10 seconds… 7… 6… 5… 4… 3… Ignition… Lift off! Blobby, oh Mr Blobby, if only you could make us understand. Blobby, oh Mr Blobby, your influence will spread throughout the weekend.

Seven great Soderbergh DVD commentaries.

Great portraits on coins (thanks, M).

Check out Kurt Cobain’s Montage of Heck (thanks, L).

Send someone a poo (thanks, J):

Cumming or drumming? (Thanks, C).

Eminem + The Beatles (thanks, A).

Birdman is an a amazing movie. Here are two vids that help explain why:

Interesting ad for pizza rolls (thanks, J):

Food porn index (thanks, M).

The new John Lewis ad

It’s another corker.

Haven’t we all wanted a pet penguin at some point?

And the conceit of a million Calvin and Hobbes comics was ripe for the picking.

The only thing I don’t like is the fucking awful version of one of my favourite Beatles songs. It sounds like Chris Martin at the end of an extremely wistful wank.

Otherwise, good show.

Again.

Fun new Gap ads

They’re clothes, innit? So not much to say.

Just make ‘em fun.

Job done.

You know those times you buy a shirt or a pair of trainers, then when you get them back home you wonder what you were thinking and never wear them again? That happens in more expensive situations, too.

For some reason I’ve recently heard of quite a few situations where a huge amount of money has been dropped on a Tv commercial, or even a campaign, only for the result to be deemed not quite right then shelved.

I think it happens more to American ads because the annual budgets are larger, so one poor move is more easily consumed by the big pile of cash, but I’ve certainly heard of many UK ads that haven’t quite turned out right for whoever makes the decision to run them. Interesting how close you can get to the finish line of having your ad on TV before having your hopes, dreams and creativity dashed on the rocks of subjective taste.

Then again, you never really know exactly how an ad is going to turn out before it’s finished. Who among you hasn’t been surprised by the end result being better or worse, or just different to what seemed to be promised by the script, or even the director’s treatment? I know I have, and I didn’t have the luxury of choosing to bin whatever didn’t match my taste.

Funnily enough, I also noticed a glaring example of such an event happening in the world of movies. Imagine if you put a director who had made a recent Best Foreign Language film-winner with two of the hottest stars on the planet at their absolute peak. Would you expect the end result to be quietly shopped around then left to die in the toilet? Probably not. More likely you’d be expecting further Academy recognition. Alas, none would be forthcoming (and it doesn’t even look that bad):

In the music business it’s even worse, with everyone from Prince to The Beatles binning finished work.

So I wonder if you’ve experienced this, and, if so, to what extent?

(By the way, tomorrow I embark on a month-long trip to various parts of Asia. Maybe I’ll blog more sporadically as a consequence. Maybe I’ll treat you to some thoughts about Jakarta or Seoul. Lucky you!)

People don’t actually like creativity. Make that work in your favour.

Here’s the article from which I nicked the first half of the above.

The article goes on to say that even people who are supposed to like creative ideas (CDs, perhaps even your own creative partner) really prefer the comforting ample bosom of certainty:

“This is a common and often infuriating experience for a creative person. Even in supposedly creative environments, in the creative departments of advertising agencies and editorial meetings at magazines, I’ve watched people with the most interesting—the most “out of the box”—ideas be ignored or ridiculed in favour of those who repeat an established solution.”

I bet you’ve been in situations where you’ve come up with an answer to a brief that seems a bit out there. You debate whether to even say it out loud and when you do, you caveat the hell out of it by saying, ‘This will probably never work, but…’; setting it up for failure. In fact that failure (your AD or CW’s rejection) is a relief because then you don’t have to go through the hard work and possible embarrassment of having to explain it to your boss or a client or another team down the hall.

Phew!

Then you can come up with an idea that fits some kind of conventional shape so everyone can agree that it nudges things forward a nanometre, but in general it’s sufficiently recognisable as something successful that has gone before that everyone can feel safe, like it’s a nice warm duvet with the word bollocks written on it in tiny letters.

So it’s not just coming up with a great, original idea that’s tough; it’s having the inclination and the courage to suffer the slings and arrows that would much rather marshall something nice and familiar towards the finish line. That’s a pretty rare combination, especially as there’s nothing to say the two traits are likely to go hand-in-hand.

When the pairing of great creativity and great tenacity happens it blows the socks off the industry (eg: Tony and Kim at Wiedens, Tom and Walt in their AMV years, Juan Cabral at Fallon), but it’s so rare these days that even the greatest ads of recent years fit more into a familiar form than one that really moves things forwards (Old Spice is a shining exception).

Perhaps this is where newer media (I mean digital/experiential etc.) is showing us the way. Maybe the intrinsic degree of mystery that lies on those frontiers can make them the opportunities for creative stretch and growth that conventional media are less capable of. When you come up with a new tune for a car horn or an app for a sandwich bar the difficulty of really grasping it, along with the smaller frame of reference, and smaller budgets, should mean that originality is more likely to win through.

When I were a nipper, Peter Souter suggested that radio briefs were the best for winning Pencils because the resulting ads were not so scrutinised by the client and therefore a greater degree of creativity could slip though unnoticed. It’s almost as if people have only so much antipathy towards creativity, so if they use it all up protecting the bigger ads, they can’t quite be arsed to the same degree with the smaller stuff.

In 2014, perhaps it is the digi opportunities that work in the same way, allowing you to turn someone’s dislike of creativity into an opportunity to produce it.

Just as I looked away, I saw a face behind you. A little boy stood at your door, and as I looked again I saw his face was shining. He had my eyes, he had the weekend.

Lovely British things that made me slightly miss Britain.

Oddly compelling GoPro wedding booze:

This is your soul legend on drugs:

And this is your Autotune ‘legend’ not on Autotune:

Paul Thomas Anderson 1 hr masterclass.

Writer of Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3 explains how to begin a story:

Funny Craigslist shiz (thanks, N).

Cats that look like pinup girls (thanks, J).

In-depth Christopher Nolan interview.

Screenwriters’ big breaks (thanks, J).

Isn’t it time for Movember?

world-beard-and-moustache-championships-2014-by-greg-anderson-3

Very excellent new Honda ad

Find it here.

Haven’t seen that before, and it’s really fun tapping R like an epileptic woodpecker.

Copy vid day 3: holding out for a hero.

‘The copywriters… I don’t know what they are or where they come from or what they do. It just doesn’t seem to be… Who are their heroes?’ – John Salmon.

‘I don’t think we have any modern day heroes, actually in craft.’ – one of the younger ladies.

‘We never got down to the nitty gritty of being taught the craft to a T.’ – Kat Hudson, junior copywriter.

‘In modern agencies I think there’s less and less time to actually coach and mentor people.’ – Tom Harman, ACD, TMW

That’s an interesting area.

I think it’d be great if there was more mentorship, but I also feel that the inclination for self-improvement really has to be there for that to work.

When I started at AMV I was definitely a writer. English was my best subject at school, I wrote in my spare time for ‘fun’, my parents and brother are/were professional writers… So when I got the AMV placement I also got The Copy Book (I was already mildly obsessed by D&AD) and read it again and again and again. By choice. Luckily for me, five of its authors worked in the agency (David Abbott, Tim Riley, Alfredo Marcantonio, Richard Foster and Tony Cox) along with several of the copywriters who were asked to contribute to the updated version (Mary Wear, Nigel Roberts, Malcolm Duffy, Peter Souter, Sean Doyle etc.) and others who were fucking good writers but have not contributed to that book (Victoria Fallon, Tony Malcolm, Nick Worthington, Jeremy Carr, Tony Strong – sorry if I’ve forgotten anyone).

Occasionally I had to write long copy ads, and if that was the case I’d read all of David Abbott’s old work, but then I’d also go around the offices of some of the above writers and ask them to help my make my writing less shit. It was somewhat embarrassing and uncomfortable, but it made me a better writer, so huge thanks to all who helped me.

Alas, those greats have now been scattered to the winds. If you’re lucky you might be able to find an agency (TBWA currently has Souter, Carr and Doyle) with a few of them, but otherwise their expertise is harder to come by, either because they’ve retired or because they’re freelancing from a nice big house in Norfolk, and that means the greatest, thickest links of the copywriting chain are now broken. So now all the aspiring copywriters of the next generations have to go and weep in a corner, watching through their fingers as the onset of shitty copywriting rivals the onset of climate change as the 21st Century’s most damaging development.

But fuck that right in the motherfucking ear…

If you really want to be great at copywriting there are loads of things you can do. Here’s just one suggestion: track those writers down and beg them to make you a fraction as good as they are. Write to them every single day. Stalk them like Peter Souter did with David Abbott. Pay them if you have to. Here’s another suggestion: read every single ad that has ever got into the Copy section of D&AD, then write them all out until the rhythms of great writing seep into your pores. I’m sure you can think of some more yourselves (hint: they involve the consumption of great writing followed by the production of a lot of writing of your own).

A wise man once said: you can have the thing you want or you can have your excuses.

Copywriters: day two

Some quotes that stood out for me:

‘There is hardly any writing in it, is there?’ – Tony Brignull on social media. Tony, Tony, Tony… That is simply and clearly untrue. Maybe you’ve never seen a Facebook page or a blog, or perhaps you’re just being wilfully obtuse. Either way, it doesn’t reflect well on your ability to contribute to this debate. Even if we don’t count blogs as ‘social media’ (Tony might have been referring only to Twitter and Facebook) the number of words cranked out is hardly an indication of the quality of the argument. In fact, I once heard a great copywriter explain that ‘a 48-sheet poster is a wonderful opportunity for a copywriter to use five or six words and one picture to tremendous effect.’ That writer was Tony Brignull in the video I posted yesterday. If you can have a great impact in five or six words, why not in 140 characters? Some Tweets get retweeted many thousands of times, and not just because they were written by Justin Bieber.

‘We have a youngster…who loves the craft, and he reads a lot,’ – Nicky Bullard, CD LIDA. I’m sure it was just a throwaway comment, but using ‘he reads a lot’ as a justification for the quality of a copywriter is the kind of thing that makes me laugh and cry. I laugh because everyone who aspires to any kind of professional writing career should read a lot. It’s the lowest bar of all, like saying a young guitarist ‘listens to lots of music’. I cry because we must be in some kind of society where reading a lot is unusual enough to be remarkable. Was it Mark Twain who said there’s no difference between being unable to read and being able to read but not doing it?

‘Copywriter is a bit of a misnomer now,’ Matt Longstaff, ACD at AKQA. He didn’t get a chance to explain that, but I’d like to suggest the ‘nomer’ is just fine. If we take copywriting merely as written communication on someone’s behalf (that doesn’t take into account scripts etc., but I’ll use that smaller definition to make my point), it now exists in many other media while retaining its original locations, none of which have become obsolete. The ‘Mavens’ then seemed to agree that a copywriter should be able to work in all disciplines (although Matt then made the excellent observation that ‘just because I can drive it doesn’t mean I can win the Formula One’. I’m not sure that was relevant to the versatility of a writer, but it’s a good lesson in general). This was countered by Mr. Brignull who pointed out that print writers aren’t always great at TV and vice versa. Tony is absolutely right, and has been proven so by the careers of many print creatives who ‘can’t do TV’, and TV creatives who can’t put together a 500-word argument in a press ad. So I wonder if the same is true of the new disciplines: can a great tweeter write a script for a branded video game? Would a blogger be able to manage the narrative of an experiential event? I think the ability to produce writing that is intended to be read should cross media, but other writing may be more specialised.

Let’s see if I can cobble any more nitpicking together for tomorrow.

There’s only one way to resolve the differences in opinion from these generations of copywriters… fight!

Wow, Howard Fletcher, John Salmon, Barbara Nokes, Tony Brignull…

So many of my copywriting heroes all in one room together (Elena’s L’Etoile was clearly the most appropriate venue for the copy titans of the 70s and 80s to meet).

Rather than write about their opinions, and those of the modern writers (no offence to them but I can’t quite use the word ‘equivalents’ here), I’m going to let you have a gander at that clip and let me know what, if anything, it brings up for you. Then I’m going to take the bits you and I found most interesting and drag them out into next few days of posts. So if you’re an AD, or a bit thick, just pop back on Friday for the weekend links.

Meanwhile, the copywriters amongst you might like to take this census. It’s the reason the little video was made, so shove your tuppence worth in the cyberslot and feel like you’ve just done something worthwhile or something utterly pointless – I have no idea what they intend to do with the results of the survey, so I don’t know if you should give it hours of consideration or just wipe your cyberarse with it.

The choice is yours!

PS: ‘Madmen v Mavens’? I appreciate the attempt at alliteration, but it’s a bit odd/poor that they’ve gone with something that’s somewhat tautological. The ‘Madmen’ are also ‘Mavens’; many would argue they have a more substantial claim to that word than the people in the Clapham gastropub, one of whom is a junior copywriter. I mean, if you’re going to stand for the promotion of excellence in the written word, write the right fucking words on your YouTube clip, FFS…