I’m in the middle of sorting out my portfolio on the flickr site, so that clients can see my work whenever they like. This will take a little while as I make sure that it’s all perfect.
In the meantime, I thought I’d put a tiny selection of work here, just as an appetiser.
The first two ads here are for Auto Trader, a magazine that specialises in selling mainly used cars. Each week they have random spaces to fill, as they never know just how many inserts they’ll have until the final minute. So they asked us to have a think about how they could fill those spaces and add value to the brand. So we came up with these, which warn of the dangers of drink driving. These ran throughout the magazine, and were right next to pictures showing cars as polished and buffed as it was possible to make them. Which meant a smashed-up wreck stood out like the proverbial sore-thumb.

They worked very well for the client. They were noticed by the readers, who commented on how positive a message it was, and were recognised by the awards cermemonies at the time. Which was nice.

Next up is a business card that we did for a pal who is a dental surgeon. Again, it’s a simple idea. This one was executed by printing the business cards onto X-ray film, which made it very tactile when handed to you.

When I was working at 1576 we had the National Trust for Scotland as one of our clients. Here’s an ad aimed at driving membership sales for them.

This next piece was done for The Royal Bank of Scotland a good few years ago now. It was done at the time (circa 2000) when banks were starting to really push that you could remortgage without having to move house. So we decided that the best way to do this was to take the traditional ‘For Sale’ sign and play with it a little. You can see the result below.

And the final piece which I’m going to post today is a lovely little piece for a local health club in Edinburgh. They wanted to promote their ‘Swimming Only’ memberships.
So, once again, we simplified then exaggerated. And this is the result (it might be worth clicking the image to enlarge it, as the line that runs between the two images is kind of crucial).



So, there you go. These are some examples of what I do for a living. I’m speaking to clients to try and get permission to post lots more work, so it’ll appear here as and when it’s allowed out to be seen by the world at large.
Advertising can, and should, be powerful. If you put your mind to it.

Selfish web surfers?

May 31, 2008

This is a story on the BBC website that announces that people who surf the web (that’ll be you and me then) are now selfish about how they search. Well, duh!
What the report really says is that we don’t want a site to spend 10 minutes trying to sell us something we don’t want in the first place.
Have a read at the article here.

I’d go further, however. They’re not selfish, they’re just exercising their right not to be bored by dull sites. Even sites that think they are user-friendly are almost always not really that.
Treat visitors like human beings, like real grown-up adults and they won’t just bugger off.
The reason people don’t engage with websites is that the website’s don’t engage with them. How many of the websites are actually designed with the user in mind? Almost none. They all, ultimately, want to sell you something (even if it’s only their point of view – they’re still selling it). The website is there to drive you to help them make money. It’s the same in real life. Go into a shop where you are just another number and the experience is easily forgettable. But have the luck of entering a shop where you actually have a conversation with the person who is serving you and you’ll probably go back there when you need that thing again. So web companies take note. It’s not rocket science.

Just talk to us like you’d talk to your friends. We’re not all stupid, dummies.

This is one of these unbelievable stories that you happen across from time to time. Apparently a woman who had nowhere to live managed to sneak into a man’s flat and started living in a wardrobe space.
And she lived there for “about a year” before the man started noticing that things were going missing from his fridge. A year? Not the world’s greatest detective, then. She’d even managed to bring a mattress into her bolt-hole. Which suggests that it wasn’t that small a space she’d managed to secure for herself.
You can read the whole story here.
And if you’re ever wondering if you’ve got a secret lodger in your house, just look for the giveaway footprints in the butter.

Truly astonishing.
That’s the best way I can describe the experience of seeing Ron Mueck’s work.

At the tail end of 2006 I had the good-fortune to go to the Ron Mueck exhibition at the National Galleries on the Mound in Edinburgh. What I saw was a whole room of people walking around, resembling guppies. Almost every single person was walking around with their lower jaw distended, in a look of utter amazement.
I think it’s a combination of things. One, these models are hyper-real. Each individual hair is hand stitched into the body of the model. Two, they are all of an unreal scale. Some of them are massive, others are small. And that leads me on to three. Which is that, as the whole exhibition is messing with scale, you start to lose all real perception of what’s right and what’s wrong, and that adds another level to the surreal experience.

I’ve been to quite a number of gallery openings and exhibitions over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced something that disarms people quite so effectively ever before. If you ever get the chance to go and see an exhibition of Ron Mueck’s work you shouldn’t even think about it. Just go.

I was blown away by the experience. He’s a very interesting person, who started out making puppets for Jim Henson (yes, the one of Muppets fame). He made many models for the film Labyrinth, and even contributed the voice for one of the characters. He then moved to London, from Oz, and started making models for advertising shoots. He then progressed onto the works we see today, and has managed to make the hyper-real seem almost unreal. The scale thing is what makes his work so memorable. So if you get the chance, as I said before, don’t think about it. Just go and enjoy it.

Discover more about him and his work here.

Like these new ads for Volkswagen. They publicise the fact that their new models have rear-parking sensors to make parking easy.
They’ve taken the idea, simplified it and then exaggerated it to make their point memorable.
I think these ads are pan-European, but I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that I think they’re great.

Unless you’ve been living in a sensory deprivation chamber you’ll be aware that there’s a modicum of unrest in Tibet. The monks, who’s central tenet is compassion, have felt compelled to protest against the huge oppression they face. They have been beaten, assaulted, unlawfully arrested and detained without charge. There have even been monks killed for taking part in peaceful protests. However you look at it, it smacks of the big kid at school beating up the smaller children (no pun intended). This is commonly known as bullying and is frowned upon and fought against in civilised societies.
It came as no great surprise when I was sent this picture.

It seems abhorrent that anyone could behave is such a manner. To dress up as peaceful, spiritual people with the sole aim of discrediting them is morally so wrong that Karma must be hugely busy indeed.
So stand up and make your voice heard. Don’t let this happen without at least making people aware of it. The world should not accept the way that China is behaving. I know that there are many issues for the two countries (I’ve chosen the term deliberately) to solve, but beating up the smaller one is never a smart way to solve anything. Why don’t we, as humans, learn from our previous mistakes? Why do we think that by doing the same things over and over we’ll get a different result? That’s not a bad definition of stupidity.
Post this banner in protest on your blog. Because even a journey of a thousand miles starts with just one step.

Maisie and I went to the museum at the weekend. But this time we went to the Dean Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art.
Maisie loved the big pond (the Landform sculpture by Charles Jencks) and Paolozzi’s studio that has been amazingly recreated within the gallery.
I was impressed by the works of Miroslav Balka. Born in Poland in 1958, his works are poignant, emotive and subtle. He identifies with the notions of history and our own memories, and seems to be a master of expressing the frailty of human existence.
The piece I found myself mostly drawn to was this, Entering Paradise:

I also loved the surrealist exhibits, especially the works by Miró and Dali. Miró is slightly less famous than Dail, but arguably had more influence on the artists of the genre, rather than on populist opinion. Here’s one of his pieces here.

As a Catalan, Joan Miró was used to seeing things differently. I have seen a fair bit of Miró’s work up close. There’s a hotel (one of the best in the world, in my opinion) called the Colombe D’Or in Saint Paul de Vence, near Nice, that has original works by Miró all over the hotel. It also has original works by Matisse, Picasso and Chagall. And these are hanging on the walls, open for really close inspection.
One of Miró’s stunning, huge, beautiful sculptures sits beside the pool at the Colombe D’Or. His work is simply fabulous. It is supreme and bold, and always has enough colour, emotion and intrigue to make me smile.
Whilst I’ve touched on the Colombe D’Or I might as well try to do it justice. It has been owned by the same family for generations. If you’re looking for Wifi connections and the latest flat-screen LCD TV then this is definitely not for you. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for somewhere you can really unwind and feel fabulous whilst doing so, give them a call.
They offer extraordinary Provencal cooking, based on the region’s finest traditions. So, once again, it’s not at the cutting edge of culinary preparation. It has an amazing terrace to enjoy lunch on, and you should really try not to hurry things here. It is, quite simply, the best restaurant I’ve ever had the great pleasure to eat in.
So, if you’ve got something special to celebrate go and see the Mirós in the Colombe D’Or. Or, you could go and see them in Edinburgh. The art is just as good, but the café is not quite up to the same standards.

The advertising for Nike is one of the examples of a campaign that very, very rarely lets you down. Almost everything they do is perfect for the moment. They have great creative people working on the account, who are given time and encouragement to come up with a brilliant solution.
Sure there are ads that you don’t rate, and ads that don’t resonate with you. But with Nike they are very few and far between.
Here’s one of the first Nike ads that I remember seeing and thinking “That’s cool”.

They also have a way of buying up all the best talent in a given market place (think Ronaldinho, Tiger, Michael Jordan, Ronaldo etc).
When they ran this next ad, I was just starting to watch basketball on Channel 4 with Mark Webster hosting. Thanks to a Chicago Bulls team, including MJ and Scottie Pippen, that destroyed all they faced I was soon watching basketball regularly.

If you’ve never seen Michael Jordan on a court go and buy a DVD. I seriously considered flying from Scotland to the USA just to watch him play one game, and then fly home again. That’s how special a talent he was. It was like he had divine intervention, everything he touched turned to dunks and 3 pointers from way down town. He is a true legend of sport. Read a bit about just how special he was here.

Then there was the time when Eric Cantona signed for Manchester United and became Eric the Red. Nike used the situation to their advantage very well indeed. There’s a lovely little twist to the headline that gives the reader a warm feeling when they unravel what the headline is saying.

And then, after Eric’s slight problem when he was banned for mistaking a fan’s head for the ball, Nike still managed to turn a negative into a positive. And I think Eric benefited from the positive spin on the headline too.

And they also know how to do some fantastic ambient ideas. Like this one. It’s for a pro-running campaign that tries to get people to leave the car and jog, or even walk, instead.

But the scary thing is not the number of great ads that I’ve been able to show you here, but the number of outstanding ads that I haven’t shown as it would be the longest blog entry in history if I tried to show all their great ads.
So, finally, here’s their latest offering. It’s a TV and cinema ad, which has been shot by Guy Ritchie. And it’s a beauty. It makes you feel that you’re right there on the pitch with them. It tells the story of a player’s rise from lower league football (Airdrie United and James Grady?) to playing for Arsenal and Holland. This allows them to show ‘you’ getting dumped on your ass by Ronaldo, being kissed by a not-unattractive young lady, training hard to make the grade, and celebrating scoring a great goal.

You can watch the Director’s Cut version here.

I’d go so far as to argue that the history of Nike advertising could tell us a lot about the world we live in, and how it has changed over the years. I’ll almost certainly show you more Nike ads as the blog progresses. But for now, I’ll doff my metaphorical cap in the general direction of all those smart and lucky enough to have worked on the account. And keep my fingers crossed that I get to work on the advertising equivalent of winning the National Lottery at some point.

When I first read this I thought “What the…!?!”.
Now, I’m not meaning to be casting any aspersions towards our friends in the empire that was formerly known as the Soviet Union, but they’ve got to ask themselves some questions. Like why put Sooty in charge of safety at an arms dump? And why build it so close to a town?
Anyways, on with the story.
They seem to have had a little fire in an arms dump. As you sometimes do.
You can watch a couple of rockets (and, unfortunately, we’re not talking fireworks here) screaming uncontrollably through the air here.

I’m particularly impressed by what appears to be the fuel tanker going through frame at about 15 seconds into the footage. If there’s one thing you definitely shouldn’t be doing whilst there are high explosives zipping around it’s driving a fuel truck. That and, obviously, running with scissors.

Ladies and gentlemen. Occasionally something comes along that is so good, so fit-for-purpose that you wonder how you ever got by before you discovered it. This is one of these moments.
I’d like to introduce you to the best tool you can find for chasing down companies who have let you down. And it’s simple this: www.saynoto0870.com

Put simply, it allows you to find non-0870 (and 0844 and 0845) numbers, so that you don’t have to subsidise these enormous companies. All you have to do is to enter either the company name, or the phone number you have been asked to call and it offers you a landline alternative. So you can get your problems rectified, and you don’t have to pay a small country’s national debt to do so.
So start taking your fight to these big companies. Stand up for your rights. And do it on their freephone lines, so that they’re paying for the call. Sweet.
It’s like a huge big Karma wake-up call for all the big bad companies out there. And the more of us that get round their charging us for calls, the more we’ll be able to influence how they behave. This truly is, in the words of Wolfie Smith, Power to the People.