October 3, 2016Meek freelancers are bad freelancers

I recently read about a conversation that said ‘creative directors love hiring freelancers because they’re non-confrontational’.

In other words, people see us as yes men who don’t rock the boat.

If you’ve ever met me, you’ll know that I’m an argumentative little shit and once I’m convinced that something is right for your business, I won’t give up until you’ve convinced me I’m wrong.

But most freelancers aren’t that way.

My longest ever booking was for a year and a half. But my average booking is just a month, and I’m frequently booked for just one week.

If you’re somewhere …

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June 28, 2016The myopia of the middle classes

I’m in my thirties.

By any normal standards I’m still pretty young. (Although, sadly, not young and pretty).

But in some of the places I’ve freelanced, I’m practically a dinosaur.

I felt my age recently when I was hit with a brief for 15 year olds. And I realised it was hard to remember what it was like back then.

But I was 15 once. I reckon the basics haven’t changed, even if these days it’s all happening on Snapchat, not AOL Instant Messenger.

Answer me this:

Could you write for a 15 year old if you had no idea …

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January 4, 2016Imagine a world where viewers could comment on every ad

It feels like an eternity ago I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on how blogging was going to change the face of journalism. It was eleven years ago. My supervisor – a dusty kind of university chap – asked me when I submitted my synopsis – “what’s a blog?”

What happened next – everybody knows. But as I reflect on the 10,000 word essay written by the young, naive, wannabe journalist a decade ago, I realise that it’s not the blog that’s changed the way we do journalism.

It’s the comments underneath.

The ability to interact with the article. The ability …

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December 23, 2015Banner ads aren’t entertaining, and that’s why they must die

With iOS9 offering ad blocking baked in, it seems like people are finally catching on to ad blocking.

I’ve been blocking ads on my desktop for five years now, so I notice it most strongly when switching between my iPad and my Android phone.

The iPad is a joyous experience – while hideous, misleading banner ads on every web page have made Chrome in Android almost unusable (and frequently unstable).

I don’t care about your ‘moral’ argument about how banner ads pay for the content I read. Because I have never, ever, ever willingly clicked on a banner ad. I …

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July 30, 2015The slick marketing campaign of Jeremy Corbyn

I admire Jeremy Corbyn as a man of principle. His principles aren’t mine – but I admire him nonetheless.

It turns out so do a lot of other people. Because incredibly, Jeremy Corbyn, the far-left candidate who befriended Sinn Fein at a time when the IRA were still targeting civilians with terror attacks on British Soil and now wants us to leave NATO – is poised to take leadership of the Labour party.

And although it’s a long, long, long shot, his grassroots activist base could propel him into 10 Downing Street in 2020.

He only even made it onto …

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July 21, 2015Stop listening

The ‘B’ in DDB, Bill Bernbach, once said:

“We are so busy measuring public opinion that we forget we can mold it.”

As I sat and watched five days of focus groups tear into the scripts I’d spent the last six months crafting, I wondered how much this was true.

In the golden age of above the line advertising, it was easy to ‘change the conversation’, as Don Draper put it, in the stroke of an ad.

The Smash Robots made potatoes seem old fashioned all of a sudden. Benson and Hedges got people talking about tobacco with a series …

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January 4, 2015A few thoughts on why the “American Psycho” luxury flat ad sucks

A friend of mine tweeted a link to this ad for a luxury block of flats. “This looks like an outtake from American Psycho,” I said on watching it. Which was pretty much everyone else’s response, judging from this Independent article today (you can watch the ad, too).

Ad creatives around the country are probably groaning, and this is such a particularly bad example that it’s unlikely it’s made by any of the bigger London shops. In fact, it may well have been put together by an in-house marketing team.

Yet the ad industry needs to face up to …

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December 10, 2014How do you work with a client who keeps you guessing?

I think it’s happened to every copywriter at some point. The client who knows exactly what they want. But they can’t put it in words. Or rather, they probably can put it in words, they just won’t. Instead, they make you play a guessing game. Because you’re the copywriter. You should know.

It’s the exact opposite of the pixel-pushing backseat designer (or “hovering art director“) who watches over you constantly “suggesting” adjustments. What do you do when you get a client who knows exactly what they want but won’t tell you, insisting ‘you’re the copywriter, you should know’?…

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June 28, 2014And now a word from our sponsors

I will admit it. I am one of life’s moaners. Partly, it comes from being an obsessive perfectionist. I will get upset if a comma is out of place, I will be unhappy if a concept isn’t executed exactly as I planned it. When it comes to my work, I’ve always insisted on perfection.

But perfection isn’t always possible. And so I’ve developed a reputation at the places I’ve worked as someone who’s never quite happy. There’s a certain value in being an obsessive perfectionist, but I’ve started to think it’s led to people thinking I’m never satisfied, never happy …

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June 2, 2014Five rules for being a better creative

It’s far easier to destroy than to create. Anyone who’s ever kicked over a sand castle on the beach knows this to be true.

And like the proverbial bully who kicks over the castle that the other boy has spent hours perfecting, when you’re a creative, it can be just as easy to kick apart an idea just as it’s taking shape.

Partly it stems from a sense of creative frustration. It’s easy to take the page you’ve written and tear it in half, or press delete. All creatives are perfectionists. We have a vision of how it should look. …

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