Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, the weekend

Your selfie idea is not original (thanks, J).

The history of autocorrect (thanks, S).

Colouring book corruptions.

What really is in a name? (Thanks, J.)

Husband of pregnant wife takes beautiful shots of beer belly.

Reddit users sum up their first sexual experience in gifs (thanks, J).

The storyboard Scorsese made at 11 years old. 

Beyonce’s ‘All The Single Ladies’ works very well as a dramatic monologue (thanks, T):

Kite fight (thanks, B):

Samuel Beckett motivational cat posters (thanks, T).

Cool peasant (thanks, G):

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Sir John of hegarty

Last week we were lucky enough to have Sir John Hegarty (he doesn’t seem to mind if you use the ‘sir’ or not, unlike Sir Ben Kingley) speak at the agency.

He was a very friendly and affable chap (I hadn’t really spoken to him since I blagged a crit with him back in 1998. He said my art director and I were more suited to writing for Viz than working in advertising. I didn’t bring this up). If he’s like that all the time he must be a joy to work/live with. Andy, our head of print production, poured him a tea and SJH said ‘Oh, Andy, you are wonderful. Thank you so much.’ If I asked a question it was always an ‘excellent’ question (hmmm… maybe all my questions were excellent).

Anyway, he said many interesting things on the subject of creativity and how to sustain it. I could make this a very long post by detailing each and every one of them or I could just proffer the three I remember most clearly:

1. A brand is made as much by the people who don’t buy it as the people who do.

He said this was the most important thing, and when the words left his lips I felt I’d heard one of those blindingly obvious truisms that had somehow never occurred to me. Of course the non-buyers are shaping the brand, but we tend to ignore them in favour of brand advocates and devotees. And then we tend to market to the (I hate this phrase) low-hanging fruit, while doing nothing about the potential damage done by the unconverted.

2. We don’t look back enough.

This is the unarguable point that it’s very odd that one’s progression in any other art form would always involve a deep knowledge and understanding of your forbears. Who would paint seriously without knowing Picasso and Rembrandt? Who would start a band without listening to Dylan or The Beatles? And it’d be pretty odd to go into movie-making without experiencing the work of Kurosawa and Welles. But advertising creatives tend to stumble blindly into whatever is required today, often armed only with the knowledge of their own favourite ads from childhood etc. For many, the great history of advertising, and the work that has been done across the globe might as well not exist and that can only be to the detriment of the quality of their work.

3. Life is the most powerful art form.

I love that one. We think of music and painting and movies as being so powerful, while ignoring the fact that we create ourselves and our worlds every second of every day. We all have to participate in that creation, and every decision we make is like one more brush stroke on a massive canvas. Of course, most of us are unaware of this, and many simply think that life is something that happens to them, but if you think of yourself as the artist there’s no limit to the extent to which you can shape the end result.

There seemed to be a common thread of unawareness running through those three points, probably because they are from a fresh perspective, the fresh perspective of a lovely gent whose drive and curiosity would put most of us to shame.

Predicting success

Her’s the trailer for this week’s US number one movie:

Yes, it looks kind of shit, but it’s taken a very impressive and somewhat surprising $44m in its first weekend in North America.

When I watch a trailer like that I think, ‘Oh, a crappy retread of Limitless with hints of Transcendence, both somewhat crappy floppish attempts at the brain-tech genre. This one’s destined for a fairly quick trip to the bargain bin section of Netflix’.

So I’d have been wrong, but I often wonder what the people involved think when they’re preparing or making a movie like that. Do they believe they’re destined for Oscars/massive box-office, or are they aware they’re taking a bit of a punt that might turn out well? Perhaps they even think they’re creating a pile of old toss but are self aware and greedy enough not to mind.

Back to Lucy: it’s directed by Luc Besson, who has had very few substantial hits (the exception is Taken, whose success, as a fuckbrained sort of retread of Frantic, surprised me even more), so what ingredients of this movie would have made those who took part think it would be any good? By all accounts it isn’t actually any good at all (it’s rated a very low C+ by those who saw it), but Joe Public don’t seem to care. It’s beaten the odds of its provenance and quality to become a massive hit. Whodathunkit?

On the flipside, when I see posters for movies like this…

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…I think that the people involved must have been wetting themselves at the potential awards, prestige etc. (really weirdly I chose this example somewhat at random, only to find it was also directed by Luc Besson, illustrating my point quite brilliantly. Thanks, luck). If you wrote it and your agent said it would be made with that cast, and Scorsese as exec producer you’d be pretty tempted to start working on your Oscar acceptance speech. But no: it was a giant flop, millions of miles from the quality that would have landed it anything like an Academy Award.

But De Niro, Pfeiffer, the studio, Scorsese etc. would surely not have got involved if they hadn’t thought it was going to work out well. De Niro was just coming off another Oscar nomination and is starting to become David O. Russell’s go-to older guy (like Michael Caine for Christopher Nolan), so he has no need to plumb the Rocky and Bullwinkle depths of the turn of the millennium, and he’s surely not short of a bob or two (pun unintended).

Many clever, experienced film biz people have bet on black and watched it come up red, while the drunken punt on number 23 that Lucy appears to have been has come up trumps. I know William Goldman said (referring to the film industry) that ‘nobody knows anything’, but really, my cat might as well be predicting the hits coming out of Hollywood, and she has barely any knowledge of Ozu, Fassbender or Hawks.

The same applies to most art forms: albums, books and ads can become massive flops, even if they’ve been put together with just the right team of massive hotness. And great work can fail while shit sweeps the board. Nobody really does know anything, but that’s part of the fear and the fun.

If it were as predictable as numbers on a spread sheet we’d have stopped giving a shit years ago. As it is, the randomness is a juicy old joy.

Long may it continue.

Reinvention

I just watched a documentary called The Great Hip Hop Hoax:

It’s the story of a couple of lads from Scotland who found that no one would take them seriously if they rapped in a Scottish accent, so they instead began rapping in American accents and pretending they were from California. Success ensued, and they ended up living 24/7 as their American alter egos – Silibil and Brains. They got a top manager, a record deal from Sony and appeared on MTV, but eventually it all went tits up and now one works on an oil rig while the other still clings to his dreams of stardom.

I mention this because it’s not the only case of an accent-changing rapper I’ve noticed in recent weeks: the summer’s biggest track in America, spending seven weeks at number one, is this charming ditty from a lady called Iggy Azalea:

If you listen to that with your eyes closed you probably think that Iggy is black, and even with your eyes open you’d assume she’s American. If you did either, you’d be wrong: she’s from a small town in Australia, and faces constant accusations of being fake (interesting that the first line of the song is ‘First thing’s first, I’m the realest’). Here are a couple of the comments that mention this:

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So, unlike Silibil and Brains, everyone is aware of her ‘fake’ provenance, but many millions appear not to give a toss – and this is in the world of rap, where authenticity is highly prized. When 50 Cent rapped about his edgy lifestyle it became more interesting because he was an ex-drug dealer who had been shot eight times. Then again, 2Pac was actually a middle-class graduate of a performing arts school, and not so much the ghetto thug his records portrayed, but like Azalea, millions happily bought into his image.

Outside the rap world Elton John’s speaking voice is the camp old man from Pinner that he actually is, whereas his singing voice is the Louisiana foghorn that’s appropriate to the kind of songs he’s chosen to sing. And when OK Computer came out I remember Thom Yorke explaining that he’d tried to sing each song in a different voice in order to best convey each appropriate emotion. One could argue that the voice is just another instrument, like a piano or guitar, and therefore it can and should be adjusted accordingly.

The area of reinvention is an interesting one: massive stars like Madonna and David Bowie routinely practised it several times a year, almost as if the rebranding was a part of their artistic expression, and they have been lauded for it. But when Dylan went electric he was booed by the folk audience who thought he’d betrayed them.

One school of thought suggests that we’re all fabrications, our choices of clothes, accents and interests representing an image we create all day every day, with no more basis in reality than Iggy’s accent or Ziggy’s make up. And if that’s the case it doesn’t matter which choice you make. Some might accuse those who adopt whatever is supposedly ‘cool’ of making a desperate attempt to be liked or respected, but ‘cool’ is a pretty amorphous concept, so where do we draw the line between the divisive and the simple expression of taste (whatever that is)?

I realise it’s strangely appropriate to be writing this post on my first day living in a new country, where I fully expect at least one of my kids to take on an LA accent within the next few months. But taking on the mores of a community that isn’t precisely where you were born must to some degree be inevitable, so why not embrace it, dude?

Thank you for being a friend. Travelled down the road and back again. Your heart is true, you’re a pal and the weekend.

The Indian man who planted a tree a day for 35 years until he’d made forest as big as Central Park (thanks, D):

Keith Richards on creativity (thanks, T).

George Harrison playing Bob Dylan at tennis (thanks, T).

Sex refusal spreadsheet (thanks, J).

Insane unknown backstories to big movies (thanks, J).

Wonderful deodorant review (thanks, J):

How did Van Damme Volvo get so big? (Thanks, D.)

Suarez bottle opener (thanks, J).

Posters advertising the drugs of Westeros (thanks, T).

Amazing own goal (thanks, J):

Interesting…

I think Dollar Shave Club might have been more influential than we first thought…

(Thanks, D.)

Loving our new mac ad

(Not accepting comments.)

Side Project number 12845627345

Alex and Adam write:

Hi Ben, 

We write to you with what might be the least worthy side project in the history of your blog. 

We will understand completely if you pull a funny face and then drag this towards the little trash icon.

Or you can open the attached word doc to see what it’s all about.

(Here are the contents of the Word doc:)

“The client is pushing us heavily towards full-bleed.”

If you work in advertising, we don’t need to tell you the quote above is less sinister than it might first appear. It is, nonetheless a fine example of the surreal sound bites pinging down the halls of ad agencies the world over.

Whether you’re a suit, creative, a planner, or even one of those accounts payable gnomes – chances are, you’ve had a conversation shudder to a halt as you all frown and wonder how you arrived at: “I don’t want to execute any ducks.”

Long, insufferable meetings produce gems like “We have to maintain the biscuit equity” or “That’s a lot of buckets of learning you’ve had along the way.” And if you retreat to a different part of the building – fearing an imminent bleed on the brain – you’re only going to run into a TV producer insisting “We need someone with a face like a sock puppet” or a creative director ranting “I should have drunk that tea, instead of sticking my cock in it.”

These absurd little quotes – stranger still, when taken out of context – seem to be unavoidable byproducts of the marketing process. And we love them. They remind us that we didn’t settle for the nine to five, and the rows of neatly ordered cubicles. No, instead we get to spend every day with a strange, wonderful bunch of people, who say things like “Trick everyone, eat a granny and have a great time.”

As a sort of group-therapy catharsis, we’d like to invite your readers to share their own ad-quotes with us via twitter.com/advertisinghurt

 

Share away…

When Did You Last See A Good KFC AD?

Here’s a new one that smoulders like a Zinger Tower Burger:

Really well shot (interest declared: by my friend Jeff Labbé) – to a level that a fast food ad really doesn’t usually enjoy.

I did wonder if the product moment would work, but it’s pretty good. Great American Bites? Rodeos. Fine by me.

And let’s face it: it’s several thousand times more memorable than whatever they’ve been doing for the last ten years (none of which I recall).

Yay Agnostic Atheism!

So I was thinking about how god-fearin’ my new home is going to be, and how, as an agnostic atheist, I may encounter a little bit of awkwardness on that score.

‘An agnostic atheist?’, I hear you cry. ‘Weren’t you a fundamentalist agnostic only a few years ago?’

Well, yes. But now I’m an agnostic atheist because I’m clear that agnostic atheism is the absence of a belief in God, but without certainty. I previously thought that it was the belief that there was no God, but as that’s not the case I’ve revised my standpoint and here I am: an agnostic atheist heading for the United States of America.

In these days of ridiculous religion-based warfare I feel it’s worth standing up for the way of thinking that necessarily avoids all that, in the hope that others might wind that kind of stuff back in and leave the world a more peaceful place.

Of course, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, but for anyone wondering where I’m coming from, here are a few helpful visual and verbal aids:

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Last time I brought this up there were quite a few opinions from all sides.

Just curious… Have any of you altered your position towards religion in the last few years?