Thursday, April 24, 2008

Have you ever had this problem with a creative brief?

It doesn't tick.

It won't excite sniffer dogs.

And it'll pass through an airport scanning machine without attracting attention.

But that doesn't mean there isn't timebomb in the creative brief, just waiting to explode.

That's because it comes with a 'suggestion' or 'prescription' of what the creative idea should be. No pressure, mind.

It happened to me recently and it's not over yet so I can't reveal all the details. But I was wondering: has it ever happened to you? Come on, don't be shy.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Under the Influence

Last Thursday afternoon, I bunked off work and headed for Borough Market and its boozers.

Here, across five pubs, Agency Iris and magazine Contagious hosted 'Under the Influence', a well oiled discussion of where the industry is headed next.

So I was happy to find the registration table where it was supposed to be. And gave my name, Hayes, to sign in. 'No. First names, please', said the girl with the laptop. 'That IS my first name', I said. 'Oh', she said 'My name's Lydia, which is quite unusual' 'Yes', I said, 'not bad', before heading off to my first pub, the Runaway Tongue.

Shaun McIlrath (2-3pm)
I managed to get one metre inside the door to hear and see ex VCCP and Heresy cd (now executive cd at iris) talk about what we can really do to help consumers.

It was interesting for me to hear about stuff I've been thinking about for the past year. Stuff like 'is this advertising I'm spending my life on actually a creative solution to the problem?' and 'wouldn't this money be better spent somewhere else?'

For example, he explained how they took the launch ad budget for Ocado and turned it into five £10 vouchers for every Ocado customer.

And it reminded me of a solution I pitched for a D&AD workshop brief for As Nature Intended, the health food shop, where we said take the print and poster budget and spend it on a mobile fruit and veg stall to do the rounds in local areas, offering free samples.

So it was good to hear that truly innovative solutions are out there.

I missed out on the chance to ask Shaun if they couldn't have done SOME advertising for Ocado, since the only thing I've ever known them for is blocking up roads.

If I'd known about their vouchers or other little rewards, I might have given them a go. Perhaps it was just a loyalty thing.


Time for a pint of Peroni and to barge myself to the front, where I suddenly found myself in amongst the Iris crew.

So I got chatting to David, a new Iris creative group head from Amsterdam and another Iris chap. We giggled a bit when the Fallon website was brought up on screen, so that someone could call them to find out where their Chairman had gone. Oh here he is now, only a few minutes late.

Laurence Green (3-4pm)
Not quite the quiet chat and a pint Larry had been told it would be (180 had already pre-registered for this spot the day before), but he got over the shock to tell us stories of Sony 'balls' and cadbury's 'gorilla.'

One of the most interesting things for me was that Larry explained how Sony knocked back 'balls' four times before it was accepted (by the way, Prudential also rejected the name 'Egg' three times before it went ahead.)

Both stories mean this: if you really believe in something, you may have to fight for it.

Sony rejected 'balls' first on cost, then on something else, then wanted to change it to say 'SOUND like no other' (collective groan.)

Someone asked Larry 'how do you persuade clients to do stuff like Gorilla?' Great clients, he said, and mentioned a guy at Cadbury's called Chris, who'd worked with Fallon before at Stella.

People like this for me are the real un-sung heroes. More likely than not, it's their balls on the line.

And it's something that occupies my mind more and more when I pitch ideas: you're either up for doing something different or you're not'

And if you're not, well then we might as well all go home.

Except I didn't go home. I got another pint in before heading off to the second venue, The Principled Practicioner, to see the next speaker I'd registered to hear.

John Grant (4-5pm)
John co-founded St Lukes and is author of The Green Marketing Manifesto and his blog, 'Green Normal.'

I'd had a few by this point plus I was late and had to sit on the stairs and couldn't hear very well. He did seem to be wearing a nice cardigan, however and his round glasses looked very right on.

After about 45 minutes, somebody asked him about Ecofatigue, from which the previous speaker, Sophie Thomas, seemed to be suffering, judging by her body language.

That was it for me. Up I hopped, out and off to grab a front row seat to hear the second most rantingest man in the industry blogosphere (Copyranter being the first - RIP), George Parker.

George Parker (5-6pm)
George is the man behind the blog, Adscam, and continued with his ranting tone of voice for his speech.

I don't know whether it was the heat, the crush or the booze, but his swearing wasn't nearly so impressive live and I actually found his tirade rather tedious.

You just kind of feel like saying 'it's not that big and clever', can't you be a bit more constructive' but instead I just stood there and thought dark thoughts.

When he finished, I asked him to be my friend on Facebook just to fuck him off. Then I asked him where he was from, cos he sure as hell ain't from the States (even if he did spend 30 years on Madison Avenue - as what? A beggar?)

Turns out he's from Manchester and he's got one of those terrible half-yank, half-nothern accents that makes him sound like one of the Beatles who got trapped over in the States.

Sorry for the disses, George, but, ya know, what goes around, comes around.

He did tell two stories I remember: One, the first time he met David Ogilvy, he asked about the kind of salary he was going to get. 'My dear boy, I don't discuss money, I have people to do that for me'.

And George remarked that how he was excited as this was a bit like the Queen.

The second story was about working late one night in New York when David Ogilvy. aged 80 something was wheeled in by minders. Everyone stood up and Ogilvy said 'Never forget: advertising is about selling!'

'And you know what?' asked George, 'he was right!'

To be fair to George, he was probably only giving his audience what they came for. And who can blame him with the kind of people who asked questions afer me. One kissed his arse for about a paragraph, just to get a free copy of his book (that only costs around £5 - poor juniors, perhaps), one (a girl) actually asked him out to dinner that night - he said he'd think about it, haha, unlucky, love, you ain't all that!

And then there was the bloke right behind me who shouted so loud I don't remember what he even asked, although I do remember him saying 'can I have the free copy of your book, oh go on, you know you want to' as well as something about '....for example, there's a website where you can ACTUALLY go and choose the colour of your VW Golf and EVERYTHING...'

Not sure of the relevance of this comment, I was too busy laughing at the content.

Oh, plus he fake laughed really loudly at pretty much everything George said.

While I'm on the subject of odious pricks, there was one other there that day - a young cock in a stripy sweater who tried to walk through me instead of round me then walked loudly into a talk, blathering to friends who weren't even listening but all sporting identical man bags. Keep up the good work, fellas.

The Climax and Curtains (6-8pm)
The grand finale. Slightly farcical on account of the shit sound and the fact that 80% of people were intent only on pissed chitter chatter.

Here's a transcript:

Iris CEO Ian Miller, to John Grant, Shan Henderson (head of mobile advertising, vodafone), Sal Pajwani (what if? global CEO) and John Baker, joint MD, Iris: So, how important will blogging be in the future?

Well, murmour, murmour, general murmour, hiss, crackle, dhlh;lasjfelujljdhf;lads jfalsjlfsjhfkahdfkhdslal';k adf'kjhueyaytul ddlfadsjhljskajslhdauilfd slfjdsl jdsajfldsjfaljds ldslk lds jflajdsf ldsjf aldsjfa lawe jhrtuhaiyfdohdyif ds aiy fbha ffd af ;afds ;sfjs dGSHUT THE FUCK UP.dkf;ljaldsfjlsdj sdflkjjfsldsjflkdsj;flsjlskfsdj sl SHUT UP!DJLFSJDLFJLDJLKDJljdlkdjlfkjdlksj;j;fldjsfj;lsdfjlsdjfl;jSHUT THE FUCK UP! dljdfla;jdlf

Not sure who he is but he was at the free bar.

And so it went on. I stuck it out to the end even though I couldn't hear a word. Mainly because the room was so rammed I couldn't get out but also to watch John Baker's face - he never stopped smiling. Good work, John.

Thanks for the free drink and a great afternoon. Go Iris.

Were you there? Who did you hear speak?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Nice technique, not

We've all used this technique at one time or another.

Just perhaps not all in the same publication on the same day.

These three headlines - all taken from today's (Saturday) Guardian Weekend magazine - were probably written by three different writers who'd perhaps never even seen each other's work.

Maybe that's why it's so depressing all three used the same technique.

The technique's not a bad one but it's still a technique and so leaves the chance that somebody else will do the same thing on the next page and make you look stupid.

But what are the chances that three ads in the same publication all feature the same headline device (which, by the way, has fuck all to do with persauding the reader of anything)?

Check them out:

Great organic taste at a fair price. We milk cows, not people.

Our chefs spend their time cutting fresh vegetables, not cutting corners.

We reduced the size, not the cleaning performance.

Ironically, these writers probably cared about 'originality/style/literary flair', not results. And they ended up being totally similar to two other ads.

By the way, out of these three ads, at least the Dyson offers some copy to back up their literary masterpiece of a headline.

In the case of the Yeo Valley ad, they've said the price is fair. But don't they think readers might like to know how much the milk is? Or why it's so 'cheap'?

As for the Seeds of Change ad, it's not even explained what cutting corners might mean.

There are many words and phrases proven to increase response to ads. Sadly, 'not' isn't one of them.

PS. Somebody talking at Iris's Under the Influence on Thursday mentioned the idea that trying to persuading anyone to do anything these days was simply outrageous. But that's another post.

Friday, April 18, 2008

New lines on the Underground lines: What the driver said this morning

I've heard the odd witicism from tube drivers before but nothing like what I caught this morning. And two on one day!

And it was odd because I was wearing earplugs (I slept with them in and just never bothered taking them out.)

But I definitely heard the following:

1. Picadilly line driver: 'Opposing forces simply don't work. Please let passengers off the train first.'

2. Northern line driver: 'Please let passengers off the train first, please. It is traditional.'

The first got the bigger laugh. I prefer the second.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mpora 2.0: extreme sharing now better than ever

The best extreme sports site on the planet has had a revamp.

New photo and video facility, plus Mpora local, which let's you search for content using GoogleEarth.

Explore Mpora 2.0 now

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What to look for in an art director

1. Must be heavyweight

2. Thick-skinned

2. Must be able to draw

3. Ideally, will be self-aware

4. Must be lovable

Stop the search, I've found one:

Monday, April 7, 2008

The worst ad I saw on Austrian TV

Whatever you think of Cadbury's 'Airport trucks' ad, at least it doesn't crucify an old Queen anthem quite like this one.

This cringe-fest made my toes curl like nothing else - and they were already pretty sore from all the boarding I was doing.

So grab yourself a foot spa, relax and enjoy this TV ad for home superstore, Obi, that I saw in Austria. God bless YouTube for featuring it. And if you like, there may be more in the campaign for you to hunt down. Incredible.

The best ad I saw on Austrian TV

This is a TV ad for Mayrhofen, a ski resort in Austria that claims to feature the country's steepest piste - HariKiri.

I reckon it's pretty classy for a region that seems absolutely obsessed with what we English call 'cheese'. What do you think?