Author: <span class="vcard">ben</span>

Gold… Always believe in your soul. You’ve got the power to know you’re indestructible, always believe in the weekend.

AI is not as worrying as you might think.

very cool tape art:

The best wood joints ever:

The cool sounds of skating on thin ice (thanks, T):

Bird’s eye view of geese (thanks, T):

Incredible miniature airport (thanks, T):

You sure you want to be with me? I’ve nothing to give… Won’t lie and say this lovin’s best… Leave us in emotional peace, take a walk, taste the rest. No take the weekend.

Concussion protocol (this is a hard watch. Thanks, S).

Bad DIY.

How everyone in The Wire was cast.

10,000 classic movie posters, digitised (thanks, A).


Underwater dog:

300 hours, 3 million dots (thanks, D):

The wheel keeps turning, the sky’s rearranging. Look my son, the weather is the weekend.

Paul Thomas Anderson AMA.

Cool colourised photos (thanks, B).

20 best movie openings.

Einstein’s Camera (thanks, R).

Excellent poem:

Natalie Rap 2:

Bright: the apotheosis of lazy worldbuilding:

Great street performers:

I stand firm for our soil, I lick a rock off foil. So reduce me, seduce me, dress me up in Stüssy. Show me the weekend.

All of Saul Bass’s movie posters.

Best trailers of all time.

Double acts and how they (don’t) work.

Lee Child on his writing process (thanks, R).

When rappers hear new beats:

Coppola Vineyard short film (thanks, J):

Some really, really good posters (at last!)

If you’ve ever been to LA you’ll know that it’s a town full of billboards. This is partly because of the number of films advertised here, but also because of the low-built, widely-spread landscape – full of gaps and sides of buildings that work well for outdoor advertising. We also drive everywhere, so there’s plenty of opportunity to check them out.

Which delights me for two reasons: first, because I live there and second, because I love a good poster. In my opinion it’s the purest form of advertising; if you can make your idea work there, you can make it work anywhere.

And that brings me to the subject of this post: the new Postmates campaign.

For those of you who might not have noticed, 180’s LA branch has been steadily acquiring Cannes Grands Prix and other awards for its excellent and often ‘for good’ work on proper clients.

The latest example of this are these excellent billboard ads. All I can say is, I wish I’d written them, they’re really well art directed and they work brilliantly in real life (here’s another article about them). Congrats, all!


Take my seaside arms and write the weekend.

What six billion nights of FitBit sleep data tells us (thanks, D).

Find what’s number one all over the world with a simple map (thanks, S).

Crazy giant sculptures (thanks, D).

Pissed-up Cook, Cleese etc. in a thing about The Secret Policeman’s Ball 1976:

A brief history of hip-hop:

Vince Gilligan on selling Breaking Bad:

How they made Starship Troopers.


Designated Hitters

In baseball they have a player called a ‘designated hitter’. His job is to bat in place of the pitcher.

And in American Football they change the entire team depending on whether or not they’re attacking or defending.

This made me wonder: would it be a good idea for creative advertising to have ‘Concepters’ and ‘Executors’?

Many times I’ve heard of a great idea that didn’t end up with an equally good execution. And I’ve seen a lot of really good executions made from slight ideas.

The job of an advertising creative is very wide-ranging, and perhaps it would help the quality of the finished product if we worked out who was really good at certain parts of the process and allowed them to specialise.

Some creatives are great at choosing the right director. Some are brilliant with music. Some know when you need to scrap an edit and start again. Some are great at evaluating post-production effects. Some find it easy to get the best out of voiceover talent.

And others are great at generating concept after concept.

Leaving aside the two direct skills of copywriting and art direction, could you make a case for bringing in specialist creatives or teams to have input at certain critical moments of the wider creative process?

As an example, 99% of the radio ads I ever made followed the same process: my AD and I came up with idea, I wrote the script, then we both went through some casting and the selection of a recording engineer with the help of the agency producer. We’d then all kind of took on various parts of the directing, editing and SFX process, with no formal demarcation of roles.

But in 1% of the radio ads I was involved in we used a specialist radio production company called Eardrum. They went through a much deeper casting process, which they then shared with us for final approval. During the session they took responsibility for directing the talent (incorporating our suggestions when necessary). They even helped with the script, making more of a feature of the Terms and Conditions in a way that elevated the whole spot.

Then the ads got into D&AD.

Now, I’m not saying that the specialised division of labour entirely caused the excellence of the finished product, but it certainly helped. Eardrum was able to go through more casting possibilities than we had time for, and their experience and familiarity with the talent smoothed and improved the direction.

So is it a practical suggestion? Let’s look at the pros and cons:

Pros: better work (probably; too many cooks can spoil the broth); the best concept creators can be left to do more of that task, instead of taking weeks, or even months, out of the office on pre-prods, shoots and the various elements of post-production; we already do this in a way by involving specialist typographers and the ubiquitous design department, as well as music consultants, and it works well, so where are we drawing the line, and why?

Cons: Expense (although you could argue that it’s an expense that pays for itself by freeing up people to do other things); some hangover feeling that the creatives ought to do everything, whether it’s what they’re good at or not; demoralisation/confusion from ‘lack of ownership’ (if you take the execution of an idea away from its creator you might end up losing the essence of what the concept was supposed to be. Then again, that might not be a bad thing, after all, you hand a lot over to a director or photographer, trusting them to bring back your original vision with their cherry on top).

The above examples concern people who are currently available to be brought into the process – for a price. What if the entire creative process became specialised and freelanced, in the same way as Eardrum?

You have a script approved. Now what? Call two Director Consultants. They spend their entire time keeping up-to-date with every single director across the world. They check out newcomers from film schools and know what big names are currently looking for. Then you could bring on the Shoot Team: a couple who watch every take like a hawk, make script change suggestions based on new circumstances, and know how best to connect with directors to bring their A-game for that client-friendly take. Then the Posters come in, managing the VO sessions from casting to embedding, liaising with typographers and designers for the endline, and working out the exact editorial style that will make the most of the footage.

Then they send all the info back to the concept creators who have spent the last few weeks coming up with the kind of pitch-winning ideas they didn’t have time to explore on a set.

Of course, many of these things are currently managed by agency staff, but if you’re going to bring in a designer for your press layout, why would you not bring in a consultant for your grading session? One with a ton of experience and a cutting-edge knowledge of what could work for your ad. You might say that’s supposed to be the colourist, but who knows if he or she is really on your side and not simply trying out something for his or her own creative interests? If you’ve ever strongly disagreed with a director or post-person but come up against some kind of protocol brick wall, you’ll know what I mean.

It could be chaos; it could work really well. It could cost too much; it could free people up to work on what they’re best at. If we have UX, experiential and social media creatives, that’s a not-very-tacit admission that the 2017 creative can’t do it all.

Bring in the experts, make the work better, stick to what you’re good at and have a better day at work (and create lots more jobs).

Call me good, call me bad, call me anything you want to baby. But I know that you’re sad, and I know I’ll make you happy with the weekend.

Ethiopians had all the good ideas first.

How pencils are made:

Driverless rooms could be the future.

Real life giants:

Bitcoin made simple:

We need the diversity within the diversity

I’m not bored of the diversity debate. I find it endlessly fascinating, like an Agatha Christie mystery, where more insight happens with greater exploration and thought. And, like one of those mysteries, you can often find something out that occurs as revelatory to you, only to discover that everyone else knew it all along and they now think you’re a bit thick…

Anyway, at the risk of holding up a giant sign pointing to that thickness, I want to discuss a new level of the mystery that I discovered for myself when I interviewed Jo Arscott.

The employment of an ethnically diverse workforce doesn’t necessarily mean the employment of an ethnically diverse workforce.

There’s a point in Jo’s interview where she (a girl of colour who grew up with a white family) mentions being somewhat surprised to discover that she’s not white. I then got the strong sense that Jo has spent large chunks of her life with that perspective: ie, that she didn’t define herself by the colour of her skin. She didn’t grow up in Hackney or Brixton, deeply immersed in the culture of the afro-Caribbean wave of post-war immigration; she grew up on a smallholding in genteel Gloucestershire, and that’s as white as it gets.

So what part of her would bring ethnic diversity to an ad agency? Yes, her experience as a woman of colour, but beyond that, the cultural elements of an urban background are missing. Would a white person from Haringey be more fully immersed in clichéd West Indian culture? Possibly. So what  do we mean by multicultural diversity? Skin colour? Culture? Daily perspective? Upbringing? All of the above?

The question came up again when a friend here in LA asked for my help finding strategic talent to launch his afrocentric product in the UK. I soon discovered that there are very few planners of colour in London, and that there are even fewer with the kind of Afro-Caribbean background my friend was looking for (by the way, if you know anyone who fits that bill, please drop me an email:

UK advertising is a middle-class industry filled with middle-class people, and one could argue that it’s that homogeneity that’s stifling the diversity more significantly than a failure to include a certain number of people with a certain skin colour. And it’s only going to get worse: if you want to be able to survive in a big city on placement or intern wages, you’re going to need another source of income, and that excludes a lot of people.

So if it wants to be culturally relevant to the entire country, advertising needs ethnic diversity in all its forms. But it also needs socioeconomic diversity, because that’s what will bring the diversity within the diversity, if you see what I mean.

White, middle-class men and women can go a long way, but it’s like we’re writing music with half the notes. Find ways to being more voices into the choir and it’s only going to sound more interesting. And I get the ‘meritocracy’ argument, but the problem with that is that you can only judge the merits of the people you see. If there are whole chunks of the population that aren’t even stopping by, you don’t so much have a meritocracy as a ‘who’s the best middle-class white person’ contest.

I bet ten grand there’s a kid of colour out there without much cash, who’s thinking of a million ways to bring something incredibly creative to the world.

Unfortunately, advertising is not currently one of those ways, and until the industry changes things to make sure it is, it’s going to stagnate, atrophy and signal its death with a long and underwhelming fart.

Are you doing anything to stop that fart?


ITIAPTWC Episode 50 – Jo Arscott

Jo Arscott is a true pioneer.

When she started in advertising she was a teenage girl of colour. And that was back in the 1980s, when the planet was a lot less woke (as the kids say) than it is now.

Then she paved the way for ‘Integrated’ work long before ‘360’ became an adjective.

Then she worked everywhere from Arkansas to Qatar.

And she’s now a walking diversity debate who doesn’t think there should be one.

So she’s had an advertising career unlike any other, but met every twist and turn with relentless positivity.

Have a listen as we discuss…

From Gloucestershire to Watford.

Inspiration from Margaret Thatcher and Boy George.

‘Oh my God, she’s black! Oh my God, she’s a girl!’

Integration was a thing.

That asthma poster.

To the BBC via Paris.

Saatchi and Saatchi under Dave Droga.

Being groomed by Michael Howard to become an MP.

Off to Coke in Atlanta.

Shopper Marketing and Bentonville, Arkansas with Saatchi X (Amish, Cowboys, KKK…).

And no real love for Chicago.

So back to the UK… before quickly off to the Middle East.

It’s all an education.

Is the whole diversity thing a good thing or a bad thing?

Colour of skin isn’t necessarily expertise in multicultural advertising.

A ‘cultural collage’.

It’s not about hiring people; it’s about how you talk to people.

Design Week interview about Jo’s career.

Jo’s Campaign article about working abroad.

Jo’s site.

And here’s the iTunes link, the Soundcloud link and the chat: