Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The real vs. the modern

If your agency is any good there may be a bookshelf somewhere, perhaps in the art buying department, which will contain this book or one very like it. It's worth leafing through a book like this not because the ads are good but because they are, almost without exception, terrible. That is to say, there is nothing in them that doesn't seem like it came from not just another time, but another planet, one populated entirely by imbeciles. I mean, for instance, WTF?

One of the things that makes Bill Bernbach so incredible is that he seemed to be able to see the terribleness of these ads, at time when no-one else could. This is the difficult thing, in advertising or any other creative pursuit, to raise your head above the contemporary. Because what's fashionable is so prevalent that most people can't seem to see it all, they are, technically speaking, shit-blind.

Bernbach's technique for circumventing the modern was to hang on to the reality of what he was advertising - the truth. This is my favourite Bill Bernbach ad:

There's no part of it that isn't relevant. The things that make it eye-catching are the same as the things that make it meaningful.

So maybe one way of know if your ad is any good is to strip away the bits of it that are flashy and contemporary and see what you're left with. Let's try it on this ad:

Ok, so we've got:

  • Ridiculous headline
  • Contemporary graphic design
  • Website
  • Possibility to 'show your support for this campaign(!) by texting this number for just £8'.

It's got all the contemporary paraphernalia but means, so far as I can see, nothing at all. It's not intriguing, it's only gibberish. I'm not even going to link to that website, because I find the meaninglessness of this campaign so aggravating. I assume it's a Christian organisation - but I'm not going to find out, not because I've anything against the church, but just because they've pissed me off with their idiotic advertising campaign. Although actually, can't you see something obscurely Christian in the arrogance of this ad? The very fact that they thought they could do it themselves, and yet clearly have no idea of what they're doing?


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kingsley Amis's Life Kitchen No. 3

I remember Cliff Wainwright saying once that women were like the Russians – if you did exactly what they wanted all the time you were being realistic and constructive and promoting the cause of peace, and if you ever stood up to them you were resorting to cold-war tactics and pursuing imperialistic designs and interfering in their internal affairs.
p.165 Stanley and The Women


TFL slightly improve on their effort from 1 or 2 years ago which to my mind was insulting to every sensible adult that saw it, whatever the colour of their skin.

M&C do TFL's advertising at the moment and you can just tell Graham Fink loves writing those minicab rape ads. Bet he asked the British Transport Police to get him a load of rape witness statements to read and all.

I won't be going to carnival this year, I'm too old, too sober and unless you're occupied with filling your bladder with Red Stripe and then finding somewhere to empty it, it's too much like commuting during a very lary tube strike.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ah Pook The Destroyer

I'm not a huge fan of Burroughs, but I do love the way he says 'Ah Pook', and the arcane pantheon at the beginning. It reminded me of the 'This is The Man' thing below, which seems to get better the more I think about it.

It's amazing that it's taken this long for someone to do it - making the brand into one (or two) people and using the same models in all the publicity. Not to attach a brand to a celebrity but to make something you can peddle like a celebrity out of a brand. Will the FCUK Man do interviews then? Or is he actually Bulgarian with a silly high pitched voice?

When you think about it, it's what Paul Smith has been doing forever. One of the great things about him is that if people want to interview the brand they can just go and talk to him. And that sort excuses the fact that he sells all different objects - because you get a sense of an organising personality behind the whole business

Increasingly I think branding is a) a response to the decline of religion b) a reaction to the deep existential loneliness of the modern world.

But you know, that's just me.

I think I'm going to post about Kingsley Amis's book jackets next, which will be fascinating for you all. All 50 of you.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

This is good isn't it?

I've been rude about Fallon, and this campaign in particular, elsewhere but actually I think these TV spots are rather splendid. I just wonder if the bloke they are going for is ever going to be seen dead going into French Connection. Mmmm. Nice belt though.

Friday, August 20, 2010

My mother? I'll tell you about my mother.

One of things I've inherited from my mother, along with the character-building but periodically demoralising micrognathism, is a hormonal response to stress that causes me to wake up at 5.00am. This is great you see, because it means that at key moments in my life I get to be exhausted as well as anxious. Just now my body is jollying me awake at this time especially so that I can lie prone and panicking about how to continue the very long essay about Kingsley Amis that is the less fun bit of my MA dissertation.

But see this morning instead of doing that I though I'd write on here, because I feel bad about not blogging, in that peculiar gnawing way that I feel bad about not watching the rest of the Michael Haneke film about a sexually repressed pianist that I've had from LoveFilm for the last eight months.

I'm not entirely sure who reads this blog any more, most of the referrals are from Corporal Punishment Daily or Ben's blog, so I suppose you're probably some advertising or design punter in which case you'd love to hear about my tattoo wouldn't you? I knew you would.

So for some time I've wanted to have a skull tattoo on my chest, along the lines of the Monday Morning Memento Mori, but on a more every-morning-when-I-look-in-the-mirror-type basis. I had a look around and discovered this lady, Valerie Vargas, who works out of Frith Street Tattoo where, by coincidence, Ben Kay had his arms done. I've been on her waiting list, now closed, since October 09 and in the meantime she's got quite famous, which is pleasing. Her website emphasises the feminine stuff that she does, presumably because there's a market for women that want a top notch female tattooist, but she also does all the traditional ships and skulls and ravens in this very characterful way. I did go in there the other day to see how close to the end of the list I was (probably be another 3 or 4 months) and saw Keith Flint from the Prodigy who now looks like a heavily pierced and tattooed Essex minicab driver.

But because I'd quite like her to do me a big one, and I don't want it to be my first, I thought I'd get another one in the meantime. What I decided upon was having the word LOVE tattooed on my wrist. My reasons for doing this are:
  • I like, in a perverse way, the idea of having to live with and sort of defend having quite a glib instruction written on my body. Which just goes to show that if you value perversity you can talk yourself into anything - that's the great thing about it.
  • I wanted to have a word and that was the only one I could think of that was always applicable. I thought of having 'write', but that might just make me feel awful and also like I just wanted to tell people that I am actually a writer you know.
  • I believe in the power of words to change the way that people behave, I have to otherwise I'd end up thinking the last 5 years of my life had been a waste of time, and I reckon this might help me to behave better.
  • As regular readers will know my default setting is not wholly positive and I thought this might remind me to amend my thinking .
  • It is not original - but tattoos aren't ads see, they're not meant to be original, they're like a language of their own innit.
Anyway, most people I've spoken to think it's a terrible idea. One my friends said, 'Won't it look a bit Angelina Jolie?', but I'm fairly confident that, on me, it won't.

Maybe it will, and then I'll have to have a swastika on a skull to cover it up.

At any rate, this seems to be what happens to you when you turn 30, you start craving permanence. Can't think why that would be.

I got this book in the Soho Book Store that I remember was like a poser's coffee table book about 5 years ago - but it's really good, I recommend it.

Right, I'm off to the British Library to read the 'International Handbook of Anger.'

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Come off it.

Oh since you've put your argument so persuasively I suppose I will. Really this advertising lark is pretty easy isn't it? So long as you don't go complicating instructions with ideas. But wait a minute...

Oh no, now I'm really confused. Which shall I read?

I think I'll just have to go back to gently banging my forehead against a wall.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

If you don't know me by now.

Thanks for the birthday wishes - all in all it feels pretty good to be 30. I haven't sensed any special pressure to get married, have children or make something of my life, over the past three days anyway.

I suppose it is getting a bit tedious having one foot in advertising and one in, hem, other kinds of writing, but if I've learnt anything over the past 30 years, it's that just because something is boring or painful doesn't mean it will end quickly.

But look, it seems like I've at least developed into a relatively know-able human being, judging by the presents that my friends have given me.

Top row (l-r):

Cheeses (Blue Lanark, Stinking Bishop)
From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbour - Jerry Della Femina - a book about Madison Ave in the 50s, apparently a key source for Madmen.
Hellhound on His Trail - Hampton Sides - a history of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
The Book of Tapas - Simone and Ines Ortega
A mug with a starfish on it that looks like a bumhole.
C - Tom McCarthy - a novel about a radio technician

Middle row (l-r)

The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand - nuff said
American Pastoral - Philip Roth - never read any Roth, which is weird when you think about how much I like Denis Johnson and DFW.
Beautiful Painting of a Beetle - by some girl.
Bananagrams - I have recently become unbeatable at Scrabble.
High quality mint and lime dark chololate wafers.

Bottom row (l-r)

A Naughty Boy Anne Summers prostate stimulator - apparently it's so much more than a buttplug. This from a metrosexual friend who is trying to encourage me to explore all the opportunities that bachelorhood offers. I didn't ask for it right. Apparently it's totally silent, wear-able in fact.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 - hell yes.
Radical Chic and Mau Mau-ing the Flak Catchers - Tom Wolfe
Equilibrium - an absurd film set in a future in which emotions have been outlawed and only Christian Bale can save the world.

There was also a peach, but I ate it.

So, what can I say, all that money I spent on brand consultancy has been effective after all.

I'm just writing this dissertation at the moment, hence the relative quiet on the blogging front. I know that Ben is on holiday though, so you all need something to read, so I'll do my best to work something up over the next few days.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Kingsley Amis's Life Kitchen no.2

'Like both the pretty women he'd known, and many that he'd only read about, she thought it was no more than fair that one man should cheat and another be cheated to serve her convenience.'

Lucky Jim, p.137