Friday, May 29, 2009

Where are all the big names of DM?

There was a controversial article in yesterday's Campaign, bemoaning the lack of up-and-coming big talents in DM.

Quite ridiculous. I can think of several big characters at Partners alone. We’ve got Simon, who can balance a monitor on his head and walk most of the way across studio. Then there’s Bryan, who can do the Truffle Shuffle just like Chunk in The Goonies. And who could forget Carole, who can eat 100 whelks in under 2 minutes?

Why in the world these people haven't been recognised industry-wide, I don’t know. It seems that as an industry, we're still evaluating people with a very narrow set of criteria e.g. awards won, money made, etc. However, with the advent of social media, pixels and what-have-you, the playing field has radically altered.

Yet the old guard of Campaign et al, seems able to acknowledge this shift. As a result, a whole generation of agency stars is wasting away in the shadows. If this talent leaves DM for other industries (haulage, hotel and catering, IT) we all know who to blame.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The West Wing comes to an end

After six years and seven seasons, the final episode of The West Wing was aired in my front room last night. One of the reasons it took me so long was that I got as far as season four, then had to start over because Mrs Realmenwritelongcopy wanted to watch too. Also I was too tight to buy it so there were often long gaps between seasons as I found someone to lend me the next one.

Aaron Sorkin is a fricking genius and anyone who says otherwise is beyond help. He wrote the whole of the first four seasons. My heart goes out to the poor sap who had to write Season Five. It takes a dip, that’s for sure, but by season 7 they’ve pulled it back, partly due to a freakishly prophetic ***PLOT SPOILER*** Obamalike run for president.

I think it’s the best of the American TV imports (The Sopranos, The Wire, etc.) which I know is saying a lot and could get me killed but there, I said it. The standard of the writing is so high, I don’t think I’ve come across better. A writer for The Evening Standard got it spot on (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type) when they said ‘Sometimes the dialogue reaches such levels of perfection, I could weep'.

One reason this series is so brilliant is it never dumbed itself down. I only knew what was going on about 20% of the time. My understanding would be at the level of ‘something bad is happening that’s bad for the president because of, you know, politics and he’s really angry about it because it’ll affect a special kind of vote or thing that matters to humanity for reasons beyond my understanding’. But the fact you were constantly playing catch-up is part of the appeal. They give you just enough information that by the end you go “Oh I get it that’s brilliant. Those clever Americans!”

I was trying to find my favourite scene for your viewing pleasure. But of all the gazillions of scenes people have uploaded on youtube, not one of the worthless buffoons has uploaded the best one. Seeing as you didn’t ask, it’s an episode called Noel in the second season, where Josh and a psychologist have a proper big old dialogue ding dong. If you get the chance, watch it.

So instead I’ll show this, which is pretty good and is about the only one I can find that will make sense in two minutes if you’re coming to it cold.

I've just made you never want to watch it haven't I? Fine. Your loss. I'm just saying, I like it.

And I think you can buy the entire seven seasons at the moment for £50. I can’t think of a more enjoyable (or better value) way to waste your life watching telly.

God bless America.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The craft of art direction and other myths

It’s not easy coming up with something fresh and creative in this business. Particularly when it comes to finding new ways to take the mick. Hats off then to my friend Simon (I’ve changed his name to protect anonymity, his real name’s Jeff) who was telling me he once managed to freelance at two agencies at the same time.

He’d turn up at the first place, get his jacket on his chair, say a few hellos, then pop round to the other agency a few hundred yards away.

It was an ingenious scam. And art direction is the perfect job for getting away with it, as it’s perfectly normal to not be at your desk because you’re in studio/at a shoot/in the toilet/at a strip joint. Plus it’s perfectly normal to take four times longer to do something than people expect.

He managed to keep up the pretence for over 2 months (it wasn’t a greed thing you understand, he was in a spot of financial bother). Which only goes to confirm what I'm saying about our expectations of art directors. I’m fairly convinced my AD is holding down another job, if not two.

When the traffic bloke finally caught him out, there were no fireworks. He just said “Fair play for keeping it up this long, now it’s time for you to go.” At which point he simply went to his other job.

Of course, there are many who’d say that the whole role of Art Director is a big sham anyway – walking about making a few comments then naffing off again without actually taking any ownership of anything. So pretending to do two jobs rather than pretending to do one job is simply a natural progression, taking it the next level if you like.

Work-shy fopps, the lot of 'em.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

While the cat’s away, the mice will engage in social media

The grown-ups are gone today on some kind of management urban paintball motivational brainstorm. So I’m looking at ways to stick to The Man while The Man won't find out. I’ve already rearranged the pens on the CD’s desk! Now I’m going to spend the rest of the day on Facebook. So far I’ve become a fan of Pentel, Domestos and Princes Tuna. Thing is, in these days of the great importance of social media, there is actually a field on our timesheet for farting about on Facebook. Along with tweeting Peter AndrĂ© and writing eye-wateringly dull blog posts. Ooh, Fray Bentos is poking me!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I would do anything for money, but I won’t do that

If you try hard enough, you can convince yourself anything is okay. Selling cigarettes. Working for big oil. Listening to James Blunt.
My conscience seems to have actually become more tender as I go on in this business. I used to think nothing of flogging credit cards and gas guzzlers. Whereas these days, there has to be at least a sniff of an award before I’ll touch it.
It’s something we don’t seem to discuss much. I remember once having the whole ethical debate with a fellow copywriter. He confessed he was struggling with being in the business full-stop, in fact he and his wife were looking into VSO. A few weeks later, he got a brief for a credit card with a particularly staggering rate and as I passed his office, I saw him staring forlornly at a map of Africa on the wall. He now works in-house at Oxfam.
I’ve turned down a couple of briefs in the past. The BNP,, that kind of thing. Once I even went to an interview where the agency mentioned they worked for an arms company. Just think, a job writing ads for products that just outright kill innocent people. Wow. I’m ashamed to admit, I was so taken aback that I didn’t even say anything, just sat there for the whole interview wasting everyone’s time. How’s that for sticking it to ‘em?
So what have you said no to?
Is there anything you wouldn’t do for money? Or would you even do that?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Your insect-based questions answered

Ah, the weekend. A chance to catch up on sleep and personal hygiene.
Let me leave you with an answer to the age-old question, ‘What colour is ladybug poo?’ This cheeky insect was caught crapping on our window. It took me a few attempts to line it up so the bug was on a pale background and its poo was on a dark one. Unbelievably, I didn’t actually notice I’d lined it up with the Gaylord restaurant sign until now.
Anyway, in case you couldn’t see, the poo is just below the ladybug and slightly to the right. That’s right, it’s YELLOW! I know, I couldn’t believe it either.

While we’re on an insect theme, I should also include this shot I took a couple of weeks back of a GIANT FLY, also shot at our window. This was particularly disconcerting because it was around the time of the break-in and the fly was looking in at almost the exact place where AD’s laptop was stolen and, like I say, it was a suspiciously large fly.

I took this photo for evidence, which included my finger for scale. Unfortunately, because my hand is in the foreground it looks like a very large hand and a very small fly. But trust me, it is a FREAKISHLY LARGE FLY.
Anyway, have a good weekend.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The nuke-o-meter

I used to think data was for ugly, charmless people with more PhDs than friends. Now I realise, data is for dangerous, edgy, sexy people.
I’m jolly impressed with The Guardian’s datablog. It’s got loads of brilliant statistics and visualisations. You can watch the British economy collapse in a beautiful sequence of graphs, see Walmart spread like typhoid and find out what percentage of UK hit singles were written by Swedes.
The Guardian kindly makes lots of data available and invites people to do interesting stuff with it. Like this guy, who took their stats on nuclear weapons and created the nuke-o-meter. Just type in where you live and it tells you the number of nuclear warheads you’re in range of, the type of weapon and the country it’s coming from.
If you’re in London, 7,728 warheads have the potential to destroy us. It’s literal overkill. Brilliant.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

You see opportunities, we see certain peril

Kate Waters, our head of planning, spoke yesterday on The changing nature of response. A lot of it went either over my head or I just missed because I was grappling with a particularly unwieldy tuna melt sandwich, but the basic gist of it was that we’re all screwed and it’s the consumer’s/internet’s fault.

Apparently, people no longer call a number or fill out a coupon. Instead they look at our ad then a few days later go on something called the internet and have a little look around their website and then still don’t buy anything.

This is especially inconvenient for us below-the-liners because we’re traditionally judged on ROI. Previously, it was easy to justify spending money with us because you could point to a number of brochures requested or products sampled as a direct result of our work. Now all we can say is, “Cor, loads of people have been on your site lately, that’s probably thanks to us and not the work of all your other agencies or a gazillion other random unmeasurable factors”.

So it’s a pretty big problem, I mean opportunity. Like all good planners, Kate ended by throwing the ‘opportunity’ over to us.

I’ve had a quick think and reckon I’ve cracked it. This is my new dog-collar-chip-and-pin-system©. It’s a permanently fitted device which tracks everything a consumer buys, eats or thinks and directly attributes it to a London agency, displaying the agency’s name on an LCD screen grafted to their forehead.

I don't know, I realise it raises all sorts of questions. For starters, how does the client or agency get hold of this data, aside from the times when they happen to pass someone who is displaying their agency's name? Also, where are the guy's ears in the first picture? But hopefully it provokes discussion. That's what we're about on Real Men Write Long Copy, starting conversations.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The midget's the baaaaby's daaaaady

The second season of Flight of the Conchords starts tonight. If you're somehow not familiar with their genius, treat yourself.
I hear the non-song bits are funnier in this series but the songs aren't quite as good. I don’t want to spoil it but treated myself to a sneak preview (no idea if this is tonight's episode).

It's funny but of course, nothing will ever be as funny as what they're sending up.

R. Kelly's opus, still as mental today as the first day we saw it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes

Spent the morning in a screenwriting workshop (I was glad to get back to doing client amends on bill stuffers, I can tell you).
All the writers got to go on it for, you know, training. One of the exercises beforehand was to read the screenplay of The Godfather then watch the movie. I’d recommend you give it a go. The screenplay’s a great thing in and of itself, it’s actually a lot faster-paced than the movie. You can download it here.
Anyway, can’t sit here blogging all day when I've got amends to lazily agree to.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Ninjas and cookie monster

Like any right-thinking red-blooded sweet-toothed male, I’m a big fan of ninjas and cookie monster. The other day, when I was watching this great interview of cookie monster on NPR

I was struck by the similarities between cookie monster and the ninja from

I’m not sure what it is, partly the gruff tone of course. But there’s also an admirable singlemindedness to them both. They’re both so passionate about what they do, whether it’s eating cookies or killing people.
See what I mean? Or is it just me?