Archive for the ‘advertising’ Category

Peak Practice (Day 60)

Ogilvy offices

Canary Wharf in London’s Docklands was the locus of today’s activity. Started with a Channel 4-related meeting with some emerging film talent I met in Leipzig the other week who have a lovely project on the go which deserves some traction and support. Their pitch at Leipzig Dokfest was charmingly English and stood out really favourably in that European context as authentic and bringing beautiful craftsmanship.

Ascended ten floors to interview Rory Sutherland, boss of ad agency Ogilvy, whom I first met earlier on in the process as I got to grips with the Paul Arden/Advertising chapter. We had a thoroughly enjoyable chat at The Ivy, nice and appropriate for the subject-matter, which was a big help as I mapped out the landscape and headed off on the journey. True to form, this time he again not only gave really generously of his time but engaged in an enthusiastic and very well informed manner with illuminating observations from his own industry as well as from his passions beyond.

Spent the rest of the afternoon in Ogilvy’s offices, cracking on with the Tony Wilson stuff.

Ended the day heading due West to BBC in White City for final TX of this launch series of Health Freaks, dropping in the live insert into the pre-recorded show with Dr Pixie on voice-over and the team from Outline Productions.

Parliament Hill london

I’m writing this high above Outline‘s offices (down below in Kentish Town) perched on the top of Parliament Hill. Before me is a beautiful panorama of autumnal trees and Highgate village on the summit opposite, lit in a low yellow sunlight. Behind me is the path my dad took daily in the 50s to his school, William Ellis, as well as the café where he first talked to me about his terminal illness. Beyond the golden trees to my left is the summit where I was born (Whitestone Pond). So I’m feeling right at home. And from up here I can turn round and see Canary Wharf silver-grey on the skyline.

gospel oak mural graffiti

Other Halves (Day 48 and 49)

Mozartkugel Mozartkugeln Austrian sweets

Austria’s greatest contribution to civilisation – Mozartkugeln from Kipferl, Islington

Off to the Angel at the start of Day 48 to catch up with Nicole Yershon of Ogilvy Labs and interview her about creative networking. We caught up at The Breakfast Club (which  I was originally introduced to in D’Arblay Street by Garret Keogh of Telegraph Hill) and did the interview at Kipferl for the quiet (and to pick up a bag of Mozartkugeln). While there we bumped into Neville Brody, whose studio is round the corner. Hooked him and Nicole up so she could arrange for him to visit the 3D Printing show she was working at over in the Business Design Centre opposite, the event a direct, concrete result of her own networking and talent nurturing activities with all kinds of benefits to her organisation (from commissioned creative executions to specialist organisational expertise).

Concluded the week by interviewing Hettie Jones, poet and publisher of the Beat generation, over the phone in New York. We had a good chat and she said she enjoyed the interview as it was different from most and didn’t fixate on parties and sex. She told me a great story of an early meeting with Allen Ginsberg (whose poems appeared in her magazine Yugen) where she helped him, for his major poem Kaddish, get under the skin of the titular prayer by singing it to him – he was from a non-practicing Jewish family and she had childhood ambitions to be a cantor (not technically possible til 1987). We had a good few things in common – from a mixed marriage (she married black writer/dramatist LeRoi Jones [Amiri Baraka], an early American interracial marriage) to a mother of exemplary charitableness – so there was a real connection.

Unusually worked on Day 49 (a Saturday – I’m on a 9 to 5, Mon to Fri regime) as I was in Brighton (with Enfant Terrible No. 2, no Mrs, and three Albanian teenagers, the pals of aforementioned Enfant Terrible) so not far away from Paul Arden’s West Sussex cottage, now home to his widow Toni. As I drove West and slightly North across the county the roads gradually narrowed until I was on a track through beautiful old woodland near the height of its autumn colour. Interviewed Toni, who is originally from Copenhagen (she gave me some tips of what to see of an arty nature for my trip next week), seated beside Paul’s art/photography book collection in elegant grey cabinets and across from his photograph collection, including the Richard Avedon African woman mentioned in It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be . After the interview Toni kindly showed me some highlights from the collection including a large format monochrome contact sheet of Michael Josephs’ shoot for the cover of The Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet LP; work by Norman Parkinson, David Bailey and Robert Mapplethorpe; and an amazing black & white shot of a dying horse by Colin Barker where the beast is actually not touching the ground as it crumples after being put down with a bullet. She then gave me a tour of the beautiful 17C cottage behind the gallery/barn where we had been speaking. By the front door was a drawing by Paul’s father, a commercial artist/early advertising creative, drawn in his late 90s. Below the pink and pale green former charcoal burner’s dwelling was a pond Paul had created at the foot of a slope, so an impractical location used to fine aesthetic effect.

On my return to Brighton I was delighted to have a note in direct response to this very blog from a reader based in Dublin who had first-hand experience of one of my other protagonists and who kindly offered to give me an interview. That kind of loop of connection is what the Web – and When Sparks Fly – is all about.

In the depths of West Sussex

In the depths of West Sussex

Spirit of SEX (Day 34)

Dr Pixie in run up to Health Freaks TX

Dr Pixie in run up to Health Freaks TX

I’m writing this one from BBC Media Centre while getting ready for tonight’s broadcast of Health Freaks, a new series I have been working on, the only Channel 4 work I have carried in to my sabbatical.

Malcolm McLaren hanging out on the King's Road

Malcolm McLaren hanging out on the King’s Road

I have spent most of the afternoon writing happily away outside a cafe on the King’s Road, Chelsea within spitting distance of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s SEX shop. May the spirit of Punk rub off on me. I’m writing away at the Paul Arden chapter and in his contrariness is at least something of punk appeal. In a distinctly non- punk vein, for mid-October a remarkably mild afternoon which I thoroughly enjoyed sitting out in.

Prior to my writing burst, I was round the corner at The Chelsea Arts Club interviewing an advertising photographers’ agent, David Lambert, who worked with Paul Arden from 1974. As I walked into the club I saw a notice on the board announcing the death of Carolyn Cassady, who had been a member – reminding me of my lesson from Carolyn: strike while the iron’s hot when it comes to interviews.

While sitting outside the cafe at the Bluebird I organised a meeting with actress Gaye Brown who, apart from working with Joan Littlewood, was in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (in that magical year, 1971).

David was very generous with his time and stories, and seemed to be enjoying recalling these tales which linked one to another as he hauled them up from the 70s and 80s. He stars in my opening emblematic scene in the Advertising chapter so it was good to get the story direct from him. The version I’ve already written is very accurate it turns out, I just got one extra telling detail from the from-the-horse’s mouth version as well as the chance to compare notes on what it actually means.

The Chelsea Arts Club was a strange affair on a weekday afternoon. Some ladies who lunch, some ageing types with no pressing need to work, the ubiquitous newspaper reader. It felt full of heritage with people on the past chairmen list like Whistler, Philip Wilson Steer and John Lavery but I didn’t recognise any of the last decade’s lot and only Sir Chris Powell was known to me on the current officials photo- board. Not the friendliest place I’ve ever been – CAC? we’ll leave the jury out on that.

As I walked back down Old Church Street Adrian Dunbar rang to confirm arrangements for tomorrow’s trip back to the Littlewood archives. He wanted to bring Janet Behan with, Brendan’s niece (author of Brendan at the Chelsea), but the times wouldn’t work out so that will have to be a separate visit. These little chains of connection are fascinating and the root of the excitement of the project – as well as the very essence of Creativity.

Chelsea Arts Club (aka CAC) in more colourful times

Chelsea Arts Club (aka CAC) in more colourful times

WBWA: Writing by wandering around (Day 20)

All Greek to me

All Greek to me

Not my most productive day given a range of distractions from the execrable TalkTalk to the admirable Save the Children. The former got me to the point of wanting to gnaw my own leg off in the quest to get my broadband to an acceptable level of service with the aid of an engineer of some kind (who, predictably enough, never materialised after a three week wait). I started by writing some British perspectives on the Beats into the Ginsberg chapter. Then had to write a draft agenda for a meeting at Arte in Paris next month with Channel 4 colleagues. Then back to the job at hand by working through the best part of 400 tributes to Paul Arden from the time of his death. I’d written the first paragraph of the Arden chapter the night before in a moment of inspiration after walking home from the Phoenix Cinema. Then it was up to town to see an old friend from NRK in Norway. Have Air, will travel – the Tube as office. Then Maison Bertaux, Greek Street as Bacon-inspired terrace office. Wander around Soho for some Shelley and Mod inspiration, past the site of Blake’s home, Ginsberg’s own big inspiration. Next up to Charlotte Street, by old Channel 4 at No. 60, with a quick look at the Saatchi & Saatchi offices which one online tribute saw as “Arden’s company with their name over the door”. Some more Air time (subject: Arden of Charlotte St) on an Italian cafe terrace opposite before heading  up through St Giles’s to The Hospital for an advisory board meeting with Save the Children. A pretty creative performance then a quick chat in a mild autumnal Endell Street with fellow member from Discovery who is linking me up with a Creative Leadership MBA outfit in Berlin. Rounding things off with Joan Littlewood research on the way home tube.

So a fractured day, but maybe more productive than I thought.

Their name over his joint

Their name over his joint

Dodgy Facebook advertising

Dodgy Facebook advertising

Devaluing the already dubious Like (no connection between the question and liking the brand)

I wonder how long this will last?

I wonder how long this will last?

The ‘question’ here was “Hit like if you’re getting FIFA 14 today?”

BTW I think Spurs can beat Chelsea today – not too long to wait before the Portuguese Men of War go at it…

Back on the horse (Day 5)

Judyth Greenburgh

After a bit of a party weekend (which wiped out Friday) I got back to it this morning, albeit with battalions of brain cells dead and wounded. This morning I carried on transferring margin notes from research material into my draft Chapter 1 on Ginsberg – a good solid bit of graft so that I made progress without too much recourse to brain.

Early afternoon I headed up to Camden Town to meet an old friend, Judyth Greenburgh, to get some insight into Paul Arden, Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi in the early 80s when she first entered the world of advertising and became a protege of his at the age of 19. He was clearly a complex man so my jury remains out as to the degree to which his creative activity was open or generous. The story of Judyth’s professional relationship with Arden was both fascinating and moving, two very strong-willed creatives going head-to-head, one refreshingly naive and the other mysterious in his motivations, other than a commitment to art and excellence which was incontrovertible. I’m going to have to sound out more people who worked with him to decide whether to plough that furrow any further.

Back for more graft on Ginsberg, trying to figure out in the process how best to organise these transferred notes for easy integration into the text, balancing out detailed referencing back to the sources with speed to keep a decent momentum. The sense of learning as you go along is exciting.

Judyth Greenburgh

Tomorrow I’m on the move, heading for Derry, so it will be largely a reading day.

4 things that are bothering me about Google

Google Christmas message

Don't be evil

‘My Google Team’ sent me (and zillions of other punters like me) this message over the holidays [to which I've added my own thoughts in square brackets]:

“Merry Christmas from Google

Hello,

As we near the end of the year, we wanted to take a moment to thank you for the time, energy, commitment, and trust [and personal information] you’ve shared with us in 2009.
With sharing in mind, this year we’ve decided to do something a little different. We hope you’ll find it fits the spirit of the Christmas season.
We’re looking forward to working with [working on?] you to build lasting success [for our corporation/international quasi-monopoly] in 2010.

With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,
Your Google Team”

Call me a cynic if you like but international near-monopolies bother me for this kind of reason…

1.

According to the recently published accounts for Google UK for 2008 on £1.6 Billion of ad revenue from this country Google UK paid £141,519 in corporation tax. Our Google Team avoided £450M of UK corporation tax by channeling all its advertising earnings from UK customers through its Irish subsidiary. Now Ireland’s got problems of its own of course but all signs are that Google doesn’t give a monkey’s about them either – Google’s Dublin operation’s latest accounts show that only €7.5m of  tax was paid in the Emerald Isle in 2008, even though the lion’s share of Google’s €6.7 billion  European earnings went through Ireland.

2.

In that same year of £1.6 Billion UK revenue Google UK donated £5,662 to charity.

3.

The fact Google can’t spell “reggae” has been bothering me all Christmas. (It makes this link from the above message feel rather thrown together, and it already felt as calculated and American-centric as the corporation itself.)

4.

Google is putting back graphic design by years with its second-rate illustrations, not least over these holidays.

I’m being a bit silly of course but there is a fundamental issue here – it’s a fundamentally parasitical entity, sucking ad revenue off to the US (some 13% of Google’s global revenues now come from the UK) without putting much back into this country and not really caring about it. Which is why a message like the above rings so hollow, more balls than (jingle) bells. And on that metallic theme, why I won’t be embracing Chrome at the expense of much less evil Firefox.

Google graphics

Don't look evil

Dreaming the Dream

the dream by jaume plensa

The Dream Realised (courtesy of me)

Some great news just in at Channel 4 HQ – the Big 4 sculpture on the doorstep of the Richard Rogers designed home of C4 has been given an extension of 5 years by the planning department of Westminster City Council.

The public artwork – a 50-foot-high metal ’4′ – was originally constructed in 2007 to celebrate both the Channel’s 25th anniversary year and the launch of the Big Art Project and was granted planning permission for one year, during which 4 artists were to decorate it. The installation is based on the Channel’s on-air identity, with metal bars forming the logo only when viewed from a particular angle and distance. It is basically a framework over which to date photographer Nick Knight, Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner, Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui and recent art graduate Stephanie Imbeau have added a skin.

Nick Knight, known for his work with Kate Moss and Bjork among many others in the realm of fashion & music, covered it with bare chest skin of various hues, adding the sound of a beating heart at its core. I recently did an Amazonimpulse and bought Knight’s new book, imaginatively entitled ‘Nick Knight’ – at £32.50 one of the most expensive tomes I’ve ever shelled out on. From an Allen Jones-like Suede album cover to exquisite nude shots of Kate Moss, it’s a lively spectacle.

Mark Titchner skinned the Big 4 with panels inspired by trade union banners and advertising, the slogans questioning the on-going role of television: Find Your World in Ours, Find Our World in Yours. He came in one lunch time to talk to C4folk about his work, shades of The Waterboys’ Mike Scott about him. My second encounter with him was a great rum cocktail-fueled chat with at the Tate Summer Party this year. Guardian photographer Vicki Couchman took a top class photo of me in front of Mark’s Big 4 for a Guardian piece on the inaugural Media Guardian Innovation Awards in 2007 (which Big Art Mob won).

El Anatsui paneled the 4 with metallic newspaper colour printing plates. What I remember most about when El (as he’s known to his friends) came in to chat about his career in The Drum, the basement space beneath the Big 4, was his generous championing of young, emerging artistic talent from Africa like Nnenne Okore.

Stephanie Imbeau won a competition to provide what was to have been the final iteration. Her Shelter saw the Big 4 fleshed out with umbrellas of a myriad colours. This is the version currently in place – it’s best viewed at night when it is illuminated from within [see below]. The umbrellas all come from London Transport Lost Property Office so no pissing away of public money there then.

The Big Art Project from which the Big 4 sprang started life as a regular, if very ambitious, TV documentary series. In the original visually rich proposal for the project from Carbon Media a space was left for the cross-platform treatment. Into that space went the Big Art Mob and a bunch of interactive ideas I put together inspired by the wonderful public art works that punctuated the proposal. The Big Art Mob was born of my messing about for 18 months with Moblog‘s mobile picture blogging software after an initial encounter with Alfie Dennen in the basement of Zero-One in Soho. I was on the look-out for the right project to which to apply Moblog and Paint Britain which evolved into the Big Art Project proved the one – the first use of moblogging by a broadcaster and one of the first uses of Creative Commons licensing by a UK broadcaster (the first use was PixNMix, a VJ project I commissioned in 2004).

Besides the TV, web and mobile stuff, at the core of the Big Art Project was the creation of six actual works of public art, seed funded by Channel 4 and the partners we gathered. One of these was Dream by renowned Catalan artist Jaume Plensa, located high up on the site of the old Sutton Manor colliery overlooking St Helens, a 20-metre-high north-western rival to Gormley’s Angel on the opposite side of the country. It is the head of a nine year old Catalan girl with her eyes closed (I found that out by asking Plensa directly at the capping off ceremony, he was very cagey about who she was and reluctant to reveal much in that particular respect). Dream was Plensa’s response to a brief developed through conversations with ex-miners and other members of the local community. Initially he came up with a huge miner’s lamp but the miners themselves pushed him out of his comfort zone or at least nearer his true self

Dream most deservedly has recently picked up a couple of major prizes. Last month it won the prestigious annual Marsh Award for Public Sculpture which is given to a work of permanent public sculpture erected in the UK or Ireland. The definition of public sculpture is loose, but the location must be openly visible to the public without having to enter a building or gain prior permission. The award was presented at the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

Plensa also picked up the British Creativity in Concrete Award for 2009 for Dream at a special ceremony at Southwark Cathedral. This award is presented each year to an architect, designer or artist in recognition of a particular achievement for the creative use of precast concrete. It’s difficult to convey the photograph-like subtlety of the face, no more than a pale reflection in photos like above.

The moment I walked round the corner of a forest path and first saw Dream in April was one of the high points of this year and indeed of my career at Channel 4, and made every second spent on the Big Art Project over the 5 year lead up worth it. It was a moment shared with my former colleague Jan Younghusband (ex-Commissioning Editor of Arts at C4, now Head of Music at BBC) who proved so open to the multiplatform dimension. It was indeed a dream come true.

stephanie imbeau

Night Shelter (courtesy of Tom Powell)

More on Big Art:

The launch

The mobile dimension

Mark Titchner’s iteration

A Frog of Good Taste

Here’s a heart-warming review I came across today of my current project – Sexperience – in FroggBlog, the words of wisdom of a UK-based online marketing consultancy.

The mini site that’s accompanying Channel 4′s ‘The Sex Education Show‘ is remarkable.

Visitors to the site can browse statistics, watch a number of high quality videos based on the experiences of real people as well as answer questions that they might normally be afraid to ask courtesy of some excellent online content and tools.


Now what Channel 4 have done is not only create a website which supports the sex education television show in terms of online advertising but it strengthens their association with and commitment to education, enhances their authority as a provider of quality and accessible information (whether it’s broadcasting or reporting online) and ultimately strengthens their relationship with users, both young and old, who might view such a resource as valuable.

The Sexperience site provides an interesting case as to how businesses, both large and small, can involve themselves in other methods of communication, whether it’s through harnessing video content, integrating social tools and feedback facilities, sharing knowledge or by investing in quality content which fulfils user need at all stages of the buying circle.

There is inspiration all around… and acting upon these brainwaves can get people talking about you and your business. And that’s a good thing.

[To date (in its first 15 days) Sexperience has experienced over 280,000 visits racking up over 2.6M pageviews, with nearly 6,000 user-generated contributions (comments and questions).]

Sexperience was produced by the talented folks at Mint Digital and Cheetah Television

(article and picture reproduced courtesy of FroggBlog)

Slice of Cake

Never thought you could get excited about Pot Noodles? Nor me. But I really do believe in the future of brands creating added value content/entertainment – and here’s a (under)class example – Tipping Pot from Cake…

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