Kids' Guide to the Internet

Check out this retro guide to the internet, it's glorious. Wonder what the guide of today would be like?

Exciting Update: While Our Website Is Down...

Thanks to the lovely people at Daisy Group, the infamous Sell! Sell! website has been down since Saturday (more info on how and why below if you're interested*) so for those who might be looking, here's the important info:

Phone: Our main office phone number is 0207 0333 999

Email: You can email doubles [at] sellsell dot co dot uk with any general enquiries.

Work: If you're looking to see some Sell! Sell! work, you can either look on the blog: Sell! Sell! Work, or on Haystack and Creative Brief - on both of which you'll also find company details and other contact information, case studies and stuff.

*Apparently they've had some monumental meltdown on two of their servers, which they claim almost never happens, which meant that not only did ours and a lot of other people's site become internet mincemeat, but somehow the backup also ended up in the same mess. Luckily, being the forward thinking types that we are, we have our own backup. Hopefully, once Daisy have their new servers up and running, the Sell! website will be up and running again sharpish. Obviously, if anyone out there can recommend a very good and reliable alternative to Daisy for hosting a business website, we are all ears.

Winner Sports, Please Ask For Help

Dear Winner Sports, we know that ad agencies can be annoying, difficult and expensive. But there is a reason why successful brands still go to good agencies to help them. Please, for the good of everyone who was unwittingly subjected to this ad over the weekend, find an agency, any good agency, go to them, and ask them for help. Best regards.

Predatory Thinking by Dave Trott

There is a small list of books that I think any advertising creative, or those aspiring to be, should read. In fact, that anyone in advertising and marketing should read.

They include What's The Big Idea, by George Lois, Ogilvy on Advertising, The Book of Gossage – about the great Howard Gossage, and Ally & Gargano.

Not because they're textbooks or guide books on how to do advertising (is such a thing really viable anyway?). And yes, times have changed since then... etc.

But because they offer an insight into a way of thinking, acting and being that is essential to really do great things.

And that is more vital than any how-to guide, I think. Especially in Britain, where we’re all taught to be polite, toe-the-line, to not cause a fuss, to do what you're told.

People who want to become great ad creatives need to understand that they aren't just creative people – they need to be active, energetic, trouble-causing, status-quo-challenging, unrelenting, awkward and ballsy – and smart and streetwise as hell.

I always try to keep in mind the great George Bernard Shaw quote “All change depends on the unreasonable man”.

These books capture that spirit brilliantly. In reading them, you can see through the exploits and anecdotes of these greats, that none of their successes were ever handed to them on a plate – they fought, bit and scratched, as well as thought, their way to success.

Now I think there is another book that needs to be added to that list.

Predatory Thinking by Dave Trott is subtitled A Masterclass In Out-Thinking The Competition.

What it offers most of all, I think, is an approach to problems – and life – that is necessary to making things happen.

Entrepreneurialism crossed with creativity Dave calls it. I think he's right. It's about not accepting the obstacle placed in your way – not even accepting that the problem you're presented with is the real problem. Then finding the real issues, and addressing them, through creativity and street smarts.

For some people, this kind of thinking comes naturally. I've met and worked with a few. For others, me included, you have to work at it – constantly remind yourself not to accept what's put in front of you.

I re-read these books all the time. And I never fail to be inspired – and kicked up the arse – by them. And I think Dave's book will fall into that category of books that I will re-read many times.

I recommend you do too.

You can buy it here.

Read Dave Trott's My Favourite Writing Post on the Sell! Sell! Blog Here.



Lots & lots of vintage lettering specimens to lose yourself in this morning.

Unpaid internships: why employers need to DIY

When it comes to internships there are strong arguments on both sides. This post will only delve into one side of the debate, so fans of balance, look away.

I’m not alone in disagreeing with unpaid graduate internships. I believe them to be reserved for university students who are looking to get a taste of their chosen industry and build up their CV while they’re financially supported elsewhere.

When it comes to graduates, the horror stories of internships seem to have worsened over recent years. Take this story, for example, of an illustrator’s first internship out of university.

If only it ended there. Graduates, beware – a new level has been reached. A friend recently told me story about one of her professional heroes who asked her to intern for an internship. We’ll call her The Editor.
A well-known, respected figure in a competitive industry and with an enviable CV, The Editor took a leap into entrepreneurship and needed an intern to help with a new start-up business.

She wanted to intern several people over the space of two months before deciding on one lucky mug to carry on with internship for four months with no solid job prospects at the end. She offered only travel and lunch expenses – her clever plan was to end up with the smartest of the bunch and all of the profit.

Realistically, anyone with a backbone will have told her to jog on, and of the remaining candidates it’s fair to say the more capable ones will have found a job elsewhere. The Editor will inevitably be left with some spineless, mildly talented sod who can’t get any better offer than to work for free for months on end. In other words, not exactly the perfect candidate to help you start a new business venture.

Stories like this prove (to me at least) that unpaid graduate internships need to cease existing. Play the game unfairly and you’ll attract the wrong people, set a bad example, and release people back into the wild having perpetuated the myth that free labour is acceptable. If you can’t pay someone to help, do it yourself.

Are There Too Many Jobs In Advertising And Marketing?

I am of the belief that more simple and human a process is, the more likely you are to get to a brilliant solution. By 'human' I just mean things like informal, non-jargony chats about the problem and the work, people meeting face-to-face, having honest conversations, discussions, arguments, a laugh here and there.

But the simple part got me to thinking, the way agencies and marketing departments are set-up makes it far more difficult to come up with great stuff than it should be.

What do you need, from an agency point-of-view? Someone who understands the commercial side of what is trying to be achieved, someone with an understanding of the punter, someone who can come up with a way to attack the problem, someone with the skills to put in together well, and someone who can sell the solution.

In the current world of advertising agencies, all of these jobs have been split out, production-line style into separate jobs.

I don't think this is the simplest and best solution. I think advertising was, and is, better off, when fewer people get involved, and those skills above crossed over between them. Less baton-passing, and more attacking of the original business problem head-on.

I think a far better way is to have a commercially and strategically-minded account director, and a strategically-smart creative or creative team working on a problem. I think the planning process gets in the way of coming up with great ideas. It separates the problem from the solution.

This might come off as planner-bashing. But it isn't. I don't have a problem with the people who are planners - I've worked with some great ones, some really smart people. I just have a problem with the role that is planner, and its place in the process. Most of the really good planners I've worked with would have either made very good creatives, or very good account directors of the kind that I'd like to see more of.

What's happened is that separating-out the jobs has removed responsibility from the creatives - in a lot of agencies they don't have think strategically or be commercially-minded. They just paint the pretty pictures. This is part of the reason why a lot of advertising ends up being so facile, and part of reason why the role of creative is being diminished. And also, I think, part of the reason why the quality of advertising creatives is going down.

And the same has happened to account directors. They no longer need to be commercially and strategically smart, they just have to be good at making sure the client is happy (whatever that means).

It's the same on the client-side. All of these marketing roles that have been created look great on paper, but the jobs have become too fragmented. Where once an agency might have dealt with a commercial director, a sales director, or even directly with a CEO, now there are levels of people even within marketing departments.

What set-up do you think presents the best opportunity for the people in it to produce the best solution?

Senior responsible client – smart account director – smart creative people


CEO – Marketing director – marketing manager – brand manager – account director – account planner – creative team?

I'll nail my colours to the mast: I am firmly of the belief that cutting out all of the middle-men leads to better advertising.

Left a bit, a bit more... oh yeah. Bingo.

Mac Monkeys?
Studio Grunts?
Wacom Wankers?
Legends with Super Human Patience?

Whatever you call your Studio Designers; when the going gets tough (and your deadline approaches), the tough start hovering.

Friday Festival Of Fentimans

These are the latest ads in our print campaign for Fentimans, following on from this, this and this. The elements in each have been hand-printed on our vintage press, as we illustrated in this post. By the way, Friday is a great day to try your first Fentimans. You can see some of our other work for Fentimans here.

The Seal Of No Bullshit Approval

Our new (old) stamp arrived in the Sell! Towers this morning, refurbished and fitted with our new seal. It looks like this...

And it does this...

Delicious Gets a New Home

Our good friends Delicious Industries have just moved into their shiny new website. If you're into type and vintage design, you probably already read the Delicious blog - this has now been combined into the main studio website, as has their fantastic print and vintage design shop Art-O-Mart (great name) where you can buy all sorts of interesting print and design niceness. The site is extremely clean and slick, give it a proper look here.

Get Your Bleedin' Mits Off My Images!

A few weeks ago we wrote a post about photographer Mishka Henner's latest exhibition No Man's Land - which features imagery pulled from Google Earth.

I exchanged emails with Mishka and asking his thoughts on image ownership. To paraphrase, his take was that notion of ownership and usage doesn't apply in his Art realm, or certainly not to the same extent as in Advertising where I was coming at the issue from. Lucky bugger. Fair play though, I doubt Warhol sought rights for the images he repurposed. (Please correct me if I'm wrong on that - did he give Gene Korman anything for his Marilyn Monroe image?)

So now I've somewhat chilled the fuck out about image licensing and who owns what - I've been looking for other examples of this type of found photography. The more I think about it, the more I am starting to appreciate the process these guys must undertake, sifting and filtering through literally millions of images. Is it really that different to walking around with a camera, selecting the shot through the viewfinder and firing the shutter yourself?

Take a look at the work of photographer Jon Rafman who is creating a huge body of really intriguing and beautiful work.

Ally & Gargano Is Here

“It's important to separate agencies that create successful advertising from agencies that create successful agencies.”

– Blimey, has that ever been more true than today?

Big day here – at last Sell! Towers has a copy of the hefty tome that is Ally & Gargano. It represents a collection of some of the best work produced by any agency in the Twentieth Century.

Why do we seem so obsessed by Ally & Gargano? Well I suppose, along with Papert Koenig Lois, they represent the approach that we feel the most affinity with - these were street-fighting adfolk who used creativity to directly try to achieve things. They attacked problems head-on; they sold product, took-on competitors, challenged opinion.

They were unashamed of their obvious intent to accomplish commercial ends. We feel we have a lot more in common with that, than with the current fad for a touchy-feely, brand-y, sofly-softly, pretend we aren't-even-advertising approach. And I suppose seeing that others have worked this way, and that it can work, gives us a bit of hope that maybe we aren't the lunatics in the asylum.

I recommend you get hold of a copy. Or, if you're nice, you can come round here and read ours.

Are Agencies Attracting and Therefore Increasingly Staffed with The Wrong Kind Of People?

I've been mulling this one over for a while, and a few comments recently on post on this blog, and on Ben's have really made me wonder. Let's give this some context, there is the general feeling that the output of the industry has declined in quality, and alongside this, the relationships between client and agency have shifted. At the same time agencies have become very different places to work, more corporate, more fear, more late work, weekend working, more service culture.

There is a lot of debate about these factors and how they relate to each other, the relative cause and effect and so on.

I have a theory that at least part of this is down to the type of people who work in the industry today, and the type who are increasingly being recruited. Creative departments are almost exclusively staffed by people (mainly white, middle-class males) who went from school, to college, to an advertising course, then into the industry, child-like creatives to who seem happy to be treated like a tame crafter. Planning departments seem to attract and be staffed by scholarly theorists who are "intrigued by the human condition" or some such shite, with very little appetite for getting their hands dirty commercially. And account departments increasingly composed of people who quite like the idea of advertising but lack any discernible skills other than ability to say yes to everything.

People are encouraged to get on, collaborate, and be professional. Those who follow the line are promoted, those who question or make life difficult are cut down. In turn, this cycle encourages those safe types to hire more people like themselves, and foster the same play-it-safe, play-by-the-rules approach.

Who is standing up and standing out? No one, it seems. Just a bunch of boring yes-men too scared of losing their jobs to do anything about it, even if they wanted to.

Agencies, and the advertising industry, used to be defined by the dangerous, maverick thinking and attitudes of their people.

Conversely, these days advertising people seem to have adopted the servile, faux-service industry attitude of the agencies that employ them. Whilst the bean-counters run rough shod over the lot of them.

It's all arse-about-face.

If any of those descriptions above sound like you, maybe you're not actually a victim or symptom of the industry's malaise, but actually part of the problem.

This could have as much to do with the ad industry's decline as anything.

Save Small Shops - Every Little Helps

We plug for the little guy at Sell! Sell! We believe that in general, lots of small independents are better than a few giant conglomerates, not just in the advertising business, but on the high street, and beyond. We think it makes life better, communities richer, and ultimately makes for a better product and service. Maybe that why we tend to attract interesting challenger brands or independents, we love the fight against the big guys. And the big guys don't need the best thinking anyway, they just out-muscle the competition.

Whilst rummaging around our archive for a new project (we'll tell you about that shortly), we came across this campaign we did for Friends of the Earth a couple of years back. A bit of a blast from the past, but still as relevant today I think. It was made, as you'll notice, to deliberately ape a particular style of campaign that was everywhere for a certain large company. The simple message - if we don't use our small shops - we'll lose them. Everyone hates it when their local grocer or butcher shuts down, it makes them sad, the local community feels less rich for it. But people are busy, and have to be careful with money, they go about their business as we all do, and don't necessarily put two-and-two together - what you put in equals what you get out.
Alexi Sayle, being a supporter of the campaign, kindly donated his time for the voice-over, it was shot by Ben Jones and Greg Fay through the lovely people at Partizan.

This is a Cappuccino - I ordered a Macchiato damn it!

Ever done an all nighter and showered in the toilet sink before a morning meeting? Do you know the Deliverance takeaway menu by heart? Had to do an emergency prop shop the morning of a shoot because the cutlery felt off brand?


Think we've got it tough? We don't even know we're born. Take it away Ranulph.

All Kinds of Wrong/Right

There is no arrangement of words that can describe the weirdness of this video. Just watch it and thank me later.

The AIGA Design Archives

Earlier in the week we came across the AIGA Design Archives.

A tasty archive of over pieces of creative work that have featured in the annuals of AIGA over the years. There's lots of modern design stuff on there but there's also some classic gems from Papert, Koenig, Lois, Inc.Carl Ally Inc.Doyle Dane Bernbach Inc. etc.

Be careful though, you could easily wile away a few hours clicking through all 20'000 pieces.