Friday, January 16, 2009

Tweet mother of god: Celebrities on Twitter

The new source of cheap showbiz stories in the tabloid newspapers is Twitter. Why? Because celebrities – particularly Jonathan Ross (@Wossy) and Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) have decamped there (and, in Alan Carr’s case, camped it up there). All a hack has to do is follow their Tweets and they have an endless stream of title-tattle.

I only caught on a few weeks ago after using the Mr Tweet service to extend my Twitter network and it suggested I follow a Guardian technology journalist, Charles Arthur (@charlesarthur) who follows @Wossy (sorry to non-tweeters – Twitter has its own arcane argot).

I don’t know how I feel about celebrity tweeting. Not because I mind famous people doing it – Alan Carr’s tweets, for instance, are laugh-out -loud funny. No, what makes me cringe is the sheer amount of brown-nosing and ‘pay attention to me, me, me’ messaging from less exalted tweeters. There’s something a bit undignified about this. I guess it’s feeding celebrity egos, which always need a lot of sustenance, but its demeaning for the non-celebrities – like kids trying to get the attention of a distant parent who will never love them.

The biggest culprit on my follow list is one journalist (I shan’t name names) who seems to spend most of his working day trying to engage Jonathan Ross in tweet conversation. Give it up mate, he’s not going to write a column for you and 6000 other nobodies are trying to grab his attention.

One final argument against celebrities on Twitter: here’s a picture of Eddie Izzard in a fleece. It’s a bit like seeing Madonna in surgical stockings...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Don Draper’s Guide to Making It in Advertising

Having just caught up with the wonder that is Mad Men on DVD, I have a new role model: Don Draper, Creative Director at ‘60s Madison Avenue agency Sterling Cooper. Without giving away too much about this brilliant series to the uninitiated, here’s Don’s approach to a successful career in adland…
1. Get drunk. Stay drunk.
They say that a relaxed mind is a creative mind – and what better way to stay relaxed than to be pissed on whiskey from the start of the day to when you crawl into bed with your beautiful but soulless wife (or anyone else who takes your fancy(see point 2))? Keep that drinks cabinet in the office well stocked – you never know when you might need some extra ‘inspiration’!

2. Fuck around
Shagging intelligent independent women might assuage your empty marriage and banging the client may even bring in more business!

3. Smoke like a chimney
Everyone loves to smoke; it’s an essential component of the American dream. It’s an especially useful habit if your client is Lucky Strike – live the brand, then die of lung cancer.

4. Take a nap
No ideas? Lie down on that sofa in your quiet corner office and get 40 winks. Who knows what may occur to you in your reverie?

5. Find a loyal secretary
All that drinking, philandering and sleeping needs good cover. Your secretary is both gatekeeper and organiser. Loyalty will be particularly encouraged by sexist remarks and condescension.

6. Keep 10 clean shirts in a drawer in your desk
A good creative looks like Cary Grant after a 8 hours in a trouser press. So wherever you’ve been the night before (see point 2 again), keep a fresh shirt handy.

7. Keep those skeletons in the closet
Got a shady, mysterious past that you don’t want to share? Great! Not only does it add an enigmatic air, it may offer an unexpected coup de grace when agency rivals try to blackmail you.

So there you have it – Don Draper’s approach may seem a little dated, but I reckon it could work for you! Why not give it a go?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Taking a Big Bite of Apple

Sorry about the recent lack of blog, dear reader. Simon and I have started working on the Apple account and this has taken up all my brain-space. Even though we’re both consumers of the brand, it’s an interesting challenge to get under the skin of what’s right for it creatively.

Apple’s creative philosophy, as articulated all over the walls at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, is ‘simplify,, simplify, simplify’. Now this, as I’m discovering, effectively summarises the challenge of picking up this revered brand in a number of ways.

It seems that Apple advertising is easy (sexy product shot and a clever line), there’s a lot of nuance within that and it’s bloody hard to get simplicity right.

As a copywriter, you’re often asked to cover off all possible marketing messages in a line. It’s a real skill to get straight to the heart of the proposition in a minimum number of words. I remember James Hilton, a Creative director at AKQA, telling me that writing copy for Nike was a matter of starting with a statement, halving the number of words, then halving it again. It’s similar with Apple. Typically it’s boiling down what’s brilliant about a product in 4 playful words or less. And those playful words must translate into 19 languages.

It’s a tough one for an art director too. Doing something fresh within a very tight visual framework is incredibly challenging. We know that a lot of the ideas we’re coming up with are wrong, but we’re following them through to their logical conclusion to figure out why and identify the bits that are right. It’s an iterative process and I feel that I’m sharpening my creative skills as I go.

After a few weeks on the brand, we hope that we’re feeling our way towards the essence of Apple in our work. I’m beginning to think that after a few hundred concepts we’ll enter a zen state where we’re getting it right with less of a struggle. I’ll keep you posted…