Think Hard


A world without advertising. Perish the thought.
February 26, 2008, 11:35 pm
Filed under: advertising, design | Tags: , , , , ,

How could I possibly support such a notion?

I’ll tell you how…

Put together a hugely compelling idea, a brilliantly to the point proposition, fabulous direction and a song to kill for.

And this is what you get. Advertising at its best.

the irony is that it’s anti advertising. But, you know what? That ultimately is why it is genius and will win lots of advertising awards.

LOL.

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Scottish Marketing Communications Action Group

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You may be aware that I have been steering an industry-wide marketing communications lobbying group for some time now.Tonight is our big night. 120 of us will gather at Holyrood in The Garden Lobby to make a case for close engagement between our industry and our government.The following speech will be delivered by Tim Maguire on our behalf and we will be screening a short film documenting the excellence of our industry. In fact you can view it here. “Tonight marks a watershed in the history of Scottish marketing. It is the first time that we have stood as an industry, shoulder to shoulder showcasing the remarkable output of a nation steeped in a tradition of innovation and creative thinking.That heritage is rightly celebrated not just at home but across the planet. Scotland punches way, way above its weight when intellect is being considered. And yet, Scottish Marketing, a surprisingly large industry, driven by intellect, plods a weary and unheralded path through life.Doing its own thing. Struggling against the weight of competition that comes from every corner of the UK and beyond.Tonight we would like to set in motion a process of change. A process of engagement, not just with one another but with you, our government and agenda setters.We’d like, no we need, to be on that agenda and in the next few minutes we’ll demonstrate why that need is real.But first, a little scene setting.A little over two years ago a collective of Scottish marketing people, led by the Scottish Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, alongside the Direct Marketing Association, The Scottish Marketing Aassociation, The Marketing Society and several media partners were worried about the “challenging times” that their industry faced.They decided that the time had come to address the issue of Scotland’s lack of joined up thinking, representation, dialogue and action in an industry that is a core driver of Scotland’s economic prosperity.So, they went to Scottish Enterprise and match-funded an economic report through EKOS Consulting that threw into stark relief the contribution that Scottish marketing makes to this country’s economy.It hadn’t been done before. The data was difficult and expensive to gather from many different sources.But, six months later that report was delivered and it became the catalyst for a joining together of ambition, a fusing of commitment and a passion and thirst for knowledge and strategy that reaches a crescendo with our meeting here tonight.This industry is desperately important to a nation that has gone through unprecedented constitutional change over the past decade and that stands on the verge of greater things.Just imagine, for a moment, a nation where Irn Bru wasn’t made in Scotland from Girders. Where Simmers didn’t make lovely, lovely biscuits where things didn’t get better than a Kwik Fit fitter; where the bank wasn’t a friend for life and where you couldn’t Live it or Visit Scotland.Imagine a nation where the newspapers had to find their own stories to feed the voracious reading public’s appetite.Imagine a nation where every whisky bottle, beer can, milk carton and bread wrapper came in utilitarian packaging.Imagine a nation that relied solely on imported programming to fill its television screens.Imagine a nation that had not been touched by the new enlightenment where creativity and originality were deemed irrelevant.Daft, isn’t it.Now, imagine a country that sees 75% of its marketing spend disappear to other places, chiefly London, where even some of the tax-payer-funded public sector fails to buy from its own world-class practitioners.Where a new digital economy is being held back by a lack of qualified young people.That’s daft too.But it’s exactly what happens in Scotland. It wouldn’t happen in Ireland – that’s for sure.Ken Livingston is stumping up £50 million a year to back Creative London, so valuable is the creative economy in his eyes. The Danish Government has invested heavily in Copenhagen’s creative industries and seen it rise from 20th to 7th in the European superleague of creative cities since 1999. Why not Scotland?As an industry, we have been backward in coming forward. Like the cobblers children who are seldom shod we’ve failed to engage with the people in our own back yard. We’ve seen business walk away. We daren’t mention the L word, so irritating do we find the drift of money to London.But, we’ve finally come together.We are here tonight to showcase some of our work. The work of our advertising people, our direct marketers, our newspaper writers and TV programme makers, our researchers, our sales promotions experts, our PR people and the bright young things that are driving our digital economy forward.Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you…Scottish Marketing.Driving Scotland’s growth.SHOW THE FILMSo, an industry we can undoubtedly be proud of.An industry brimful of creativity, imagination and excellent strategic thinking.An industry that makes Scotland tick that adds spillover value to all it touches.An industry of over 40,000 highly paid, well-educated people contributing over a billion pounds to the economy. (Who’d have thought?)Who knows, with your help it could become 50,000.But this is an industry that has failed to engage at the highest level with government because it has, in the past, been made up of too many silos.  And it is an industry that is leaking 75% of its income potential elsewhere (chiefly London).Tonight is not about seeking handouts. It’s not about complaints – God knows we are the people most guilty of not making our voices heard.No, tonight is about asking this administration to acknowledge that Scottish Marketing is indeed a key driver of this economy and a vital part of it in jobs and wealth creation in its own right, but it’s an industry that is struggling to keep its head above water.We do need your help.We need you to listen to our issues.We need you to help us plot an economic path to prosperity.We need you to give us your support.Ladies and gentlemen, MSP’s, if you only do one thing in the next 24 hours, please sign Elaine Murray’s motion.If the only thing you do in the next month is to urge your colleagues with economic responsibility in their portfolio to engage with SMC Action you will have furthered the potential of Scotland’s economy.Thank you to Elaine Murray for sponsoring our event tonight.To Business 7 and Denholm Associates for supporting it and to Green Room Films for their generosity in producing the showcase.Lastly, thank you for taking the time to represent our industry and for coming out to listen to our message.



Think Hard in the press again

An article from today’s Business 7 online version.

I am heavily involved in the SMC Action initiative and will be speaking to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday at the Parliament building. You can read more about us here.



Now, these ads are good

Wish I’d done them, but they were actually by FCB Johannesburg.

Brilliant insight.

Brilliant ads.

Someone thought very hard indeed. They’d make great TV ads too.

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think Hard in the news

Although an unpleasant subject matter I was asked to allow my blog post on 1576 to be subbed for use in All Media Scotland. If you don’t read i, you should. It’s a good view on life in Scottish media and Mike Wilson is doing a good job there.

I think you’ll be able to read it by right clicking on the image and clicking on view, you can enlarge it to read it with the magnifying glass icon.  It’s easier than it sounds… Alternatively just go to the source, here.

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Qualitative research
February 11, 2008, 10:58 am
Filed under: advertising | Tags: , , , ,

I am indebted to Stephen Tait for bringing this research to my attention.  Never underestimate the opinions of the consumer.  On the other hand the targetting could be slightly off brief.

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Creativity is everything
February 10, 2008, 1:35 am
Filed under: About think hard, advertising, design | Tags: , , , , ,

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My wife and I watched a wonderful history of Stiff Records on the BBC last night. (Of course the BBC hated Stiff in its prime because it was a label of young anarchists).

I loved Stiff. And I’d forgotten how much. The summary of it all suggested that Stiff was a creative, out there, didn’t give a stuff label that believed in the artists and the work.

It so reminded me of me, David and Adrian at 1576.

And, you know what?

Jeana said it before I did.

That was our philosophy.

It’s about the work.

And I still believe that 100%.

OK, the medium may have changed. WHATEVER. But the need for great, insightful, creative ideas hasn’t changed one jot.

When 1576 set out we believed (like all good agencies) that the work was ALL. And I also believe we were right. Middle aged, as I am.

That’s why I work, and love it, with 60 Watt.

That’s why Mighty Small will, probably, be small but great.

That’s why people who want good work in this industry need to work with people who care, not just people who are doing a job.



1576 RIP
February 8, 2008, 9:46 am
Filed under: advertising | Tags: , , , , ,
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On the 1st of September 1994 David Reid, Adrian Jeffery and myself put the last touch of paint onto the basement wall of our basement home in Tweeddale Court on Edinburgh’s prestigious Royal Mile (we always used Royal Mile in our address because it sounded better than High Street, which was the official postal address).  I stood there, resplendent in green and white Y Fronts (I always painted in my Y fronts because it was easier to clean your skin than your trousers) and took a deep breath.  This was it.  It wasnt a dream or an adventure anymore.  It was our livelihood.

At 9.23 the phone rang.  Our only client, Spectacles,  who one day become 20 20 Opticians.

“Oh Hi John ” I said ” I expect you’re phoning to set up a meeting…”

“No, I’m phoning to fire you.”

I’d never even met him.  He was a complete twat as this, and future history (if there is such a thing) went on to prove.

We’d now gone from a prospective income of £12,000 pa to zip; nada; fuck all.

Eight days later Jeana gave birth to our second and third child (the third conception and pregnancy was not some form of record – we had twins).

We were right in the shit then.

Better get some business.

As luck, some would say talent, would have it though we did get some business (Holywood Bowl) and some more (The Blood Transfusion Business) and some more (Smiths Menswear) and some more (Sinclairs Criminal Lawyers) so that by Christmas we had our first six commercials on air.  We made a handsome profit in year one and paid off our personal debts.  We never drew down the start up capital and things just went from good to better.

One year, I can’t remember exactly when, we had nine nominations at the Scottish Ad Awards and every single one of them won a Gold, meaning that we tied with The Lieth Agency as the top award winners.  They were lucky to escape with a tie because we were better.

At times we were cocky bastards.  At times we weren’t.  (I can’t remember when though.)

But gradually we got bigger and bigger.  We won multi-million pound accounts that sucked the energy and, to be honest, the creativity out of us.  We became like the establishment that we felt so superior about.

I got bored.

I left in 2003.

But, you know what, those times were, on the whole, the best.  I made my bravest, and most foolish, clientesque decisions.

Picture the scene. David and Adrian having been briefed by me to write a series of commercioal virals selling 1576 present me with five scripts with a man dressed up as a six inch penis trying to perform office and day-to-day functions in the guise of a rubbish marketing director (most obscene of all was the penis going for a piss) and I said

“Fabulous, hilarious, it will really stand out!”

It did.

Not for good reasons.

Ruth’s Bar, the Friday night swalley, was a hoot – because it was a “free” night out with your mates – and believe me, 1576 were my mates.  Every last bloody one of them.

I loved, really loved, the people I worked with.  We all cried when I left.  Many of us cried last night too (I’m sure) when we learned that cocky, creative, amazing, get it up ya, 1576 was no more.

A very sad day and my heart goes out to David and all the team that were there at the end.

1576

1/9/94 – 7/2/08



Past advertising
February 4, 2008, 8:52 am
Filed under: advertising, design, politics, press articles

It just goes to show how attitudes change as these old ads demonstrate.

Fags feature large in the inappropriateness of the past like this one for superbrand Tipalet…

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or this for Marlboro…

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Social marketing has always been “in your face” but this one for hooker avoidment is brilliant and the casting of an Ameriocan Belle du Jour quite striking.I wonder if “the axis” is refering to the axis of evil.

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Speaking of the Axis Ive saved the for last. This ad for Pakistan International Airlines leaves you thinking…

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