are usually the first things to be axed. But, in my view, the Arts are one of the most important aspects of our civilisation. Without the arts, we wouldn’t have language or the written word. Without the arts, we have no culture. Without culture, we have no society. Without society, we have no civilisation. And without civilisation, we have anarchy. Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many artists view themselves as rebels to society.

To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers.

And perhaps, most importantly; without the Arts, where’s the creativity that will solve the world’s problems? Including economic and scientific ones?

In this interview, I am delighted to welcome Irish creative director, Sean Hayes.

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Who inspires you?

People who have discerning minds.

 

What inspires you?

A belief that everything is malleable. Nothing is set in stone.

 

What was the last thing that inspired you?

Rupert Sheldrake’s banned TEDx talk on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKHUaNAxsTg – t=1088

 

What makes you unhappy?

Misunderstanding.

 

What makes you happy?

Understanding.

 

What are you reading?

‘Who Owns the Future?’ Jaron Lanier.

 

Who, or what, are you listening to?

The rain.

 

What’s your favourite film?

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

 

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

December 5th 1975. Bob Marley and the Wailers in concert at the Lyceum Theatre in London to witness the recording of one of the greatest live albums ever – Bob Marley and the Wailers LIVE!

 

What frightens you?

People who do not possess discerning minds.

 

What do you do to relax?

I take photographs. It’s a form of meditation for me.

 

What do you do when you’re angry?

Anger is fear in stealth mode. Deal with the fear and the anger vanishes.

 

What can’t you live without?

Oxygen. Family. Friends. In that order.

 

What’s your motto?

Say simple things in unexpected ways.

 

Where is your Utopia?

West Cork, Ireland.

 

If you only had one year to live what would you do?

Spend the year visiting and thanking all the family, friends and folk who have loved and supported me in life and apologize to those where I failed to return their love and support.

 

Up who’s arse would you like to stick a rocket, and why?

Sepp Blatter. (Swiss football administrator who serves as the eighth and current President of FIFA). Blatter represents everything that is perverse with the prevailing corporate culture of winner-take-all. He exudes a deep sense of unquestioning entitlement and is mindlessly corrupt.

 

Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?

Scarlett Johansson.

 

What are you working on at the moment?

Increasing my understanding of the world and everything in it.

 

What is your ambition?

To love and be loved.

 

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

Throw the Internal Combustion Engine onto the ash heap of history. It has stunted the development of cleaner and more sustainable energy sources because the Petrochemical conglomerates make vast fortunes from oil and actively suppress technologies that challenge their hegemony.

 

Which six people would you invite to your boating party?

Elon Musk (Business Magnate, Inventor, Visionary), Rupert Sheldrake (English author, lecturer, and researcher in the field of parapsychology), Scarlett Johansson (Elevator repair person), Graham Hancock (British writer and journalist), Linda Moulton Howe (American investigative journalist and ufologist), Nick Cave (Musician and author).

 

What would be on the menu?

 Ideas.

 

What question would you have liked me to have asked?

Hy-Brazil – a mythical island off the west coast of Ireland – appeared on nautical maps from 1325 until it’s disappearance from seafaring charts around 1865. Why? A great mystery.

 

Thank you, Sean.

To see more of Sean’s work click on any image to go to his Tumblr site.

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Sean Hayes’ biography:

I’m an advertising Creative Director with over 25 years experience of planning, creating and executing marketing campaigns for European, American and Japanese brands. In 2010, I started taking pictures of the world around me with a newly purchased iPhone. I haven’t put it down since. All the images in my gallery have been shot and processed using my smart phone. Preferred subjects to photograph are portraits and landscapes. My photographic work has been exhibited in galleries and exhibitions specialising in mobile photography in Brussels, Milan, Miami, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

I was a runner-up in the Landscape category of the global Mobile Photography Awards 2013 and was awarded 2nd place in the People category of the same competition in 2014.

Links:

http://seanski50.wordpress.com

http://seanmobilephotos.tumblr.com

http://seanmobileportraits.tumblr.com

 

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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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Pitching for Garbage.


I never watch fictional programmes about the ad industry.

They’re usually filled with more obnoxious caricatures than a Gerald Scarfe annual.

But I stumbled across a documentary / reality show on Sky Atlantic called ‘Pitch’.

The concept is very simple: A film crew follows two rival ad agencies round as they prepare to pitch for the same piece of business. They only have a week to conceive and produce the work, so the deadline is tighter than Janet Dickinson’s forehead.

It starts off with the two agencies getting a brief from the client. In this episode, a Waste Management company that turns garbage into renewable energy. And they tasked the agencies with raising awareness of this fact.

Nice brief. I’d like to work on it myself.

One agency was based in NY, called the Ad Store, run by Paul Cappelli, a seasoned veteran with a wheelbarrow full of awards. A small shop whose USP was creativity. The other agency was based in Vegas called SK+G whose main source of clients, surprisingly enough, came from the entertainment sector.

After much chewing of the cud, the Ad Store vet came up with a cracking idea:

Trash Can

What’s so great about that? I hear you cajole.

Well, when you put it with the creative executions it all becomes clear:

What can power a million homes?
Trash Can.

What can save 20 million barrels of oil a year?
Trash Can.

You can see that it has more legs than a LA model agency.

Love it. Very simple. Very clear and very memorable.

Next up, SK+G.

They had Joint Group Creative Directors, one of whom made it his mission to belittle his partner throughout the entire documentary. Not only that, he contradicted his creative partner’s presentation in front of the client.

He even took the opportunity to grass-up his partner to the MD when he’d nipped home to kiss his kids goodnight. (He hadn’t seen his kids all week and was actually coming back to the office.)

I have two kids. And I work in advertising. So I know what it’s like trying to juggle meeting client deadlines and trying to be a good father. Mr Hentges, (the nice GCD), came across as not only a diligent creative director, but a caring father too. Whereas his colleague came across as a self-obsessed, odious cliché.

If political rivalry in front of a client isn’t bad enough, the work was pretty mediocre too: Waste into Wow!

Did I say ‘mediocre’? I meant shit.

They did have some decent individual executions such as: This garbage truck runs on garbage. Very sweet. But the big idea – Waste is Wow. Well, it just isn’t ‘Wow’.

To me, it was a no-brainer. The Ad Store’s “Trash Can” was the clear winner.

After a brief sojourn, the client decided to award the business to SK+G for their Waste is Wow campaign.

Hang on, let me rewind that. Did you say SK+G?

As a creative, you always want to do the best work you possibly can. Not so you can decorate your book or take the long walk at the awards ceremonies, but because you think it’s right. Right for the brief and right for the client. You’re passionate about it.

But what you can’t legislate for, is a client mistaking a smart phone app for a big idea.

That’s just like saying the billboard is the idea rather that what goes inside it.

Still, it made for entertaining viewing. (For me anyway.)

If you’re in the ad industry you probably will too. The Pitch is on Sky Atlantic, Wednesdays at 8.00 p.m.

If you’re not in the ad industry, it will probably confirm your already preconceived notions of what a bunch of dicks ad people really are.

Right, I’m off to vacuum the stairs. Livin’ the dream, people. Livin’ the dream.

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Will work for food…


…And a six figure salary.

Okay, make it a high five figure salary, chuck in an iPhone, MacBook Pro, accommodation (if more than a 50 mile radius from sunny Manchester), health insurance, a car allowance, share options, a seat at the top table, and we’ve got a deal.

Anyone and everyone in the ad industry will be familiar with the concept of pitching for a client’s business.

Nothing wrong with that. Personally, I get a buzz out of it.

But more and more frequently ad agencies are asking creatives to pitch for jobs.

Not satisfied with the contents of your portfolio and character, they are asking suitors to work on fictitious briefs.

Essentially: Try before they buy.

It has happened to me on four occasions.

Twice I’ve been offered the position, once I wasn’t and once I declined to take part.

So a 66.6% success rate in this new form of interview probably isn’t a bad statistic.

But why put anyone through it in the first place?

Do they think I have stolen the entire contents of my portfolio over the past twenty (ahem) years in the industry and that this test will either prove or disprove this fact?

Agencies continually bemoan the fact they have to pitch for business due to the amount of money and resources they consume, so why put potential employees through the same rigmarole?

Let’s look at it from a practical point of view:

If you’re already in a job, where are you going to find the time to spend on this spec brief?

A prospective employer might say that someone hungry for the job will work late into the night. Well, most creatives I know are already doing that in their present jobs.

There’s a world of difference between a Copy Test and producing a full-blown creative presentation across multiple media channels, (the same process and quantity you would produce for an agency pitch) – but single-handed.

(It’s slightly different if you’re a freelancer and can juggle your workload around a tad.)

On the pitch / interview where I didn’t get the job, I reckon I spent a full week over a three week period working on my presentation. Of course, the subconscious is also working on it over the full three weeks.

On the two that I was successful, it was probably about the same. A day’s research, couple of day’s concepts and a couple of day’s pulling it together. (More concepts arriving on the ‘putting it together’ days.)

Typical media tactics were: TV; Posters; Press; DM; Online banners / Pop ups; Microsite; Collateral; Ambient / Guerilla; oh, and of course – an App.

And, to be honest, I quite enjoyed the process. As I said, I love doing pitches. But that’s not the point.

I’ve made a few hires in my time and I didn’t have to get them to answer a brief before I offered them a job. And I haven’t regretted a single one. (In Chris Miller’s case, I offered him the job before he could finish his cup of tea.)

If the CDs / MDs in question are such a poor judge of creativity and character why are they in the job in the first place?

You may say, if I’m that against it, why take part? And you’d be right. I think in the first instance, I needed a job. And second, I think it’s a buyer’s market. There are too many candidates applying for too few positions.

Would I do it again?

I would rather not, but it would depend on who the job was with.

I’d be interested to get other people’s views on this practice. I’m sure there are some CDs and MDs out there who think it’s a great idea.

Now, if it’s dressed up as a freelance gig and money changes hands, that’s a whole different story.

I charge £350 per day, or £1,500 for the full week. That’s a massive £250 discount!

Now, if anyone’s popping out for a sarnie, I’ll have a pastie from Gregg’s.

An Ideal World

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