Maybe this is a lazy post, bugger that, there's no maybe about it. Truth is I'm posting this so I know where to find it
1st principle of transmedia : drillability vs spreadability. It's a deep vertical engagement, rather than horizontal
Maybe this is a lazy post, bugger that, there's no maybe about it. Truth is I'm posting this so I know where to find it
1st principle of transmedia : drillability vs spreadability. It's a deep vertical engagement, rather than horizontal
Seldom do you see such a perfect example of how agencies are getting it wrong. What this. It's an impressive piece of sponsored entertainment. Care has gone into the ad, it's been crafted well; nicely written, faithfully shot and KS hasn't jus dialled it in. So full marks.
I don't know about the strategy so much, I'm guessing Acer aren't cool and need some cred if people are to buy them, if it's meant to be doing anything else, then that went way over my head.
So far, so okay.
But what is the ad really for, as viewed by the public? Dynamite Cupcakes
Dynamite Cupcakes of course. Just look at the end frame.
After all those sqillions they've spent getting noticed, what do they do? Click through to DynamiteCupcakes.com to find out.
What a wasted opportunity. What a complete misunderstanding of how we consume media today. What a wasted commercial.
And what makes it sadder on a personal level is that it was made by Mother, an agency that really should know better.
And all for the cost of the on set catering, even with KS was supplying the cakes.
That's Gabi, Gabi Gregg who has just won the chance to be MTVs first Tweeter Jockey or - TJ if you roll with the street.
Gregg won Follow Me, a months-long competition on MTV, not unlike popidol but for tweeters, her prize, a 100k a year job as the company's social media voice. So far an average, if solid pr ideas I'm sure you'll agree. And that may well be MTV's intention.
But, as someone who has been championing the use of twitter for brands beyond the banalities of a PR junior hysterics and OMG txts. I'm hoping they will see the potential of what they have. The TV coverage will have helped develop solid backstories for both character and narrative from which to engage and encourage participation and with their events and tv channels the opportunity to create more depth is there too.
So, one to watch, assuming she can write with insight and wit of course - she starts next week and you can follow her here.
Over at the If This Is A Blog Then What's Christmas? Blog, Ben Kay has written a piece on why you should not bother writing dialogue for TV commercials. Do go and read the whole thing here
Now I should say that I don't know Ben, never, to my knowledge, even met him, but I read his blog and enjoy much of what is there. I also have a suspicion that he's a little bit of a weasel and that this post is really meant to provoke a reaction rather than share a passionately held belief - all of which is perfectly fine with me, I've been known to do it myself.
But I passionately disagree with the premise behind the post that says; writing good dialogue is hard, you certainly shouldn't give it ago, copywriter. In fact you're probably so shit at it that you should leave it to chance/the actor (the actor! Christ, they're the last people you should leave anything to)/director, in fact anyone else in the room as all of them can write dialogue better than you.
Apparently it is also a waste of time as it locks your idea down too much allowing clients to concentrate on the specifics and pick your dialogue apart which it is implied will get your idea thrown out altogether
Although he does make the valid point that not reading out dialogue when presenting a script helps get the idea across without the whole thing getting "all choppy and losing the flow." Which is very true if you're not one of those creatives who can't put performance into their presentation.
He also claims that writing dialogue prevents 'the magic happening' as it leaves no room for 'accidents to happen'. Well, they're not mutually exclusive.
Having wasted too many hours at script-read-throughs where a film script has been rewritten tens if not hundreds of times over a 6-12 months, period I can assure you that is far from the case. Likewise, being in a writers room where people are pulling apart and building your lovingly crafted ideas and dialogue - surround yourself with the right people and your work can only get better. But to assume they'll do the hard work for you will just get you sack (as well it should). It also brings me to his last reason as to why you shouldn't bother, it's a waste of time - WTF. I shall say nothing more on this than that's plain fucking lazy.
The truth as I see it is, done well, where it has been crafted with skill, with a ear for rhythm, region, age and an understanding of character and personality It will enhance your script, any script, perhaps especially when it's for a 30 second commercial.
End of rant.
Well almost, I just have to comment on this last quote:
By the way, none of the above applies to radio ads which need to be buttoned the fuck down before you go in. You can still have wiggle room, but very few actors/VOs like to be told to make shit up on the spot.
So there you have it, I care about my TV reel, but fuck radio, it's full of talentless fucks anyway. Which, going by the shameful state of most radio ads is a view shared by most of the industry.
I host a workshop from time to time called There are only 7 ideas in Advertising. It pretty much claims what it says, that there are only seven ideas in advertising, in much the same way there are only 7 stories and 3 jokes and only 4 real flavours for crisps
During it I claim that creatives would do well to focus on crafting executions along one or more of these 7 structures rather than keep aimlessly wandering around in a creative fog coming up with random executions that appear.
And that if you do, it's amazing how quickly you'll get to a solution. Yet so many creatives are reluctant to accept that there is an easier way to do their job. Instead choosing to believe that what they do is mythical and requires much struggling and sweating and waiting for divine intervention from the gods of inspiration or some such bollocks.
An example then.
One of the 7 ideas is The Spokesman, where this archetype addresses the audience to explain/demonstrate the product. At it's dullest/least creative it results in a classic 2C in a K execution, but crafted and developed you could end up with something as sublime as the Al and Monkey campaign for ITV digital, or everyone's current favourite du jour, Old Spice.
I also point to You've been framed. as an example of an old, often lame idea being turned on it's head.
For the first, whatever years of its existence it YBF was utter shite. Some of the worst TV there was, it probably hit rock bottom when some lardy ex-soap actress hosted it. But over the last few years it;s became funny. Really funny
What changed? Not the content, it still shows the same trashy, lame family video footage, but now Harry Hill comments on them. And so, instead of a bunch of lame puns and word play and limp jokes we get genuinely funny commentary. And that is all it took.
So, worry less about what your idea is and worry more about how to show it at it's best.
I pinched this from a blog I frequent. It needs little in the way of explanation. It just shows what's expected from content makers these days, be it films, tv programmes or ads. Today, if you've been lucky enough to engage people they will expect more from you and whatever they find the can and will share with their friends.
So disappoint them at your peril
Personally, despite the massive opportunities that are presenting themselves almost daily, I believe the UK comms industry and advertising in particular are in a depressing state of blandness.
Much is spoken about creativity but I see so little of it reaching the public domain.
So when I saw that nearly 50% of Campaign readers thought that creativity was flushing I was surprised and can't work out whether the British ad scene is just arrogant, deluded or optimistic.
Having shown the first two in spades, maybe it's time for the third, I do hope so.
I've been thinking a lot lately about creativity, and what it really means in advertising. It was prompted by a conversation with a top ECD at one those agencies every creative wants to work at.
We were talking about the Stieg Larsson books and he said he had no intention of reading them as they're now so popular. But later went on about how brilliant he thought White Ribbon and Tank Fish were. Now as good as they are, I suspect what appealed was as much down to their obscurity as their originality.
And then I read this in the Independent this morning.
Why is it an industry that needs by definition to be as popularist as possible tends to shun what the public love? This wasn't the case 50, 30, even 20 years ago. (And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the public know what's good creatively, just that they do know what they like and for adland that's a good place to start.)
Well, here's my theory.
Unlike the creatives of yesteryear most creatives don't know what they're doing.
Let me explain.
Back in the day, creatives knew what they were doing. They were salesmen, who sold. They were writers who wrote. They were artists who art directed. Today's creatives stumble into advertising very confused about themselves, they can't sell, they can't write and they can't art direct.
And the industry must share some of the blame, Are you aware that not one adland course in the UK teaches craft? Do you know of any agency that spends time teaching writing skills, or how to create characters, or build a narrative flow, or the principles behind art directing a page, or even the craft of film making - camera angles, or why a film score works or doesn't work, or the principles behind editing? And before you say surely these are the responsibilities of the professionals they hire, well it's creatives who select them, so without even a basic understanding of their crafts what criteria are they using? Invariably, what will my peers think of me working with him?
The end result, insecurity and ignorance reign and so they seek out the obscure and the hardly seen as a way of looking like they know what they're doing. And of course appearing cool.
Isn't this what business should really be about? I love this guy. I love his values? I love his passion?
I think this film does a wonderful job explaining the rewards of travel. Beautiful in lots of way, by mainly for it's heart.
It's one of those campaigns people either love or hate, but everyone's noticed regardless. It's also become part of the wider culture. Why? Well apart from the freshness and attention to detail and downright lunacy of the idea they've also added some smart touches to give the campaign some more depth.
Long may it continue. Big props to Compare the Market too.
You can see the ads here, naturally.
A slightly interesting aside are these ads, alongside the bloopers. Pity they didn't make them smart. Competitive business, insurance comparison.
One of my many theories, I have one on pretty much everything by the way, is that we in comms who write comedy as a means to sell consumers stuff need to look at the wider, broader spectrum offered by comedians and not jut look at ads for guidance. Obvious one that I know, so why the hell doesn't the average creative bother then? I blogged about it here.
I also believe that there are 3 stages in the life of a brand's brilliant voice. 1) The creation of something original, thus creating stand out 2) The copying by many, thus making it trite and ubiquitous 3) A strong reaction against it, which is normally the opposite to it, and is implimented by an equally talented company, but not necessarily in the same sector.
So, if we take the the once brilliant and much copied (badly) Innocent drinks, where life is good in whimsical, middle England's very own Nappy valley. When it came out it was inspired, it connected in a way that most brands didn't (and don't) and success followed. (phase1)
Then came the many imitators. (phase2)
So what of phase 3? Well I'm coming to that. If my theory is right then we could soon see a brand soon that deliberately provokes it's audience/consumers with it's anger and bad-temperedness. It's already happened in the wider spectrum of comedy where to offend is the material de jour, (So with two theories combining I had to post, right?)
I even wrote a blog to experiment along these lines - until I forgot my password which was then sent to an email address that I no longer have access to and so haven't been able to contiue with, which really, really pissed me off, I can tell you. Anyway I digress.
Only time will tell.
I was listening to the Radio 4's Front Row programme the other day, Russel T Davies was on talking about drama. For him the new drama is reality shows. He even went further and said that the piece of drama that had impressed him most recently was the Susan Boyle saga.
He went on to say that he wasn't just talking about her coming on stage and belting out her song but the way in which her story was played out afterwards keeping her in the public's mind for weeks. He had real admiration for the people behind it.
For me, the most impressive drama has been the Katie/Jordan V Peter split. Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of them or their desperate desire to live their lives in the public eye, but I do think that like Paris Hilton, they have shown those of us in the comms industry much in the way of how campaigns can be structure and played out in the future.
And I'm chuffed to bits that Russel T Davies thinks along similar lines.
I’ve been working up this theory on writing for blogs to support a presentation and possibly create a new revenue stream for us. So I thought I'd share my thinking with you guys see if anyone wants to contribute.
It’s about blogging - I'll share my thoughts on tweets later - and how brands should approach it in a more focused way
Right now brand blogging in the UK is in its infancy and because it’s cheap and quick and readership numbers are currently relatively small for most brand blogs, it gets treated with more contempt than this years BB contestants.
However, a quick glance across the pond will tell you that that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact a well-written, focused blog that serves and articulates a purpose, one that rewards readership can and does deliver a meaningful relationship that can be incredibly valuable to the brand.
But, this will not happen if you treat it as a freebie bolted-on to the main campaign because, well it’s cheap, trendy and so now, and that’s the kind of brand we are, so why not do it? Plus there’s a box here I have to tick, right next to the iphone app and the facebook widget. And, anyway, isn’t that what interns are for?
So the outcome is something that resembles a personal diary packed with minor milestones such as –
The sun is shining today, so why not go out and buy one of our new limited edition range of choc-ices. There are 3 to choose from lemon and lime, mango and multi-berry. Hurry and do let us know which one is your favourite. Yummy.
All written by someone who loves to replace full stops with :-) and can’t wait until a computer allows them to dot i’s with smiley faces.
The alternative to this, of course, is the dullard who thinks people love to read instruction manuals about products.
In short then, the kind of thing that no sane person can tolerate. And so a self-fulfilling prophecy that blogs aren’t important or effective.
And so, the next campaign gets the same blog treatment.
Now consider an alternative approach. Consider one where a blog is given a real purpose or positioning in a campaign, with a real benefit to consumers and is skilfully constructed and written by someone who understands narrative structure and the power of the written word.
What would that look like?
Well, I think a blog closely resembles two modern day narratives. Those of a reality TV show, like say, The Apprentice and that of a sitcom or soap.
How so, you say?
Well, a reality TV series is built around a script that is flexible enough to incorporate the unpredictable, the reality element, it doesn’t dictate the outcome but does add structure and order where there possibly isn’t any.
Characters are selected based on their personality traits and assigned a potential role in the series (the fool, the bitch, the quiet one who will flourish etc).
These roles are then clearly defined in the early stages and reaffirmed in subsequent episodes. So the dimwit character is edited to confirm his dimwittedness, the nasty bitch has only her bitchy acts included in the final edit and so on. Now established these characters can play their role in a pre-determined - albeit loosely plotted - script that has been drawn up from the beginning.
A manipulation of reality, but a reality none the less.
Having become familiar with the characters we the audience can sit back and enjoy the drama unfold, safe in the knowledge of who is who and how they will react in certain situations.
Not too dissimilar to characters in a sitcom or soap.
In this genre the characters have clearly defined personality traits that don’t change. It’s one of the few genres where this happens. Normally in a film or other drama, the lead character goes on a journey, a character-arc that changes him/her in some way forever. The workaholic at the beginning of the film discovers the importance of community and/or family. The idealist gets dealt a blow by fate preventing him from escaping his past and leaving him resigned to accept his lot etc.
But not so in the world of Soaps and Sitcoms. The reason they don’t change is because familiarity is what makes a soap a Soap, a sitcom a Sitcom. Dell Boy has to always chase the dream of being a millionaire, it’s that that determines the comedy. He can never become one nor can he change and discover less materialistic goals.
Likewise, Phil Mitchell of Albert Square is doomed to forever be the violent petty criminal he is. So, whatever situation he finds himself in he must act accordingly – not for him the enlightenment of learning the power of arbitration and peaceful compromise.
The reason both of these genres follow this path is because of why they are viewed and their relationship with the viewer.
They rely on repeat and frequent viewing, so they need to be consistent - people enjoy and need this familiarity, it allows them to build connections and feel a sense of loyalty to the characters.
And these character can’t be too complex and instead need to follow a simple human desire or personality trait because these genres also need to stand alone as pieces of entertainment and drama in their own right, so that infrequent or new views can easily grasp what is going on and quickly decide for themselves whether this is something for them.
What does all this sound like from a user experience, well to me, blogs.
So, before establishing a blog, define it’s role, define the narrative arc - what’s it’s purpose, what is it offering, what’s the story (know the beginning, middle and end). Establish who the characters are (people or product points) and what their role in the story is.
Oh and finally, give it to a writer. Someone that wants to write and who understands these things (which is why we have been quietly recruiting screenwriters, gag writers, comedy writers, journalists and novelists to write treatments and plot narratives for clients blogs).
Then you might have a blog that will attract considerable loyal readership who will engage and return to it time and time again and share their experience of it with others – much like a good Soap or Sitcom
If this does or doesn’t make sense, or you want to challenge it some more, or you fancy joining the writers’ database, feel free to get in touch.
And now, just for fun and as way of a thank you for getting to the end, a completely unrelated video clip, other than featuring Alan Sugar, I present Cassetteboys best
Matthew Robson, he of the youthful features and studious haircut has apparently enlightened Morgan Stanley's media and internet research department (no less) with a sage like report on how the youth consume media. This report is full of such pearls as -
Teenagers rarely listened to regular radio because they preferred stations without the adverts and could stream their own choice of music through services such as last.fm.
Teenagers favoured the social networking site Facebook over Twitter, because it was a better way of keeping in touch with more people.
Stephen Fry is not particularly cool. Also, for the cost of one tweet you could send quite a few text messages.
Teenagers do not use Twitter. They realise that no one is viewing their profile, so their 'tweets' are pointless.
Teenagers increasingly watched television when they wanted – because of the advent of BBC iPlayer, Virgin Media and Sky – and hardly ever bought newspapers.
Teenagers are very reluctant to pay for a newspaper (hence the popularity of freesheets such as The Metro," he wrote.
Teenagers still favoured the cinema, for the experience rather than watching a particular film, while virtually no young people would pay for music. They are very reluctant to pay for it (most never having bought a CD) and a large majority (80%) downloading it illegally from file sharing sites."
And finally Teenagers found online advertising "extremely annoying and pointless" and tended to ignore traditional billboard advertising.
Now, either the Banking world is so out of touch they're on their way on mass to see Michael Jackson at the O2 tonight, or this is PR bollocks. And if it's the latter, going public disclosing how utterly inept you are might be something you should probably keep quite.
Then again, we are talking about the people who believed loaning money to people who could never afford to pay it back.
The world has gone mad.
There was an article in The Guardian at the weekend, featuring Paul Fieg sharing his wisdom on comedy writing. It was pretty lightweight if I'm honest but there was still one or two gems of wisdom which would benefit any copywriter about to tackle his/her next script
"If you're trying to make a great comedy, most of your time and effort should go into casting. Find the right actors and let them do their thing."
Once again, I'm reminded of a particualr bug bear of mine. The lack of time and effort that contemporay ad agencies spend on the craft side of what they do. And yet, this is for me is where the effort needs to be applied especially now, especially the written word.
I get down from my soap box now, before this becomes a full on rant
You can read the full article here.
I've been aware for a while now, about this trend appearing. The Americans have a name for it,of sorts, Madison and Vine, it's the combination of advertising and entertainment. And the rightly awarded and previously commented on here back in January, The Queensland Best Job in the World campaign is the latest example.
This Thursday at 9pm the BBC are showing an hour long programme covering the final round of the competition, when an English lad called Ben is selected from the final 16.
Currently, I haven't been able to find out much behind the production company behind it, but if this wasn't conceived and made by, or at the very least pitched to production companies by CumminsNitro then it bloody well should have been.
Either way, a smart conclusion to a smart campaign.
With TV desperate for content this is definitely a trend that is going to go from strength to strength and yet another example of the return to a pre50's ad/comms model.
We all know the twitter/habitat screw up by now. But if you don't here's it in a nutshell
Yesterday, Habitat apologised for its promotional messages on Twitter, which also tried to ride on the back of interest in the launch of the latest Apple iPhone.
Irrelevant hashtags featured in the messages included '#mousavi', referring to an Iranian presidential candidate, and '#iphone'.
The promotion was designed to sign people up to its database with the chance to win a £1,000 gift card.
According to a Sky News Habitat's communications team said they had not authorised the messages, but they have confirmed they were not hacked.
"The hashtags were uploaded without Habitat's authorisation by an overenthusiastic intern who did not fully understand the ramifications of his actions. He is no longer associated with Habitat," a spokesman said.
Twitter users accused Habitat of spamming and its mistake was heavily retweeted on the micro blogging service. It was being touted as a case study example of what marketers should not do on Twitter.
The offending tweets have since been removed and Habitat promised to "do better for the Twitter community".
Okay, it was a very stupid thing to do by any standards but I don't believe it was the work of "an over enthusiastic intern who did not fully understand the ramifications of his actions", I would have thought the intern is exactly the sort of person who would understand Twitter. So are they pointing the finger at the innocent?
An even if I'm wrong, I still have a problem, if it were a particularly stupid intern, until clients and agencies in this country start to give social media opportunities the respect they deserve then they will continue to make fools of themselves in the
It's so blindly obvious that it's taken me three years to see it, but some of the most successful brands today have actually been embracing transmedia storytelling for sometime. What's been lacking has been the cohesive strategic overview that allows for a stronger relationship between all the separate elements oh and of course, that sodding desire agencies have for media hierarchy.
If you're not over familiar with the term, the mightily impressive Henry Jenkins who came up with it, describes it thus,
I urge you to click on the link. It will be how brands/campaigns will be created and judged in the future.
Oh and the rather nice cityscape is by a fab illustrator called Borja Bonaque.
There are three tailor shops in a street all next to each other.
To drum up business the first one, puts a sign in the window, THE BEST TAILORS IN THE COUNTRY.
The next tailor feels he's gotta do something, so he thinks he has to do something. So he puts a sign in his window that reads, THE BEST TAILORS IN THE WORLD.
The third tailor, now has to do something, he does something that the others didn't do, he thinks a bit, before sticking his sign in the window, which reads, THE BEST TAILORS IN THE STREET.
Which one would you go to?
So, don't tell me you're the best a man can get, the ultimate driving machine or any other ego boosting crap, remember, I'm just hearing you tell me a lie.
This is just one of those lovingly executed ideas that is so going to have it's heart ripped out and end up in an ad. My money is on mobile communications, or maybe a broadband offering, but don't be surprised if you see a car logo or the COI dangling from the end of it.
From the ever wonderful Ad Contrarian comes one of those lists bloggers do when they feel compelled to post but don't really have much to say. 1 to 5 are so so, but 6 is a blinder.
I guess in someways this is a pointless/useless post. (It's amazing what spending a week in the company of a 6 year old will do to your brain. - it being Easter hols here in London and all).
Anyway, the picture is of a wii and google's street view mashup. The deal is, you go jogging on the wii via a road route shown through street view. The best of both worlds.
The pointlessness being that it's only available in Japan - and I have no idea where I found this out. Sorry.
But what I will say, is that I get as excited about stuff like this as I use to get about the latest Cunningham ad.
I should come clean here, Scamp annoys the hell out of me. Our views are poles apart as far as how we see creatives, the role of advertising and the future of both. But so what? We're all entitled to our own views and we should never shy away from expressing them - after all, having an opinion and expressing it is a massive part of what being a creative is about.
Plus we should always be prepared to have our views challenged.
So when he put up the slides from a talk he gave on what being a creative is, I wasn't surprised to find myself shaking my head and tutting by slide 3, waving my fist by slide 8 and shouting obscenties and banging the table by slide 21.
What I was surprised at were the comments, the majority of which shared my opinion. Maybe creatives are finally growing up. I do hope so.
Back in the day. I got my second job at CDP, it was the mid-80s, when CDP was all upper case and still a great place for a creative to ply his trade. (No offense Dentsu, but even you must admit, cdp is not what it was.)
Anyway, an endless line of creatives would pass through on placement, stay two weeks, if they were lucky, a month, and then leave. During this time, nearly every one of them would work terrifically hard in their little office and never venture out to play pool or go upstairs to the bar for a drink, believing that hard work was their key to employment.
And so, I can hardly remember anyone who passed through at this time. Occasionally, very occasionally, someone would be employed and, other than a tiny little bit more money, nothing much would change, as they were fed a stream of briefs and told to crack them.
At the same time, account graduates would join but there introduction to the company was different. They would spend 2 wks in the creative dept, 2wks in production, 2wk planning, 2wks media buying. Only then they would start their job as an account manager.
And CDP wasn't any different to any other agency in that respect.
And today, nothing much has changed. I don't know of one agency that believes a creative would benefit from understanding the other jobs in the agency. Which leads to an arrogance from the creatives about whose work it is and who is working for who. And the idea that creatives aren't serious about business problems/solutions, so keep the real work away from them.
It is this legacy that is now giving the industry such big problems.
On the several occasions when I've run departments, I've always implemented a very simple philosophy. It you touch a piece of work then you must leave your finger print on it.
By that I meant, you had to be able to show how you improved anything you worked on, regardless of what department you worked in. Likewise, creatives would be responsible for improving briefs and working on presentations. And it made a massive difference in getting an agency to work together.
Last week was a complete waste.
Last week was spent frantically running around to get back to where I started from.
Last week was brutal and traumatic.
Last week I cried, screamed and pulled out some hair.
Last week I declared a fatwa on Steve Jobs.
Last week my hard drive crashed.
And as we all know, Backing Up is for Pussies.
I've now learnt my lesson and backed up 3 times already today.
When was the last time you saw a genuinely funny ad? Not an ad that was funny, but 30 seconds of something genuinely funny, as funny, say, as 30 seconds of Bill Bailey, Peter Kay, Seinfeld, or The Simpsons?
Can’t think of one? Me neither.
When did you last see an ad so emotional, or so poignant, or so honest that it moved you to tears? Okay, I’ll settle for, a smallish lump in your throat, when was the last time you saw an ad that did that? Never, of course because they don’t exist either.
What about a commercial with the drama, tension, visual brilliance, narrative drive, dramatic structure, or precise characterisation to rival Citizen Kane, The Insider, Toy Story (take your pick, 1 or 2), A Clockwork Orange, The Sopranos, The Wire, or The West Wing?
So what about copy then? Have you ever read a piece of copy that was as insightful, as wise, as illuminating or as revealing of the human condition as something written by McEwan, Roth, Heller, Steinbeck, Orwell or Hemingway?
As for radio, I think it’s best we past over the shameful content that clutters up the airwaves in the name of advertising and not even bother insulting Radio4’s understanding of the medium, by mentioning them in the same breath. (Damn, I just did.)
“Stop being stupid!” one or two of you might now be shouting. “What good is making the comparison between 30 seconds of film and 90mintes? 500 words and a 400-page novel?
Well, consider these.
“Go ahead make my day.”
“You can’t handle the truth.”
“Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn.”
“How am I funny?”
“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
“You talkin’ to me?”
“I steal your milkshake.”
Each one a single line, delivered once, taking up seconds of the film and yet remembered forever.
Likewise, these scenes appear briefly and yet leave a lasting impression on the viewer.
And for those creatives who are screaming, “But that’s not our job! That’s not what we do!” I say bollocks. That’s exactly what you try and do. You just fail at it. Time and time again.
You write funny sketches and call them commercials, but they’re not funny. Not properly funny.
You raise contributions for worthy charities with heartrendingly painful stories of abuse, neglect, natural disasters but you tell them badly.
You deal with death, birth, love – every aspect of life and yet you fail to connect and move your audiences.
While those remaining creatives stamping your feet as you bellow, ‘It’s not us, it’s the client’s fault!’
Novelist have publishers, Comedy programmes have commissioning editors. Filmmakers have producers, financiers and studios. Comedians have a live audience – They all have clients, and yet.
Yes, it’s only
30seconds. Yes, it’s only a single page of copy. Yes, we have to sell
a product. Yes, the client can sometimes be stupid. You’re absolutely
right; they’re all legitimate obstacles. What they’re not is a
legitimate excuse for a lack of talent or plain laziness.
So why is this well-paid industry of hard working, passionate and smart people so…. so average?
I was once asked, ‘Am I in love with the idea of me being inside of art, or the art inside of me?’
Not much of an option, right? But I believe most, if not all ad creatives fall into the former.
They want to do something creative, they want to create something good, but they don’t really have the passion to create something great and so know they will starve. So they turn to the ad industry, the perfect home for the poor writer and the less courageous artist.
Because there’s a lower bar in town where they can become good, maybe even great ad creatives.
Am I being unnecessarily harsh?
I don’t think so. I’ve worked in some of the best creative departments in town and seldom did I find people who grafted at the craft aspect of their job.
They worked hard don’t get me wrong and they were passionate about doing ads, but they had very little interest in the real craft that underpins our work.
It normally extended no further than pouring over other ads, going to see the latest ‘hip’ film, visiting a gallery opening (only if free wine was promised) or just sitting with the art buyer/TV producer and asking to see who was the hottest photographer/director this month.
I can’t once remembering anyone studying their craft.
Take copy, most copywriters today have never written anything longer than a txt msg and have no interest in ridding themselves of this ignorance. Writing copy is viewed by and large as a punishment and a chore. No pleasure is gained from developing a well-crafted turn of phrase, the creation of an authentic voice or a well-thought out argument.
But for the novelist that is the job.
Take TV ad scripts, they are written once, twice, three times at most and nearly always begrudgingly by two people with no interest in character or structure or dialogue, beyond a belief that they’ll know when it’s right.
Now, look at how scripts are approached. Before they’re even written, characters are given extensive back-stories. Interestingly the only creative I know how did this was John Webster.
And screenplays aren’t just written; they’re rewritten - going through many drafts with numerous writers. Sometimes they’re then given to script doctors to polish, writers who will work to a tight brief - make it funnier, make character X more believable, add more suspense, tighten the structure etc.
And yes, too many cooks can spoil the broth, but only if there’s no one present able to control them. The bigger point is that these are writers who love the craft of writing.
The emergence in recent years in the quality of US TV has in part been created by writers surrounding themselves with better writers, playing to each other’s strengths and sharing ownership.
When was the last time, a creative director took work away from the team who created it and gave it to a better art director to design it?
And why not? Just because you are gifted with a rich imagination and are able to make fresh connections that then appear blindingly obvious to others when presented to them, it is no guarantee you can string a cohesive argument together, especially when you don’t really see it as an important part of your job.
Instead adland has created the notion, you create it, you own it, from start to finish. Maybe this made sense when writers saw agencies as a day job to finance the early drafts of their novel. Or when art directors saw advertising as a means to getting on a film set.
But today’s advertising creatives are exactly what they want to be - ad creatives. People with such a myopic view that they truly believe the worst crime in their world is copying another ad regardless of whether or not it was done 30 years ago on another Continent, yet think nothing of stealing wholesale from a photographer, film maker, artist they saw the other weekend.
I leave the last words to my personal favourite ad man, Howard Luck Gossage.
“How often so you have to read a book, a news story, or see a movie or play? If it’s interesting, once is not enough; if it is dull, once is plenty”
What a great way to measure our work, but no, instead we substitute the truly memorable for heavy repetition, making it impossible to avoid our work.
And we have invented a new standard where we caveat everything with, for an ad.
It’s funny, for an ad. It’s well written, for an ad. It’s hard hitting, for an ad.
For an ad is our universal get out clause for simply not being good enough. And we’re no longer fooling anyone.
Look at the above screen for 20 seconds. Listen to it in silence if you can. Then about 18 seconds in say out loud, 'America runs on Bulova Time'.
Congratulations, you've just recreated the world's first TV commercial.
Did you notice that it played to none of the unique strengths of the medium? (Movement, Sound.)
Did you notice that it borrowed heavily from what was the norm at the time. (It's just a press ad)?
Did you ask yourself, what have we learnt about embracing new technologies since 1941? (Absolutely nothing).
New technologies present new opportunities, but only through new thinking.
My first favouirte NPL of '08 goes to the Venezuelan Black company - manufacturers of fine cacao - pure cocoa to you and me, pretty much.
A niche product by anyone's imagination, but one that was successfully launched with a multimillion pound TV campaign that succeeded in getting it listed in both a major supermarket chain across Britain, the shop of choice for WAGS - Selfridges and no doubt, all good independent delis.
Not bad for a company less than two years old and with a handful of employees.
Admittedly it was far from perfect with some surprisingly basic mistakes made, such as absolutely no cohesion, for example - packaging never matched their communication in style, tone of voice or, and perhaps potentially most damaging, name.
Because the VB Co. is probably better recognised as Willie and his Wonky Chocolate Factory, the name of the TV series which was shown over 6 weeks on Channel 4 in the beginning of 2008, repeated in late autumn and ending with a seasonal burst with it's very own Christmas Special, .
A series that followed the charismatic/annoying (delete as appropriate) Willie Harcourt-Coozie (above) as he followed his dream to get Britain using a previously little-to-unknown ingredient.
We saw every aspect of his business, from where it was sourced to how to use the product, to expert endorsement, to finding out about the health and slimming benefits of his product - nothing it seemed was over-looked.
The series was a venerable marketing masterclass for how to launch a product.
I can't believe there wasn't an fmcg marketing director out there wondering, how did pull off launching his company with 30 minute commercials shot at the production company's cost and with airtime (and a lot of airtime at that) donated free by a TV station?
Unfortunately I can't tell you much more, despite digging around on the web, I've failed to even come up with the name of the production company. Anyone any ideas?
Still, it's not all been one way sunshine basking. Maybe now would be a good time to take another look at that business plan when it comes to employee salaries
Had an interesting conversation with a client this morning, all about being a creative. And he was surprised to hear me say that being a creative is mostly about rejection. Well, if you care about what you do it is.
You reject your ideas. If you're still working in a team, your partner rejects your ideas. Your boss rejects your ideas. Planners, account people, research groups and clients reject your ideas.
So, if you're going to work as a creative, and you should it's brilliant fun at times, then you should grow a thick skin, quickly and embrace rejection.
Reminds me of something someone said to me about sportsmen and women. The best lose more than the rest.
This is a bit like finding a fiver in the pocket of the pair of trousers you've just put on, or discovering an old jumper in the back of the cupboard whose style has just come back in fashion.
An old much loved ad from the past that I had completely forgotten about until I bumped into it on Youtube.
A lesson in life in 30seconds and yet it still does remembers who's paid for it for the brand. Can anyone think of anyother ad that occupies this space. Possibly Adidas, impossible is nothing. Any others? I wonder if you could put a self-help book together made up of only ads?
Some very smart, very stupid or just plain lazy creatives working on the Chevy account over the water came up with the idea of letting the general public come up with an ad to be played out during the superbowl.
As if it's not tough enough convincing people that being a creative in an ad agency isn't one long lunch and/or coke binge but a very demanding and difficult job that requires considerable skill and talent rarely found in mortal form.
All a bit like Faking It. Can you spot the commercial from someone who until two weeks ago didn't even know ads are in 30sec segments?
So, have we creatives been exposed as charlatans, or can we sleep better tonight safe in the knowledge we have been vindicated? Well you decide.
Okay, so you work long hours, but does that mean you're working hard? Because, "long" and "hard" are now two different things. In the old days, we could measure how much grain someone harvested or how many pieces of steel he made. Hard work meant more work. But the past doesn't lead to the future. The future is not about time at all. The future is about work that's really and truly hard, not time-consuming. It's about the kind of work that requires us to push ourselves, not just punch the clock. Hard work is where our job security, our financial profit, and our future joy lie.
It's hard work to make difficult emotional decisions, such as quitting a job and setting out on your own. It's hard work to invent a new system, service, or process that's remarkable. It's hard work to tell your boss that he's being intellectually and emotionally lazy. It's easier to stand by and watch the company fade into oblivion. It's hard work to tell senior management to abandon something that it has been doing for a long time in favor of a new and apparently risky alternative. It's hard work to make good decisions with less than all of the data.
Today, working hard is about taking apparent risk. Not a crazy risk like betting the entire company on an untested product. No, an apparent risk: something that the competition (and your coworkers) believe is unsafe but that you realize is far more conservative than sticking with the status quo.
Richard Branson doesn't work more hours than you do. Neither does Steve Jobs or Alan Sugar or Julian Richer.
None of the people who are racking up amazing success stories and creating cool stuff are doing it just by working more hours than you are. And I hate to say it, but they're not smarter than you either. They're succeeding by doing hard work.
As the economy plods along, many of us are choosing to take the easy way out. We're going to work for a big company, letting him do the hard work while we work the long hours. We're going back to the future, to a definition of work that embraces the grindstone.
Hard work is about risk. It begins when you deal with the things that you'd rather not deal with: fear of failure, fear of standing out, fear of rejection. Hard work is about training yourself to leap over this barrier, tunnel under that barrier, drive through the other barrier. And, after you've done that, to do it again the next day.
The big insight: The riskier your (smart) coworker's hard work appears to be, the safer it really is. It's the people having difficult conversations, inventing remarkable products, and pushing the envelope (and, perhaps, still going home at 5 PM) who are building a recession-proof future for themselves.
Author Seth Godin.
I share it because it sums up perfectly what we're forever banging on about alot at Here Be Monsters, the constant need to be smart in what we do.
I can't help but be impressed, perhaps not so much by the execution as by the fact someone bothered to take a pride in what they was doing and put a little more effort into it.
If your interested, the copy reads
The thing that stuck me the most about yesterday was the way that logic and creativity really are one and the same thing to children - hardly the most insightful lesson perhaps but it was a real joy to be able to see how naturally creative, confident and resourceful we are in our early years. As Picasso said,“ Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up".
My favourite moment was chatting with 3 kids about who lives in the sky. It started off with clouds, planes, helicopters and spacemen, went onto birds, butterflies, dragons and ended up with Santa, the wind, snowmen and water. 100% correct answers and all delivered with utter confidence and self-assurance.
I also learnt that, robots are never pink, monsters can have 3 ankles and that Lexi Bo likes to lay on the ground and pretend to be dead all breaktime, although I didnt find out why.
More on the dadhood vibe Russell has pointed out this as worth listening to, I just have and once again he's on the money and I urge you to do the same, it's half an hour long. I warn you though it's as much a tearjerker as the Dick and Rick Hoyt story
Over at Beeker's fine blog she's taken it upon herself to find some creatives who do blog, well she picked the brains of someone else (fine planner behaviour of course), a mate and a rather glam headhunter, who came back with the following (some of you, of course, I already know, but the others I would like to).
If anymore of you are out there then I'll be glad to list you.
I seem to have started something here, and oh, big thank you, Beeker.
Welcome back, hope you had a lovely break and are suitably fortified to face the new year. Already I'm loving 07, much is happening at Here Be Monsters, more of which I hope to share in the coming weeks.
Naturally, I used my time to improve myself and did a lot of reading and learnt some really useful stuff Real important stuff too. Stuff like, sex workers in Roman times charged the equivalent price of eight glasses of red wine (not that different from your average Essex girl then). And that Just 20 words make up a third of teenagers' everyday speech.
I feel something strange and wonderful developing between me and an illustrator/designer called Stefan G. Bucher. (A brilliantly designed site, by the way).
We've never worked together. We've never met. We've never spoken. I'd say, we don't even know one another.
But he does these wonderful illustrations, using ink, pens and a puffy tubey thingy. He films their creation, which is in itself facinating, and uploads one a day to his blog. One day, Monster No.19, he asked what the monster's personal story was.
As I was sandwiching at my desk at the time I put fingers to keypad and rushed off a back story.
So nice was Stefan about this story that I rashly promised to write one everyday for as long as he uploads a Monster, should he so desire. He, equally rashly said, sure.
I have every intention of keeping to that promise.
What's strange is that I have no idea why I'm doing this. What's wonderful is that someone created something for no other reason than he could. And that something connect with people he never knew were there. And now he's opened it up to anyone who wants tocontribute in the creation of these monster.
The Daily Monsters live.
Last night I rode down Oxford Street where I came across this queue, which went all the way around the corner
All waiting to be one of the first to get their hands on the Nintendo Wii. And who wouldn't? It's a great toy with one hugely lovely feature. Hell, I don't even play video games, but I so want to now.
And it got to me thinking. I know the remote is fantastic and it was obviously going to always be the hero of any advertising. But there's something else about it, something that they may or may not have realised when developing it. It is the perfect web 2.0 product in so much as the user experience is a wonderful CGC asset.
Which is why we get this
And why I think we're going to see so many more being uploaded in the coming months.
And perhaps why smart manufacturers and their agencies might be looking to incorporate such an asset into future product developments.
I saw this over at the wonderful CR blog and my initial reaction was nice, well done, six months behind the times but...
This was followed swiftly by my second thought which was, no, this is wrong, this is disappointing, this is just what agencies have always done, this is stealing from contemporary culture in the name of some brand or other.
Maybe it's acceptable when using popular music or copying the style of a film or music video or from some 1930s French arthouse film, but what we have here is a brand joining, uninvited, a private party of consumers who have built up a community around the mentos and coke thing. And even more unforgivingly, assuming they in no way have to bring anything to that party.
I always thought that mime was a bit like juggling, or riding a unicycle, you can't do it without looking like you're showing-off while at the same time being totally pointless. But then it occurred to me I was wrong. Mime is a hugely impressive and highly useful skill to have. It's just a case of repositioning.
So now, rather than learn Chinese or Russian to go with the Spanish, French and German I don't already speak, I would be better off learning mime. Then, wherever in the world I am, I'll be able to make myself understood.
Mime the language of intrepid travellers.
Apparently Leicester Square gets free wifi tomorrow. I can now work al fresco amongst the pigeons, cartoonists, American tourists, drunkards and first-daters. I'm actually very happy about this, seriously. Hurrah for London moving into the future