Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Narcissim Cont.

Brother Stevie is still MIA (presumed working), Brother Alex has got a job emptying the spittoons in a Rio brothel, so no illustration today I'm afraid.

Instead I'm going to take the opportunity to engage in some unrestrained navel gazing. Wednesday's was my 100th post and it would be a shame to let it go by without some kind of self-congratulation, this being an advertising blog after all. February has been the busiest month so far, with hits at 3,734 (3,735 with you reading this, thank you very much). The most flattering figure I can find is 12,578 page views this year - but I think some of my regular readers may be a little refresh button-happy. One Irish reader (called Phil Hickes), appears to have this blog as his homepage, as I can find no other explanation for the incredible amount of time it's open in his browser.

I had a big spike (fnar!) around the Sausage Pizza post at Morgue World Magazine. My thanks, as always, Mark. Have you noticed the porn SPAM links you're getting in your comments? Not from me in that case, but definitely adds to the authenticity.

The agency roll includes DDB (hello Feargal), BBH, Fallon, JWT, Wiedens, McCann, AMV, Saatchis, Mother, Publicis and O&M. Student readers come from University of the Arts, Watford and Sunderland - the tutors insist they read it, as kind of cautionary tale.

I also have one regular reader from the Zoological Society of London. I'm always pleased to see you, whoever you are.

I suspect I may have been on a couple of all-agency check-out-this-arsehole emails, I can tell because I've got loads of hits to the same post from the same agency - if this happened at your agency I can only apologise. No one should have to read this stuff, if your employer is encouraging you to do so it may be time to seek legal advice.

But it looks like someone at Watford circulated Dave's post: very sound advice after all, just what the young people need.

In the light of these stats Google have started trying to press advertising on me. As you may gathered, I'm not that keen on advertising. I browse with Adblock Plus and advise you to do the same. The model for bloggers who want to advertise is libertarian, gossip-monger Guido Fawkes. He makes an absolute fortune, to add to the absolute fortune he made in the city, advertising vibrators to MPs. Since his blog is also more or less the house magazine of the House his space also looks good to those with a political axe to grind, as they can reach journalists and politicians, as a dead-eyed media buyer might say, "where they come to the water."

The problem with advertising to advertisers is that, whatever they tell you, they aren't very influential. In fact they're peculiarly powerless in the media structure - because the ideas that they have to peddle are dictated by brands. Which means the only things you can sell to them are books on advertising and marketing, which would make the whole blog look really dull and self-involved. I mean, more dull and self-involved.

I like the clean, ad-free layout. Art Directors, when they stumble on to this blog, often mention the Courier type - it's not an accident - nor is the way that it all looks pretty nasty. I want it to look honest and there's nothing like a lot of advertising around the place to make it all tawdry and false.

That said, I could probably relate to advertising one or two things, not related to advertising.

I don't know what products would want to be associated with the horrible shit that I feel the need to share with the industry I no longer work in.

K. suggested Gentleman's Relish, which is an evil-smelling anchovy paste I eat in vast quantities.

Anyway, when I feel like I can't do advertising I look at this graph.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"The police are a lot of idle buffoons Dad, as well you know."

This is what I used to say, every time anyone mentioned the police, irrespective of whether my interlocuter was my Dad. Extremely annoying for them but, you know, they were almost certainly annoying me too.

Anyway perhaps Orton's epigram should properly read "The Police are a lot of idle buffoons Dad, as well you know", because earlier this week Shepherds Bush's finest made a raid on a house a few roads down from here and recovered my laptop. Whereas, I don't doubt, The Police have done nothing all week except bicker and do yoga.

Unbelievable I know.

They even sent one of their Community Support Officers round to tell me. You have to feel sorry for them, they don't get the cuffs, they don't even get a stick to defend themselves with, and you basically need a stick round here if you're dressed as a policeman. When I got to see a proper policeman he told me that they'd done a raid on the house of a local "handler", that's a "fence" to you and me guv'nor, and it had been among the haul of laptops, plasma TVs and 8 pushbikes they'd found there. They hadn't managed to turn the laptop on, as they didn't have a power supply for it, which slightly detracted from the overall impression of competence, but they had traced it back to me via the serial number.

When I got the laptop home I discovered that the criminal in question hadn't just nicked my laptop, he'd also been using it. Or more precisely, he'd given it to his girlfriend to use. So with a bit of rudimentary forensic IT I could see her entire search history, as well as her Facebook page (I couldn't log in, but I know who she is). Anyone's search history is incredibly revealing, even, in fact especially, if they're not looking at anything weird. You half expect them to be on a staple diet of and RedTube, or at least I do, but when someone has searched for dog-related Fantasy Art on eBay and the only news story they have read is "How a brave dog saved children" you get a different idea of the kind of person you're dealing with.

She'd also transferred the entire contents of their digital camera, lots of pictures of herself and her family, including her boyfriend Tony (a born villain if ever I saw one), their two daughters and their dog, a Tan English Mastiff called "Tiny".

Looking at this stuff I felt some empathy for her, I suspect her problem is that she is pathologically "nice". The policeman revealed two telling details - there were no drugs in the house, and they'd really looked, and also they were also very heavily in debt. The pictures of the flat show laminate flooring throughout. It looks like a nice flat, in one of the the Victorian mansion houses further down towards Acton. But it's the laminate flooring I find most chilling.

She won't have drugs in the house, the children get expensive Christmas presents (I've seen their Christmas morning video) but she has no compunction about spending money that she doesn't have, or indeed, turning a blind eye to a lot of unpleasant criminality that's going right under her nose.

In fact, I think she is the kind of woman who is attracted to criminals precisely because in their lives they give expression to the sociopathic tendencies that she is unable to see or admit to herself - the paucity of her imagination will not allow it. The total lack of buried life, as evidenced by the bland search history, the dog fantasy art, is a cover for a terrible raging, frustrated egotism. That's what's under the laminate see.

Obviously as I was looking at all this stuff I started to feel like I was intruding.

Like I was intruding.

Anyway, I gave the laptop back to the police who are sending it on to their "lab" for analysis. I hope they don't analyse the provenence of my graphics software. Obviously that's one kind of criminality that I seem to believe is perfectly ok.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Yeah, yeah

Clearly I'm in line for a bit of commentary flak for posting this now but I think if you're trying to claim some sort of right over a piece of advertising just because you've already posted it on your blog, especially when it's the newest piece of work from Fallon, you're an unhappy person styling yourself as a nihilist.

I don't think it's great idea, quite apart from being a terrible victim of gonzo advertising syndrome. But I have some insight as to why it's turned out the way it has, which I'm prepared to share with you, if you're prepared to be mildly bored for the next two and half minutes.

And come on, it's not like you're doing anything really important.

I've worked on a brief for a similar TV, one which has superior capabilities to the Bravia. The feature they're talking about is the screen refresh rate, that is the rate at which the television replaces each still image on the screen with the next still image on the screen, in order to create the illusion of movement. Traditionally this happened 50 times or 60 times a second, a speed that was dictated by the frequency of the AC current, so the screen refreshed every time the current was on. That's also why the refresh rate is measured, like a current, in Hz.

TVs have run at 100Hz (or refreshes per second) for ages. But because the TV signal delivers images at a rate of 25Hz (or refreshes per second) on these TVs the same image is refreshed 4 times per second. What the Bravia does is to look ahead at the image that is coming up and produce, using a fiendish array of logarithms, three intermediate images. You can watch this on their site if you can be bothered, but just take may word for it.

Now here we have the reason that the creatives chose the zoetrope. But I think they did so because they were overjoyed to have found something that seemed to explain the proposition that they had before them. And by making it big they could make it spectacular. And by putting people in there gawping at it they could make it look modern.

Now if you've trodden the dark and flinty path of technical explanation and AV internet forum research this idea may feel like a sudden ray of sunshine. The zoetrope is a nice way of approaching what it is that makes the Bravia different. The problem is that this explanation does not, in fact, matter to anyone, apart from the Sony marketing manager. And he's only pretending because that's his job. So really you could have made nice ad about things moving smoothly, without the zoetrope, and it would have all been peachy and you wouldn't have a load of unemployed bloggers trying to reverse engineer the process you went through in order to pointlessly carp about your ad.

The only way I could see that this might possibly have worked would have been in you'd run it totally unbranded, and then relied on the consumers to go retrace this trail of explanation in order to work out what the hell the ad meant. This would also have had the advantage of participation, which bread-wearing, consonant-miser, Eaon Pritchard has identified as key to a healthy consumer-brand dynamic.

I did leave the flat today, but now I have biscuits and all is right with the world again.

Monday, February 23, 2009

You're not the boss of me. Not you or anyone.

So I thought I'd add my tribute to Scamp's ambient week. But then when I looked at his post today I realised that this probably wasn't what he, or anyone else, had in mind.

It's not for a brand, it's to stop drunk men pissing in the alleyway by my house. The first frame is redundant, I realise - but in between playing Spore I'm also learning how to do Photoshop to a fairly shit level.

Pete Doherty is still alive

It seems only right that after last week's revelation about Kate Moss this week's first post should be about pie-faced genius Pete Doherty. I never saw Pete Doherty play an acoustic set in a Camden bedsit, I never met him at a party in Shepherds Bush or a QPR game.*

Bascially I missed The Libertines because I was depressed OK?

Last year at Glastonbury I was at the front of the crowd after John Cale and thought I might as well see him him because I'd liked the Babyshambles single and, who knows, there's always a chance he'll collapse and die on stage. I was totally overwhelmed by the talent of the man.

So I've been working my way through his back catalogue since then, feeling this growing sense of melancholy at years spent in the assumption that my generation was a barren one destined to make do with music from other times and commercially-managed historical re-enactments, while all the while there was a real band out there that I'd just been too self-absorbed to notice until they'd imploded and Doherty himself had become tabloid joke.

The arrests, addiction and Kate Moss are, IMHO, just a distraction and a particularly cruel one because Doherty has a strange and parochial sensibility that is roughly a million miles from Heat Magazine. The KLF's very good joke, that they had actually invented Pete Doherty to test certain theories they have about culture and celebrity, ignores the fact of his song-writing which is all effortless poetry. I don't use the word genius lightly, but I think it has something to do with facility, the ability to move freely in your form, to do anything and make it interesting, make it look easy. It's why Joyce can write about coprophilia, Nabokov could write Lolita or Robert Crumb can draw himself having sex with carefully trussed up fat women with huge, perfectly round arses and tits you could stand a toddler on. The aberrant elements of their personalities don't make them geniuses but their talent allows them to articulate the most unacceptable part of themselves. That is its measure.

Incidentally I don't think that being a genius and being a bit of a cunt are mutually exclusive - quite the opposite. The old stories of Doherty pimping his groupies for smack-money are not endearing. In fact, I'd say that a terrible unfairness in its distribution is another of the strange qualities of talent - it's not that nice people are never talented, it's that it's very hard to remain nice if you are. No doubt shagging Kate Moss, being photographed every time you go out for fags, having Mick Jones whispering in your ear that you're one of the greats, even being persecuted by the establishment, will inflate your ego beyond what is manageable or consistent with living a happy life around other people.

Also, and I admit this only tentatively, watching him at Glastonbury I noticed a strange sensation within myself. I thought, I owe it to my people (whoever the fuck they are) to make something. In retrospect I can see that this is one of the effects of being close to someone talented - it makes you feel talented, whether or not you really are. You can see this at work in the reproduction on Doherty's notebooks, The Books of Albion. In fact they're nothing like Blake, they're just scrapbooks full of Rizlas, ironic NA keyrings, and backstage passes. They also contain an unusually large amount of doggerel and poor biro sketches of Doherty asleep drawn by groupies he's been fucking or who have otherwise come into his orbit. I find this material especially tragic and demeaning.

I felt like one of the oldest people in the crowd last night and was glad I had K. with me to represent Youth. The set was mainly new material, there was a cellist and Graham Coxon who looked nearly as bored as the teenage fans who spent most of the time filming him with their mobiles (screens visible as will 'o' the wisps in my photo) and shouting "boring", apart from Time for Heroes which was obviously the only reason Coxon had taken the gig in the first place.

Doherty must be thirty now - I wonder if he will have an interesting middle career, like Iggy Pop, and be doing insurance ads in his 60s.

The Union Jack in the set was draped so it formed a crucifix - I've never seen it like this. I couldn't tell if it was intentional, but it wouldn't surprise me a bit.

*I don't like football, but I did try going to QPR for a season to chant about west London being wonderful, which I must admit I enjoyed immensely.

Monday Morning Memento Mori

A cursory internet search produces no statistics for the number of people who die by being sliced in half annually. But, it occurred to me last night, that does not mean that it won't happen to you.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Kate Moss is dead

I was sincere in my admiration of Kate's magnificent oeuvre. It seemed to me almost as if she lived her life like a candle in the wind. So it's with some sadness that I lift the jaundiced grave-clothes to reveal the horrifying truth beneath:


I wrote all of Kate's comments.

I retired her because I made a deal: the first negative comment about her and that would be the end. So it came to pass. I think someone wrote something as innocuous as 'is any else bored of Kate Moss?' but that was it, really. I also posted some KM stuff on my/Lunar's blog because it actually made my reader stats shoot up.

What that says about the industry, I have no idea. Incredible levels of boredom, I'd imagine.

As far as the agony aunt thing goes, I had actually considered doing that for ITIABTWC, but I think it's best that she stays in her Y-shaped coffin.

Kill your babies. And your cock-hungry, drug-addled supermodels.


That's Ben Kay, by the way.

Suddenly his whimsical poll (above) seems much less whimsical. I suppose if you're going to out yourself as a transvestite, drug-addict, nymphomaniac, libel-monger then you would choose a person whom nobody would believe to do the deed wouldn't you?

Or would you?

If you don't believe me, you'll have to wait for the Shits Magazine piece on advertising blogging next month. Hey, Shits Researcher, I'm like, totally still waiting for your call.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The horror! The horror!

My thanks to K. for voiceover skills and Jack Starks for the inspiration.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kate Moss and the World's Most Famous Vagina

Writing an advertising blog is an extraordinary thing. Blogger is owned by Google, so it's attached to my calendar which is attached to my email account. So once I'm dead Google will have this historical resource with which the information archaeologist of the future will be able to reconstruct the subtle changes in the commercial climate prior to the total failure of capitalism which preceded the Magnificent Famine of 2010.

I have a friend who spends his life in Cairo reading court records from the Ottoman Empire in medieval Arabic, so to suggest this isn't to overestimate the significance of what I do, merely to state the frank desperation of PhD students, now and forever, in search of an original sphere of research with which to bag a grant.

Anyway, I hope that you're enjoying my blog from your vantage point in the future, whoever you are. I bet the future is shit. I bet it's like a flagship branch of Fitness First in space. But then you probably won't even know what Fitness First is without some special neural download, fucko.

Not being from round here, you need some guidance from someone who at least has a vague fucking clue about what is going on. So one important feature of millenial advertising blogs to which I would like to direct your attention, oh supernerd of the future, are the writings of Kate Moss. Kate Moss was a regular commentator on Scamp's blog for around a year, between 2007 and 2008. The online Kate Moss, whilst sharing many of the attributes of the real Kate Moss, was clearly just an advertising creative posting irrelevant, but verbally inventive comments characterised an extreme childishness plus an obsession with body fluids, group sex and crack cocaine. You might think such a persona would have appalled the industry which gave her life. No, no. In fact, quite often her comments would elicit responses from Scamp's readers like:

Anonymous said...

I only read this blog now for Kate Moss' comments.


Anonymous said...

Only Black Pencil for copy this year went to.....Kate Moss.

Now there is something extremely nasty about Kate Moss. Not just that the things that "she" was saying were unpleasant and distasteful and constitute a perpetual libel of the real Kate Moss, but the idea of a man posing as a woman in order to describe the willing moral degradation of a woman within the almost totally male context of Scamp's comment section was unsavoury. But nonetheless, he/she was extremely funny. And no doubt the man (or perhaps men) behind her* was probably just a gifted copywriter, capable of normally dysfunctional relationships with women, but possessed of an amazed horror around the range of roles the media forced him to manage in relation to women who had found, in Kate Moss, a receptacle* which could contain all of these painful and contradictory impulses.

Kate Moss doesn't seem to have been active since Scamp's live debate with Dave Trott, which I can only assume is down to one of the sudden crippling attacks of self-consciousness anyone who feels the need to continually expose some shameful part of themselves online is prone. I imagine.

I can't help feeling that what my blog needs is an Agony Aunt - like Campaign has Jeremy Bullmore. So I thought I'd put out the call - if you are Kate Moss, or you know who he/she is or are, please do get in touch. If the experience of daily blogging left you feeling too thinly stretched*, perhaps a weekly unpaid gig here might be more to your taste.

As mentioned in my last post GC appeared last night on stage, performing a monologue as part of "A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant and a Prayer", the follow-up to Eve Ensler's "Vagina Monologues". For the last twelve years Ensler has allowed people to perform her show for the month of February, without paying her for the rights, with the profits going to women's charities that help support female victims of violence. This has turned into massive global vagina jamboree, known as V-Day.

It's a pretty easy get, you know, would you prefer it if women weren't so often the victims of rape and torture? And if you're thinking "no more so than anyone else" you need to get a grip on just how much your facetiousness prevents you from being fully alive.

As Ensler might be loathe to admit one of the reasons for its massive success is use of the word "Vagina" in the title. I think this is a happy fluke on her part, since, by calling the follow-up show "A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant and a Prayer", she's demonstrated she knows not a damn thing about marketing. Nevertheless exploiting the special rule around the title of works of art (for instance, I can mention Conrad's "The Nigger of the Narcissus", without being accused of racism) to allow women to mention their genital organs in polite company is a beautiful thing - something Virginia Woolf could never have dreamed of.

The monologues are on again tonight, if you work near the Strand do come, it will get you off the streets for an hour and help prevent violence against women.

Also, Waterboarders Weekly have just posted a disgusting article about porn. I suggest you ignore it totally here.

So there you go Sociology PhD researcher of 3009, now go off and write a whole section of your thesis on nihilistic writing and cultural taboos. Twat.

* Kate Moss bait see?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My God, my God why have you forsaken me.


So, I'm aware that the ideas:florid narcissistic mania ratio on the blog has lurched pronouncedly over the past few weeks or so. I must admit that I'm finding it harder and harder to write about advertising.

The effects of working in advertising, namely, believing that it is important, being prepared to defend it in arguments with people who work for the BBC and generally looking at it with anything other than a horrified scorn wear off after about a week and half.

The new Frank TV spot is the only thing I've seen that I've found at all interesting and that's only because a long career of Cannabis use was a major factor the first of GC's intermittent nervous breakdowns and also precipitated an insane belief that he was the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which lasted for about three months during which time he devised a kind of metaphysical proof of his messianic credentials, namely that if his was the only consciousness in the universe of which he had conclusive proof, and if the only explanation in the out-there universe for the existence of his consciousness was a pyramid of improbability, based on a combination of astrophysical phenomena of unfathomable complexity and random genetic mutation, crowned by a subset of vastly improbable historical events including the meeting of his forbears and parents and his pre-conscious existence as an uncharacteristically successful zygote in his father's half-teaspoonful of jisom, then the whole thing was just too perverse and ironic and unlikely unless there was some very good reason for his being there, namely being the Second Coming of the Messiah.

Obviously, and this is the really mad bit, I was unable to tell anyone that I was Jesus, because that would ruin it. The only thing I couldn't work out was what, if I was the Second Coming, I was doing sitting around smoking drugs and only eating Ryvita all day long.

So when I say the Frank spot interested me, really I mean it reminded me of what it was like to be totally insane.

I admit that 3rd person conceit I seem to have adopted for this blog rather counts against my sanity on this occasion but I'm on a sufficiently stable basis these days that I can take the hit.

I don't know if this ad will actually prevent teenagers from smoking weed, to be honest you'd probably have as much luck trying to stop teenage boys from beasting themselves, but at least it doesn't make it look glamorous or gritty - for more on this particular kind of stupidity see here. (I'm particularly proud of that post title).

GC will be treading the boards tonight in a production of "A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant and a Prayer" at the New Players Theatre. It's benefit performance for a feminist organisation which I got involved with because I thought it might help me get laid. I will post more about this soon.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Monday Morning Memento Mori

784 people were murdered in the UK last year - a figure that my American readers will, no doubt, find laughable (ha, ha, joke's on you kiddo). However most murder victims are young men, and in a competitive industry that relies heavily on the creative powers of young men, and with redundancies largely affecting the under 30s, I expect the probability of being murdered by a financially insecure colleague is going to go through the roof over the next year or so.

As Americans always say in these situations, a good offense is the best defence.

PS: I'm actually in Brighton at the moment on an extended Valentine's jaunt with the beautiful K. I believe she's enjoying the Patrick Hamilton tour I'm laying on. Also seeing an old mentor from my days in DM - so this Monday Morning Memento Mori has been triggered remotely, hence the confused date stamp which is just a product of Blogger being fascistic about recording when you started to write a post, rather than when you posted it. All boring, but, you know, here you are still reading so blame yourself; I would if I were you.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Mick Jones alert

Brother Stevie has bent space and time to produce this week's illustration because he's also pitching and raising a family (including three semi-feral wolves) - that's what I call commitment, not sloping out of bed at 11.00 in the morning to moan and whinge to a virtual audience of 8 about not having won a meaningless online popularity contest that you didn't even want to win anyway and were disgusted by, as if advertising isn't so totally overwhelmed by bells and baubles anyway so that we even have to have rosettes for advertising blogs - that's not called commitment, that's called Sour Grapes.

The winner, in the end, was flat-bread wearing planner Eoan with his post about Noam Chomsky and I don't know, I stopped reading after that bit. I suspect he must have used some sort of underhand social networking mechanic, or at least an all-agency email. All I can say is, yes, you may have won, and, yes, you may have the 606th most influential ad blog according to AdAge Power150, but AT LEAST I'VE GOT A REASONABLE NUMBER OF CONSONANTS IN MY NAME.

That's not a name, it's the noise you make when you stub your toe.

In fact, although voting has now closed, I see I'm now in the lead by 57 votes to 55. And fuck it, I've never been one to let a democratic result get in the way of my thirst for empty acclamation, so I hereby declare myself this month's "Biggest Nazi in Advertising". Heil me.

In other news, I saw Mick Jones in Rough Trade yesterday - I see Mick Jones so often that it's actually become slightly embarrassing for both me and Mick Jones. I got his autograph the first time I saw him (in the Notting Hill pharmacy), and I winked at him in WHSmiths (also in Notting Hill), so I've more or less run out of plausible fan interactions without actually trying to become his mate. Last night I considered offering him the use of my umbrella in the snow but ended up thinking that would be just too disgusting so instead surruptitiously took this picture of him with my mobile. I didn't want to get much closer than that because these days he looks like a Halloween pumpkin in mid November.

Also, you basically have to work in Rough Trade Shoreditch to successfully rock this gentleman's look:

Anyway, Happy Friday everyone - although basically it's another cheese-eating bath-robe wearing day like any other as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tanks a lot

Dave Mance of Real Men Write Long Copy has very kindly nominated me as the biggest Nazi in advertising this month*. Obviously it's a major award, and I'm up against Dave Trott and Russell Davis, so it's going to be a long shot. I'd really appreciate your help in getting my hands on all that vintage SS leatherwear that Neil "goatee" Perkins is kindly offering as a prize (from his own collection I believe). With the kind of wear I give them, these Chinese lederhosen just don't last.

At the time of writing voting stands at 5 votes to 15. So get on there and vote. Obviously I don't believe in voting in principle, but that didn't stop me.

Really the idea of a load of planners and metricians coming on here to read about redundancy, death, mental illness, video games and porn tickles me fucking senseless.

Thanks Dave.

* I hope no-one's told them I'm not technically in advertising any more. I'm mainly just in my kitchen.

UPDATE: We're now trailing the leader (an eye-wateringly dull post about Noam Chomsky and planning) by 6 votes "Sieg! Sieg! Sieg!"

UPDATE: No zey are getting avay!

Crunchy fun

Regular readers will know what a big fan I am of the Innocent Tone of Voice©. I don't even find it insane or anything. So it's with some sadness that I came to hear that Innocent are having to down-size by 25% as a result of the recession. Obviously there's nothing funny about being made redundant, I should know, but it does provide an opportunity to marvel at the versatility of the ITOV©. Is there anything you can't do with it?


We know you've been working for us for a while, and we just wanted to say that we like you, you're a lovely person, and it goes without saying that any member of the Innocent family is a real treasure.

As you may have heard on the news (boring), there's been a nasty bit of recession going on. We're afraid to say that even Innocent Towers is not immune (although we are immune to woodland magic).

Sometimes no matter how nice you are, you end up having to do some rather nasty things, that's just the way life is. We didn't design life, if we had done we would have made it nicer, take our word for it. But that's another story.

Anyway, because of this belt-tightening and cloth-trimming, we're going to have to terminate your employment with immediate effect.

We hope that we can still be friends, and if you see us driving by in the Innocent van, you might stop and lean at the window for a chat for old time's sake. But apart from that, we will need you to return any equipment you may have in your possession. Also, we'd just like to remind you, in a nice way, of your confidentiality agreement with us. So don't go nattering our business over your garden fence - jabber-chops.

Ok, so we will need you to go really soon. Like by the end of the day. Otherwise we'll have to send security round to haul you out onto the Uxbridge Road.*

We do really like you though. And don't forget for a minute how nice we are.

So yeah, unlucky, bye!

Innocent Drinks Plc.

*(Only joking. Sort of.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In the ointment

So a lot of a people are like, hey, Gordon, what's it like being unemployed? This is what it's like being unemployed:

Monday, February 09, 2009

Come back here and let me stab you.

So the reason for yesterday's late running Monday Morning Memento Mori was that your author was up until 2.30am on Monday morning playing Spore. Since I stopped taking drugs this is the probably the only thing I'd do until that time in the morning. Without my surgical gloves and balaclava on anyway.

I say this, almost, but not quite, without a lingering sense of shame.

My generation were on the cusp, where we could just about admit to playing video games without having rocks thrown at us in the playground. This was not always the case - when I first started reading Mean Machines (in 1989 or so), games were considered not just futile, but also shameful. Perhaps because, in those days, an interest in playing video games implied an interest in programming, which made you a viable target for rock-play. Or perhaps because of a wholly reasonable association between an escape into a fantasy world, brought on by vigorous wrist action, and the the act of beastliness. In fact all the things that people now say about videogames, that they cause apathy, alienation, violence or anhedonia, are all the things that Victorians used to say about masturbation. Although no one claims that video games give you TB.

It's one thing to play video games at 14, or even 18, but there's there's something fundamentally degrading about a 28 year old ignoring the world around him to crouch over a tiny screen to tap, tap away at himself. And if the indignity weren't enough, I find video games to be totally incompatible with normal adult life. I owned a PSP for a while, but I started isolating myself in my flat so that I could learn special moves on Tekken. I would encourage my girlfriend to rent dismal British-made films about anorexic nuns, so that half way through I could go "sorry, love, it's not really my bag, but don't worry, you keep watching and I'll just play this game." Such is the addict's cunning. In the upper reaches of Tekken 3 the button combinations become so complex, with holds and locks and arm-breaking maneuvers, that what with memorising them and developing the necessary manual dexterity to pull them off you might just as well be learning the piccolo or something. Then at least you could entertain idiots and the elderly.

Eventually I became so exasperated with myself I had to take the PSP to one of W12's many pawnbrokers.

But when I got this new Mac to replace the one the burglar made off with, I threw into my basket a copy of Spore, trying to make out to the Apple Store assistant that this was just a casual whim of mine - rather than the calculated relapse it has proven to be - much like an old alcoholic nonchalantly picking up a bottle of Gold Label to go with his dog-food and toilet roll.

I'm especially susceptible at this moment. Given my current circumstances, being burgled and made redundant in vindictive succession, a game in which I control an entire planet and everything on it does something to salve my sense of total powerless. There's also an element of work-replacement, performing a series of meaningless tasks assigned by others, for which I am rewarded with "points" which I can then spend on useless artifacts produced by the self-same system - it's like having a tiny ad agency in my own home.

The reason I keep playing, that I keep resurrecting and torture-starving my lifeform to death through incompetent resource management, is that it's so vastly preferable to real life. In fact I don't really want to keep playing at all, I just don't want to come back. Sherry Turkle identified this phenomenon in 1984 in her book "The Second Self" - it took till 2006 for someone in Holland to develop rehab for teenage gamers who have come to regard their World of Warcraft emanation as their true self, the version of them that chimes more closely with their idea of how the world should be.

Buddhists have this insidious means of coercion - when they'd like you to swallow an especially obscure piece of dogma, like for instance, the idea that, because of the vastness and near-eternal nature of Samsara, everyone you meet must be have been your mother in one of your past lives, and therefore deserves to be treated with love and respect, they will often say, "this may not be true, but it might be beneficial for you to believe it to be so".

And it's true that, by and large we will tend to believe that the worst kinds of mental activity are some how the most truthful.

You could frame a similar argument for only ever playing video games. And allowing your body to atrophy until you resembled a greying foetus.

Obviously there's an author that will tie all this together better than I have in this extended post which, I don't mind saying, has been unusually torturous to write. And he is Victor Pelevin (pronounced, I'm told, Pill y ee vin), the "Russian Will Self" (this does a service to Self and none to Pelevin) - Scamp is a fan I believe. Most of his novels take place at the intersection between electrical engineering, Buddhism and some kind of mental disorder. "The Helmet of Horror", his take on the Labyrinth myth, takes place in an internet chat room. The Helmet of Horror itself is a kind of hermetic device that he uses to investigate the idea that if you are experiencing reality in your head, where does that leave your head?

If you think about that idea for too long, it causes an unearthly terror. I have the same respect for people that can work cheerfully with these ideas as I have for undertakers and forensic surgeons.

The video up top, if you remember watching it all those years ago, is from Robbie Cooper's work called "Immersion". I saw this on Mike Laurie's excellent blog a while ago - a good source of interest biscuits.

Sorry not to have formulated all this more coherently. I'm basically losing my grip on reality.

Monday Morning Memento Mori

Wikipedia gives only 20 people killed by wolves in the last 10 years. So, yes, you are very unlikely to be killed by a wolf but then that is almost certainly exactly what those 20 people thought.

Ethologist Doctor Valerius Geist of the University of Calgary, has outlined seven stages which will help you gauge whether your agency is at risk of wolf-attack.
  • The first outlined stage is a scarcity of wild game, be it due to poaching, habitat loss or seasonal migration.
  • Wolves begin approaching the agency, though limiting their visits to nocturnal hours. Their presence is usually established by barking matches with traffic.
  • After a certain amount of time, wolves begin to frequent work areas in daylight hours and observe account handlers at a distance.
  • The wolves begin acting more boldly, attacking account handlers and producers at daylight, sometimes pursuing their prey into the spray-mounting room. The wolves at this point do not focus on humans, but will growl and act threateningly toward them.
  • The wolves begin attacking senior suits and may follow planners and look into the windows of meeting rooms. Even if the room has been booked for some time beforehand.
  • Creatives begin to be harassed, usually in a "playful" manner. The wolves will chase creatives over short distances and nip at them, though will retreat if confronted.
  • Wolves begin attacking creatives in a predatory fashion.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Brother Stevie's Reflections on Manhood

We've had to put Sisters of Inversion on hold for a couple of weeks because Brother Stevie's "employer" is making him do "work" - I ask you? The two fine gentlemen above may also be appearing in an exhibition of his work in a gallery in Shoreditch. He has also turned his hand to decorating furniture for you to buy dear readers. If you'd like to know more about Brother Stevie's visionary genius, may I suggest his mind-bending Wolf Eagle Blog? There's a lot of splendid new stuff on there.

Brother Alex has gone to Brazil for sex tourism holiday. Let's hope that helps with his weary sense of existential emptiness.

Right, I'm meant to be assembling my portfolio, but I keep playing Spore. I may even waste some more time posting about Spore. That will be interesting for you.

UPDATE: If you like comics, then Mother have produced this - which I was annoyed to find stitched into my copy of Time Out last week. The art is brilliant, the writing not so. If you work at Mother and want to engage in some kind of write-off I will fucking have you.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Installation 4/135 - Camera phone, blog, distressed cross-track site

Just when you thought I'd flogged it to death, here is the fourth of my attempts to turn shit to gold by creating a series of 135 relational art works using just my camera phone, existing advertising media and this blog.
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This one is called "They are using a kind of ray to penetrate my thoughts."

As you can see it's created from a cross-track which once displayed the rather nice photographic campaign for The Saturday Times - but it's been stripped off the site, producing an arty patina and revealing the apparently meaningless series of letters "A TURD AY".

The installation is now open on the Northbound platform of the Bakerloo Line at Charing Cross. Go along, contemplate the idea that, despite being discouraged by all the major religions and your girlfriend, egotism is really the only thing that imbues the universe with meaning, otherwise it's just so many worthless inkblots, shown by a mad psychiatrist to an empty couch.

To view the series so far, click here.

Seen the new Mother campaign for Granta Magazine?

Apparently it's only running in one bookshop in Bloomsbury - that's what makes it so clever.

Yeah, yeah.

So already I'm finding advertising much less interesting than I did four days ago. Usually when I take the tube I go round looking at ads muttering "shit, shit, toss, doesn't make any sense, art director fucked it, shit, grammatical aberration, insane, been-done, fucking Mick Hucknall of all people, shit, what kind of cunt do they take me for, toss" like I've got an obscure form of environmental Tourette's.

My girlfriend pointed out I don't actually have to take an interest in any of it any more, unless I want to. You're never really a civilian again though are you?

Obviously I haven't got any advertising news, apart from that which I can manufacture in my flat. But someone reading this will certainly be made redundant soon, and it will probably be you (bad things always happen to you), so prick up your ears you might learn something.

I can report back from the land of the unemployed and say it's fine so far. It reminds me of that time in childhood when I was fully sentient and cunning but didn't yet have to go to school. I find I'm thinking less about advertising, more about bookshops and engaging in a futile staring match with a tin of luncheon meat. I've started selling stuff on eBay - I might try and add a widget to my blog so you too can buy my personal possessions.

Since publishing that post on being made redundant several students have got in touch, asking my advice on how to get into the industry - the leading minds of the future no doubt. From now on I will either send out a standard advisory email, or a creepy invitation to come round to my house and watch a scary film with me on my sofa in my greasy dressing gown, on a kind of Russian Roulette basis.

I get to have lunch with people I like, like Brother Stevie. As a resident of The Borough of Haringey he has also been thoroughly burglarised. We discussed the psychological reaction which is always "Hello, why has my wife moved the TV and smashed the window - this stranger in the hallway - is he from the gas board?" It's something like having Alzheimers. The brain's ability to make connections is totally stymied, and you go flailing around for rational explanations like a dyspraxic on Supermarket Sweep.

(I don't have a television, so all my day time TV references, which I use for dismal colour, are dated, hence extra dismal).

I owe Barack Obama an extra debt of gratitude because on the night of the burglary I had been playing some of the "Audacity of Hope" on my iPod in the bedroom, which meant it wasn't nicked with the laptop. Its hard-disk is also the repository for my own avant-garde filmaking endeavours, and so I was especially relieved that they won't be surfacing on any popular video sites with names like, but not exactly, YouTube. It almost makes up for Gordon Brown nicking my job.

Listening to Barack Obama reading the "Audacity of Hope" is an immensely reassuring experience. He describes his attempt to identify and stave off the forces which make ordinary people into politicians - namely, only hanging around with other politicians and rich people, flying in private jets, turning complex ideas into simple ideas for the sake of soundbites. His perceived non-politician status is what makes him original - I think in any industry that prizes originality it's worth working out what it is that makes the rest of them the same and then doing the opposite.

That's what gives me the edge over all you losers with jobs you see.

Anyway, thanks for all your comments on the last post, all your feedback on that idea really made me realise just how worthwhile writing this blog is.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I am already going insane.

So for my next article in Outdoor Gerontophile Magazine I ended up watching loads of mobile phone advertising. Looked at impassively, every single one of the mobile networks has opted for an advertising strategy that is so obscure that it's only because we're indoctrinated in the, hem, discourse that we can even identify them as adverts for mobile phone networks at all, and not some legal synthesis of the drugs heroin and ecstasy.

They are as bizarre as you like.

This campaign seems to have gently slipped into the background lately. But let's just dwell for a moment on the frank surreality of an ad that begins "I am my Mum". Now it is a totally original use of the first person pronoun, the reason it's taken till now to get here is because it is mad. It has two possible sources: a planner fresh off the plane from a two-week enema break on Koh Samui* or the post-structuralist philosopher Jean Baudrillard. If you are who you are because of everyone then you're really just a matrix of other people's perceptions, with no innate qualities whatever. Is the suggestion that you should be using the phone the whole time then, to prevent yourself from realising that you're just a horrifying ontological vacuum and imploding? I must admit I find the idea chilling, but not persuasive.

Ok, it is extremely hard to talk about what mobile phone networks sell, without sounding like a French philosopher or a tit. Obviously they didn't try very hard in that case, but fair enough, the sector is a victim of the advertising dictum that says one should sell the hole, not the drill. The standard schtick is that they sell communication, but that's not true is it? They sell a means of communication, not language, but something behind language. The networks long ago abandoned trying to talk about what they actually sell - that is wires, satellite dishes, chirrupy beeping noises and men sitting in front of computers making sure that bandwidth is working. After all, why would you talk about all that boring stuff (the drill), when you've got the other stuff (the hole) and in this case the hole is people communicating with their parents, girlfriends, lovers and grannies. It is emotive. Or it was, until it got boring.

The only problem is that the hole is just that, a hole: it's not there. You can only show it embodied by people, not on its own.

The T-Mobile ad is deeply annoying, but it does contain a sophisticated assault on this philosophical pillbox. How do you show the idea of communication, that is, something invisible, embodied? People talking on phones has been done, is not slightly dynamic, not spectacular, no longer good ad material. The solution they've come up with is a dance. Now, Saatchis aren't the only people to have used this metaphor. The other person is Yeats, and he say: "How can we know the dancer from the dance?" The weird thing is that Yeats is handling exactly the same thorny metaphysical problem of the embodied idea, the same brief if you like.

Lambie Nairn had a blank canvas, a new network and came up with the empty bubble the initial letter O. The O has a special significance in terms of this idea/reality problem. Lacan uses the O as an ideogram to represent man's inability to realise his desire - the impossiblity of the idea matching the actuality. The interrupted O. Here we are, back on the edge of the void.

But so far so pretentious. These parallels are irrelevent, you say, you're just using these references because you think they make you look clever, and dressing it up with swearing doesn't fool anyone - you're still being a dick.

Well yes I am, and I admit drawing these parellels is a niche activity, and there's a reason for that - there is more or less no continuum between this stuff and advertising. If it exists it goes in one direction, philosophy might look at advertising, but advertising never looks at anything other than its own balls. It is anti-intellectual. Having worked in a few creative departments, I'd hazard a guess that Nan and Spaf at Saatchis didn't go off and read Yeats in order to come up with the Liverpool St. idea (well come on, that's not just arrogant, the reason I write this blog anonymously is because if you mention Yeats in an ad agency people creep into your office in the night and write the word "PRICK" in the corner of every page of every layout pad in your office). Nor am I suggesting they should have. But what it proves is advertising's ability to innovate around intellectual problems in an non-intellectual way. A lateral, creative way. Every time it makes one of these ideas it is making it from scratch, like the man in Borges's story who writes Don Quixote all over again.

And to half-inch an idea from Dave Trott, creativity fuelled by capitalism is water-like, flowing out of necessity into every possible solution. If you set it an impossible problem - how do you represent something intangible, something behind language- it will go off like a mad computer and come up with a series of answers. The weird thing is that it seems to be coming up with the same answers as philosophers and poets have done in the past. The fact that these ideas already existed doesn't matter a damn, they'd already existed long before there was literature or philosophy as well.

It almost seems a shame that all we do is sell stuff.

I mean all you do. I don't even sell stuff any more.

*Complete this gag - What do you get if you give a planner an enema?


I was pleased to see that Manhole Magazine put my article on the New Sadism on the front page of their blog yesterday - causing a surge in traffic, just in time to witness a whole range of undignified online behaviour from me.

I like to think of anonymous blogging as rather like exposing yourself in public, only whilst wearing a rubber Ronald Reagan mask. My dignity is safe, it is you who feels demeaned.

Anyway, hello there new readers.

They've asked for another piece off me for March, about porn this time - yes, they are appalling degenerates and I've heard stories about their editorial meetings that would make John Stagliano blush, but the times being what they are I'm forced to cooperate, much against my will. It's nice to see this Charlotte St. newsagents making a stand for decency and putting their periodical where it belongs.

I did much more reading for the Manhole piece than I could fit into the article, so hopefully I will be recycling this exuberance over the next couple of days.

The title I gave porno piece was "Did anyone order a sausage pizza?", no doubt they'll call it something disgusting like "The rise of gonzo advertising" - how hard can it be just to get a title right? Tsk.

Update: I've just noticed the subhead on the edition of Forum in my picture. My apologies, I will take it down immediately before anyone else scrolls up to look at it.

Monday, February 02, 2009

I can hear the snow, faintly falling through the universe.

On Friday afternoon I strode into my creative director's office and gave it to him straight.

Look, I said, I'm going to have to make you redundant.

It took him a moment to respond.

But you're a junior copywriter here, he said, You can't make me redundant. I own this company. It's my name above the door.

I didn't think he'd quite got the message.

Yeah, I said slowly, that's the economic downturn you see. Biggest recession since the war - don't you read the news? We're going to have to cut back and I've decided, as the closest thing to a representative of youthful creativity in this building, that it makes more sense for you to go. You, after all, have had a good crack at this advertising lark and, ok, you made some nice ads in the 80s, but frankly you've been too scared to move on creatively since then.

He seemed to be choking in some way.

You're surprised, and I can understand that. No doubt you'd envisaged spending your dotage sitting there in your big leather chair quietly running the company into the ground - it seems almost inevitable doesn't it? But if you look at the way the agency's fortunes have declined over the past few years I think you'll agree that it's actually your penchant for micromanagement and inability to move with the times, all born out of terrible craven fear of the truly new (which in essence boils down to a denial of the reality of your own inevitable demise and death), that have been holding us back. I think you've got to face the facts and recognise it's time to move on. I'm sure with your reputation there will be hundreds of DM agencies that would be pleased to have you on board. Or you can just tend to your garden and watch the football and I'll send you a massive dividends cheque every quarter. We'll be able to invest your salary in hiring all the best young talent out there, building a fearless, world-class creative department - this story of your selfless behaviour in the pursuit of creative excellence, will attract exactly the type of people we're after. Anyway, it's not like all this cash ever made you happy, you only spend it on Saville Row suits and beach holidays that you obviously believe are one of the enviable trappings of wealth but in fact sound terribly, terribly bleak and make me pity you in a way that I have been, heretonow, unable to express.

He was clearly impressed, not just by my forthright tone, but my grasp of the realities of the problem. He started to mouth some words, of admiration no doubt, but by this point I was in full flow.

You must see though, that unless we do this, it exposes the whole thing as a sad pantomime, this agency as an old man's plaything. Like some sort of ghastly lathe, only drawing into its spinning parts the bodies of young people whose capacity for happiness and self-expression it is a heinous crime to waste for reasons that you could only ever admit to yourself, in the small hours of the morning, when you wake up from a bad dream, frightened and seeking comfort, only to realise that you are totally alone in the silence.

Anyway, just put all your things in this box, I said, I'm having this office now.

Then I turned to his art director.

Look, I'm afraid I'm going to have to fire you too. Not for financial reasons as such, just because you're so miserable you don't even realise that you're miserable any more. Trust me, leaving this agency will be the best thing that ever happened to you. I'll give you some cash so you can learn a recession-proof trade like plumbing - people always need plumbers and the Poles are on their way out. Once you've shaken off the cloying glue of sycophancy and you'll soon realise that you're actually a fairly likeable person, just totally ill-suited to any kind of managerial role.

It wasn't long after that, although I can't remember exactly, that I was asked to leave the building.

I've decided to keep blogging for the timebeing, as a cathartic bridge-burning exercise. I will be leaving the country quite soon, to write a book about murder, but in the meantime I'm going to see just what they mean when they say "hugely crowded at the moment, many more freelancers than there is work to go round".

If you're a creative director who'd like to hire a death-fixated freelance copywriter please do get in touch on the electronic mail. As Paul Arden said, "if you've never been sacked, you're probably not very good," which must make me one of the best copywriters ever to have walked this benighted earth. My itinerant career pattern means I'm familiar with exactly every aspect of advertising: DM, web, radio, TV, press, posters and mobile (oh yeah, I was about to get on to mobile).

For complex reasons the Art Director and I have decided to go our separate ways, so I come like a lone wolf, ripping the guts out of whatever briefs you've got going. I'm 28 and nothing if not buoyantly cheerful.

My girlfriend and I were also delighted to be woken by a burglar in our bedroom on Friday morning. An out of work stockbroker no doubt. So what with the intruders, the unemployment and the snow it's all starting to feel a bit like a depressing French arthouse film.

PS: We seem to have established that Friday's anonymous shitposter is a female art director. I put her at an childish 27, perhaps infantilised by a dominant parent. She lapses from a mannered Daily Express tone into archaic East London cockney abuse when enraged. Now, who could that be?

Monday Morning Memento Mori

It's said that only 25% of those who attempt and fail at suicide go on to do the job properly. 70% are glad to still be alive and may even dismiss their reasoning prior to the attempt as "silly". Before you start getting all cheerful, it's worth remembering that 100% of suicide survivors do eventually die.