Sunday, December 15, 2013

It's Been a While!

Hello folks.

It's been quite a long time!

As you may or may not know, I have been living in the upside-down part of the world for several months now. I have been enjoying the warmer weather, well, I say warmer weather, apparently this was one of the coldest Springs for many years. Still warmer than Blighty though...

In the flurry of moving and starting a new job this site has been getting dusty. But worry thee not... The Ad Pit shall return soon!

Monday, July 01, 2013

Recording Wimbledon on the BBC - A Guide

So. You want to watch the Andy Murray game at Wimbledon, but you are away from the TV for the first half hour... How do you record it so you can catch up later?

Here is a step by step guide.

1. Choose the match you wish to see. In this case Andy Murray

2. Find out whether the game will be on BBC One, BBC Two, or the red button channels

3. Find the appropriate Wimbledon channel (BBC One) and press record

4. Use your psychic ability to predict the exact moment the match will move from BBC One to BBC Two

5. Enjoy the highlights of the doubles match now on BBC One

6. Record BBC Two to catch what's left of the Murray game

7. Use your psychic ability to predict when the game will move back to BBC One

8. Enjoy the rest of the doubles match on BBC Two

9. Switch back to BBC One to find the game has ended and the score is on screen

Honestly, it's so simple. Keep the important games on ONE BLOODY CHANNEL.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sony Understand the Importance of Listening

I've said before that it is so very important to listen to customers. Not that brands should do everything they say, but they should understand their behaviour, their concerns, and their desires.

In addition, clarity is one of the most important parts of communication. A good message said clearly is better than a great message said unclearly.

Last night at E3 (Gaming expo) Sony demonstrated perfectly the art of listening to your customers, and responding with brilliant clarity.

The internet has been full of discussion over the horrible security and sharing restrictions on the forthcoming Xbox One console. (You would no longer own your games - but licence them, publishers can ban you trading in or buying second hand games, sharing games with friends would be awkward and restricted, Microsoft would be able to turn your games off at their discretion, you HAVE to go online every 24 hours to authorise games, etc).

Microsoft have been unclear and evasive, leading people to presume the worst - they cancelled their E3 PR conference and made no mention of the issue in their presentation. There are currently many gamers who will point blank refuse to buy Microsoft's console.

Sony had yet to announce their strategy for this area. People from all over the world have been asking Microsoft and Sony to keep things as they have been, and that change will actually damage the industry as well destroying the rights of customers.

A huge number were watching the E3 presentations last night to see how Sony would respond.

What they produced was a masterclass in clarity. No gamer could be left in any doubt whose side Sony are on, nor have any confusion over their rights on the Playstation 4. Just listen to the reaction of the crowd (Who at one point were chanting "Sony! Sony! Sony!") and hear the pre-orders and good publicity bursting out from the seams. Literally tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of people made their mind up what machine to buy at that precise moment.

The battle between the next generation of consoles is a multi billion pound war. Huge research and development costs, huge game development costs, huge marketing costs. Sony has taken a gigantic step toward winning it with two minutes and twenty seconds of clarity, driven by a little bit of listening.

If you take a look at the below diagram, it explains the confusion people have over what the policies of Xbox One mean for them playing and sharing games with friends, and how Sony have responded. (Original source of image unknown)

In addition, Sony produced this wonderful video which shows just how much simpler things are with the Playstation 4. (It's even better when you realise that the two people are Shu Yoshida, the head of Sony Entertainment Studios, and Adam Boyes, VP of Third Party Relations for Playstation) In the history of gaming, there have been few moments to rival what happened last night, when putting customers above all else paid off massively for Sony.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

General Mills Live in the Real World

There has been a sad reminder this week that many people are still nowhere near as civilised as we might expect in 2013.

You may have seen the latest Cheerios ad from the US. It features a little girl asking her mum about the product. It's a little bit cheesy, but the ending is quite sweet.

It has however, managed to cause a huge amount of controversy on You Tube and other places for one simple reason, the mum is white and the dad is black.


Now I know what you are thinking, You Tube comments are usually the lowest form of social commentary in the entire world. But the fallout from the argument has moved on into Reddit and other sites too. The replies being made were so bad that the company had to disable them from the ad.

There is no argument to be had. People of different ethnic backgrounds fall in love and marry, just as those of the same ethnic background do. I can't imagine that anyone at the agency nor General Mills even gave a second thought that the ethnic make up of the family might be an issue, and it would be incredibly sad if they had to.

I'm glad that General Mills live in the modern world. I really hope they stand by their campaign, and don't feel pressurised to have an all black or all white couple in the next ad. I know no company wants to lose sales, but I guarantee they would lose more sales by appeasing scummy racists than by reflecting the multi-cultural, open world most of us recognise.

Edit: Apparently General Mills have said they will refuse to withdraw the ad. Adding: "There are many kinds of families, and Cheerios just wants to celebrate them all.” Good work.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Obey Your Thirst

I am a strong believer that marketing and brands should be based on the truth. We no longer live in the age where you can lie to people and get away with it for long (unless you are a politician).

So I was very interested in the new reformulation of Sprite, probably my favourite fizzy drink. "The most refreshing taste ever" is the line they use, which certainly sounds appealing.

I went to the shop and picked up a bottle, took it back home, opened it and took a swig. Something wasn't quite right. It looked like Sprite, it tasted almost like Sprite, but it wasn't quite as good.

I had another sip, and it definitely wasn't as refreshing as before, let alone more so. Then the aftertaste hit. A slightly weird, not unpleasant, but certainly not nice aftertaste.

I checked the bottle to see that it now contains sweetener. Admittedly it's not the awful Aspartame or Asulphamame K chemicals, but it really isn't anywhere near as nice to drink now. I know sugar isn't great for you, but historically neither are sweeteners.

I want to know how they felt it was reasonable to declare that this new Sprite was "The most refreshing ever" because it certainly is not. I cannot believe that anyone would put the two side by side and pick the new formula as such.

One of the reasons I bought Sprite is expressly because it doesn't have the caffiene of Coke or Dr Pepper, and didn't have the sweeteners of Fanta or other drinks. Not only is that now not the case (although I believe the sweetener they use is non-artifical which isn't as bad), but it has ruined the taste.

I picked up a couple of bottles of the old formula this week, and it may be the last bottles of Sprite I buy for a very long time. The Sprite tagline used to say 'Obey Your Thirst', I will, I'll be buying 7up from now on.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Thinking Smarter

I read a story today that I thought was magnificent. An example of a business tackling a problem by using the problem as a bugbear for those who cause it.

If that makes no sense, let me show you the genius of Greenheart Games:

Their new title, Game Dev Tycoon, tasks you as a developer of software titles. You deal with all the usual problems of publishing, marketing, sales and piracy.

Of course, piracy. A problem that most publishers like to tackle by ruining or inconveniencing the game for those who actually pay for it (See EA's Sim City and Ubisoft DRM for but two examples). Greenheart Games on the other hand decided to be smart.

They created a modified, version of the game, and uploaded it themselves to the main pirate gaming websites, knowing that eventually it would end up there anyway.

They made one simple change: In the pirated version of the game, no matter what the player does, all of the titles they develop suffer from rampant software piracy. The longer they play the worse the problem becomes until it gets impossible to make a profit.


The outcome, not only do Greenheart Games now know that almost 94% of initial players were using the pirated version of the game, but they inspired some brilliant real life irony. Players of the pirated version appeared online in game forums, asking how to beat the rampant piracy in the game, and asking whether there was a way of researching copy protection.

So, a bit of smart thinking and they turned a potential problem into a PR news story, successfully helped to tackle the problem, AND got a clear and impactful message about the effects of game piracy across to those that pirate games.

If only the big publishers thought that smartly.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

In Extreme Bad Taste

Some ads are bad, some are very bad. Then there are those which are so misguided and wrong in every possible sense that the fact they ever get made is staggering.

Take the latest ad from Hyundai.

It (seriously) shows a man trying to commit suicide in his car, but the gag. Oh the gag. The gag is that he can't because the emissions have no carbon monoxide.

What the fuck Hyundai? Seriously. What the fuck were you thinking approving this?

This is the sort of thing that might appear in the Chip Shop Awards "Bad Taste" category, and even there it would be pushing it. I can't even bring myself to link it.

I don't care if it gets across the cleanliness of exhaust emissions, it's simply an unacceptable thing to put in an ad. For a start the whole concept is in the kind of bad taste that will seriously damage a brand, not to mention how showing suicide in this manner influences others who are thinking of taking their own lives.

You may have seen the open letter from an advertising copywriter who sadly lost her dad to this kind of suicide, while Hyundai might argue this is a relatively isolated case, there is absolutely no justifiable reason why they wouldn't have seen the hurt this ad might produce coming from a million miles away.

Hyundai and Innocean need to seriously reconsider their approval processes, because whilst I'm sure they meant no harm, their work has clearly caused at least one person a LOT of distress, and many many others to be horrified at what has appeared. I would like to think that they haven't done this deliberately as a means of getting publicity, but in the event they have, please just use nudity or violence like everyone else next time. Besides, all you've done is make the name Hyundai synonymous with uncaring, exactly the opposite of what you should be getting across with such environmentally friendly features.

Who approved the initial idea? Who let that idea go to the client? Who approved it? Who produced it? Who filmed it? All of these people should have spoken up and raised questions.

What I find even more astounding, are those people who responded to the above letter by saying that the author should 'get over it', or even insulting the person she lost. This kind of heartless bullshit has no place in modern society, and those who responded in such a way should be ashamed.

Hyundai and Innocean, you owe at least one person a HUGE apology, and you owe it to yourselves to never let this happen again. More work like this and you will destroy the reputation of your brand.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Beware The Bubble

Planning, and advertising in general, is filled with remarkably intelligent people from all over the world. As you would hope with creative agencies, we come with different backgrounds, points of view and ways of looking at problems.

So I was very disappointed to see a recruitment ad on Campaign's website today that implied only one place in the world is worth having experience in.

It was a small, independent agency looking for a planner. Excellent, always good to see small agencies appreciating the value of strategic planning.

Then however, it said this:

"You’ll have excellent planning experience gained in a London agency."
Oh dear.

So excellent planning experience gained at other great agencies in any other country or city in the world doesn't count? That planner with 10 years at CPB in Boulder, JWT New York or W+K Portland isn't good enough then? I do hope it was the recruiter that added this, not the agency.

There are so many brilliant, forward thinking people in London. But there are all over the country, and all over the world. If you want to get ahead, then why not bring in people who have experience of planning in other places? Why on earth would you restrict yourself to only wanting those with London experience?

Most agencies in London are good. They appreciate the value of experience wherever it comes from. But there are still a small number who seem stuck in a bubble that fail to see in a global world, being in one place doesn't matter like it used to.

The agency that is arguably the best in the country, and the best network in the world has probably the most varied recruitment policy of any agency I know of. If that doesn't show you the value in avoiding the bubble, I don't know what will.

I once had an interview at an agency in London, who basically said to me they would rather I had worked at a bad agency in London than a very good one in Manchester. How ridiculous. The market may be a little different, but the skills are the same. If you are a good planner, you are a good planner, regardless of location.

Most agencies are past such thinking now, but the ones who aren't need to change or be left behind.

"You’ll have excellent planning experience."

Simple as that.

[Edit: Interesting point made by Mark Hancock. It may mean "You WILL gain excellent experience at a London agency." Which is far better, but as we all know, clarity and context is everything. Hopefully in this case it's just a copy issue not a bad recruitment policy issue... There are still a few agencies for whom the message is valid anyway though!]

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Linked In Need to Think More

It's much easier to sell and promote something good than it is something bad. You'd think that was obvious, but apparently Linked In have spent so much time trying to sell, they have forgotten to look at what it is they are actually pushing you towards.

Every time I go onto Linked In from my phone, I get directed to a page that asks me to install their app. Yesterday I clicked to download it and got taken to the app page, which shows an average review score of 1.5 stars and is full of reviews talking about how useless it is.

Now surely someone at Linked In might have noticed that reviews for the app have been consistently terrible, and set in motion a better app? Or at the very least realised that because the mobile website does everything the app does, they don't need to hassle us with the install option (which only then reminds us how crap their app offering actually is).

Pushing us a weaker product has all the hallmarks of basing the strategy around a business objective not the end user.

Monday, April 15, 2013

When One Little Thing Spoils Something Nice

I have enjoyed seeing Stella ads get back to being great over the last couple of years, after a while of being in the doldrums. But their latest work shows how one little thing can completely spoil otherwise high quality work.

The latest Stella Artois ad continues to hark back a little to the ideas of the Reassuringly Expensive campaigns with the idea of beauty. It takes a French art house style and uses it well to create something that you want to see through to the end.

However, there is one simple thing that completely spoils this ad for me. It breaks apart the style and just takes away the class from an otherwise lovely piece in one second.

At 54 seconds you see the girl's response to the whole point of the ad, but instead of fitting the tone it just stands out like a sore thumb. As if the whole French cinema theme is dropped in order to achieve a sight gag with her response. Imagine a version of the Guinness swimmer ad where the guy does a cheesy wink to camera halfway through. It just looks awful, doesn't work as a gag, and acts as a car crash to the otherwise well above average build up.

Maybe I'm reading a lot into one small shot, but if we are to spend hours and hours crafting strategies and creative ideas into campaigns, it seems a waste that we should then miss one simple little thing that removes the campaign from the world it inhabits. I couldn't help but cringe when I saw it for the first time.

All it needs is a replacement shot where she looks a little surprised and disappointed in keeping with the rest of the ad, and it will improved hugely.

So close. So very close.

Link provided as they have disabled embedding: Stella Artois Ad 2013

Monday, April 08, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Passing of Margaret Thatcher

Whilst I have very little positive to say about the things she did in power, or the changes she tried to make, I refuse to join in with the celebrations of Margaret Thatcher's death that are going on in some places. Everyone has family, and they don't deserve to see gloating of their pain.

With that in mind, here are the positive things that we as a nation should take from a very divisive politician who, for better or worse changed the country forever.

  1. She proved that women are capable of doing any job as well as (or better) than men.
  2. She proved that you don't have to be born into wealth and go to Eton to become Prime Minister.
  3. She proved that with strong enough convictions, people really can change things.
  4. Unlike modern day Tories, she actually believed that the poor were capable of achieving. The method may have been wrong, but we all need to have more faith in people to grow.
  5. Without her, Spitting Image would never have been as good.

Retro Media Planning

I saw an old Kit Kat ad on tv this week (the panda one if you are interested), and it got me thinking about nostalgia in ads and how they affect our emotion. Then I thought. Why don't more campaigns and media buyers take advantage of this?

Ad agencies almost always want to do something new, and that's understandable. Running old ads is often seen as either a cheap cash-in for a well loved campaign, or the client trying to cut costs. But it doesn't have to be.

There are many channels devoted solely to retro programming, to repeats and shows designed specifically to reminisce and re-watch things from when the audience was younger.

So why don't more brands join in?

For example, Vintage TV. They show programmes based almost entirely around 60's, 70's and 80's music. So why not take some of your ads from those time periods and place them in the breaks? If people are feeling the warm glow of nostalgia, why not tap into that and join in instead of interrupting it?

This isn't mass running of an old campaign, this is selected targeting to show ads in a way that will enhance the positive emotions surrounding the brand.

If you're a 50 year old, watching a show about the 1970's, and in the ad break you see the Hovis bike ad and a PG Chimps ad, not only will they stand out, you'll be far more likely to pay attention and think of the brand in a positive way.

I can imagine some brands would worry about not following their current brand message, but really, in the right place, that doesn't matter. You are likely to get positive emotional response, more attention paid, and more recall of the brand. Besides, a truly great brand is comfortable both with what it is now, and what it was in the past.

Brands are not solely in the present, they have a past and a future, and most are much stronger for being in touch with the whole scope of their history.

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Advertisers Book Club

Here's an idea I may start on Facebook/similar this week.

There are so so many planning, strategic, creative, design, branding, behaviour (etc etc) books that I'd like to read, or re-read. Those that I've never got round to buying, those that I read at work but don't have a personal copy of, and so on.

We should have a book club. Where agency folk from all around the world can share and swap books in order to expand our collective reading lists. That way we can read more and see more books, and know which books are worth buying and holding on to.

I think this sort of thing should work on a swap basis, so you swap with someone, and then either swap back or re-swap for something new with someone else. That way you both pay similar postage which makes it fairer.

Would anyone be interested?

Making a Change

There are numerous sites out there that try to make it easy to create petitions and help encourage social changes. Many of them do a great job, and encourage you to share and spread the word of campaigns.

Today however, I saw something from the site that went one step further.

As you may know, the government in the UK is currently putting an extremely unbalanced weight of cuts on the poor and disadvantaged. The manner is so heartless and ill-considered that people are getting very angry.

Today someone started a petition to get the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith to try living on £53 a week, after he claimed he could do so when challenged by a claimant. I signed it, more as a statement than out of belief that someone with such little compassion could ever truly change his mind based on facts.

What surprised me though, was that twenty minutes after sharing it on Facebook, I got an email from saying "Thank you, you got Matthew to sign."


Now putting privacy considerations aside (it never gives a surname). This is a brilliantly simple thing.

People make petitions to try and change bad things in society, but typically people don't really expect to make a difference. What this simple action does is make you feel like you really are making a difference. Suddenly you see your actions are responsible for someone getting involved. The sharing effect becomes visible, and it is quite empowering.

Now every time I sign a petition, I'll be looking out for this kind of notification, because the only thing better than trying to make a difference, is knowing that you are, even if only a tiny one.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


If there is one policy that sums up just how completely hopeless and backwards our government is, it's the utterly contemptible Workfare programme. A policy that manages to combine being offensive and being strategically useless for its stated aims.

For those outside the UK, Workfare consists of the following:

Selected people who are claiming unemployment benefit are required to work for six weeks, unpaid, doing menial/manual labour jobs at (mostly) large retail/restaurant companies. If the person is doing volunteer work, that has to be cancelled, and does not count.

It is essentially government mandated slavery. It is 'the poor house' of Dickens era brought back in sheep's clothing. It single-handedly proves that the government has no real desire to create jobs for people, because the scheme is so mind-bendingly backwards that it actually makes it HARDER for the unemployed to get work.

Why on earth would a company hire a new staff member when they can simply recruit one for free through the government?

Even more astoundingly. These (mostly) big companies get paid £1000 for every worker they take on. That's right, these companies including Poundland, Tesco, Asda, Argos, Debenhams, Pizza Hut, McDonalds and many more are being PAID to have someone work for NOTHING.

You could argue that it's valuable work experience, but it isn't. It's lowest rung, menial jobs with companies that are unlikely to hire now they have better-than-free labour. Besides, if you want to get the long-term jobless working, then surely showing them the cash benefits to working (I.e.: Pay them) will be far more of an encouragement to want to get back to a job. Just forcing them to work for nothing is hardly likely to inspire them to update their CV.

Plus, the fact that people have to cancel doing socially beneficial volunteer work is beyond insane. It means someone who is unemployed has to give up providing a useful contribution to society, and to give up work satisfaction in order to do forced labour.

I heard that in my local area, £2m has been put aside to force 2000 people into this form of slavery. That's the equivalent working hours for 230 full time jobs. So you could very easily argue that, in one area of the country, the government is paying £2m to prevent 200 jobs appearing. Even taking into account that some companies will pretend more work is there to get the cash, it's still ludicrous.

Even splitting the goverment cash between the company and the worker would be infinitely better. At least that way everybody benefits. Even if it does still put companies off hiring, at least the worker gets paid.

A far more logical scheme would be for the government to give the worker £200 for a week or two of work, and then give the company an £800 incentive to hire that person and keep them for at least year.

This scheme has all the hallmarks of people who have no compassion, no sense of reason, and no real desire to improve the lives of anyone outside their circle of millionaires and billionaires. It is a fucking travesty that has no place in the early 20th century let alone the 21st. It is to the shame of Britain that our ministers have allowed this to happen, and no minister that voted for it should EVER be trusted again.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Don't Know What You've Got Til It's Gone

Like many people, I've been watching the coverage of the closing of BBC Television Centre, and I can't help but feel a strong sense that the BBC have not properly thought about the issues of closing such an iconic building.

Of course, I recognise that television has changed, and am glad to see more progression to places outside London. But Television Centre is irreplaceable, and, unusually for the BBC, it's importance for viewers appears to have been ignored in the process.

While most people seem to have focused on the importance of the programmes that were created there, we still have most of those. What we will lose is the centrepoint for much of our broadcasting.

Countless shows have filmed using the building, the exterior, the studio signs and interiors. The main sign is as important a symbol of British television as the underground logo is to transport.

While the BBC maybe don't need to all be located in one building anymore, and the internet has opened up production much more widely, there is something very bleak about losing that centrepoint with no real replacement. (MediaCity is great, but it only covers a small section of programming)

In this age of fragmented and anytime access to shows and media content, it seems to me more important than ever that media companies have a central location that grounds them.

I grew up watching Going Live!, my Saturday's starting with them going into studio 7, and then (for a while) Live and Kicking. Two kids shows that made Television Centre feel like this magical place that housed everything good about TV. The intro to Live and Kicking was essentially a pinball bouncing around the building, it was that well known. The BBC in all it's complex, flawed but ultimately brilliant capacity had a home. Just like ITV's local regions used to have their recognisable local homes (Granada Studios, LWT's South Bank Tower in particular).

Now a large part of the BBC feels homeless. As if the corporation has weakened its own position by losing a physical home, and making it feel even more like a bureaucratic consciousness to it's detractors than ever before.

So is there a single reason other than money for Television Centre being sold? Apparently not, as the arrival of Westfield put the centre at risk and budget deficits caused the Beeb to look at ways of countering that by cashing in. Because you know, what London is really desperate for is high-end luxury flats. None of those anywhere nearby.

I agree with Danny Baker's sentiments. The Houses of Parliament would make a great hotel, let's sell that off too. Why not sell Buckingham Palace and turn it into a cinema and shopping centre.

There has never been, and there will never be, another building like Television Centre. It is as worthy of maintained usage as any theatre, opera house or cinema, if not far more so. Given that the BBC will be leasing the studios for 15 years, and still using a chunk of the building, they clearly could have refurbished the place and carried on there.

If the government can find £5billion to give to Vodafone, how can they not find 4% of that to keep the best broadcaster in the world using an iconic and much loved icon. Putting aside the fact that the current government would close the BBC if they thought they could get away with it.

The closure of Television Centre is a very sad day for British culture. A travesty of a decision, putting money over culture and history in a way that I fear the BBC will come to regret one day as much as they did wiping half of their output for two decades.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Are Hipsters the New Chavs?

Back in around the year 2001, the word chav started to escalate into popular usage. One of a number of terms originally used to describe a specific type of person with a bad attitude, loud troublemakers with tinny cars with huge exhausts and a certain style of clothing (usually fake Burberry).

This word was one of a large number used in cities around the country to describe groups of people that would cause trouble and were best avoided. Other variants were Ned's, Townies, etc.

Then something changed. The word started being used everywhere, and as this happened the definition changed. Suddenly it was used as a term to target anyone who was poor or from a council estate. Newspapers latched onto it, and pretty soon it went from being a descriptor to being simply an insult.

I think right now, that exact same thing is happening with the word hipster.

For a number of years, hipster has been a slightly mocking description of that specific sub-set of people who have an attitude of being self-important, and who wear clothing that reflects that. The arrogrant, Nathan Barley style, more creative than thou group as exemplified in this video:

The problem is, that as the term has increased in usage, the word seems to have got more aggressive, and has become a way to insult creative middle-class people. Just as with chav, the word has been shaped by wider usage from those who don't really know the original idea. Now anyone who doesn't come from a council estate (chav..!), and dresses in a slightly retro or different way is instantly a hipster. It has become the middle ground insult between Chav and Toff.

Which leads back to the title. Are hipsters the new chavs? Is this a stereotype that should now be discarded and re-written? I for one am getting fed up with the word now.

Disclaimer: I play synth.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Perception Problem

I had this clock as a kid, was amazing.
The X would light up in the dark!
Apparently David Icke was on TV this morning (quite literally) talking about some of his theories and beliefs. It got me thinking how the world of uncovering the truth suffers from a very similar problem to that of politicians, and how a change could help them to get their ideas out there.

I'll state up front, I'm interested in understanding multiple viewpoints of the world, but I am certainly not what you'd describe as 'into' this kind of political and social movement in any significant way. I just follow the odd link or recommendation from friends.

I dislike using it as a catch all given it's nudged push into being a scare term, but I'll use the term 'conspiracy theories' for ease of writing. (I was called a Conspiracy Theorist once simply for stating I didn't believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction!)

Have you ever visited sites of conspiracy theorists? They are invariably awful. David Icke's site looks like a slightly drunk designer sat down after watching 3 hours of the X-Files and went heavy on the green. In 1998.

They (I.e.: Most I have seen) look like the sites of people who are sat at home in their underwear trawling for data, they don't look like professional news sites, or even journalistic. The average person would see them and instantly be skeptical about the quality of content.

Neo. You are our only hope.
Similarly the sites and videos that instantly get off on the wrong foot by having titles such as "THE TRUTH!", and "DON'T BELIEVE THE MEDIA, THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED!" You may as well have a big flashing button that says "I sound like a nut job, don't take this seriously!!" Talk like an intelligent and informed person and people will start to listen much more carefully to your ideas.

I dislike too the way that some try to goad people and insult them into a response. Telling people they are ignorant for not knowing a fact printed on a badly designed theorist website seen by 0.001% of the internet is hardly likely to create the next generation of informed political and social investigators. Don't tell people they are sheep, tell them about the amazing and juicy gossip and rumours they are missing out on. Don't criticize celebrity culture as being the proverbial antichrist, try and get the intelligent parts of it to get involved and help share the desire not to accept everything you see at face value.

The problem is that the vast majority of 'conspiracy theorists and sites' only ever do the job of talking to the converted. They attract those of a similar investigative mindset, but put off the ordinary people who might actually be interested in learning some new facts or alternate ideas on the world. I think being shunned by some sections of the public drives many to talk more and more to those who already share their ideals. But even when these ideas are wrong, it's still a good thing to promote reading between the lines and having a more informed society. Too many start only talking in theories, and mix those based on facts or named sources and move to the kind of ethereal, coincidence filled and spiritual concepts that the average person will never find attractive in a million years. Even if David Icke did a piece that was entirely true and full of well researched facts, most people would never believe it because of his insistence on also talking about wildly unusual theoretical ideas.

David Icke with less green.
I read one piece last week that just poured vitriol at it's targets, aimed at those who already believe the viewpoint it expressed. The vitriol completely got in the way of the actual story, which had a couple of interesting ideas. Just like Prime Ministers question time, it descends into name calling and anger, which completely destroys the majority of actual progress. I cannot imagine many outside the theorist circle ever getting past the third or fourth paragraph. If you want people to listen to ideas and facts on such important topics, then write like a journalist, not an angry baby throwing toys out of a pram.

If you aren't going to write like a journalist, then at least try and engage people and inspire them to find out more. As dodgy as the charity eventually sounded, look at pieces like the Invisible Children work from last year. It talked in an inspirational way, and in a matter of weeks took a little known issue and made it major news around the world.

We wouldn't stand for ads that talk the way most conspiracy sites do. Maybe if they start learning a few marketing lessons they might find a lot more people interested in what they have to say.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

That Calls for a Rethink

Few stories in advertising are as depressing as that of Carlsberg over the last few years. Ditching what by any standard was a world class tagline, and replacing it with one that is pretty average is not a good move.

Admittedly it's not as calamitous as HSBC getting rid of what, ironically, you could argue was probably the best tagline in the world. Certainly in the world of finance by a country mile.

This week I saw something that made me start to think that Carlsberg has started to pick up again, a great piece of work. Sadly, it was then followed by seeing two pieces of poor work that completely undermined any positive feeling that might have given me.

So let's start with the very good:

A video where they test friendships by asking a friend to come rescue them in the middle of the night with some money. The setup is excellent, the barrage of creepy and weird events is well thought out, and the reveal is played brilliantly. Although for me saying "Probably the best friend in the world." works much much better than "Standing up for a friend - That calls for a Carlsberg."

It's so well done that I was thinking much more positively about the brand.

Then I saw the next ad on TV.

It starts with a reasonable enough premise. A typical 'lad-esque' desire to get away from a female aimed spa and have a beer. Nothing great, but the humour of the old Carlsberg ads always worked round that.

From there it goes downhill. It's not funny. It tries so hard to be a witty rip off of the Great Escape, but the bright sterile production and iffy acting just dampens the moments that could have been funny.

90 seconds to link a weak ad with a tagline that doesn't really work. That's a long way down for the brand.

Then today I saw this next piece via Simon Darwell-Taylor of Here Be Monsters:

This time it's a riff on Spartacus, using twitter and an evil boss. The 1970's archetypal evil boss caricature can sometimes be funny or interesting, not here. Again the bland bright sterile production drains the life away from the ad. I imagine they are trying to contrast that with the green of Carlsberg, but it just ruins the look of the ads and makes them feel completely vacant and unappealing.

The acting is worse than the first ad. The boss tries to overact, and does a reasonable Bishop Brenan style job, but everyone else is awful.

Then the ending. I mean seriously. I have seen some shitty, faux-matey, cheesy ad endings, but this one is in a whole other league of crap. To top it off the tagline comes in and just compounds the awfulness. Maybe saying 'That calls for a Carlsberg' might work when the ad preceding it is engaging and absorbing  but when the ad makes you embarrassed on behalf of the brand it just feels horrifically grating.

My problem with the line is that is tries too hard. It's desperately trying to make itself into a saying in popular culture, but it's too bland and contrived to ever really succeed. Where as 'probably the best' felt natural and clever, 'That calls' just feels bland and flat. In some senses it's almost galling, "You should buy our product now!"

Let's look at some You Tube comments shall we:

The worst carlsberg ad ever. And cringe-factor 100% with the "Spartacus" line at the very end. Seen better acting in El Dorado 30 years ago. Awful.

By far, one of the worst ads ive seen in a long time.

This commercial is borderline retarded tier writing. Seriously, fuck off.

What REALLY galls though. Is that the Spa ad is produced by the same agency that made the excellent Wreck-It Ralph 8-bit takeover among other decent pieces, so they are clearly capable of much better.

The brand and the agency both can do, and deserve so much better than the second two pieces. They deserve to have work with the quality of the first video in everything they do. The budget being spent is worthy of something that will really get people to respond, something that looks pleasantly distinctive, not that it was shot on a 1990's low budget sci-fi movie set.

Come on agency, come on Carlsberg. You've shown us just this week that you can do a hundred times better than this shit.

The Importance of Forethought

I was thinking today about the processes people go through in protecting and trying to steal data. In particular, the process that happens to inform people of hacks and security breaches.

It left me with a conclusion. To be very wary about changing my password after being prompted by email.

Now obviously I'm not talking about clicking on those annoying emails that take you to some dodgy site, but what would happen if the hackers didn't actually need a fake site?

I'm awaiting the day where instead of trying to hack heavily secured data, the hackers target the website, and swap it with their own mirror version. Then they send out a ton of fake emails that tell you their emails and passwords have been hacked, and to go to the official site and change the password.

In other words, they use the legitimacy of the URL, along with security panic to drive unknown sharing of information.

It's probably been done, but I've yet to see it... thankfully.

Note: I know the title is a bit much, but I didn't want a title that makes the link appear to be junk!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Whatever You Do, Don't Push Button

You know there is some bad reading going on, when the star of one of the worst adverts in recent memory is made to look like an acting regular.

Imagine the most wooden thing you can possibly imagine.



Try Woody Harrelson and Woody Allen at a wooden workbench making a balsa wood model of the cowboy from Toy Story and a famous cartoon woodpecker in a gigantic oak-furniture filled studio in a timber framed house.

That still doesn't quite describe Rory Mcllroy's performance in the latest Santander ad.

A great golfer yes, well, usually. But a good performer in front of the camera? Not on this evidence.

Do Santander now sponsor Jessica Ennis and Rory Mcllroy? At least I got why Jenson was there, as part of the sponsorship deal with McLaren. The other two, much as they are sports stars - appeared to be there only as celebrity space, in a Gillette campaign approach.

Maybe it's about them being medalists in sports? No, they wouldn't claim that two of them were losers surely..!

It's basically get a famous person to read the features of the card, though at least it tries to come up with a narrative or setup to make it more interesting. It does go on for quite a while, the person sat near me whilst watching it said "this is dragging on a bit." by time Rory popped up again. If you are going to pay that much money to get three major sports stars to appear in your ad, it would be good if they could act just a little.

In the end, like most campaigns that try to list features and benefits at a time when you aren't really paying much attention; I cannot (clearly) remember a single one of the features. (I've seen it six times today.)

Rather like the recent Renault ad that listed about 15 different specification features as it were a brochure on my screen, piling features leads to ads that sound like this to most people at home...

Monday, March 04, 2013

Cynicism and Dancing Ponies

Two amusing things from today.

Firstly, according to a tweet I received today. I was apparently the first person anywhere on twitter to talk about the Harlem Shake jumping the shark. I'm not sure if that makes me very ahead of the curve, or just very cynical.

Possibly both?

Secondly, I joined in on the old Pony club, as seen below.

Friday, March 01, 2013

A Pony, My Kingdom for a Pony

One of the things that seems to shine through on the best work is a sense of joy. That feeling you get, that the people who worked on this campaign really enjoyed doing it. That the late nights and long days were a breeze, because they knew the output was going to be worth it.

There must be something of that happening, because any agency that can bring joy and warmth to Tesco and Three, two brands that have traditionally lacked any spark whatsoever, must clearly be enjoying what they do.

Seriously, Three has felt like a nothing brand for many years (bar the nice copy of "All You Can Eat Data"). This campaign brings it right back and makes it hard to ignore.

It's wonderfully shot, fun, with a great choice of music. Perhaps most importantly, it actually feels like it has a real bit of thought underneath, driving the idea.

How brilliantly simple and clear is the observation 'Silly Stuff - It Matters' to sum up what people really use and want from internet access on the go.

There is a also a nice presumption there that a mobile network that suggests using it for silly videos must be fast and reliable enough to get the job done.

Networks are constantly shouting about price and handsets and top-up offers  and so on. This just stands out, and makes a nice brand sales point without ever needing to shout it or be blunt.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Mavericks

"I just wanna dance the niiight awaaayy..."

No not those ones.

One thing that has been bugging me for a while is the photos I see of most advertising people. I can't help but notice that so many of them look exactly like we would expect advertising people to look.

Now that's not to make a judgement on their abilities, they may be outstanding creatives/planners/account folk - but the fact they look like advertisers unsettles me a little. It's as if creative people are being molded into a template too much.

Not this one either.
For a start, we are supposed to be in touch with and communicate to the average person. The more the industry starts to feel like it has a block way of being, the less likely it is we'll achieve that.

Secondly, our industry feels like it is sorely lacking in mavericks right now. People that have a real energy and determination to change things for the better, who are prepared to take risks and be hugely bold. Maybe they are out there, but the perception is that there aren't many making a noise. Most of the ad folk that I would class as maverick in some shape are over 40, or names from the 70's, 80's and 90's.

I worry that for the creatives, account folk and planners of the future, there aren't many new names for them to get excited about. The people students are inspired by now are probably largely the same ones who inspired students of my age.

Similarly, we are still too much a white, middle to upper class, male industry. Nowhere near as bad as it used to be, but we still need to get more people from different backgrounds. I've met incredibly smart and talented students who end up working for small agencies scattered around the country, while a posh student who is less smart ends up at a huge London agency. The first agency graduate interview I went to, I remember speaking to the other candidates, and every single person I spoke to has been to either Cambridge, Oxford or Edinburgh Universities.

We need intellectuals, we need radicals, we need the logical, the intuitive. We need a wide mix of people with the drive to take what we do forward. I've always admired W+K's policy of hiring people from different job backgrounds, who bring a different perspective.

There are so many smart people in this industry. I just hope that some of them are preparing quietly to break away from the conventional. As I said a few years ago, if HHCL was a punk ad agency, we really need a PIL agency about now.

We need more people like these:

Dave Trott
George Parker
Rob Campbell
Marcus Brown
Andrew Hovells

Friday, February 22, 2013

What Marketing Can Learn From Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes is the best comic strip ever produced. Funny, intelligent and sweet, nothing else comes close. I figured there would be some nice lessons in there somewhere...

1. Fight for what you believe

Bill Watterson wrote and drew Calvin and Hobbes for ten years, and in that time he went through some almighty battles. The distribution studio that effectively owned the rights to his characters wanted to make a cartoon, and to sell related merchandise, but Bill didn't want an actor putting a voice to something people could imagine. He didn't want toys and gifts to weaken the world of the strip.

Bill fought a long and difficult battle, the studio contract was so one sided they could have fired him and hired writers to continue the strip. Eventually though, he won the battle.

Too often we let great ideas go because of one piece of rejection or criticism. If you believe in something then fight for it. A great example of this is on Andrew H's blog here.

2. If the system is wrong, change it

Calvin and Hobbes was a playful and creative strip, but it was heavily restricted by the norms of cartoon publishing at the time. The Sunday strips had to be made of blocks in set places, losing the first two boxes to a throwaway gag.

Bill fought for a change (which in some cases meant the strip lost space in publications) which allowed the strip to be one whole piece, providing a huge increase in creative scope. It allowed such wonderful strips as this one:

In marketing we are always talking about things that need improving, so let's improve them.

3. Know when to stop

For most successful comics, ten years is quite a short production time. However it does stop the decaying quality that comes with trying to stay original for many decades (Simpsons, Garfield, etc). By stopping before the ideas ran out Bill Watterson preserved Calvin and Hobbes as a strip that never lost it's edge or sparkle. The reverence it is held in by many has proved Bill right, even if it was sad to see them go.

Too many campaigns carry on past their use by date, we should be as observant about quality as any other creative medium. Don't carry on just because we can, but also don't stop while something is still yet to peak.

4. Treat people with intelligence

Many cartoons treat people as if they are stupid. They highlight every joke and make out that the readers have no intelligence and cannot work things out for themselves.

The worst offender for this is the awful Mandy in the Daily Mirror. Which (until recently at least) used to mark every key word that you were supposed to laugh at in bold and italics.

Calvin and Hobbes never shied away from deeper topics, and beneath the humour was one of the most intelligent and meaningful commentaries on the human existence there has ever been.

In marketing, too often we forget that people are human. They have brains, they don't need to be spoonfed everything, they should not be treated as 'consumers'.

5. What you don't say can be as important as what you do

Sometimes not saying something can be far far more powerful than saying it. Take being stylish, as soon as you say 'We make stylish...' you make it seem less so. Know what to say, and what not to say.

Calvin and Hobbes never answers the questions of its reality. Hobbes is both real and unreal, you are left to decide for yourself the full story.

Likewise you never know the names of his parents, they are just 'mom and dad', which makes them so much more identifiable as characters.

6. Quality lasts

The legacy of Calvin and Hobbes is huge. For many (including me) it becomes a treasured part of life that weaves itself around you. Almost everything I ever do has a reference point in the strips, it asks questions and makes observations that still speak wisely about the world almost 18 years after it finished.

If you make something you can be proud of, the results and legacy will always be better than if you let yourself move downwards.

These two strips are two of many that are completely relevant for those of us in marketing:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Date to Remember

One thing that's puzzled me recently...

I know a few girls (without mentioning any names) who tell me how fed up they are of internet dating, how they never seem to find anyone that they like. The funny thing is, these girls are smart, pretty and interesting, it doesn't seem to make sense that supposedly carefully refined (and expensive) dating sites cannot find decent people for them to meet.

Current dating sites do a LOT wrong. I see things like "Michelle uses - Sign up free now!" on my Facebook feed. People obviously use looks as an initial judgement, but in the race to increase membership it's never really used as a filter. Likewise dating profiles are typically hideous, people tend to either not know what to say, or say too much.

So what could we do about it?

Well what if we make a dating site for people that are serious about meeting nice guys/girls. One where everybody plays a small part in the matchmaking process through user reviews.

I'm no dating site expert, but I've not seen any site that has a substantial user rating system. Perhaps partly because people would create multiple logins if they got negative reviews.

So let's make a site where everybody has one login forever. The login is attached to your personal details (not shown) and making a duplicate would be incredibly difficult. Of course this would make registration harder, but we are talking about a site for those who are serious about meeting people. By locking in reviews to one checked profile, you reduce the risk of people leaving badly thought out reviews and dodgy profiles - It becomes a less suspicious place to meet people.

Profiles are simple and informative. You can get a good idea about someone without them needing to write an essay. Those who are confident can write more, but the essentials are covered quickly.

After every date, both parties would score the other on aspects of their personality. Some of these questions would be aimed at red-flagging horrible people, but most would be based around building a comprehensive detailing of each person's real life attributes.

The problem with most dating sites (apart from the smart datemyfriend) is that they rely on your interpretation of yourself. What this new site would do is add to that real responses from people you've actually met.

The Macallan Ice Ball. Suave.
Is Mary: Loud o o * o o Shy ?
Is John: Smart o o o o * Casual ?
Would you recommend meeting Jane to others who match her profile? Yes / No

So the real life dating experiences add to the data on the site and use actual opinions to improve the matchmaking process.

Alan says he is Witty, adventurous and handsome.
People who have met Alan say he is: Friendly, shy and polite.

What we hopefully end up with is a dating site that produces more appropriate matches, reduces false profiling, and will find my lovely friends someone nice that they would wish to see again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Oreo and Being Responsive

I was planning to write a post about Oreo and their brilliant quick response to the power outage at the Superbowl. However, Marcus has just done such a good job of it I needn't bother:

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Market In Review: Football Gambling

Having spent a bit of time watching the African Cup of Nations (which all real football fans should do I might add, it was worth it just for the joy of the Ethiopian team and supporters just to be there after decades of war and famine decimated their sports leagues and training.), it's hard not to come to the conclusion that the vast majority of gambling related ads are a bit weak.

So here is a round up of what is going on in the field of football gambling.


I'll start with this, as due to their Cup of Nations sponsorship, I have seen this campaign the most.

The idea of using Chris Kamara, who is very popular with many football fans is a smart one, but they don't always get the best out of this tie-in. The standard ads have a nice concept, Chris advertising something else that doesn't quite suit him, and someone interrupts the ads to tell him about Ladbrokes gambling. Sadly the character they have against him just doesn't quite gel, I can see how it might have worked on paper, but on screen it becomes more annoying than funny.

Then we get to the sponsorship idents. Same problem, somewhere along the line it doesn't mesh. The character is too screechy and whiny. Sure, it works in terms of being memorable, but nowhere near as much as it would have if it was truly funny.


Ah. Cockney it's cockney time cockney for cockney cockney cockney geezer cockney  Ray cockney Winstone. This ad couldn't be aimed more squarely at hardcore London football fans if it started with the words "Oi, Irons and Lions."

It does work however, in that it is clear and simple: These are the latest odds on the game you are watching, go online for some more. As a direct ad I guess it works, but it doesn't really have any idea that connects you with the brand.

It's hard not to feel like the overwrought cockneyness is grating though, and I speak as someone with plenty of family from West Ham. "Whassat, you wannanuva one?"


Looks nice, it throws features and selling points at you in a pretty blunt way though. There doesn't really feel like much of an idea, other than the nice "BetterFred" endline suggesting improvement and new features in a way that strives to make you remember the brand name.


An interesting attempt to stand out by making Victor the central character. Paul Kaye makes it work, but you get the feeling it could have been much better as well. He gives it an amusing touch, but that also comes at the expense of making it a bit irritating. The 'guy who doesn't get it' makes the feature sell a bit less blunt though, it also has the best copy of these ads: "I'll have a Pony on that donkey to score for the Canaries."


Again, there is an idea here...  about WilliamHill being the home of gaming, the most dedicated towards the industry. Yet the ad feels a bit cheesy and a little cringeworthy.  It's as if they had an interesting idea but then tried to make it funny. It feels like an ad where doubling the production budget would have made it five times better.


In one football ad break there are just so many betting companies being thrown at you, it's hard to make them stand apart. The concept of using Chris Kamara or Victor in the ad helps, but I still get the feeling that a really great campaign would blow all of these straight out of the water. It's hard not to watch these ads and see them all as much of a muchness, to get to the end of a break and think "Was that BetFred? BetVictor or Bet365 that had those odds?"

I'm not a gambler, and it feels as if these are designed around that audience, not aiming for new customers. But if I were looking to place a few bets, I can't say that any of these really make me want to favour one brand over another, and if I did notice a nifty feature, I'd struggle to remember which brand it was for. More frequent gamblers, you'd expect to know what they are looking for. But I can still see a great brand campaign being very effective against the market as it stands, especially if the product and odds then back it up.

The positive thing from a strategic and creative perspective is that there are some ideas hidden away here, and if they are developed maybe the campaigns will improve.

Monday, January 28, 2013


In one of those odd occasions where you think of a name for something that doesn't exist, and the name drives you to fit something around it... I was thinking about Plannerama recently.

Tell me if this sounds rubbish but:

Planners are generally intelligent people (the ones I know certainly are anyway), and we are always coming up with interesting ideas and observations for clients. So what if we used our plannery skills to do some good for the world?

So the first draft concept for Plannerama is this.

Twenty planners in an informal room, maybe a pub. We are split into four groups of 5 planners, split roughly by seniority.

Each groups is given twenty minutes to discuss and think of ideas around a topic of social, charitable or political importance. After the twenty minutes the topics are rotated, so each group has done all four topics by the end of the night.

There is then a twenty minute all group discussion on each topic, and the best three or four ideas are written down. Following the session the results are published, and hopefully at least one of them will be good enough to provoke some response, action or publicity around the topic in question.

Example ideas for topics:

Is there a peaceful way to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict?
How do we best help the homeless in our cities?
How do we get the public to look at the facts around a political subject (E.g.: The EU) instead of the media hype?

Any thoughts?


If anyone is interested, here are a few links to things I have written recently for gaming website Voxel Arcade:

Everybody Hertz - A look at why gamers in Europe are still being given inferior versions of classic games.

What are the Greatest Videogame Soundtracks Ever Made?

A New Star Soccer Story - A critique of a game that has become very popular despite being very flawed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Discounting a Discount

I saw a brief conversation the other day about whether someone should invest in a National Rail student card. It reminded me of a simple idea that I had for such a card, but one I have yet to see.

The card costs £28 for a year, and gives young people a third off all rail travel. Make a few journeys and it easily pays for itself.

The railway companies want to sign more people up for cards, as it helps encourage the holders to take the train. Yet they seem to be missing something very obvious.

When you book a ticket online, and a third of the cost of your total journey is £28 or more, it should give you the option to sign up for the card for 'free'. As in one journey the card will have covered itself, you simply send them the card and forms and you make the process of choosing to have one simple. It's free to the customer, and simply includes the discount in the first purchase.

If someone orders a cheaper ticket you can include the discount from that ticket in a lower price for the card.

If you are buying a set of tickets that cost £84, and you get a simple tick box option that gives you a third off all future fares... why would you say no?

It takes a decision of uncertainty (will I make the £28 back? how often do I use the train?) and turns it into a no-brainer.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Be Faster! Nice Work For John West

I love it when agencies and brands respond quickly to things going on in popular culture.

Specsavers have always been fantastic at this, sometimes even being in the newspapers on the same day as the story they are referring to. (E.g.: The South/North Korea flag issue last year)

I saw this image from a creative team I used to work with and thought I should post it. It references something that is big right now, but in a way that is actually related to the brand and the product.

I haven't seen it published anywhere yet, but I hope it is. It deserves to be.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What Marketing Can Learn From Sooty

Yes, you read that correctly.

I was watching the CITV retro weekend, and it struck me how Sooty has been successful for over 60 years. Apart from being brilliantly funny, more so than many adult programmes; I started to think about what made it special.

So yes, here are some lessons we should take from The Sooty Show:

1. Really Know Who Your Audience Is

Most kids shows set their audience as a blanket group of kids. Either young kids, tweens or young teens. Boys or girls. Sooty was one of the first kids shows to understand two important things:

  • Kids watch shows together (Especially years ago), so you need to be careful about targeting just one age group.
  • Kids watching shows are usually accompanied by their parents or older siblings.

The show always featured in-jokes and references that many kids might not get or be aware of, and combined it with jokes and action that kids would get. Sooty truly knew about the whole audience, and made sure to include something for all of them.

Some of the gags in here I didn't get until I rewatched them years later.

2. Don't Talk Down to People

So many kids shows are designed to be simple and slow, they treat kids as kids. But most kids want to be older than they are, it's why they place so much importance on how old they are. As soon as a show talks down to someone, they alienate them.

Sooty always treated kids with respect. It had scenarios and situations that were relevant to them, but always spoke to them as if they were real people, not in a manner that kids programmes were usually seen to do.

I watched the show as a kid, and then with my little brothers. The respect it showed for the audience meant you could still enjoy it even as a cynical grumpy teenager.

Far too many campaigns treat people as if they are incapable of understanding basic metaphor or symbolism. Or think that the only way to get attention is to lack any subtlety whatsoever. If you look at the campaigns that people love, and the campaigns that people respond to, they almost always treat people as intelligent.

3. Don't Let People Ruin a Good Vision

For most of it's existence, Sooty has been looked after by people who really care about the show and the characters. Except for the time between 1996 and 2008 when HIT Entertainment bought it, and gradually changed the show in a way that led to it's cancellation after over 50 years.

Since the show was bought back by long time fan and presenter Richard Cadell, it has returned to the vision that made it a success, and the response from audiences has been much better.

It's too easy to make concessions that damage the work we do. If we believe in our work we should fight for it every step of the way. If we don't believe in our work, why are we doing it?

4. Details Matter

The little details matter because they signify how much care has gone into what you are making. Take Sweep. Most shows would just have a puppet that made squeaky noises, but the Sooty Show made sure that every squeak was fully scripted. This meant that the character felt more a part of the action, and also meant that people could laugh at what he said before the punch line, creating a double gag.

Care for the details also makes it far more palatable to see something a number of times. Which if you are creating an ad, is a useful thing to have.

5. Make it Good. Don't Make it For Money.

Many kids shows are designed to maximise the profits from toys and licensed merchandise. Sooty was created out of a love for performing and a real desire to entertain, not to make something profitable.

Make it good and the success will come. A lesson I wish more advertisers would learn.

This also goes for shows and campaigns that are essentially designed to mimic the good work of other people. Just don't.

6. Pushing the Boundaries is What Drives Us Forward

The Sooty Show has caused outrage on a few occasions. Notably on introducing Soo, in an era when it was thought to be introducing sex into a show by having a boy and girl together. Similarly when in one episode where Soo pretended to be pregnant by putting a cushion in her jumper. People will always want to stick to the status quo, but we are in a creative industry, we are creative people, if we don't push things forward, then we will only go backwards.

The silly insults and slapstick violence, along with the above things may sometimes cause shock, but by doing so, the end product was right, and they matched what the audience wanted to see. Forget the status quo, we are here to do good work that works for our clients. If we have to break a boundary to do that, then bring on the boundaries.

Also. As someone who grew up wanting to be in advertising, the below episode is lodged in my head from start to finish. Cos Tooty Poo Smesh.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Blogger on blogging on a blogger

Yes, this is a post about a post on someone else's blog, referring to someone else's blog.

Scamp has done a great quick write up about the blog Canalside View. I suggest you take a look at both.

Always good to read people who refuse to accept the conventions or fashions, and instead focuses on what really needs to be done.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

5 Things We Should Do More of in 2013

Five positive things from 2012 that we should all do more of in 2013.

1. Be Brave

We must never forget that in order to do great creative work we have to be brave. Bodyform demonstrated this brilliantly in 2012. Whether it was set up or a real response isn't overly important, the result was spot on.

2. Be Emotional

I think within adland, people are getting a little past the love affair stage with the John Lewis campaign. However the response from almost everyone I have talked to outside of advertising says real people still love it.
Going for emotions shouldn't be a target as such, it should be the by-product of strategy and creative idea that really connects with people. Emotive gift giving and reliability is perfect for John Lewis, but the lessons on achieving impact in this way for others should not be unlearnt or misinterpreted.

3. Have Fun

Engagement is often an over-used and abused word in our industry. Yet we should remember that nothing we do will achieve any recognition from the audience if it fails to engage. The rise in brands that understand that having fun creates a connection with the audience is fantastic. You don't have to be serious, not even to get across a serious message.

4. Honesty

We should always be honest. The first step on the road to a bad ad is having to be dishonest.
I love those strategies and creative ideas that really build on honesty. Whilst I don't think it is as strategically great as Persil's Dirt is Good, the new Ariel work finally gives the brand a tone of voice and strategy beyond talking about the product at point blank. I'm not convinced about the end line though.

5. Simple Strategic Brilliance

Sometimes simple bits of thinking are the very best. A Thai anti-smoking campaign used kids to make adults pay attention to the effects of smoking they usually try to ignore, and it was simply brilliant.