Friday, August 28, 2009

Oh to be mysterious

I sometimes wish I could be anonymous.

Obviously I’m anonymous when I post that self-congratulatory stuff in the comments section. Or when I leave notes for that girl in Boots about how nice her hair smells. But what I’d really like is to blog anonymously, like adland suit or not voodoo.

For starters, I’d be able to find out what my colleagues really think of this blog. At the moment they all say it’s crap, but I reckon if they weren’t trying to be polite they might say otherwise.

Also, there’d be less pressure on me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really nice getting high-fives from strangers as I walk down the street. Or when exotic women from marketing departments throw themselves at me. But every time someone calls out from a car window “Gosh that was an insightful and thought-provoking post! Looking forward to the next one!” I come over all shaky and queer. I worry where the next post is going to come from. And wonder how much longer I can keep up these lofty standards.

But I guess more than anything, if I posted anonymously I’d be able to make fun of people without worrying they might duff me up.

Graham smells of wee!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Social relevance of an Audi ad

Today you could run this ad without the last five seconds and it’d make perfect sense.

Do you remember the first time you noticed the change? Some hair-gel-and-braces type cut you up, a smug grin spread all across his irksome chops, and as you looked down for the obligatory BMW badge, you rubbed your eyes and exclaimed, “Hang on, isn’t that an Audi?”

I suspect it’s not that they all suddenly switched. I just think the next generation all bought Audis because they weren’t told to do otherwise. You see, during the 90s this ad basically functioned as a public service announcement – ‘Okay I’m the kind of guy people don’t really like. It says here I should drive a 3 series. Got it.’

Once they stopped running the ad, ole smug chops was left to figure it out for himself and just picked the nearest shiny thing. Next thing you know a classic ad has lost all relevance.

It’s interesting how culture can shift and make an ad ‘of its time’. For example, The Royal British Legion’s great line, ‘Give a damn. Give a pound.’ also no longer works. These days, if you want to show you give a damn, you retweet it:
RT @daz @royalbritishlegion I wish dat dey had more money
On the other hand, some ads are unquestionably timeless. People will always love or hate Marmite. Stella will always be expensive. And Cadbury’s Flake will always look really nice when being eaten by some bird biting it provocatively and going “ooh”.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A town by the sea called...

This weekend we popped down to my homeland, Devon.

Ah Devon. A place so beautiful, everyone married their sister to stay there.

But be warned, nature will always right an imbalance. Beautiful landscapes may seem appealing but bear in mind 'the mother' will make you pay for it elsewhere. In this case, in-breeding has ravaged the area to such an extent that I can categorically state I didn’t see a single good-looking person all weekend (excluding my family of course).

We were visiting because my folks have moved from the sprawling metropolis of Ottery St Mary and retired to a quiet town by the sea imaginatively named Seaton.

It's actually not a bad name. At least it's short. If it were being named by a brand they'd want to call it something like Super Seaton 3.19® SmartPebble™ Ultra Edition. Something that means nothing to anyone except some product guy in Croydon who insists you use the full name. Then when you point out how ridicuous it sounds, they'll soften and say you must write it in full in every instance except when it's already been used twice in one paragraph, in which case you can abbreviate it to simply Super Seaton 3.19® SmartPebble™ Ultra.

That name then sits in the middle of your copy, like a turd in the middle of your living room floor. So no matter how flowing and well crafted the copy is, all you can see is this stinking name.

Sorry, I just had to get that rant in once I'd thought of it.

Anyway, Super Seaton is actually a very happy, friendly place. Here are some bits that caught the eye:

Local undertakers

It was all going so well until…
“Hang on Clive, don’t elephants have ears?”
“Oh bugger.”
“Don’t worry, I think I’ve got an old satellite dish in the garden.”

This is the sea

For all your panic-designing needs (I have no idea).

The only thing the town lacks is a few pretentious London types. If you're interested in moving down and spreading a little glamour, get in touch. Maybe we could start an agency? I'm sure they'd be delighted to hear from us.

Friday, August 21, 2009

How do you know if you’re giving a good cat massage?

"What may seem excruciatingly slow to us is SO appropriate to a feline."

"Caution: a whisker watch alert is in effect here."

"A cat’s tail is his badge of honour, so let’s not neglect it."

Thanks Chris

A gentle word of warning

I took Mrs RMWLC out for our monthly date on Wednesday night. We tried this new pancake place that’s just opened near us.

Everything was following our usual pattern. She happily recounting my failings of the past month while I play a game staring at the spotlights then shutting my eyes and counting the coloured dots I can see.

I was thinking the pancakes were a bit pricey until three waiters came out bearing the weight of this culinary behemoth!

It’s hard to communicate the sheer girth of the thing, so I shot it next to a blue whale to give a sense of proportion.

See what I mean?

As a result, I spent the whole of yesterday with terrible stomach cramps, along with clamminess and a general sense of foreboding.

I assumed the feeling of doom was a result of the cricket rather than the pancake. But then THIS dropped into my inbox at 5:29 from the MD:
do not leave the building - we need to chat

Now there’s an email guaranteed to give anyone the willies. I ran to the toilet to... gather myself, the cold hand of DM death firmly clamped to my shoulder.

As I sat quivering there was however one thought that brought me solace.

I’ve often heard it said that, paradoxically, it’s always the talentless arseholes who keep their jobs and the decent people that get sacked.

Sure enough, he breezes over an hour later (by which time I was a gibbering wreck) to ‘chat’ about some client amends.

So let this be a warning to those of you considering eating a giant chocolate pancake. Just think on. IT COULD COST YOU YOUR JOB.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


We’ve got a natty new display in reception.

The powers that be chose a hundred or so minions and asked us to stick up our favourite book, including a few words on why that book has been so influential in our lives.

I assume they picked me because they wanted a highbrow literary number amongst the art directors’ picture books and suits’ countless copies of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Unfortunately I forgot and had to opt for the only book lying on my desk when The Man came round demanding my entry – Franny and Zooey by J D Salinger.

Actually it's worked out rather well. He's a ‘cool’ writer, but it's not his most obvious work (choosing The Catcher in the Rye would have been so crass and cliché).

Also, it has this absolutely killer dedication. I think this is the best dedication in a book EVER.
As nearly as possible in the spirit of Matthew Salinger, age one, urging a luncheon companion to accept a cool lima bean, I urge my editor, mentor and (heaven help him) closest friend, William Shawn, genius domus of the New Yorker, lover of the long shot, protector of the unprolific, defender of the hopelessly flamboyant, most unreasonably modest of born great artist-editors, to accept this pretty skimpy-looking book.
Nice, eh?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday round-up

Creepy sense of enjoyment

Yesterday was the Partners’ summer jolly. Unfortunately, it was a very well thought-out and enjoyable day out, which doesn’t make for a good blog post. I always feel my strength is in whinging.

However, there was a tiny fly in my ointment, provided by Marx Brothers' Coach Hire. Instead of a coach, they sent our group of window lickers this joke-on-wheels, complete with matching driver who I guess typed ‘Thorpe Industrial Park’ into the tom-tom.

When we finally did pull into the coach park you could hear the snickering of schoolkids. It was very humiliating.

The real lowlight came at the end of the day when I found myself looking around at my colleagues and actually feeling something approaching affection for them. This has never happened before – with these or any others. Really unnerving. Let’s hope the first amends brief that comes my way knocks me back into my usual state of loathing and disrespect.

Agency’s token smart person leaves

An account exec leaves today to go write a PhD on James Joyce (who?). Can’t wait for her to go, I’m so sick of her looking down her nose at me and my shelf of Jilly Coopers.

Good luck Millie.

And I’m ending on a comedy high

Surely one of the all-time-great TV comedy moments?

Monday, August 10, 2009

How to write feedback for someone's appraisal

Appraisals can be a thorny one. On the one hand, it’s a great opportunity to vent your spleen – not just about your colleague's failings, but about your dissatisfaction with the world in general. On the other hand, these things do so often have a habit of turning round and biting you on the ass.

After a couple of incidents involving what you could call bad karma, I came up with this simple equation to help me judge the correct tone for any appraisal. I’ve reproduced it here for your benefit.

Chance they’ll be asked to give feedback for YOUR appraisal __%
Chance they’ll one day be your boss __%
Random luck rating (how often do these things blow up in your face?) /10

Then simply multiply the three numbers to find out how to approach it.

Lower than 10. Really go to town. Keep on about the smallest thing they've done wrong until it takes on account-losing proportions. It doesn't even have to be a mistake that they've made, it could just be someone who sits near them. Don’t be afraid to get personal too. Do they have an especially pointy chin, for example? Or an annoying habit of breathing funny? Stick it all in there.

10-500. Keep it to strictly vague platitudes e.g. 'Enjoyable to work with', 'competent', 'displays a singular willingness to do their job'. You may find it helps to have in mind the person conducting the appraisal. If you've got it right, when they feed back they should have absolutely NOTHING to go on.

500+. I don’t like to compliment others. It just doesn’t sit well. Brown-nosing, however, when it has a clear self-serving goal, is just plain common sense. So when an opportunity to flatter someone in power comes along, don’t hold back. Think big with your accolades: ‘genius’, ‘visionary’, ‘best in the business’ etc.

So there you have it. Some appraisals are an opportunity for advancement, others for putting someone else down. And most are an annoying admin task to be given the minimum of thought.

My method may seem a little crude but then, isn’t the whole process?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why you should never try to sort out an argument by email

I sometimes do admin stuff to help manage our building (which is split into several flats).

I always thought it was one of those thankless tasks where you never really get anything back. Until yesterday, that is, when an email ‘discussion’ quickly unravelled into something both horrible and fantastic.

Behold, what happens when the thin veneer of middle class politeness cracks and people say what they’ve really been thinking for the past two years. (I’ve changed the names, except for my own.)

From: Kate

To: Everyone

Hi folks,

[Introductory twittering about lampshades and stuff]

Alan, I know Steve spoke to you last night about moving your bikes from the hall. Can you confirm you'll be able to do that today? It's unfortunate we don't have the new bike shed ready to put them in yet, but we agreed in the last meeting that we weren't going to keep bikes in the hall once the new paintwork had been done as the walls were badly marked by them. As you are on the ground floor and have a garden, can you sort something out for the short term until we fix the bike shed situation?


From: Alan
To: Everyone

Hi Kate,

As per my chat with Steve, I’m happy to put something in between the handlebars and the wall, but with rain forecast over the next couple of days, I won’t be leaving mine and Carole’s bikes outside to get rusty. If you’re up for putting your bike outside, we can do that too.


From: Steve
To: Everyone

For chrissakes! I'll keep my bike outside for a few days (in the rain or snow or whatever), and Alan can have space in the bike shed if it will help keep the peace.
Alan you still have Kate's bike shed key, correct?

From: Dave
To: Everyone

Yeah I’ll stick mine outside too

From: Alan
To Everyone

So to get this straight. You held a meeting which I wasn’t there for. Took some decisions, informed me of them in a somewhat arsy tone for the 1st time last night, and then again publicly in an email 12 hours later.

You lot can learn to behave in a slightly more civil manner if you want me to cooperate. Not impressed in the slightest, your bikes can go wherever you want them to go, for the time being mine is staying as is until a new shed goes up and you learn to keep a civil tongue in your head.

Rude, rude people.

From: Steve
To: Everyone

[Attaches minutes showing Alan was informed months ago]

From: Dave
To: Everyone

I just got a call back from Trimetals. They can sell us the bits to make it into a bike shed for £89 all in.

All in favour say I

From: Steve
To: Everyone

well that kind of depends if everybody in the house is prepared to use it if we do. but I say yes if so.

From: Alan
To: Everyone

Oh behave you snippy little man.

From: Steve
To: Alan

f*** off Alan you selfish c*** [asterisks mine]

From: Alan
To: Steve

Stop communicating with me.

From: Steve
To: Alan

i wish i had that privilege

[Those emails were just between the two of them but now Alan includes them for everyone to see]

From: Alan
To: Everyone


Do you not think you’ve over-reacted a little here? You’ve been very rude for no reason, then quite catty.

Following it up with those choice words only points to you having a bad day or something.

Please let me know when you’re up for communicating normally again as I always thought we had a fairly harmonious thing going in the house.


From: Steve
To: Alan

quite possibly yes, but that doesn't alter the facts that you are completely unwilling to make any effort to contribute to house affairs unless they fit your very exact requirements.

cunt=probably not, I apologise.

[This next email is obviously written before the above but sent moments after]

From: Kate
To: Everyone


There is really no need to be so defensive and personal. No one is being rude, just frustrated at a perceived lack of willingness on your part to compromise. Please find attached the minutes from the last house meeting, where it states clearly

[bunch of stuff basically proving he was told, just didn’t bother replying]

You seem to be happy for others to do the hard work of house admin, despite us all being equal shareholders, yet want to have your own way when it comes to decisions that affect everyone.

No one wants there to be any aggro in the house - we all have to live there after all - but your lack of consideration can be quite frustrating, even if it is not intentional.

Please can you keep your bikes in your flat until we can sort out the bike shed (thanks again Dave for going to the trouble).


From: Alan
To: Everyone


That will be why Steve sent me a personal email calling me a selfish c*nt.
I’m fairly shocked.

From: Steve
To: Alan

you must have seen it coming

From: Alan’s girlfriend
To: Everyone

Dear all,

Please everyone STOP

Bitching about our personality faults is not what I want coming across my screen this afternoon. JUST STOP

Alan and I are not comfortable leaving our bikes outside. We should have been at the last meeting to convey this to you.

We would prefer to leave our bikes in the same place for the time being. I’m sure everyone’s expectation was to have a clear hallway and clean walls. I’m sorry to disappoint you, I wish I could have given you prior waning about how we feel with regards to leaving the bikes outside.

I promise I will clean the walls and skirting and return them to pristine condition once we can move our bikes to the shed.

This is outrageous behaviour, I don’t want to live in a house full of idiots who aren’t able to be civil to each other regarding small stupid matters like where a couple of bikes are kept for a few weeks.


From: Alan
To: Dave

Hi Dave,

As you’re friends with him, please ask Steve to either apologise or not to communicate with me anymore.

I have nothing left to say after these outbursts, and anything further is likely to be physical.

For the record, there was never any issue with doing anything for the benefit of the house, I only took exception to the tone.

If you’re of the same opinion as him, well, that makes me sad as I always thought you could speak to me in a normal fashion.


From: Steve
To: Everyone

Dear all

I publicly apologise for awkwardness arising from my personal communication with Alan today.

This was a previously a private matter but now that it's been made public I understand how it effects everyone and certainly doesn't help house harmony.

However, it was a response to two insulting remarks levelled at both myself, my girlfriend and housemate.

I am willing to overlook these remarks and offer an apology directly to Alan about mine.
We're all grown ups after all.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Good with words, crap with everything else

The regular reader of this blog will know that one of my favourite things to write about is the many differences between writers and art directors.

Well, in the early hours of this morning, as I tried to grope my way to the toilet and realised I’d painted my bathroom door shut, I thought of another one. Ability to do DIY (that's home improvement to you johnny foreigners).

Art directors, though often not the sharpest scalpel blades in the studio, are good at practical stuff like putting up a shelf, hammering nails and tying their shoelaces. Whereas writers, supreme beings who exist on a more ethereal plane, struggle with this type of thing.

It stands to reason. Part of an art director’s job is to make little things out of foamboard, papier maché and matchsticks, so it’s one of the (very few) job requirements. The other one is being able to make tea. (You don’t have to be able to draw, that’s a visualiser. An art director is a visualiser who can’t draw.)

I'm right about this aren't I? Or are there any writers out there who have put up a shelf?

Also, I wonder if another distinction is political leanings. A lot of art directors I’ve met seem to hold views somewhere right of Goebbels. Whereas all writers seem to be lilly-livered bleeding heart liberals.

Any thoughts on any of this anyone? No? Fine.

UPDATE: Willy at The smell of markers posted this in the comments but I was so delighted that someone actually went to some kind of effort for this blog AND was funny (double first!) that i've stuck it here.