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This ad is brilliant. That’s why I hate it.

I was having a skim though the D&AD winners this afternoon. One of the big successes in the TV section is this fantastic piece of work from Mother and Tom Kuntz:

It’s funny, original, charming… and utterly depressing.

I get it: the point of advertising is to sell stuff, but IKEA, a company that proudly displays its sustainability credentials and initiatives on its website, is shaming people into feeling so bad about anything that’s a bit tatty, messy or ‘outdated’ that they replace it, at a further cost to the environment.

First, lots of people have imperfect furniture, scratches in their wallpaper (does IKEA even sell wallpaper?) and messy homes, and that’s OK. Do we really have to make an expensive piece of mass communication that says these things are supposed to make you feel bad/guilty/like a failure? That’s a pretty shitty thing to do, especially when people are busy trying to make ends meet and bring up their kids and keep their relationships going. So they’re also supposed to feel shit about their ageing, but perfectly serviceable table? Or the mess that exists around their children? Or their mirror that’s 90% fine?

How about we ease back on the expensive, beautifully-made guilt trip? It’s just corporate bullying, the equivalent of the nasty guy at school who takes the piss out of your ‘not-quite-cool-enough’ T-shirt: “Come on, you sad bastard, get a new one! I know the other one works fine, and maybe you even like it, but really, your T-shirt, and by extension you, are just not good enough”.

And ‘This place is small; it’s barely a house‘? Really? Really? Shaming people for living in a small house? Imagine a human being doing that. You’d think they were a right arsehole, and you’d be right. Hey, IKEA and Mother, some people have to live in small house (or – shudder – a flat) because that’s what they can afford. Fuck off for calling them out for it, no matter how cool your grime track might be.

Second, the environmental side of this is really depressing. Sure, patch up the wallpaper and tidy up the mess, but encouraging people to spend their money swapping out perfectly functional stuff for new, resource-sapping replacements? That’s the message for the bling-bling era, or back in the old days of Chuck Out Your Chintz. But it’s now 2020, and we really don’t need explicit messages of pointless consumption, especially from a company that supposedly stands against the further exploitation of the environment.

I haven’t been paying much attention to this year’s advertising awards, but the idea that a responsible, intelligent jury would hold this up as what we should aspire to is truly sad. It’s a great ad for a bad thing, and that actually means it’s a terrible ad.

Could we all grow up a bit, take a bit of notice of the chaos that’s going on around us, and be more responsible about what we put out into the world? And if we can’t manage to clear that fairly low bar, how about not giving the bad stuff shiny prizes?

(And I only wrote about this very subject last week, FFS.)

What happened to Extinction Rebellion?

Remember when Extinction Rebellion brought London to a standstill?

Or sprayed fake blood on the Treasury Building?

Or organised a die-in in New York?

According the ‘About’ section of their website, ‘Extinction Rebellion is an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse’.

So why is their latest ad so at odds with this brand of bravery and blood?

It’s the usual plinky music, softly-softly, don’t-scare-the-horses climate change ‘ad’ that will preach to the choir while giving them no specific action to take.

It has taken talent, time and money to produce something will make very little difference to anything, even with the Whoopi Goldberg VO.

Where’s the piss and vinegar? Where’s the fire in the belly? Where’s the block-Oxford-Circus-with-a-boat never-say-die attitude?

Because that’s what that’s what got us to sit up and take notice, and that’s what might actually make a difference to this issue.

Either they’re making a weird, twisty double bluff, or something’s cut them off at the knees.

I hope it’s the former…

ITIAPTWC Episode 61 – Stephen Gash

Stephen was the 25th employee of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which means he saw it grow from a very good agency to the best in the country in a few short years.

After a stint on Audi he became the first account guy on Levi’s, so we talked all about that. If you grew up in the 1980s that was probably the biggest, best ad campaign you’d ever seen. It made a whole country change their choice of underwear, its soundtracks routinely went to number one, and every new execution was news. Actual newspaper news, nor ‘a little column in Campaign’ news.

Here are some of the ads we discussed:

But as he rose to board level, appropriately enough, he got bored. So he decided he liked the idea of working on the production side, jacked in his high-flying job and went right back to the bottom again as a runner, taking out the bin bags.

But then he ended up running a large production company called Large, before founding his own companies. He’s currently the founder/owner of Unltd Productions, with a stable of excellent directors.

Here’s the iTunes link, the Soundcloud link and the direct play button thing:

Troublesome statues

Statues have been dominating the news lately.

Should they stay or should they go? Are they an offensive example of how terrible people can use their ill-gotten gains to build parks and museums to secure a positive legacy, or a reasonable physical appreciation of kind philanthropists and great leaders? Should ‘the people’ decide if they’re allowed to stay up, or is that a question for the government?

Some have suggested they all go into a museum, whether good or bad, alongside an explanatory note that allows anyone the opportunity to make up their own mind about the subject’s relative pros and cons. Others have provided their own lists of who should be allowed to remain, who should be removed, and who deserves a new statue of themselves.

But whatever we end up doing, it’s fair to say that a lot of people are against the celebration of anyone who did bad stuff. The idea that the statues act as a cover up for their problematic behaviour seems to be the really offensive part, as if the rich can secure a positive legacy through corrupt means.

Which brings me to the advertising industry’s celebration of the Fearless Girl statue.

It’s won so many awards and inspired so much praise, which is odd because it was paid for by a client few of us can name.

Anyway, here’s an explanation of why it was commissioned, and why it’s actually just another one of those statues that are currently being vilified:

Fearless Girl was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors (SSGA), a trillion-dollar financial services firm, to commemorate International Women’s Day and promote the fund’s “Gender Diversity Index.”

SSGA’s blatant hypocrisy was revealed in October, 2017, when the firm was fined $5 million for underpaying women and minorities and ordered to settle with over 300 women following an audit by the Department of Labor.

The Village Voice delivered another blow to SSGA’s virtuosity, reporting: “The statue is meant to draw attention to a larger initiative by SSGA, which announced today that it will be encouraging companies it invests in to have more women on their boards of directors. A quick perusal of SSGA’s own leadership turns up five women out 28 top executives, making its leadership 82 percent male (and 96.5 percent white).”

Just another expensive way to whitewash endemic discrimination.

Is it a good look for us to award it so highly, celebrating it time and again as the best this industry can produce? Should the record of prizes and praise remain? This article suggests that the Cannes jurors knew about the hypocrisy before they gave it four Grand Prix.

Have a look at the case study.

You might think, ‘So what? Look how many women and girls felt empowered by it’. Sure, but this is like Donald Trump playing to potential black voters by sending out a tweet against racism. You could rally around it if you like, but if you saw it for the sleight of hand it really was, you’d dismiss it in a second.

An unfortunate number of people fell for the scam. Every positive share of the statue on social media contributed to the number of people who (if they bothered to find out who was behind it) thought better of State Street Global Advisors. Yes, the same company that discriminated against over 300 women and minorities and maintained an 82% male and 96.5% white board.

Hats over to whoever did this, because they pulled off something amazing. To get that many people to think well of a bunch of utter arseholes takes great skill. But their victory is a defeat for the integrity of our industry.

You might laugh at the idea that advertising could have integrity, but that’s the problem: the success of Fearless Girl makes us look like craven, money-grabbing idiots, happy to whitewash sexism for anyone willing to slide enough cash our way. Then the rest of us award the results.

If you were involved why not give the prizes back? No one will think you’re a worse creative, but plenty will think you’re a better person.

Please don’t ask me to defend the shameful lowlands of the way I’m drifting gloomily through the weekend.

Monumental hip hop archive.

Finding your own consciousness through writing.

Remembering ‘Crash’, the worst winner of Best Picture.

Why auction houses are looking for sneakers.

The most efficient way to destroy the universe:

Now I done grew up ’round some people livin’ their life in bottles. Granddaddy had the golden flask. Backstroke every day in Chicago. Some people like the way it feels. Some people wanna kill the weekend.

How MedMen, the Apple of pot, collapsed.

The story of The Sims.

Groundhog Day is a horror movie.

Why men point guns at their own dicks.

Send some poo anywhere in the world (thanks, A).

Stunning quilts.

A Facebook group for people who look a bit like Adam Sandler (thanks, A).

Excellent animation (thanks, J):

Here are we, one magical moment. Such is the stuff, from where dreams are woven. Bending sound, dredging the ocean. Lost in the weekend.

Nostalgia is our new normal.

Creative and sex workers support each other through the pandemic.

Pac-Man turns 40.

Best films of the 2000s.

American car interiors (thanks, J).

Videos on some interesting deep shit.

Uko na tabia za kupendeza roho Tabasamu ya kupapasa macho Sauti yako nikiiskia pia natulia yanipunguzia hasira nazo the weekend.

An oral history of Mad Max: Fury Road

Filmmakers at the movies.

Before And After The Marshall Mathers LP.

The three sides of risk.

All about my favourite movie.

The weirdest videos on YouTube:

An advertising manifesto (not like those shitty ones that are basically three quarters of all ads these days): part 4

Yesterday I promised to explain the real example of a new, possibly revolutionary, somewhat advertising entity that my wife and I started last year.

Some time in May we went to dinner and had an epiphany: if advertising’s powers got the planet into the mess of the Climate Crisis, then they could apply those same powers to reverse the process.

I know. Mind-blowing.

The entire explanation of what we came up with would take a lot more writing than I’m prepared to do, so here’s the short version:

Many of the people who have the best information about how to deal with the Climate Crisis are not good at communicating what they know. And that’s fine: advertising people are not good at environmental science; environmental scientists are not good at reducing a lot of information to a persuasive and digestible message.

So if we put the communication people together with the science people, we could find a range of solutions that would change public behaviour and save the planet/human race.

Our organisation is called Gigantic Fucking Solutions, and we act as an enabler of creative ideas that can mitigate the Climate Crisis.

The creation and exploration of GFS has led us from global ad agencies and state senators to farmers and university professors. We have a series of briefs that we’ve run through senior strategists, and a monthly meeting where we invite people to explore creative solutions.

We were asked to speak about it at Cannes this year (for obvious reasons we won’t be doing that). But we’ve also been asked to design a university course for this Autumn (for possibly less obvious reasons that might be on pause). We’ve been asked to help with global panels, environmental initiatives and, unexpectedly, festivals run by someone who starred in E.T.

Yes, the Coronavirus has put the odd spanner in the works, but it’s also accelerated our progress towards certain climate goals, so that’s fine.

It’s been quite a ride so far, and we’re only a year in.

Has it been perfect? Well, it has yet to generate much income, but we’re not aiming to make that happen at the moment. I currently freelance to keep things ticking along, but between the two of us we can cover the needs of GFS and pay the mortgage. We’ve kept our ethical ad agency going because the people we meet through GFS sometimes want creative work.

Otherwise it allows us the experience the magic three pillars of a satisfying use of time: autonomy, mastery and purpose. It also gives us a magic pass to have conversations with all sorts of fascinating people (last week it was the head of the UN’s panel of Nobel Peace Prize winners. Yesterday it was Andrew Yang), and it seems to have invigorated a lot of people who really want to help in this space but don’t know how.

So that’s just one example of what you could do. It’s literally cost us nothing financial, but our long-term vision for it is as an opportunity to bring the best creative work in the world to the greatest brief/problem the planet has ever had to deal with. In our opinion there’s no better way to spend our time.

In a way we have hundreds of ‘co-workers’, but they, like us, are doing it for the good of the human race, rendering salaries and pension plans conveniently non-existent. Some of the solutions are designed to generate income, and when that happens, the creators will be paid.

If you want to join our search for Gigantic Fucking Solutions, just pop me a note in the comments and we’ll happily explain it all to you. There is a website, but it doesn’t work properly without a more complete, face-to-face explanation.

So we looked at all those questions in the third part of this post and designed our entity around it, so now we have an entity that ticks all our boxes (money pending).

But this post is really about finding your own gigantic fucking solution to whatever your gigantic fucking problem might be. What do you want to do, and how do want to do it? Do you need investment, or can you get by on freelance money? Do you need employees, or can you offer something attractive enough for them to join in for free? Do you need to produce ads, or can you create something even more interesting?

The piece of paper is currently blank, but you’re the kind of creative person who can fill it with whatever you want. There’s never been a better moment to give this a shot.

What are you waiting for?

An advertising manifesto (not like those shitty ones that are basically three quarters of all ads these days): part 3

OK, so the set up bullshit is over. Today I actually explain how the hell to start your world-shifting movement (how exciting!).

The first thing you have to do is make a list of all the things you do and don’t want your ideal agency/non-agency company to be. The main thing here is to think big. You’re not going to do this many times, so wish for the very best version of every single thing you might like to have.

For example, you might want:

Everyone to have their own office.

No clients that do shitty things to the planet.

No decks.

Millions of decks (please don’t do this).

Only hungry juniors.

Only superstars.

Premises in Florence.

No creative pitches.

Agency cocktail bar.

Pet horses allowed.

Globally outsourced freelance talent so you can be based in your house (in Florence).

Immediate payments for vendors.

Only one solution offered to clients.

All employees part-own the company.

Not an agency at all. Something no one’s even thought of yet (this is the kind of thinking we need).

Everyone earns the same amount.

Formal Fridays.

Frivolous Fridays.

Fuck Frogs Fridays.

Unanimous employee agreement essential on all new accounts.

In-house media.

Massive fees.

Office closes at 5pm Friday and is 100% closed until 9am Monday.

Jean-Claude Van Damme movies play constantly in reception.

Women only.


Next, you have to work out how to do that.

For example: if you want massive fees, do you do that by hiring the best talent in the world? Offering twenty routes per brief? Changing the billing process to be project only, not by hourly timesheets? Hiring the new business department of W&K Portland?

If you want to be women-only, how do you find the best female practitioners of creativity, strategy, account management etc.? How do you enroll them in your project? How do you structure that agency for future success?

Do you need a local council permit to serve alcohol on the premises for your cocktail bar?

Are there enough great Italian creatives available, or will you have to import people to Florence? What visas will they need? How much is Duolingo Italian Premium?


That’s really all it comes down to: give yourself a series of goals, work out how to achieve them, then knock them off, one by one.

Is it that easy? Yes. It’s also that difficult. You might get it right first go, or eighth go. It might cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. It might be impossible before 2025.

But that’s how this shit happens: vision, followed by actions that bring that vision to life.

(By the way, I have no idea what might get in the way, but I do know one thing that seems to crop up in every new agency (so get ready for it): potential clients will only be interested in the work you have done for your current agency/entity. Listen to Dave Dye’s podcast interview with Garry Goldsmith. Both Dave and Garry went through this odd situation, whereby they showed a ton of great work from their previous agencies, only to be asked what they had done in their current agency – yes, the one that was two weeks old.

As the starter of an agency, I can attest to this, but fortunately there are solutions: you can get some smaller, more guerrilla clients that are easier to come by, and show your mad skillz on those briefs; you might start with a friendly client who has already been impressed by your previous work, which is why they followed you to your new place; you might be really good at persuading people that you’re really good, even though you only have the evidence of having been really good for several preceding years.)

You might be reading this as a relative newbie who doesn’t have this problem because you haven’t really made made many ads. If so, good luck! You. Will. Fucking. Need. It.

So you’ve worked out what you want. We don’t know what might get in the way of that, although some things will probably be obvious. So what else is required?

Well, I have no idea what I’m going to write for part 4, but come back tomorrow and see what I manage to fish out of the bin conjure up from my intimidating combination of intelligence and experience.

Actually, I have an interesting example of a new and different ‘ideal’ entity that I started last year with my wife. I’ll explain all tomorrow…