You don’t know what the sound is, darlin’. It’s the sound of my tears fallin’. Or is it the rain? You don’t know the weekend.

Football mascots observing a minute’s silence.

The amazing life of Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek.

iTunes terms and conditions reimagined as a graphic novel.

Excellent JJ Abrams interview (thanks, J).

Brilliant street art (thanks, K).

Handwritten lyrics by Bowie, Bush, Ramone etc (thanks, T).

Why did women start shaving their armpits? (Thanks, H):

Interview with Walter Murch, one of the all-time great editors (thanks, J).

Album covers, slightly reimagined (thanks, D).

Creative apartheid – an advertising board game (thanks, T).

David Foster Wallace interview (thanks, T).

The new John Lewis ad

I’d almost forgotten how much people like to give their opinions on the ad du jour.

Well, there’s currently no ad du jourier than this one:

I think it’s fascinating how the JOHN LEWIS AD has become a national event, with significance far beyond the ad itself. It’s also singlehandedly turned the UK Christmas season into an extended version of America’s Superbowl, where the biggest brands compete for the nation’s cash through the medium of quite long, emotional ads.

(And there’s that word emotional. I mentioned yesterday that those of us who speak English tend to use ’emotional’ to convey a feeling that we don’t really have a word for. It’s kind of a happy/sad, often nostalgic sensation that we can’t put our finger on. And despite having a massive vocabulary (we have 800,000+ words, four times more than German), we still haven’t managed to come up with an agreed upon collection of letters that conveys the thing we limply call ’emotional’. And yet we have a very precise word for a situation in which many men ejaculate on a woman’s face at the same time. How odd of us…)

Sorry, back to the ad:

I think John Lewis has become a little bit of an Arsene Wenger: they set the bar so high in the early days that anything that doesn’t measure up to the first successes is tinged with a little negativity. Is it up there with the little boy who is just gagging to give his parents a present? Or the bear and the hare? Will it spawn the obligatory number one single with a remarkably twee version of some other ditty (this time it’s erstwhile Oasis B-side and Royle Family theme tune Half The World Away)?

So even though it’s much better than 99% of ads that have been on TV this year, it’s not one of my favourite JL ads. The story is nice enough, but that old man is a bit creepy. I think it might have helped if they’d cast someone who could more immediately elicit sympathy. Instead, I’m kind of relieved that this fella is trapped on the moon, and not, for example, down here offering Werther’s Originals to passing schoolkids. I get that he’s representing all the lonely old people and Christmas, and find this giant arrow pointed in the direction of their plight a GOOD THING, but next time get one who’s a bit more likeable. And maybe don’t give him a telescope so he can spy on little girls.

Anyway, some journalists with nothing better to write about are reading far too much into it, while others have christened the old man ‘Moon Hitler’, so the buzz machine is in full swing: job done. Again. This kind of consistent quality is very hard to pull off, so it’s to the massive credit of A&E DDB that they’ve managed to make such an enormous splash for the umpteenth year in a row.

(By the way, there’s a kind of mini script under the YouTube link that contains a ghastly ad-ism: ‘Lily watches on as our man goes about his chores, all alone up there.’ I hate the use of ‘our man’ in scripts. It’s lazy and poor writing that you only find in ad scripts, but to be honest I don’t think I’ve seen it in maybe fifteen years.)

Let’s leave the last word to Goldie Lookin’ Chain:

In 2007 everyone said ‘if you don’t have digital in your book, you’re a dinosaur’. Then what happened?

I’m just having a read of this FT article on how ‘Mad Men Lost The Plot’.

The gist of it is that we all rushed towards ‘digital’ advertising because it allowed companies to target their consumers with far greater accuracy than a TV ad. Why spend a huge amount of money communicating to ten million people when many of them won’t have the faintest interest in your category, let alone your brand? Well, apparently there’s no brand growth in targeting your already-loyal customers (the ones who sign up to your Facebook page); you need to target the light users and nudge them into making their use a little less light. What media are best for that? TV, press, posters and radio.
The other problem with much of ‘digital’ (funny how terrible human beings are when it comes to really important adjectives. Have you ever wondered why people describe so many things as ’emotional’ without even specifying which emotion? ‘Digital’ is the same: so much covered with a single word that it’s now virtually meaningless) is that it’s boring. Think of those little banners that follow you all over the internet after you almost buy a shirt from a website but change your mind before completing the purchase. Or the messages on the right hand side of your Facebook feed. Boring and annoying: two adjectives you really shouldn’t have anywhere near your brand if you want people to like it.
“Les Binet, from John Lewis’s agency Adam & Eve DDB, is one of the industry’s most respected experts on advertising effectiveness. In 2013, on behalf of the IPA, Binet, along with Peter Field, conducted an analysis of the most successful UK campaigns of the past 30 years. They found that “the most effective advertisements of all are those with little or no rational content”, and that TV is the emotional medium par excellence. An online banner ad, however smartly targeted, is unlikely to make anyone grin, gasp or weep.”

So why did we rush with such abandon towards this new frontier? A few reasons:

  1. The ad industry loves new things (see: ageism). Beyond that, it also hates to get left behind (see: the desperate openings of agencies on Second Life). Digital was both ‘new’ and ‘cool’; how could advertising not smooch its buttocks into oblivion?
  2. Human beings like things they can measure, which is why quantity so often wins over quality. Show me 50 ideas and I’ll know without any doubt that you did the work for which I pay you money. Give me a single, brilliant idea and there’s still a nagging feeling that you just came up with it while sitting on the lav in between games of Halo. Digital advertising can be measured with (theoretically) great accuracy, so the people paying for it feel far more comfortable with it. Alas, what they failed to measure was the huge amount of fraud in those measurements.
  3. We all do it. We’re all in the digital space all day: sending emails, visiting websites, liking pictures on Facebook. How could the idea of putting out messages in this medium be anything other than THE RIGHT THING TO DO? Perhaps we forgot that we spend all our time in the digital space doing the things we like to do and hating anything that interrupts that. Y’know, like ads.

Anyway, billions of pounds/dollars later, here we are. The annoying ads still follow you around, click through rates are still minuscule and TV ads are still alive, well and expensive.

Perhaps we forget that dinosaurs were around for hundreds of millions of years before they died out.

Creatures of adland

Apparently I once posted something about these excellent caricatures. (I can’t remember doing it and I can’t find the original post. Stay off crystal meth, kids.)


Anyway, they really are fucking good and now they’ve been turned into a real, live book!

Congrats to Adrian and Jana.

If you’d like to win one, visit this other site.

I am a man who will fight for your honor. I’ll be the hero you’re dreaming of. We’ll live forever knowing together that we did it all for the weekend.

Daniel is the bully in Karate Kid:

Jurassic World vs Jurassic Park:

129 of the most beautiful shots in movie history. (slightly questionable list.)

A visit to Rob Zombie’s house – on acid (thanks, T).

Goal of the season (thanks, G):

Jar-Jar Binks, genius? (Thanks, G.)

How an episode of The Simpsons is made (thanks, J).

A deeper look into TED talks (thanks, G).

Tinder and Linked In photos side-by-side (thanks, P).

Bill Murray on being obnoxious (thanks, J):

What business leaders eat for breakfast (thanks, G).

The colours of certain films compressed into single images (thanks, G).

Amazing soviet-era bus stops (no, really; thanks, G).

Kids’ hipster book (thanks, R).

Classical action figures (thanks, R2 – not the one out of Star Wars).

Ten real-life lairs fit for a Bond villain.

Frank Budgen: RIP

Frank Budgen, one of advertising’s greatest creatives and directors, has passed away.


He was the best director of that golden period of the mid-to-late 90s and early 2000s.

As a creative during that time I know that every team in London, if not the world, would pray that Frank would agree to take on one of their scripts.

It would take forever to list everything he won, but in short, he was D&AD’s most awarded director of all time, won two Cannes Grands Prix, and was the Gunn Report’s most awarded director of the year several times.

His longtime producer, and co-founder of Gorgeous (the most awarded production company of all time), Paul Rothwell explains what made Frank so special.

Here’s some of his best work:


Have you already found your passion?

I was just reading an interesting post about the reality of finding your passion.

The central point is that you’ve already found it but you just don’t realise it.

I think that’s a great angle on a well-trodden subject. Here’s a quote on that suggestion:

You already found your passion, you’re just ignoring it. Seriously, you’re awake 16 hours a day, what the fuck do you do with your time? You’re doing something, obviously. You’re talking about something. There’s some topic or activity or idea that dominates a significant amount of your free time, your conversations, your web browsing, and it dominates them without you consciously pursuing it or looking for it.

That’s your passion. my main one is movies. Given the choice of any ways in which to spend my free time, I’ll often choose something related to one of that topic. I read movie books, check movie sites, hell, I even go to the movies – a lot. There was a weekend earlier this year when the rest of my family was in Mexico, leaving me alone in LA with a couple of free days. Reader, I spent those 48 hours watching thirteen movies, eleven of them in the cinema. I started at 9:30am, meticulously planning my days so that I could fill them with the most movies, then I went home at 10 and watched another movie on iTunes that I knew my wife wouldn’t be interested in. And I loved it. (By the way, I tweeted that I had done this. My boss saw these tweets and told me how envious he was that I’d managed to find such a large chunk of movie-going time. So I know I’m not alone.)

Can you think of anything in your life that you’d voluntarily want to spend that much time doing?

Of course, I have other hobbies and interests, but they’re mainly related to the visual conveyance of stories. I’m writing a screenplay with my wife, I write novels in the hope of making them into films, I listen to Howard Stern on the radio because he often interviews film stars, I have lots of friends out here who work in movies (or TV) etc. My passion seeps into and out of almost everything I do.

Thankfully my job is related to one of my passions: TV ads are little movies with scripts and directors. The process of creating them is somewhat like the studio system, with submitted and selected scripts, allocated budgets, shoot schedules and release dates. Movies have very high profile advertising (I collect movie posters) and result in successes or failures that are generally matters of opinion. The process of taking a concept and making sure it communicates powerfully is both the advertising and movie businesses in a sentence.

Yes, we also create posters and press ads, but as I drive round LA I see Apple’s billboards alongside those of 20th Century Fox, Universal and Disney. I feel like it’s all part of the same world, with the same high profile that means it’s all a large part of the lives of ordinary people.

So are you living your passion? What is it? How do you squeeze it into your working day? Or is your job simply a means to an end, allowing you to pursue something you really love outside your office hours?

And now you ask to use my car; drive it all day and don’t fill up the tank. And you have the audacity to even come and step to me, ask to hold some money from me until you get your check next weekend.

Ibiza classics played by an orchestra in the Royal Albert Hall (thanks, S):

The dark beauty of film noir in 50 shots (thanks, T).

Dyer dubs Double-0-7 (thanks, T).

Huge basketball shorts (watch till the end; thanks, J):

Breaking Bad x Pulp Fiction (thanks, D):

Excellent David Lynch article (thanks, J2).

Chinatown (best movie ever) at 40, an oral history with Nicholson, Towne, Evans, Polanski etc. (thanks, G).

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the animated book review (thanks, G):

Correcting the swordplay of The Empire Strikes Back (thanks, G).

Staying with Star Wars, isn’t about time you got one of these? (Thanks, T):

How did you choose your partner?

Hi there.

I was just thinking the other day about what made me work with the ADs I’ve chosen to work with (as opposed to the ones I’ve been put together with).

I only have two examples of this situation:

  1. My first AD, Paul, was one of the other students at Watford. If you’ve been there, or to any of the other advertising colleges, you’ll know that you kind of get a veritable smorgasbord of other creatives to choose from. Our year had around 30 people, and we were ‘given’ our partners for each project by the tutor, Tony. So you’d work with a few people and maybe there’d be some chemistry, or the work you produced was really good, and by the time you’d worked with everyone and now had to select someone more long-term, you’d have a good idea who that person might be. But it was also a bit like the school dance, in that your ideal date might already be betrothed to another, leaving you in a panicked flap, hoping your second choice might still be available (and not offended or put off by the fact that they were not your number one selection). So my first choice was another copywriter, called Jane (God knows who’d have done the art direction if we’d paired up), but she was already committed to her flatmate, Dave. I think they still work together, and have certainly spent many years at WCRS. So I then decided to ask Paul, and here’s why: we were doing a campaign for Linda McCartney’s veggie ready meals and came up with the idea of a tiny version of Linda sitting on the shoulders of models as they went down catwalks, suggesting they eat more substantial food (thin models were a big deal at the time). It was pretty odd, and not to everyone’s taste, but I thought to myself, ‘If this guy is happy to go with such weird stuff, I’d like to work with him’. So that was that. It seemed to work out until our laziness caused our boss at AMV to split us up, but that’s another story that I’m sure I’ve told on this blog already.
  2. Daryl was a very different situation. It was 2004, I think, and I was partnerless at AMV. Daryl was also partnerless, but that didn’t mean we’d automatically partner each other. I’d known Daryl for seven years, but we hadn’t really hung out that much. To be honest, he’d been more successful than me, so I wasn’t even sure he’d want to team up. And a further complication on my side was that a new AD was about to join, and it had been suggested that I’d work with her. But I was more interested in working with Daryl because he’d created better, more popular and more awarded TV ads, and I wanted to improve that part of my skill set. I can’t remember what happened next, but I soon found myself in the basement of the Dorchester Hotel sitting in a small room with Sharon Osbourne while Daryl shot an ad with Ozzy next door. When the shoot was over, Daryl and I went for a pint and asked each other if we wanted to give it a go, and that was that. Not sure exactly what Daryl saw in me, but I think he liked the fact that, like him, I was a massive ad nerd, who knew D&AD annuals backwards. I’d also written a continuation of one of his campaigns. My executions got into the Book and his didn’t, but in a way we’d kind of worked together already.

What about you?

Is WPP like a football club?

Here’s an interesting post about the downside of hiring a big network agency to do your advertising.

The gist of the argument goes that by paying Martin Sorrell $66m, a large chunk of WPP’s clients’ fees are going to people (mainly one particular person) not directly involved in the day-to-day business of the agencies: namely, to improve their clients’ businesses through advertising and related services.

I see the point, but I think there are less visible ‘benefits’ (I use the inverted commas to recognise that many of these ‘benefits’ are subjective) apparently not considered by the author. Many of the systems and processes created by WWP, perhaps instigated or approved from the top, might go some way to streamlining wastage and saving time/money for clients (possibly not, but for the purposes of this post I’m being the devil’s advocate). In addition, large organisations might be able to attract better talent all the way through the organisation, either through the more attractive career path, the greater compensation, or both. Again, you could argue that the ability to do that trickles down from the top, with Martin/John Wren etc. hiring very good people, who hire very good people, who hire very good people.

Perhaps there are also economies of scale that allow for better facilities or reduced fees that may or may not be passed on to the client. Many clients also like to walk into swish receptions and speedy glass elevators before being metaphorically fellated (or cunniliguified?) by the discovery of extra thick chocolate on their meeting biscuits or account people who will pick up their dry cleaning.

But this is actually a little more complicated than that. Apparently the cash doesn’t just go up a funnel to Martin’s wallet; it’s actually part of a long-term incentive scheme that sees him do well when WPP does well. So… is it client money finding it’s way directly into the pocket of the bloke at the top, or is it just a reward for making the whole company richer, along with its shareholders? And where does one end and the other begin? It’s WPP cash that’s making up that $66m, but is it client cash?

Perhaps the argument is like that of a football club: lots of season ticket holders complain when their seat prices rise but the club doesn’t spend the extra cash on things the supporters benefit from, such as better players. But a large club needs many other elements to be successful, such as sponsorship, corporate entertainment and branding in places like Singapore. Does a more expensive season ticket pay for a business class seat for a club executive to travel to Jakarta and arrange for a sponsorship from a tyre manufacturer, thus bringing in the £20m required for a new defender? Some fans talk about ‘net spend’, which says that if a manager spends 100m on transfers but brings in 80m by selling players, he has only made a net spend of 20m. But there are so many other expenses in these large corporations that you really have to look at all the ins and outs to make a proper analysis of where the P and L happens.

Does Martin Sorrell’s ‘spousal travel’ budget (the £274,000 he expenses for his missus to travel with him) lead to him being more relaxed on trips, thus in better form to win a big global pitch for his holding company? Do his nice suits create the right impression at a corporate retreat, inspiring his top mangers to do better? Who knows? But the only measure that matters in this case is WPP’s share price. Whatever the thousands of factors that contribute to that share price are, the only deal was this: share price up, Martin’s money up.

If you are a client who thinks your money is being somewhat wasted by paying a lot to a man at the top, then don’t spend that money in that place. Of course you’ll get better ‘value’ by going to a start-up, but you won’t get all the extras, or the security.

You pays your money, you takes your choice.