“If anyone here is in advertising…kill yourself.”


“Do a commercial, you’re off the artistic roll call, every word you say is suspect, you’re a corporate whore – end of story.” Looking back at the uncompromising philosophy of the late comedy genius, Bill Hicks, it’s sad to think that if he was around today his iPod would be Flaming Lips-less. The world has moved on and the relationship between creativity and commercialism is fundamentally different today, making the idea of ‘selling out’ difficult to pin down. But having said that, their Hyundai Superbowl ad was extraordinarily cynical and soulless. It’s an utterly heart-breaking minute and a half. Maybe off the back of their decades of brilliant avant garde pop-art experimentation, Bill might have turned a blind eye. But the recent Virgin Mobile ad featuring singer/songwriter Wayne Coyne makes it abundantly clear that the Flaming Lips are available for hire.

Bill Hicks was disgusted by marketing and advertising. He famously urged anyone in advertising to “kill yourself”. But he was also fascinated by ads and his routines often featured his take on what a great ad would be. My favourite is his straight-to-camera endorsement ad for an orange juice: “You know, when I’m done ranting about elite power that rules the planet under a totalitarian government that uses the media in order to keep people stupid…my throat gets parched. That’s why I drink Orange Drink.”

And as much as Bill would’ve absolutely hated me saying this, he would’ve made an awesome advertising creative. In this bonkers parallel universe where he did ads, I reckon he would’ve loved the Virgin Mobile ad. Starting from a pretty unpromising proposition, it finds a way in by challenging your preconceptions about pay as you go phones and suggesting you need to ‘retrain your brain’. It then uses every trick in the book of advertising showmanship, from foxy ladies suggestively whispering the offer to surrealist references, a giant cat, subliminal messages and the aforementioned Wayne Coyne manically clapping the brand name. It’s brilliantly mental, unashamedly salesy and stands out a mile. The Flaming Lips may be off the ‘artistic roll call’ but at least they’ve gone out with a bang.


About antmelder
Executive Creative Director at Host/Havas Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

3 Responses to “If anyone here is in advertising…kill yourself.”

  1. Hicks “You know the ad they’d like to make, camera starts on the face of a beautiful woman, camera pulls back she is completely naked…then all it says is drink coke.

  2. except if your Willie Nelson.

  3. antmelder says:

    Chaps, the Coke ad and the Willie Nelson spoof are two of Bill’s funniest bits yet full of his trademark radical truth. The world is a sadder, emptier place without him to hold capitalism, greed and hypocrisy to account.

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