Thursday, December 21, 2006

The best chart. Ever.

This post by Simon sums up some of my feelings about unnecessary charts. Absolutely brilliant.

Yes, even better than the dancing.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ack! I've been tagged..

Well, I've been tagged by Daniel Mejia over at AdStructure, so I've got to reveal 5 things you didn't already know about me. Seeing as I've already professed my love for Stoke City, I guess I'll have to tell you all some new things:
1) Well, let's start off with something embarassing. From the age of 18 through to about 20/21, in between University holidays I worked for this company. Yes, I was a burger flipper. I'll tell you one thing; it doesn't half keep your feet on the ground working somewhere like that, much less improving your diplomacy skills. It also makes you acutely aware of the importance of being polite, as well as realising that no ban can stop people from being obese (a combination of sitting on your arse all day and eating junk food does that, a la most truckers/logistics people).
2) I'm left handed, and as a result, think more quickly, am like 10% of the population and am generally more creative. Heh. Well, I know one thing - I think my eyebrows explain why the Latin for left is 'Sinister'. However, I can throw a frisbee with both hands, play pool/snooker righty, golf/cricket lefty and tennis lefty. How odd.
3) My favourite sport (to play) is golf. Though Mark Twain said it was a good walk spoiled, I really love the game. Now, I know this relegates me to middle aged man territory, but only those who've never given it a chance say that. It's a sport with so many different facets to it; you could spend a lifetime learning the nuances. I don't think I could say that for many other sports.
4) I'm always the first person on the dance floor. I don't know why this is; I'm not a show-off in any other way, and my dancing is atrocious. But still...
5) I've met Mick Jones (aka The Clash's lead guitarist) when his new band, Carbon/Silicon played Exeter. He was, as you'd expect, an absolute legend. He's my guitar hero.
I tag:
All of these kind people link to me.. so.. tag! You're it!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

No fear. Or, a plea for old school Account Handlers..

As the new world order of agencies jostles for position, I think there's a real danger of overlooking those incredibly underated folk. Yes, that's right, account handers/managers/people.
I'm not about to suggest that the Account man has somehow died, or there's no need for him/her. I think it's a bit dangerous to think like that. Nor do I believe that the new world order of agencies can afford to overlook the suit, and that somehow the planner or creative could and should have more power than the suit.
Each discipline lacks skills the others possess; the best suits are far more charming and better with people than the average planner or creative, and likewise, planners and creatives can usually think along far different lines than the average suit. HOWEVER... too much thinking like this leads to:

So, to avoid this... I'm not going to propose disbanding departments, allowing the most snot nosed account person to create creative work, nor saying to the most socially awkward planner to present an hour presentation to the most important client. That'd just be silly. Structures of this sort exist for a reason, and searching for new ones is liking asking 'What came first, the chicken or the egg?' (Yes, one of the presentations in the sidebar really was on a hiding to nothing).

No, instead, we've got to move away from both notions, and dare I say, back to some of the old attitudes. As Morris Hite states in his 80's book, "No agency is better than its account executives."

Damn right. These plucky youngsters are the faces of the agency. They've got to be ballsy, unafraid to have an opinion, not just cast aside as the photocopying monkey for the first year.
It's rather telling that what people held as the account man's job (having an opinion on the strategy, overseeing parts of the creative brief) back in the day, the planner has now subsumed. But surely, if the agency is being presented by these people, the AE has to be able to think strategically, and to a lesser extent, creatively?

I say this in this order because without the nous to understand just where the brand is heading, account services will become overly seduced by creativity without substance. It's all very well to admire the bright lights and flash graphics of the latest block busting TV ad, but if you don't understand WHY and can't think creatively, it's for naught.

So - Give back some responsibility to Account Handlers. Get them thinking strategically. Don't just employ those who have to 'think creatively'. One man's creativity is another man's total arse. If it's not understood, it's rather pointless. Perhaps some form of internal strategic training by the senior planners, or a required reading list? (You think I'm joking...)

Perhaps most importantly, get young Account Handlers to get the bit between their teeth. Not to be wankers, but being unfraid to interject. After all, most of these people have had the same training as the forensically minded planning department, so it's unlikely they just 'won't get it'.

And for God's sake, heed Leo Burnett's words: "Fun without sell gets nowhere but sell without fun tends to become obnoxious." No arseholes OR faceless drones, who only do administration, 10 second pack shots and colour co-ordinated dressing.

(NB: First picture stolen from Adweek)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Memes, jingles or songs that just won't go away..

Well, up until the recent Campaign IPA Excellence Diploma giveaway, and Richard's comments about them, I had no idea what a Meme was. Well, upon posting about Christmas ads, I came round to thinking about them (and yes, I know a Meme isn't just a jingle or a song, but for the purposes of this post, it will be).
The Coke holidays ad was clearly successful because of the tune, and indeed, it's not the only ad in recent memory to use music as its selling point; look here at an example of the Halifax 'Howard' campaign from DLKW.
But DLKW's efforts aside, very few agencies seem to want to devise songs for their ads any more - it's all low-tempo folkie stuff, obscure beats (in the case of O2) or no music at all.
I think agencies are missing a trick here; some of the most memorable ads have great tunes:
And yes, I really did enjoy the Um-Bongo advert; it was a damn shame I couldn't find the full length version.
More importantly though, that those songs truly stick in the head. I don't think the new Coke Christmas execution is better or worse than the Lorries one, but as it doesn't have that memorable jingle, people are less willing to readily associate it with Christmas.
After all, all any brand wants is to be talked about, even if it is subtle and in the form of a song. As for DLKW currently doing a lot of jingle themed ads - they do tend to be parodies of existing tunes, rather than their originals. Look at how successful Sheila's Wheels have been.
I suppose there is a massive risk element in writing songs in today's environment; there's always a concern that the brand will get a lot of negative publicity if a song is needlessly irritating. Sod it. Ads should at least be memorable, if nothing else, and songs are a valuable form of cultural capital.
And no, not every brand or ad should do it - could you imagine a COI song on various health matters?
Anyway, this is away from the most important point about this post. Repeat after me: Um bongo Um bongo they drink it in the Congo..

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas ads of old..

Though Stoke haven't lost yet, I thought I should return this blog to something at least vaguely ad orientated. So...Christmas ads, past and present. What makes a good Christmas ad?
Well, let's look probably a lot of people's favourite Christmas cracker. Coke's 'Lorries':
And I quote:
"CHRISTMAS IS COMMING YESSSSS!!! THIS IS CHRISTMAS TO ME" and "im gutted whyd they have to take the only advert on tv that gets me christmassy away.. :( i feel scrooged".
But why should there be this reaction? Well, let's examine the evidence. Christmas is nirvana for brands. Writ large in the landscape, it's the one time of year that, I believe, the average person wants to be away from the materialism/over the top branding of most stores and places.
Hence, it makes sense that an ad which doesn't try to ram an all consumptive, all consuming message down people's throats. It also features a handy jingle. If we're looking for evidence of what a meme can do for people's advertising spend, look no further than this ad. Just you try singing 'Holidays are coming' at people. Either they'll think you are a Hari Krishna gone mental, or a fan of the ad.
I'll not show a MFI/DFS/Harvey's ad (though the latter makes me laugh, if only for the latent misogynony in the execution), but yes, those are also inexorably tied into Christmas, if only for the low low prices.
Instead, let's look at the new Coke ad:
Another extension of their very successful 'Coke side of life' tagline. It would seem the strategy is to emphasise that Coke can provide happiness and fulfilment whatever the era. It wears the strategy a little too obviously (let's see, a bildungsroman IN the advert/flickering calendar pages..hmm..), but it's not a bad ad on the whole.
The biggest criticism is that it's not inherently memorable - yes, it's a big budget Coke ad. But it doesn't grab me like say, the next ad we're going to look at, or indeed the GTA viral or W&K's 'Happiness Factory' for Coke in the same campaign.
So yes, it's worthy of a minced pie and some mulled wine, but it's no turkey. Neither is the next ad; the herald angels have been singing:
Boots' 'Tis the Season to be Gorgeous' has been rightly lauded as an example of unique and thought provoking Christmas advertising. Pitting the norm of Christmas preparation (someone, usually mum, getting stuck into the pots, pans, prep and presents) against the glamour pusses of this ad is an interesting move.
Again, I feel it's successful because it doesn't ram Christmas down your throats. Simply, it's seasonal without being obtrusive, something which I think the vast majority of advertising agencies and advertisers find very difficult to do. It also helps that it's one of the best ads for lighting/art direction/overall execution in the past year, never mind the festive season.
Finally, we'll get to the real turkey in the bunch:
(Before you ask, yes, it's 2005's version - I couldn't find '06, but rest assured, it's as bad).
Woolies should be the place for Christmas. It does pretty much have everything you need in store, including last minute gifts like this one. I would imagine the brief was something along the lines of 'Woolworths - all your Christmas needs instore'.
So, as you'd expect, product and offer are king in both execution. However, as a result, it falls foul of the cardinal sin of Christmas advertising, or at least what I believe it is; shouting about your 4 P's, product price, promotion and place.
So how COULD Wooly and Worth save Christmas? Barring some sort of mistletoe led innuendo, I'm finding it difficult to imagine. Why not attempt to understand just what Christmas is like? Make reference to the fact that last minute shopping DOES occur incredibly frequently, and that Woolworths can help solve these problems, both by either helping the customer do it online or by being there instore if it has been left last minute.
Anyway, these are just a few Christmas ads. Does anyone have any ideas about any others?

Facebook is a terrible, terrible thing..

A portrait of the author as a drunken student...or: How alcohol and Christmas crackers don't mix.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Reflections - like your blog are you?

(N.B: This was spawned from the coffe morning with Russell and co/from a conversation with Paul).
After meeting people at these coffee mornings, I was wondering. Are people really like their blogs? Moreover, do you think you've changed since writing your own?
Paul thought that how I was at the coffee morning is how I am in writing. Not sure whether I agree - I was far too quiet in the big group discussions (probably out of respect). From my perspective, Paul was quieter, Richard was happier (Colman slander, I later discovered) and Russell was as I remembered him (I went along to the first coffee morning).
For what it's worth, I think my blog is 'Will-lite', and I'm going to endeavour to fix this over the next few weeks. More camera phone pictures, if I can hook up my phone to this aging PC. I think a lot of it depends on the purpose of the blog; if mine wasn't to offer a peculiar mixture of career-esque musings and posts about hedgehogs, I think it'd focus a lot more on random sartorial thoughts, in much the same way Paul does (ok, I'm kidding...I have no distinguishing socks).
I think Russell Davies's blog is perhaps the purest example of a blog that is its author. Helped, of course, by the pictures of Arthur and posts about anything and everything.
But are blogs inherently more readable when they aren't focused on a topic? I know for a fact that my posts make a lot more sense when I have to justify something as opposed to rambling about what I ate today.
Depends, of course, what you are after. But what does everyone else think?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Today is the greatest day I've ever known (thoughts on music)

Reading Northern Planner's post about music habits got me thinking about my own musical consumption. You, faithful reader, can improve this by buying me some of my musical wishlist.

I felt like thinking about my own musical journey (obviously, this will be massively sparse and incomplete).

1986: I am two years old - Paul Simon's Graceland and Billy Joel's Innocent Man are played a great deal in the car . To this day, 'Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes' remains my favourite song, and Graceland my favourite album.

1989: Tapes of Fleetwood Mac and the Beatles 'Love Songs' are played. Still can't track down the Beatles cover of Buddy Holly's Words of Love on CD. Cracking tune.

1990 - 1991: Bad is on almost constant repeat in the car. It was the first album I ever 'owned'. Dangerous is notable because it's the first time I felt let down by an album. So much so that I can't remember half of the tracks on it.. unlike the next era of music.

1992 - 1994: Aka the Dad rock years. Albums by Dire Straits, Genesis, Chris Rea, Van Morrison and the Eurythmics dominate my listening habits. I've still got a soft spot for most of these albums. However, interspersed with some New Order, I began to (along with practically everyone else of that age) play a lot more football and listen to a lot more indie music. I think the two were intertwined with me at that age.

1995 - 1998: I must confess, I overlooked 'Definitely Maybe'. But when WTSMG came round, it pretty much dominated all my music buying. Hence, I went on a bit of an indie binge over the next few years; The Verve, Echobelly (snap), The Bluetones, Ocean Colour Scene, Stereophonics and Ash amongst many many others.

1999 - 2001: As well as getting caught up in the inevitable 'The' band craze (White Stripes, Vines et al), I went backwards and listened to Revolver properly, as well as buying and listening to everything Stone Roses related. I still hadn't lost my indie tendancies. Again, Mersey Paradise from their B-Sides album still proves to be one of my favourites.

I began getting into heavier, more feedback inspired albums, such as Psychocandy by the Jesus & Mary Chain, along with the odd psychadelia of Gomez and the bouncy punk pop of Greenday and Jimmy Eat World. Jurassic 5's EP was the sole concession to any form of hip-hop.

2002 - 2003: Going backwards before forwards, I finally picked up some classics by The Smiths and the first RATM album (having bypassed angry teenager music, I now seemed to discover it at University), along with the eponymous Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream still being a favourite of mine.

Intelligent bubblegum pop made an appearance with Fountains of Wayne's Utopia Parkway. Some classical also came into play; I began listening to a lot of Beethoven as a result of this Classic FM (not quite that one, couldn't find the exact one) album. I remain bloody awful at remembering the names of different pieces though. At some point during this year I bought all of Massive Attack's albums.

2004: The bubblegum pop trend continued with some Brendan Benson, but to go with it this time came some groove oriented indie (Kasbian, The Music). However, the biggest discovery that year was Nick Cave. Going to one of his gigs that year, I began collecting most of his albums. I also finally bought the only good Weezer album, after listening to an old tape copy for most of Sixth Form. A musical discovery that year was Robert Randolph and the Family Band; some funky stuff.

2005: I listened to Soundgarden a lot this year, as well as RJD2. For some reason, the tracks 'Rain City' and 'The Imploding Voice' (by Turin Brakes and the SP respectively) remind me of writing my dissertation. On a slightly more chilled out vibe, I got into Elliott Smith and Nick Drake at around this time as well, along with most of the rest of Nick Cave's back catalogue.

2006: So far this year I've been listening to Hot Chip (over and over, like a monkey with a minature cymbal), along with some Secret Machines (who says prog is dead?) and Paul Simon's latest album.

On the suggestion of Jeffre, I've bought some Scritti Politti and I have to say, I'm enjoying it a great deal. Gartside's voice is really's a voice of a 14 year old, albeit one with immense talent and a good line in a esoteric lyric. I've also recently bought some Tori Amos, and I'm liking that as well. After seeing DJ Shadow live, I've bought Entroducing. Can't believe I didn't own it before.

So yes, this list is by no means exhaustive.. I think I spent the majority of my student loan on music. No mentions of Mew, Idlewild, Tom Waites, Radiohead or The Clash.

All of these songs are tied up with different parts of my life. Tellingly, there's one song (you've guessed it, Heartbeats) which has got me to buy an album on the back of an ad. If more ads could carry this kind of emotional weight, then they'd be in a very strong position indeed.
I can remember exactly where I was when I was listening to the above albums.
Sad, but the same can't be said for many ads. Anyway.. a question:
What's your musical journey, readers?

All hail the mighty Potters..

Bit of a break from the advertising world, but to hell with it - there are some things far more important than that: Stoke City went 7 games unbeaten yesterday, and I was there to see the latest win.
This will probably curse them, but it looks promising - I actually look forward to Saturday afternoons at the moment.
Funnily enough, I can't quite explain how I came to support them (by rights, I should support West Brom, Aston Villa or.. God help us, Worcester City). I was a contrary lad; my father's a Leicester City fan, and Stoke always used to wallop seven shades of piss out of Leicester whenever they played. So it was the Potters for me.
To get some idea of what it's like to actually be there, watch this:
That's Delilah, our club song (lifted from Tom Jones).
Strange thing, being a football fan. Almost like buying certain brands; they certainly exist a certain way in your mind.. (ok, I'll stop the Seth Godin esque thinking there). However, it is strange, the levels of devotion they can conjure up. I think the best description of how and why the tribal mentality affects people is this book by John King.
Normal service will be resumed in the next post/when Stoke lose (whichever comes first).

Friday, December 08, 2006

Keeping my promise..

It's not just Richard who does war time imagery in his blog posts. Anyway, this short post is simply to say - check the side bar for my 'Ad Land' squidoo and my

I hope they are both useful and interesting. I'll post something bizarre a little later.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Duck Hunt. Or how Graduate Ad Interviews Work..

Graduate interviews. Strange things, really.
As you might expect, I've done the lot. Filmed a 5 minute DVD about myself, gone to a party, taken part in an online account management test and even just talked for thirty minutes about myself and ads (the standard format).

I've behaved like a gigantic muppet in some interviews, (probably) acted like a legend in others. On any given day, I can look like a pillock:

Or a complete hero:

Before you ask, yes, alcohol was involved in the former photo. Rather like Lebowski's dancing, I think.

As a result of this, I've gained some pretty interesting work experience. But damnit, enough of this. I want a job now. Preferably in an agency with some interesting clients/one where I don't have to imbibe or live and breathe some peculiar agency philosophy which I don't agree with.
The clich├ęd truisms are right though; there are different agency 'feels'; ones which you instantly feel comfortable in, and others.. well, others where you couldn't imagine spending more time in it than simply lingering in reception.
That said, as far as my experiences have taught me, it's often the latter which leads to the better creative work...though this kind of working environment may not be what you want, as a junior planner/account man.
My thoughts are so fragmented on this that I'm going to publish a squidoo on different agencies and some of their thinking. This was prompted by a kind email from David Walden (another wannabe ad man) - check out his blog.
But yes, it really depends on whether I'm making sense in the morning, whether the sun and stars have aligned, or what I've had for breakfast (it was just a cup of tea that morning).
As you may have guessed, I'm in the middle of interview season.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

"No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better"

Right, I said I'd try and write something to justify my credo. This is it, and I apologise in advance if it's not up to the same standard as Beeker's.

I think my credo could be misinterpreted as Zen-like rubbish. It's strange (and I'll come onto explain this in a little while) but I think it tries to combine diligence and effort with being free spirited, if that makes sense. One thing is for sure, it's not quite up to the standard of this Caddyshack clip about Zen:

I've always lived my life from the perspective of someone who has realised that I don't have the natural ability to instantly be the best at everything I do. Sounds obvious I know, but hell, I think credos are inherently simplistic.

For what it's worth, I like to think I'm a pretty good writer (although this blog may be proving otherwise), someone who is fairly well read, an adequate sportsman (ok, ok, a poor sportman in everything barring golf, football and badminton) and generally a good bloke to be around. As I've mentioned before, I'm a useful trivial pursuit player - I know a little bit about a lot of things.
This lack of innate natural ability (unless I have some fantastic tiddlywinks ability lurking in the background) has always meant that I've had to push myself harder in order to get the most out of my talents.

*Cue thoughts on interestingness, a la Beeker*

Like Richard and Jon Steel say, these are good ways to judge an idea and an advertising execution. But I also think, like Beeker, that these criteria can inform on people as well.

Beeker has chosen the second, beauty, to inform on her credo. Yet I think the first - truth - informs on my credo, if I'm honest.

Watch this:

Now, how does knowing the truth have anything to do with failure? Well, my argument to that is that it's incredibly important. Knowing who you are, or where something is coming from, is the cornerstone of how I think and act. It's not to say things cannot change. They can, and frequently do. But knowing the now, as much as is possible, means that you can 'fail better' and improve.

Beauty and rationality are both important, but I feel that the middle ground, the truth, better informs on who I am.

I can take leaps of faith, but equally, at times, need to believe something to see it, and my perception of beauty changes with the day. The truth changes as well, but of the three, it seems to me to be the most tangible, and as such, the heart of my thinking on life, brands, the universe or indeed, the Dalai Lama.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

This is brilliant. Much better than Zadie Smith's novel.

Clearly, The Muppets are better than Zadie Smith. Most things are... especially Hanif Kureishi, who I think she borrows from to the ninth degree.

Ahem. Literary conversations not withstanding, go here and read this now. It's very good.

Finished reading?

Yes, it was good, wasn't it. I'm still working on my credo. Not sure if it's either "I'll love it if it's beautiful" or "I'll believe something when I see it".

Closest I've got to it would probably be some Beckett (continuing the literary theme, see?):

"No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better"

I'm going to write something and attempt to justify it. But probably not half so well as Beeker does.

I've also learned a new word as a result of my web browsing - Weltanschauung (lit - 'Look onto the world'). Up there with Schadenfreud.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The road to no regret..

As well as being the title of a Scritti Politti song, it also describes how agencies should feel at the moment.

Sod all this 'advertising is dead, the consumer is king' talk... Yes, the consumer has more power to play with your brand like never before. But that's not to say that this can't be harnessed effectively, or offered up as part of a greater debate. Smart brands are debating with the consumer already, be they HSBC or AOL.

You can certainly make a colossal mess of things this way though, and not every brand needs to enter into a debate. However, much can be said for being the first brand to do so in your category, in much the same way as being the first brand to have a significant voice in your category, much like Innocent.

But again, not every brand can have this sort of voice. So what do you do? Well, by adopting the Bernbach maxim, as shown by Avis:

You make more of an effort. Position yourself as being happy where you are, offering either impeccable customer service, a niche, yet well thought of product. It's not rocket science.

However, keeping a large customer base satisfied is tantamount to . I think maybe only 3 or 4 large brands are able to manage it - the likes of Innoc.. yes, you've guessed it, John Lewis, Audi and probably VW. I'm sure there are others which I'm forgetting in the large brand stakes. Feel free to chip in with other examples..

And this applies to agencies as well. Yes, know about digital, open a virtual agency.. be innovative. But don't forget what you are damned good at, and if that happens to be a ballsy 90 second execution in primetime TV land, then so be it.

The way Campaign and several industry people are talking, you'd have thought advertising is more than content to let PR have all the interesting ideas. Maybe not 80's excess, but 80's ballsiness needs to return to adland.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Another question..

Hello all. Christ, I'm going on a posting frenzy.

Got another question for you, on a similar vein to the last one.

"Are there any agencies out there that can truly claim to be 'media neutral'? If so, which ones? If none, why?"

My opinion is that no, there aren't, not yet anyway, and I have a rambling theory about this (aren't they all?). I'd be interested to know what others think.

Oh, and I've added two more links. Check out a wannabe copywriter's attempts to break into the big leagues here, and a blog I've been meaning to add for a while, FishNChimps.

Marcus, Marcus, Marcus..

Marcus (picture lifted from Paul's site) has a blog, which as I've mentioned before is great.

That said, I have just been searching for the viral ad, and what did I find on Youtube? Yes, the aforementioned Mr Brown after a Subway sandwich... check it out:

I'm never going to be able to order a sub without thinking of the creative shirt again.

I didn't realise that you wrote poetry..I didn't realise you wrote such bloody awful poetry..

It's been a little while since I posted, so here we are then. This post was meant to be a Smiths lyric seguing neatly into why most agency websites are rubbish/unable to successfully promote themselves, but it's not going to do that.

Instead, I'd like to focus on publicity. Should agencies attempt to cash in on their efforts and publicise themselves? Decide for yourselves by watching these two choice clips:

So..uuh.. that's a no, on that evidence.

Or if you are going to be publicised, actually be famous for being good at something, like the Saatchi brothers, Trevor Beattie, or say, Ridley Scott, back in his Hovis ad directing days.

I think agencies can promote themselves, but have to tread incredibly carefully, lest they wind up looking like creative piss-artists. Lord enough of what goes on in agencies to the outside world at least (debating 'owning' colour, anyone?) looks like poncy wank.

That said, a little bit of clever PR (think Wieden and Kennedy and the Daily Mail and Rooney article) goes a long way.

If agencies can convince the outside world they talk something like sense, or are in touch with the cultural zeitgeist in the case of the Rooney article, then plaudits will follow. It's funny how many people believe you if you can say who you are in a confident voice.

However, act like a tosser (see above) and you've lost before you've even begun. And no, I don't think the viral was a parody, much as they claimed it was afterwards.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Well, that's one thing ticked off the list..

I've not gotten involved with Paul's experimental website (found here) but if I had done, I'd have mentioned something about learning to drive.

Well, now I can say I've done it. Many months of swearing, scaring the inhabitants of Worcester and generally being inept have gone by, but it's sorted.

Perhaps now those shiny Audi/BMW ads (or in fact, any car that has 4 wheels and moves) will have some effect on me. I don't necessarily want a car which has had nine thousand odd patents, just one which moves would be nice.

And now to tick off the other thing on my list. Y'know, the whole 'getting a real job' one.

Oh, and I hadn't mentioned this before, but a thanks to Marcus Brown for the link - read his blog, it really is very very good. And also, here's an additional link I found from Russell's blog, by a guy called Simon Law. His blog is also rather good. So read it...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Keep it simple, stupid..

Firstly, check out the sidebar; I've finally added an amended version of the presentation I gave way back in August. Quite a bit of it was lost when my USB stick died, but there is the amended version. Also updated my CV, if anyone's interested.

Right, to the point. Watch this:

Hopefully that worked... it's been a while.

Now, are you a fan of this execution? I like it, but not so much as the previous Bravia spot. Pretty much what Scamp thinks to be honest. Now, why should that be? I mean, it's got the same myriad of colours, the same sense of joie de vivre as the why don't I like this one as much?

Well, barring all the hype/that the original is probably the only ad in the last five years to actually stop me in my tracks, I think it's because of simplicity. Allow me to explain.

I think the best ideas are those which don't seem forced. To my (slightly odd) way of thinking, the idea of people chucking a load of balls down a street doesn't seem that peculiar. It's a 'wouldn't that be interesting' idea with a brilliant execution. I'm still not entirely convinced by the way the end line tags on to the back of the ad, as Richard Huntingdon discusses, but as a piece of mesmerising entertainment, with the music, post-production and...erm, 'bounciness working in harmony, its had me hooked.

So what does the latter possess? Another 'wouldn't that be interesting' idea, but a bit more filmic. The post-production doesn't capivate me, and the song is generic. Unsure what I'd have set that ad to, but considering the former's brilliant choice of music, I was a little let down.

It seems like a cross between a Jerry Bruckheimer production and a game of dominos, appearing very intricate and thought out (barring the clown). Balls seems like someone said 'yeah, let's do it' and did it for a laugh (and yes, I know that it took bloody ages to set up and film as well).

As ever, rationalising advertising is difficult; but one thing is for sure - both are better than 98% of ads out there at the moment, and hats off for the client sell in both occasions.

Further debate can be found on Faris's blog, and I'm sure on the ad-pit at some point.

I think I'll come back to this overall thought a little later; hell, my favourite ad continues to be one of the simplest - 'Jordan' from AMV's Economist work.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The agency of the future/CAN you live a second life?

So Nick Hurrell and Neil Dawson are leaving their agencies. With a blank client list, they seek to establish a new, revolutionary agency.

But can you live a 'second life', away from your former agency/s?

It would seem that you can, but with great difficulty. Look at Red Brick Road or BMB. Both were built around clients that had personal loyalty to the founders (Tesco with Frank Lowe/Paul Weinburger, BMB with FCUK - though not any longer) . Agencies buy into the founders, as you would expect, due to their reputations.

Indeed, I don't think you can ever escape from your reputation; what's more, truly original agencies (70's JWT, Wunderman, 90's St Luke's) have added or taken away from commonly held agency processes, and these are too ingrained in agency life to now be overtly destroyed or altered - in fact, i'd make the case that they've proven that there will always be a front man/a facilitator/salesman, always a thinker, and always one who creates. Even Mother have 'mothers', who are account men of sorts.

JWT were innovative due to bloody good advertising, through Stephen King's invention of the planner role, Wunderman through his 'founding' of DM and subsequent success, and St Luke's through being a co-op, ensuring every person cared about the agency's success and output.

I think that agencies continue to add value through being gamblers, as it were (and as naff as that sounds), willing to experiment. It's why the theoretical brand consultancy will never fully replace the creative agency, even within today's quantified and neatly packaged ad/business world. The traditional agency will always be around, however diminished certain agencies would have certain roles within it.

To summarise this muddled/mildly confused post; I think you can reinvent yourself, but people are just people, after all - they'll put their faith in the tried and tested.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Back from the big smoke..

Well, the last month or so has flown by; apologies for the lack of updates, but it's been fairly hectic. I've finished up my time in London in the short term, and am back in sunny Worcester to earn a few pennies/decide on the next plan of action.

Regarding the brief I posed last time; i'm going to post part of the presentation in the side bar. The audience in question were really looking for a tangible 'solution'; I felt that there couldn't be an obvious short term solution, and our presentation really centred around the notion of best practice to come up with effective solutions.

Thanks again to all who contributed.

Friday, August 04, 2006

A question for my readership..

Well, I've returned from my posting hiatus, and I have a question for the my readers (whomever you are).

I've been asked to answer a brief, and i'd be very grateful if the 'masses' could provide any insights - I have my own thoughts, but please add your own:

"How can Account Management, Planning and Creative work better together to both develop and sell big communications ideas?"

Breaking the question down, i'd say it's actually two questions:
  • How can we improve efficiency?
  • How can we ensure that 'big ideas' are allowed to flourish/be sold?

Assume the agency in question is part of a big network.

I have my own ideas about this, but i'm going to wait and see what others think before responding.

Thanks in advance.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A new site to see and a thank you..

Two posts in a day. Can you believe it? Well, this one is just short and sweet:

First of all, go to polkadotholes, a new ad site i've stumbled across. It's a very good site; the sort i'd like to build if I ever come to terms with the idea of paying to use the internet/stop being quite so much of a luddite.

Secondly, a thank you must go to Anonymous Graphic Designer. He presides over Noisy Decent Graphics (which is an excellent blog about graphic design that provides an alternate view in this planning dominated webspace).

He very kindly had a look at my (incredibly budget) PowerPoint presentation and was very kind about it. So thanks oh Anonymous one.

More choice, more problems?

I was in Sainsbury's today looking for a sandwich. Bewildered by choice, I just grabbed the first nearby one (a 'Taste the Difference' BLT - very nice it was too).

Before this post turns into too much of a wanky 'how a conventional situation led me to think about advertising/marketing thought', let me just prefix it with this: There were over 40 varieties of sandwich.

Surely no individual can require this amount of choice? I mean, sure, I don't want a tuna and sweetcorn sandwich 5 days a week, or anything with marmite in it, but this was crazy.

I'll get to the point now: I think if marketeers and advertisers can help their clients eliminate this level of anxiety/fear/confusion/irrational fear of marmite in-store they'll all prosper. Never mind TV or the Internet - take the thought out of shopping and you'll make a lot of money, and be around for a long, long time.

I think a major reason why stores like John Lewis are doing so well is because they eliminate this level of anxiety/create such an atmosphere of trust that even people like myself (who dreads the day he has to help colour co-ordinate curtains and carpet) can shop with the knowledge that they'll do the thinking for you.

Interestingly, I also nipped into JL recently; on every floor I visited, the very first person I saw was a green striped customer service assistance. No wonder they are doing so well in the customer satisfaction stakes.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Less computer access at the moment..

So less posting.

This will be rectified in about 6 weeks, when i've got a computer more regularly at my disposal.

There will still be occasional musings.

ARE the most powerful brands now made by consumers?

Well, here's my response to Gordon's question. Be warned, it's a little overly influenced by Malcolm Gladwell/muddled, but this question could take days to answer.

The short answer is yes, I believe that the most powerful brands are now made by consumers, in the hearts and minds of the masses.

The longer version is as follows:

Like blaiq thinks, I feel consumers have always had more of an active role in communications that some of the advertising community believes. No consumer is ever passive. I recall reading a Jeremy Bullmore speech transcription on Russell Davies' blog which emphasised this.

Malcolm Gladwell's 'The Tipping Point' makes an interesting case for people always being able to communicate in this way. Without wishing to go into too much detail, viral marketing has always been around - be it word of mouth of those whose information we trust, those who persuade us by their sales-pitch and those who we consider well connected (the 'Mavens', 'Salesmen' and 'Connectors' in Gladwell-speak). These people can help spread the word easily.

However, it is only now, with the advent of the blog and the ease with which many can communicate (such as people like myself who find HTML worrisome) that brands are being 'taken over' as it were with opinions of those who can reach more people with greater speed than ever before.

If then we accept all of this, consumers can now make recommendations (by means of Amazon, MySpace or another peer influenced network) and trends can occur ever quicker. This not only speeds the communication cycle, but it increases the necessity for the product/service marketing to be good ALL of the time. As Northern Planner/Andrew states, this can't be done. People will begin to mold brands in ways in which they cannot conceive.

Hence, consumers now make the most powerful and evocative brands.

This raises another interesting question when it is applied to conventional advertising - will agencies be now promoters of the brand's tone of voice, or less than that? I think there will always be a place for direct branded communications, be it viral, ATL, BTL or ambient.

I think the question coming out of all of this debate is blaiq's point of view once again - 'haven't they always been?' Probably. But now consumers have the means to actively shift and bring about brand change.

Brands, therefore, must engage the consumer in a dialogue; something which modern-day advertising is very keen to achieve. The likes of Innocent's blog provide a useful observation point - will making the brand 'open source' create a better brand? In the case of Innocent (whose philosophy appears to correspond with collaboration), it should.

Whether this will work for every brand is an interesting question; one in which we'll only find out some 20 years from now, I think.

So yes, the most powerful brands ARE now made by consumers. Whether brands/advertising agencies will seek to reclaim their mystique remains to be seen - indeed, whether they can once opened up is a fascinating debate.

Anyway, enough of my random wibblings. Read Russell Davies's debate about blogging (and the comments) for another perspective.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Being thoughtful..

Well, i've had a fun week. The Wireless festival was great (I was at the front for DJ Shadow - I highly recommend seeing him live), as was my time in London.

I promised a question in the last post, and here it is, from a real planner no less:

"The most powerful brands are now made by consumers: Discuss"

I'm a bit knackered at the moment, so no thoughts yet, but will try and nail down some thoughts about it in the next few days.

I'm also very interested to hear what others think.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Travelling far and wide..

Hello all. Just a quick post to say I won't be posting for another week - i'm in Yorkshire at the moment, going to the Wireless Festival on the 24th. Massive Attack + DJ Shadow, a winning combination.

Then i'm back down to London till Friday, so if you wish to contact me, give me a bell (the phone number's on my cv).

I've got a question from Gordon McLean, a planner at DLKW, to pose to my wider audience when I return; it will hopefully return this blog to its original purpose - to chinwag about comms.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Blogs - Narcissistic or something more than that?

Firstly, an apology - I had all kinds of high and mighty intentions for this blog, but it's becoming more irrelevant by the day. Ah well - at least I had a disclaimer just off the main title.

Paul Colman's blog opened up a discussion about blogs which I felt worthy of a comment on. Further comments on it can be found here.

Are blogs inherently narcissistic? Does this matter? Where did I leave my car keys?

Well, the short version of this post is yes, not really, and next to the kettle, you berk.

The slightly longer version; I think the debate about blogs is a valid one. Everyone who starts one does want their opinion heard - it's inevitable that by publishing one, you'll come in for these allegations.

Whether this matters is entirely down to the content. Sure, I may post self-indulgent stuff from time to time; I may even post about Stoke City if the mood takes me (though i've had enough of poorly played football after watching last night's game).

Keeping it on a vague topic (in my case, some points about the advertising industry and peculiar brand things) is important.

I think a real danger is people commenting on things they know bugger all about; personally, I have to fight a very difficult battle when writing about ads/doing ad analysis because I have no clue as to whether the client compromised the creative vision or the ad needed to fulfill a certain criteria before being accepted.

I'm on the outside looking in (hell, I want a job in the industry) and as a result, I need to be careful. I think i'll adopt the Russell Davies approach - comment on stuff I really like/find interesting, rather than randomly slating campaigns.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

England's Performance:


Hedgehogs are great..

They eat bugs, have spines, and pinch cat food. Observe:

It didn't take my blogging long to veer wildly off topic. Normal service will be resumed shortly (right after England Sweden).

Another new blog discovery..

After reading a little more of Russell Davies's blog (the grand-daddy of all planning blogs), i've found another really good blog: 'Creative Generalist'.

The guy who presides over it, Steve Hardy, has lots of interesting things to say. I particularly like the Beatles analogy about how to manage creative thought.

Our Lord Saviour?

The title of the post may seem a little peculiar, but read this (unfortunately you have to subscribe for the whole thing).

If you can't be bothered to click the link, essentially, W&K have made an ad for Nike which features on the second largest billboard on the country (the M4 flyover in West London). Fine, you might think.

However; this particular billboard features Rooney (like the picture above) with his arms outstretched. To quote Brand Republic: " Nike dismisses claims that the poster, created by agency Wieden & Kennedy, plays on the crucifixion. Nike said: "It's not intended to have religious connotations".

Whilst I consider Rooney as central to England's chances, do I view him as messianic? Of course not.

That Nike should even have to make that statement is saddening; seemingly, it doesn't matter what you do, people will find offence.

EDIT: Because i'm RSS illiterate at this point, I didn't notice other blogs about it. Go here for the W&K blog about it and here for a planning perspective on it.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Winning the advertising world cup..

Like the Superbowl, adland's World Cup efforts have been carefully scrutinised by many sites. Rob Mortimer's analysis is an interesting one on the topic, but there are a few ads missing which I rate:

Saatchi & Saatchi's 'Old Lions' is a natural extension of the 'Carlsberg don't.../probably' positioning. It is especially notable for the interactivity of the spot - being able to press the red button to view a full length version of the spot is a great move, especially in such an inspired shoot - the players looked as if they were having a great time.

That kind of chemistry is infectious and, i'm sure, really aided the execution. Another notable point is the microsite - it's absolutely brilliant. Click the picture below to see it:

Mother's 'Goal!' spot for Coca-Cola really communicates the passion which the football fan feels, something which the rest of the World Cup ads ignored, for one reason or another. It's also probably the most original execution out of all of the ads, with the claymation esque figures detailing the pure joy that football can bring.

The above link is for the full 45 second execution; it's great.

To quote Alan Partridge... "back of the net".

Simple things breed simple minds. Or not.

Northern Planner has written an excellent post about choice.

What really stands out is this thinking: "People have to make their own decisions on things like pensions and mortgages like never before. They have never been given so much choice, yet the quality of information to let them make a decision isn't there. So they make bad decisions quick, or just put it off."

I completely agree; I think it applies to Web 2.0 stuff as well. While it's nice to know what other people recommend, I want someone to explain it to me. I can read and immerse myself in as much information as possible, but without someone who I trust to help me make the decision, it is often an ill-informed one.

I think what i'm trying to say is that people are crying out for experts like never before. Those who exude confidence and knowledge of their subject. Think Russell Davies on planning, Seth Godin on marketing or Alan Greenspan on the economy.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A new find..

Whilst looking on the net for some footage for the prior post, I stumbled across a very insightful and well written site - David Reviews.

Check it out. I like the editorials a great deal.

A different kind of plagiarism..

After reading Campaign, a thought crossed my mind; there has been a lot of discussion about plagiarism('Has Adland run out of original ideas?'). Now, obviously, as more ideas and agencies emerge, there is bound to be a fair deal of overlap. You can't stop that.

However, what prompted this post can be rectified - the importance of getting casting right.

The guy in the picture on the right is from an ad for VW's Passat. Watch it here. Recognise him?

This actor has been in Barclays' recent ads as well, as well as one other ad (for Orange, I believe, but I couldn't track it down - it aired about 2/3 months ago). I remembered him because of his unique eyebrows.

Using the same actor for 3 wholly different products isn't plagiarism, but it does seem careless and puts forward the case for agencies to be very careful for who they use in their executions.

Of course, he could just have done those three ads in very close proximity to each other and there was no chance for any of the agencies to pull any of the spots. So I could be barking entirely up the wrong tree.

However, in an era where more and more brands want to stand out and forge a unique brand identity, it's crucial to get this right.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Don't mess with HTML code..

I am not this man (happily)

Doh - note the bar out of place on the right. And, because i'm a nonce, I can't fix it.

Time for a blogger 'help me!' email methinks.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

And then there were two..

Check it out; more Orangey work, this time from Fallon:

A little more explanation about this spot can be found here.

Akin to the previous execution, the spot feels understated and thoughtful. I still stand by my claims about Orange's positioning; I think it's in danger of flying over the heads of some, being a little vague. I will be interested to see what future spots bring.

Oddly enough, it reminds me of the prior campaign Fallon have done for ('if you don't ask, you don't get').

Their clients seem to have realised that the best way to produce effective work is not to shout about it - understated work appears to be their signature at the moment.

I'm very pleased about this client shift; personally, I stand by Jeremy Bullmore's assertation that a great deal of advertising work mistakes the consumer as being passive when they aren't.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

More Mobile mumblings - is 3 the magic number?

Writing the post below made me consider the other major mobile phone brands.

O2: 'See what you can do'.

T Mobile: 'For a better world for you'.

Orange: 'The Future's Bright'.

It is clear that most mobile phone brands are positioning themselves as being wholly for the individual.

Fair point you may say - they are mobile phone brands, after all. But I believe that all of these endlines risk falling into the trap of being either overly vague or too pushy. Well, I think 3's recent work overcomes these potential pitfalls, partly because it appears to have two brand positionings.

Though i'm no great fan of the original '3' work, the positioning of the brand as being simultaneously collective (We like....) and individual ('Welcome to our Network'), along with the recent executions ('Ribbon Talk'/that new bubbles one) seem to suggest that the network is a somewhat more welcoming and quirky place to be than the others.

What do you think?

Picking it up again....some Orangey thoughts..

Well, i've had a busy month. Been traipsing down to London a few times on ad related things (a few bouts of work experience), and as such, this blog has been slightly neglected.

So my resolution, now that I have a bit more spare time, is to learn how to use this new fangled blog technology. Seems reasonably straightforward, but I tend to be one of those people who is endlessly fascinated by new technology, only to be disheartened when I discover how difficult it is to sort out.

Anyway, now for a bit of this new technology. Some Youtube footage.. ahem:

So this then (assuming it works)... what do you think about Marcel's new Orange ad? I like the execution a great deal; understated, elegant, and with a brilliant track. The only slight criticism i'd make (and this is true of a lot of mobile phone providers) is that the positioning seems a little ubiquitous (see above).

As it is alluding to Orange's takeover of Wanadoo, and subsequent 'one package' of phone/internet access (a la Talk Talk, but not free - yet), I think it gives the brand a unified voice; far more so than those odd usage options; the racoon/squirrel/duck billed platypus (with the latter being for those who used their phone as a paperweight).

I imagine Fallon were very keen for the work to be out as soon as it could have been, to help correctly reposition the brand.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A brief introduction..

Hello there.. (that's quite possibly the cheesiest photo ever of yours truly, but there we are)

My name is Will Humphrey, and this is the beginning of my written odyssey into ad-land. I'm a recent graduate who is trying to break into the ultra-competitive world of advertising, specifically, London agencies. I graduated in 2005 and have been attempting to get into the industry since then.

This blog will feature a bunch of random thoughts about the industry/popular culture... i'll try to keep it mostly ad-based though.

If you have any questions about various grad schemes, don't hesitate to respond.
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