Beautifully crafted and mesmerising…

…as you’d expect from Walter Campbell and Rankin. Plenty of product shots in there too!

A masterclass on creativity in 96 seconds

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m an obsessive Smiths nut. I think I’ve learned more about creativity and life from them and their music than from anyone or anywhere else. Here’s a perfect example. I love what the piece above says about pushing from good to great; and how genius almost subconsciously distills influences into something new. Johnny Marr had written(at age 20!) an absolute classic riff…but he thought “it needed something.” So, inspired by influences as esoteric as Hamilton Bohannon, Bo Didley and Can, he came up with the idea of putting the sound through a tremolo. And turned it from a brilliant guitar riff into one of the greatest pieces of music ever written…

Advertising isn’t art…or is it?

Whether advertising is or isn’t art and whether it can or can’t be art, is a debate that’s drifted on down the decades. Advertising is selling and I think the minute we lose track of that is the point where we go wrong. But selling is persuasion and there are different ways of persuading, some of which verge on art. In the film Art & Copy, Jeff Goodby memorably said that “Advertising is art in service of capitalism.” Now, that’s a bit of a broad brush and I’d argue that 99% of advertising is more like ‘a grab-bag of cliches, stolen visual styles and shouty typefaces’ in service of capitalism. But there are some – extremely rare – ads that embody what Jeff Goodby was talking about. The dictionary definition of art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination…producing works to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.” These rare ads do just that.

For example, the VW commercial above (‘Milky Way’), throbs with a sublime emotional power that I find as moving as a Rothko painting or a poem by Philip Larkin. The Nick Drake song ‘Pink Moon’ is as close to perfection as music comes and injects infinite poignant layers of meaning and intrigue into a timeless human story in the format of a 60-second ad. An epic, wordless love letter about what it feels like to be young and alive, full of fear, insecurity and hope, about the meaning of freedom, the power of connecting with other human beings and being on the verge of becoming the person you’re meant to be. Watching the ad now, with this part of my life behind me, reminds me of how precious those days are and of that quote from the Danish philosopher, Kierkegaard – “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

Now I get that the idea that all of this emotion could be dredged up by a car advert is kind of preposterous. But for anyone dubious, simply watch it with headphones on, turn up the volume and allow the story to wash over you. Yes, this film is flogging the VW Cabriolet but it’s also doing, saying… being so much more. As the blue light dances across the girl’s face at 53 seconds, the famous Keats lines come to mind – “Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.”

The ballsiest idea I’ve ever worked on

This is a campaign we’ve done to raise awareness of testicular cancer and get young guys checking themselves. Making it has been an epic journey and one of the most surreal experiences of my life. We’ve battled through approval processes, red tape, similar ideas coming out, shoot delays and all manner of challenges. But it turned out great and has been really successful so far. I’m excited to have created something that is very much not an ad but a far more interesting and unexpected way of getting the message across. Well done to the creative team David Jackson and Josh Bryer, and to everyone else involved.