Essential Accessories For The Discerning Chap

Our latest ad for Fentimans, written specifically to run in The Chap magazine unearths some of the more interesting accoutrements available to the turn-of-the-century gentleman.

Neon Film Posters

Mr. Whaite makes neon film posters. And we love 'em. Here's a few faves.


A 60 second experiment with the colour Indigo by Paul Octavious.

Simple, but beautiful.

Bill Bernbach Said #36

Number 36 in our Bernbach series...

“A great ad campaign will make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to know it’s bad.”

Read all of the previous Bernbach Said posts here.

Smoothing-Off Jack Daniels

Earlier this year, Jack Daniels announced that they were updating their label design for their bottles.

I always get a little twinge of anxiety when I hear that classic brands are doing things like this. It's rare see something that looks an improvement on the classic that preceded it. I know there are always reasons within businesses that we on the outside don't get to know about. But mostly these refinements don't seem to serve any purpose other than vanity on the part of those currently in charge.

Also, it's worth remembering that what we consider to be classic designs tend to have always evolved over time (as the advert below illustrates, in the the case of Jack Daniels). So why should we stop evolving them now?

The problems come when the evolution starts to lose what we have come to know as the character of the brand. Part of what gave Jack Daniels its character was the overly wordy label, and the almost unnecessary level of detail. That style is a relic of another time compared to most modern brands and labels.

Before the latest redesign
These days, most packaging is stripped back and refined. Modern branding is smoothed-off and slick. You could argue that it has become quite samey in that way, and devoid of character. JD’s packaging was a reminder that this is a product that preceded the invented brand and modern marketing communications.

The new label
The redesign isn’t a massive departure from where they were, and I'm sure that whoever did it (and those who has commissioned it) will assert that it retaines the character of the original. But I'm not so sure. The texture and sheer quantity of information was part of the character, not just the style and colour.

And on a purely selfish level, the new design just looks just that little bit less interesting and characterful on the shelf.

Edited to ad: We quite like the new bottle shape (on the right, below), so it just goes to show, not all change is bad. Probably because it is more idiosyncratic and different to competitors than the old one , which in our opinion is a good thing. And of course, it is the exact opposite of smoothing-off.

Work In Progress

Some behind-the-scenes pics from our shoot last week...

Bill Bernbach Said #35

Number 35 in our Bernbach series...

“Our job is to bring the dead facts to life.”

Read all of the previous Bernbach Said posts here.

Dear Photograph

A lovely idea for a photo blog “Take a picture of a picture from the past in the present”. Find it here.

Found via the excellent Recuperate.

My Favourite Writing #6: John Allison

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 whose 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 six, with selections from John Allison...

“Ian McEwan recently wrote that advertising is full of “third raters” bombarding everyone with their “aggressive low intelligence”.

He may have a point when it comes to the majority of ads. But come on Ian. Some are really good.

Two thirds of my listed copy choices aren’t strictly adverts. However, they are all selling something. From the concept of all encompassing primal fear to…a nice hot beef drink.

(All written in a “first rate” manner).

1 – The Alien poster

In a video shop in the East Midlands during the eighties no can hear you shit your pants.

It uses a brutal economy of words that makes it all the more unsettling, the headline sends you to space and leaves you to panic, suffocate and then die in just seven words. It’s a clinically brilliant bit of writing and a psychologically disturbing nightmare of a headline.

Although a cliché now, back then it sold the genre-blending concept of a horror set in space in such an oppressive, claustrophobic way that it took me three years to grow the balls to watch it. With my Mum.

2 – The Bovril poster

My creative partner’s surname is Bovill but that’s not the reason why this is in the list, although he does look like a big lovely hairy bovine anthropomorphised creature.

This didn’t ambush me like the Alien poster but it had a lasting effect nonetheless. I first saw this while deciding whether or not to take up advertising as a possible profession and it’s leftfield approach has stayed with me ever since.

It serves as a reminder that we’re not as clever or brave as we think we are. I can’t imagine any meat-based brands today openly reminding consumers that their product comes from bloody slaughtered beasts, but surely what you want from your beef drink is dead cow in a cup.

Its just a really odd bit of writing that made me laugh. Its surreal and silly and very British. The cod-Shakespearian language coming from a mournful cow is very Pythonesque, even though the term “Pythonesque” wasn’t to be coined for another 50 years or so. I love the tear for his fallen comrade. Such pathos.

It’s so simple and fresh that it could still run 100 years later.

3 – Wall and Peace
So this brings my score of non-advertising copy in a list of best advertising copy to two out of three. Sorry.

‘Saying what you aren’t’ can be more revealing than saying what you are. I love the classic negative-quotation-as-headline ad approach such as “I never read the Economist” but this takes it to the next level.

Here, the establishment itself has been tricked into providing a quote against it’s will. Its by far the cleverest thing in the book and it says more about the miserable Bristolian public school boy than any glowing gushing back of the book quote could ever say.

Anyway, who cares if its not an ad, getting one over on the ol’ tit-heads is always fun.


More copy (some of it actually advertising) that tickles me.

The 2001 Space odyssey zero gravity toilet instructions

It only appears for a few frames but someone spent the time to create a plausible set of instructions on how to go for a dump whilst floating in space. The absolute commitment to detail is the reason nerds are still geeking out over it decades later. Read them here

American TV spot endlines from the last decade
America gave birth to some ridiculous endlines that just on paper made me laugh.
Fox Sports. Beware of things made in October.
Combos Chips. What your mum would feed you if your mum was a man.
Burger King. Eat like snake.

Damien Hirst artwork titles
Half the time he’s taking the piss, but then he’s also the UK’s richest living artist so he’s doing something right. You can’t argue with a title like Beautiful Revolving Sphincter, Oops Brown or The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.

Screw you Ian.”

Thanks John.

My Favourite Writing #1: Mark Denton
My Favourite Writing #2: Drayton Bird
My Favourite Writing #3: Ben Kay
My Favourite Writing #4: Dave Trott
My Favourite Writing #5: Vinny Warren

Steve McClaren Does Tour De France Commentary?

That horrible Tour De France crash from over the weekend. Surely the most important job of the camera car driver is to not drive into the cyclists?

Anyway, more importantly - why is Steve McClaren doing the commentary?

For reference...

Get On Up, Like An, Er, Miso Soup

Bizarre/genius Japanese commercial featuring the Godfather of Soul flogging miso soup. I don't think anything else need be said.

Simple Is Good

As long time readers will know, we are of the belief that too much of advertising is overcomplicated and convoluted. Complicated and over-clever processes tend to lead to complicated and over-clever advertising.

Many in advertising and marketing have forgotten the real power of the mediums that we have at our disposal. This is probably because they are too fixated on the details of their over-complicated advertising, and forget how powerful good, simple advertising can be.

Every now and again we are reminded of the power of the mediums we use, and the amazing power of words and ideas. I just read this story about this poster in Australia...

It has caused outrage/quite a stir/lots of gnashing of teeth. Not surprising. Now, obviously I know we are talking about religion here, and that is a subject with massive power to cause emotion. But what I find interesting is the simplicity of what has been put out there.

Had this been produced by a modern-day corporate marketing department, and an ad agency, do you think it would have come out so simple and direct? I very much doubt it.

People in the business seem to be losing the ability to boil things down into simple solutions. Or at least, are maybe losing the will to do so (after all, sometimes the simplest solutions look so simple that it's hard to justify all that time on the time-sheet, isn't it?).

Plus, people don't like to choose. You can have this - or this in it, not both. These days, people demand to have both, or they go to someone who will drop their pants and give them everything they want.

Which is a shame really. Because advertising is at it's very best, most powerful, and most effective when it's simple.

And it can be.

You Can Call Me Al

Just because it's a classic. Two chairs, an empty room, some instruments. Simple, fun, good.

Buttery biscuit base.

We do like a buttery biscuit base.

Bill Bernbach Said #34

Number 34 in our Bernbach series...

“There will be a time when no headline is proper; there will be a time when a headline is proper. There will be a time when a logo is good and there will be a time when using a logo is the worst thing in the world that you can do.”

Read all of the previous Bernbach Said posts here.

Blast From The Past - Evil Beaver

I remember when this first came out. It was before the internets and yootoobe, you had to wait for Director's reels to come in. Crowded round a TV with a load of creatives, TV people and our very own Mr Palmer, laughing at all the really great little touches in it - and at just how bonkers it was. Those things are still true today.

Credits: Agency: Fallon. Creatives: the swedes. Dir: Traktor