Archive | September, 2012


28 Sep

So, you’re a big agency and things haven’t been going well with one of your flagship clients. You throw as much creative at the work as you can but still nothing gets bought – well, nothing that does you or your client any favours.

And so the inevitable happens. The client orders a pitch, and your agency is invited to repitch.

The reason there is a pitch is that everything has broken down. Your working relationship with your client has broken. If it was a marriage you might get counselling but this is commerce and so your struggle to repair your relationship has gone public.

Why has it broken? It could be for a number of reasons. Maybe your work just isn’t good enough. Maybe you just don’t ‘get’ the brand. But then again, maybe the clients don’t ‘get’ the public who might want to use their products or services. Maybe the client has an unrealistic expectation for their brand and no agency in town will be able to squeeze a reasonable piece of work past them. Maybe they just don’t like you.

So the choice is yours. You can throw more money into the repitch; draft in every available freelancer in town, work weekends and call people back from their holidays to stun the client with your keenness and your love for the brand. Or you can cut your losses and accept that they have moved on.

Assuming that your agency is pretty good, you have created some excellent work for other clients and you have a bright, energetic creative department, it’s unlikely that you can’t create work that will be good for the brand. The real reason the client has called a pitch is that they  feel they would enjoy working with another agency more, or that they just don’t ‘get’ good advertising.

And there’s really nothing you can do about that.

Businessman hurdling

26 Sep

Sorry but this one is a bit of an advertising in joke.

Advertising stock photography books used to be filled with this kind of imagery – men and women in suits performing athletically as a metaphor for business success. At HHCL we would flick through and laugh at besuited high jumpers, sprinters and ladder climbers. And the most iconic of the stock images we found so hilarious was ‘man in business suit with briefcase, hurdling.’

Finally, someone has had the balls to use him, and to use him with out any nod or wink to the irony of using him is balls indeed. Because surely using a hackneyed image that can be bought online for pennies can’t really be a metaphor for cutting edge achievement? It is fantastically unimaginative, especially for an advert for a university. Where’s the new thinking at the London School of Business and Finance? Are their masters degrees as ‘off the peg’ and ‘me too’ as their advertising?

The most alarming thing about this ad is the missing briefcase. What were they thinking? Or are they just moving the game on? Still, it made me happy in a warm, nostalgic way and for that I thank them.

Brand Bible

25 Sep

Creative Review are raving about a brand book for Norwich Cathedral. The idea they say, was staring the team in the face. ‘Why don’t we make our brand bible like – the Bible!’

And so they did. I feel a little uneasy with it. It feels the project was put together by people who see the Bible as a flimsy paged, leather bound book full of ‘thou shalt nots’. It certainly is a stereotype that many hold to be the truth.

I would be less worried if this had been a brand book from a secular organisation – I guess anything that keeps the Bible in the popular culture is to be welcomed. From their position of artistic and cultural power in the Renaissance, Christians have been reduced to the depressing state of being glad of the crumbs from the pop culture table. But wait! This reminder that the Bible is old fashioned, autocratic and almost comically out of step with the times doesn’t come from a supermarket or a bank or a beer – it comes from Norwich Cathedral.

Maybe the people who run the cathedral think it’s funny, or self deprecating, or clever. Maybe they were seduced by the marketing bods who dreamed it up. Maybe they did see it and rejected it but the agency sent it to Creative Review anyway. Maybe they think that, because they are employed by the church, they can reconfigure the Bible for their own ends. Who knows? We could see reworkings of the Lord’s Prayer or the Sermon on the Mount if it means the public can get to know more about the typeface that a cathedral prefers to use for its letterheads. It’s a means to an end.

But after all the back slapping has died down, Creative Review’s readers will be left with the reminder that the Bible is just a silly old book that bears no relevant message to the world in 2012. I can’t think that this is the legacy that Norwich Cathedral would like to leave as a result of their rebrand but as a Christian, I feel like something has died.

Mum’s the word!

21 Sep

An email came round the agency where I’ve been jobbing announcing that a client had overheard a lift conversation where agency staff had been moaning about them. The gist of the email was that the client was unhappy and for agency staff to ‘button it’ when travelling in agency lifts. I’m not so sure. Many clients and agencies believe in openness. I’m sure many of them will list openness as one of their ‘core values’.

The flipside of openness and honesty is that sometimes, people hear what they don’t want to hear. The upside of this is that the client in question was left with a decision. Do I a)Change the way I work with this agency so my business isn’t seen as a drag, or b)Tell the account manager that I’m upset that people don’t like me?

As ever, the best answer was shelved and Plan B put into operation, hence the email. Another kick in the teeth for openness.

Come to Hangzhou!

18 Sep

Has anyone else seen these buses around London?

‘Unseen Beauty’ it shouts, followed by the name of the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China, Hangzhou.

Why? I quite like the fact that there seems to be no reason for this piece of advertising. I’m guessing it must be a tourism initiative, but they want me to go to somewhere I’ve never heard of. No, wait! There is a picture of a pretty girl and that headline ‘unseen beauty’. Is she the unseen beauty? Am I going because she’s there? Is Hangzhou a bit like Bangkok with its infamous brothel, Four Floors of Whores?

And then there’s an endline: ‘Back to London with pleasure’. What do they mean? I will be pleasured in Hangzhou and will return sated to London? Who knows? I know I should click on the url, but I’m a bit apprehensive and go first to Wikipedia. The entry is pretty dense but I learn that nearly nine million people live in Hangzhou which has a nice lake and lies around 110 miles from Shanghai.

Finally I click on so that it all finally makes sense and it’s woeful. Beautifully woeful. Written in Chinese English (Chinglish?) and certainly not configured to working on a Mac, you get pages that look like this:

It’s been a while since I’ve seen an ad this interesting on a bus, and although it seems wrong on so many levels, it caught my attention a lot more than the usual film or fashion ads. In fact, I know now a lot more about Hangzhou than I did and it seems quite a nice day trip from Shanghai should you ever find yourself there.

Race you to the museum

13 Sep

It’s a sad truth that most of the ads I love never make it anywhere near the awards ceremonies. Such will no doubt be the fate of this gem:

No doubt as a response to the London 2012 Olympics, the British Museum has curated an exhibition that shows what sporting competition looked like back in the time when the Olympics were a new idea.

I love the line ‘race you to the museum’ – sport is fun and the line is fun. It actually makes a museum exhibition seem fun. I like the cleanness of the design and the use of an original ancient sporting image. It’s light hearted and simple and clear – certainly a contender for the Adspike poster of the year.

I CAN guess what you do

11 Sep

This ad makes me happy every time I see it:

The client has resisted any temptation to squeeze in any mood photography, destinations, prices or the attendant t’s+c’s. What we’re left with is a lovely ad with bags of attitude that leaves me with a url that I remember. And that’s no mean feat. Other brands try harder and get less. This one feels joyful and effortless – hopefully just like the holidays they sell.


Godbaby TM

6 Sep

OK, before we start, this is one of mine, and I’m putting it here because there’s already a lot of debate on Facebook. All I want to do here is to explain the thinking and leave you to make up your own minds. The poster was created for the organisation to create a buzz about Jesus this Christmas, and here it is:

It’s a little early to be thinking about Christmas but we need to get our creative out there so that churches have time to order their posters and other promotional material from us.

Christmas is a busy time and there will be a huge amount of sales and advertising clutter so we needed to create something that would interrupt people and make them think.

On a superficial level, we are selling a doll that has certain special functions. In keeping with the trend that every Christmas throws up a ‘must have’ toy or gadget, Godbaby is what everyone can have for Christmas 2012.

But what about those functions? He cries and he wees – both of these are possible and many dolls already have that capablity. But saving the world? How can a toy do that? It’s simple, it can’t, so we clearly aren’t advertising a toy.

If that’s the case, what are we advertising? The clue’s in the headline. Godbaby. Or, to unpack it, God a s a baby. Christians believe that Christmas is when God arrived on earth in human form as a baby called Jesus of Nazareth. ‘No Shit Sherlock?’ you say. Well, apparently this is new news to a lot of people, particularly kids who have not been brought up in a church environment. Britain is growing ever more secular and as a result, Bible stories are told less often to less people.

The single most important role of this poster is to tell people that Christmas is about God and Jesus, not toys, gizmos, gadgets and the other trappings of the consumerist Christmas.

So why package up the divinity of ‘God made man’ into something that wouldn’t look out of place in Toys R Us? We believe that you need to meet people where they are, and where they are at Christmas is in a retail maelstrom. Christmas is a festival of consumerism for non Christians and Christians alike – we are all caught up in it. So why not use the language of consumerism to describe the Christmas story?

The poster is proving controversial for several reasons. First, the mention of Christ’s bodily functions. We believe that Christ was human and his body conformed to the same physical laws as our bodies. If it hadn’t, his crucifixion wouldn’t have been so terrible.

Second, the baby creeps people out. Well, that’s dolls for you, but also, we don’t want people feeling comfortable with the image. Jesus wasn’t cute, meek, mild or any of the sanitised attributes given to him by the Victorians – he was confrontational, plain talking and, at times, furious.

Thirdly, he’s made of plastic, which some find sacrilegious. That’s really just to make the point of making him a commodity. We had to make him out of something. A flesh and blood child is not something you can buy at Chrustmas, even in Harrods. Besides, Jesus has appeared in all manner of formats over the years – few people have a problem with statues of Jesus made from marble or carved from wood.

No poster can convert anyone into a new belief system, but a poster can provoke the thinking that leads to this. Jesus is already on the margins of the modern Christmas retailfest. If our poster means that just some of the conversational buzz at Christmas is about Jesus,  our work is done.