The Tyranny Of The Screen?

Screens are everywhere now. In our homes, obviously, on our phones, tablets, laptops, in pubs and bars, in buses, in petrol stations, shops, pretty much anywhere that you can put a screen, someone is putting a screen there.

Now it seems outdoor advertising spaces are slowly being replaced by screens. These two went up last week just down the road on Shoreditch High Street. The one on the left came out of nowhere, there wasn't an ad space there before, the one on the right replaced a large portrait space that's been there as long as I can remember.

I wrote a while ago on the need for advertisers and agencies to approach advertising with more respect for our surroundings and culture here. I think we have to extra careful with outdoor. Much advertising sits in with things we have actively chosen to consume, TV, radio, websites etc. and goes a long way towards paying for that content to be made.

But outdoor advertising intrudes into our everyday lives, our everyday surroundings. And that is part of its power; a simple message can be put in front of large numbers of people, even if those people aren't always conscious of it. So I think we have to be even more careful with outdoor. It's the ultimate uninvited guest in our lives, as I talked about in this article here:
"But I do think there is a responsibility when using outdoor not to despoil our environment with poorly designed, poorly photographed, shouty, ugly or stupid posters. These things are twenty feet wide and bigger for God's sake. We have a responsibility to make our work add to the world around us, not abuse it..."
Outdoor advertising had been unloved for a long time. I'm sure there is a feeling among some that it has been left behind by the advance of new platforms, digital and interactive advertising. I don't agree with that, I think that, done well, outdoor advertising can be extremely powerful. The problem is, so little outdoor is currently done well. It is definitely possible to still do great outdoor, as Apple recently proved with their work for iPhone.

I think in general it is falling foul of advertising and marketing peoples' seeming inability to simplify messages. Advertising is getting more complicated and convoluted, and that doesn't favour a medium with a famously short attention span. Remember the old '8 words' rule for posters that you were probably taught at some point? How many contemporary outdoor ads manage that currently?

I don't think the answer is to replace outdoor spaces with screens. I know it might give the media owners something new to say, or to sell. I understand that it gives them the ability to serve more than one ad in each space, and time executions around day parts.

But you know, above all of that, they are just so goddam ugly and intrusive. They invade our space much more than the simple, passive, printed spaces. Yes, those traditional spaces required skill and craft to make them effective. Maybe those skills are in short supply? Maybe they're still there but stifled within agency systems and the complicated approach to marketing? But, when it is done very well, outdoor advertising can almost reach the level of artistry.

Whereas these screens are more like visual litter, beaming out their ugly, gaudy messages at us 24 hours a day. Surely we can do without more screens surrounding us?

What do you think?

James Brown Miso Soup Commercial

Consider yourself some kind of advertising hotshot? Come back when you've created something that can measure up to the towering glory of this...

Veterans For Peace: Battlefield Casualties

Hats off to this. Strong work, very well executed. Directed by Price James and written by Darren Cullen.

We Might Not Need Mail Rooms Any More, But We Really Need Mail Rooms

I enjoyed this article A Level results 2015: A lesson in why they aren't crucial for career success by Dave Trott in City AM yesterday. I'm glad he wrote it, the gist of it is encouraging people to realise that they can be successful without formal qualifications. A good sentiment, and true obviously.

In the article he talks about how some of advertising's most successful and respected figures worked their way up from the bottom with hard work and smartness. They all started out in the mailrooms of agencies.

The list of ad people who started out in the mail room include the following: Charles Saatchi, Peter Mead, Sir Frank Lowe and Lord Tim Bell. Amazing huh?

But there's a problem isn't there? Mailrooms in agencies have all but died out. We don't have one here. We've never had one, but then again we're a tiny company, which is a rarity in the business. But mail rooms are even dying out in the big and very big agencies.

So what happens next? Imagine advertising without all the people who worked their way up from the bottom. This is the problem that the business faces at the moment. There are precious few ways for industrious, inquisitive, smart and hard-working people who left school at 16 to work their way into the business.

And Jesus, the business needs them now more than ever. It's swamped with nice middle-class university educated people. And there's nothing wrong with them individually. But there is a problem with them as a whole. Advertising has become too nice and too middle-class, too polite and too intellectual.

The industry needs to be challenged. We need more variety of people, more trouble-makers, more people who aren't afraid to speak up, more people who don't treat the job like the civil-service or an intellectual exercise. More people who don't think of selling products as something beneath their delicate university-educated sensibilities.

How are we going to help these young people help us? The great thing about the mail room is that it wasn't a 'scheme'. It required people to find the job, be inquisitive and work their way up. Some people who worked in the mail room never worked their way up. And that's fine. It's the opportunity to do it that's important.

But a 'scheme' works differently. When agencies have schemes, they tend to be a lot more selective about who gets on it. The mail room was more self-selecting. Once you start being more selective, you are possibly refining out the potential for finding surprising people, people who you might not expect, to get in and rise up.

And schemes train people, and coach people. Now, one of my great bugbears of advertising is that so few people in the business are trained in the basics. But, schemes work differently. They train people how to behave and think like the people training them. And to be honest, that's the last thing we want. We want these kids because they won't do that.

How are we going to do it? Maybe we need to think about what the modern version of the mail room is? Maybe we should just bring back mail rooms anyway. Even if we don't really need them for mail. We definitely need them.

If you're a smart, hard-working person who is inquisitive. If you aren't scared to have an opinion, aren't worried about challenging authority, regardless of what exam results you may or may not have, however old or young you are, the advertising business needs you.

I hope you can find a way into it.

Have a great Friday.

You Be The Judge #2: Labour Party Candidate Videos

We enjoyed the first You Be The Judge, with lots of good honest opinions from you, our esteemed reader, on the new airbnb commercial. This time we have something slightly different – the vote for me videos done by Labour party leadership ship candidates. So, what do you think of them? Who comes across best? Do they change your opinion about any of the candidates? What do you think about the different approaches? Jeremy Corbyn doesn't appear to have done one (if we're wrong about that, please send us a link, ta), is that a good thing? It appears that a Jeremy Corbyn one can be watched here:

Yvette Cooper

Liz Kendall

Andy Burnham

Alphabetical: UK/Mexico 2015

Design studio Alphabetical have just designed this groin-grabbingly good identity for the British Council:

Why, when there are companies like Alphabetical, turning out consistently very good work, are the big briefs being handed to the giant lukewarm companies like Wolff Olins?

Can you imagine how much nicer the olympics would have looked if it were in their hands? Get it together people.