In your capable hands, Mr Warhol.

44 years ago Mick Jagger wrote the best ever creative brief.

Spotted on Circle's blog and shamelessly pilfered.

Lait D'Homme

"The Manly Chocolate Milk For Men With Added Man".

We like this campaign for WingCo. A lot.

They've obviously had a lot of fun with it which is always good to see.

Thumbs up and hats off to everyone involved at CHI and Arla.

This idea can run and run and run.

"Vampire Squid WPP wins holding company of the year at Cannes"

Heartfelt congratulations go out to Martin Sorrell on WPP’s “stunning performance” in winning the prestigious “holding company of the year” for the third year running at Cannes.

Of all the awards at Cannes, this surely is the pinnacle, the piece de resistance, the crème de la crème, the dog’s bollocks.

Or is all just a load of bollocks?

I know that the advertising world is ruled by the shape shifting lizards from holding companies, but it seems so ridiculous that such a category like “holding company of the year” exists in the first place. 

It seems such a narrow, unrepresentative and self-serving definition of creativity to have an entirely separate category solely for holding companies to battle it out for such an arbitrary and meaningless title. 

It can’t be anything to do with money can it?

I guess the Cannes organisers have figured out that they can generate piles of cash from entries from cash rich holding companies if they have a special crown they dish out every year.

Looking at this in the cold light of day it just seems odd and plain wrong.

It’s like there being a separate title for most awarded film studio at the Oscars that only the four biggest studios can enter.  Or having an award at the Grammy’s that only the multinational record labels can enter.

Might be worth the Cannes committee considering other arbitrary awards for other sub-groups of agencies as an additional money-spinning exercise.

How about an award for “most creative company of the year with more than two vowels in its name” or “most creative company who have laid off more than 15% of its staff this year” or “most creative company with more than 6 million air miles”. I’m sure these random categories would encourage even more entries from WPP [although they’d probably struggle to win the first category, they’d argue it on a technicality that WPP originally stood for Wire & Plastic Products which is chock full of vowels].

Putting aside the distorted reality that Cannes promotes by pandering to the big networks, the most frightening thing about “holding company of the year” is that it perpetuates the dangerous myth that the big networks truly value creativity and are driven to produce the best possible work for all of their clients.

Awards schemes like Cannes are purely a smokescreen that the behemoth bean-counters can hide behind and use to pretend to journalists, clients and employees that creativity, rather than filthy lucre, is their reason for being.

Now, I’m not saying that making a profit isn’t important. It is.

And I’m not saying that networks like WPP aren’t capable of making great work. They are. [Grey’s work for the British Heart Foundation being a case in point].

The issue is more about the hyperbolic public myth-making that creativity is at the forefront of these business when the opposite is often true.

The campaigns that win awards for holding companies at Cannes aren’t the tip of the iceberg. They may well be great pieces of creativity in their own right but they are often isolated examples and they do not accurately represent the real quality of the creative output of those agencies.

One of our mantras here is “it’s not how good the best of your work is, it’s how good the rest of your work is”.

The depth of high quality creative work that an agency produces across the board for all its clients is the only thing that should matter. Not its ability to pull a rabbit out of the hat for the occasional client now and again. 

I know enough unhappy people working their socks off at agencies owned by holding companies to support the view that ultimately it is the God of the stockmarket and shareholders who are being put first rather than outstanding creative work.

The two things shouldn’t necessarily be mutually exclusive but they often are. Phrases like “doing what the client says to keep them happy” and “only doing it for the money” are regularly bandied around by holding company staffers.  This kind of culture and environment is never conducive to doing great work. And clients often suffer too as internal agendas and pressure to increase fees/generate more “revenue opportunities” can result in the promotion of nest-feathering activity that benefits an agency but is not necessarily in a client’s best interests.

Bob Hoffman’s already magnificently articulated the damage that holding companies are doing to the business here and here.

It’s high time this point of view got wider exposure but with things like Sorrell’s “WPP’s stunning Cannes performance” dominating the headlines, a balanced picture is unlikely to emerge.

In an attempt to redress the balance in our own small way, I leave you with this quotation. Originally coined by Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone to describe Goldman Sachs, I think it could equally be applied to WPP…  

A great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.

Harsh? Not Harsh Enough? You decide. Answers on a postcard.

Fuck 'Em

I find the whole Cannes ad festival quite unsavoury. It's just old order bullshit, establishment advertising clowns patting each other on the back while they rack up the gongs for the Gunn report. It's as far away from the real business of advertising as I can imagine. However, one thing of interest that did find its way back from the international festival of adwank was this quote from the great George Lois...
“Guys come to me and say, 'It must have been great back then, when clients would accept good work.' And I say, 'What the fuck are you talking about?' "You have to remember that it's not enough to have great talent, you have to force clients to accept the work. The minute you start doing bad work because it's 'forced on you', then you ain't worth shit. "At the end of the day, it's about finding clients who let you do great work. And if they don't let you do great work, fuck 'em.”
You've got to love George eh?

Mooooo-te point

In the Suri tribe in Ethiopia - women stretch their lips by inserting progressively larger clay plates. Many people have theories as to why this practise started - but now it is a way to measure a ladies worth: the larger the plate, the more cattle must be given to her family as compensation when she marries.

Smaller plates tend to get 20 or so cows - with the larger fetching in excess of 60.

So, applying the same logic - how many cows does a brand get if someone likes their Facebook page?

Sell! Sell! Gets Serious With ProSpreads

ProSpreads is a company with a serious product aimed at a very small but high-worth audience. They sit at the very top of the spread betting market, providing a professional-level platform for experienced, professional traders.

The most compelling part of what their platform offers is direct access to market prices - different to most spread betting platforms which create their own 'fake' market. We decided to make this the focus of the first wave of advertising, and did so by posing a negative question - Are you spread betting without direct market access? - it's a technique in this case used to nudge traders to critically assess the shortfalls of the spread betting platforms they are currently using, compared to the platforms they use every day to trade. It's often more powerful to suggest is someone is being denied something, and than to simply offer it. ProSpreads are the only platform that can then fulfil the desire for direct access.

We created very pithy print advertising targeting directly through City AM and financial publications, supported by tactically bought outdoor around the city. We developed a stripped-back look and a direct tone, with a heavy black border on all print work for impact – deliberately quite the opposite of the current fashion for full-bleed, touchy-feely photography and language favoured by financial brands.

This was supported by a series of short TV commercials running on the Bloomberg channel (which almost all traders have running throughout the day in their offices). The ads show simple sequences where a trader or city type mysteriously finds, or is handed by a stranger, a simple card, letter-pressed with the question Are you spread betting without direct market access?

Simultaneously, we used the actors from the TV commercials to actually go around the city, discretely handing the very same cards to traders and city types. Bringing to life, in person, what the trader had seen on TV.

The launch was followed up by another targeted press ad about direct market access, and subsequently by executions aimed at arcade traders encouraging them to use the ProSpreads platform, which focus on the lack of the compromises they normally have to suffer when using a spread betting platform.

It's fun to get serious now and again.


Nothing To See Here, Move Along Now...

Our latest work for Fentimans. I think we'll just pull up here for a moment, just to check the map...

Whittington Press

A short film about Whittington Press by design graduate Adam Cale.

Ambient Cat Food

If there was a category in the Chip Shop Awards for best 70's parody of an ad featuring seven tins of cat food, Brian Eno and a voucher then this glorious creation would surely win hands down.

Scarily authentic and wonderfully crafted [so much so that quite a few people thinks it's for real], I actually think it should make Purina re-evaluate their current comms activity as this avant-garde celebrity endorsement strategy is a winner. Spotted first on Boing Boing.


Check out these wee willy animations by Scotland's strangest wee willy animator, Swatpaz.
They are fantastically animated, unbelievably weird and very well written. Head to his website to check out more and try not pish your wee willy trousers eh? (Sorry 'bout that Scotland)

Invasive Species

I love the composition and feel of this series from photographer Dillon Marsh. They look like period postcards, but are in fact shots of phone masts disguised as trees. See the full series here.

This Campaign Is A Real Stinker [Quite Literally]

Although this piece of Direct Marketing was probably instigated by McCanns Madrid purely to generate PR and win awards, I've got to applaud whoever it was who came up with and made happen the inspired idea of sending back "Lost Property"packages of dog shit to owners who haven't scooped up their pooch's poop.

The Spanish town of Brunete has been cracking down on foul play by employing volunteers to patrol the streets to find culprits who leave their dog's business behind. Disguising their real agenda, they would then approach the owners to make a fuss of the dog to ascertain its name. This would allow them to access Town Hall records to find out the owner's address to return the lovely package.

Apparently 147 packages were sent out during the course of one week earlier this year. According to reports there's been a 70% decrease in the amount of dog shit on Brunete's streets [I wonder how this was actually quantified?].

It would be interesting to find out what the real campaign ROE [return on excrement] was.

It would also be interesting to find out how much [if anything] McCanns were paid for this. I might be wrong but I can't see the council of a town of 10,000 residents having particularly deep pockets to satisfy the bean-counters of the Interpublic behemoth.

However at the very least it'll provide them with another shit case history.

Round, Round, Round We Go

In many respects - a lot of Advertising nowadays is like monkey greyhound racing.

Very entertaining, worthy of a 'like' and/or a 'share' - but ultimately, doing sod all for any of the parties involved.

The Call Centre

If you haven't yet seen The Call Centre on BBC3, put it at the top of your to do list. It's a wonderfully  awful programme showcasing a load of wonderfully awful people in a call centre in Wales (I'm so proud). The head of the operation is a guy called 'Nev' (The guy in the middle, not the weird call centre goblin on the right). He seems like a genuinely nice person but my god he is a boob. He is a living and breathing David Brent. The whole thing is a real life The Office. It's pure unadulterated TV filth. Watch it.

Made By Hand.

Made by Hand / No 1 The Distiller

Made by Hand / No 2 The Knife Maker

Made by Hand / No 3 The Beekeeper

Made by Hand / No 4 The Cigar Shop

Made by Hand / No 5 The Bike Maker

"Made by Hand is a short film series celebrating the people who make things by hand — sustainably, locally, and with a love for their craft."

These have been in my bookmarks for ages, I thought I'd posted them to the blog already, but it seems I haven't. So, here they are.

It's a great little collection with a lovely quiet aesthetic. Yes, I'll admit they are a bit hipster-ish and come from the hipster capital of the universe, Brooklyn (sorry Shoreditch) but in this instance I can forgive them that. With so much of the human race's craft knowledge having been lost in recent generations, it's great to have little nuggets like these to remind us that not everything is made in a machine in China.

If you have a weakness for the cardinal pleasures in life, watching the distiller & cigar ones back to back might be unwise.

You Need To Read This, Yes You

““Be original.” “Break new ground.” “Find new ways of doing things.” “Creativity.” That’s what advertising is about. It's what people with big reputations preach. It's what people with small reputations torture. It's what people in stiff agencies avoid. 
Yet it’s ironic, I know of no other business that produces so much sameness, but embraces creativity so passionately as advertising. 
The word bothers me. 
Creative is a pretentious word. Not by itself, but how it applies to advertising generally. 
I've been the Creative Director of the agency I helped co-found since we started. That was in 1962. Although that title serves the purpose of describing a long-established agency function, it nevertheless makes me feel uncomfortable at times. Particularly when I meet people who know little or nothing of advertising. Can you imagine certain job titles if the situations were reversed? “Hello, I'm Stella, Creative Anthropologist.” Or “Hi, my name's Ralph, Creative Proctology.” 
The advertising business is a business of communicating information. The wasteful part of advertising occurs when good solid information is taken and then so distorted no one understands what's being communicated. This is frequently referred to as the Creative Process. 
Creativity is too heavy a burden to place on creative people. It's unfair. Think of all the undue anxiety it causes us. I'm not even sure how you describe it. 
I'll settle for information. It's what I can understand. It's what people want. To be told something that's important to them about goods and services – specific, detailed, factual.
For example: is the construction of your radial tyre different from any other radials? Does it hold the road better or last longer? What's its performance like on wet surfaces versus biased ply tires? Is the extra cost worth the investment in terms of value, safety, peace of mind? If the departure and return of your vacation is in mid-week, will the air fare be cheaper? Where is the gas tank positioned in your car in the event of a rear-end collision? What's the nutritional value of your breakfast cereal? 
Dig for information. Ask questions. Become as expert on the product and the category as you can. Absorb. Tell the truth. If a product has bee around for any length of time, it must have some virtue. Find it. Explain it. Demonstrate it. If a product is new, why is it being introduced? To imitate other products previously launched with no particular advantage, or to produce its own special reason for being? Believe in what you do. If you don't believe it, how can you get other people to believe it? 
I'd be foolish to deny the creativity of this business. It exists certainly. In small measure certainly. 
But to my mind the real creative challenge of advertising begins before the ad is written. It's in the search, examination, and discovery of new information. Confronting the reality of things. Dealing with the controversy of things. Dismissing the anappropriate. Answering the most pertinent. And finally, deciding on what is the most persuasive and substantive statement you can make about whatever it is you're about to sell somebody.”
Amil Gargano
President/Creative Director
Ally & Gargano, Inc.
New York City

Hidden away in the preface to the 1979 American Showcase of Photography, Illustration and Graphic Design is this brilliant piece. Written by one the best admen ever, from one of the world's greatest ever ad agencies, it is a superb examination of the role of the creative person in advertising. I've written around this subject on this blog quite a bit, but Mr Gargano here nails it. 

It's amazing but true, that advertising is largely populated with creatives, even creative directors, who don't really know what their job is. Or refuse to accept it. A large number clearly see themselves as people who's job it is to jazz-up something, or to entertain, or just be creative

It's one of the reasons why the ad industry's output is declining in quality. It's one of the reasons why most ordinary people still see most advertising as annoying at best, offensive at worst. And it's one of the reasons why creative people rarely hold positions of power and influence in ad agencies any more. After all, who would give such responsibility to clowns? 

One Legged Football Match Punch-Up

Forget the yawnfest that is Jose Mourinho's return to Chelsea, this week's big football news is the mass brawl that caused a one legged football match to be abandoned.  No, this isn't a Monty Python sketch - it's footage from a match between a team from Belgium and a team from Holland that gets a bit tasty.  Somewhat ironically, the game was actually a charity event.  Sad to see the supporters pile in to the action at the end.  Good job Oscar Pistorius wasn't watching to accidentally pile in with a firearm.
Found on

No Man's Land

No Man's Land - a new body of work by photographer Mishka Henner - has gone up as a part of the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize 2013 at the Photographers GalleryI popped along, and out of all the works in this years shortlist - this one definitely made me frown and scratch my stubble the most.

"No Man's Land represents isolated women occupying the margins of southern European environments. Shot entirely with Google Street View, Henner's method of online intelligence-gathering results in an unsettling reflection on surveillance, voyeurism and the contemporary landscape."

A nice concept and I certainly see that the google imagery, devoid of human objectivity or imposed narrative, give an objective take on a subject so fraught with emotion - however ... and the big however : are these his images to exhibit?

Google are very clear on the issue of exhibiting their imagery :

From what I can see - Mishka has entered and is exhibiting 'work' that he hasn't produced - with a potential payoff of £30,000.00 if he wins the prize. Have Google ok'd this - did he approach them?

Hmmmmm, lots of questions, and certainly a very provocative choice of shortlist for such a high profile Prize. What example does this set regarding image ownership...finders keepers? 

( images + official synopsis taken from ... and yes, I appreciate the irony in me screengrabbing from the internet and re-posting! )