‘Why talented creatives are leaving your shitty agency.’

There’s plenty to agree/disagree with in this very long year-old blog post. 

I can’t be arsed to go through the whole thing, so you’re on your own.

All I can say for sure is that a couple of the comic strips are pretty funny and it’ll kill 15 minutes on the lav.

Kill (work) or be killed (by the arse that ensues when you pursue things that will almost certainly turn out to be shit).

Here’s a great article from ‘Hey Whipple’ author Luke Sullivan on what makes a great CD. There are many wonderful pearls to extract, but I wanted to bring up one point that Luke hammers home towards the end:

Another thing I wish I’d heard less of when I was a young creative?

It usually comes during a creative meeting. Someone in the back of room puts down their donut and says, “Well, if I could just be the devil’s advocate here for a sec….”

Dude, shut up.

Ideas are fragile. The bubble can pop so easily. Instead of being the devil’s advocate, why not be the angel’s advocate? Don’t just blurt out what you hate about something. Not liking stuff is easy. Anyone can do it. It’s harder to find out what’sgood about the idea. The trick is finding that little coal and then blowin’ on it till it’s flame.

I forget where I read this quotation from writing coach Jay O’Callahan, but it went like this: “It is strange that, in our culture, we are trained to look for weaknesses. When I work with people, they are often surprised when I point out the wonderful crucial details – the parts that are alive.” He went on to suggest, “If our eyes are always looking for weakness, we begin to lose our intuition to notice beauty.”

I found this very same advice from a venture capitalist, David Sze of Greylock Partners: “Anyone can tell you why something’s going to fail. The real trick is to find out why something will succeed.”

There is, of course, much to agree with here. It is indeed the CD’s job to spot diamonds, whether they be in the rough or glinting right in front of your face. However, I just want to explore in greater detail what a CD should do when faced with an idea that might not fly in its current form…

The trick is finding that little coal and then blowin’ on it till it’s flame.’ Absolutely, but what if there is no little coal? Or what if the coal would require a great deal of blowing to reach a flame that’s either going to be very small or much smaller than another flame you (the team) have ignited? I think it’s also the CD’s job to make the call of when it’s not worth pursuing a certain idea because there are limited time resources and one (or more) of your other ideas is better. That’s not to say a CD shouldn’t be positive if there is positivity to be found, but just as you sometimes have to scrape away the rough to expose the diamond, you also have to tell the team to stop digging if they have accidentally found themselves in an underground cubic zirconia lab.

Luke also says ‘when you eat a turd, don’t nibble’, and I’d say, both as a creative and a CD, the desperate search for something worth pursuing in an idea that needs to die is more damaging, in terms of wasted hope and effort, than a quick bullet to the back of the head.

There isn’t always something good in every idea (and by ‘good’ I mean ‘worth pursuing in the context of the other work’), and telling people there is will only lead to heartache on both sides. On the flip side, Luke is right, that if there’s a faint glow that looks like it could become a forest fire then blow on that puppy like a motherfucker. But don’t apply those electric heart paddles to a corpse.

Have I mixed enough metaphors?

Can advertising and feminism ever get along?

Here’s an article on that very subject (indeed, with that very title) from Anomaly ECD Alex Holder in The Guardian.

First off, Alex is a friend of mine, and I’ve already taken my hat off to her feminist efforts.

So can advertising and feminism ever get along?

Unless I’ve missed the point, Alex argues that by compromising her feminist principles in some situations she is placed in a more advantageous position to make greater strides elsewhere. Fair enough. An unemployed Alex, or one who works in a less persuasive industry, might do little or nothing for the advancement of feminism. We’ll never know for sure, but I can see how that might make sense, after all we have some evidence to back up her claim.

So do the ends justify the means?

Only you can decide…

Tesco’s Christmas ad

According to the Guardian:

Ray Shaughnessy, creative director at Wieden + Kennedy, the ad agency behind the campaign, said: “This year’s campaign is an important step change for Tesco. They are doing all sorts of unexpected things to help people have a brilliant Christmas. It won’t just be about them making sure you get the best turkey on the table; it will be about making sure that people feel Christmassy too.”

‘It will be about making sure that people feel Christmassy, too.’ (My added comma. I would also have removed ‘that’.)

What an ‘important step change’.

What did they do last year? Use a calypso for the soundtrack? Create a story around the Easter Bunny? Set the ad in North Korea?

Nope. They made sure people felt Christmassy:

Slightly odd press releases aside, will it rescue Tesco from its current doldrums? Well, sorry to everyone involved, but as we say in my neck of the woods, this ain’t gonna move the needle.

It’s so generic that it could be for anyone from Boots to Morrisons, and considering its explicit aim, it doesn’t even make me feel that Christmassy. Perhaps a heavily disguised version of ‘What A Feeling’ wasn’t the best choice of track. The sentiment is fine (if enough people can tell what it is), but it’s got nowt to do with Christmas.

‘It’s Christmas, and we’re here to help, every step of the way’, they claim. Great, I’d like some sausages devoid of horsemeat, accounting devoid of lies and a workforce that isn’t paid on zero hours contracts, please. And if you can pay your suppliers fairly, that would also be a bonus.

I dunno. It seems like a strange move all round: first, it doesn’t feel like the kind of thing W&K would do, and second, it’s a timid move for a broken giant that needs boldness and strength.

Right, that’s enough about Christmas. I’m sitting in the 29-degree heat of Singapore, so it’s time for a trip to Raffles for a dirty martini. When I get back I’d love to know what you think.

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.


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.


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?