Tag Archives: digital

I have a dream too, you know.


True, it may not be as ambitious and world-changing as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s. But it’s a dream nonetheless.

To be honest, I wasn’t going to post about it until I felt I was in more of a position to realise this dream. But short of winning the Euro Millions Lottery, it aint going to happen without some serious philanthropic backer.

So, what is my dream?

Well, it’s to build a School of Arts for under-privileged kids.

Kids from low socioeconomic backgrounds in large inner-city estates. Kids who might not ordinarily get the opportunity to explore the more creative aspects of their nature.

What good would that do society? We’re in a depression, don’t you know!

Problems in every field of human endeavour are virtually always solved by creative thinking. Even the great Albert Einstein said so himself. Creativity allows us to look at problems from different angles and apply new thinking to solve problems.

Moreover, I don’t see it as a school that produces an unprecedented amount of artists. But an unprecedented amount of creative thinkers – whichever vocation they choose to pursue later in life. Whether it be mathematics, science, business, computers, product design, or economics.

And yes, a few more more artists too. And what’s wrong with that? Art is seen as a dirty word in this country. If I tell people I write poetry, they shift uneasily in their seats. If I said I write poetry in Ireland the response would be a polite smile and a nod toward the back of the queue.

Do you think the first rocket flight to the moon was dreamed up by a scientist?

Sure, scientists and engineers made it a reality. But it is creative people who come up with the ideas and the original solutions of how they can be achieved.

What will the kids do?

The school will develop and encourage creative thinking and self-expression.

It will foster, nurture and encourage exploration of the arts in all its many and varied forms including: painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, poetry, literature, screenplays, theatre, drama, dance, music, design, digital arts, film, photography, humanities, languages, and the classics.

Where is this school?

I quite fancy the idea of transforming a derelict Victorian mill. There’s something quite ironic about that. Though it certainly wouldn’t be a prerequisite. (Salts Mill in Bradford is a good example.)

Initially, an inner-city campus close to urban populations that have a high level of low socioeconomic families. Basically, anywhere across the Manchester – Huddersfield – Halifax – Leeds belt. It’s also sufficiently ‘central’ enough to accommodate children from further afield.

It would also be good to have a rural retreat – somewhere like the Lake District, Peak District or the Yorkshire Dales, where children can attend week-long courses/classes which double up as a holiday.

I would also like to open an international sister school in India or Sri Lanka where people from distinctly different cultures can share ideas. These schools could also participate in exchange programmes. (Then subsequently, even further afield: China, South America, South Asia.)

What about science subjects?

This school wouldn’t be a replacement for existing schools and their curricula – more of an extension to them.

Would it exclude people from non low socioeconomic backgrounds?

Not at all. But opportunities for middle-class families in other schools are much more accessible, regardless of ability.

Intake for low income kids would be based as much on desire and enthusiasm to participate rather than ability. There would be a limited number of places for more affluent children. Sort of like Eton – in reverse.

What kind of courses will it run?

Day-long workshops for visiting schools.

After-school classes.

Week-long courses. (Which would include accommodation for traveling students.)

Weekend classes.

Full-time sixth form courses. (A-levels.)

Masters and PhD courses.

What ages are we talking about?

Key Stage 2, up to, and including, sixth form.

Undergraduate, Masters and PhD courses.

What else does the school have?

Apart from studios and classrooms?

There’d be accommodation for students who are visiting from further afield.

Cafe / restaurant.

Gallery to promote and sell students’ work.

Gallery featuring independent contemporary and traditional art.

Masterclasses from guest lecturers.

State of the art library. (Both on and off-line.)

Book shop.

Art-house cinema.

Who will pay for it?

Well, that’s the biggest question of all.

A like-minded philanthropist would be nice.

Arts Council grant.

Lottery funding.

A percentage of Masters and PhD students’ tuition fees could go towards funding.

Sales from restaurant and galleries.

Fundraising / donations.

An Ideal World School of Arts.

Salts Mill, Bradford.

David Hockney at Salts Mill.

Salts Mill interior.

Studio space?

Any constructive criticism and advice about how to get something like this funded and off the ground would be greatly appreciated.

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Cannes Cyber Lions


With all this hullaballoo about digital and the like it was interesting to see that the two Grand Prix winners in the recent Cannes Lions festival were conceived and produced by ‘traditional’ ad agencies with digital divisions. DDB Stockholm for VW’s ‘The Fun Theory.’ And W+K’s work for ESPN. In my experience of working in agencies with similar structures, the idea is conceived by the ad teams then produced in the digital dept. Obviously, with help and guidance from the digital team about what can and cannot be achieved. But in much the same way a team would go about producing a TVC. (i.e. They don’t actually make the film themselves.) Goes back to the argument of working in ‘harmony’ rather than isolation.

Picture 2

Picture 4

I think both these pieces also merit the coveted Cross of Iron award. I know, I know, it’s hard to tell which one will take pride of place on the shelf in the office, but all I can say is, there are only 3 Cross of Iron awards in existence.

Cross of Iron

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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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What’s all the palaver about digital?


Online, digital, social media, multi-media, web, they’re simply canvases in the same way press, posters, or TVCs are.

I work in boxes. Whether it’s a 96 sheet poster or an online banner ad, I start the same way. I find out as much about the client as I can. The same goes for the consumer, the competition and the market. Then I work with clients, account handlers and planners developing a strategy and a creative brief.

After all that prep work is done, I get out my A4 layout pad and black pen and I start scribbling ideas. Words first. Ideas come from words. We describe ideas to each other in words. Even if the idea we are describing is an image.

Once I have an idea I start scribbling boxes. Vertical ones, horizontal ones. Tall ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones. Sometimes they’re rectangular, sometimes they’re square.

If it’s an online banner ad I treat it like a cross between a press ad and a little animated TVC. So I might stretch it to three boxes.

Do I know how to code a splash ad? No. But nor do I know how to be a DP on a film shoot or print a newspaper. What I do know is that whatever canvases we are using to talk to our target audience, we need an idea.

I think there is an over reliance on the machine over the mind.

Ideas first, tools second.

Whether we use a 48 sheet or a social media campaign depends what part of the consumer pathway to purchase we are on. Online is better for retail and direct response as we are usually asking the consumer to do something immediately. A website is merely an online brochure or catalogue.

There is an unfounded mysticism surrounding digital among clients and traditional ad agencies. Of course digital is the way forward as that’s where we will increasingly find our audiences, but they’re not going to turn into Tron-like hermits who only inhabit cyberspace.

Horses for courses, I say.

So get your layout pads out, draw three skinny horizontal boxes and there you go, you’ve got an online banner ad template. Now all you have to do is come up with a brilliant idea to put in them.

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