I’m sinking mad deep, no shorts and no sleep. I’m bugged like a tapped phone, hard like the weekend.
The tricked-out vespas of Indonesia (thanks, J):
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
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 making of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:
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…
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:
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:
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.“
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.
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.)
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…