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Fancy that!

December 13, 2017 Leave a comment

What with imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and plagiarism being legally dubious, we were delighted/ furious to see that the BBC’s graphics team have obviously started following our social posts for Moskovskaya.

Not massively dissimilar, we reckon. What do you think?

Moskovstakingpart

 

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WTF?

November 13, 2017 2 comments

Making good advertising isn’t easy. The moment when you see the first cut from the editor and realise that the spot you’ve grafted on for three months is a dud, not a D&AD, is horrible. For that reason, I am loth to criticise ads for simply being, in my humble opinion, terrible. It can happen to anyone.

Some ads can be bad and still work: I’ve made a few of those. Others can be good and fail dismally to do their job, i.e. sell stuff. I’ve made a few of those too.

Fortunately for me (if not my clients), the clunkers were TV commercials – bad in a way that would have made them invisible rather than fist-bitingly awful – and endured by the audience in the comfort of their own homes. I never had to observe the public’s reaction.

That is not the case for this – a commercial that actually made me put my hands to my head in the cinema yesterday, while a fellow audience member uttered an audible “What the fuck?”.

Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the script stage. Maybe you’ll watch it and love it.

Then again, maybe not.

 

 

The waterfall economy

November 1, 2017 1 comment

I’ve always liked the idea of coining a phrase or saying that goes on to become commonplace, but never managed it. Damn Malcolm Gladwell and his appropriation of “tipping point” merely weeks after I had called the same phenomenon something not quite as catchy (I can’t remember what).

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Anyway, I have been thinking for ages about how best to describe the economy in the town in which I live. If you reside in south-east England’s commuter belt, I’m sure your high street looks much like mine: lots of estate agents, coffee shops, cafes, restaurants and mobile phone stores, interspersed with poundshops, charity shops and vacant premises.

It’s not pretty. On a busy Friday night, with the bars and restaurants full, it feels like a thriving, wealthy town. But by day, the town is divided: affluent mums, dads and their toddlers are queueing out of the door at Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero, while the down-at-heel retail establishments stand almost empty; the passing trade (and I am aware how this might sound) generally being either elderly, infirm, unemployed or a mixture of all three. It looks and feels like a deprived town somewhere more than 35 miles north of one of the richest cities in the world.

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None of this is news, I know. And the reasons for the decline of the high street have much to do with internet retailers as anything else. But it has seemed apparent for years now that in the south-east, our economy is massively reliant on the immense wealth of a very few high earners at the top of the income pile: the stockbrokers in our stockbroker belt and ‘hedgies’ in our country homes.

The ‘trickle-down’ theory of economics has, I think, been pretty discredited over the past 30 years. In short, it doesn’t work; certainly not in terms of enabling those not eating at the top table to see their living standards rise at the same pace of others. Inequality in the UK is growing quicker than anywhere else in the world. The haves and the have nots never used to be this easily distinguishable.

But in an economy built on service industries, ‘trickle down’ is what we have: a huge proportion of the local population in my town seems to me to be entirely reliant on the wealth of the very few.  Again, I acknowledge that this is the model we have built and, of course, one which most people subscribe to. But I believe that a more accurate description of our turbo-charged ‘trickle down’ economy is ‘waterfall’. A small percentage of people have a massive amount of disposable wealth and it is this torrent of money which is cascading on to the vast majority, waiting at the bottom of the cliff. There’s an awful lot of water – enough to enable most to stay afloat. There’s so much that it enables us to fund our public services too. But if the amount of water falling from the top decreases, there will be big trouble. And Brexit is the equivalent of building a huge dam upstream.

Now this isn’t an anti-Brexit diatribe: I am merely arguing that the inevitability of our economy shrinking as thousands of the very highest earners leave the City of London will have an obvious effect on those dependent on that wealth. My assertion is that there are more people dependent on this money than anyone realises and that the south east in particular is going to suffer a significant and potentially brutal period of readjustment.

This readjustment – away from such an unbalanced, top-heavy economy – might well be necessary. However, I’m pretty sure that’s not what people were voting for when they decided to leave the EU, and I’m equally sure that the fallout – socially, politically and culturally – will be unpleasant.

We’ve built a world that relies on exponential growth and the creation of shareholder value; a world that can only work if it encourages ever more people to spend ever more money and generate ever more ‘wealth’. I think that ‘Waterfall Economy’ sums it up pretty well – not well enough to become a common phrase, but it’s the best I can do.

Over to you, Malcolm.

 

He’s floated away

September 14, 2017 Leave a comment

Being an adolescent boy is a mix of suppressed rage and desire combined with adrenaline, enthusiasm, energy and occasional bursts of pure joy. Grant Hart wrote this song and captured all that and more. RIP Grant.

Categories: blogging for Britain

“And how was the campaign for you, Mrs May?”

Until recently, General Elections could be reliably guaranteed to produce ads – usually posters – that by virtue of media coverage, would end up being seen by more or less everyone in the country.

Not in 2017. Can you name a single memorable political poster? I can’t. While the Ed Miliband in Alex Salmond’s pocket ad from 2015 was a poor example of the form (I blogged about this here), it garnered some column inches and TV airtime.

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Now, it seems, our two main parties are devoting their resources to social media, with Labour in the ascendancy on Twitter (which tracks well with the better educated and metropolitan types) and the Tories ruling the roost on Facebook, which has a broader, more representative user base and might have something to do with the illegal use of data. If you believe what you read in The Observer

Anyhow, with no decent advertising to speak of, the most noticeable marketing-related efforts in this election have been slogans. I wrote back in 2015 about Nigel Farage being ahead of the game in terms of repeating a single, simple message and backing it up in words and deed. He might be a c*nt, but he’s not an idiot.

With that in mind, the Tories hit the ground running with “strong and stable” and “coalition of chaos”: snappy three-word slogans which (you might have spotted if you’re a sentient human) they repeated ad nauseam in the first week of the campaign, tethered not to the party, but to Theresa May, whose personal poll numbers must have been only slightly less impressive than Kim Jong Un’s in the weeks before her announcement of the election.

Unfortunately, this has turned out to be a classic case of assertion rather than demonstration, as May has made a mockery of her own USP by looking nervous and guarded in front of crowds and by executing a massive U-turn the day after the Conservatives’ manifesto launch.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May addresses Conservative parliamentary candidates for London and the south east at the Dhamecha Lohana Centre in Harrow, north west London

Theresa being charismatic

If (a little bit of politics now) she’d had the guts to stick to her guns and tell us that the only way we’ll be able to pay for social care in this country going forward is to ask those who can to pay for it, she’d have enabled strong and stable to ring true. Unfortunately, “strong and stable but unpopular with your core voters” was deemed a tad unwise in an election campaign, so she folded like an executive order by Donald Trump.

Subsequently, her team have taken her out of the firing line, avoiding TV and radio interviews and ensuring that only party members are present in most of her public appearances. Like many other people, I’ve always maintained that being comfortable in front of the media and able to connect with people on a human level does not necessarily make you a great leader. But it’s fair to say that we all feel a little uneasy when confronted by someone who exhibits all the empathy of a South African prison guard from the 1970s and a truly remarkable inability to think on her feet.

Anyway, back to slogans. “Coalition of chaos” was another catchy, well thought-out line of attack that has endured longer than “strong and stable”, although as soon as the various parties ruled out any deals or pacts the Conservative hierarchy dialled it back a bit.

The other problem the Tories have had is that Theresa May’s stodgy, “best of a bad bunch” message plays so poorly when contrasted with left of centre politicians saying popular, human, empathetic things. Which, when they’re in opposition (as they usually are) play well. Lots of irate right-wingers – and the Daily Mail – took to social media after the BBC leaders debate moaning about bias, but a) the Tories’ policies aren’t by and large the kind of things you’d cheer for, and b) even if they were, many people don’t like admitting they’re Tory in public. It wasn’t a biased audience: it was an audience where the Conservatives (comprising 35% of those in attendance) sat on their hands or clapped politely every so often, while the other 65% demonstrated understandably more enthusiasm for sentiments like “we’ll give you better healthcare/ schools and tax the rich.” It’s really not complicated.

Anyway, while “coalition of chaos” and “strong and stable” have endured a bumpy ride, Labour’s “For the many, not the few” has articulated the party’s USP pretty well, and grown more relevant as the campaign has progressed. Under Blair/ Brown, “the few” fared extremely well, so this slogan isn’t as facile as it might first seem.

Jeremy Corbyn’s unapologetic acknowledgment that the very wealthy are going to be paying for at least some of the largesse he has promised has had the effect of enthusing his base by reconnecting the party’s newly-minted membership with its core principles. It’s exactly what Nigel Farage did: take a truth, communicate it at every opportunity and back it up with your actions.

Unfortunately for Labour, for all UKIP’s mastery of their message in 2015, they didn’t manage to see their increased relevance reflected in the numer of parliamentary seats they secured. They have been a phenomenal success as a pressure group and an irrelevance as a political party. I may be wrong, but I suspect Corbyn’s Labour Party are about to suffer a similar fate. There’s only so much that a slogan – or an ad – can do.

 

It’s been emotional

A few years back, one of my former colleagues and I branched off to work on a football-related project. He had – and has – absolutely no interest in football; to the extent that he isn’t even familiar with the names of some of our nation’s world-famous clubs.

When I asked why, he said that he had enough ups, downs, happiness and pain in everyday life. Why would he want any more?

If you’re not a football fan, you won’t understand that supporting a team is not necessarily a choice, it’s just part of who you are. I’m Tottenham. I have been since the age of 7, and there’s not a fat lot I can do about it. My great-grandfather played in the victorious 1921 FA Cup winning side, both sides of my family originate from the Tottenham/ Edmonton/ Wood Green area and no one on my mum or dad’s side of the family has ever supported another team. It’s Spurs all the way.

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Jimmy Banks, my great-grandfather and Tottenham Hotspur footballer

I’m not given to displays of emotion in every day life. I don’t cry. I’m not very tactile – to say the least – and I don’t talk about emotions. I’m English, in other words.

Clearly, I am dealing with some deep-seated issues, and a work-related blog is not the place to get into those. But I don’t think I’m unique amongst a certain strain of my fellow countrymen, and like many of those fellas, the much needed outlet for my repressed feelings is football.

Was the best day of my life when my children were born or when I saw Spurs win the UEFA Cup in 1984? I can’t really answer that, but I only helplessly screamed myself hoarse in happiness on one of those occasions.

Do I still become disproportionately miserable when Spurs lose? I do. Does someone identifying themselves as a fellow fan make me predisposed to think well of them? It does. Have I employed someone on the spot when their football allegiance became clear? I don’t think that decision falls foul of any employment legislation.

Anyway, you get the picture.

This Sunday is Spurs’ final game at the stadium where I have spent a significant proportion of my life. I hadn’t been especially sentimental about this, as the amazing new ground taking shape next door will signal a long overdue step forward. But still…years sitting in the East Stand, next to my dad, watching Glenn Hoddle, Chris Waddle, Ossie Ardiles, Micky Hazard, Steve Archibald, Jurgen Klinsmann, Teddy Sheringham, Gary Mabbutt, Ledley King, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric… I have spent so much of my life there, experiencing every emotion under the sun (and that’s not an exaggeration – I was there on the evening that Fabrice Muamba collapsed and, we thought, died on the pitch at White Hart Lane), that for the stadium to be demolished this coming Monday can’t leave me unmoved.

I’ve mourned Bill Nicholson, seethed at the cynicism of Sam Allardyce’s Bolton side on that same day (the antithesis of “It’s all about glory…”), and, of course, erupted in happiness as crucial goals are scored, important saves are made and vital games are won.

If you don’t get it, fine; football isn’t for everyone. Sport isn’t for everyone. But there are few times or places  in our lives when we can forget the really important stuff and surrender ourselves to something that, while not actually a matter of life and death, certainly feels like it for 90 minutes every weekend.

Goodbye, White Hart Lane. I’ll miss you, but you’ll always be part of me.

Categories: blogging for Britain

I’ll keep this short

Here are some things I recommend you watch or listen to if you get the chance:

Athletico Mince – If you think Bob Mortimer is a comic genius, this podcast is for you. If you don’t, listen to it and you’ll change your mind. It is sometimes referred to as a football podcast, but it isn’t, although knowing what Sean Dyche and Steve McClaren (both below) look like will aid your enjoyment. Start at about episode 12 and enjoy the progression. And never look the laird in the eye.

Hell Or High Water and Get Out – The last two movies I watched have both been exceptional. I won’t summarise them for you – that’s what Rotten Tomatoes is for – but if you missed these, do what you can to see them.

Front Row Seat to Earth by Weyes Blood – Natalie Mering’s voice is transcendental. Play this with the lights off, or your eyes closed, or while taking in the bucolic view of your choice, and the world becomes a better place.

The Power of the Dog and The Cartel by Don Winslow – David Simon’s The Corner and Homicide used real life events on the streets of Baltimore to highlight the idiocy of The War Against Drugs, in a pair of books whose occasional departure from the narrative allowed the author to display some of the finest contemporary writing I have read. Don Winslow takes a slightly different tack by turning the exploits of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman into a pair of long, fictionalized accounts of Mexico’s drug trade, and the United States’ intermittent efforts to control/ exploit/ profit from this lucrative cross border powder trail. If you’ve ever bought illegal drugs, you’ve contributed to horrendous, violent, grisly deaths like those chronicled here. Just say no, kids.

That’s it. As you were.