Thursday, February 26, 2009

Light-fingered chancers wanted

That right. It's a pallet LOADED with boxes of Dairy Milk bars. And it’s sitting downstairs in despatch.
Each box contains 48 bars. And I reckon there are more than 300 boxes there. By my calculations that’s over 14,000 bars.
Who will join me in a daring bid to spring this from the building?
I realise that after yesterday’s pious post it’s probably poor form to be encouraging stealing. But just look at it. The fire exit is only yards away, it’ll be the easiest job we ever pulled.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Prayer is good for business

The last few days, I’ve started going to a church at lunchtime and having a bit of a pray.
Having been on close personal terms with Jesus for some time, prayer is not a new thing for me. But praying at lunchtime is.
What I want to write about is one of the unexpected outcomes of these little spiritual sojourns.
Namely, a more productive afternoon.
When I return to work after lunchtimes, I find I’m refreshed, refocused and re-energised.
Having taken my eyes off work for a bit, I come back to it with fresh eyes. Which I guess I would if I just went for a walk. But I’m also more motivated. You could even say I’m happier.
So it actually benefits my employer for me to pray at lunchtime. Which makes me wonder if companies should have prayer rooms. Because not everyone has a handy, quiet, open church around the corner.
I’m not sure how you calculate the efficiency of this idea: rise in productivity against cost of an extra room. But it’s a thought.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Please someone tell me how to feel about this

Is this a joke?
At first I assumed it was a mickey-take by Mac-ites.
But it’s a real product and a lot of people seem to be saying it’s genuine. Or it’s a purposely-cheesy ad for Microsoft by Crispin Porter. Crispin Porter for pity’s sake!
But isn’t it so obviously taking the piss? Or do people take this on face value?
And anyway the kid uses a Mac.
What is going on?
Please someone help me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fay Weldon on copywriting vs. novel writing

A very long time ago I wrote my thesis on copywriters wot go on to write novels and the extent to which the two forms require the same skills.
Unfortunately, this was before computers or electricity were invented and I don’t seem to have a copy of the file anywhere.
I do however still have a letter Fay Weldon wrote to me on the subject. I also spoke to her by telegraphic communication but have no record of that neither. I do remember she was a nice lady and happy to give time to answering banal questions from a moron.
Anyway, here’s what she wrote.
When you write ads you write something short selling a product which appears in print very soon.
When you write fiction you write something long which sells an idea and takes ages to appear. It requires more ingenuity, more patience, and the courage of your own convictions, not someone else’s. Payment is a side issue. (Mind you, I always thought it was amongst the advertisers. They’d always say I only do this for the money, when actually they did it because they loved it.)
I started by writing TV plays. It occurred to me that while a TV commercial was a little story selling a product, a TV drama was a longer story selling an idea, but otherwise the same principles applied. And you wrote the script across the page, not in two columns, cross hatching not separating sound and vision. And they paid you more, you kept the copyright, and got admired not despised.

I like that bit about having the courage of your own convictions. Just the sheer investment of hours for a novel writer, sitting there working your ass off with every chance that what you’re doing will never see the light of day. Writers often give up their day job or reduce their hours and live on cabbage soup and dust, just for the privilege of receiving a zillion rejection letters. Hats off to ‘em.
I think it’s an interesting subject. There’s a fair bit about it on Lolly and Nat’s blog, one of them having actually written an actual book and everything.

3 hours and counting

Mortimer Street brainstormers, we feel your pain.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A fusion of otters and home computers

Headed down to Devon at the weekend and was distraught to see how much my hometown has changed. It seems even Ottery St Mary, this last bastion of cream teas and half-day shopping on a Wednesday, has been swept up in the inexorable rise of the internet.

Net curtains are twitching and old women muttering darkly at the mention of Ottery’s very own computer shop. Inside you can buy computer-related consumables like paper and ink cartridges. I think I also saw a Commodore 64 by the counter.

I love this sign by the way. An otter. At a computer. Finally, someone has managed to combine the worlds of otters and home computers in a convincing way.

My smugness is totally justified of course – one of millions of automatons sat typing in a soulless office while the people of Ottery warm their toes in front of an open fire and tuck into another toasted crumpet.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Why you should think more seriously about killing yourself

Today I was thinking about kick-ass intriguing headlines. Killer lines that need no image. Lines so good you’re physically incapable of doing anything other than reading the copy.

Lines like these.

Why you should think more seriously about killing yourself.
The Samaritans

This is perhaps the most infuriating ad you will ever read. Unless you are 21.
Bankers Trust Australia Group

Answer these ten questions and work out the date of your own death.
Albany Life

Which one of these men do you think would be best at rape?
The Solicitors’ Regional Dictionary

What are your chances of getting pregnant tonight?
The Health Education Council

Do this or die.
Doyle Dane Bernbach

Is this the best ad ever written?
The Ball Partnership

Astronaut Wanted
No experience necessary
The first Anglo-Soviet space mission

Here’s a dead dog. Where’s my award?

How to kill a baby.
Woman’s Day

Somewhere in this picture, 2nd lt. Eric Heaton lies dying.
Imperial War Museum Appeal

It seems like this kind of line is a rare breed these days, which is a shame. All the above examples are from The Copy Book (published 1995), which means the ads are all at least 14 years old and mostly a lot more. Our style today is a softer intrigue. Maybe we think these are too crude. Or maybe they just don’t win awards, which also seems a shame. Or is it just in the UK and you’ll find loads of recent examples somewhere like the US?

Also, there are a lot in there about death. I’m not sure if that’s coincidence, or because it’s easier to write an intriguing line about death. Or perhaps I have a fixation with death and these are the ones that stood out to me.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

More interesting than most storage cupboards

Below are some highlights from a series of photographs by Justine Cooper, taken inside the scientific collections of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
It records ‘the hidden side of natural history museums, where the unfathomably vast collections of scientific specimens are kept’.

Elephant skulls in the attic

Yellow Honeyeaters

Rhinocerous stored in the hide room

Leopard’s skin

I've never really been one for museums, it's all so staid and feels like a school trip.
But a tour through their store rooms would be fascinating. Imagine opening a cupboard and finding elephant's feet. Mental.

You can see the slideshow here

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Read it and weep, Trott

This chap, Simon Owens, did a bit of research of the top 10 most popular news blogs and found that approximately 13% of the posts involved some kind of original reporting.
That means 87% of posts didn’t contain anything the writer couldn’t find out by doing a google search.
This follows a rule of the greater blogging world. That the most successful blogs are filter blogs – those that collect and discuss stuff you can find elsewhere on t’interweb. I guess most of (but by no means all) the stuff you find on Scamp would come under this category. As opposed to Dave Trott’s blog, which is a seemingly endless stream of original stories and brilliant advice from around 4,000 years in the business.
So commenting on stuff you find=good. Writing something original=bad.
I’ve decided to implement this strategy at once. Taking yesterday’s post as a case in point, here is a more reader-enticing version.

This is a picture of someone else’s bellybutton fluff that I found.
I think this is a great piece of bellybutton fluff. What do you think?
I also did a search on google and found out some stuff about bellybutton fluff. Did you know?
• It’s made up of collected fibres that your body hair drags from your clothing.
• Contrary to popular belief, evidence suggests that bellybutton fluff comes up from underwear rather than down from your t-shirt or top.
• It has been observed that bellybutton fluff tends to be of a blue-ish tint. Sometimes it looks a little grey, sometimes purple, but generally it's a pale blue colour. The dyes in black clothing, for example, are often not actually black but a very dark blue. If you have a clothes dryer, have a look at the lint filter - that tends to be blue too.

Now I just sit back and watch the new readers flock.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Belly Button Fluff Chronicles 10.02.09

My day keeps getting interrupted with work. So I’ve decided that when I’m struggling to write a proper post (you know, those thoughtful, well-written posts I always write) I will post a picture of my belly button fluff for that day.

Here is today’s. Enjoy.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The power of un-words

I was going to write a post about this road safety ad, than I saw Scamp beat me to it and as both of you who read this blog also read Scamp (with the possible exception of my wife) that seems pretty pointless.
So instead I’m going to make a slightly obscure comparison between the ad and this scene from the movie Unbreakable (the whole scene lasts about ten minutes, so this is just the climax).

Basically, I’m talking about the power of no dialogue. There’s just a bit of ambient sound in the ad. And the score (and a few grunts) in the movie. In both examples, the idea is pared back to the bare minimum. They haven't let the copywriter wade in and confuse it with clever words. As a result, the silence builds so much tension and all you have to focus on is the action.
I’m sure there are a zillion other examples of this. If you think of one, feel free to comment.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A story from my childhood

Having spent these past few days in hibernation, I'm slowly getting up to speed with the blogging world again. The sell sell dudes wrote a throwaway line on their t'riffic blog, recommending a tin tray or bin liner as excellent makeshift sleds. This triggered a rather bittersweet childhood memory, which I have recorded below in a somewhat weird style that goes from Enid Blyton to John Caples and back again:

I was a lad of no more than eight years when my brother and I awoke one morning and gasped in wonder at a blanket of white covering the ground.
In a dash, Rupert arranged to meet some chums at the field behind our school to go sledding. But there was a problem – we only had one sled.
“Don’t cry, Little Realmenwritelongcopy.” said Father, “I have just the answer.” He disappeared into his shed for several minutes before appearing with a beaming grin and the most curious sled I’d ever set eyes on.
It was a black plastic disc, of around 18 inches diameter. A piece of string was tied through a cylindrical fastening at one end.
My brother snickered, but Father assured me, “This is a sled like no other, son. A sled that will win you friends.”
So off we set. My brother pulling the family wooden sled behind him. And I with my magic, lightweight sled tucked under my arm.
When we arrived at the field, the older boys came to inspect our transports. My brother’s was met with widespread approval before they turned to me.
“What have you got there?” thundered Ginger Edwards, leader of the gang.
I reached under my arm and, trembling, pulled out my sled.
Well, it caused quite a commotion. The boys were howling with laugher so much that at first, I had no idea what they were saying. Eventually, the laughter died down enough for me to make out their cruel words.

Dear Reader, my sled was in fact a toilet lid.

Tears stinging my eyes, I marched up that slope in double time, questions racing through my mind. I couldn’t understand why Father would humiliate me like this. And yet, his last words echoed in my mind, “A sled that will win you friends”. I sat upon my plastic disc defiantly, and pushed off.

They Laughed When I Sat Down on the Toilet Seat but When I Started to Fly!

Instantly a tense silence fell on my friends. The laughter died on their lips as if by magic. The toilet lid was in fact the perfect sled. Its convex base and flawless polished surface gave me speeds hereto unknown of a boy on snow. As the ground raced beneath me it was a powerful (and fast!) lesson in learning to trust Father.

When the sled finally slowed to a halt, the field resounded with a sudden roar of applause. I found myself surrounded by excited faces. How my friends carried on! They shook my hand - wildly congratulated me - pounded me on the back in their enthusiasm! I was the most popular boy in town.

That night, I returned home flushed with pride, holding that toilet lid aloft like it was the World Cup. My father was waiting at the kitchen table when I got in and I thought I saw the softest of knowing smiles on his lips as he asked had I enjoyed myself?

“Well father” I chortled, “You were right. It certainly is a sled like no other!”