Tag Archives: ddb

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…


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?




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?





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



Marilyn Monroe by Eve Arnold


Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen


Vivian Maier


Ansel Adams


Cindy Sherman


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.



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.)


Milton Glaser

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


Jean Michel Basquiat


Edward Hopper


Mary Cassatt

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




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





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?






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.




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


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.)





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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Thought Different – RIP Steve Jobs

Bill Bernbach revolutionized the ad industry from the inside back in the 60s.

Steve Jobs revolutionized it from the outside in the 90s. (Depending on where in the globe you were plying your trade.) In Scotland, they think an Apple Mac is a new dessert at McDonald’s.

Admittedly, Bernbach changed the way we think, Jobs changed the way we do.

But our industry has never been the same since. I doubt there are many art directors and writers, (not to mention designers), who don’t have a Mac on their desk or in their bag.

Ask anyone who owns a Mac and they’ll tell you they’ll never touch a PC again.

They just work, better.

Not content with revolutionizing the advertising and design industry, he also set about working his magic on the music and telecommunications industries too.

Tell me, how did we live without our iPhones?

Here are a couple of ads paying homage to Steve Jobs. I’ve selected these because they are my favourites. But you can see more here:


Agency: Bang In The Middle, Guraon, India.

Agency: DDB Dubai, UAE.

If you’re not in the ad industry and you’re reading this, then you might not ‘get’ the ‘Thought Different’ homage to Jobs. It is based on an ad campaign which was about “crazy people” who thought differently.

Interestingly, if they made this TV ad today, Steve Jobs would be in it.

Apparently, Steve Jobs is doing the VO in this version. (Later to be revoiced by Richard Dreyfuss.)

I don’t know Steve Jobs, so I’m pretty sure, like the rest of us, he has a few skeletons in the cupboard. Some scarier than others. And I’m also pretty sure that there are quite a lot of other unsung people at Apple who have contributed to the company’s meteoric rise to world domination. But… let’s let the poor fella go cold before we start vilifying him.

Like it or not, Steve Jobs was a visionary.


Filed under Advertising, Brand, Cross of Iron, Design, Digital, Ideas, Inspiration, Music

The Art of the 48 sheet poster

Addendum bit:

The original post is below, but here is the proof I’ve been searching for. The offending VW ad. This is a DPS version rather than the 48 sheet I was banging on about. The only difference between the two is the addition of some body copy.

Cross of Iron? Most definitely not.
Creative Court Martial? Get the blindfolds out.

What were they thinking? Obviously not a lot.

Original post:

I’ve been searching Google for a pic I wanted to show you of an ad I abhor. But I haven’t come up trumps.

Then I thought, it doesn’t really matter if I don’t have a copy of it as it is so mind-numbingly dull, I could describe it to you.

The only problem I’ve been wrestling with is that it was done by one of the greatest ad agencies in the world for one of the greatest brands in the world.

Agency: DDB
Client: Volkswagen
Brand: New Golf Cabriolet

Now let’s start by saying: I love DDB.
I also love Volkswagen.

And I count myself extremely fortunate to have worked on the latter while I was at the former.

The reason this execution has got me so vexed is that I think both brands deserve better.

VW = Great advertising.
DDB = The pioneers of modern day advertising.

In fact, DDB pioneered the industry on brands like Volkswagen in the 60s.

So, what is this blot on the landscape that has offended me so?

Imagine an oblong. (Or rectangle, if you’re so inclined.)
Imagine said oblong in a landscape format.
Imagine this oblong is outside.
Beside a road.
It is made up of 48 sheets of paper. (Actually, it isn’t, it’s 12 what with better printing technology and all that, but the name has just stuck.)
On these 48 (12) pieces of paper is a photograph of a red Golf Cabriolet in front of a nondescript piece of modern architecture.
It’s the sort of picture you might find in a brochure for a new Golf Cabriolet.
It has some words written on it.
We call them: a headline.

Headline: The New Golf Cabriolet.

And that’s it.

Someone had better call in MI6 as I think Al Qaeda are holding the entire planning and creative dept of DDB hostage.

Who, at the agency and client, thought: Yes! You’ve cracked it. That’s just what we’ve been looking for – A picture of the car with the headline: The new Golf Cabriolet.

This execution beggars belief.

Where’s the dialogue?
Where’s the insight?
Where’s the smile in the mind?
Where’s the unique VW TOV?
Where’s the originality we come to expect from VW?

This ad is banal in the extreme and I would love to know how, and why, it ever made it up onto a 48 sheet poster.

Volkswagen deserve better.
And I know DDB can do better.

Here’s one I did a few years back while I was at Chemistry in Dublin. Same brief, different client.

To me, the poster is the Holy Grail of advertising. There is nowhere to hide.

Your thought has to be pure and simple. And above all, it has to be engaging.

Here are a few more examples I’ve done over the years.

There is one other thing that bothers me though. And that is this post is just completely negative.

And I don’t like that.

It’s bad for my karma.

So, in the interest of ending on a more positive note, I thought I’d show you some examples of a master in the art of making posters.

And I’m not talking about Messrs Hegarty, Abbott or Dye.


Filed under Advertising, Art, Brand, Comedy, Cross of Iron, Design, Ideas, Inspiration, Photography, Strategy, Writing

Time for a refreshing change?

For original post see below.


Well, here’s a major advertising shock: Hasn’t someone else gone and done a beer ad using ‘refreshing’ as the strategy.

It’s for Carling. (I’m not going to show you the ad because, along with the strategy, it’s shit.)

Don’t worry I’m not going to inform you every time a beer brand does an ad on the theme of ‘refreshment.’

The reason for this mention is that Carling is part of the same brand portfolio as Coors Light. (The culprit for my original post, below.)

Not only is the client the same, but the ad agency who produced them both is the same.

Coors Light: The world’s most refreshing beer.
Carling: Brilliantly Refreshing.

A round of applause for all the brand managers at Molson Coors for really pushing the strategic boat out.

Seriously, how can any of you look each other in the eye and say you’ve done a cracking job on this one?

Actually, instead of a mere round of applause, why not get all the Molson Coors brand managers in the same room and flog them to within an inch of their lazy lives.

Original post:

I’ve had the good fortune to work on a few beer brands in my time: Carlsberg; Budweiser; Harp; Amstel and even Coors Light.

But this little offering from Coors Light featuring Mr Van Damme has really got my goat. You see, the strategy is: ‘The world’s most refreshing beer.’

Mr Van Damme

Mr Van Damme

How long are ad agency planners and strategists going to flog this withered old strategy for beer brands?

Surely brand managers themselves must want to at least try and differentiate themselves from all the other ‘refreshing’ beer brands?

Screen shot 2011-07-24 at 14.12.59

While I was at DDB I worked on Carlsberg. As we all know the ‘Probably’ strategy was about the product being premium tasting.

I then went to work for BBDO and worked on Budweiser and Harp. The Head of Planning disappeared for six months and came back with a strategy for Harp which was that it was refreshing.

Stone the fucking crows. Genius. I’m only astounded that he came up with it in such a short space of time.

My granny could write a better strategy than that. (My granny was Planning Director at Saatchi’s, Nepal.)

Now this was back in the late 90’s and apparently things don’t seem to have moved on a great deal.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t go to the pub because I’m thirsty. If I wanted to satiate my thirst I’d get a glass of water. I go to the pub to get pissed.

Even something like: ‘Hits the spot’, (as a strategy, not a strapline), alludes to refreshment but is also about satisfaction and taste. (Maybe Strongbow have already done this.)

Although the creative team at VCCP have had to work with a tired old strategy they’ve still managed to come up with a quite nicely written film. Not great, just a decent day at the office. But I’m sure they could have done a whole lot better had they had a decent strategy to work with in the first place.

I know you can’t do ads about getting pissed, the ASA won’t allow it – Damn them all to Hades! But let’s at least have a stab at coming up with a refreshing strategy. I don’t mean a strategy about refreshment, I mean refreshing as in, oh forget it…

Here’s one I prepared earlier with ‘big flavour’ as the strategy. I did want to do it as a building wrap, but I guess an adshell will suffice.

Big Flavour

Big Flavour

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RIP ‘The Original Mad Woman’

Phyllis Robinson, 1921 - 2010

DDB’s, Phyllis Robinson, the first ever female Copy Chief (1949) in the US, passed away one day shy of 2011 aged 89.

It was the New York magazine which referred to her as the original ‘Mad Woman’. Though, I have it from someone who knew her, she was anything but. ‘Gracious, kind, elegant, encouraging, sunny disposition,’ were just some of the words he used to describe her.

She was part of the DDB advertising revolution in the fifties and sixties America creating such breathtakingly original campaigns as Levys and Ohrbach’s.

It is reported that after seeing her Ohrbach’s ad, Volkswagen said they wanted the agency that did that ad. The rest is history.

You can read a more fitting eulogy about her here: http://www.ddb.com/ddblogs

It must have been an incredibly difficult time for a woman not only to cut it in the ad industry, but to be one of the all-time greats – having been inducted into the Copywriters Hall of Fame in 1968, and in 1999, Advertising Age listed her as one of the 100 most influential figures in the history of advertising.

Rest in Peace, Phyllis. An inspiration and a true original.

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How to do a Volkswagen ad

A while ago, I wrote a post on a new creative model, citing Bernbach’s revolutionary model back in the late 50’s. It got me reminiscing about DDB, and how much I love the agency, the brand, the network, the work… I was fortunate enough to work for DDB in Dublin, and whilst the agency had its own unique Irish identity, it was also unmistakeably part of that advertising behemoth whose reputation for creativity and vision permeated through every office around the globe.

Of the many innovations within the ad industry, DDB also provided ammunition for a plethora of guides on how to ply our trade. ‘Remember those great Volkswagen ads’ was one. It contains, as the title implies, a veritable smorgasbord of brilliant VW ads. One of my favourites is an ad with the headline: How to do a Volkswagen ad. (What must consumers have thought about VW ads that the brand was confident enough to run an ad about them?) The ad was a DPS.  On the right hand page was a space for a pic and some body copy. On the left hand page was the aforementioned headline and 6 pointers:

1. Look at the car.

2. Look harder. You’ll find enough advantages to fill a lot of ads. Like air-cooled engine, the economy, the design that never goes out of date.

3. Don’t exaggerate. For instance, some people have gotten 50 m.p.g. and more from a VW. But others have only managed 28. Average:32. Don’t promise more.

4. Call a spade a spade. And a suspension a suspension. Not something like “orbital cushioning.”

5. Speak to the reader. Don’t shout. He can hear you. Especially if you talk sense.

6. Pencil sharp? You’re on your own.

And my point?

It is, of course, a great ad. It’s also great advice on how to do a great VW ad. But, more importantly, it’s great advice about how to approach any ad you do.

It’s how I approach briefs and it’s how I encourage others to approach them, especially younglings. The answer, the truth, the idea, call it what you will, is always in what you are trying to sell. If you can’t find it, you haven’t looked hard enough.

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Time for a new creative model?

Bill Bernbach

Bill Bernbach was so great, other brands used him in their advertising as a role model for ingenuity. Like this one for Apple.

Bernbach was the ‘B’ in Doyle, Dane, Bernbach, the agency which revolutionised advertising in 50’s and 60’s America. Traditionally, ads were conceived by writers in their offices then pushed under the doors of art directors to do the layout. DDB decided they might get better work if the copywriter and art director worked together. And thus, the ‘Third person’ was born.

If you’re not a creative, you might not get this bit, but something strange occurs when you work in teams. I’ve often been asked: “Yes, but which one of you actually came up with the idea?” And the truth was, neither of us. It was both of us. Or, the ‘third person’.

He says something, I say something, he says something else, I laugh. We talk about football. I say something, he looks out of the window. I blush. He says something, I say that’s rubbish to get my own back.

The point is the idea comes from you both. Without this creative ping-pong you don’t get the sort of lateral thinking you get when you work in solitude. (Of course, your partner has to be talented otherwise the exercise is pointless.)

Ambling slowly toward my point, (and I’m not sure how relevant this would be for the big London agencies), in the Provinces we tend to work more TTL than agencies in the big smoke, (and always have done). Obviously, these days, a TTL campaign usually involves digital, online, social media, mobile etc, but rarely do traditional advertising creatives have the relevant expertise in the online theatre. (As Mark T so eloquently points out.)

So, is it time for a new creative model, one that includes an art director, writer and a developer?

Weiden & Kennedy in Amsterdam flirted with teams of three in the late 90’s, having the traditional AD / CW plus a graphic designer. The addition proved very effective in the work they produced for Nike.

I introduced something similar at an agency on the Wirral. Clients/workload demanded that the creative dept consisted of an equal number of graphic designers as there were web developers. So rather than the creatives disappearing for a couple of days to deposit a concept on the laptops of the developers, we would have brainstorms that opened the eyes of both parties to new ways of doing things.

We are at the epicenter of a media phenomenon. What we are experiencing is bigger than the introduction of the television. So, if our media canvases are being revolutionised, shouldn’t our model for painting on them be evolutionised?

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