Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beauty is exuberance pt. 2

Ok, sorry I haven't been blogging at all, really, for a couple of weeks. I have made up for this, I think, by being an incredibly prolific adman.

In fact, I reckon I might be in the running for the creative with the most print ads in print this year. I'm fairly serious about this.

For instance, the last freelance bit I was doing was retail/headline based stuff. I don't feel any shame about this. Pictures of products and facetious word play may look a bit 1978, but as a technique it still offers the most efficient creativity:speed ratio of any kind of advertising.

You can spend Tuesday and Wednesday polishing headlines until they really zing, slap'em under some pictures of dishwashers or whatever and have a half page ad in all the papers on Sunday. You'll get a certain amount of input from the client and the Creative Director, but assuming they buy your lines you'll also really own the ads. It's your bit that makes them good, it's your bit that makes them different.

So I did about 7 of them.


Then since I came into this agency I've done a total of 13 press ads for various clients. When I say I did them, I mean I did enough of them that I could put them in my book and not be ashamed to show any of the, incidentally, superb people I worked with that I had done so. Ok, about seven of them were for a single campaign, out this weekend, that was admittedly quite a lot more labour intensive for the illustrator and designer than it was for me. Three were retail. One or two 48 sheets are still in process. A couple of thoroughgoing press ads - one of which is probably my favourite to date.


So that makes 20 ads since January in a year in which I also managed to get made redundant and spend two months on the dole playing Spore.

That's as well as six articles and one feature in Jeffrey Dahmer Magazine and one and a half short stories.

Apart from my nakedly sounding off about how I'm a major cultural force and basically decide what you think about everything, there are some general conclusions one can draw from all this:

  • Copywriters thrive in a recession. This is because people stop dicking around and start wanting to sell things again.
  • You produce more under the lash of capitalism than you ever would through mere self-appreciation.
  • That it's worth having an ideology, even if it's just to not make things that are demeaning, because you may feel like what you're doing makes no difference, but if you're doing lots of it and not paying attention the aggregate effect of your thoughtlessness will be to make the world an uglier place.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reasons to be cheerful

Sometimes when you haven't been paid for loads of freelance work, your credit cards are being rejected by all major cash machines, your script got spiked and you haven't had a weekend not dominated by a wedding or stag weekend or screaming work nightmare for upwards of a month, it's worth using the tiny sliver of personal time afforded by your journey to work to make a list of the things you're grateful for.

This technique was propounded by Sigmund Freud, inventor of modern life as we know it.

1. Eyes
2. Limbs
3. Wang (fully-operational)
4. Brain
5. The love of a fine red-headed woman
6. Family (not wholly abusive relationship with)
7. Being English
8. The English language
9. Really nice kitchen
10. Recovery
11. Not having swine flu
12. That swine flu has not mutated into a more virulent strain
13. That sea gulls have not mutated into pterodactyls
14. Penicillin
15. Pornography
16. DFW
17. Beginning Creative Writing MA in September
18. Swivel-eyed, cocksucking, sharp-elbowed Metro readers on the tube, for aiding in the daily practice of tolerance and understanding
19. Winston Churchill
20. Umbrellas
21. Portrait of the depressed man from 'Light' by Proxikid
22. This

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Mori Memento Mori

Happy to report that this agency I'm freelancing at is delivering on its reputation for both good work and scant respect for the Sabbath.

Too much stress won't kill you, but too much of anything that alleviates stress probably will.

Proof, if it were needed, of Schopenhauer's proposition that 'if the immediate and direct purpose of our life is not suffering then our existence is the most ill-adapted to its purpose in the world'.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

5 tips that will help you win all the awards

GC has never won any awards.

Here are my excuses:
  • Youth. Although there are a few 28 year olds out there with more metal hanging around than a professional body-piercer's passive-aggressive co-dependent girlfriend-slash-assistant, the golden window for award winning tends to be 28-38.
  • Certain sociopathic tendencies mean I never end up working anywhere longer than a year, which means I'm usually a freelancer, so I never get to work on the big campaigns that people win awards for cause they tend to go to the lifers.
  • Time wasted clambering up through the successive layers of advertising: CRM, DM, mobile and web so that despite now having been in the industry, sort of, since 2004, I've only been in above the line for two years. Below the line awards don't really count anyway do they? Not that I've won loads of them or anything either.
  • Blah, blah, blah.
  • I'm certain anonymous commentators will waste no time at all bravely pointing out the hard truth about the real reason why I haven't won any awards, so I'll just say in advance, thanks, and you are right, but have you ever noticed how people don't often choose to spend time with you?

As someone who makes something of a USP out of being utterly shameless, I have to do a lot of squirmy self-justification before I admit to my inadequacy in the fake gold baubles department don't I?

Even otherwise clear-sighted people cannot resist their siren call. You, for example, are probably only still reading because you're waiting for the 5 tips that will help you win awards.

Once you've got a few awards, you're allowed to become dismissive of the whole overblown fandango. It's a simple economy of scarcity and value. Scamp, I believe, sits under a shelf, that, even to the untrained eye, constitutes a major health and safety risk. At DDB I believe they use them as door stops. Tony Davidson is in the process of constructing a 1:1 scale model of Westminster Abbey with his. I shit you not.

Now I don't know, but I reckon advertising has more awards systems than any other industry out there. So I just wanted to ask: what's with all the awards chaps?

Why do we have this constant need for self-congratulation?

Why does the industry have to spend so much time, and money, slapping itself heartily on the back in this disgusting way?

Is it because, deep down inside even the most jaded, saurine, adman is a idealistic child who believes that really advertising is evil? A child who needs to be consoled with praise and shiny objects just so he'll shut up for five minutes so you can get on with earning money to buy the ungrateful wretch trainers, graphic novels and expensive 45 rpm records for fuck's sake?

Is it because the people we make our product for, the public, don't actually like our product?

It's just that a person who seeks gratification, and can't find it in the world outside himself, and instead resorts to a fantasy world of praise and self-gratification based on his own set of mysterious criteria would be, not just deluded, but also in all likelihood, a really furious masturbator.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Light Pt. 2

Delayed by poor time management and back by popular demand, the second part of a collaboration with the incredible Proxikid. Click to enlarge and enjoy.

(Haven't worked out how to post it at full size so this is how it's gonna be I'm afraid. Plus I get a time reading on people when they click to enlarge, so it's good for the metrics see?)

Monday Morning Memento Mori

Last Friday saw the death at 113, of Henry Allingham, veteran of WWI and the world's oldest man.

Basically you can run, but you can't hide.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I am mad busy

So you're just going to have to amuse yourself clicking this banner ad for the next couple of days.

Pinched from Waldemar's twitterfeed - I am follower.

UPDATE: Still mad busy. Richard Herring is an arsehole, but his blog is sometimes quite funny.

Have the next Light comic ready and just have to drop in the text which I will do today, but so far I have not had time to even eat.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Brother Phil: The Midweek Freak

Here's the fourth in a series of collaborations with Brother Phil. He's a pimp in every sense of the word.

Together we're exploring what might have happened if we'd invented rap and everything in it.

My thanks brother, this one's for you.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Freeze the placenta Mark, do it.

This post on the Kidney Hat blog has attracted rather more attention than I'd intended.

Everyone with a computer and their eight year old nephew seem to think it's all so obvious and you'd have to be utterly perverse and morbidly fixated to believe that the Passat ad could refer to anything apart from the light at the end of the tunnel in the most optimistic sense possible.

You're thinking too much about it they say.

There are some things you can think about too much. Like the fact that the people you hold dear only demonstrate their affection to you in order for you to reciprocate that affection so as to allow them to feel loved and successful. Or the fact that, when you die, it probably won't cause anyone to be so upset that they miss their breakfast for more than two days in a row.

But I believe your job is one of the things you're allowed to think about as much as you like. Particularly if your job involves thinking about ads. You may as well try and prevent a microscopist going into so much detail the whole time.

And let's face it people who say 'You're thinking about it too much' are probably the same people who say 'Leaving early then?', or 'Why are you wearing those shoes?', or 'Why don't you like football?', or 'Why don't you read the Metro?', or 'Why don't you drink?', or 'Why don't you have a TV?', or 'What, do you secretly believe that you're better than me or something you preening upper-middle-class cunt?'

Anyway for new readers, that's basically my schtick, applying close reading to advertising.

Kidney Hat magazine pay me to do this, but I'd probably do it anyway, because I really hate the anti-intellectual streak in advertising that says 'well it's just an ad isn't it?' and leaves all the thinking to the planners. It's why all advertising is art direction these days and everyone is Swedish.

But back to the ad. Clearly the creatives meant it to be the light at the end of the tunnel, that was never what I was trying to dispute. What I found strange was that all this other stuff seemed to have got in without anyone noticing.

Irony is quite a slippery term, but the OED gives it as something like a figure of speech where the 'intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed by the words used'. Obviously we're used to this in advertising where the visual says one thing and the words say another. But in this ad it seems like all the bells are ringing for irony, the irony alarm is going ballistic in fact, and yet the message we're meant to receive is utterly unironic: the world may be shit, but you can rely on a Volkswagen.

This is interesting, especially if you're employed by a diurectic headpiece periodical to apply critical theory to advertising, because if it was art we'd obviously say 'ah yes, death symbolism, dix points.' But because it's advertising it just seems uncontrolled.

When we look at advertising we're actually trying to work out what the person on the other end of it means. We judge an ad on its ability to communicate precisely where as we allow art to be rich and mysterious. As I've said before, I think at the moment the two things are colliding.

If you like I can email and ask them.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday Morning Memento Mori

Obviously this is an absolute gift.

News that a London cabbie contrived to decapitate himself in his own taxi elicited this comment:

I have spoken to at least twenty Taxi Driver today and not one of them was surprised by this unfortunate incident.....

- Ian, London

'Cause it's not at all surprising is it really mate with conditions what they are for cabbies now it's enough to make you want to just tie one end of a rope round yer Gregory Peck and the other round a lamppost and then drive off at sixty pulling yer 'ead clean off.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Let there be Light

A new collaboration with the wonderful Proxikid. We have devised unique method of writing it, so we both get to be surprised with what comes out. I'm pleased with this one.

The same four characters in every strip. Yes there are four.

Click to enlarge and have a happy Friday.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Co-branding Watch

Following on from my piece in this month's edition of Spermatozoan Supplement (which I can't myself read as I don't have an online password) here is an advert for Santander.

Arguably this isn't the best time for a bank to be announcing their intention to spend your money childishly. But fine, ok, Santander's bought a load of banks on the cheap and they probably should let people know.

But Airfix! How did they get in there?

If you notice any more co-branding collisions, do let me know in the comments or on the electronical mail.

Brother Phil: The Midweek Freak

I'm very proud to present the third in a series of collaborations with superfreak Brother Phil, bringing you the favourite rappers you never had in eighties bubble-gum card form.

For more of mad skill from the man like Phil check his site.

Yeeeah Boi! As Flavor Flav would no doubt say if he were still alive today.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Art! Fuckers!

The Classified: Contemporary Art exhibition at the Tate is great.

It's all about advertising really.

In the first room there's this excellent Mark Dion cabinet of things. I wanted to own this. I think that's from working in advertising, it means when you see art, you want to buy it.

It turns it into a commercially viable object, and therefore makes it less threatening. Or accusatory even.

I don't know, but I reckon Charles Saatchi has a bad case of this.

There's a couple of really big Hirsts in it. One is a whole room, a sculpture you can be in, and as modern consumers we're all experts at reading environments, so all your environmental senses light up, and you think 'I'm in a hospital' and that is part of it.

There's also 'The Chapman Family Collection' which is a dimly lit room full of sculptures that look like tribal African art, but as you go further into the room you see that they all incorporate elements of the McDonalds brand identity.

I insist on my right to take pictures with my mobile in galleries, even though it's not my right. But given my history of high-concept camera phone art I reckon the rule is legally unenforceable in my case.

So we might look at African art and think 'oh how primitive, look at the way they use personifications to connote different ways of being or feeling'. Obviously we now classify this behaviour as branding, but it is the same behaviour.

Sometimes when I'm in the Westfield (I am often in the Westfield) I walk around thinking that you really need to believe in something to create a building like this. In the same way that people believed in a God terrifying enough for it to be worth building cathedrals for.

And when you think about buying an iPod, and the way that you want the latest iPod, but can't ever really have the latest one, because that only exists in a kind of timeless place where things never grow old, you realise that the whole commerical process is votive and utterly primitive, no matter how many apps you download.

My sister got the same feeling in the Westfield and she really is religious. But then, it is an excellent shopping centre.

The part of this that makes it relevant to you is that, according to their own argument, there's no difference between what the Chapmans do and what you do in a creative department. In fact, I believe there's no difference in what it takes to become the Chapmans and what it takes to become an advertising creative. They went to art school, they did apprenticeships with Gilbert and George and then they started working.

I think the art world, seen from where they are must feel just like the advertising world feels from the inside. You struggle to get into it, and it seems like people that really do it are a whole different species and talented in ways you could never be. And then when you finally do get into it most of it is shit and hype, apart from the one or two people who you admire who maybe died before you got to meet them. The rest is just administration.

If anyone wants to talk about the difference between Banksy and the Chapmans we can do that.

Banksy makes art for London Lite readers.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Am I missing something here?

I suspect this is not ironic, which is why it feels weird. As one of the greatest advertisers of the late 90s and early 00s VW made irony their own.

Direction (by Noam Murro) is a bit odd. The singer keeps doing things just out of shot that you can't quite see.

I'm also having to fight off the implication in the final frame that he's going to drive full pelt into the front of an oncoming lorry. Because isn't that glowing light at the end of the tunnel a film convention for death generally?

What do you make of it?

UPDATE: Maybe it is ironic, with the sheep in the Butchers van. And the end line. I'm confused.

(I'm not into bashing DDB by the way. Unlike Mother whose work I dislike before I've seen it.)

Monday Morning Memento Mori

If you're in the habit of trawling the internet for mortality-based statistics you'll have noticed that the lowest incidence of death occurs in the small Carribean island state of Monserrat. An average of 40 people die there every year, which sounds great, only then you realise it has a population of only 4,448 and that it's basically not so much an island, as the top of a large volcano and that the stats tend to spike unnervingly when it erupts, which it does every ten years, and in between times its prone to being utterly devastated by hurricanes. So I'm just saying, 'et in arcadia ego' if you know what I mean (i.e. are a Roman).

Friday, July 03, 2009

Brand New Cadillac

Hey, look at my new shoes.

Rarely have I been so pleased by a view of my own feet. Admittedly, they tip the balance of a look that might kindly have been termed 'anachronistic' into 'supporting dancer from Grease the musical', but still, I was delighted.

I bought them from Paul Smith, because, being a freelancer, I have to dress entirely from Paul Smith.

As a teenager I used to make Paul Smith's tea (milk no sugar), and sometimes I can get clothes there for cheap. As well as making the best shoes, he keeps a blog, that I believe to be authentic. If you want to feel miserable about your life take a gander, lots of cycling, eating in beautiful restaurants and looking at supermodels. As you can see, he's copied my use of the courier face.

I went to buy these shoes even though a friend had scored tickets for Blur last night. Thinking about Blur makes me depressed. They were only ever famous because they were all British music had left once people started making fun of the The Cure. They're just The Kinks but with cynicism instead of wit and an intolerable shit for a singer. All this isn't-it-wonderful-that-they're-back? stuff makes me want to kill myself.

But the shoes.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


I’m reading a Kingsley Amis novel called ‘The Old Devils’. Like biographies of serial killers you mustn’t read too many Kingsley Amis novels in a row, because it can start to affect the way you view your relationships with women.

Kingsley Amis was a misogynist. I’m not afraid to say that.

You could probably argue that his point of view was more nuanced than just out and out fear and resentment of women, but the fact that you’d even need to doesn’t bode all that well does it? In fact in ‘Difficulties with Girls’ (sequel to ‘Take a Girl Like You’) he expounds the theory that it’s not only women who are solipsistic, jealous, self-interested and fundamentally out of touch with reality. Some men are too, but those men are therefore actually women.

Another major feature of Amis’s work is that everyone is drunk nearly all the time. It’s like advertising in the eighties. In fact the hero of ‘Stanley and the women’ works selling advertising for a national newspaper, but spends all day in the pub. Occasionally he’ll try to talk to someone on the phone, but will be too drunk and confused to work out what’s going on. The only writer who has his characters fixing and buying and waiting for drinks more often than Amis is Ernest Hemingway. ‘Across the river and into the trees?’ You’d be lucky to get out your seat on that lot.

Reading a Kingsley Amis novel is quite like being so drunk you can’t work out quite what people are doing. Characters respond to situations in utterly inappropriate ways, emotionally speaking. It’s both disorientating and realistic.

‘I can’t do anything about your terrible mind, Garth,’ said Alun, grinning harder than before, ‘I can’t help your inability to notice anything that doesn’t directly involve your pathetic self,’ he continued, starting to shake with mirth, ‘but when you start vaunting your supposed moral superiority, you bloody little cowshed mountebank,’ and here he started laughing as he spoke, ‘then at least I can tell you to shut your blathering trap before I slam your doubtless irreproachable dentures down your fucking throat’

As I’m constantly saying, I don’t drink and I’m pretty smug about it. So when people go ‘oh wow it must have been amazing in the eighties when everyone was pissed,’ I always think ‘yeah but you would think that because you’re bit of a cunt anyway.’

You used to have to drink in advertising, I imagine, just because the processes involved took so long that you’d go out of your mind with boredom if you didn’t. These days everyone is up in your face on Google Wave, even if they’re on the other side of the world, and the mobile phone basically ruined the pub as a place to retreat to. Anyway, who needs alcohol when you've got embeddable flash games?

UPDATE: I've removed the embeddable flash game that Team Rubber PR'd me with because it played an irritating tune when you opened the blog. Can't be doing with that.

Flash games for teenagers are basically the reason that you must never give a web agency any money before they've had an idea. The supposition that, since yoof play videogames, they will find this sort of thing anything but infantile and patronising, and furthermore, that it will change their behaviour one iota just goes to show that if you're out of touch with your market, you will basically believe anything.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Brother Phil: The Midweek Freak

The second in our series of hip-hop trading cards. Collect them all. Do it.

For more illustrative genius from Brother Phil check out his site. He's got 99 problems but not being really good at drawing ain't one.

GC is tired today, having stayed up into the small hours perfecting his latest bumper piece for Gender Bender Blender Mender Magazine. Just adding the final curlicues now and will file copy with you later today Mark unless something appalling happens to my hands.

Had to sit out the company meeting this morning for another deadline, and the sound of happy laughter and applause from the basement is like a memory of childhood.