Start As You Mean To Go On, Or Wait To Die.

There seems to be a general feeling that advertising in some kind of an existential crisis: money and talent are draining from the industry; the general standard of work has been declining for at least a decade; the proliferation of media channels has spread resources thin and lowered standards; and the relative obscurity of online work means that the perceived ‘glamour’ of TV and billboards has disappeared. 

I could also mention the number of people being ousted via #MeToo; the fraudulent mess that is digital advertising; the targeting of vulnerable people with powerful messages of persuasion; the damage done to body image and gender identity; the general perception that our messages are based on lies; and the overall mental illness that comes with the constant feeling that you just aren’t good enough without Brand X.

But here’s the real problem: incrementalism.

We have got ourselves into this situation via the boiling frog method that provided an extra 1/10th of a degree of heat each week until we turned around and realised we were on the verge of death. It’s the thousand tiny cuts that have led to us needing an emergency blood transfusion.

Incrementalism is what took us from £500,000 budgets to £450,000 to £400,000 etc. until we found ourselves wondering how to make an online ‘film’ for £8,000 that wasn’t a disappointing pile of shit that thankfully would be seen by no one.

It took us from people like Frank Lowe and Frank Budgen to, well, people far less clever and talented. 

It took us from ads that were better than the programmes, to ads that were desperately blocked (and blocked by the people who made them!).

But there is a way out, and unsurprisingly it isn’t through even more incrementalism.

If we try to turn the heat down a little every day, or get the Savlon and Elastoplasts out to heal those thousand cuts, we’ll never catch up. It’ll be like trying to bail out a sinking cruise liner with a teaspoon.

What we need is a paradigm shift. That’s defined as a profound change in a fundamental model or perception of events.

Personally, I think many of the big agencies that currently exist are condemned to incrementalism and therefore slow death. It’s the new agencies with the freedom to create new models that are capable of shifting the paradigm of the industry. They can look around at the people they hire, the way they design meetings, their relationships with clients, their payment system, their ownership model, their investment plans, their location, their ethics, their attitude to awards, their criteria for taking on a piece of business and literally everything else, from the toilets (why do so many of them have the loo rolls locked away? Why send your employees the message, ‘We think you’ll steal our loo roll’?) to why the hell we now need ECDs and CCOs when the plain old ‘CD’ was fine just fifteen years ago.

There are agencies that are looking at those changes right now, and they’re the ones that are going to survive and thrive. And if you’re about to start up, consider that joining the back of a train that’s heading over the edge of a canyon is commercial suicide.

Start as you mean to go on. It might take time to pull clients and employees round to your way of thinking, but it’s really the only solution.

I’m sorry advertising is no longer a vehicle for you earn enough to live in Belgravia while you crank out a screenplay in the middle of watching Ridley Scott filming your Benson and Hedges ad, but the world has changed. If you don’t change with it, you’re going to be left behind, watching the people who could see this coming disappearing into the distance.

Mmm, mmm, mmm, so let it be. Mmm, mmm, mmm, so let it be the weekend.

Download anything from Youtube as a visual/sound link.

All the design templates you need.

Better translator than Google Translate.

Become incredibly efficient.

All the online live music, archived.

What is after the credits in the movie you’re about to see?

Lots of interesting free TV.

Find out what’s streaming everywhere in the world.

What jobs will there be in ten years?

In an age of darkness light appears. And it wards away the ancient fears. March to the anthem of the weekend.

Photos taken moments before iconic photos.

Little doc about Stüssy:

Electric desert:

The coldest town on earth:

I don’t know I doubt it. Subterranean by design, I wonder what I would find if I met you. Let my eyes caress you until I meet the thought of the weekend.

An explanation of why streaming 500 shows may not be better for writers than networks showing less than half that number.

Ralph Steadman interview.

Every 90s commercial ever:

WWTBAM fails:

Turkish Starbucks:

We celebrate seven weeks Miker “G” and Sven. We took a holiday with all our friends it was a time to relax and let your worries behind. Exactly seven weeks or something crossed the weekend.

Happy Hallowe’en!

Caterpillars feeding on ‘touch me not’ seed pods:

How to make chocolate:

Fibonacci Zoetrope:

Line Riders (Beethoven’s 5th):

I don’t wanna drop your friends off, I just want you (you drunk and hot girl). You wanna sit down but we hit the weekend.

Sean Bean Bastard compilation (thanks, J):

Alien under the sea:

Guy can balance anything:

Dozens of interesting articles on Wikipedia, all in one place.

Learn about everything quickly and pleasantly.

Do the same here.

Or go for some (not very) Terrible Writing Advice.

Make a cool puppet:

Chaka, Chaka, Chaka Chaka Khan Chaka Khan Chaka Khan Chaka Khan The weekend.

Go=Pro attached to Hot Wheels car:

0-14 years in four minutes:

Daytime fireworks:

When I Was Done Dying:

Hypnotizing Sufi dance:

Learn to be better

I often hear a plaintive lament from some of the older people in advertising: the craft skills of copywriting and art direction are supposedly dying out because young creatives aren’t interested in learning them.

Although there’s some truth buried in there, I’m not sure it’s reflective of the situation as a whole. Some younger creatives want to learn and improve, and some aren’t that bothered. But that’s how it was back when I was a junior. Creative departments were divided into people who were utterly obsessed with enhancing their abilities, poring over D&AD annuals and sticking to their talented bosses like underpaid limpets, and the others, who saw making ads as more of a regular job that they could do perfectly well with the thoughts that popped into their heads.

Both categories produce successes and also-rans, but the odds of becoming one of the former are greatly increased by putting in the hours. How many hours? Well, I once heard that the creatives of 1990s awards-magnet agency Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow and Johnson would while away late nights playing a game: the first person would name the headline of an ad from a past D&AD annual. The next would name the writer, then the art director, the CD, the production company and so on, until some poor sod had to have a stab at the page number.

87% of the ads they made won awards.

I know the industry still contains its share of massive ad nerds, people who know that Collins and Webster aren’t just the names of dictionaries. They may not be the majority, but they will end up being the majority of CCOs.

And where do they learn? If they’re dedicated enough, none of this will be news to them, but they can start with the books: for the Brits among you, every D&AD is available to peruse at the reference library on the south side of Leicester Square. The Copy Book is on sale at your local Amazon, as is Helmut Krone. The Book. Hey Whipple Squeeze This is now in its fifth edition and can be read on a Kindle or iPad. And there are many other guides to advertising writing that are no more than a Google away. Hell, you could even plough through Great Expectations or The Story Of Art. They will do you nothing but good.

Then you can listen to the podcasts Dave Dye and I have recorded, preserving the fathomless wisdom of some of the greatest creatives living today. Or insist your boss pays for you to go on a tax-deductible D&AD Masterclass. Or Robert McKee’s Story seminar.

What else? How about finding a mentor? I was lucky enough to work at AMV BBDO from 1998 to 2005. During that time I was able to ask for copywriting advice from David Abbott, Alfredo Marcantonio, Richard Foster, Tony Cox, Mary Wear, Malcolm Duffy, Tim Riley, Nigel Roberts, Peter Souter, Sean Doyle and many others. Yes, I’m aware that most of those greats have since scattered to the four corners of adland, but an enterprising junior could easily track them down.

Find your favourite writers or art directors and get in touch. Send them your work. Stand outside their house with a big sign saying ‘Please Help Me Become You’, then ask them to mentor you. They will almost certainly be enthused by your enthusiasm. 

You could even try joining their agency. When I was a middleweight writer, still at AMV, the best creatives in the world were Paul Belford and Nigel Roberts. I seriously considered resigning from one of the top agencies in town to see if I could join them at slightly-less-attractive Ogilvy. By an extraordinary stroke of good fortune, my boss soon hired them, allowing my AD and I the opportunity to squeeze as much wisdom out of them as humanly possible. After they left I stayed in touch with Paul and continued to tap into his genius, even when I became an ECD.

Besides Paul, I’ve gleaned a ridiculous amount from several other people kind enough to lend me their time, skills or desk space. Dave Trott has given me hours of informal private tuition in philosophy and marketing, Mark Denton has never let me forget that literally everything is an opportunity to express my creativity, and I’ve learned more over cups of tea with Dave Dye than in three years of university. Who could your mentors be? And what new vistas could they open up for you?

Yes, it takes effort, but it will be worth it. Mediocrity has been depressingly sufficient for many an advertising career, but if you’re inspired enough to take this on, working to be the best till your eyes bleed and your typing fingers are worn to stumps, you could improve the industry, the businesses that depend on it, and ultimately the world.

We need more intelligent, elegant voices, communicating on behalf of the unheard. The better those voices are, the more persuasive they become. Work, learn, improve, and who knows? You might be able to pass your wisdom on to the generation that follows you.

Somewhere beyond the sea she’s there watchin’ for me. If I could fly like birds on high, then straight to the weekend.

The Jurassic Park theme at 1/1000th speed.

Making a knife out of cardboard:

Timelapse of the entire universe:

Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Guitar Hero stylee:

Amateur vs chess Grandmaster:

Come siamo lontani. Sto bene anche domani. Che m’ha fatto morir Hah… hah… È meglio così the weekend.

The highlights of John Malkovich’s AMA.

Closest calls of all time:

Gelatin cake (surprisingly compelling):

Niagara Falls collapse: