Cartoon Kevin

It seems that not a day goes by without one of our blog posts being about someone called Kevin.

Worry not, this entry is not about the varying hairstyles of Messrs Keegan and Spacey throughout the ages. It's about an American animator called Kevin McShane who's spent a couple of years drawing himself in the style of famous cartoon characters.

The fact that Kevin's emphasis is on US cartoons means sadly there's no room for Chorlton And The Wheelies or Dangermouse.  However's there's plenty of interesting stuff to keep you occupied over your next cup of tea.  See how many you can spot here at Cartoon Kevin.

Story courtesy of Laughing Squid.


For todays show and tell - let me introduce a John C Thurbin, a young artist residing in London-shire.

Anyone who has ever tried lino cutting knows that its pretty tough to retain all your fingers, let alone produce anything of any value. The detail John manages to get into his work is simply awesome.

Bravo sir, Bravo.

It's Kevin

If you haven't seen It's Kevin then check out these tasty little teasers below. In my humble and very handsome opinion it is one of the finest shows on the TV at the moment.

Just what I've always wanted!

Awesome - I've been looking everywhere for a new denim apron, pocket square and a £200 hand-hammered copper tray.

Thanks Monocle.

Norman Parkinson

If you keep your eye on Google doodles (or you know your photographers) you might be aware that Sunday would have been the 100th birthday of Norman Parkinson. Parkinson is one of my all-time photographic heroes. His images helped to drag fashion photography into a new era, and he had a superb knack for capturing off-beat, playful portraits. On Sunday BBC Four showed a fantastic documentary charting his life and work - worth looking up on iPlayer if you have the inclination. Happy birthday Norman.

Comfort Wipe Infomercial

Andrex's lamentable Scrunch or Fold campaign might have hastily assumed that there are only two ways of, how shall we put it?, using toilet tissue to wipe one's arse.  This is arrogant, myopic folly as there is a third way.

Ladies and gentlemen, witness the innovative wonder that is Comfort Wipe.

And marvel at their minute and a half long infomercial where they demonstrate the merits and method of using their product.

Those of a squeamish disposition look away now.  Or just don't click on the video.

And no, it's not a spoof.  It's the "first improvement to toilet paper since the 1880's" dontcha know.

I love the moment where the fat bloke says "Being big certainly has its advantages and its disadvantages".  He then smiles and points to the Comfort Wipe product and says "This is a great product".

The disadvantages of being big when it comes to arse-wiping are left unspoken, hanging in the air and the mind is forced to speculate on what that might really mean....

Ain't technology wonderful?

Beer Scooter

Friend of Sell! Sell! and all round Nice Bloke Rubbishcorp (real name Nathan Cooper, from Narch) has made this rather lovely short, which serves to explain the phenomenon of finding yourself in odd places or situations after a night on the sauce.

We know that lot of work goes into making these, so here are some credits:
Written produced and directed by Nathan James Cooper (rubbishcorp®)
DOP : Garth Badger
Narrated by Peter Vere-Jones
Twinkle music & by Joost Langeveld at Bigpop studios
Vocals by Gemma Copas
Recorded and mixed by Luke Berryman

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Great shots aren't they?

They come from the Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums flickr feed which I stumbled upon earlier in the week. A collection of photography from 12 museums and galleries based in the North East. There's a lot of random photographs up there, but personally I love the shots of people, like the shipyard workers, criminals, Grainger Market shoppers & the unamused peeler above.

It would be great to see more of this kind of archival photography of Britain on flickr.

Risk And Responsibility

With the new series of Mad Men hitting the screens it seems like a perfect time to dig out this gem from the archives. Made in 1966 as a Creative Circle initiative, this film brilliantly highlights the dangers of producing advertising that underestimates the intelligence of your audience and won't cut through or get noticed.  I was first exposed to this as a fresh faced graduate trainee and I'm delighted to have found it after a rummage on YouTube.  It certainly stands the test of the time.

It's worth a warning that the piece is over fifty minutes long but it's worth watching every second if you can spare the time.

Yes it looks dated and feels a bit like an overlong Harry Enfield sketch, but I'd go so far as saying that every client and agency person involved in the making, buying and selling of creative work should be forced to watch it.

I'm 100% sure that the world would be filled with better advertising if that was the case.

For the truly time poor, I recommend skipping first to 22:50 and watching from there. There's a brilliant passage where the classic "Man In The Hathaway Shirt" ad is presented to clients played by Jeremy Bullmore and David Bernstein. On the surface, their observations and objections to this ad all seem rational and reasonable, but when their requested changes are implemented it ends up making a right old dog's dinner of an iconic ad.

The description beneath the film merely says;
Clients and their agencies must embrace risk responsibly if they are to avoid the ultimate risk that nobody will notice what they are paid to do.

This film may be nearly fifty years old but the advice it dispenses has never been more relevant.

Who's On First?

Classic Abbott and Costello. One of the best pieces of comedy writing ever, in my ‘umble opinion. It still feels fresh right here in 2013. “That's what I'm saying!”


It is not big, or clever (but it is fucking funny). Sadly if you are under the age of 18 you may not be able to swear legally yet. Don't worry, Sell! Sell! is here to save the day. Here is a list of some lovely child-friendly curses that neither your mum or 'da pigz' will be able to tell you off about.

Happy 'swearing'.

  • Fudge nuggets!
  • Poo!
  • Banana Shenanigans!
  • Six and two is eight!
  • Merlin’s beard!
  • Merlin’s pants!
  • William Shatner!
  • Shut the Front Door! 
  • Mothersmucker!
  • Poo on a stick!
  • Two poo's on a stick! 
  • Three poo's on a very large stick!  
  • Son of a Biscuit!
  • Leapin’ Lizards!
  • What the Frog!
  • Go Lick a Duck!
  • Yuck Fou!
  • Shitake Mushrooms!
  • Ham Cannon!
  • Bald headed butler! 

Them's the rules.

You might've read this before, but it's worth another read. 

It was written by Robert Townsend, CEO of Avis Rent A Car in the early 60s. 

I won't rehash the story. There are plenty of other blogs that do, which you can find with a quick google. But it's worth reading this extract from Robert Townsend's book, and there's another enlightening piece about it in The Pirate Inside. We've also written about the great Avis campaign by DDB in our Advertising Greatness series.

Anyway. It's bloody brilliant. 

The best piece I've ever read about client-agency relationships, and it's less than 200 words. Clear, concise and simple, it lays out the framework for creating great creative work. A simple set of rules based on trust. Grown up, old fashioned, trust. Everyone knows their job and they are trusted to get that job done. 

It's no wonder the majority of today's creative work is dogshit poor and the advertising industry is at an all time low when the industry is devoid of all trust. Instead we're surrounded by an army of mediocre, identikit marketing types, deployed to implement a process that strangles good creative work with a slow death by a thousand amends. 

That's why I love the story behind this philosophy so much.

Client needs some shit hot creative work to increase their sales. 
Client finds shit hot Agency who it wants to work with to increase their sales. 
Client trusts Agency to produce shit hot creative work to increase their sales. 
Agency's shit hot creative work increases sales. 
Client is happy.

That's how to ‘git 'er done’ as Larry would say.

I've printed it out and stuck it on the wall. I suggest you do the same.

Efficacious New Print Work For Fentimans

To bring another level of authenticity to our Fentimans print work we are hand-printing the type and pictorial elements here at Sell! Towers this year. After a lot of searching, we found ourselves a vintage Farley proofing press, which was perfect for the job. A couple of us were trained (to a basic level) in letterpress at art school and have dabbled a bit since, so we jumped at the chance to relevantly apply it to some of our commercial work.
To start with, we took the design elements of our design – in this case the headline and copy designed in some authentic Victorian and Edwardian typefaces, and a vintage illustration of a rose, and had them made into a block set to the type height of the Farley press.
Ryan setting the block in place on the press – Sell! Towers is on a tiny cobbled street called Printing House Yard, so it felt good to be bringing some actual printing (even if it is just on this very tiny level) back here.
We experimented with different levels of inking, papers and pressure to achieve varied results in terms of sharpness, ink density and texture.
We then took high-res scans of the different prints, with would give us flexibility to use the best or most interesting parts in the final layout.
Here  (above and below) you can see the difference between two of the scanned prints in terms of coverage and texture – obviously one of the beauties of this kind of print process is that no two prints are exactly alike anyway.
Below  you can see the difference between the type set digitally (left) and the printed version (right). Some of the effects of printing you can simulate using photoshop filters and other techniques, but it's impossible to get close to the organic feel of type like this without actually printing it.
The rose illustration came out beautifully...
Then finally, the scanned prints were chopped into separate elements, and the most interesting versions were coloured up and applied to the final layout. And here it is, the first Fentimans print ad of the year – if you'd like to see it in person it'll be in the next issue of Private Eye. (By the way, if you haven't already, you should really try Fentimans Rose Lemonade – it's a wonderful drink.)

You can see more of our Fentimans work here.

Thatcher's Legacy

The main thing that the passing of Margaret Thatcher has prompted me to remember, is just how bloody great Spitting Image was.  The programme was at its peak when Thatcher was at hers and the era provided an almost endless stream of comic opportunities.

Steve Nallon absolutely nailed her voice and the mannerisms of the puppet itself were always creepily faithful to the Iron Lady.  So much so, that I bet that when many people think of Thatcher, the Spitting Image caricature is the first thing that springs to mind.

With only HIGNFY really properly flying the flag for televisual satire, surely it's about time it was resurrected.  It would be great to see Cameron, Clegg, Osborne, Johnson, Miliband and co all be given the Spitting Image treatment.  There would certainly be no shortage of things to take the piss out of them for.

Spitting Image is sadly missed and we send our deep, heartfelt condolences to everyone who has never seen the show.

Hand Painting

Whilst researching hand painted billboards from back in the day - google threw this artist's link into the mix...

... not quite the hand painting I was after, but rather cool work all the same.

(ps: if you care for or know of an old billboard painter - do get in touch as I would love to bring them out of retirement)


Jaboody Dubs

I have laughed many a hour away with friends watching Jaboody Dubs. Check them out and try not to wee ones self.

Advice For This Year's Graduates (That Might Not Be Helpful)

In about six weeks time, the annual graduate rush will start. Agencies will start getting calls, books will be rushed into finished states, final shows will be planned, invites sent out, D&AD will start to heat up the room that New Blood will be held in.

I feel a bit sorry for this year's crop. Advertising has never been a more confused business. Half of it doesn't want to be advertising anoymore. Ads are boring to them. The other half can't agree what's good and what isn't. Being seen to be ahead of the curve seems to be more important to some agencies than doing good work that works.

Against this background our young hopefuls have to make enough of an impression to land an opportunity. By which I mean job. As an aside, to my agency peers I'd like to say, please, stop doing unpaid placements. Just stop it. Either take a chance on someone and give them a job, or pay them for a trial. The business can't survive as a creative, interesting place if the only people who make it into agencies are those with the financial back-up to live in London for months without pay.

In advance of the rush, I thought I'd post up what I consider to be good advice. Now the thing with advice for graduates is that every agency, every creative director, is looking for something different. As I say to people who come in for book crits, if you go to twenty book crits, you will get twenty different pieces of advice. The hard part is knowing what advice to take.

So be aware that the advice I'm going to give you here (should you choose to read it) might not he helpful. In fact it might be unhelpful. For example, I'm sure that for every person who finds a QR code in an ad to be butt-clenchingly lame, there are a dozen who think it's really jazzy and modern. If you follow this advice, it may well screw up your career forever. But what the hey. This is, genuinely, the advice I would give myself, if I were starting out again today. It is advice specifically for people graduating from college, wanting to land a job in an ad agency (creative agency) as a copywriter or art director (see later for non-use of the word creative) Use some of it, use none of it, the choice is yours. In no particular order...

1 – Be different.
I don't mean wear a clown suit, or speak in tongues. This isn't wacky different. Just be yourself, an individual. If there is one piece of advice I could give, it would be this. Make your work true to your own opinions, approach, skills, ideas, outlook on life. Be yourself, and you will be different. The biggest single criticism of all the ad graduates I've seen over the last three years is that you could barely slide a cigarette paper between them, they were so similar, and their work was too.

2 – Use the phone.
It's a people business. Try talking to someone. If you're trying to get a book crit, use the phone. It will mark you out as different. Some (a lot of) agency creatives don't like talking on the phone, they like to hide behind email. They might find it awkward, but that doesn't mean it isn't a great way of getting to the front of the crit queue. Be nice, be yourself. Make it easy for them, but try to get a date and time on that first phone call. Oh, and be resourceful. Don't ring up a big agency and ask for the ECD and tell them you're a student. Research the people at the agency, find out who the next rung of creative directors are and get in touch with them. More often than not, these people have a lot of influence in finding new graduate talent. The ECDs have much bigger fish to fry. Then ask for them initially by their first name only, and when the receptionist/PA asks you your name, just give them your first name. You know - be normal, human, friendly, but put yourself in the position of your target audience, in this case the agency creative, and the person trying to not put you through to them.

3 – Forget middleweights.
Unless you're interested in a pointless kicking. The people you want crits from are either people who can give you great advice because they were very recently in your shoes (juniors) or people who have influence in getting you a job, or a trial (senior creatives or creative directors). Everyone else is just an opinion.

4 – Start now.
You haven't started already? What the fuck are you doing? Do you think your college tutor is going to give you a job? I know a couple of guys who came for their first crit when they were 18 months away from graduating. That is how to get things done. If you leave college and then start trawling around for book crits, hoping for a trial, you're already doing it wrong. Do you see anyone successful in advertising who waited around for good things to happen to them? I don't.

5 – The point of your book is to sell yourself.
Remember this. Above all other advice that I or anyone else may give you. Your whole book is a piece of advertising for you. Even though it is full of ads for products and services (and probably charities), the actual point of every ad in that book is to sell yourself. If you get that into your head, you're already thinking like a good advertising person - what is the real point of what we're doing here? If something in your book isn't a great example of what makes you a great person to hire - what the fuck is it doing in there?

6 – Ads.
I like ads. This is where I may differ vastly from some people out there - beware of my warning above. I find it useful looking at ads. I like a book full of advertising campaigns. It makes it really easy to see if someone has talent. I like a couple of fun, experientially type things if you must, and if you really, really have a good idea for an app, by all means put it in. But if you're going for a job as an advertising creative, show that you can do what advertising creatives do for most of their time, and do it well. Good ad people I know got hired off ads, know how to judge ads, and know whats makes for a good ad. If you can show your talent for thinking and creativity through conventional print and posters, you stop people wondering if you can apply your creativity to the real nitty-gritty.

7 – Sell.
That might sound obvious coming from someone who's company has that word in its name - twice. But sell in your work. Too many projects in graduate portfolios are self-indulgent uses of some technological gizmo, or some self-indulgent idea. They show no real understanding of how to move someone closer to using or choosing that particular product or brand. The real valuable people in advertising are those who can use creativity to make other people want to buy their clients' products. If you can prove that you can do that, you're well on your way to getting a job. Make me actually want to buy the products in your book. Think about how you might achieve that.

8 – Think big.
The work in your book should display big thinking. It's no good showing what you can do with some boring offer brief. That's the stuff you'll get lumbered with when you get a job anyway. Unlucky. Part of the problem is that some colleges are trying to get too clever. A lot of briefs that they (or the ad creatives they sometimes get to set briefs) set, the problem is that they're too realistic. Too everyday. A promotion for this, an app for that. Whoever got famous doing that? Briefs for completely turning around a tired brand, or launching a new car, they don't come around very often for everyday creatives in agency-land. Fuck that - they do in imagination land. Make a every campaign a big, important one. The products don't all have to be big, serious products - think very broadly about different categories of product and service and try to cover as many different ones as possible. But the campaigns themselves should be the big campaign they ran that year, or the one that turned around the brand.

9 – Realise that you're selling yourself, and know what that is.
What's that? You're hoping to land a job being paid vast sums to sell other people's products, and you haven't realised that you're selling yourself? Okay. Good luck with that. You need to realise that you're selling your brain and talent to people. And you need to be self-aware about what that talent is. Don't, for fucks sake, be one of those hundreds of homogenised creatives who come out of college looking for a job as a creative. I tell you what, I've worked in quite a few agencies, with quite a few really good people, and never really met a creative. I've met great writers with strategic nous. Writer-nazi copywriters for whom a picture is a foreign object. Great art directors who have design skills, smart art directors who are also good with copy. What are you? You must be more interesting than just a creative? Know where your skills are, make sure you make the most of them, make sure they come across in your work, make sure people know why they would be hiring you.

10 – Fuck QR codes
Just stop it. Now. That goes for other passing technological fads, too. It's true though, some feckless CDs out there, desperate to feel with-it, might well be impressed by your display of knowledge of the latest thing. For everyone else, it's just painful.

11 – Keep updating your book
College gets people into the mindset that your portfolio is something that you work on, and then is finished. This is confusing. Your portfolio should be an ever-changing reflection of how good you can be right now. At this stage in your development, you will improving your thinking faster than at any other point in your career. Don't let your book be a reflection how good you were last month. Keep working on new things, and put them in. Think about your book being completely reinvented every month.

12 – If something is bombing in crits - throw it out.
Loads of people come into crits, and they have campaigns in their book, and they go “This isn't quite working, someone at (some agency) told me it's because the line isn't right, but...” Kill it. If people are struggling, stop bimbling around with lines, just move on. Do something new, better. The campaigns in your book should be like an arrow between the eyes, or a punch in the mouth (or a gentle cup of the balls, it depends on the tone, darling). If people can't see immediately what makes it good, right, interesting, different, then I'm sorry, it's just dragging you down.

13 – Don't worry too much about finish.
Unless you're selling yourself as an art director who also has design talent, don't worry too much about finish – even then we'll understand that you cant exactly get Nadav Kander to shoot your campaign, so don't sweat it. Finish it to the extent that people can get the idea and the way it you see it. That's all.

14 – Tone of voice.
Almost every brand you will work on will have a slightly different tone of voice. At some point you'll get to develop those tones-of-voice for brands. Do it in your book. Make sure that every campaign has its own voice and style that suits that brand or product. A lot of graduate books just look like 20 pages of 21-year-olds jokes applied to whatever brand was unlucky enough to be in the way at the time.

15 – The good is the enemy of the great.
Someone else told me this once. It's good advice. I have nothing to add to it.

16 – Work your contacts.
This is hard work, you know. If you go at it half-arsed, you'll get nowhere. The onus is on you make something out of nothing. When you have a crit with someone ask who they know. Get names, agencies. Ring those people, name drop, “Brian said I should give you ring”. Keep doing it.

17 – Be a person.
That is solid advice, no? Insightful. I just mean, when you're in to see someone, be normal. Be a human person. Say hello, shake people's hands, say please, say thank you. When they say things, listen, if you have a question ask. Make conversation. Don't be a doe-eyed rabbit-in-the-headlights, and equally, don't be a know-it-all knob. This all sounds so obvious it makes you wonder why I feel the need to write it, doesn't it? But still...

18 – Know your agencies.
Research ad agencies. Know the kind of work they do. The kind of clients they have. Are they independent, or part of a network? Read industry mags. Know the business you're getting into. Have an opinion on which agencies you want to work at, and why. Be smart. There should be five agencies that are your bullseye ideal places to work. If you don't have that bullseye, you probably don't enough about the differences between agencies yet. Do more research. Or maybe you don't know enough about yourself. Anyway, who says your first job has to be your ideal job anyway? Not me.

19 – Good luck.
In reality, I really wish that more people would find their way into advertising from places other than advertising courses. But despite that, I really do wish you the best of luck. But, for God's sake, don't leave it to luck.

I hope this helps in some way. I'll add more if I think of it.


20 – Passion. If you don't have it, just do something else.
This was donated by John W in the comments. He's right. If reading the above makes you think “Phew this sounds like hard work to me” – quit. Get out now. Okay, maybe get your degree or whatever, but then go find something that you are passionate about. Because, and this might sound silly because we are just talking about a business here. A business where you get paid to make things for clients. Because, if you aren't passionate about advertising (yes, I know it sounds silly), if you don't have some stupid thing inside you that demands that you make some really great advertising, to influence thought, to stop people, to present something in a way that no one ever thought of it before. If you don't have that, well firstly you are going to find it a very painful business to be in, and secondly, why are you wasting yours and my time? Go find something that you are passionate about and do that instead.

Advertising Greatness #4: You Need It Because You're Weak

This is one of my favourite lines of all time, and one of my favourite campaigns. A really simple idea that comes straight from the point of the product, I love how simple they kept the shots and the voiceover. That simplicity seems to give it even more energy. You don't see much of that confidence these days. Great stuff from HHCL. We salute thee.


Shooting The McLaren P1

Friend of Sell! Sell! and expert photographer Oli Tennent was recently commissioned by the people at McLaren to shoot the launch photographs for their new super-supercar, the P1. If you've spent time on shoots, you'll know how long it takes to get the lighting perfect on even the most simple object. So imagine when it comes to something as complex and visual as the P1, with all of its compound curve loveliness. If you then layer over the top of that the perfectionism of McLaren, and of Mr Tennent – well, the mind boggles. Interestingly, Oli gives us a little glimpse into this exacting world with this short time lapse, which represents just half an hour of the shoot.

Below are low-res version of some of the final images, to see them bigger, go to Oli's website, here. I know that CGI has progressed massively over the last few years and is being increasingly used in the the world of automotive advertising, but to me there is still no substitute for the artistry of photography.

Stay foolish

Every year we are treated with the task of hunting down April fools stories in the media - and this year did not disappoint with weird and wonderful leg-pulling stories aplenty.

My favourite had to be Google Nose, although now you know it's an April fools it's not really the same ... sorry.

Scratch that.

Here's an amazing new product from Google which is properly for real and definitely not a joke.