Browsing Month February, 2011

The weak and the chaff

February 28th, 2011 // 4:15 pm @ // One Comment

Hello there. God, it’s been ages hasn’t it? Are you ok? You look well. No, really you do. Have you done something to your hair? No? Well maybe you should. There, I’ve said it.

So, where were we? Oh yes, hello there. Sorry it’s been so long but I’ve been all busy lately. Work to do, a new phone to figure out, new pc to struggle with. It’s been all go. Anyway, what shall we talk about today? I know. Crap ads. There are loads of them about at the moment. Some on the telly, some in the press and some even being trotted out in the name of so-called excellence for the bloody Chip Shop awards. I’ll get to them later though.

First on the list are these bleeding Quaker Oats ‘Thank you’ things. You must have seen them. It’s where a bunch of unbearably twee, caring, parka’d up middle-class knobs decide to reward those selfless members of the community who apparently ‘make more of their mornings’ via the complimenary mediums of generally sticking their big fat noses in and Quaker Oats. Here’s one to have a look at.

Bloody awful that, isn’t it? Where did this crack Quaker Oats Strike Force come from anyway? What compelled them to gather together in some aircraft hangar somewhere weighing up who to storm off and patronise in their fleet of bloody Land Rovers, trailers and pop-up Quaker cabins? I’m not so sure they really contributed much to the play in any case. I quite liked the minimalist set they had going on. Those skeletal trees looked pretty good in my opinion, whereas that great big huge massive oak, complete with foilage and fairy lights dominates the stage potentially to the detriment of the performances. Still, it’s good to see Sean Bean taking time out of his busy schedule to support community theatre isn’t it? I suspect he needed a good lie-down after that series of Sharpe and prolonged domestic abuse. Shame Danny Dyer wasn’t available though. There’s another one, where they man the Land Rovers and go do a bit of unnecessary tarting up of a boxing club too but you get the point don’t you? It’s people who make more of their mornings. And, presumably that’s what they have in common with Quaker Oats. Or something.

Next on the list is the new ‘webuyanycardotcom’ ad. Now there’s been an exciting new development with ‘webuyanycardotcom’. They now have a new advertising agency and, naturally that new agency made the bold step of moving on from ‘webuyanycardotcom’s massively irritating TV ads to produce this. An even more massively irritating TV ad.

Spectacularly awful, I’m sure you’ll agree. And, credit where it’s due, it’s a rare talent that can take an irredeemably dire ad campaign and make it even worse. A bad jingle, bad casting, bad production and the old jingle nailed on to the end in such a way that it makes you nostalgic for the old ads where the salesman started breakdancing or that saleslady played a bit of footy. Grim.

This, of course brings me neatly to The Chip Shop Awards, ( told you I’d get to them didn’t I? I’m nothing if not a man of my word, me. ) Now here’s the thing with The Chip Shop Awards. It proclaims itself to be an awards event for ‘creativity with no limits’ or some such advertising self-aggrandising puffery, yet every year it just seems to get worse and worse.

Last year’s winners were largely pitiful and, from the examples ‘The Drum’ are releasing weekly on the net, this year looks set to continue the downward spiral. Now I know that could sound like sour grapes from a Manchester copywriter who’s never won one but, as I’ve never felt inclined to enter The Chip Shops, that isn’t really a point is it?

Here’s how The Chip Shop Awards work. Take any client, any product, any service and make up an ad or campaign for it. Any media you like, any budget and no concerns about whether the ad could ever run. In fact, the more outrageous the better, ( there’s a bad taste category and everything ). Then send that ad, together with £100 per entry to the judges, ( any clues there as to why I’ve never entered? ), and await advertising glory.

Great eh? Well no. Have a look at what’s being entered and what’s won in previous years and you’ll see the same themes revisited time and time again. Viagra and impotence cures are usually a great opportunity for the boys in creative to pull off, ( ooer missus ), some student knob gags, sanitary towel ads are normally inserted somewhere and this week’s celebrity scandal can normally be relied upon for a really blistering ‘Should’ve Gone To Specsavers’, ‘I’ll Bet He Drinks Carling Black Label’, or suchlike campaign. All really rather depressing.

So, sorry everyone for what I suppose is slightly negative post. Maybe I’m feeling particularly jaundiced this week but it seems that once again, the ads I’ve seen lately have been mediocre at best, gut-wrenchingly dreadful at worst.

If you work in advertising though, or even if you don’t for that matter, how about taking that ‘Creativity With No Limits’ line and having a think about what it really suggests?

Maybe between us we could scrape together £100 and enter something into The Chip Shops that’s actually worth an award.

Please, no knob gags though.

 

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Clash struggle.

February 13th, 2011 // 2:27 pm @ // 6 Comments

Hello there. Today we’re having a bit of a change from all these proper advertising based blog posts I’ve been writing lately. No. Don’t try to stop me. I’m going off on a slight tangent and you’re all coming with me. Ready? Right, strap on your bondage pants and we’ll be off.

Now, as many of you regular readers, ( yes, you two ), will be aware, I have been fully embracing my ongoing mid-life crisis of late. This has, of course, taken on many forms. There’s the band, a slightly unhealthy obsession with recording every single bloody car and motorbike I’ve had throughout my life, poring over old photos and, currently, tracking down and finding all my old vinyl records. ( yes, vinyl. Oh, ask your dad. Ok, your grandad. Smartarse. ). Sadly, many of these old records have been lost along the way. House moves, separations, hand to hand combat and DJing in Wolverhampton, ( Oh the glamour ). So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I saw an online ad, ( actually, advertising is going to creep into this post. Sue me already. ), offering ‘All 19 of The Clash‘s singles in their original sleeves’. Naturally my aging punk’s heart skipped a beat and I decided, there and then, that I must have them. Of course I’d end up with a couple of duplicates but as the old sleeves were a little rough round the edges, the vinyl a tad battle-scarred, they had to be bought, didn’t they? So I read the ad a few times to make sure I knew what I was getting, checked the ad’s credentials, ( you’ve got to watch these advertising people you know, slimy bastards ),  and discovered that it was from ‘Pop Market’, a subsidiary of the Sony Group. Can’t go wrong can you?

So I bought them. Filled in the online form, stuck my card details in there and waited. And waited. And waited. Not that waiting was a problem of course. I knew that  they’d take a while, they were coming all the way from America and I’m not a fool, ( Yes, I’m talking to you Juliemead ). A couple of weeks later I reached the first hurdle. A card from Royal Mail telling me that I’d need to pay a £13.00 customs charge to have the package released. Fair enough. An unexpected extra cost but, what the hell. It’s a boxset of ‘All 19 0f The Clash’s singles in their original sleeves’, got to be worth it, hasn’t it? Paid it. Settled down for another wait.

Two days later The Royal Mail got me again. They despatched their legendary ninja postman. Chances are you’ve heard of the ninja postman but never, ever seen him. He’s the one who can reach your house, come down your path and slip a ‘Sorry you were out’ card through your letterbox while you are clearly very much bloody ‘in’ and have, in fact, been looking through your bloody window at regular bloody intervals and the very slightest bloody sound lest you miss the bleeding postman. The man ( or woman. No-one knows ), is a genius.

So, another two days pass and this time the package arrives. Of course I have spent the last two nights sitting on my doorstep pumped full of caffeine and pro-plus ready to pounce at the slightest provocation. Now the second I held the parcel in my hot little hands I knew there was a problem. It was just too small, too light to be ‘All 19 of The Clash’s singles in their original sleeves.’ Bollocks.

I gingerly opened it and what did I find? All 19 of The Clash’s singles alright – but in teeny weeny cd form. All 19 in teeny weeny facsimile sleeves, perfect in every teeny weeny detail. They’ve even got pretend teeny weeny grooves and teeny weeny labels on the teeny weeny black cds for Christ’s sake. Now, as a highly skilled and experienced copywriter, ( stop giggling at the back. I can hear you ), You’d think I’d know better wouldn’t you? But I’d read the ad over and over and, when I ordered ‘All 19 of The Clash’s singles in their original sleeves’, I kind of expected to get ‘All 19 of The Clash’s singles in their original sleeves.’ Call me old-fashioned but that’d be 19, 7″ vinyl singles in 7″ paper sleeves. Wouldn’t it?  Apparently not. And according to a friend who lives in The United States, ( Thanks Tracey ), there is no Trade Descriptions Act in the USA and you can pretty much call anything, anything over there. So it looks like I’m stuck with them.

Anyway, it’s not a total loss. I’ve discovered that they’re almost the perfect size as accessories to my daughter’s collection of cuddly toys so they’re currently having a tea party with all 19 of The Clash’s singles in their original sleeves spread out all over the floor.

And I’m looking for a copywriting job in America. It must be a piece of piss.

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The future is, um, written.

February 8th, 2011 // 2:26 pm @ // 2 Comments

Hello there. You may have seen this post a few weeks ago but I had to remove it till the lastest issue of Eight:48 came out. Anyway, it’s out now so here’s the post again. Deja Vu eh? Over the new year I was asked by Eight:48, a rather swish design magazine, to write a piece for their ‘Future of design’ issue. No, really, I was. No, me neither, not a clue but they did so I did. Anyoldhoo, it occurred to me that some of you may not be regular subscribers to Eight:48 and thus may miss out on my pearls of wisdom. And, at £6.00 a copy, I can’t really expect you to rush out and buy it. So, in a spirit of sharing, ( and in no way as a cheap, tawdry way of sticking content onto the blog without writing anything new ), I’m putting it on here today. Have look, see what you think and if you agree, disagree or really couldn’t give a monkey’s one way or another, feel free to leave a comment.

The future of design. What’s copy got to do with it?
Hello there. My name’s andy white and I’m a copywriter, have been for about 25 years all in all. Now what, you may be asking, is a copywriter doing writing an article in Eight:48, essentially a design publication full of the thoughts of designers? It’s a fair question and in all honesty one I’ve been asking myself right from the point I was asked to write it, to the point where I now find myself sitting at what should really be a macbook pro but isn’t, to write it.
It’s like this. Maybe a copywriter really does have an observation or two about design that may be worth listening to. Personally, I did a degree course in ‘Graphic Design and Communication’ at Wolverhampton Poly, ( or, as it’s now more impressively known, ‘The University of Wolverhampton’ ), so perhaps that gives me the right to stick my metaphorical oar in. Admittedly I spent a lot of the three years it lasted well off campus but I was there when it mattered, sometimes even staying long enough to learn a thing or two about Typography, Photography, Printmaking, Illustration and all the other stuff the course covered. More than that though, I like to feel that I’ve always been aware of the role that good design plays in just about every aspect of our lives.
Maybe it’s in the road signs that direct us to where we want to be, the posters that make us want to visit a gallery, a cinema, a gig. The signage on a pub, club or restaurant that draws us inside. And it’s probably here that design affects me most. As a copywriter you see, I’m primarily an advertising writer. I’m in the persuasion business. My role is to write all the spectacularly clever words that convince people to do what my clients, and me, want them to do. It’s not always sinister, money grabbing thought control by the way. I write quite a lot of stuff for a few charities too, ( naturally I don’t like to talk about it ), so maybe my soul will be saved after all. But, getting back to the point I was in fact trying to make, there’s an area of my life in which design and copywriting collide and when it’s done right, it’s a thing of beauty. In my opinion, ( and in a cunning, if contrived, way to link to the theme of this issue ), the future of design, and of copywriting, is when the two come together to create a piece that is as effective as it is visually appealing.
One of the agencies I feel consistently gets this right is Manchester Agency LOVE. Now, before you call me biased, I’d like to point out that I don’t work for LOVE, never have, ( Ok, one of it’s founders, Phil Skegg, is a mate from way back but don’t hold that against him ). I simply mention them because I admire the way in which they make the words complement the design, the design enhance the words. Let me give you some examples.

Now they’re lovely aren’t they? Some great words, some great visuals. But what really makes them all work is that the copywriter and the designer have obviously worked together. Ideas have been passed back and forth, jokes have been made, maybe arguments have been had and conciliations reached. But what’s clear is that the end results are both beautiful and effective. Each one makes me feel good about the product and they do that by combining the right copy with images that make you want to stop and look. And really, who’s to say that the copywriter didn’t come up with some of the visuals, the designer with some of the words?
That’s how it always used to work in the agencies where I started my career. Places like McCann Erickson and Publicis, where an Art Director and Copywriter worked as a team to take a brief and create an ad or design. In my time I’ve been unlucky enough to work with Art Directors who thought that the two disciplines were completely unattached, lucky enough to team up with one or two who realised that both parties have something to bring to the table. I’ve even heard of Ad agencies where ‘creatives’ and ‘copywriters’ are considered to be two completely different entities.
But look at it this way. Have you ever read something that didn’t bring some kind of a picture to your mind? Ever looked at a picture that didn’t inspire the words to describe it? It’s impossible to separate the two or, to my mind, it should be.
So lets not get too bogged down with who does what in the future. Lets not say that the designer draws, sculpts, paints and creates while the copywriter brings along some words. It’s entirely possible that the copywriter may have some beautiful images to share, the designer be in possession of the greatest headline of all time.
It’s not that important who does what really, is it?

So there you are then, I hope you enjoyed a Manchester copywriter‘s views. If you didn’t, at least you can console yourself with the fact that you didn’t spend six quid on it. I spoil you, don’t I?

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