“A don before Don Draper was even born”

May 17, 2016 / Features

By Jon Daniel

The story of art director Ray Barrett, who spent many years fighting for ethnic diversity and against a debilitating disease.

Ray Barrett in 1983. Photograph by Keith McMillan. Image from Campaign Photographic Archive at The History of Advertising Trust

 

Ray Barrett was one of the first advertising art directors of African Caribbean heritage, that I know of, to make a significant impact in UK advertising. His network of friends, creative partners, and colleagues, along with his incredible body of work, is a testimony to his illustrious career.

When I was studying at college as an aspiring designer and art director myself, he was one of the only people of colour who would regularly grace the pages of industry bibles such as Campaign or Direction magazine. And as many in the business will testify, he cut a very dapper and charismatic figure.

Ray was a don before Don Draper was even born. While the latter is a figure of fantasy, Ray was the real deal, who could walk the walk and talk the talk when it came to delivering creativity. Ever immaculately groomed and meticulously composed, his dress sense was a perfect reflection of his dedicated approach to the craft of art direction.

It was a style and attitude that was all his own, and it was to serve him well in the heady world of advertising, as he smoothly navigated through cultural and corporate politics like a knife through butter.

As his wife Ashante says: “Ray was that guy that everyone looked at when he entered a room. He commanded your attention. And more than that, he was social, exuberant, a real raconteur. He was ‘the guy’ you wanted on your table when you were in his company.”

And as his career and finances blossomed in the 80s with a series of effective and award-winning work, so did his appetite for success, which in turn was matched only by his taste for the finer things in life – such as his passion for fine wine, Art Deco and vintage cars.

In many ways, Ray could present himself as more “English” than the “English”. Gentlemanly, witty, charming, he would often disarm clients who were unsure of what shocked them more; the fact that when he turned up he was black; his straight-up, no-bullshit attitude; or that he was driving a vintage Porsche (or his beloved Facel Vega) and sporting a well-tailored suit to boot. It’s an image he worked hard to cultivate and which belied his humble Jamaican roots.

One of Ray Barrett's most iconic commercials, from 1985.

 

Born on 23 December 1957, to Jamaican parents who came to these shores in the 50s as part of the Windrush generation, he was raised in Handsworth, Birmingham. For those of you familiar with the cultural history of that area, it gives you an idea of just how far Ray travelled spiritually, emotionally and physically beyond the expectations of a black kid growing up in the area at that time.

The only boy in a family of four children, Ray and his three sisters grew up within a strong and proud Jamaican community, heavily influenced socially in the heavy dub musical strains of the reggae sound systems; linguistically in the patois dialect of their friends and family; and politically by the growing popularity of the Rastafarian movement.

Milton Buckeridge, who has been a friend of Ray’s since childhood says: “Ray was no sheep, he was a shepherd. He always stood out, right from the start at school. Even though we were all wearing the same school uniform, he just looked better, sharper and he was known for that.”

It was a sense of individuality that was forged by the tight childhood company he kept at Handsworth Wood secondary modern school with guys like Milton, Alphonso Grant and Colin Dennis, who were all part of a rather inspirational after-school art club run by teacher Mr Small.

By all accounts, it was an exceptional year as the class also boasted attendance from leading members of the legendary roots reggae band, Steel Pulse (who would later go on to become the first non-Jamaican act to win a Grammy for a reggae record).

And then Ray discovered art college. It was a revelation to him, and the beginning of a journey that was to open his eyes beyond the streets of Handsworth and lead him to the bright lights of London and beyond.

Whether working as an art director and creative director for several leading agencies, including FCB, DDB Court Burkitt, O&M and WCRS, or as a business partner in the agencies he co-founded, such as Barrett Cernis, here in the UK in the 1990s or more recently with The Conversation Farm in Canada, he always applied himself to the task at hand with a steely determination and an unwavering professionalism that was his trademark.

Ray was never one to call himself a role model, but he did take his position in the ad industry seriously and used his status to help open up the debate and progress its thinking around ethnic diversity and inclusion. With Jonathan Mildenhall (then managing director of TBWA) he co-chaired a two-year project by the IPA Ethnic Diversity Group, the result of which culminated in the publication of an online guide to ethnic diversity.

As he said at the time: “We estimate the combined disposable wealth of this group, which has a younger age profile and is more technology-savvy than the population as a whole, to be about £32 billion. But too many agencies only think about the ethnic minority market if they are given an ‘ethnic’ brief.”

Photography by Ray Barrett.

 

In latter years, around 2006 onwards, Ray’s career also led him into new territories, both geographically and creatively. For a while he decided to specialise in photography, producing work that was good enough for him to be represented by leading photographic agents Jo Talbot & Sue Young. A passion that would later lead to a long overdue trip in 2010 back to his ancestral heartland, Jamaica with his wife, Ashante, where he literally could not put the camera down the entire trip, as he reconnected deeply with culture of his youth.

Ray found excitement in the emerging markets of Latin America and India, working for a spell with an agency in Sri Lanka. But finally in 2008, primarily due to the relocation of his ex-wife and their two children, Luke and Halle, he finally settled in Toronto, Canada.

It was here that Ray, along with his business partner in The Conversation Farm, Michael Scher, was to make a lasting and indelible mark, via the power of social marketing and their progressive platform of “creating conversational capital”, on the cultural landscape.

The pair received a call from former football player Steve Gleason, who had been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). They were galvanised into action to create the #TeamGleason ALS awareness campaign. With only their creative smarts, a small budget and the fame of Steve’s name to play with, they set in motion a truly game-changing media movement that would capture the heart of millions of Americans and eventually people all over the world.

From a simple filmed commercial seeded with specifically targeted sports journalists, the campaign went viral, and led to the spot being played on the Jumbotron at the Superbowl.

Steve Gleason was mobbed by people wherever he went; millions of dollars were raised in the space of hours and in the wake of the campaign, a symposium of doctors, patients and researchers were brought together around the condition of ALS and charged with the direct goal of creating a business plan for the cure. It was from this symposium that the now infamous Ice Bucket challenge came into being.

The truly amazing side to this story is that only after all the hard work and campaigning was done did Ray finally come clean about the fact that he was also suffering from ALS, having been diagnosed seven months prior to the campaign starting.

That’s Ray. Like his name suggests, right to the very end his talent, professionalism, creative dedication and passion to be, and to do his best, shone through.

This story was originally published on Design Week as a tribute, soon after Ray’s death in August 2015.

Jon Daniel is a London-based independent creative director, designer and curator. For more information visit his website or his blog.

How To Get CG Animals Right

May 16, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Tips and insights from the creators of the world’s best fake creatures.

You might have noticed that advertising likes animals. They’re cute, fun and universally liked by people of all creeds, cultures and classes. Animal ideas are easy to sell to clients and they seem to do the job.

But while they’re great on paper, working with animals is problematic. Some of them are dangerous, with big pointy teeth and a taste for human flesh. Most of them are quite uncooperative. Every producer has a repertoire of nightmare stories about the lengths they had to go to getting animals to behave in just the right ways.

And often creatives want them to act in ways that are literally impossible. Talking, laughing, moonwalking. Talk about unrealistic expectations.

On top of that, we live in enlightened times. We’re more aware than ever that film sets aren’t always the kindest places for some animals. “It’s become very unfashionable to have real animals in your ad,” says director Ben Liam Jones, who recently directed a commercial for Center Parcs featuring a family of CG bears. “Brands are shit scared about being associated with animal cruelty.” And they’re right to be. In this age of transparency corporations need to be more ethically conscious than ever.

Thankfully, there’s a solution to all of these problems in the magic of computer-generated imagery. And it’s more of an option than ever. Much can be learnt from the key points in the history of CG critters, so we tried to identify those defining examples on the timeline.

A Brief History

Faking creatures on film goes back to the days of model making and stop-frame animation, the most iconic examples being The Wizard of Oz, whose flying monkeys scare today’s iPad-native kids almost 80 years on and Jason and the Argonauts – probably the most iconic example of stop-motion monster wrangling. “There’s a rich texture to Jason and the Argonauts that you’d never get if you did it in CG now,” says Darren O’Kelly, Managing Director at The Mill. “That is part of what makes that a great film.”

It seems Jurassic Park is an emotional touchstone for everyone involved in CGI. As the first time CG creatures had been used extensively, it was astounding how believable those dinosaurs were in 1993, despite its huge feature film budget. It was a jump into the unknown – a truly groundbreaking moment. In fact, they almost did it all in stop-frame animation, but changed their minds. “There are early tests of almost identical scenes but using stop-frame animation,” enthuses Neil Davies, Executive Creative Director at The Mill. “But they took the risk. Someone said ‘let’s just see what we can do in CG’ and they did amazingly.”

Building on Jurassic Park’s experimentation, which amounted to just a few minutes of CG over the whole film, Framestore took on the task around five years later of creating three hours of wall-to-wall CG beasts for 1999’s Walking With Dinosaurs. “That was a breakthrough in terms of the practicality of doing something on that scale that before had been the reserve of feature films,” says William Bartlett, ECD at Framestore. “And I think that’s true of a lot of things. Feature films have the bigger budgets and can go to much further extremes.”

Around this time the big breakthroughs in fur hit the CG world. Pixar’s Monsters Inc. was something of a gamechanger in 2001. But most CG was still firmly stuck in the fantastical – we weren’t seeing bears or cats just yet, just cuddly characters in kids’ films.

It would be a few years still before advertising would meet CG creatures. Early work that stands out is Danny Kleinman’s oddball 2005 spot for Guinness, noitulovE, which integrated some Framestore-made CG animals with older model-making and stop-motion techniques to win the Film Grand Prix in Cannes. That was followed closely by Noam Murro’s ad for Sure, Go Wild, which integrated CG into live action in a way that was very ahead of its time.

Progress towards photo-real animals continued to be made, with the shock factor of polar bears falling from the sky in Plane Stupid’s 2009 climate activism film setting a new bar for convincing realism, while Passion Pictures unleashed the unforgettable meerkats on the world and in 2010 Tron: Legacy took impressive steps across the Uncanny Valley of CG humans. The Life of Pi gave us an animal that, for many people, passed as real, at least until you considered how uninsurable shooting a tiger on a small boat would have been.

But between 2013 and 2014 something clicked and everything fell into place to flood the advertising world with CG animals. First Direct’s Platypus and Little Frill commercials struck the delicate balance of creating talking animals that didn’t look cartoony. Helmed by Dom & Nic backed by MPC wizardry, they reached the level of physical realism that made a straight-talking photo-real platypus a viable brand mascot.

2014 also brought another piece of breakthrough creature work from Framestore and Danny Kleinman, the remarkable resurrection of Audrey Hepburn for Galaxy – a new high-water mark for believable fake humans, unnerving as it was for some.

The Mill were busy at this time too, working to deliver the realism ad agencies had been waiting for, using their incredible chimpanzee for PETA as a proof of concept and building on that to create Maya – the SSE orang-utan that set a new bar for believable CG creatures.

“The orang-utan really took things on to a new level,” remember Dom & Nic. Having recently worked on CG animals of their own, they appreciated the challenges the ape must have presented for director Frederic Planchon. “We may often think something is really well done but also know it’s CG. This was the first occasion we remember where people in the industry debated whether they had used a real orang-utan for some of the close ups.”

Finally, rounding off an incredible year for CG animals, Dougal Wilson and MPC served up the most emotionally potent example of all – Monty the Penguin. We’d finally reached the point where a sympathetic, even loveable, CG animal was possible.

The standards were set. Animation experts with a critical eye could pick holes, but by 2014 agencies knew that with the right idea, budget and talent, they could convince audiences to believe a CG animal was real. Amusingly, some people were hoodwinked by the Three pony.
“For a while we were not allowed to say anything about the ponies,” remembers Tim van Hussen, a 3D Animator at MPC. “They had a pony trainer talking about teaching them to moonwalk.”

By the time we reached SSE’s orang-utan, practically everyone not in filmmaking assumed she was real. “I’m convinced my mother would assume it’s real,” says William. “It wouldn’t cross her mind to think about it.”

What it Takes

That’s awesome, but advertisers shouldn’t get preoccupied with whether or not they can use CG animals; they should first stop to think if they should. Even the CG nerds stress that it should only be used as a last resort.

“As much as we would like to talk people into giving us work, we’re also mindful of what’s practical and cost effective,” says William. “We can’t get a lot of work in the long run if we constantly advise our clients to do things which don’t make sense. Most people give their honest opinion and that quite often is ‘don’t do that in post. Shoot it.’”

As Dom & Nic put it, real animals are still best “in all instances where it’s possible for a real animal to give the performance you require as a director without causing any harm or distress to that animal.” They might be difficult to work with, but living creatures provide delightful surprises on set that might be just the random touch script need to achieve brilliance. Great directing feeds off that kind of serendipity.

“You reach that point where why would we not just eventually shoot everything in CG,” suggests Diarmid Harrison-Murray, Creative Director of 3D at MPC. “But when you’ve built it all yourself, nothing is going to bring emotion that surprises you. If you film stuff there are emergent phenomena that you didn’t know were going to come out.”

Processing power, software and techniques obviously form the basis from which these jumps forward were made, but in the two decades between Jurassic Park and the orang-utan a gradual process of learning took place, where the world’s post-production leaders built up the knowledge and skills needed to unleash the power of today’s technology.

“I love when people start getting out the counters in case study videos,” says Tim, illustrating the point, “as if people care how many brushes Michelangelo used. That kind of technical detail that is totally irrelevant to the creative effort and the critical eye that people applied – the teamwork, the late hours, the drive.”

Making something look believable takes technique. When Frederic Planchon, director on SSE, asked Neil what he could do to make Maya look her best, his answer was to make it as difficult as possible for the CG team to get her into the scene. Nobody would shoot a real animal with a locked off camera, constantly in focus, not moving very much. “That ends up looking weird and sterile,” says Neil. “You’re losing all the cinematography and direction.” As a director, Ben appreciates this. “You need to show off on a couple of shots to show how good the CG is. A few amazing shots and you’ll buy the rest of it.”

None of this work was made in a vacuum. Every piece of CG animation draws on the lessons learned from previous jobs. Some artists, like Diarmid, have spent years specialising in birds. Apparently Jon Favreau referenced some of MPC’s commercial bird work when creating creatures for the new Jungle Book movie. The Mill’s orang-utan probably played its part there too. Considering budgetary and time constraints, it’s impressive the impact that commercial CG is having on Hollywood. But everything is interrelated.

It’s hard to overstate the role that attention to detail plays in all this. The range of topics CG artists have to learn about is extraordinary. Imagine having to replicate the physics of how a primate’s fur reacts to gravity, wind and light all at once.

And it’s not just perfectionism. That level of scrutiny is vital. “The human eye is incredibly sophisticated,” says Darren. “You know instinctively whether it’s right or wrong. I watched a CG squirrel that had been created recently and on the surface it looked like a squirrel. But when it moved it looked like a CG squirrel. Because all the attention to detail that goes into building it from the inside out was not done to the same degree.”

 

These creatures are built with full skeletal and muscular systems these days to make sure they move in a believable way. Artists on each of these flagship jobs spent weeks, even months learning things like how penguins’ bodies stretch when they jump, making them look like completely different animals.

“They’ve got a crazy long neck, which to a biologist is really interesting,” says Diarmid. “To us it makes things difficult because there are approximations we have to make to try and build their shape.”

Neil remembers how the guys modelling, rigging and animating for SSE were immersed in anatomy books, even pictures of dissected apes, so they could understand how the muscle structure works.

“What’s crazy about what we do here is we’ve now got 10 or more people upstairs that know more than anybody should know about orang-utans,” says Darren.

Once you’ve nailed the realism, a director can decide how to use artistic licence to make a compelling film. References are a rich source inspiration for directors and thanks to YouTube, trips to the zoo are no longer the only way to get these.

On Ben’s recent work for Center Parcs this was a tough balance. Bears are killers, but they had to look friendly. He had to watch about 20 bear documentaries to find the movements he needed to humanise them. “I realised they can convey a lot of emotion. They just do it in a very different way to an orang-utan. Their body posture, their noses are wet and they breathe heavily and there are natural things they do that I can nick to make a sad point or whatever. So it was real but we took some of the movements associated with bears and applied human emotions. We had to adjust sizes as well, because some of them, like the brown bear are ten feet tall. I think it’s a balance for us.”

Dougal Wilson watched endless archive BBC wildlife footage to make Monty, finding moments when real penguins looked most human. But it’s a risk to take that sort of anthropomorphising too far. “We had very strict creative guidelines not to stray into Happy Feet with it,” says Diarmid.

All of these aspects are important to create a great CG animal in an ad, but the single most important factor is time – something all too scarce in the ad industry.

Simon French, Head of Integrated Advertising at Framestore, puts it very clearly: “How good something looks is a factor of the time you spend on it. The thing that enables something to be great is painstaking time and commitment. Whereas sometimes you have to produce and ad in two months instead of ten months and it might have the same goal. Inevitably that ad done in two won’t look as good.”

London is the global centre for post-production. Artists at the VFX houses here come from all over the world and the skills they’ve built up over decades of experience is mind blowing. The resources are there to bring to life any creature you can dream up. It looks like we’re stuck with singing cats and dancing ponies for the foreseeable future.

A Pint With… Orlando Wood

May 13, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Ad industry wisdom, cultural observations and personal musings from the Biscuit Boss.

In honour of the new season of Game of Thrones, Orlando Wood and I met at the John Snow on Broadwick Street. We ordered a few pints and got talking about just about everything. But with the sun shining down and almost making Soho feel like spring, I nearly didn’t notice that he had covered a million and one topics. We drank about two Sam Smith’s Pure Brewed Lagers before moving onto the Taddy Lager, although, in retrospect, I suspect Orlando may have substituted two of the last beers for shandies. Very sneaky…

“… I used to spend my childhood summers in London. My mum was from Dagenham and my dad from Newbury and although I was born in London, I was primarily raised in Florida. During the summers, My friends would stay in Florida. There was a significant lack of beaches and friends here. London always felt like it was thrust on me. But I’ve since come to love it and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else…”

“… I’m a World War II history buff and I love British history. My favourite place to go is the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. It really brings the reality of that history home. I wish I could have heard the phone conversations between FDR and Churchill – one confined to a wheelchair in the Oval Office, the other stuck in a tiny room underground while bombs fell. Just two old, confined men slowly righting the world…”

“… The Blitz mentality launched members’ clubs and, unfortunately, drove the rise of binge drinking. Obviously, you couldn’t have lights on outside, so people would get in multiple drinks before they were sent home. And members clubs were where you could drink after curfew because the members owned a bit of the building, it was considered the same as drinking at home…”

“… British pub culture is unique. I lived in Amsterdam for a while, where they like things to be gezellig – an atmosphere that allows good times to happen – so they serve beer in little 200ml fluitjes with a nice frothy head. I tend to drink shandies now to counteract the sheer volume of beer served here…”

“… I’ve recently become obsessed with Geordie Shore. I could just listen to that accent all day...”

“… The subtleties between American and British comedy are especially relevant in ads. American comedy can pitch a joke at the upper middle class and everybody either gets it or pretends to get it. In the UK people are more proud to be working class than middle class…”

“… Entertainment is hard. And advertising is hard. Branded entertainment is the hardest. So, I don’t think we should be that surprised that nobody’s cracked it yet. You have to move people emotionally while correctly positioning a product to try to change people’s habits…”

“… Without conflict you don’t have much of a story. The ad industry has a lot of craft to create a beautifully textural world, but sometimes we lack the ability to make that world seem alive…”

“… Advertising production companies need to prove they can do proper entertainment. We’ve been working on a remake of Watership Down with Noam Murro directing. It’s going to be on the BBC and it’ll be great. Hopefully that will be a good case study for Biscuit to demonstrate we can do pure entertainment…”

“… I can’t be cool in front of extremely talented people. For example Aaron Sorkin’s writing blows my mind. I met him at a screening and we had a good chat. But just as he was leaving I told him how big a fan I was. I was shaking his hand and just telling him how amazing he was. Eventually I stopped shaking his hand and was just holding it, still talking. I’m an idiot…”

“… I embarrassed myself when I met Terry Gilliam, too. I got talking with his wife, not knowing who her husband was until he walked in. At which point I just started listing his films at him. Yep, I’m still an idiot….”

“… Politicians fascinate me. The idea of dedicating your life to public service, to helping people, is amazing, whether you agree with how they go about it or not…”

“… I have an irrational annoyance whenever somebody sneezes more than twice. If someone sneezes once I say “bless you.” Twice and I’m like “is everything ok?” The third time I think “listen. If you need a moment you can take it!” I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s the most irrational thing about me. Well, that and my love of Geordie Shore…”

Orlando Wood is Executive Producer at Biscuit Filmworks UK.

ADCAN 2016: Meet the Charities

May 5, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

A client’s-eye view of the award competition with a conscience.

We see a lot of charity campaigns on TV and probably even more at advertising award shows. With a strong ethical core, they’re often the most compelling pieces of storytelling the ad industry turns out. But there are 160,000 charities registered in England and Wales alone, so inevitably only the tip of that iceberg can access the power of TV advertising.

That’s one reason the ADCAN Awards exist. Supported by a collective of the ad industry’s top professionals, it’s a free-to-enter film competition offering up-and-coming talent good opportunities to do good work for good causes.

Filmmakers answer live charity briefs and are rewarded with industry contacts and workshops. Charities get free promotional films to help spread their messages and the partnering production companies get to see up-and-coming talent.

In previous years we’ve spoken to the founders and the winning filmmakers. With entries for ADCAN 2016 now open, we asked the charity partners for their perspective.


 

Nordoff Robbins

Nordoff Robbins is the UK’s leading music therapy charity. It is a world leader for the training of music therapists working in schools, care homes and hospitals nationwide. Music therapy is about using music in a supportive or restorative way, for people who are suffering from dementia, neurological disability, terminal illnesses and other mental or physical issues.

Brief: Bring to life the therapeutic power of music, so more people understand music therapy and want to donate to Nordoff Robbins. Think about ways to express this with visual concepts, editing and storytelling techniques.

What they want to say: Music helps people come alive.

The Beak Street Bugle: What is the value of advertising for Nordoff Robbins?
Mark Frodsham, Head of Marketing and Communications:
The charity sector is a crowded marketplace. Anything we can do to raise the profile of the work we do is of huge importance. So as a means of getting the word out about Nordoff Robbins, about music therapy and the impact it has on people’s lives, advertising is fantastic.

BSB: What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to advertising?
Mark:
We’re a very small charity with a small marketing resource. We’re very careful about how and where we spend our money. We work with agencies that support us on a pro bono basis. I’ve done that throughout my career at charities and agencies have been more than willing to help. Within the charity space part of the job is to reach out to people within the ad industry and just ask that question because there is a lot of goodwill.

BSB: What are the key benefits for your organisation for being part of ADCAN?
Mark:
For me it’s a complete win-win. You get emerging creative talents who get a good project to work on a response to brief. And for charities it’s a means of producing really great content that can be used to market the stuff they do. Some stuff in charity advertising works to a very specific formula and I’d like to hope that what comes out of this is really exciting.

The GirlHood

In a creative industry that still employs more men than women and pays men more than their female counterparts, The GirlHood are an organisation on a mission to help young women profit personally, socially and financially from their creativity. They seek out creatively talented females, aged 11-24, from diverse backgrounds, and introduce them to learning programmes, content and resources to help them develop as resilient females with their own creative voice.

Brief: Make a rally cry to girls to be creative and stay creative. Encourage them to make brave creative choices in their education and in their careers. Communicate that creativity has the power to effect positive change in their own lives and in the lives of others. Because when girls make culture, they change culture.

What they want to say: Your creativity can fuel your future, with The GirlHood.

BSB: What is the value of advertising for The GirlHood?
Kati Russell, Co-Founder:
I worked in advertising and spent the last four and a half years at D&AD, so I’ve seen it from different perspectives. I left advertising in 2009 because I didn’t like it, but I’ve come around on that. I now believe that it really can be a force for good and can be used to activate positive change. We would love to be able to do it more.

BSB: What kind of advertising or marketing would you most like to do if you had the chance?
Kati:
One line of advertising that we like is aimed at young people and particularly young women.

There is so little awareness of creativity as a career choice. Our mantra is we try and instil the value of creativity personally, socially and economically. And very often it’s seen as a hobby or a nice-to-do subject. But actually the creative industry contributes £77 billion to the UK economy. So there are jobs and it’s growing. And creativity is unlikely to be automated in terms, so there’s longevity there.

BSB: What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to advertising and getting exposure?
Kati:
It’s certainly different when you’re a tiny social enterprise there’s two of us. At the moment we’re only interacting on a one-to-one basis, but if we could interact on a one-to-many basis we could spread our message wider. I’m meeting all the time with the network that I’ve established but that’s just me. Advertising would give us a much wider opportunity and also that gravitas that you get. If you can put together an amazing piece of communication people will take you seriously.

BSB: What are the key benefits for your organisation for being part of ADCAN?
Kati:
As an industry we’re really good at communicating but not doing. We see a lot of discussions but the actual behaviour change doesn’t happen often. So that’s what was exciting about partnering with ADCAN.

Hopefully we’ll get a film that will excite and motivate the young girls it’s targeted at. It’s not about us; it’s about them. So something that can inspire them and have enough power behind it to help them make life choices to be more creative.

BSB: What do you hope to learn from your ADCAN experience?
Kati:
I’m super excited about the people behind it. I ran [D&AD] New Blood, and worked with similar cohorts for the last few years. They have the potential to have some of the most exciting ideas given the confidence because they’re unhindered by any of the realities you get once you get into the industry. You do forget as you get away from it. So that’s exciting.

Streetbank

Streetbank is an online platform, based on the sharing economy - a common sense street-level idea, that rather than buying everything we ever need, we buy less and borrow more. It is super easy to do; sign up, offer what you have to share or search for what you want to borrow. Streetbank leads to new friendships, connected neighbourhoods and united communities.

Brief: Your film can have a big impact. If you can inspire enough people to join Streetbank, you’ll create stronger communities and in turn make the world a friendlier place. We’re not looking for a literal story of someone lending their neighbour a lawn mower. We need more interesting or surprising ways of showing Streetbank’s greater benefit.

What they want to say: Share things, make friends and build community.

BSB: What have your past experiences with advertising been like?
Sam Stephens, Chief Executive:
In terms of getting word out, we’re limited by the fact that we don’t have a budget. We are reliant on donations from our members and from the odd newsletter where we promote another sharing economy or green business and get some money through that. There is no advertising budget. There’s barely a social media budget. So we have to be really creative about how we get word out and primarily it’s through word of mouth and mobilising our members to tell their neighbours about us.

The second way is media interest that this idea of sharing with our neighbours is both old fashioned but also of the moment, so there’s been a bit of media interest and some PR.

BSB: What kind of advertising or marketing would you most like to do if you had the chance?
Sam:
The dream would be really geographically focused. When we get to a critical mass, which is two or three hundred members within a square mile, then StreetBank takes off and becomes really busy. That’s what really makes the difference, that density where people are posting things on a daily basis and others within a square mile are seeing it.

BSB: What are the key benefits for your organisation for being part of ADCAN?
Sam:
Because of the way we don’t have the money to do advertising or to create visual content very easily and it’s so much in our sharing economy ethos – the idea that there’s latent talent that’s not being used and this is putting it to good use. And to be beneficiaries of that is super cool.

BSB: What do you hope to learn from your ADCAN experience?
Sam:
The exciting thing is there is a brief and we’re going to see multiple approaches to it, whereas normally you only see one outcome. So to have multiple minds and a sort of crowdsourced approach is going to be fun.

I’m really grateful to the ADCAN team because I think what they’ve done is truly creative and a great way of nurturing talent but also finding a way of everyone benefiting. I’m enjoying the energy that’s being unlocked through their creativity.

CALM

CALM, or the Campaign Against Living Miserably, seeks to prevent male suicide, today’s leading cause of death amongst men aged under 45. Their goal is to let men know that masculinity doesn’t depend on being unwaveringly strong, unemotional and silent, an image that leads men with depression to avoid seeking help. Through broadening limited views of masculinity and offering support CALM encourages men to reach out and gain the help they need when life is difficult.

Brief: Make a film which disrupts these expectations of masculinity, makes men feel proud of who they really are and open to admitting when they are feeling down. Challenge the stereotypes that say a man can’t be a stay-at-home dad or talk to someone about their emotions and get help.

What they want to say: Men should embrace a broader view of masculinity and have the freedom to define themselves without censure.

BSB: What is the value of advertising for CALM?
Jane Powell, CEO:
I launched CALM ten years ago as a charity. I think its turnover that year was just over £12,000. Year on year we’ve blagged and used creative people to come up with our ads and some of have been magnificent to grow the campaign. This year our turnover was £1.2 million. So we’ve grown 100-fold in ten years and that has been on the basis of the creative industry’s efforts to showcase and raise the issue about male suicide. So for us advertising has been absolutely essential to our growth, promoting the change we want to promote and making sure people know that the helpline is out there.

BSB: What kind of advertising or marketing would you most like to do if you had the chance?
Jane:
Until now the space that we’ve had has been on billboards and magazines and stuff. If we could get onto TV that would be fantastic. But I think the key thing is to get people to look at what we’re expecting from guys in a way that wakes people up and makes them think again. What is this ‘strong and silent’ stereotype? What if we can crush that so nobody thinks that’s what they need to be anymore? That’s a battle of ideas in people’s minds and those images and words and that’s what the advertising industry can deliver.

BSB: What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to advertising and getting exposure?
Jane:
What we try and do as a charity and when we go to brief an agency is to communicate that message but also say you need to bin all your stereotypes about what you’re expecting calm as a “mental health charity” because it’s unhelpful.

A lot of effort is given over to change the way they think they should approach the issue.

I remember once an agency came back with some advertising and effectively what it did was show a guy curled up in a foetal position in a big field and you think ‘that is probably how it feels, probably a lot darker but’, but if you were going to advertise a weight-loss product, would you put somebody on the front who is hugely obese? It’s not where they’re trying to get to.

BSB: What are the key benefits for your organisation for being part of ADCAN?
Jane:
I think this offers an opportunity to take a more global view of the issue. We couldn’t afford to have a pot shot at the whole issue. We’re always focusing on a tight brief. On this occasion if we can allow people to look at what does it mean, what are the pressures? How do we show the world how difficult these expectations are? Stereotypes, injustices and inconsistencies are never visible until you’ve made a change. Until then you don’t see them and they’re not called into question.


Entries are now open for ADCAN 2016 until 28th July. Head to their website to find out how you can make a film for one of these charity briefs and possibly earn yourself a bright future career.

 


 

Some Lessons from Advertising Week Europe 2016

April 25, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Trying to draw some sense from the chaos of keynotes.

Trying and draw out any unifying themes from a conference as big as Advertising Week Europe is difficult. With six stages pumping out almost uninterrupted content over four days, no two ad nerds will come out at the end with the same insights.

I immersed myself in the festival last week, trying to absorb as much as I could, accepting that I missed vast more than I caught. Here are the nuggets of learning I managed to salvage from the storm of thought-leadership and buzzwords.

Diversity

I kicked off my week with the Wired Women session – a discussion of gender from a panel of some of the industry’s most successful women.

Cilla Snowball, Group Chairman and Group CEO of AMV BBDO had a problem with the "Where are the women in advertising?" message that’s been perpetuated over the years. She countered that to inspire women and girls to pursue careers in the industry the message should be "here are the women in advertising", providing role models to inspire coming generations of girls.

The consensus throughout the week seemed to emerge that the industry’s focus on diversity should start in schools and work all the way up to boardrooms and juries.

Quota systems were of course mentioned, and it was interesting that some former sceptics are coming round to the idea of imposing such guidelines to encourage progress on diversity faster than the current snail’s pace.

The Next Generation

The generation currently in their teens were a hot topic throughout the week, particularly with all its talk of Snapchat and other social platforms. In the Hunger Games-themed session From Dystopia to Utopia: How to Engage Generation K(atniss), Economist Noreena Hertz explained her research into people aged 14 to 21 - the next group demanding the attention of many brands.

Summarising her findings, she identified three forces that have shaped this generation:

  1. Growing up with smartphones
  2. Global economic downturn
  3. Existential threat of terrorism

She identified five traits that these forces have provoked in the generation:

  1. They are anxious about their future, which is not stable
  2. They are distrustful of institutions. Only 6 per cent trust corporations to do the right thing, where as around 60 per cent of adults do
  3. They take a lot of selfies but are not selfish. They are generous and compassionate, giving more of a proportion of their wealth to good causes than other generations
  4. Despite constant digital communication they are lonely and craving connection, particularly physical connection and off-screen moments
  5. They are makers, creators and inventors

Kate Burns of Buzzfeed mentioned a few of the insights they’d learned from the generation's online behaviour. Apparently they share content to affirm their identity much more, whereas older people tend to share online in order to show off.

When it comes to brands it’s clear that Generation K (or D, or whatever they end up being called) demand absolute authenticity. They know when brands’ claims are backed up by action and will not tolerate deception, but they appreciate honesty, such as Chipotle clearly labelling which of their products use GM ingredients while they transition to GM-free sources.

Ad Blocking

Ad blocking raised its head throughout the week, although the arguments on the subject are all getting very well rehearsed now. Firstly, the trend seems to make it clear that people find bad, intrusive and irrelevant ads annoying. Surprise surprise. But most speakers seemed keen to take this as an incentive to do better work and make sure it’s appropriately placed.

The other positive that may come of it is a reminder to consumers that quality content is never truly free. As some media outlets are pointing out, if you don’t want advertisers to pay for this content, maybe you’d like to consider paying for it yourself.

TV Advertising is Still not Dead

As if we needed reminding, practically every discussion of the many screens where advertising can now appear made sure to note that TV is still unrivalled in terms of building fame for brands. But the more prophetic speakers such as Tracey Follows of The Future Lab alluded to a future where all video will be equal, no matter which screen it appears on.

Creativity

Notable creatives like CP+B’s Dave Buonaguidi were honest enough to admit that creative advertising had been getting gradually worse for years. Dave suggested that agencies have begun to care too much about what their peers and award ceremonies think of the work, rather than the public they are advertising to. Not all advertising has to be transcendent, said Paul Feldwick – sometimes "good enough" will do the job.

Procurement’s drive towards efficiency was also bemoaned by various speakers, including Ogilvy's Rory Sutherland. Perhaps unsurprisingly several creatives defended creativity as something that shouldn't be commoditised. Rory compared expensive advertising to a peacock’s tail, which informs potential mates that he’s doing so well he can divert resources towards a big, purely decorative show.

Rory and Paul’s rambling session, You’re Not Paranoid, They Really Are Out To Get You was one of the most fruitful and entertaining I attended. The main focus was on the fact that nobody’s ever really discovered a formula or theory for creating good advertising. It’s often made on the basis of a gut feeling or hunch and then post-rationalised with various intellectual models in order to sell it to a client. Building on the idea that animals usually do a good job in advertising, Rory suggested “we can’t possibly charge a lot of money by saying ‘put a duck in it,’ but that would probably be good advice.”

Changing Clients’ Businesses

Bravery is a concept agencies love to throw around and Heide Cohu from Bacardi, formerly of Red Bull, did well to remind us of how brave Red Bull’s move to drop Felix Baumgartner from 130,000 feet was – an endeavour she was instrumental in. Diverting huge reserves of time and money into a project that dragged on for several years, with the potential of failing and ending in tragedy, was a massive risk for the brand, but it paid off and ultimately gained them a place in history that has yet to be surpassed by a brand.

There are many lessons to be learnt from that kind of marketing, but one that was stressed is the power of an agency working with a brand to change the way it does business.

Brexit

Naturally the EU referendum came up all over the place, but aside from Bernie Ecclestone’s bizarre ramblings about Vladimir Putin and immigrants, the majority of the industry seemed in general agreement that a remain vote would be better for business. If nothing else, it’s better the devil you know.

Virtual Reality

VR has proliferated to such a degree in advertising that I didn’t get to try all of the experiences on offer throughout the week. But what I did experience was tantalising, and demonstrated vast potential for storytelling, education and entertainment. The technology is not as clunky as it was recently and, while it still has a way to go, many companies have managed to do compelling things with it. Dismiss it as a passing gimmick at your peril.

Under the Influence: Smith & Foulkes

April 13, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

The shared passions behind a winning creative partnership.

Ever since they started directing, Nexus duo Smith & Foulkes have been trying to work out why they do things the way they do; where their instinctive answers to each creative question come from. When we asked them to be part of this series they realised it’s tricky identifying your influences as a double act. When there are two of you it’s not a purely personal journey. But when they listed their individual inspirations they found that half are identical to each other’s and half wildly different. “That’s a pretty good average for any successful partnership,” they suggest. “It’s probably why we can still put up with each other.” Here’s a few that they could agree on.

 

Silent Comedy

Adam Foulkes: “Ever since watching Harold Lloyd hanging from a big clock on the side of a skyscraper in his opening titles I was hooked. The construction of the visual gags in Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films are fantastic. The choreography and structure is complex and sophisticated but feels effortless. There's also a real charm to it. In the current climate of ‘the story being king’ it’s great to watch character being fully explored.”

Alan Smith: “There is such an art to the choreography and comic timing of the action scenes that has never really been bettered. With no dialogue to tell the story every look and gesture is critical. We took a lot from the era of silent movies for our short This Way Up. It is really a simple character study where we examined the relationship between a father and son by putting them in ever more demanding situations. We liked the idea that they almost found themselves in a silent comedy because of their own self-imposed respect for the deceased and because of the breakdown in their ability to communicate with each other as father and son.

“We are always looking at choreography as an art form, although we’re more likely to be found watching 1970s ITV wrestling than hanging out at Sadler’s Wells. We love the instinctive interplay of great comedy double acts like Morecambe & Wise, the inventive staging of Busby Berkeley, or the unexpected patterns of human movement discovered in Koyaanisqatsi. A great example is the amazingly crafted REM Imitation of Life promo directed by Hammer & Tongs. A real ‘wish I’d done that’ moment.”

 

Hayao Miyazaki / Michael Dudok de Wit

Adam:
“I get a bit lost watching Miyazaki’s Spirited Away but it really doesn’t matter. It has a magical, surreal atmosphere to it that is completely engaging and unique to Miyakazi. It is also beautifully animated.

“Another animation director who gets mentioned a lot at S&F HQ is Michael Dudok De Wit. He manages to convey so much character and emotion with a beautiful, sparse style. It just goes to show that even with all the technology at your fingertips often simple is best.”

Alan: “Dudok de Wit creates the most evocative atmospheres from the simplest of settings. He captures the most powerful emotions from the merest of gestures. He allows you to appreciate what isn’t there as much as what is. And every time we refer to his work as we discuss a pitch with a client it is met with universal acclaim. Then we lose the job. The curse of Dudok de Wit! But we’ll keep trying…

“As fellow devotees of the dialogue-less cinematic tradition, we can’t wait for his feature The Red Turtle. The last time we saw an animated feature film so artfully portray the human condition in epically atmospheric landscapes was the first half of Wall-E. Second half… not so much.”

 

Abstract Expressionism vs The Simpsons

Adam: “At college we spent our days making experimental animation and our evenings talking about how great The Simpsons was. It wasn’t just the visual gags and wordplay that we loved but also the moments of real emotion, usually between Homer and Bart. We quickly realised that to actually engage an audience it helps to have characters you could root for and identify with, so we started to move away from doing solely abstract work.”

Alan: “When I was at college my tiny mind was blown wide open by the freeform visual riffing of film-makers like Robert Breer, Len Lye, Norman McLaren, and Oskar Fischinger. The limitations of graphic design and photography were left for dust as I watched these masters endlessly play with abstract patterns cut in perfect harmony with equally inventive scores. Who knew the choreography of shapes and colours could be so liberating? They also showed me how a Director could embrace a whole range of visual techniques, and how you could employ any or all of them to tell your story.

“But when I first met Adam it wasn’t these titans’ work that fired our collective imagination. It was the Simpsons. I guess at heart we just love a bit of silliness. But what was really great about it was how it evolved from a fairly hit-or-miss slapstick kids TV show into one of the greatest commentaries on the absurdities of modern life. I would spend a year making a visually elaborate film about the perils of gambling dependency then Homer comes along and sums up the whole debate with one killer line. And it was funny. It really taught us the importance of writing, character development and storyboarding to get our ideas across.”

 

Britishness (whatever that is)

Adam: “Martin Parr’s photography has always resonated with us, especially his curated Boring Postcards books, and we are endlessly fascinated by the idea of Britishness. Jeremy Deller’s Folk Archive exhibition covered a vast selection of contemporary popular British culture, providing an opportunity for the whole community to have their work shown in an art gallery. Not only drawing and painting but pursuits and pastimes, everything from cheese rolling and gurning to pipe smoking and wrestling, all in one exhibition. A huge celebration of Britishness.”

Alan: “We might not know exactly what it is but we know it’s there, in practically everything we do.
Maybe because we’re a couple of small town boys from the deepest darkest provinces. It’s in the richness of our history and culture, the naffness of Crap Towns, the wonder and variety of our landscape, and the astute tomfoolery of the Pythons. Our characters and stories are somehow unconsciously imbued with the peculiarities of how us Brits do things and how we interact with the wider world.”

 

Small…..Far Away…..

Alan: “Not just a seminal Father Ted moment but more an enjoyment in the illogical disparity of scale. When I was a kid I always entered the ‘creating a miniature garden in a potting tray’ competition at the annual village fete. It was the highlight of the year, the one all the local kids desperately wanted to win (see above). Or maybe it was just me. Anyway, we didn’t have the Internet back then. One year I pulled out all the stops, water features, stepping stones, gazebo, it was a one foot by two foot Kew Gardens. I came third. But it was the start of an appreciation of the surreal comic potential of making big things small and small things big.


“This could be the visual spectacle of Busby Berkeley’s human typewriter. The architectural oddness of Oldenberg’s site specific sculptures. The historical tradition of giant hot dogs, enormous tomatoes and other American roadside attractions. The pompous majesty of the Spinal Tap tiny Stonehenge scene. Or the guy who rides his own backyard rollercoaster while precariously strapped into a car seat. It has provided many a fun visual solution in our work as we searched for a more inventive way to transition from scene to scene.”

In Defense of the Rep

April 6, 2016 / Features

By Andrew Swepson

Let's address some misconceptions about new business in production.

I like to see myself as a level-headed and reasonable kind of person. However, I can literally hear my friends and loved ones crashing to the floor as they pass out in fits of laughter at this news. It’s true to say that little surprises me, especially in this business. As my mother would say I get aerated at all the wrong things. However, sometimes I do get annoyed at things that I’m very passionate about. At these times I feel the need to shout very loudly or at least moan at the same mates who are now picking themselves up off the floor.

So, I should elaborate as to why I find myself writing this piece and attempting to raise awareness of a subject that vexes me. Not that long ago an article featured on The Beak Street Bugle presenting a very distinct view of the production company Rep. It had me ranting at my computer screen and reaching for my quill.

To set the scene the APA had gathered a panel, which included a number of agency people alongside independent PR and press writers. One of the topics up for discussion was how can production companies project their marketing message more efficiently and successfully in 2016.

It wasn’t the broadest of panels with most notably no representative from production being present. However, the questions posed were considered and deserved discussion.

Up for debate was the role of the Rep. Somewhat clichéd views of marauding Reps, harassing all with over zealous calls, were bantered about. Advice was offered, which was rather patronising and painted an outdated picture of the role.

I’m sure that the advice offered was done so with no malice intended. However, it dawned on me that this image was not one that I identified with or indeed applied to others that I knew. This image of the Rep was not helpful to the role itself or to those who employ such people.

I’ve always regarded the position as important. It holds a privileged position and it saddens me that it’s not held in the esteem that it could or should be. The role is an intrinsic part of the industry and always has been.

It wasn’t just me though who felt this way and it caused a similar reaction in many others. It was now clear that we needed to provoke a change in people’s perception for the better. It should be more reflective of today’s evolved New Business Associate in a changing media landscape.

For starters people have very distinct view of what characteristics Reps have and what their supposed methods are. I’ve been at this game for over 20 years and in that time I’ve met every possible variant. So, I’m well aware of the need to address the issues that face us.

I moved on some years ago from the purely sales arena. But I’m very proud of being trained as a sales person and have passed on my knowledge to many over the years. It’s on this basis that I want to re-affirm its important role and hopefully help to redefine it for the future.

The Beak Street Bugle has asked me to pose questions to a number of sales people relating to these issues. Those selected are individuals that I feel are amongst the best in the industry, pushing the boundaries and re-defining the image of the production New Business Representative.


Andrew Swepson: The very word Rep conjures up such a negative image. Do you think we need to change the name and if so what would be a suitable alternative?

Ali Lindsay, Dark Energy: Yes, I agree the connotations sometimes conjured up are not reflective of what we actually do as the role is so multifaceted. Personally for me it’s not about the need to change the job title, but the need to change people’s opinions of what experienced Reps / Heads of Sales / EPs / Heads of Talent (whatever you want to call us) actually can do for you.

Ellie Botwood, BOT Inc: I think people in the industry are always going to use the term “Rep”. I have never called myself a Director’s Representative because of these negative connotations, but it hasn’t made any difference. I don’t think it’s the name that is the issue. I think it’s the association that goes with it.

I can’t tell you how many agency people have said being a Rep must be so much fun and have no idea just what the job entails. It’s the production companies’ responsibility to hire people who understand what the nature of the job is about, and not that it’s one big party. God, if only!

 

Andrew: Is there still a job for the in-house Rep or do you think that the growing number of independent sales and press people is the way forward?

Pippa Bhatt, Madam: My experience shows that the widening yet shrinking market will offer a place for both. The independent new business person offers opportunities for those SMEs that are rapidly growing in our industry. The behemoths will remain and need the role just as much to satiate the need of the directors they employ and the overheads their shape and size creates. We can live together!

Ellie: London still has a long way to go adapting to this new model, which has been so successful in the US. First and foremost, it is much more cost effective to have part-time experienced reps that work across more than one client as opposed to a full-time in-house rep. However, as a freelancer you are much more “disposable” if you don’t deliver within a certain amount of time. And that’s just not realistic. The beauty of having an in-house rep is that they are an integral part of that company and work solely for you. The main issue I personally have with this type of model is managing client expectations in the time frame.

 

Andrew: How do you define yourself within your company and amongst your peers?

Ali: As someone that helps production companies to be relevant and competitive in today’s climate and who enables the growth of both individual directing talent and the company through creativity and established contacts.

 

Andrew: Agencies are very adept at telling us how to go about contacting them. However, as we all know those contacted rarely respond or engage with our emails, invitations or calls. How are you addressing this issue?

Pippa: I don’t cold call and I don’t take a lack of response as a no. I have a network that I call upon, who give me leads and names to follow up on. I feel very strongly that the offering has to be about the non-sell. Creating environments for my clients on agency and production company side to connect in a mutually interesting situation. I do believe in pillars and having all of them working – emails, calls, newsletters, website, social media, PR, opinion pieces, face-to-face meetings, events.

Ellie: By thinking outside of the box. Long gone are the days of lunches and even meetings are few and far between without being cancelled last minute. Some up-and-coming production companies are trying new and engaging ways to interact with agencies. I’ve always found that self-generated work or events does eventually lead to work. There is such strong competition in this oversaturated market, doing something original and different does make people stand up and take notice.

 

Andrew: Are we creating a problem for ourselves? With 202 production companies on FileFX all contacting the same people are we creating white noise with all our newsletters, emails, calls and meetings?

Pippa: Yes, and there really should be a better way. The difficulty for us is that agencies are time poor and highly risk averse and it’s because they are on high alert at losing clients with a huge shift in how clients engage them. Our biggest barrier is agencies using the same directors and companies over and over again. All advertising is looking the same.

 

Andrew: There has been a multitude of Agencies and indeed Post Houses creating their own production offering. How do you compete in this over populated market and remain at its forefront?

Ali: I think we’d be kidding ourselves to think we can put a stop to in-house agency production companies, and quite honestly on the flip side for us to say production companies can’t also offer creative services – which we’re being pulled into more frequently working with PR and brand design companies etc.

It is a free market after all, so I’m not sure we can tell agencies and post houses what they can and can’t do, just like we wouldn’t want them to tell us how to run our business. What will be will be I guess. Maybe we’ll all end up working in-house! Who knows, we might also get pensions!

So, on the whole I’d say in this current crazy market we need to be able to maximize any benefits we see fit from this scenario, even if this means loaning out on occasion…yes I said that. Because work generates work and I believe we need to utilise the possibilities for developing directors where necessary sometimes.

However, we do also need to be very mindful to not undersell our skilled production talent, knowledge and services at enforced cut-down prices and kill off production companies in the process.

It’s tricky and I’m not entirely sure where the middle ground is with this. But in a dog-eat-dog world I guess we’ll do what we need to do to provide a service and get work made and on screen, so long as it’s of creative benefit to a particular director and ultimately as “Reps” that’s still our call to say yes or no to.

 

Andrew: We’ve all met that clichéd sales person, who falsely thinks that attending every party and event defines their role. What advice would you give to your younger self, or indeed them, to change that rationale?

Pippa: Research, research, research. Knowledge is everything working in tandem with a spoonful of charm. Get to know your client and your client’s client. Get an amazing CRM tool in place and fill it out religiously!

Ali: I’d say have fun meeting people from all parts of the industry who you can learn from and enjoy extending your network as it can be one of the best things about the role getting to meet so many interesting and inspiring people.

However, beware of thinking you constantly need to be out and be seen at every industry event going. Pick and choose carefully and never feel the need to be part of a crowd. At those industry events more often than not it’s your individual ability to represent yourself, your company and your talent, think clearly and remain focused that will help you in the long run.

 

Andrew: In America ‘Reps’ earn a very good wage, are highly respected and seen as key links in the production process. The business model is different there of course, but what do you do to encourage a more positive view of your role in the UK to advertising agencies and peers?

Pippa: I try my very best to do my role with as much integrity and care as I can.


Andrew: What changes would you like to see to improve the image of the job role in the UK? Maybe we should be considered for the various judging juries (we have years of experience reading scripts that are then crafted into final films).

Pippa: Yes, I like this idea. Really we should be on the public floor much more often – in industry rags, invited as guests and speakers to industry events, celebrated in the same way as any other industry exec. If you’re connected, up-and-coming, an influencer then we should be on a stage. IPA Women of Tomorrow has the agencies covered and WACL. We need a bigger stage for us or for other stages to open up to us.

Andrew Swepson is a PR and Marketing Consultant who runs Menagerie PR.

Have Fun. That’s an Order.

March 31, 2016 / Features

By Tom Lee

Advertising student Tom Lee on what it takes to get through creative placements.

I’ve never been a fan of offices. Everything’s had its colour muted, dwelling on the white to grey scale. The office mugs are the only concession. I always opted for the gaudiest mug. I needed a splodge of lurid green, pink or purple less than two feet away at all times. I would jitter along the white to grey scale at varying degrees of caffeination.

Then I quit to become an ad student. Now I have thumbtacks and walls where my screen used to be. My Excel sheets were banished forever by fountains of crumpled paper and throwaway ideas. My instant coffee jitters gave way to Sharpie vapour head spins. Now my desk is in Costa.

But something else changed. Now that I’ve emerged from my secluded office corner everything I do passes under the dogged gaze of other people. For me as a yet-to-be-made spinster looking for my first bit of permanent desk space, every day is a pitch and I’m the product.

In my tour of self-promotion I’ve traipsed self-consciously with my packed lunch through every size of agency, blagged my way into boardrooms, agonised over live briefs and had my book dissected by creative directors.

And I’ve seen that the bogeymen of advertising are living, breathing realities.

The hours are famously long. I’ve worked harder this year than in my other 24 combined. Most days I’ll peel myself out of bed at six thirty and collapse into the same position around midnight. Ad dreams are also definitely a thing.

Criticism, though purposeful, is ubiquitous and persistent. There’s no place for the precious or the fragile. It’s easy to be excessively self-critical. You could treat every piece of advice as gospel. You could think an idea to death and yourself to exhaustion based on advice you don’t fully understand. But then someone else will come and say something completely different and you’ll be forced to think again. You will be simultaneously criticised and praised by two people who share a desk. This can happen more than once in a day.

Schedules are shambolic, deadlines change. Creatives’ work is at the disposal of creative directors, account people, planners and clients. One project is the convergence of dozens of people’s expectations. You’ll be tricked into thinking you have the luxury of time only to have a message pop up saying the deadline’s now in forty minutes. The usual workplace mind set of turn up on time, answer your emails, fill your quotas, leave doesn’t apply in adland.

But at no point has any of this resembled office life. And for that I couldn’t be happier.

Every agency comes with an inbuilt sense of fun. If being a creative wasn’t inherently fun it would be much easier to be employed as one.

There’s always a bar and a foosball table, photographs lining walls of pets and errant childhood moments, a deep house playlist and large scale prints of meerkats or Sylvester Stallone delivering bread.

You’re here to regress back to kindergarten, when right and wrong were vague concepts and everyone doodled on paper. But only the hardiest, most lateral, strategic kindergarteners get given jobs. It calls for equilibrium between the discipline of other jobs with the expression of your earliest finger paintings.

Fun is mandatory. If the process isn’t fun your ideas will have the imaginative depth of a refried bean wrap from the Costa you’ve spent the last four hours in.

Fun leads to good ideas. Good ideas take hard work. If you get the fun bit right the work bit will follow. And the bogeymen will become spirits that guide you adeptly, albeit forcefully, through each day.

Keep smiling as idea after idea is relegated to the bin never to be seen again. Take risks and say ‘yes’ to everything with confident stupidity. Laugh maniacally if you have to. Fun’s the only thing there ever really is to lose.

Tom Lee is studying advertising at West Hers College, Watford. Check out some of his work here.