Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

'What's in your fridge?' With Jeffrey Dahmer. (Or the art of shock).

Mmmm. One post a week then.

I found myself in the office at midnight last night, fully clothed and working. Not for the first time during this freelance stint either. I was one of six people on this floor; all creatives, I probably shouldn't point out.

One of the consequences of agencies with worldwide offices working with big global brands is that they seem to be able to send work around the world just ahead of the timezone, so you end up with an agency that never sleeps.

Speaking of creepy, I finished last week Brian Master's excellent biography of Jeffrey Dahmer, The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer.

True crime suffers from a bad rep as a genre, some see it a particularly nasty form of pornography. I think this is a mistake, based on a confusion. The desire to read about people who do terrible things is confused with the desire to read about terrible things.

An account of violent crimes, without context, would be pornography. It is the context that you can learn from.

Don't get me wrong. Reading about terrible things is part of it. It seems like there are certain things you can do that take you into a moral area that is as unknown as the bottom of the ocean. Once you've got a handful of warm human entrails, you may as well do the worst thing you can possibly do with them. Really. This is a unique form of experience, and worth reading about just in the spirit of reading promiscuously.

But this information is made more interesting once you know that Dahmer was an obsessive fan of Return of the Jedi.

His fridge may have contained a pickled head, but it also contained gherkins and milk that was within its best before date. The terrifying has a peculiar effect on the banal, even objects, it makes them weird.

We are more like sociopaths and killers than we are unlike sociopaths and killers. That's what makes them interesting.

Something can be utterly extreme, unreal and memorable, but still relevant, so long as there is a continuum between reality and the weird. A lot of adverts work like this.

  • People sing in the car. A dog sings in a car.
  • Commuters pass through a station. Commuters dance in a station.
  • Surfers surf in the waves. Surfers surf amongst horses.

You will open hundreds of fridges in your life, but you will remember the one that had a human head in it.

UPDATE: Something weird is happening to my blog. I can't really explain it, but it's like I'm doing an impression of myself.

For instance, a while ago, I might have written the above in a parody of Dave Trott, where as now, it takes me a week to write and it's more or less the best I can do, my own self. There's so many advertising bloggers out there, looking for some sort of analogy or insight, that you're basically bound to end up writing about Jeffrey Dahmer - that's the satirical angle.

I may as well tell you now that I'm thinking of stopping writing this blog and starting a group one, with a broader editorial policy, in about a month's time. The idea would be to create an online magazine that would entertain advertising creatives, and other people, whilst they're at work. It will definitely feature video, illustration and writing. If you're any good at any of those things, and that's something you're interested in being a part of, do get in touch on the electronical mail.


Gordon Comstock said...

Visual is from a campaign I did with the Art Director. Apologies, art director, if you're going round London with it in your book. But it was my idea.

gareth wild said...

Ian Tovey is my good friend and may be shortly extremely available should the Observer fail as is the rumour/marketing ploy. See his stuff here - ps it's not me. Tell him Gareth (Wild) sent you.

AdLand Suit said...

Mr Comstock. It would be remiss of me not to sign myself up for your next project. It probably isn't meant to be for Suits. And partly for that reason, partly for others, I'd be honoured to be involved.

Gernot said...

Mr. Comstock,

count me in.

Gordon Comstock said...

Adland Suit -

We could do 'Suits create' as a weekly feature. Where creatives submit a brief for suits to work on.

Maybe that would be crap. I don't know. I'm still in fairly early stages of thinking about this.

Or we could do 'justify my shit', where every week someone takes a picture of their own shit and then suits have to sell it using powerpoint.

Gordon Comstock said...

Ian Tovey looks brilliant. I can't pay him though. You all realise that right? It would just be for fun.

Gernot - what do you do?

Ben said...

I've got some spare time if you'd like some shit. It might be fun to write from another angle.

Angus Deayton said...

I can't write for toffee, but I just wanted to say I enjoyed reading about Jeffrey Dahmer

Jam said...

I write, and I'm in advertising - only I'm a youth so it'll be all about getting exploited and questioning my own morali-

-don't worry, I promise I'll find a unique angle.

Integral said...

I could write some bollocks about something. Probably not advertising, mind you, given that I don't work in advertising.

Failing that, I could draw some things in Microsoft Paint. So long as Ian Tovey doesn't get jealous and start trying to pass my stuff off as his own.