Tag Archives: VW

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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Things I am grateful for #23

My old 1967 Mercedes Fintail.

It was just like this one. I chauffeured some of my best friends to their weddings in it. The Great White Shark, as one groom nicknamed it.

Unfortunately, someone decided to set fire to it while I was away on a commercial shoot in Cape Town. (I don’t think there’s a connection between the two. Unless it was a disgruntled father-in-law.)

Still, it must’ve been karma for something. What’s worrying is that I’ve done worse things since it was torched. Bugger.

This is the actual thing! Courtesy of Gordon Ireland.

This is the actual thing! Courtesy of Gordon Ireland.

Owning a classic car was an amazing experience. I adored my old Merc even though it probably spent as much time in the garage as it did on the road. I would recommend buying a classic to anyone. But a couple of things to bear in mind before you do:

1. They are very old and will invariably break down. It’s a fact of life, get used to it.

2. They need a constant stream of money spending on them just to keep them roadworthy. So, either have a fair bit of disposable income, or learn basic mechanics.

3. You need a garage to keep the elements from turning your pride and joy into a bucket of rust.

4. Join a roadside recovery organisation. (I was on first name terms with the AA.)

5. Don’t buy one if you have a family and it’s your only car. It won’t be reliable enough for that kind of role.

6. Find a good mechanic that specialises in classics. (They’re easy to find if you buy the right kind of classic car mags.)

7. Jump in, you won’t regret it.

Now, for some classic car porn…


1965 Mercedes 220 SE cabriolet.


1958 Aston Martin DB4


Triumph Spitfire.


E-type Jaguar.




VW Karmann Ghia.


Mercedes Fintail (rearview).


Sunbeam Tiger.

Volvo P1800

Volvo P1800

Finally, a shout out to the happy couples whose weddings I had the privilege of taking part in: Michael & Katy, Jeff & Fiona, Mike & Molly, Gordon & Sally-Anne and Des & Mary. Happy memories.


Filed under Art, Creativity, Design, Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration, Inventions

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.):


Filed under Advertising, Brand, Comedy, Creativity, Digital, Film, Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration, Strategy

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

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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Recession proof

It’s no secret that the car industry has taken a bit of a hammering in this recession. Understandably, consumers are holding onto any money they might have in case the worst happens on the job front. There are those, however, who do have a bit of disposable income to splash about. So how do we convince them to spend it with us? Tackle the recession head on. If you’re going to buy a car in a recession, you should at least consider one that’s recession proof. Here’s one I did for VW.


Agency: DDB Dublin

Creative Director: Declan Hogan

Concept: David Milligan-Croft

Copywriter: David Milligan-Croft

Art Director: David Milligan-Croft

Client: MDL Ireland

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