A Ray Of Meaty Hope On A Cold, Dark Day

As winter closes in, thoughts turn to digging out scarves from the back of the wardrobe, and eating something warm and comforting for lunch. As luck would have it, to coincide with this, our friends at Upper Crust have created some smashing new meaty baguettes, just for winter. To bring them to the attention of the world, we again enlisted the help of ace food photographer Mr Gareth Morgans, and produced the campaign below, running as tube cards and press in and around London.

Some of our previous Upper Crust work: Start Strong, You Need Coffee.

Delicious Christmas Goodness

Christmas has come early for our friend of Sell! Sell! Delicious Industries, who have been busily beavering away on their lovely yuletide goodies. They are all hand made or hand printed on a vintage press, you can see the full range here. They'll be available to buy at the AT open house in Brighton in the run up to Christmas (address and times here), but if you can't get there, you can still get them online here. Nice work DI.

Chicken Cottage Awards 2012

Regular readers will know that we're not the biggest fans of awards. But this is one ceremony we wish we could have attended. Thankfully, the whole world can now see this as someone has captured the majesty and glory of the evening in a way that does justice to the majesty and glory of the Chicken Cottage brand. Yes, it really is for real. Spotted on the always funny Robert Popper site.  

Bill Bernbach Said #72 – The Final Quote

Number 72, and the very last quote in our Bernbach series is probably the very best of all. So often forgotten in a world of over-execution and production wizz-banginess...

“The magic is in the product.”

You can see all of the Bernbach Said posts here. And the original post that with the explanation of where they come from here. If you've been with us since the beginning of the quotes, thanks for sticking with it.

Launching The Racing Post iPad App

This has been an interesting project for us, and has been heavily craft led, so it gives us a chance to talk about that a little bit. Since Apple launched the iPad there has been a lot of excited talk about what it could mean for publishing. Up until now though, iPad versions of print publications have tended to be redesigned version of the print edition, with a bit of interactive content or video here and there. Not bad, by any means, but not the revolution people were talking about.

Racing Post have come up with what I honestly think is a revolutionary iPad version of their newspaper. In the fact that it isn't really just an iPad version of their newspaper. It has all of the editorial content of their print edition, but as well as deeper editorial, the iPad version has loads of actual functional tools and usable pages. Things like fully interactive race cards for all the days races, with infinitely deep information about the runners and riders, that you can actually follow through to placing your bet through the app. And that's just for starters. The app brings together function and editorial in a way that only the iPad can, and is the best use of the iPad from an print media brand that I've seen. So a huge hats off the Racing Post, but quite a challenge to us to sum all that up in launch advertising.

One of the very first decisions that we made was that we didn't want to go out all shouting and whooping about how revolutionary it is. I hate that – it’s not believable, because too many people have said it about things that aren’t. But also, it's much more powerful if people make that decision for themselves. Much better to show fans of racing and betting what it can do, and let them make that decision for themselves. Testing of the app in development had shown that racing fans love it, and some even said they would buy an iPad just for this app.

So once we've made the decision to base the launch of the app on demonstrating what it can do, we face a new problem. That problem is the success of the Apple advertising. I think I've said it before on here, but I consider Apple's to be some of the consistently best advertising of the last ten years. That it doesn't get more credit in the ad industry is amazing to me. Obviously it's not hurt by the fact that they have great products to promote, but they do it very, very well indeed. So, one of the big problems, when you've decided to create demonstration-led advertising for an Apple-based product is - how do you do it well, without it looking like an apple ad?

We decided to take a type-led approach, which would take the viewer through different parts of the app, to help give a sense of momentum to the ads. Cutting between demo parts and the type would help us to control the tempo. And also this would help to differentiate it from Apple ads (they tend to use voice overs, not always, but mostly I think). We enlisted the help of our good friend and master on-screen art director and typographer Squa to help us develop a look and style for the typography.

Given the depth of the app, we decided to make one master 'launch' ad, which gave a snippet across the board of all the different, clever things that the app could do. Then a series of shorter ads which each showcased a particular aspect of the app. So whatever style we developed would have to be interesting enough to carry over many executions, but also not so gimmicky that it would be annoying. We wanted something that was bold and had an intelligence to it. We developed a look based on the HFJ Gotham typeface, which we would use reversed out of picture in a couple of different weights and styles, and also reversed out of blocks to emphasise different words.

Music would also play a huge part in the feel of the ads, as they would in effect be held together as  campaign by the music and visual style, we wanted something that would add energy that would drive the momentum of the ads, alongside the typography. After trying out a lot of alternatives we went with the song Devil In Me by the 22-20s.

And last but probably most importantly, the visual style of the demos themselves. We were well aware of the fact that pretty much the entirety of these ads would be the demos, so we wanted something that would give us the variety of visual to keep them interesting. I'm a huge fan of Apple's simple, locked-off shots and white backgrounds, they work really well for them. But for us because we are showing quite detailed features within the same app, it would be quite easy for it to get tedious. We went to Tom King at Gas & Electric who has made some great commercials for us in the past (these, and some we can't share just yet), and who understands the technical challenges of shooting live demos. He suggested we go with backgrounds that felt they were 'on location' to keep the shots interesting, and give them a more 'live' feel than a studio demo. And also mix up the angles and distance we shoot the iPad from, for more variety and to help differentiate between cuts. We also shot live 'open' backgrounds for the type to be set against.

What was left then was days of craft in the edits, choosing which parts and what order, and how much time for the demo sections and type, to try to do justice to the app. Happily, so far since launch the app has attracted thousands of downloads and happy customers. If you're into Racing or a keen bettor, you should look it up.

Herb Lubalin

Being craft nuts and type nerds on the side, we had to get hold a copy of Unit's Herb Lubalin Edition. And it does not disappoint. A master typographer, designer and art director, Herb influenced a generation of graphic design and advertising. This book contains by far the best collection of his work that we've seen. Great stuff packaged in a beautiful way. If you like to be reminded what superb craft looks like, get hold of a copy.

Shooting For 10

Marketing magazine yesterday revealed Diageo’s “Shooting For 10” rallying cry to its agencies (you can read about it here and here).

I think this is A Good Thing.

Why? Well on the most basic level, this is one of the UK’s biggest marketers publicly stating that they want to strive for better creative work.

Yes, I know there will be the arguments like “You shouldn't really have to say it” or “What have they been shooting for in the meantime” - and they are good questions.

But, the simple fact that an influential marketer has gone public to support and demand better creative work for the betterment for their business is a big step in the right direction at a time when it feels like there has been a paucity of inspirational advertising.

Tens are hard. Tens require everyone involved having the ambition to make a ten. You’ve got to be honest about the things that are stopping you shooting for 10...

On the agency side:

An agency needs shooting for tens to be in its DNA. The whole agency needs to be built around excellence in its work. Not just every now and again, but always, on every project. No compromise. To achieve tens, an agency has to believe it can make every piece of work a ten. Ten-ism must run through the agency like the word Blackpool through a stick of rock.

This is easy to say, but very hard to do. For us, we're a very small unit, that's why we set-up, that how we do everything, it's why we come to work in the morning, its why the agency exists. Everyone is here to do it. Sometimes it is a very hard road to travel, it requires a lot of hard-work, honesty with yourselves, and it requires very solid relationships with clients, and the balls to stand up for what's right. We've been shooting for 10s since 2005. God knows we don't always achieve it. But that's the focus of every day at Sell! Towers.

All agencies will tell you this is what they believe in. But most are lying to themselves. To be fair, we know it's really hard these days for agencies to be like this. Advertising is a vastly over-supplied market. There is huge pressure on almost all agencies from up high (be that holding companies, board, or shareholders) to increase, or at least maintain income. For most agencies, their priority is winning and keeping business. At all costs. That is really why they exist. To shoot for tens would require a complete shift in most agency's philosophies these days. But if large clients demand it, then maybe they can change.

The agency needs to let their staff know that shooting for ten is why they're there. The staff should feel empowered that when a difficult situation comes up, they can use that as the guidance for what to do next. In most agencies currently, the guidance would be keep the client happy.

The agency needs to nurture its best people. It needs to accept that creative talent is the thing that will help them achieve their goal. It needs to create an environment where they can flourish. Bring the creatives in early on the project, not just the ECD for the meetings - in all likelihood he/she won't be doing the work anyway, the actual creatives on the job. Let them be part of forming the brief and the strategy. Strategies that are handed over a fait accompli to creatives are rarely the most fertile ground for growing 10s.

Agencies need to stop over-complicating the process especially the bit before the creatives get involved. It has become normal practice for agencies to spend months in strategic development, not least because this is very profitable for them, and also because it's something that looks rigorous and 'provable'.

But this logic-athon gets in the way of the magic. Let me tell you this clearly. You can't logic your way to a 10. Creating tens is not a science. The way you came up with a ten last time, well I can guarantee that won't lead to a ten this time. Guarantee it. Go ahead. Give it a go.

Creating 10s is not a process. It is a skill, a talent. You need talented people, and an environment that gives them the best opportunity to succeed.

On the client side:

The relationship between client and agency is absolutely crucial to creating great work. The relationship must be a partnership of equals, where there is a mutual trust and respect for the relative skills of both parties. The client must remove fear from the relationship. An agency can't create it's best work in an environment where they feel like they might lose the account. The only pressure the agency should get from the client is the pressure to achieve excellence. Only the client can create these circumstances.

The client needs to remove fear of failure from the relationship. Look, we know this isn't easy. Everyone is under pressure to make targets, earn their bonuses, please the board etc. But if you manage to remove the fear of failure, it is a huge step in the right direction of creating an atmosphere where great work can flourish.

We live in a era of agency subservience, where the client has a massive upper hand because the thing the most agencies are most worried about is losing the business. But you have to remove this. The agency should feel empowered to challenge the client. The client and agency should feel like they can have a proper, stand-up row about the work, then shake hands and carry-on, knowing that the argument is for all the right reasons. People should feel good about challenges and disagreements, not see them weakness or bad things.

The client needs to let the agency know that they have enlisted their help for their expertise and ability, not because they want them to say yes to every suggestion, or just to give the client what they think they want.

The client needs to give the agency the time and space to create a 10. Sometimes great ideas come quickly. But not often. If you allow the agency proper development time, and the agency uses that time properly, you have a much better chance of getting a 10. Also, allow the agency the opportunity to say, “We're not happy” and move the review without any negative feeling. Don't see this a sign of weakness, see it as a good sign that the agency is not going to show you something it doesn't genuinely think has potential. Meetings full of cannon-fodder don't help anyone. Let the agency know they have this discretion, and you'll be amazed how hard they work to not have use it.

The client needs to field experienced people of its own. People who have the courage of their convictions, who have the power to say yes. A lot of interesting work can get canned in middle management before it hits the people who have the power to take a chance on it. In an ideal world the most senior client needs to be directly involved with the advertising. Not just at the final board sign-off, but in the first presentations. On the whole, experienced senior clients tend to be involved in the best work.

One of the big problems in the business of advertising at the moment is that there's a whole generation of people, hundreds of people, who have never been involved in making a piece of great work. Its just a result of circumstance, and in a way its a self-fulfilling prophesy.

This is true on the client-side as much as it is agency-side. If you've never been involved in making a 10, it's hard know how to create the environment for it to happen. And it's hard to know when to leap, when to take the chance, when to trust the agency, and when to trust your instincts. How do you know what a 10 looks like on a script, or a storyboard?

This is a really difficult situation, and from a client point of view, it means having someone around who has actually been involved in making great work, to offer support those who haven't, or as above, to be intimately involved from the first meetings.

Don't be afraid to be different in the category. This is hard for some clients (and some agencies!). But most true 10s defy category convention. It creates it's own category of one, where it becomes the benchmark, and everything else becomes everything else. In an era where you can see a lot of advertising, especially in the drinks category slavishly following rules-of-thumb about product shots and casting (Hey, look! More people in the target market dancing, drinking the product!) it shouldn't be that difficult to stand apart. It just takes the cojones to do something different.

Shooting for 10.
It ain't easy.
The first step is being honest with yourself about the barriers that might be stopping you.
The second step is doing something about it.

Chairs Are Like Facebook?

Sometimes a commercial is launched that just demands to be spoofed. Clearly the new 'Chairs Are Like Facebook' spot is one of those. This is a good one...

Truly Amazing Cadburys Commercial

Across town, even as we speak, clever creative types are no doubt conjuring ideas to sell chocolate to people. They should use this as their yardstick for excellence.

Buyral - Professional Clicking

Very good. From the clever people at John St.

Mail Fail

We have had some pretty dodgy junk mail, mail shots, call them whatever you will. But this has got to be the worst. Anyone want to own up to it?

Take that climate change deniers.


Great cover for the new issue of Bloomberg Businessweek. Fair play to them for running this ballsy cover.

Check out more covers here.