Thursday, June 26, 2008

Daily Dredd

Anyone who works with me will know that I draw at least one Judge Dredd a day, usually doodled in a meeting or conference call. So I thought it would be cool to stick my drawings on the web to create a mega-scrapbook of Mega-City's legendary lawman. Go on, take a look citizen!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

LazyTown, a Social and Philosophical Tour de Force

When one thinks of ideal communities, the mind wanders back to the immortal treatises in which great men have strived to imagine a harmonious and fair society. There’s Plato’s Republic, Thomas More’s Utopia and, of course, Magnús Scheving’s LazyTown.

LazyTown, unusually for a serious philosophical work, is aired twice a day on CBeebies and features a number of puppets. It is set in the fictional village of LazyTown, governed by the bumbling but benign Mayor Milford Meanswell. The mayor is one of only two adult citizens, the other being his unrequited love Bessie Busybody. All the other citizens are children with various stereotypical faults – Ziggy is addicted to sweets, Trixie is a trickster and Stingy is stingy (you get the point). It’s obvious that Scheving is setting up a subtle Swiftean satire through this device. Especially when the plot introduces forces of good and evil into the children’s world.

On the side of good are pink-garbed Stephanie, the Mayor’s active and well-meaning niece, and Sportacus, the town’s athletic self-appointed guardian who lives a monastic lifestyle in an airship.

The force of evil is represented by Robbie Rotten, the idle, Machiavellian schemer who lives under the LazyTown in some form of nether-house.

One can perceive the influence of the Christian mythos in the dialectic of good coming from above and evil below. Like Milton’s Satan declaring war on Heaven, Robbie repeatedly seeks to overthrow Sportacus and enforce his order upon the universe. However, he is frequently undermined by his own failings as much as Sportacus’ intervention.

Perhaps in a nod to Manichaean dualism, the equilibrium of the LazyTown universe is restored at the end of each episode and Robbie is never punished. How this particular policy affects LazyTown society is clear – Robbie repeatedly causes trouble, upsetting the town’s harmony. Does this suggest that society needs evil in order to evolve and have meaning? It’s surprising that the failure to punish crime is never raised as an election issue in Lazy Town’s democratic process. If a custodial sentence is out of the question, perhaps Robbie should at least be tagged?

The other intriguing subtext of LazyTown is that Spartacus’ life is actually entirely empty. Aside from his interactions with the inhabitants of LazyTown, he lives in solitude, trapped in iron routines that would test the sternest ascetic. Does this suggest that pure good is as undesirable as pure evil? Or that the gods only have a point to their existence when they interfere in human affairs? It is these ambiguities that keep me returning to LazyTown morning after morning, like a pilgrim seeking spiritual revelation in a candy-coloured world.

Sportacus: symbolises the facile nature of pure good

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Microtrends of the World Unite...

As a creative, I’m reliant on a good brief from a planner. Where briefs often fall down is in the audience research, which often lacks incisive analysis. If I can get my head around who I’m aiming stuff at, it helps massively. I’m not a creative who goes off on a flight of fancy. I like to communicate properly with my audience. A pen portrait that gives me a few quirks or a peek into their lives is the kind of ammunition upon which I thrive.

With this in mind, I’ve enjoyed reading ‘Microtrends’ by Mark J. Penn (the pollster who left the Hillary Clinton campaign earlier this year). Penn’s hypothesis is that sub-groups of people that from less than 1% of the population can provide a big enough customer base for specialised companies and kickstart bigger changes in society. The book is made up of pen portraits of the nuanced marketing segments he’s identified, like older moneyed single women (‘cougars’) dating younger men and ‘pro-semites’ from other faiths bagging eligible Jewish husbands and wives.

I work in the online world, so I can see how internet-based businesses can position their products to meet the needs of these niche audiences. I’d like to see a lot more of Penn’s combination of statistical trends and creative ‘pen portraits’ in my brief. I’m imagining online ads with different executions to appeal to specialised audiences and sophisticated media placement strategies, as opposed to the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach of many campaigns.

For instance, a mobile phone company can’t exist selling to 1% of the population, but it could tailor its packages to many of those 1% segments and build up its aggregate market share. Given that the ‘new economy’ is meant to be based on ultra-agility, I’m continually surprised how lumbering most marketing of larger businesses is…

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Another Lady Judge

I think they're getting better - she's a little statuesque maybe - I was channelling Helmut Newton at the time...