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No Cannes do

Regret is an emotion I don’t have much truck with. However, occasionally I wonder what path my professional life would have taken had I begun my career at one of London’s more glamorous ad agencies.

Roose & Partners, my first, longstanding employer, was not a business that paid much attention to our industry’s more self-regarding traditions or trinkets. Not for us the distraction of entering creative awards, attending creative shindigs, or appearing in creative periodicals. To some extent, Roose didn’t pay creative work much heed at all.

Indeed, the eponymous Ted Roose was a media man and I’m pretty sure his creative radar ran out of batteries back in the early 1970s and was languishing in a box in his loft. (“Psycho? What’s Psycho?” “A film, Ted. A very famous film.” “Never heard of it.”)

So it is that as I near the end of my third decade in the industry (there’s a while to go yet, so stifle that shriek of disbelief), I have yet to attend either of the best known advertising festivals.

This morning (Friday 8th June) I received an email from Campaign trailing the talks they’re hosting in Cannes, and, once again, it occurred to me that not only have I never been to Cannes, I don’t even know how one goes about attending. Do you need an invitation? A sponsor? Are there bouncers? Gatekeepers? Is there a no trainers rule? Do you take your own tent?

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Some ‘wacky’ ‘creative’ ‘types’ pretending to have fun in the south of France

Kinsale is even more of a mystery. I didn’t hear about this festival until I’d been a professional advertising creative for about eight years. Where is it? Why is it? Is it still going? I can’t answer any of those questions.

I’m so out of the loop, it’s quite possible creatives aren’t welcome at one or either of these festivals any longer (we don’t get budgets nowadays, so you can follow my logic), and because I’m trying to retain a level of plausible ignorance while I write this, I’m not Googling either of them.

It may well be that the more discerning creative people are now gravitating towards SXSW in Austin. Or maybe there are other, newer, cooler destinations. You tell me.

Honestly, tell me. Please. I feel like I an entire chapter in the book of my professional life remains to be written; that eventually, I will stride on to the brightly lit, cocaine-dusted advertising stage and have my moment in the limelight. Or, at the very least, have the opportunity to sip warm champagne while watching someone I’ve never heard of win a prize for attracting 15 people and 89 Russian bots to ‘like’ a brand-sponsored Facebook post. I want to have the opportunity to spend a couple of days (if that’s the duration) signposting my transparent disdain for both these sorts of professional junkets and the people who attend them. Is that really too much to ask?

Another reason why I’ve been thinking of Roose & Partners over the past month or so is that Bob Bellamy, my first creative director and a man I liked and respected immensely, passed away recently. I’m not sure Bob ever went to Cannes, but I’m bloody sure if he did, he’d have sailed there. RIP, the Admiral.

 

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Disruption across all touchpoints

May 14, 2018 2 comments

Over the course of my life sentence in advertising long and illustrious career, I’ve seen many trends and fads come and go, as trends and fads are obliged to do.

Some – hello ‘industry jargon’ – are not so much fads as facts of life, constantly evolving (are you a big fan of the word ‘ideation’? Is your thinking ‘disruptive’?) to test the bullshit-tolerance of each generation. Others are more transient, and it was one of these (hopefully) shorter-lived trends that this Guardian article examined today. (It takes about 60 seconds to read this piece so don’t be shy of clicking on the link.)

I recently read a piece by someone mistakenly correcting Apple’s famous line to ‘Think Differently’ in an attempt to bestow posthumous grammatical accuracy on the tagline that changed the world, but ‘Think Different’ it was, and if we are to lay the blame at any endline’s door than that’s as good a choice as any.

However, the structure of that line is a little different (ha!) to those excoriated in the article. To my mind, it was ‘Impossible is nothing’ from Adidas that started this staccato linguistic trend; not quite the legacy they were hoping for, I suspect, when they put their minds towards finding a line with the longevity and inconclastic impact of Nike’s ‘Just Do It’.

Tony Blair’s unique, verbless mangling of the English language may also have to shoulder some of the blame, with a generation of tyro copywriters hearing him sloganize the language into submission (“Hope. Opportunity. For our young people, a brighter future…”). Maybe we should be grateful for Donald Trump, whose limited vocabulary (“bigly”) makes him an unlikely champion to those who seek to resist this purge of adverbs.

Professionally, this trend is quite beguiling, as it permits put-upon copywriters to staple together random, vaguely relevant words with little thought apparently given to how they might be combined in an elegant, precise way. Ironically, the only line I have written which follows this trend owes its existence to a brief that requested something easy to comprehend when translated.

The line in question, “Find Your Rooster”, for our client Rooster Rojo tequila, is going ahead. Apart from in Russia, where ‘Rooster’ is a slang term for the paedophile victims of same-sex assaults in male prisons. Apparently that’s not something you want associated with your product, according to our brand manager. Honestly, clients can be so sensitive sometimes…

 

 

That’s the spirit

April 17, 2018 Leave a comment

I’ve devoted a few posts recently to bemoaning the state of creativity in advertising so it’s time to redress the balance.

Ikea’s TV work has been generally outstanding for years, but went through a pronounced and fairly extended slump a while back. However, I really like their ‘Wonderful Everyday’ campaign and the latest spot is another winner: a lovely idea, executed beautifully and brim full of charm and wit.

This campaign benefits from a consistent and distinctive tone of voice, is always inspired by the product and feels – as advertising should – aspirational and relatively upmarket while retaining the ‘everyday’ ethos of the brand.

It’s no simple thing to produce a campaign this good; as Bob Bellamy, my first Creative Director used to say as he slapped my knee, “If it was easy, duck, they’d all be doing it.” Evidently, they’re not.

Well done to all concerned, etc. More of this type of thing, please.

Norman Hunter would be turning in his grave

He’s not dead, Norman Hunter.

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That’s Norman, there. Very much alive.

Norman, along with Chelsea’s Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris, is often the fella used as a shorthand for ‘old-school footballer, back in the days when men were men and women were in the kitchen’. Not always invoked in praise of progressive causes, then. But I’m bringing his name up now for good reason.

As I say, Norman’s not dead, but if he saw this on his TV at the weekend, he might be by now.

Joe Gomez and James Milner react with disgust as Mignolet drops another one

I had to watch that spot through my fingers, as the hairs on my neck prickled in discomfort (at least I know how to get rid of them now). Where to begin?

Norman’s nickname back in the day was “Bites yer legs”. It’s not the most elegant effort, is it? But you’ll notice it wasn’t “Shave yer legs”. In Norman’s day, players only took a razor blade into the communal shower if they intended to do some damage to one of the opposition or perform an impromptu circumcision in the plunge bath.

The idea that one might shave anything in a communal shower area is, personally, something I can’t condone. I’m still getting over Keith Vanderpant’s black head dye inadvertently rubbing off on a Lucas Sport player’s arm in 1989 when I played for Cuffley in the Herts County League. Traumatic times.

But my problems with this ad are not limited to the vagaries of male grooming or the rights and wrongs of changing room etiquette.

How did the agent for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner persuade their clients that ‘starring’ in this would be a good thing? Milner, especially, has cultivated a no-nonsense image that his recent arrival on Twitter seems designed to cement. Wincing at the Ox’s imperfect shaving technique while, presumably, naked, doesn’t seem to be quite on brand.

I realise that women have been pressured into depilating almost every part of their body for decades now and it’s up to men if they want to go down the same perfectly trimmed path, but I’m still reeling that this is now sufficiently mainstream practice that there’s a TV ad using semi-famous footballers to sell this to the young men of today.

My focus group of one (18-year-old son) was quick to assert that he wouldn’t be joining the ranks of soccer’s smooth chested any time soon, while I’m just glad he doesn’t clip his finger nails on public transport (here’s looking at you, anonymous former colleague).

God knows I haven’t got a problem with hairlessness but something about watching this ad shortly before Sky’s live football coverage began on Saturday made me feel more out-of-touch than any number of autotuned pop songs in the office.

As I write, no one’s approached Norman for a comment. So I’ll let the last word go to the commenter under the YouTube clip who asked “Can I use this on my balls?”

Nothing’s stopping you, lad. Let us know how it goes.

 

 

 

Delete your account

March 19, 2018 Leave a comment

Long before ‘Delete your account’ became, fleetingly, the online riposte de nos jours, I knew, somewhere at the bottom of my cerebral hard drive, that committing so much personal information to various anonymous dotcom entities was something I might possibly look back on with regret.

I deleted my rarely used but occasionally browsed Facebook account back in 2009, but had to take it out of mothballs for professional reasons. It’s hard to develop an app for a platform you’re not on.

Anyway, here we are nine years later and I’ve just set the wheels in motion to delete my Facebook account all over again. During those nine years, my interactions with Facebook have largely comprised blocking any ‘friends’ who have shared content from Britain First, blocking friends whose posts break my fairly relaxed inanity rules, blocking friends who post pictures of their children in school uniform (harsh, but you know… standards), blocking friends who share anything that’s obviously ignorant/ written by a Russian bot, and trying hard not to block friends who simply overshare on an industrial scale. Yes, I can be a judgmental arsehole. So what?

In short, my feed had become a sorry list of work-related and/ or sponsored posts, interspersed with various sports teams/ bands I follow. Nothing I couldn’t find elsewhere – specifically on Twitter – in more succinct form.

I’d never posted my birthdate on Facebook, having once read that it is sensible to limit how much relatively hard to find personal information one should share, but that was torpedoed by some friends wishing me a happy birthday via the medium I’d tried to avoid. I’m sure they have an algorithm that picks up on clues like that.

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Buuutttt… he looks so cuddly

Anyhow, my vaguely uncomfortable relationship with Facebook took on a more pronounced form when, shortly before Trump’s election, a friend explained to me at great length why Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be President, listing a number of reasons about which I had heard literally nothing. You know, the child abusing, FBI-murdering rumours that you could only find where he did – on Facebook.

I challenged the veracity, but he insisted it was true: “It came from a story in an American newspaper.” Reader, it didn’t.

You may know this already. You may know that Boris Johnson admitted inventing the “EU bans bendy bananas” story. That’s because, like me, you read stuff in “the mainstream media”, that much maligned ‘blob’ which actually comprises, by and large, credible news organisations staffed by intelligent, principled people. Not fake shit that’s posted to your timeline because you’ve shared content from Britain First or UKIP.

Back to the point. It’s ironic that in the week Facebook finally got round to banning the traitorous, ignorant, racist and inflammatory inadequates at Britain First, the Cambridge Analytica story was confirmed. Guess what? Facebook is, on balance, a bad thing. I’d explain why, but if you’re reading this, you’ll probably know.

In the meantime, I’ll be on Twitter for Bob Mortimer’s lists of cat names, and train delays in real time. See you there…

Rhyme and reason

In the week that the NME finally gave up the ghost and scrapped its print edition, my Twitter feed was full of like-minded souls (most of whom used to write for it) mourning its demise.

Back in the day (from about 1983 to 1990-something), I loved the NME. It, along with John Peel and a couple of friends, shaped my musical tastes. Apart from being a huge fan of many of the bands it championed, I loved its worldview, and the certainty which accompanied it. At the age of 13, when a journo who clearly worships the same bands as you tells you that x is great and x is not, you don’t question it. At least I didn’t.

As a result, I have always possessed some rather firm opinions about music. Is it musical snobbery? Possibly. I will never be persuaded that the execrable Queen aren’t the worst band ever. I can’t think of any occasion when I would be more conflicted than having to endure ‘We Are The Champions’  should Spurs ever win, well, anything. It would be the ultimate mood-killer.

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It’s really not a kind of magic, fellas

Anyhow, snobbery takes many forms, and during my time in advertising I have encountered significant resistance to rhyme, and especially rhyming endlines.

Somehow, it’s considered cheap and easy to produce a brand line that captures the desired sentiment and also carries a built-in sonic mnemonic (tah-dah!). Let me tell you, it’s not. I can remember many occasions when my creative director heard one of my apologetically proffered rhymes and turned his nose up while sporting an expression that said, “Really, you little moron?”. At least that’s how I interpreted it at the time.

Why? I can only assume that one man’s rhyming genius sounds like hapless doggerel to another. And maybe that’s the case. But it sure helps people remember what you say.

As my own boss, I happily bought ‘AutoRestore. Repairs at your door’ for one of our founding clients, and would do the same again. And the strength of rhyme was reiterated last week, when everyone in the country said the phrase ‘Beast from the east’ at least twenty times in four days, and Dave Trott wrote this paean to rhyme in ads.

I’ll promise to set aside my musical snobbery if you’ll give me rhyming copy. Ok?

Ok. Just don’t get me started on puns…

 

All mouth and no trousers

February 23, 2018 Leave a comment

Don’t be misled by the length of Aisha’s last blog post – we’re rather busy here at Breakfast. Indeed we’ve rarely been this busy during our nine-year existence. Unfortunately, we don’t have much to show for it – yet.

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Some of the Breakfast team acting out a familiar phrase or saying, yesterday

Having signed various NDAs and the like, all I’m at liberty to tell you is that we are three months into an extremely large and exciting brand building project (and much more) with a famous global company, have completed the renaming and rebranding of a leading London-based executive coaching business, have renamed and will shortly be launching an exciting new attraction at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, are designing and building a new website for the lovely people at Torque and have completed the branding of an e-money and payment company.

Only that last example is live, so be my guest and take a look at koinefinance.com Hopefully you’ll like the brand, and, more importantly, the business it’s attached to. If you have a spare million pounds, they’ll be happy to welcome you as a customer.

Other than that, it’s watch this space, I’m afraid. All I can say is that an agency that has evolved to become what we are now – brand builders – is getting on and building some brands.