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ITIAPTWC Episode 64 – Blackcurrant Tango Client, David Atter.

This is the third and final ‘people who were heavily involved in the Blackcurrant Tango ad’ series: my chat with the client, David Atter. (Episode 1 with director Colin Gregg can be found here. Episode 2 with copywriter Chas Bayfield can be found here.)

Just in case you’re popping by at some random point in the future, here’s the beloved ad:

And a couple of the other Tango ads we discuss:

David discusses many fascinating elements of the job of ‘client’ but also gives us some great insights to the BCT/Tango process.

He currently has his own business model development and marketing strategy consultancy, providing advice, workshops & direction to help organisations use marketing as a force for good – for people, the planet, and profit

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

I’m the arsenal, I got artillery, lyrics are ammo, rounds of rhythm, then I’ma give ’em piano. Bring a bullet-proof vest, nothin’ to ricochet, ready, aim at the brain, now what the trigger say. Tempos trifle, felt like the weekend.

The gratification migration.

How a big ship is built.

Music x Advertising blog.

How one of Netflix’s biggest mistakes helped build its weird culture.

The making of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:

ITIAPTW Episode 63 – Blackcurrant Tango copywriter, Chas Bayfield.

This is the second in my series of three posts/podcasts about Blackcurrant Tango, apparently one of the most beloved ads of the last thirty years:

You could read the Colin Gregg post, or read this repeat of what I said there: I put this up on LinkedIn and it caused a massive, affectionate response. So I thought I might do 20 mins each with Chas, Colin and the client, David Atter. But the calls went on too long for that to be a viable option, so here are three individual episodes, one with each of them.

As a former mid-90s creative, I was delighted to be able to ask Chas about what it was like being a young creative at HHCL. The stories of what happened before, during and after the phenomenon of BCT are as fascinating as you might hope.

Here are the first ads he ever made (they got in The Book):

Then these (they won a Silver Pencil):

Here’s his site. Enjoy our chat…

Here’s the iTunes link, the Soundcloud link, and the play button.

ITIAPTWC Episode 62 – Blackcurrant Tango Director, Colin Gregg

I’ve been putting up great ads from the 90s on LinkedIn.

It started as a snarky attempt at pointing out how ads used to be better, and that even ads from 20+ years ago would be better than the ‘best’ of today.

One of these ads was the wonderful Blackcurrant Tango epic of 1996:

It seems to hold a unique affection for advertising people of a certain generation. I remember speaking to people at the time who said it was the ad that made them want to get into the industry. But even now, people seem to love it as much as they admire it.

So the LinkedIn post got a huge and positive reaction, which made me think it might be good to get the story behind it. My initial idea was to have a 15-20 minute chat with the creatives, the client and the director, giving me an hour of material for a single BCT podcast.

Fortunately, when I started speaking to the director, Colin Gregg, that plan went out of the window. that chat alone was a good 45 minutes, so I realised I’d need three separate episodes.

This is the first; a conversation from the director’s POV about everything from the technical difficulties to the relationship with the agency and creatives.

Colin’s a lovely bloke, so I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. And if you want to hire him for anything, here’s a link to his current production company home.

And the ‘Making Of’ film that he mentioned:

And – incredibly – the script:

Here’s the iTunes link, the Soundcloud link and the play button.

The Genius of Black Lives Matter

I live in Laurel Canyon, a (very) mainly white neighbourhood of Los Angeles. Recently the front gardens have made a few additions:

So that’s the spread of BLM endorsement in a white neighbourhood. Many other parts of LA have been decorated with similar messages, as have many other parts of the world.

When Eric Garner died in 2014, BLM was generating around 40,000 tweets a day; in the last month that has risen to 8 million. Of course that growth has come as a result of an incredibly strong grassroots movement, inspired and fueled by many further instances of racial injustice.

But the other reason for the increase has been a masterstroke of branding. ‘Black Lives Matter’ is the name of the organisation, but it’s also the name of the rallying cry. So anyone can take it on without permission, giving it the energy it needs to spread far and wide without the need to go through committees or branding teams.

And that means it can live in the examples above, but also in brilliant work such as this piece of film:

Director: Meena Ayittey, Editor: David Warren, Sound Design: Liam Conwell

The director, Meena Ayittey explains,

There are no words that can describe that feeling in the pit of my stomach when I watched George Floyd being murdered on camera. I was driven by disbelief and anger when I conceived the idea for this project.

The footage that we see of regular shootings of unarmed black men in the USA was more powerful than anything that I could film myself so I wanted to make that the main focus of the film. We have seen these police shootings so many times that it can be almost easy to become immune to the grotesque brutality embedded in these images.

I wanted to catalogue the murders of these innocent people in a way that doesn’t shirk away from the real violence that people in our society are experiencing. The fury and of the speech by senator Flowers held the exact level of intensity I wanted. Her words expressing her anguish for her son’s life had a profound impact on me.

For any Black or Brown person watching these images it’s like watching a family member, a father, an uncle, a son, being killed again and again. I feel that both the media and police in the USA in particular, often dehumanise these victims. I wanted to reverse this. I wanted people to remember that George Floyd, Philando Castle, Rodney King, Eric Garner, Michael Brown Jr and all the victims of police brutality had mothers. And to feel that insurmountable and devastating loss that anyone would feel after the murder of a family member.

“I totally agree that people can take the BLM movement on more easily. I also think that the enforcement of the lockdown has forced people to take stock of George Floyd’s murder and to assess their own feelings regarding the killings of Black people because there are none of the usual distractions such as commuting to work, getting kids to school etc. These killings have been going on for decades but this one feels different. The celebrities and brands that are pledging their alliance to BLM might be slightly hypocritical in some instances but I think that’s also giving the cause a lot of momentum.

Excellent points.

If any of you are wondering how you might make a difference to that movement, the brief is always out there.

Take it on like Meena and my neighbours, and spread the word.

They pulled in just behind the bridge. He lays her down, he frowns. “Gee, my life’s a funny thing Am I still the weekend?”

Are you concerned that you’re about to spontaneously lose your penis?

How apples go bad.

So you think you know the banjo?

Great artists at art school.

Classic movies as old books (thanks, J).

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.