Fuck the tobacco industry

This film is so important on so many levels. Please watch it and share with a friend or family member on their 14th birthday. And please take a minute to check out Us V Them. I’m so inspired by this group – I’ll write a more detailed post about why over the next few days. For now I’ll just quote their mission statement: “We all know the tobacco companies are going to fall. It’s inevitable. Let’s get it started. Now.”

I hate ‘Storytellers’ but I love stories

One of the latest buzzwords in advertising is ‘storytelling’. As in “I’m not a copywriter, I’m a storyteller. My role is to tell compelling stories about brands that engage the target demographic in meaningful conversations across media agnostic channels.” Or somesuch buzzword-driven bollocks. I’ve even seen job titles such as ‘Chief Storyteller’, ‘Brand Storytelling Lead’ and ‘Head of Storytelling Engagement, Millennial Advertainment Curation and Snackable Content Ideation’ (OK, I made that last one up but it can’t be far off). There’s even a ‘post-advertising agency’ called Story!

Advertising’s constant race to the next lingo bingo catchphrase is tedious and self-defeating. No matter what technology, innovation and new channels we’re using in our work, for it to resonate and be remembered it needs to be built on what many years ago Bill Bernbach called “simple, timeless human truths”. If it’s not, we can create ‘content marketing driven by Big Data and real-time analytics’ until the cows come home and it won’t mean jack.

However, while I’m terminally buzzword-averse, I do believe that stories have an inherent power which, when corralled in the right way, with “simple, timeless human truths” at their core, make our our ideas utterly compelling. As Robert McKee says in the legendary screenwriting bible Story, “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.”

Great advertising has been telling insightful stories since the 60s, from VW ‘Snowplough’ to Guinness ‘Surfer’ to Simon The Ogre (above, from a few years ago) to ‘Sound of Honda – Ayrton Senna 1989’ last year. Long may that continue. I just don’t think we need more marketing catchphrases and new job titles to keep telling those stories.


A few people contacted me to ask what my favourite campaign from last year was. Funnily enough, while I’m a massive fan of technology and the ever-expanding set of digital toys in the creative toybox, I reckon the best thing in 2014 by a country mile was a good old-fashioned radio campaign by Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg. The combination of a simple, insightful idea that’s born out of the product, with utterly faultless craft and execution (writing, casting, performances, sound engineering) makes this my winner. And although ‘Conference Call’ is my favourite it’s refreshing to see (well, hear) a campaign with three very strong executions. Can you imagine being in your car and hearing these on the radio for the first time? Compelling, hilarious…and strangely moving. I really wish I’d done them.

More brilliant work: The Chokeables

Another example of brilliant simplicity, wonderfully executed. Creativity that makes the world a better place. Well done, BBH, wish I’d done this.

Simple, beautiful, charming

A brilliantly simple idea, beautifully executed. Best ad of 2015 so far, by a country mile.

Moral Apocalypse Now

As regular readers will know, I have a fascination with ads featuring utter fuckwits. One of my favourite ads ever, is 60 seconds of a complete tool being his stupendously idiotic self as he test drives an Audi. Another favourite is this glorious celebration of male corporate twatishness. And another advertising dickhead that caught my eye recently but, unlike those last two, wasn’t built on a foundation of intelligent irony, was this masterclass in crass and boorish fuckwittery.

But now I feel we’ve met the advertising arsehole to beat all advertising arseholes. The top dog of TVC twats. The daddy of dickheads. Prancing across a backdrop of incongruously moody cinematography, this asinine City boy intones cliché after vacuous cliché in an inevitably failed attempt to depict working long hours in a bank as some heroic Nietzschean endeavour. The result is an ad that looks like a trailer for the worst straight-to-Channel 5-Britflick ever and comes across as a manifesto for greedy, pretentious half-wits. This moustachioed cretin in a Top Man suit fancies himself a stylish, self-made master of the universe. However, he reminds me of a wannabe Patrick Bateman crossed with that wanker Miles from This Life and a less likeable (is this actually possible?) version of Bexy from The Firm. Gliding glibly through a pathetic montage of emptiness, doing the hard yards of – OMG, what a legend! – getting up early for work, copping off with attractive ladies, looking mysteriously stressed and distant at parties, keeping an eye on his Nokia 3310 and shaking hands – stock library-style – on those big deals, the irony that he has no time for friends, relationships or even to spend in the stupid apartment that the whole thing is an ad for is clearly lost on him.

As matey drops his shallow reflections like a trainee motivational guru reeling off a series of spoof haikus, as he pushes through “the days that melted into months and years”, as he reminds us that he’s driven by “the need to be different”, “to make the impossible…possible”, he thinks he’s selling us a Londoned-up version of the American dream. But it’s just a boring Capitalist fantasy that would make me laugh if it wasn’t so depressing. Sod this hateful lifestyle wank, what’s desperately needed in London is affordable housing for decent working people. Instead, what we get here is some cut-price Howard Roark, some Martin Amis cast-off telling us that the peak of human existence is “To look out at the city that could have swallowed you whole and say ‘I did this'”. It’s supposed to be deep and inspirational but it’s lame and unintentionally hilarious. It feels like the harbinger of a hideous moral apocalypse and I need a shower every time I watch it. Enjoy!

(Thank you FiFi for drawing my attention to this piece of rubbish-fantastic advertising for the ages.)