The end of the design and advertising industry in the UK – or the beginning?

I’ve just finished a very short book by Peter Mayle (of Year in Provence fame) called ‘Up the Agency’ and it has really made me think about how much the industry has changed in those intervening years. Mayle was a copywriter in some of the London agencies in the transformational years through the 1980’s as the power was shifting over here from new York in the 1970’s

Up the Agency - by Peter Mayle - Fun and excess in advertising in the 1980's
Up the Agency - by Peter Mayle - Fun and excess in advertising in the 1980's

In this book he tells stories of fun, excess and wealth on an amazing scale, which if I’m honest, was one of the things that attracted me into the industry in the first place. But looking back at it now, it’s barely an industry I even recognise.

Pack designs were done by the ‘Art Department’ – this is now an amazingly specialised discipline in it’s own right.

Research was just starting to creep into play and even then he was worried that it was beginning to stifle creativity. He cites US advertising as being totally derivative and so safe that it had to be research to blame.

But the most telling thing he said is about how ‘big business’ is starting to creep into the industry. It’s taking itself too seriously and this will be its downfall.

Well it has and it is. If you want clear evidence of this, you only have to look at the disgraceful behaviour of Thomas Cook in the placement of their £30m media buying account.

First they make loads of agencies go through an RFI process (Request for Information). An abortive one of these took me three days a few weeks ago. And then they get four agencies to pitch on the basis that they will have to save 10% on buying through media consolidation.

And then, if they do win it, they will have to pay Thomas Cook – No not the other way around – a signing on fee of £1m to take up the account.

Design and advertising work at their best if they create a huge appeal to their target audiences and offer them a relevant product they will enjoy. Research is creating safe ads that appeal to big boring audiences. ITV are creating more and more stupid TV to drive stupid mass audiences to their channel. If media buyers need to reach big markets cheaply and they have little time to think, or create, what choice do they have but create big safe rubbish ads that limp along like the American or worse still, global shite we see over here sometimes?

Sometimes advertising can be fun and sometimes it’s more serious, but if every agency is forced into a striped suit business mentality as Mayle predicts, the power in advertising will shift again, the creativity will disappear and who knows where it will end up next?

The only hope is the fightback from the smaller boutique agencies who try and concentrate on great ideas that work and allow their clients to really carve their own niche.

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Innocent Smoothies – bees for all

This is why I love Innocent drinks. I thought they were gtting a little safe and predictable with the way they were managing their brand and then out of nowhere they produce a belter like this.

It’s a special guest smoothie and contains Lemons, Honey and Ginger. You can see more about it here. It also helps that it is lovely (even though I wasn’t sure and only actually bought it for the bees and seeds!

But what makes it stand out is the little yellow pack attached to the top of the bottle. It’s seeds to allow you to grow flowers that bees like. The copy on the reverse is just brilliant too. Dead simple, friendly and enticing. Sorry, i’m looking like a bee stalker here.

Bees like flowers, so why not grow your own? I like it so much, I stuck it on my favourite Bic pen.
Bees like flowers, so why not grow your own? I like it so much, I stuck it on my favourite Bic pen.

And this is where Innocent start to do things really well. They’ve set up a little micro site to get us interested in bees again.

Click through here and enjoy, all you bee spotting dudes. I’m off to plant mine right away.

Anywhere, better, best – in an age of austerity, it just makes sense

New Orleans floods from the air - the perfect place to show the concept of anywhere, better, best in action
New Orleans floods from the air – the perfect place to show the concept of anywhere, better, best in action

I’ve just written a bit of our latest thinking on the Purple Circle blog. You can read that here in full.

It came from Kelly Herrick, but in summary, our thinking goes like this.

If you were in New Orleans when the floods hit, you needed to get anywhere to save yourself. Up a tree was okay for a short time. It was about survival.
When the water subsided and you could get to safety, a better situation was in a football stadium with hot water and a bed for the night.
When you eventually were rehoused in a new and safe area, you reached the best position.

In some ways, many companies and brands are in the same position. Parts of what they are doing are in the anywhere section and parts are in the better, or maybe even the best, so why change all of it at once?

But have a read and comment away if you disagree.

ITV’s new TV series Identity

Anyone see that programme on ITV last night called ‘Identity’ about a crack unit working to solve identity theft related crime? I did.

Anyone going to be watching it again next week?

No me either.

Here’s the promo clip.

What a load of old derivative nonsense. It just proves to me that ITV haven’t got an original thought in their head as they have copied BBC’s Spooks so completely that they even took Keeley Hawes to star in it. But she’s a bit more stupid in this, oh and more obviously sexually suggestive with the interesting male lead (Aiden Gillen).

Scenes with all four people with their back to each other so they could face the camera as a unit. Casual conversations over the office partitions, a really bright and nosey computer geek, troubled Irish hero with a past – is he a loose cannon that could go off anytime? All stupid, stupid, stupid.

ITV has struggled for advertising revenue over recent years so they have tried more and more lowbrow programming to drive mass markets to their screens. But who with a brain will come back and watch this. I’m sure it may appeal to some, but not to me.

I don’t think I am that unusual in wanting to be entertained, interested and not massively patronised by the stupidity of the programme I am enduring.

This is ITV’s brand values gone all wrong. As I read in an old Peter Mayle book earlier, it’s the bland leading the bland!  If they turn out rubbish like this week in week out, they’ll lose the rest of their audience.

Oh, and Keeley. Can you name ONE person who’s career has blossomed by moving to ITV? Again, no me either.

Clamcase for iPad – what’s the point?

Don’t get me wrong, I like it. It looks cool. Just like a laptop. But if you were going to shell out for one of these clamcase protectors, wouldn’t you just be better getting a laptop in the first place that has the extra features like multitasking and an inbuilt camera, more memory etc etc?