Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hackney: armpit of London

I usually only go to Hackney under cover of darkness, but I can now confirm that it actually looks worse in the morning. Only art students and northerners move to Hackney, and that's because they have no fucking idea. Hackney is officially the only place in London with a greater predominance of betting shops and charity shops than Shepherds Bush. In fact, Kingsland Road is perhaps the only road in London that a native of W12 can go strolling down, twirling an umbrella, chuckling noiselessly and thinking, 'wow, this place is really shit.'

Cheered me right up.

I also happened upon this poster for the new Mother Coke campaign 'Yeah yeah yeah wang splat.'

I don't mind the headline so much, there's something ballsy about its utter disregard for meaning, it's the strap line that bothers me.

You can't see it in the photo, because by that point I'd had to board a bus to escape a pack of feral dogs, and the bus was pulling away from the red light to avoid the 13 year old bus-jackers, with guns, but the strap line is: Open Happiness

Ok, super huge brands like Coke and McDonald's demand a generic line, but isn't there something about this that just doesn't sound like English? I mean, there's not a mistake in it that you could explain to a non-native speaker, it's the old adland imperative plus abstract noun one-two, but isn't it somehow less good than for instance 'Drink Coke', or 'Enjoy'. And isn't its inferiority to do with the indefinably non-native quality of the idiom?

When I was on the D&AD Workshop I remember Dave Trott telling the non-native English speakers that they'd have trouble as copywriters. I'm not sure that's true any more. I mean, they might not be as good at writing, but it might not even matter.

Don't get me wrong, I know some really good non-native English-speaking copywriters, but their strength tends to lie more in the conceptual bit of the copywriter's skill-set Venn diagram than the actual sitting-there-for-hours-adjusting-the-words-till-it-sounds-ok bit, one of the best bits IMHO.

In fact the code of modern copywriting is much less like David Abbot holding forth in the back of a limo and much more like quite an awkward conversation with a really hip Parisian exchange-student with passable English.

Clients mistake awkwardness for originality.

I'm not saying it's a bad thing, just that it's a thing.

UPDATE: Dave Trott's latest post begins 'I went to a gay wedding at a castle in Scotland recently.' Now there's a man who understands intrigue. I haven't even read it yet, but I just bet it's mental.

UPDATE: Yep. Chicken Oriental.


Anonymous said...

Funnily enough that poster site is almost opposite Mothers offices. I don't know how it all works, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was a Mother-only site.

btw you are looking very sharp today GC. As someone who dresses as just another generic casual shitmuncher, I am jealous.

Gordon Comstock said...

Now this is getting unnerving.

You know who I am, but I don't know who you are. That's all wrong.

Anonymous said...

Haha, dont wanna freak you out, just a little shy. Have been reading the blog for a while, big fan. Maybe I'm a little over-excited that you're working here!

Will email you.

First Mate said...

Kudos to anyone who can end a blog post with that sentence.

John said...

"Open Happiness" just sounds a weeeeeee bit too bloody Christian for my liking - Coke's typically evangelical shit and nonsense.

I'm an old fashioned two-words-written-ten-words-deleted kinda copywriter. I love it. Tis the craft etc. But I think one other reason "modern" copy sometimes sounds a bit clunky/odd is that no-one gets the FUCKING TIME to write anything anymore.

Welcome to Interzone etc.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like there may be a gay wedding at whatever agency you're freelancing at judging by the previous exchange of emails

Mike Laurie said...

Nabakov would have destroyed Trott.

Gordon Comstock said...

Nabokov is an exception, but like all Russian aristocrats he had an English nurse, so considered English his first language.

I always spell his name as you have the first time round because that's how Sting sings it.

Joseph Conrad though, he's another writer whose prose critics regard as deliberately obscure, rather than just oddly imprecise.

John said...

Yeah, Conrad's libretti for the 1922 Eurovision song contest set the standard

(god, i wish that were true)

Egg said...

Good lord, Gordon, lighten up, won't you? You know very well it's never been about grammar.

Gordon Comstock said...

I'm not saying it's about grammar: that would be too easy.

It's about sound, which is much harder to talk about.

Anonymous said...

Open Happiness sounds more like a German-infested naturist resort in the Algarve if you ask me.

Pete Gloria said...

It's the sound + grammar that make it work. It's funky. I'm not into Coke or anything they do to pretend to be less generic/meaningless. Open Happiness is pretty fucking hot, sounds easy-going, it's got assonance + alliteration game without being stodgy, echoes of Open Sesame, 'open' is in there working as an adjective too not just a verb. What's not to like? It's da schweet wrong dat make it so right.