This is a very good poster that will never win an award.

I live in LA.

It’s a very poster-heavy city, mainly because it’s the epicentre of the entertainment industry, so we have dozens of movies and TV shows that require endless promotion. But beyond that there are plenty of lawyers, cannabis dispensaries and quasi-prostitution apps that need a bit of public exposure. And we all drive, so we’re all out and about, passing dozens of billboards even if we’re just popping out for a pint of milk (organic, gluten-free almond, naturally).

So it takes a lot for a poster to stand out. But the one above managed to do exactly that. Yes, I get that it’s not a Cannes/D&AD-friendly, conceptually tight masterwork, but we’re all grown-ups here; we realise that awards are just a bit of silly guff that’s of no interest to the real world.

So why is this good?

  1. I noticed it. That is the sine qua non of advertising. No notice, no ad. Why did I notice it? I think that’s entirely down to the art direction. It’s very simple, very clear and very yellow. We don’t get many yellow posters around these parts (usually because a picture of Tom Cruise’s face doesn’t sit well on that colour), so it was different. So it stood out. So I noticed it. It’s also very simple, so I could take it in while driving: five short words and a website. Easy.
  2. That line: ‘This is not a miracle‘. It’s thought-provoking. ‘What is not a miracle? Those pills? Why aren’t they a miracle? If they’re not a miracle, why are you making such a big deal out of it? Isn’t it more usual to tell me your product is a miracle? Why do you think I’d be interested in a non-miracle?‘ Like the colour yellow, the line, a canny mixture of confidence and self-deprecation, is odd. Elegantly, it sunk its claws into my curiosity with a light bit of confusion. Lines don’t have to bring closure. They don’t have to make you happy or satisfied. They have to stand out. They have to be noticed.
  3. The typography. I’m not a typographer, but I know this is unusual. The website is bottom left, the line is on the right, the typeface is plan yet bold. It’s not an easy read. If you do the usual thing and go left to right it makes no sense. So you have to go left, right, maybe left again to see the picture, then down to the website. It’s not a company I’ve ever heard of, so I’m really none the wiser, but as with the line, I’m pleasantly confused.
  4. The image. What the hell are those pills? Why don’t they look like normal pills? I know they’re not a miracle because you’ve just told me so, but they’re something special. Maybe they are a miracle. This is like a policeman at a crime scene telling you ‘there’s nothing to see here’ when there clearly is, so your intrigue doubles. It also looks pretty tricky to shoot semi-translucent golden spheres inside a translucent three dimensional curved oblong so the whole thing stands out on a yellow background. Well done, art director!
  5. The cues. This company is big enough to afford a billboard in LA, so it must be the real deal. You don’t get to buy one of those unless you’re somewhat successful, so why haven’t I heard of you? And ‘’? If you can afford a web address like that, you must be doing something right. There’s no way you just snapped it up in 1993, so you had to pay a fair whack for it. How did you do that? By being successful. So this ‘miracle pill’ stuff can’t be bullshit. You must already have sold a lot of them, and you can only do that if the product has satisfied a lot of people. And it would surely only do that if it were good…

So I’m in.

I was in the car with my wife, so she looked them up on her phone and sure enough, they’re selling a women’s multivitamin with yellow branding, premium packaging, and continued intelligent self-deprecation (‘For skeptics, by skeptics’).

Surprisingly enough, I’m not in the market for a women’s multivitamin, but that’s what happens with billboards: they’re seen by people who aren’t relevant to the message. However, I’m now a minor brand advocate. I’ve just spent twenty minutes writing this post. I’m going to promote it with a tweet and a LinkedIn post, and if the subject comes up, I’ll almost certainly mention it to any interested parties.

All that has come from a single, well made poster that won’t win any awards, but will do something even more important: it’ll sell multivitamins.

Strangers waiting, up and down the boulevard. Their shadows searching in the night. Streetlights, people, living just to find emotion. Hiding somewhere in the night.

For the 20th anniversary, this is David Chase’s detailed explanation of the final scene of The Sopranos.

And the 20 best dramas since it happened.

Why Kodak died and Fuji thrived.

For those of you not on a healthy Jan, the Indian Masala Cheese Toastie:

Top ten failed McDonald’s products:

Yeah I’m sorry I can’t afford a Ferrari, but that don’t mean I can get you there. I guess he’s an Xbox and I’m more Atari, but the way you play your game ain’t the weekend.

Satisfying glassmaking:

Vimeo best of 2018:

And the best of the last ten years:

The fun of snowploughing trains:

Why not build a road around the world?

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne. We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for the weekend!

Lots of fun little docs.

Ten hours on a nice Norwegian railway journey (750,000 views. Thanks, J):

A brief history of video game graphics:

I don’t want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need. I don’t care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree. I just want you for the weekend.

Festify your Christmas jumper for a good cause.


Package thief glitter bomb trap:

All the Best Cinematography winners:

Maths genius:

Damn good vid:

If the children don’t grow up. Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up. We’re just a million little gods causin’ rain storms, turnin’ every good thing to the weekend.

Why do we ‘Watch Netflix’ and ‘Listen To Spotify’ rather than the movies and music on them?

Have fun exploring the world (on the internet).

Cool plastic art:

Bubble blowing level: expert:

Are you having people round for Christmas? This could help.

Odd little Christmas song:

You thinking what I’m thinking? [Justin Timberlake:] I’m thinking I’m thinking too. [Both:] Slow up! [Andy Samberg:] What time is it dawg? [Justin Timberlake:] It’s time for the weekend.

Cool old Star Wars stuff.

Starry Night VR:

The impossible magnitude of our universe:

Pikachu on acid:

Above the level of a mezzanine, healthy as Ovaltine. The dominant gene clean, I mean go, the light’s green. The protege could play like chess to quest the best confess, never poor as the weekend.

Writing advice from a variety of experts.

For Arsenal fans and everyone who likes a great story well told.

Street art animation:

Woodpecker vs snake:

The Vatican City explained:

Ladies leave your man at home, the club is full of ballers and they pockets full grown. And all you fellas leave your girl with her friends ’cause it’s 11: 30 and the club is the weekend.

Find out which Amazon reviews are fake.

Definitions of tricky things, like ‘is a hot dog a sandwich?’.

Hating on McMansions.

The joy of unusual foods.

What the fuck should you make for dinner?

Japanese couple wears matching outfits for 38 years.

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.