Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Friday, November 26, 2010

i is not selling enough papers is i?

Britain's newest daily? WTF is wrong with you?
In our business it's easy to get resentful when, as happens from time to time, someone tells you your idea is shit.

In fact, one of the great drivers for career progress in advertising is to reach a level of seniority where if anyone tells you your idea is shit, you can sack them on the spot. Whole agencies have been built on this principle.

Personally I believe there's nothing like a bracing blast of unstinting honesty to stimulate those  sections of the imagination that are powered by doubt, fear and resentment. What is cut down grows back twice as strong. It's worth learning to love criticism. Without it you might do something mad, like recording a three hour long hip-hopera, making a Star Wars prequal, or publishing a not quite free-sheet in competition with your own newspaper.

According to industry sources, the circulation of 'i' is now down to well below 70,000 per day. They've also cut 10,000 from sales of the Independent and enraged the journalists union by employing no new people to publish double the number of the newspapers. A newspaper that is failing, quickly becomes a failure's newspaper. No one wants to justify to their friends why they're paying 20p for the only rag worse than the Metro.

The name 'i' is confusing, fiddly to type with autocorrect, impossible to search for online and makes a nonsense of almost any sentence you care to put it in. Basing a headline campaign around the paper's title is up there in the bad decision stakes with the bad decision to publish the thing in the first place. At best the headlines sound like they were guest written by Sacha Baron Cohen, at worst, just plain illiterate. A consequence perhaps of employing an agency whose creative department is drawn almost entirely from the JLS fanbase, without an English GCSE between them.

So look, Alexander Lebedev, you ridiculous ex-KGB oligarch, I'm going to tell you because someone needs to: your idea is shit.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Never forget ... the possiblity of rape

Because there's really nothing worse than being locked out, or having to borrow a fiver off one of your mates, or, you know, being brutally raped.

This a truly weird product, a rape alarm, that's also a stylish urban fashion accessory. Am I right in thinking that BBH developed it?

Ad agencies have a weird relationship with rape, they're largely male environments and there's something about the riskiness of rape as the ultimate shocking form of coercion. Creatives bring a special nasty relish to these briefs: 'yeah, shocking innit? Well it's meant to be love.'

You can't really advertise a rape alarm without also making women mindful of the real and constant possibility of rape and therefore spreading fear. Their sales figures would serve as a barometer for just how unsafe women feel. The best viral campaign would be an episode of Sex and the City that opened with Sarah Jessica Parker walking along talking to herself and then suddenly being sexually assaulted. With the line 'rape can happen when you least expect it.'

Yep, it's a brief I would happily turn down.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Wave Coffee Shops

When you give up alcohol you end up spending a great deal of time in coffee shops. There used to be two kinds in London which sold passable coffee:

Italian coffee shops, eg Brunos, Bar Italia, Ponti's

They were making lattes when Starbucks was still the Seattle Coffee Co. They buy eye-poppingly strong coffee from the Algerians in Soho on a contract going back 70 years. They'll sell you a gristly bacon sandwich, but for cultural reasons are generally unable to make tea. Coffee comes in an unbranded Styrofoam cup and costs £1.50. There is rarely music, other than the sound of media types affecting allrightmateyeah camaraderie, like they spent the day digging up a road, rather than hatching a really exciting social network strategy for stock cubes.

Chain coffee companies, eg Starbucks, Caffe Nero, Costa

As stand-up, Rick Shapiro, says Starbucks is a true representation of modern America: 'fag food, at Jew prices, in a WASPY environment'. (It's funny when he says it, trust me, and/because he is Jewish, and used to be a rentboy). There isn't really anything I can tell you about Starbucks that you don't already know. I don't like Starbucks, and yet it is a business I patronise on a daily basis, more than almost any other (apart from Amazon). Everyone feels this way about Starbucks, and you can tell from their toilets. There is always someone in the Starbucks toilet, and no matter how meek and apologetic they look when they come out, it always turns out they've enacted a hideous dirty protest all over the loo seat, the back wall, the mirror etc.

These days there is a third kind of coffee shop:

Boutique coffee shops, eg Nude Espresso, Flat White, Wild and Wood, Store Street Espresso

You don't have to have a sailor tattoo on your fucking neck to work in these places but it helps. Fewer Eastern Europeans, and more people who look like they might be in a band, but aren't actually in a band - beards and piercings also encouraged. Don't even think about asking for an extra shot, or hot milk with your americano, because it will 'ruin the flavour' of the coffee. The soundtrack will be some combination of Beck, MGMT and Fleetwood Mac. Coffee is venerated in these places, in fact the point of this post, was that I realised on Saturday that the whole aesthetic of these cafes, including the staff who'd rather you weren't there, is taken from galleries. Look, check it out:

Store St Espresso

Hmmm. What could it mean?
In some places, like Nude Espresso, the prints on the wall actually show coffee.

The point is to venerate the product, by giving it the trappings of art.

You could probably break most kinds of advertising or branding down along these lines also. Things are made to appeal on price, convenience or sensibility. Agencies too, fit the typology - think CST, JWT, Mother.

Another thing that Nude Espresso proves is that the only good thing about antipodeans is that they're usually not pretentious.

PS: I should probably mention that the Coffee Plant on Portobello Road, is not just my favourite coffee shop, but one of my favourite places in the world bar none. Doesn't really fit any of the above types, and they will often be playing The Idiot at 8.00am. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hang on to the end for the best pun ever

Hate Norman Foster?

I do.

I once worked for a particularly horrible agency in Canary Wharf, a place that was about as friendly and characterful as your average Jubilee Line carriage in rush hour, and my life was not at all improved by having to pass through Canary Wharf station every day. The chrome and glass and echoing spaces of the station tactlessly underlining our status not as workers or individuals, but components. Which, right, I get, but what does that make Norman Foster?

It's all so bland as well. So Blairite.

So the municipal bombing of large sections of central London, the demolition of great big residential chunks of Soho, which should really just be sex shops and brothels in dirty white 18th century buildings, to make way for more Norman Foster steel and glass stockshot utopia fills me with depression.

Crossrail is going to be shit anyway, because it doesn't serve the Westfield.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sex scene from Ghost

Was just thinking how strange it was that Patrick Swayze is actually dead now, so presumably whenever anyone sits down at a potter's wheel they are in danger of severe molestation.

I think one of the good things about porn is that women have stopped expecting all that fiddly pre-sex messing about that was actually invented by Hollywood as a replacement for sex.

As you may be able to tell, I'm trying to break my blogging drought by just posting whatever I happen to be thinking. I had this really solemn post lined up about Borges and inevitability and the beefcake with a brain Dan Snow, but there was just no way of making it funny.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

10 questions the client never asked

In a perfect world, all adverts would look like this one, from the back page of today's Guardian.
1. Have you got anything more modern?
2. Where is the URL?
3. Yeah but, how will they know how to get to iTunes?
4. Could they be holding iPods?
5. I can't see that one's face, can we shoot again?
6. Won't people think they work for Apple or something?
7. Where is the price?
8. Research says people don't like Ringo, can we take him out?
9. Where are the brand colours?
10. Can we make the logo bigger?

The perfect ad by the perfect agency working for the perfect client on the perfect product.

Jamie Oliver's new restaurant

Is not very good. Nice food, but eastern European style service and overpriced. Great cards though.

Probably the only good thing about it is the view of St. Paul's and he can't really take credit for that. I wonder if he's even been there, or if he just let Adam Perry Lang license his name.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Yeah look sorry

Haven't posted in a while, this job is keeping me very busy indeed, and got a commission for the YCN annual which used up the spare room in my brain all last week (there is a spare room, and a cellar with a drain in the floor). Quite pleased with how it turned out.

Plenty to like about this. Tim Key is brilliant, although never all that funny on Charlie Brooker's show, he has a great comic sensibility if you knowhaddImean.

Fosters is a strange fit isn't it? But in way it's a better model where brands pay for high quality viral films and save on media than writing their own adverts.

I have a post, as it were, in the clip. I will fire right into your brain as soon as I get 20 minutes to type continuously without someone inviting me to a meeting.