The UK government announced last year that they’re going to fast-track fracking applications in England and Wales.

The Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, was on UK media pontificating about how local councils are dragging their heels over applications. (Her statement also seems massively at odds with the Tories stated aim of devolving power to local people, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

I have no idea whether councils are, or aren’t, dragging their heels.

But surely the only questions that should be relevant are:

  1. Is fracking safe?
  2. Does it benefit local people?

The answer to question one is that we don’t know yet. So surely doing a bit more research into this is the best way to go?

It’s another simple demonstration of why I think that governments are, generally, morons.

Fracking. Fracking idiots. Stop fracking. The Simpsons. Mr Burns.

Excellent. Or is it?

 

This situation reminds me of when Phil Woolas (a member of the previous Labour government) said “it is now down to the opponents of genetically modified food to prove it is unsafe.”

What a chancer. That’s like saying we can see that smokers suffer higher instances of cancer, but it’s up to them to prove that smoking causes cancer.

Sadly, due to the level of duplicity practiced in the UK by politicians, I no longer believe what they say. I read the Phil Woolas quote as “we can make a bucket-load of money if we allow GM crops”.

And it’s the same with this stance by the current crop of idiots (no pun intended).

Fracking is in the middle of a huge argument between scientists, power companies, governments and rich people. Surely we should listen to what the scientists say? Otherwise it’s the same as looking at the engine of a broken down car and asking a greengrocer to fix it.

Fracking. Frack off. Fracking idiots. Fracking protest. Stop fracking.

Excellent. Or is it?

Here’s a great quote from a US politician (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type!):

But just to the west, natural gas development is dramatically changing the landscape. Drilling rigs are running around the clock in western Pennsylvania. Though buoyed by the economic windfall, residents fear that regulators can’t keep up with the pace of development. “It’s going to be hard to freeze-frame and say, ‘Let’s slow down,’?” Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., D-Pa., said last fall. “That makes it more difficult for folks like us, who say we want to create the jobs and opportunity in the new industry, but we don’t want to do it at the expense of water quality and quality of life.”

Fracking. Fracking protest. Stop fracking. Anti-fracking protest.

US protesters making a pretty good point.

On a human note, do politicians not tire of making every decision based on money? Do they not wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning thinking: “I’m a horrible, soulless person?”

They bloody should.

Back to the UK Tory politician who has most recently advertised she’s sold her soul, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd. She’s quoted as saying: “delays in decisions on fracking don’t help anybody”. She’s got to be joking, surely?

How can so many people in the UK keep on voting for these self-centred heartless maniacs? Can she really not see that a delay might benefit all of us if it’s proven that fracking is environmentally unsound.

Some of the issues that are currently being debated are:

  • the amount of water required to carry out the fracking process
  • the loss of methane during transportation
  • the ‘dirty’ power used (diesel engines and generators) to extract fracked gas
  • water contamination (from leaks, not the actual process)
  • does fracking fluid contain carcinogens (like benzene and methanol)?

I’m no expert in energy production, nor would I claim to have an extensive knowledge of fracking. But after spending a fair amount of time reading both sides of the argument it appears that there are still significant debates occurring. So would it not make sense to pause for a moment, assess the facts and then move on in a manner that is safe for this generation and future generations to come?

I’d love Amber Rudd MP to see this and to respond. It would be fantastic to hear her try to explain her stance. I’m guessing it wouldn’t just be “we love money”. Unfortunately that’s what seems to drive most politicians these days.

I’m pretty certain that this signals the launch of the open season on fracking in England and Wales. However, as I live in Scotland things are a little different up here. The Scottish government has ordered a moratorium on fracking. They’re investigating to see if the benefits outweigh the negatives. Their stated aims are to:

  • undertake a full public consultation on unconventional oil and gas extraction
  • commission a full public health impact assessment
  • conduct further work to strengthen planning guidance
  • look at further tightening of environmental regulation.

Which seems like common sense to me. It’s the fact that politicians seem evasive that makes people think they’re trying to hide something. And the fact that companies refuse to reveal what their ‘secret ingredients’ are that erodes trust between them and the general public. Communicating isn’t difficult. Tell the truth, simply. Not. That. Hard. (Unless you have another agenda.)

Fracking. Stop fracking. Fracking is dangerous. Chemicals in fracking.

The mysterious approach of being economical with the truth.

What’s astonishing about the situation in Scotland is that politicians are using their brains to do the right thing (and not just the thing that makes rich people richer).

I’m pretty apolitical, but I’m proud that we seem to have a group of politicians who are driven by the welfare of everyone in the country and not just the elite. I’m sure they’ll manage to do stupid things too, but it seems like they’ll genuinely care about what they say and deliver.

As for the Tories and their desperate attempts to allow their rich friends to become even richer, I’m pretty disappointed. Absolutely not surprised, but very disappointed. Surely the people who vote for the Tories read the news each day and think “they’ve just shafted me again?”

Rant over.

Well, almost.

Seriously people, we hold the power. Protest and make sure we know the truth before we start allowing energy companies to drill all across the country. If it’s safe, then we’re all laughing. Loads of new energy sources – it’ll be happy days. But if we continue fracking and then find out it has horrific side effects then it’s too late.

As a side-note to Amber Rudd MP, do you want to be remembered as the person who let the genie out the bottle if fracking does have negative consequences? You have the power to order a moratorium. It’s what any sensible person would do.

Let’s make sure fracking is safe before we start celebrating rich folk getting richer.

Frank Budgen was a groundbreaking copywriter, director and inspiration.
He died on Monday 2nd November 2015.
I loved his work.
He continually delivered astonishingly effective and beautiful adverts, and yet remained humble and keen to learn new things.
He understood the need to make an impact.
So he changed and evolved to ensure that his approach always felt fresh. It always had something different.
He was a hero to many.

He was responsible for one of my favourite pieces of film (not just adverts) of all time, the ‘Double Life’ spot for the Sony Playstation. For me, it absolutely nails the target audience.
They don’t see computer games as a waste of time. They’re proud of the effort they put in and the alternative digital lives they lead. It’s a tribal thing, where the advert recognises the emotion that gamers feel. It looks fantastic and it still gives me goosebumps to watch.

He began his journey in advertising when he started as a copywriter at BBDO. He then moved to M&C Saatchi before becoming creative director at Boase Massimi Pollitt (BMP). The reputation that BMP enjoyed was based on their excellent creative output – one that saw regular award and account wins.

While working at BMP Frank directed his first commercial (that he also wrote) for John Smith’s Brewery.

By 1992 he had decided he wanted to direct rather than write and he left BMP to join the Paul Weiland Film Company. He continued to develop his skills there and launched his own production company, Gorgeous Enterprises, in 1997.
It’s one of the delights of working in advertising to call Gorgeous and be greeted with “Hello Gorgeous”.

He features in The Commercials Book: How 32 of the world’s best directors make their commercials. It’s a fantastic read. He talks at length and eloquently about how he approaches directing.

“In the end you have to let a piece of work kick you in the gut. I think too many people look for rules in advertising. It’s not about that. You have to feel it, and often too much of it gets strangled by logic.”

“I see my work as a team effort where there’s no distinction between writer, art director or director. Anybody can contribute to any part of the process. Most of my best work has been a collaboration between me and the agency at script stage. And it’s great when that carries on through the shoot into post production.
A lot of trust has to be given to a director the team may hardly know and I guess having an agency background can be reassuring.”

“Some people say that advertising has changed for the worse over the years. I actually think it’s got better.”

By his own admission he rarely knew what the finished commercial would look like. He took the approach that change was constant and he remained flexible in his approach to casting, rehearsals, locations and editing. And he wasn’t pigeon-holed by a style, or a technique or an approach. As he put it: “People tell me that I’ve got no style at all, which I think is meant as a compliment.”

He was recognised in 2012 at D&AD’s 50th anniversary celebrations as Britain’s most-awarded commercials director (jointly with Tony Kaye).

When he was working as a copywriter he wrote this ad for The Guardian that still resonates today.
It’s simple, memorable and powerful. The idea fits perfectly with the proposition – that The Guardian gives you every angle on a story. It was directed by Paul Weiland, who Frank went on to work for after BMP.

Here’s a selection of beautiful adverts Frank shot after he became a full-time director. Judge for yourself if he had no style.
(I think I’d change that earlier sentence to: Frank has no one particular style associated with his work. But, damn, he had style.)

Audi ‘Number One’ (1995)

Capital Radio ‘Static’ (1996)

VW ‘UFO’ (1996)

Centraal Beheer ‘Museum’ (1996)

Guinness ‘Bet on Black’ (2000)

Levi’s ‘Twist’ (2001)

Reebok ‘Escape the Sofa’ (2001)

Nike ‘Tag’ (2001)

NSPCC ‘Cartoon’ (2002)

Nike ‘Shade Runner’ (2002)

Playstation ‘Mountain’ (2003)

Xbox ‘Jump rope’ (2006)

Sony Bravia ‘Play Doh’ (2007)

And finally Playstation ‘Double Life’ (1999)

Well, it is my favourite.
Watch it again and marvel at the sheer beauty of it, on all levels.

Frank Budgen
(1954 – 2015)
Copywriter and director

Goodbye to a man who commanded armies and conquered worlds.
He will be missed.

Volvo has launched a great initiative called LifePaint. It’s come from their belief that road safety shouldn’t just be for the few, but for everyone.

Like all great ideas this invention is brilliantly simple.

It’s a spray can that has smart water in it. You spray it onto your clothes or your bike frame. It’s invisible during the day, but becomes highly reflective when headlights hit it. It’s water-soluble and it lasts about one week from when it’s sprayed on.

Now you see it, now you don’t

It’s part of Volvo’s stated aim that: “By 2020, no person will be killed, or seriously injured, by a new Volvo.”

And you can’t argue with the results.

The spray makes cyclists far more visible. And that’s surely got to be a good thing.

Highly visible when headlights hit the spray

Highly visible when headlights hit the spray

Or so you’d think. While researching this article, I came across a group of people who think that this is a bad idea. And they’re all cyclists. They argue that this is part of the automotive industry’s plan to blame everyone except car drivers. Which I just don’t get. Volvo doesn’t appear, to me, to be blaming anyone. They seem to be genuinely trying to make a difference.

Surely anything that makes cycling safer has got to be a good thing?

Some protesters have suggested that Volvos should be sprayed with LifePaint. Others argue that the paint isn’t particularly effective.

Even the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) seem to be against the paint.

Rosie Downes, Campaign Manager at the London Cycling Campaign, says:

“Life Paint and its accompanying marketing campaigning is a slick idea, but will it reduce road danger? We don’t think so: collisions aren’t caused by cyclists not wearing reflective paint.

“The video tells us that cyclists need to make themselves visible, but neglects to mention that drivers who are not paying attention can and do hit anyone, whatever they are wearing. The money spent on this campaign – and on the product itself – could be much better spent on concrete measures to reduce road danger, by improving street design and tackling driver behaviour – not giving drivers a reason to take less care.”

I don’t see it as giving drivers another reason to take less care.

I see it as a great idea that’s part of the solution to making roads safer. I absolutely agree that driver education is the way forward. But enforcement by the police would make a big difference.

How often do you see people on their phones? How often do you see people in slow-moving traffic texting or using their phones to get online? How often do people drive without paying attention?

These are the things we need to eradicate.

Here’s a great advert from Tower Hamlets that shows how dangerous texting is while driving (it’s as dangerous as driving drunk!). They’ve simplified the problem and then exaggerated it, creating a hugely powerful image that hammers home the point.

Simple yet hugely powerful

Simple yet hugely powerful

Volvo has a history of safety firsts. They’ve been responsible for many safety features we all take for granted nowadays. The first three-point seatbelt. First rear-facing child seat. First to offer side-impact airbags. First to offer a blind-spot information system (that really benefitted cyclists). The list goes on. They are true innovators. You can see more of what they’ve created in this timeline video.

This history of innovation in safety has underpinned their advertising for a long time. I think LifePaint is another area where they’re trying to use smart thinking to make the roads safer. Here are some previous examples:

Designed to crumple and protect the occupants

Designed to crumple and protect the occupants

Volvo cotton wool

Simplify, then exaggerate

A great thought that won loads of awards

A great thought that won loads of awards

One of my writing heroes, putting his money where his mouth is

One of my writing heroes, putting his money where his mouth is

There are a huge number of things we need to improve to help make our roads safer. Driver behaviour and concentration have to be at the top of the list. But anything I can do to improve my chances of being seen while I’m cycling is a great idea by me.

And I think that LifePaint is a great idea. Let’s not forget, Volvo is under no obligation to do this. So let’s try and not be cynical. Let’s embrace a great idea that will help cyclists be more visible and safer.

Hi. We’re Americans and we can’t see the link between having lots of guns and there being lots of people killed by shooting.

It’s a puzzler!

I noticed that a group in the US has started trying to make a difference and shock people into waking up and smelling the cordite. They opened a shop in NYC and started selling guns for the first-time buyer. The twist was that as the salesman told them about the gun he also told them its history and who it had been used to kill. Which is pretty powerful. You can watch the video here.

Not your average gun shop

Not your average gun shop

They produced this clever advert, using the commonly recognised target outline.

Guns destroy families

Guns destroy families

I despair virtually every week when I read of another senseless slaughter in America. You see families ripped apart. The people who are left, trying to make sense of it and wondering why their loved one (normally ones) isn’t (or aren’t) around any more.

There’s a simple solution – get rid of guns.

It’s that fucking simple.

Fewer guns mean fewer deaths.

It’s. Not. Rocket. Science.

There have been some great adverts done in the US to try and get gun controls implemented.

God bless America indeed!

God bless America indeed!

The line reads: All in favour of gun control raise your hand. All against, raise both.

The line reads: All in favour of gun control raise your hand. All against, raise both.

And before you get started on “It’s our unalienable right” blah blah blah, I’ll address that head on.

The Second Amendment states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

There, apparently, are two ways to interpret this. The first way (let’s call it the moronic, selfish way) is to argue that an amendment (we’ll come back to that word later, stay tuned) written in 1791 is still valid today and means that lots of people who are of dubious mental state can keep an assault rifle at their whim.

The other way to interpret it (let’s call this the enlightened way) is that it was a law passed to counter the times they lived in (back in 1791). Transport was much slower and communities were far more isolated. So it made sense to have a militia to protect local areas. And arming them made sense too. Law enforcement back then wasn’t around, as such. They relied on local sheriffs who had little in the way of back up. And once criminals left the area there wasn’t a network of officers across the country to tackle them. So protection on the ground was important (and sensible).

Nowadays it makes no fucking sense whatsoever.

Twisted logic

Twisted logic

The US has the highest rate of firearms-related homicide in the industrialised world. One study shows that people who carry guns are 4.5 times as likely to be shot and 4.2 times as likely to be killed, compared to unarmed citizens.

On Friday, 2nd October, The Guardian newspaper in the UK printed figures that showed there had been 994 mass shootings in America in 1,004 days. (They defined a mass shooting as four or more people being shot in one incident.)

And it seems Americans just can’t see it.

Here’s a story of something that happened in 1987 to illustrate how fucked up the approach in the US is.

Seven-year-old Michelle Snow was killed in Riverside, California by a stray lawn dart that was thrown by her brother’s friend. The dart was part of a game, aimed at children, in the 1970s and 80s. The game involved throwing large, weighted darts with sharp metal tips at a target placed flat on the ground.

After the accident, Michelle’s father began campaigning to have the dart game banned. He argued that a full-scale ban was necessary – if you banned them in your house a neighbour’s kid could still chuck one over the fence. And he managed to get a US-wide ban (and they were banned in Canada too). It’s still illegal to even assemble a lawn dart in either of the countries. They used the fact that lawn darts had been responsible for over 6,000 emergency room visits in the previous eight years.

It made sense, and the government listened and banned the darts.

Just to recap – that’s one death caused by these darts and a total ban was enforced.

Yet the very same people can’t see that guns present a far greater and immediate danger to their children.

In 2013 a five-year-old boy in the US shot and killed his two-year-old sister. Which is horrific. He did it with a gun that was marketed to children. It was called ‘My first rifle’ and was a .22 calibre gun. Any normal person might expect a public backlash against guns and the consequences of owning them. But no. The NRA (and what a sane, rational lot of folks they are) held its annual meeting where it continued to market firearms and other associated paraphernalia to children. They had NRA bibs for children, ‘youth model’ firearms and books to make your own little psychopath a proper killing machine. And that’s not right, surely?

Let’s call it what it is – it’s fucked up. Totally, utterly, completely, mind-blowingly fucked up. And a huge part of the problem in America is the power of the NRA. And I don’t understand it. They’re outdated, out of touch and desperate to hold on to the big metal dicks in their hands.

The leader of the NRA is often heard stating the same mantra:

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

The NRA has 4.5 million members. And they can rely on the backing of arms manufacturers across the US – and we know they’re making plenty of cash. Production of guns in the US saw more than 10.8 million guns manufactured in 2013 (that’s double the total of 2010).

What’s really, really scary is that after a big shooting, the NRA’s membership seems to go up. The Huffington Post reported that, in 2013, “The National Rifle Association’s paying member ranks have grown by 100,000 in the wake of the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn.” This shooting killed 26 people (including 20 young children). And the response? More guns. Yee ha!

And, as the Second Amendment is an amendment, surely that means that there’s scope for a further amendment to change the way the law works? Well, yes and no. They’ve tried to pass laws to make it harder to obtain a gun. And lost. They’ve tried to ban assault rifles and lost. (They managed to get a partial ban for 10 years from 1994, but then the law expired and they’ve not managed to get a new one passed.) And it will keep on happening until someone with a big enough pair of balls stands up to the gun manufacturers and the NRA and faces them down.

Too many US politicians see that the gun industry has financial power and if there’s one thing politicians like, it’s power. So they tend to do what the money tells them to do. Much like politicians around the world – they seem to have forgotten they are elected to represent the people.

Not the companies.

Not the lobbying groups.

The people.

The very same people whose life expectancy is vastly lowered by having so many guns in the country. Perhaps one day a US politician will actually give a fuck and actually make a difference. At the moment they seem to have decided that the NRA is too powerful to challenge, so they’ve stopped even trying.

If someone told you that your child had a better chance of survival if you banned guns, would you ban guns?

Come on people. It shouldn’t be that difficult.

The heart-throb singer from 1D (that’s One Direction for those of us outside their target demographic) has done an awesome thing on the stage at his gig.

While they were on tour in Philadelphia Harry noticed a fan holding a sign that read:

“Hi Harry! Your so nice”

It was held by a 16-year-old at the concert, Taelor Ford.

Harry asked for security to bring the sign to him.

And then he took a marker pen and corrected the spelling.

Excellent work sir.

Harry Styles the teacher

Harry Styles the teacher

If people who youngsters look up to can show that language is important, it’s fantastic. I realise that I’m at risk of sounding like a stickler for spelling and grammar, but come on – it’s not that hard.

Especially your versus you’re.

One indicates possession.

The other’s a contraction of you are.

Here’s another example of how punctuation can derail what you’re trying to communicate.

The power of punctuation

The power of punctuation

It’s a very powerful example of how meaning can change depending on your punctuation. And why you should make sure that every mark you place on the page is doing a job for you.

But it can also cost you a fortune. There’s a legal case from Canada where two companies were arguing over a contract and the outcome came down to the position of one comma. The outcome meant a $1 million (Canadian) windfall for the winners of the case. All because of one comma.

Punctuation is derided and made fun of – marginalised by many and ignored by a few. But it’s a vitally important part of how we make sure we’re understood. And few things look worse than incorrect punctuation on your company’s website (belonging to your company, not many companies – something a few people online fail to notice on a regular basis).

Get it right. Otherwise you’re sure to lose business (and face). Then we might have to send Harry and the boys round.

There are a few simple things you should always do before you think a job is completed.

Read everything out loud. That’s right – out loud. (It forces you to read properly, rather than the skim-reading we do when we generally read.) If you can, get someone else to proofread what you’ve written too. But more than that, try your piece in the place it will be appearing.

I know that it’s easy to think that you’ve thought of everything and covered all the bases.

But until you create your advert / leaflet / app you’ll never know how it actually works.

Here’s a great example of a Conservative election candidate not paying attention to his electoral literature until it’s far too late.

Picture 1: smiling and happy

Picture 1: smiling and happy

Picture 2: Perhaps accurate, but not ideal

Picture 2: Perhaps accurate, but not ideal

Perhaps he was running in Scotland and he thought that self-deprecation might win them a few more votes? Although I suspect it’s just that no one paid enough attention to the leaflets. After all, they’re only leaflets.

However, these leaflets would have been placed through the door of every property in his voting area. And once you add Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the others, a small mistake can take on epic proportions.

‘Measure twice, cut once’ is a good friend’s way of making sure this sort of nonsense doesn’t happen to him.

So always make a mock-up of your communication.

Sure it might take a while, but better to spend time on a mock-up rather than ending up with a complete cock-up.

P.S. I checked and Matthew Hancock won the West Sussex seat for the Tories in 2015. He enjoys a 15,000 majority and the next closest party is UKIP. Perhaps they’re just used to having cocks for MPs down there?

I just don’t get why people would post things that simply serve to illustrate their own stupidity.

But it’s amazing how many things that are on Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn etc are not just wrong, but truly idiotic. The internet is like a giant collective memory. So anything you publish online is likely to follow you around forever. Your views are available to anyone who can tap a keyboard. Which is why it’s even more astonishing what you find on social sites.

Last summer, when the Commonwealth Games were on in Glasgow, ScotRail did some lovely advertising to strengthen their sponsorship link with the Games. Here are a couple of the images.

Cambus-langjump

Cambus-langjump

Pole-vault

Pole-vault

They’re lovely. They didn’t cost a lot, as they only changed one sign at the station (so they didn’t confuse visitors to Scotland). I only managed to take a couple of pictures of the stations myself, so I went looking online for the rest of the pics. And on Facebook there were people quite happy to revel in their own stupidity. Comments like “councils wasting money” – thus demonstrating they have no idea how our transport network operates (and is funded).

There’s even one saying “That’s the wrong spelling! Why?”

Now I’m used to people bitching and being nasty / stupid while remaining anonymous online. But to do it logged in as yourself? Let’s hope when they go for a job interview their prospective employer doesn’t look too hard at their online footprint. It’s the online equivalent of running down the street where you live with a dunce’s cap on.

And I saw another example on Frankie Boyle’s Election Autopsy programme. Here are the screen grabs that tell it better than I ever could.

Poland Day 1

Poland Day 1

Poland Day 2

Poland Day 2

Poland Day 3

Poland Day 3

Poland Day 4

Poland Day 4

How dumb are some people? I guess you could put this one down to a simple mishearing. But why wouldn’t you Google something just to make sure before you unleash your stupidity on the world?

I’ve also seen some spectacular examples on LinkedIn. Which, if anything, is even worse. It’s a social site for business. So what you’re doing there is advertising your stupidity not to your pals, but to potential employers. There was a lady a couple of weeks back who was, in all seriousness, stating that a bus advert that was sexist, crass and as far from being creative as it’s possible to get, was a great advert. Her rationale was that no publicity is bad publicity.

I’d argue that, in her case, annoying the very people who are meant to be your audience is not a smart move. Sure you’ll get on the news for a day, but people will still think your company sucks. And it will be online forever.

So before you commit anything to the eternal online world, check you’re not going to look like a giant idiot before you hit ‘post’. Or don’t, if that’s how you choose to live.

I suppose it gives the rest of us something to laugh at.