Xerox Monkey Commercial

Classic TV commercial for Xerox by famous ad man Geroge Lois. Read the story behind it here. They don't make 'em like they used to, eh?

Amazing New Creative Awards Unveiled!

The Fantastic New Award
An amazing new creative award has been unveiled by a leading creative awards scheme. The award will be to recognise all those entrants who paid to enter, but didn't win, or get nominated or shortlisted.

A spokesman said "We like to encourage the creative communities to send us many thousands of pounds in exchange for things to put on their shelves. Unfortunately, no matter how many new categories and awards we keep adding, not everyone can win. This can lead to disappointment, and we would hate for people to stop sending their many thousands of pounds. So we came up with the idea of this award, so that everyone who enters can put something on their shelves to impress people. By the way, have you booked a table yet? Only ten thousand pounds!"

The award will be known as The Yellow Shavings.

The Demise Of The Post Room

Post rooms (mail rooms for those of you reading in American) are becoming a relic of another time. I know some big companies, either by necessity or habit, still have them. But in general the growth of email, FTP and all other new ways of communicating and passing documents back and forth means that old-fashioned post rooms are becoming obsolete.

I have sort of a perverted sentimentality for some of the traditional and arcane ways of business. So the idea of losing the post room and the characters it harbours is a bit sad.

But most of all, I worry about what it means for the ad business.

The post room has been a way in to advertising for a generations of people who haven't been able to make it in by the front door. Traditionally it's been a hell of difficult business to get into. And whether we like it or not, sometimes background, education and who you know has made it much easier for some people to get into than others.

I used to say here that generally once you're in it, the ad business is a meritocracy. The shit and charlatans get found out pretty quickly. But I think that was actually pretty naive, and I know that isn't the case at all. But 'getting in' is what I'm worried about here. Specifically, ways for hard-working, committed, hungry people, who don't have connections, or money, or 'the right face', to get in.

There have always been short-cuts for certain people; your family knows some people in the business, you go through the grad scheme, you go to the right ad course and get introduced to some agency people. But what about the people who don't have that? The people whose families don't mix in the right circles, or who didn't go to university, or who took a circuitous route to realise they wanted to get into the ad-game?

The demise of the post room deprives the business of a way for interesting people, and people from different backgrounds, to elbow their way into the business. And that's real shame I think. Even now, I feel that people in the business aren't as diverse as they might have been twenty or thirty years ago. For my taste, there is already too much of a culture of 'the right path' to take to get into the business.

You end up with cookie-cutter creatives coming in from the same ad courses, with the same books, the same way of thinking, and the same teaching. And you end up with legions of planners and account people who are uniform in their thinking, or their life experience. It's not a recipe for a diverse and excitingly dangerous melting pot of people. And that's what advertising has had at its best. And what it needs for the future.

The business needs mavericks, it needs street-savvy people, street fighters. It needs people who haven't had exactly the same background as the next guy. It needs people who aren't just pleasant, white, middle-class from a comfortable background. It needs people who did ten weird jobs before they started in advertising. It needs people who start out in the business in their thirties, their forties, or later. It needs people with different life experiences. The business needs to realise this quick, before it gets too stale.

Take creatives, for example. I've always been of the mind that if you want it bad enough, you'll prise your way in. You'll work as long or as hard as it takes to make it happen. And that is true. Kind of. It's true for a lot of talented people I know. People work two jobs so they can work on their book, and do the slog that it takes to get an opportunity in a creative department. But as the cost of living rises, especially in London, we have to ask ourselves, is getting into the business within reach for people who don't come from reasonably well-off backgrounds, or who don't have the education to follow the traditional path in?

That's part of the reason that I'm not a fan of placements, and why we don't do them here at Sell! Sell!. To do a full-time placement (ie, you're in an agency, not being paid), you have to have some kind of other money to keep you afloat. Yes, you can surf the sofas of friends, but that hospitality runs out at some point.

That system certainly favours people who's savings or family money can keep them running. But people who have to work to keep themselves afloat can only do that so long. That can't be a good thing if we want a job in advertising to be purely on merit. And if we want to make it attainable for as broad a range of people as possible.

If we want advertising to be full of talented interesting, diverse people from different backgrounds, the demise of the post room makes it that bit harder. The advertising business needs to solve this problem.

My Favourite Writing #3: Ben Kay

As our regular reader will know, it’s our belief that regardless of strategy, creativity and the creative crafts ultimately make the difference between great advertising and not-so-great advertising. And none more so than great writing. Regardless of media or technology, great writing is still the most powerful tool available to the marketer and advertiser. So we've been asking people who’s opinions we respect to tell us their favourite three pieces of advertising writing. And thankfully most of them didn't tell us to fuck off. We’re running them as an irregular series, today's is number three, with selections from Ben Kay...

“My three favourite pieces of copy are two press ads from 1987 and a TV ad from 2010.

The first is this press ad for The Guardian (writer: Tim Riley, art director: Peter Gausis):

I think it’s a perfect ad because it’s impossible not to read it. Then, when you read it, before you know it you’ve just taken in a story involving ass-to-mouth:

During the H-Block hunger strike, IRA prisoners wrote thousands of messages on cigarette papers like this one, each message was screwed up into a ball, hidden inside the prisoner’s anus, slipped to a visitor, hidden again in the visitor’s mouth, then taken to IRA headquarters. Now you can read these messages – The inside story of the hunger strike ‘ten men Dead’ by David Beresford starts tomorrow in The Guardian.

The second, from the same year, makes me laugh out loud every time I read it. It’s a 1987 ad for Epson printers (writer: Kevin Baldwin) that’s a pastiche of the ads for memory guides that were so prevalent at the time:

It’s far too long to reproduce, but I’ll just direct you to page 100 of the 1988 D&AD (it won that year’s pencil for copy), and give you a taster with these opening paragraphs:

“I remember you!” I said. “You’re Sid Hyde from Cockermouth! You’re a game breeder, aren’t you? And how’s your wife Shirley getting on these days?”
“I’m not Sid Hyde,” came the reply.
“Oh. Well in that case, you’re surely from Sidmouth! You’re getting cock-eyed, aren’t you? And how’s your breeding wife these days – on the game?”
That wasn’t right either and I’ve still got the bruises to prove it.


Example number three is the recent Old Spice TV ad:

It’s funny and cool, of course, but it also manages to communicate so much with so many twists in thirty seconds that you just have to take your hat off. But don’t bother putting it back on, because you’ll be taking it off again to honour the way it creates a style of writing and speech that you’ve never heard before and makes it work brilliantly. Genius.”

Thanks Ben.

My Favourite Writing #1: Mark Denton
My Favourite Writing #2: Drayton Bird

What Advertising Needs To Learn From Gaga

Don't do this. It's not nice.
Lady Gaga. Like her or not, it's not easy to ignore her. I quite like her for what it's worth. I'm not a particular fan of her music, but I love people who dare to be different. You might argue that's it's all contrived publicity hunting and PR stunts. I don't know if that's true. And I don't much care either way. She invigorates the mainstream music industry. An industry that has been insanely sanitised and packaged.

Stefani Germanotta could have easily been another music business product, turned out with smoothed off edges and an airbrushed persona. But she isn't. She has become her own category of one. Forbes recently named her the most powerful celebrity in the world (mind you, Mel Gibson was once given that accolade, so read into that what you will).

The thing is, what Lady Gaga has done isn't that crazy. She isn't that out there really, is she? That's not to attempt to take anything away from her, it's just an observation. She has an excellent line in weird and wonderful clobber (who could ever forget the dress of meat?) and she has put herself out there in support of causes, controversial and otherwise. Her behaviour and persona stand out so much further because everybody else seems to fit so neatly into a comfortable, safe status quo that the business has created.

It got me thinking about the advertising business and how mind-numbingly safe and confined the status quo is in the industry. Almost all advertising today seems to fit within a very narrow band of what is considered to be 'good advertising'.

When you think about the full span of all the different ways and styles in which it's possible to communicate, and the full spread of what it is possible to communicate, almost all advertising today falls with in a very, very narrow slice of that. It feels like advertising is more narrow now than it was in the 1950's, before the creative revolution. Everyone is saying similar, bland things in similar twee ways to similar audiences (I once read a brilliant definition of this as wind-tunnel marketing).

Where is the extremely simple? The extremely complicated? The visually stunning? The shocking message? The stunning truth? The new point of view? The crudely stripped back? The output of ad agencies and the brands they work for bleed into one another. A bland soup of messages and output that sit there on the periphery of everyday life, not daring to interrupt. Not bothering to be interesting.

Why? I think that it's somewhere between clients looking too hard for safety, for familiar territory, and agencies not having the balls or the ability to direct them to more fertile ground. Agencies themselves seem dominated by people who got to the top by being the least controversial, upsetting the least people. Their character shines through. Bland. Agencies that still bear the names of the energetic, witty and daring individuals who founded them are now largely steered by the beige, bland and the safe-pairs-of-hands people who look to create things that they think other people would approve of.

Which is all a crying shame really, because to stand out massively today, you only need be like Lady Gaga. You only need to stray a few degrees from the confines of the safe accepted beige-ness of the accepted norm.

Apple. Bob Nails It (again).

I had a blog post rattling around my head about how Apple have built the world's most successful brand on the back of advertising that most ad-folk today would probably describe as boring or uncreative. You know, product-focused, benefit-led, simple advertising. In media like posters, press and television. The kind of advertising that people like to think is old-hat, or out of touch. The kind of advertising people like to sneer at. If they don't know what the fuck they're talking about.

Well as usual, Bob Ad Contrarian Hoffman nails it.
Read his excellent post HERE.
Nice one Bob.

Bill Bernbach Said #31

Number 31 in our Bernbach series...

“Our job is to sell our clients’ merchandise... not ourselves. Our job is to kill the cleverness that makes us shine instead of the product. Our job is to simplify, to tear away the unrelated, to pluck out the weeds that are smothering the product message.”

Read all of the previous Bernbach Said posts here.

Modern Toss Multi-Purpose Protest Sticks

"Thinking about having a go at someone about something, but not sure where you're coming from? Try one of these multi purpose protest sticks." Funny, irreverent stuff as usual from Modern Toss.

Dana Tanamachi Time-Lapse Chalk Artistry

Cast your looking gear over this time-lapse of Brooklyn based graphic designer, Dana Tanamachi working on a chalk artwork for the Ace Hotel. Dana's chalk lettering and design are fantastic, we'd quite like one in Sell! Towers. Read more at Delicious Industries.

Mark McGinnis Grown Up Alphabet Posters

Brooklyn artist/illustrator Mark McGinnis has created these funny posters, based on those alphabet flash cards you used to learn the alphabet. Reinterpreted on more adult themes, one might say. You can see the full set here, and buy them here. Great-looking, funny and irreverent. What's not to like abut that?

Delicious At AT Open House

Our friends at Delicious Industries are currently taking part in the AT Open House as part of the Brighton Festival. If you're in the area over the weekend its worth a look, there's an interesting mix of art, design textiles and fun stuff to look at and buy. And the added attraction of tea and some nice-looking cakes to eat. You can find out more about who's there and what work you can see here and here.

Nice stuff to buy
 More nice stuff to buy
 And more
 Still more
 Yet more
 And not forgetting of course, Delcious Industries' excellent Howdoos

Find it all at 42 Hendon Street, Brighton BN2 0EG, 12-6pm Saturdays and Sundays.

Phil Thompson's Perm

It occurred to us in conversation today that Phil Thompson's barnet may have represented the spiritual zenith of the footballer perm. Searching for a picture to back-up this theory, we found this great before and after on

Before (1977)                                                             After(1978)
Do you know a footballers' perm that could compete with Tommo's? Please send it to us.

Battles - Ice Cream

Video for new Battles single Ice Cream by Canada. A feast for hungry eyes.

We know, You Need Coffee.

Our new campaign for Upper Crust breaks this week with ads running in Metro, various fun things happening in and around stores, and a radio campaign to follow. More on the latter later, for now here is a preview of the print ads. The campaign is aimed at positioning Upper Crust as a place that provides morning commuters with their coffee fix. A couple of us get the train in to the office, and so it was obvious to us that there was loads of potentially great material in the reality of pre-caffeine commuters that we see every day. Expertly brought to life by photographer extraordinaire Jonathan Cole, and our talented friends at Gas & Electric.

As always, if you're interested you can see more Sell! Sell! work here.

Splash It All Over

Here's our, albeit belated, little tribute to Our 'Enery. Great as it may be, forget all this worshipping of the Old Spice advertising. Now this was a proper campaign for an aftershave. Sporting superstars. Skipping. Men in the shower. One with a perm.

And after the Brut ads, here was Henry's second biggest achievement. Witness a classic sporting moment at 3.03 in this clip.

Finally, here's a verbatim lifted from an article in The Telegraph from 2002 that demonstrates he could pack a punch with words too.

It was boxing commentator Reg Gutteridge who observed ; "Henry Cooper has stolen the affection of the public for longer than any other sportsman.  He has indestructible dignity."
Dignity and abundant humour as he displayed in a televised exchange with boxing abolitionist Baroness Summerskill:

"Mr Cooper, have you looked in the mirror recently and seen the state of your nose?"

"Well, madam, have you looked in the mirror and seen the state of your nose? Boxing's my excuse, what's yours?"

Indestructible dignity and a sense of humour. Apart from Robbie Savage, how many of today's sportsmen can you say that about?

Bill Bernbach Said #30

Number 30 in our Bernbach series...

“I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to choose the plain looking ad that is alive and vital and meaningful, over the ad that is beautiful but dumb.”

Read all of the previous Bernbach Said posts here.