Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Watch as advertising eats its own head.

During a dark period in my life, about three years of it, I worked in a methadone unit, typing up the invariably traumatic case notes of the patients from the psychiatrists’ dictaphone tapes. My touch-typing, which had been somewhat erratic, soon became sub-cortical, so that I could type the same tape twice without noticing. I did, however, begin to dream of close friends injecting heroin into my feet.

This already unpleasant job was rendered even more unpleasant by my colleagues, who insisted on listening to XFM all day long. To my surprise and displeasure the smug, dickless MOR rock (it was an era of Coldplay, Snow Patrol and Keane) was not the worst thing about XFM. Because of its audience – 18-30 year old young men and women – it was the media of choice for practically every COI brief going. So that a typical commercial break might consist of the sound of a speeding driver flying through his front windscreen, followed by a larynxless man warning listeners of the perils of smoking, which would segue into a spot that discouraged benefit cheats by telling them that THE GOVERNMENT WAS WATCHING THEM EVERY FUCKING SECOND OF THEIR LIVES. The life stories of chronic heroin addicts were easy-listening by comparison.

Which brings me round to this ad from Simon “Scamp” Veksner and his scowling Art Director at BBH, designed make us reconsider our attitude to teenagers.

We are all paedophobes these days, those of us that aren’t peadophiles. What we need to do is empathise.

Clearly (and I’ll just get this out the way) I think this is a really good advert and to some extent I wish I had made it. I should say, it’s intentionally unpleasant, almost traumatic, to watch:

They're going mad for it on YouTube:

crohnoes (16 hours ago)
hahahahaha this was fucking hilarious

nykiepaul (17 hours ago) Show Hide
on 0:22, the slap is fuckin quality lmao

Ok, with the crying FX over the super there is a hint, just a hint, of “unless you give us money the girl gets some more.”

And you might say, well yes, it is nasty, but then the world is a nasty place and frankly you can choose to put your fingers in your ears and loudly sing “What a Difference a Day Makes” all you like but that is precisely the kind of attitude that has caused this sad predicament in the first place.

At least where most advertising seems to offer us a version of reality that is much better than our personal reality, this does the opposite, by offering us something much worse. Worse than mine anyway, even on a bad day. If most advertising causes misery and disatisfaction, by the same logic this should be a cause for happiness. Using less perverse logic, if you want to do something about it, you are empowered to by the charity.

It’s because it’s good that it gets complicated. It points up the fact that the thing that we’re always advertising is advertising.

In Infinite Jest (written in 1994) David Foster Wallace prophesied the teleputer – this being a television that delivered viewer-selected, rather than programmed content. We might call this the internet. In the book a corollary effect of the teleputer is that it causes advertising to kill itself. Viewers become harder and harder to reach so that advertisers have to strain harder and harder to reach them, and advertising becomes so shocking and unpleasant that anyone who possibly can avoids it totally.

According to DFW the next step was advertisers desperately searching for other media, resorting to branding anything they could, even time(The Year of the Dove Soapbar, The Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment etc.) Something like this is happening now, with the branding of sporting events, awards, festivals, celebrities and basically anything with a flat surface you can put a logo on.

Also, the US is governed by an Obssessive Compulsive whose hygeiolatry extends to catapulting all of America’s waste into Canada. This hasn't happened. Although Obama does look very clean and fresh.

I'm just saying.

Recently my Art Director produced a visual for charity ad that was so unpleasant anyone seeing it involuntarily recoiled in shock. We were all ready to do it, but at the final moment discovered that, like most unpleasant things you’d really like to do, it had already been done in France.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Creative degeneration pt. 2

Creative degeneration

I only came across Derek Raymond recently. And by recently I mean last week. Since then I've read four of his novels, which I found compulsive (clearly). I was always going to love them, since they're set in shitty bits of London like Soho and Hammersmith and are more or less morbidly obsessed. The nameless hero works for A14, the Department of Unexplained Deaths, out of a Poland St. police station known as "The Factory". In each of the books he's assigned to an appalling murder or murders, which he investigates using a combination of intelligence and rudeness. And in each of the books he ends up not just investigating a death, but Death. Raymond spent the 50s living in Paris you see.

The first one "He Died with His Eyes Open" is brilliant. The second "The Devil's Home on Leave" is still extremely good. The third "How the dead live" is getting a bit silly. And the fourth "I was Dora Suarez" is basically embarrassing.

There's something about the first one that is like the excitement of a major discovery, not just for the reader, but the author. It's not that the later books don't have the same things in them, it's just that by then a formula has been established. And I wonder if this general truth for artists - that buoyed up by their own talent they can do things that they never thought were possible and its this that's exciting for us as readers or viewers sensing it vicariously. But once they realise they can do it, doing the same thing has no thrill, for them or for us. It just starts to look like they can't be bothered any more.

This is true of lots of people whose work I really admire. Something similar happens to Patrick Hamilton and seems to have happened to my favourite rapper Kool Keith.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I like the Chapman Brothers - a few months ago I had the day off and it was one of those strange, magical days off when you feel like you're really getting one over on the world. I went to see their sculpture "Fucking Hell" at the White Cube and found it both hilarious and moving. It combined many of my interests: Nazis, gore, model making, to name but a few. Later that day I saw Beck in the street with his wife and baby - I got his autograph - not because I really wanted his autograph, but just that I might once have done, and I wanted a record of my non-excitement. It was that kind of day.

Anyway Jake Chapman (the handsome Chapman), has published a book and a friend took me along to see him talk to Dinos Chapman about it at the ICA.

The book is more or less unreadable - it's like Mills and Boon written by a comittee of the criminally insane. It doesn't work like a normal book, because it's written with a different set of criteria in mind - art criteria, not literary criteria. It's all form, zero communication. Every sentence is designed to negate itself, for instance, "she took to therapy like a duck to water, and her therapist's questions rolled of her like water off a ducks back" - which doesn't help you see anything - I mean it looks like it might, but then slaps you in the face. Chapman likened it to "teasing children with sweets". Obviously this quickly becomes appalling, and then keeps going, something like the literary version of one of their sculptures. I didn't buy a copy, but I appreciated it as an idea. I often feel that way about artists, I'm glad someone is doing it, and feel relieved I don't have to participate.

What I found really interesting though, was that as Jake Chapman went on and on describing his book, the process of writing it, it emerged that, although he was trying to see it as an art exercise, he'd begun to think of himself as a writer. And all the stuff he was talking about, the pain of composition, the anxiety about the book's reception, was just banal Radio 4 writerly stuff. So while he imagined himself as this alien enfant terrible let loose on a dozing literary scene, corrupting the very form of the novel, what had actually happened was quite the opposite - the novel seemed to have corrupted him.

The other thing that I like about the Chapmans is that they're millionaires. And that Dinos spends his spare time in his basement cutting together footage from to grindcore soundtracks.

There are two artist brothers, the Braithwaites, in the Will Self's excellent novel "Great Apes" who I think are based on the Chapmans. And the artist protagonist of that book is producing something that looks a lot like a 2D version of "Fucking Hell".

There are only a few ideas I suppose, you just have to wait for your turn with them.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Advertising creatives born in the 80s - please step away from the Transformers

And with Labours of Ignorance fill every place

Bit slow on the uptake with this one, but I thought this stunt was ace.

One of the groups involved in this was the Anti Advertising Agency, who make me feel pretty uncomfortable about the amount of time I spend thinking up visual clutter. Of all the arguments against advertising I find theirs one of the most persuasive - the idea that it causes desire, rather than merely directs it, always seemed a bit naive to me.

What strikes me as ironic is that what they do looks just like really good modern advertising. I know some of them are recovering creatives, and I know partly they do it on purpose for devilment.

I was put in mind of a cyber-spat I had with Neil Boorman, erstwhile Shoreditch Twat, about his book the Bonfire of the Brands. I'd picked a fight with him based on the fact that he was using Facebook, a brand, a rather big brand, to promote his anti-brand book. He clocked that I worked in advertising and basically told me to fuck off, saying sarcastically, "actually you're right, I really want to work in advertising, this whole burning all my possessions thing is just an attempt to get my book in at Mother."

Weirdly, it is exactly the kind of thing you'd need to do to get your book in at Mother. The anti-advertising message is the fresh new advertising message. We may as well all kill ourselves now.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Google is the new prayer

Where do you turn in times of trouble? When you don't know what to do and you need comfort and advice? That's right, you turn to Google. A couple of years ago a basement-level geek at Google released details of a searches from a load of users onto the internet, and was promptly sacked. Not only were they incredibly intimate and revealing ("How do I get back at my cheating wife?"), they were also extremely easy to trace, since everyone Googles themselves every once in a while (don't worry, you won't go blind). The thing is that using Google is so easy, so much a part of our lives, that using has become reflexive - like an extension of the consciousness, or the will. As soon as I want something I Google it. Even things that I can't afford, or probably shouldn't want at all.

Google have discovered that it has an extra use as a kind of rapid epidemiology. When people get the flu, they Google it.

If you don't like having your searches logged you can use Cuil, in stylish black. Personally I don't mind it, like I don't mind there being ugly pictures of me on Facebook. After all, it is my ugly face.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Keeping it up

Perhaps the site meter was a mistake - if only because it's telling me that I am literally the only person to have visited my blog. After a heady few seconds of excitement I realsied the two different IP addresses are my computers at home and at work.

Essentially I am talking to myself then.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Oh it drives itself does it? Yeah, in your ADVERT.

Now I like Grant Parker very much. Not only has he been responsible wholly or partly for much of the excellent advertising that has come out of DDB over the past few years - he's also exactly the kind of bloke you want to have on your side in fight, so long as it is fight is with an account director about the size of the logo or the necessity of expensive hand crafted metal type to give your ad the necessary je ne sais quoi and so long as it's not so much of a fight and more just a brusque discussion.

But this ad is based on a claim that simply isn't true. Unless the Tiguan actually does park itself, showing the Tiguan parking itself is just misleading. Confusing even. And no amount of deep South schtick will make it anything but.

It's redeemed for me by the YouTube reaction of the citizens of Ellijay. They're tickled pink. A comment from Topher (not, I believe, a nickname):

it's so cool! there's a little bit of the whole town in it! Lucille Ave...The barn behind the primary school, the city barber shop, the city cemetery. I just wish we still lived the simple life like it's portrayed.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

You are really spoiling us

Foreign idiom for a cosmopolitan feel. The charm is in the word "outcome", and the art direction. A lot of people will carp about this. I always thought "Reassuringly Expensive" was one of those lines that was only beloved by the industry because of the audaciousness it took to convince the public of something that was blatantly untrue. But then you could do that in the 80s, because everyone was spazzed off their baps all the time and planners hadn't been invented and you were almost certainly shagging the client or something.

Mac vs. PC

So, ok, it's nasty. But what else is there to like about this ad?
Well I like quite how nasty it is. How they seem to have understood that geeks treat the Mac/PC choice as a kind of blood feud.

It seems almost designed to incite virulent YouTube commentary. To whit:

LOL the Mac OS was first Windows is just an imatation, if you realy think that then you must have an Fuck Ward head and an coconut for an brain, you are so un open minded and an shit brick to, dont forget the shit brick part!!!!

YouTube comments are great aren't they?

And it encourages us, explicitly, to think about the act of advertising in quite a sophisticated, unpatronising way.

Why TBWA ever bothered with the Mitchell and Webb version, with the much better US version extant in this country, is totally beyond me. I always see those TBWA fuckers hanging around on the corner, and when I see them I spit.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Moths of Capitalism

So the Westfield is now open - and seems to have changed the character of Shepherds Bush overnight. It is now busy. On a Sunday. Also, Tiffany and Co. now have a Shepherds Bush branch - which I find frankly surreal. It immediately made me wonder if I knew anyone who could lend me a gun.

The Evening Standard - everyone's favourite right-wing London daily, have been banging on about how it's an architectural abomination and will ruin the area's local shopping scene. Clearly they've never actually been to Shepherds Bush - we don't have any shops, just generic fried chicken outlets and pawnbrokers. And the whole area is built around a roundabout.

I sort of like this ad by hotshot-young-gun-adman Nick Tasker at new business Mammon Adam and Eve. Sort of. Loads of people are going to Westfield are they? Like moths are they? Yeah in your advert. Reassuring for the client, which perhaps won them the pitch. It doesn't give me any reason to go there, it just says loads of other people are going there. In fairness this was probably part of the brief - because, after all, a shopping centre is just a shopping centre - you have to dramatise the reaction because, apart from the many shops (which would be a co-branding nightmare - ever had that nightmare? Horrible.) the thing itself is only quite impressive.

"Check out our...escalators?"

Typically the only bit of the Westfield that isn't finished is the new fucking library. Take your time with that why don't you?

PS: Apparently the whole campaign cost £6 million: