I really like the internet


Because of the wealth of information it holds?

Because it can connect people from across the globe?

Because whoever you are, if you have an opinion it can get heard?

Because it has and will continue to help the fight against racism, sexism and homophobia?


Because the internet is full of weird stuff like these Thomas the Tank vs. famous rappers remixes.

Advertising Is Ripe For Revolution II

I look at the advertising industry and I see something strange.

I look at agencies and the work they produce, and when I describe them to myself, I'm a little shocked by what I find.

It has regressed and stagnated in a way.

Back to a time before the creative revolution.

I find myself looking at what advertising must have looked like in the 1950s.

But the scary thing is, this is the industry now.

Dominated by a small number of very large companies that have been around for decades.

The output of these agencies has become stale and predictable.

It is over styled – style over content – largely to hide the fact that it is saying very little of interest, or of use or merit.

It relies on fancy art and effects, on technical wizzery.

The output of different brands in each category is painfully similar.

There is an accepted way of doing things, and woe betide those who dare to disagree.

The industry thinks of the customer as stupid, gullible, not in control of their own decision-making.

People in the business use science to back up this thinking – they think they're more clever than the consumer.

And so they treat the consumer as idiots, and serve up mindless, brainless fodder, cute characters and cuddly toy giveaways.

Advertising has become deceitful and disingenuous, it claims to represent precious human emotions it has no right or claim to, it presents its client's products as the route to happiness and joy.

Pompous, over-claiming, self-importance.

Awards schemes fuel the cycle as the industry rewards itself.

But people are no mugs. They see through the lies and deceit of advertising. It doesn't ring true.

That's why advertising is as disliked and distrusted possibly more than it has ever been, despite the so-called cleverness and science of its proponents.

This was advertising in the 1950s.

This is advertising now.

People have been talking about a revolution for a while now.

But ten years ago they said it would be a technological revolution.

The technology was going to change everything.

And while it constantly brings us new and interesting opportunities to get in touch and communicate with people.

Largely is has been beset by the same problems for advertisers as traditional media.

It wasn't the revolution we were promised.

And now, the talk is of data as the revolution. Big data, they say.

But you already see the cracks in that.

I think the industry is ripe for revolution.

It demands it, it fact, the very state of the industry will bring it about.

But it won't be the revolution everyone has been talking about.

I think it will be a second creative revolution.

The creative revolution in the 1960s wasn't 'creative' as people (mis)use the term in advertising now.

It wasn't about pretty pictures, technique and style.

It was about creative people taking the reins.

It was about advertising becoming about truth, honesty, charm, wit, intelligence.

It was about treating the consumer as an equal, about charming them and communicating with them, presenting them truths in new and interesting ways.

It was about simplicity, stripping out the unnecessary.

It was about daring to be different, daring to challenge category conventions, being self-effacing.

These were the things that the creative revolution brought about.

Advertising that people actually found interesting, entertaining, useful, honest.

And that will be the nature of the revolution that will hit advertising in the next few years.

It will start small, in few places.

You can see it already here and there.

The second creative revolution.

A new golden age of advertising.

Don't get caught wearing the regulation fedora.

Andy Ward

I'd like to introduce you to Andy Ward - he likes to draw things.

His work for the University of California's 2013 - Mental Health Awareness campaign has been shortlisted for an AOI award.

Bravo sir.

McDonalds Print Ads

Last year TBWA Paree did some nice print ads for McDonalds.

This year they've done some more nice print ads.

For some reason they've made a TV ad about the aforementioned print ads.


Weird and shit.

Relationships Measure Cause And Effect

The use of the word relationship is ubiquitous today in advertising. It's commonly used as the reason why things fail, for example the old classic - the relationship broke down. Other uses in common parlance are – we are looking for a ‘new relationship’, a better one, one that is more trustful, transparent, fair or based on understanding and so on.  A relationship of best friends was sought is one I heard recently regarding agency and client.

The problem is that you can’t see the relationship, as such and so can’t change it directly. What you observe is cause and effect, which the term ‘relationship’ is explaining.

Let me explain.

Cows eat grass. So we infer that grass is cow food.  Yet if we study grass we don’t see cow food. The foodiness of grass is revealed in cows eating it. If nothing ate grass then it wouldn't be food. The relationship between cow and grass is indeed real but not exactly physical. How would you improve the relationship of the cow and the grass?

Well you’d have to act on / change the two objects that have the relationship. For example provide more or better grass for the cow so it grows more or provide less cows so the grass grows more.

The farmer makes most cash from selling his cows not the grass. So he feeds them the best grass he can buy until it is hefty enough to send to market and make a profit.

But what if the farmer was confused in some way? 

Say he weighed the cow to see its relationship with the scales. He wants it to be heavier and so the most important relationship was between the cow and the scales right?  The cow wasn’t changing in weight so he weighed it more and more and more often, hoping for improvements in that relationship. He wasn’t happy. This was his true goal - happiness.

So off he goes to a psychologist to discuss his mental issues of not being happy.  But nothing seemed wrong. He was mentally stable, he was a nice sort, he looked after his family and even his cows.  All was well, except it wasn’t. Humm.

Eventually in a state of despair realising he may have to sell his cow cheaply due to the relationship breakdown between cow and scales and his personal unhappiness, he decides to buy cheaper and cheaper grass and weigh it even more often to see if the relationship was improving, it wasn’t.  In the end he decides to put lipstick on the cow hoping he may get a premium for a pretty cow.
Back to advertising...

Gordon Willis

This weekend marked the sad passing of two master craftsmen.

Tributes to the brilliant David Abbott's legacy and influence on British advertising have been putting into sharp focus just what a truly gifted writer he was. The intelligence and charm of his work seems to be in painfully short supply these days but he made a lasting impact on a few generations of creative folk who still carry the torch. If you want a reminder and quick fix of just how good he was, you'll be hard pressed to find anything better than Ben Kay's latest post.

Gordon Willis also passed away. Probably not as widely known in advertising circles but equally influential and just as legendary, Gordon was a pioneering cinematographer whose eagle eye lit up masterpieces such as The Godfather, Manhattan, Annie Hall, All The President's Men - to namecheck but a fraction of his epic oeuvre.

If you've got a spare half hour to invest, I'd suggest watching this interview with him for a fascinating first hand take on his contribution to cinema.

If you've only got ninety seconds, I'd suggest watching his wise words on keeping things simple.

A Bit Of Slurp And Tickle

Today sees the launch of Fentimans' first ever television commercial in their 109-year history. We've been working with the lovely people from Hexham for the past seven years, helping them to grow into a punchy challenger in the soft drinks category.

We're as pleased as (non-alcoholic) punch with how the ad has come out, and that's down to the hard work of a lot of talented people. Superb casting and direction from the inimitable Lady Fern Berresford, with typically superb production design from Mr Mark Denton Esq. (both at Coy! at Short Films). Chris Sabogal, the DOP made it look amazing, and James Rosen at Speade is responsible for the edit. The fantastic music is by Simon Bass at Pure Soho, and the post is by Rushes, including the wonderful grade, inspired by Fern's collection of hand-tinted Victorian and Edwardian photographs, by colourist Simona Harrison.

When we set out to make advertising for our clients, it's important to us make work that puts the product, and the reason why someone might consider that that product, at its heart – rather than your typical brand or attitude advertising. In all of our work for Fentimans, we put their great drinks at the heart of the communication. It isn't just about communicating an attitude, or personality. To us, it's important to do something that is highly distinctive in the category, memorable and hard to ignore. But at the same time, sadly it's become fashionable in advertising for people to ignore the things that are important to punters. In soft drinks, that's still taste and refreshment – this ad promises both in spades, all done with a typical Fentimans irreverence.

Thanks to everyone who helped to make it happen, and to Fentimans themselves for continuing to be brave and irreverent, and for trusting us with their 109-year-old family business.

Electric Six – Body Shot

Stumbled across this classic Nabil Elderkin video again this morning.

Still cracks me up / weirds me out 4 years after watching it.

It is NOT for the faint hearted.

Feast your peepers:

ELECTRIC 6 [bodyshot] from nabil elderkin on Vimeo.

Tiny hamster eating a burrito

Coming to a television screen near you soon. A television advert featuring a hamster eating some small food in an attempt to emotionally engage you with a brand that has sweet FA to do with hamsters, or food, in a vain attempt to imbue their brand with joy, or happiness, or cuteness or something . They'll even make little hamster toys with mini food objects to give away via the social medias and make stupid clothing featuring the tiny hamsters. Probably.

If you liked that, you'll like this one where another little fella is munching on a pizza.

Has Advertising got a Linda Problem?

What if I told you that  - I am a forty something male, who enjoys films, believes in freedom of thought and the reasoning of mankind and I instinctively disliked the Nobel Prize winning, best selling book, Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman? 

Which of the following two alternatives is more probable?
1. I work in advertising.

2. I work in advertising and I dislike modern planner’s strategic hyperbole.

All will be revealed.

Why is the advertising industry jumping on today’s fashionable thinking that human behaviour is without reason? That a brand’s advertising should solely illicit emotions from it’s viewers, as people buy on feelings alone? When didn’t advertising jump on a bandwagon, you may well ask.

The idea today that human behaviour is fated is fashionable again in modern societies. Just like it was for the Roman or Greek philosophers where the Gods controlled their world. We were all in their hands.

Today, instead of the Gods, more sophisticated arguments to prove ‘determinism’ (which is a less dogmatic sounding word than fate) are put forward by cognitive scientists, behaviourists, neuroscientists (and brand planners). In fact stick neuro in front of any word today and you’ll get heads nodding In agreement. Neuro-planners anyone?

Their list of biases (list bias included) that determine human behaviour grows everyday.  Apparently we don’t make decisions with reason. Daniel Kahneman, similarly to Plato with his reason v emotions,  points out our brain has two system for thinking about decisions. System 1 is lazy, instinctive and prone to error, and although system 2 is more reasoning, it is slow and hard graft, burning up energy faster than Lewis Hamilton's Formula One car.

So system 2 just post rationalises system 1's instinctive knee jerk feelings.  The problem is that system 1 is poor at making choices, as it bases decisions on gut-feelings,  inferring cause and effect where there is none. So system 2 just confirms the instinctive decision of system 1. Or at least so it goes.

Of course there aren’t really two systems in the brain but many, as Kahneman states at the beginning of his book. Although, like any film with an opening scene of the protagonist going to sleep as the film ploughs along, we forget about that part till the end nears. Then we are finally reminded that it was all just a dream. But with Kahmann there is no such reminder that, far from their being two systems, there are many, containing billions of neural pathways.

In fact, dividing the brain up at all can be misleading. Very little is really understood about the brain, what with it being the most complex thing in the known universe. But we’ll get there I am sure (using science and reason, noticeably).

Like the cinematic trick I think at times Kahneman is a tad of a trickster too. He has started with a theory as all good scientist do and then tried to find the data. As Darwin noted he had the theory framework, he now needed the data. The data proved his theory right. 

Some scientists refuse to admit they work like this, but they do. You have to start somewhere. Richard Feynman was crystal clear on this - you start with an idea / hypothesis, then you try and prove it. If you can’t prove it, it’s wrong.  But that was physics and this is social science which is a more slippery fish.

As Kahneman will tell you, people don’t like being wrong, so guess what they do? They make their theories fit, especially in social behaviour studies. You can fiddle to make anything fit near enough. Especially when it fits to fashionable thinking. Is Kahneman prone to a confirmation bias? Makes you think, doesn’t it?

One way to prove that people are a bit thick is to give them trick questions. You probably know the sort. Kahneman specialises in them.

One of his classic well-discussed problems is called ‘The Linda Problem’ that goes a bit like this:

Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.
Which of the following two alternatives is more probable?
1. Linda is a bank teller.
2. Linda is a bank teller and active in the feminist movement.
Rationally, statement 2 cannot be more likely than statement 1, as 2 is a subset of 1, but 85 percent of respondents said that it was.
Kahneman argues that in making this kind of judgment we seek the closest resemblance between causes and effects (here, between Linda’s personality and her behavior), rather than calculating probability, and that this makes statement 2 seem preferable. It’s called a ‘conjunction fallacy’.
There are loads of versions of this problem touting conjunction fallacy. Today people never grow tired of showing how clever they are by showing how dumb others are.  If there is a kick to be had today pointing out human biases forms the basis of it.

And as everyone in planning departments knows, people are FAPS (thick as pig shit) and this be proof, if proof be need be. If they can prove that clients and their customer are dumb they win. Kerching.

Back to the the Linda problem, I instinctively knew it was designed to trick.  All I had to do now was to find the data.

The problem is actually a wording issue. The word probable means something different in everyday language compared to mathematically speaking.

So the answer is to reframe the Linda problem so it is easier to answer:

Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.
There are 100 people who fit the description above. How many of them are:

1.  Bank tellers

2.  Bank tellers and active in the feminist movement too

Guess what happens to the results? Yep, the conjunction fallacy disappears – far more participants now choose 1. (90%)  over 2.

This would be a better lesson to learn for the advertising industry, clarity of communication counts, rather than people’s lack of reason or their stupidity.

Although me reframing the problem may not be necessary, because guess what, you have learned the trick and so you will be unlikely to fall for it again. 

Other problems that Kahneman sets are similarly problematic, rather than proving that we are dumb and unreasoning. Some show that we don’t have a firm grasp of probability for example. Nothing that a few rounds of playing poker wouldn’t solve I reckon.

The problems posed in Thinking, Fast and Slow are often not in understandable terms. Needing a firm grasp of maths at times, more than anything else. Yet, instead they infer we act on system 1’s instincts that lead to bad decisions being made.

The problem with tricks, including those used in advertising, is that they don't last long. Once the audience knows them, it’s game over.

Remember the two parallel lines that look different lengths but aren’t? Did you fall for that a second time? Even when the optical illusion endures, you now know they’re not the same length, so your reason over-rules system 1.

Or guessing which is the heaviest a kilo of gold or a kilo of feathers, did you fall for that twice? What about, would you rather, run a mile, jump a stile or eat a country pancake?

My point is that far from being dumb we learn from our mistakes. Trick me once, fool on me, trick me twice, go on then. Three times, what is the matter with you?

If you want to prove people are gullible go for it, you’ll have no end of successes, but so what? What next?
“Hey look your laces are undone.”
“No they’re not.” 
“Tricked yer.”
“Blimey, you’re tedious.”

People will stop trusting you -  that is what the end result will be.

This is of interest to advertising. Tricks don’t last long because they get revealed. People don’t like being tricked by advertising, eventually it erodes trust. And trust in a brand, and what it says, is important.

The question in advertising should be, what do viewers want to get out of advertising?

If your advertising is tricksy, for example playing on people’s emotions in irrelevant ways, once people find out your trick they rebel, kick back and shame you with your disingenuous intents, and so trust is broken.

This is why advertising that solely targets people’s emotions will have its day. Its intentions are unworthy and far from being informative and entertaining, it is manipulative and verging on a confidence trick.

And as people learn what purely emotional advertising is doing, far from getting them to love your brand, they’ll despise it. “How dare you”. they’ll say “Who are you to say you sponsor our Mums (P&G), or to help us Find True Happiness (Coke) or broker World Peace Day (Unilever)? You’re as a probable moral agency of change as David Hasselhoff.”

However, not all is lost, because these companies are pretty good at inventing nifty products.

How about they crack on and create great products? We’ll buy them if they fit into our lives and you give us a reason to buy. Albeit demonstrated entertainingly or charmingly as ads trip into our living rooms during half-time or before I watch a film at the cinema, or in between the pages of my newspaper, quid pro quo.

If I want to find your products make sure I can find you on google, if you sell your wares online. But don’t follow me around with your online ads you weirdos.  That’s just creepy and we hate you for it, start learning, because we are.

In closing, we all make mistakes, we all have our shortcomings, we are neither robotic or zombies. But reason is central to progress and learning. And even if you disagree with me you’re going to have to use reasoning to do it. You can't put together a solely emotional argument and if you do you lose, remember when you lost your cool in that pub chat, you lost right there.

As to my initial Linda style problem at the beginning, what do you reckon, am I answer 1. Or 2?

I think you should have a bit of trust in your own reasoning, and that is a good place to start. Then you’ll find it easier to trust in others. So what if you are wrong now and then, I just called out a Nobel Prize winner, what do you think the probability of me being right is? 

Unsung Bacon Story

So you think bacon is a meat product that comes exclusively from a pig, do you?

Time to think again.

Apparently, there is such a thing called turkey bacon.

This is a neat way to use advertising to promote this fact.

Happy Monday

Let's just hope some poor copywriter didn't receive the endline as a piece of client feedback.

Old Luerzers Interviews

Earlier this week fellow ad blogger Jeff Kwiatek posted a great Luerzers Archive interview with Ed McCabe on his AdCaulk blog. I found a few more interesting interviews after a bit of digging around. Here's a few of them.

John Webster in '89

Tony Kaye in '89

John Hegarty in '90

Jerry Della Femina in '91

Joe Sedelmaier in '94

Loads more here

How Advertising Works

There was an excellent post last week on W&K's Welcome To Optimism blog on the subject of how advertising works.

It's well worth a read here.

We put our tuppence ha'pennyworth in on the comments section but thought it was re-posting that view here, especially as it picks up on the 'Emotional Advertising' debate which seems to be a big talking point right now.

There's more than one way to skin a cuddly kitten when it comes to developing successful advertising campaigns. And in the stampede towards 'emotional brand advertising' we think it's really important that the actual product plays a starring role and doesn't get left behind.

How does advertising work? It’s a massive point of debate.

Always has been. Always will.

We’re supporters of Professor Sharp over here at Sell! Sell! He speaks a lot of sense and his thinking tallies with our experience of how advertising can help brands to grow.

I wanted to pick up on one thing, though.

And that’s the current line of fashionable thinking permeating Adland that seems to misinterpret Sharp’s work and the findings of neuroscience to blanketly and blindly dismiss any kind of role for the product in helping to build memory structures that relate to decision-making.

Featuring the product at the heart of the advertising idea does not necessarily mean that you are Rosser Reeves incarnate, and doesn’t automatically mean you have to have rational USP based communication as a direct result.

It is possible to put the product at the heart of an advertising idea and generate important emotional associations at the same time.

W&K’s very own constantly mouthwatering Lurpak campaign is an excellent case in point.

Brands like Apple, Lynx, Stella Artois, Old Spice, Guinness, Sony and Lidl, to name but a small few, have also demonstrated this over time with excellent campaigns that spring from a product or insight.

The examples of Citroen advertising you mention aren’t unmemorable because they attempt to communicate product attributes. They are unmemorable because they are bland, dull, piss-poor pieces of communication bereft of any kind of charm, reward, entertainment factor, freshness, distinctiveness that might possibly help form any kind of compelling long-term brand associations

Contrast this, for example, with the Van Damme ‘Epic Splits’ campaign for Volvo. The idea is built around the stability and precision of Volvo Dynamic steering but the way this is communicated is genuinely distinctive and anything but dull and unmemorable.

I know we can all cite examples of ads to reinforce our point until the cows come home but it’s not as simple as product as = bad, emotions = good.

As Sharp himself says “Brands largely compete in terms of mental and physical availability. This doesn’t mean that product features, and consumer evaluation, aren’t important – just that they operate within this battle for attention”
He goes on to say “…so while positive features and perceptions help a brand to be chosen, they only do so when they are part of the selection set [i.e. after the buyer has culled most of the other brands]. Over time, feature advantages can build salience; with time they assist in gaining mental and physical availability.”

Those important associations and memories you mention for successful campaigns can be built from the product upwards.

In fact, the Andrex “soft, strong and long” example came from this model. JWT started with what they wanted to communicate about the product and used the puppies as a neat device to help this to be remembered. Over time, the puppy became a brand icon and a short cut for remembering the brand’s qualities to help put it at the front of the consideration set for toilet paper because Andrex = puppies = soft, strong, long loo roll

Nowadays, you get the sense that most agencies would forget about saying anything about the loo roll and dispense with any kind of product communication. There would be no sign of any toilet paper anywhere and we’d just get the cuddly puppies running around with an Andrex logo bolted on to the end of the ad.

Each to their own, I guess.

Advertising satire?

Meet Gary Rogers.

He hosts webisodes / webseries / vlog things / I don't know what they're called.

It's a weekly show anyway.

He rounds up the week of skateboarding and rips it to shit.

He heckles pros, mocks skate ads and generally just takes the piss out of everything skateboarding.

I really wish that something like this existed in the advertising world.

Do you think there is room for something like this? Or would it just get quashed?


French artist BL67 has a collection of lovely graphic artworks made using canvas and price stickers. The title of each piece is the sum of the labels glued onto it.