Tuesday, 25 August 2015

How To Write For Radio



Balls. (Very deliberate pause) They catch your attention. Don’t they? (Make actor raise eyebrow, and quizzically pitch voice). Because saying balls (which must be unnaturally emphasized on the B), or any other single word on its own, will give those balls (with a capital B) gravitas (which will get changed to “stand out” by the client). No matter whose…. (no, don’t pronounce the ellipsis dickhead, it’s just to indicate rhythm) balls they are. 



If you’re thinking about balls, it’s time to stop whatever, and start something or other (opposites are fun and catchy! Say them with a smile). For as little as fourteen ninety-nine a month (typed out verbally so we can time the read- through) you can get free balls delivered absolutely free (confirm offer with client).  Just call us now on (confirm number with client) or visit us online at (confirm URL with client). That’s (repeat the number) or (repeat the URL).


Thursday, 20 August 2015

Songologues #1

Madame, forgive me.
May I just say that I have never seen you, or anyone for that matter, looking quite so lovely as you did tonight.
Indeed, you might say I have never seen you shine so brightly, to coin a phrase? 


But what a silly old fool you must think I am, what with so many… green eyes on you this evening…
So many men asking if you wanted to dance or, dare I say, looking for a little… Romance?
The devils…
Still. I – I shan’t keep you.
I simply wanted to compliment you.
It’s not often that a man like myself sees anything like that dress you’re wearing…
Or those, um… what are those called…?
Those highlights!
Yes, those highlights. 
The ones in your hair…
It’s almost as if they… 
They catch your eyes…
Really, I’ve been so… 
So blind, madame.
Or... should I say… 
For you are… quite the lady, are you not.
My lady. 
In red…

Oh, how I can see us now…
Cheek to cheek…
Ho ho that’s the ticket!
That’s where I want to be….

Oh but please. Forgive me.
After all, I hardly know you…
Know any of this…
This... beauty…
By my side….

Anyway, I’m sorry.
It’s getting late.  
I just wanted you to know that I’ll never, ever forget…

The way you fuck – I MEAN LOOKED! tonight.


Friday, 26 June 2015

So you want to be a copywriter?

It’s D&AD New Blood next week – something very close to my (blackened) heart. So in the spirit of nurturing all the fine young fillies out there, I thought I’d do a little bit horse whispering to gee up any aspiring copywriters unfortunate enough to read this blog. Sorry.

1. It’s a none horse race 
Nobody under 25 wants to be a copywriter anymore. This is good news and bad news. The good news is that New Blood (and the industry as a whole) is dominated by visual arts students. So if you’re peddling words you’ll stand out like a juggler at a funeral. The bad news is that you’ll have to be 100 times more engaging than the fluorescent typefaces and experimental motion graphics that pass for advertising concepts these days. So saddle up and get ready to sell hard…

2. Be the horse, jockey and trainer all in one
The best writing projects its own world. Reading it (or even hearing it) should take you out of yourself and into another place. Forget about tones of voice and think about creating characters - ones that inhabit unusual situations, or better still, alternate realities. Make them your own and they can only ever be yours. Suddenly the none-horse race has a single contender. In other words, carve a niche and do what no one else does in a way that only you can. Then whip it! If you’re unhappy with how something turned out, tell people. There are all kinds of obstacles a writer has to face and the race rarely goes smoothly. Just because the client loved it doesn’t mean you have to. I always used to put work I was unhappy with in my portfolio because it meant I could talk about how I’d compromised. After all, it aint just the winning, it's the taking part.   

3. Erm, when your extended horse metaphor starts to wear thin John, say something about The Lone Ranger
Writing is a solitary endeavor, and the sooner you accept this the better. If you happen to be in a team that’s because at least one of you is a sociopath and is currently using the other. But in time you will almost certainly split up. You’ll probably want different things, or get lured away by a boardroom position in Beijing, or maybe even die in a plane crash, so get used to working by your self right now. In the meantime, understand the limits of your joint creative tension and what you both bring to the party. Agencies are a lot more fluid than they used to be which means can’t afford to live in a bubble. You both have to make time to do your own thing. Yes, solo albums tend to be shit, but they do make the band’s next record all the more interesting. This should also preclude you from calling yourself “DanTom” like you’re a fucking Push-Me-Pull-Me.

4. Horses for courses
There are as many kinds of writers as there are kinds of writing. So you’re going to have to work out which one you are and which ones you’re good at. This may sound obvious, but it’s also spectacularly difficult at the moment. Here’s why.

Most agencies (or at least the ones you want to work in) are fevered, inter-disciplinary cluster-fucks. They camp out at the “crossroads of branding and social”, and tell “brand stories” (presumably around a digital campfire). Because the industry moves so fast, and clients become more and more demanding agencies can’t accurately explain what they do to anyone over the age of 30, let alone have clearly defined roles for writers. So be prepared to enter a world of paranoia and fear. Most days will feel like being inside the mind of Philip K. Dick after 4 nights without any sleep. One minute you’ll be writing a radio ad, the next you’ll be proofreading a letter from the chief exec (this did actually happen to me). If this sounds scary then you should quietly go and finish that novel in a coffee shop. But if, like me, you find this sadistically thrilling, then welcome to the party. The truth is there’s never been a more exciting time to be a copywriter – to learn, to develop and try your hand at anything and everything; forms, styles, voices, the lot. Likewise, the industry needs writers more than ever. Not just to cut through the increasing noise, but to make sense of the all the chaos. Embrace it and ride it like you own it.         

 5. Take off your blinkers and ride like the wind
A good writer is also a good reader. So read widely and voraciously. Those of you who do will know that it was William Faulkner who said, “In writing you must kill your darlings.” So please, let’s start by killing David Ogilvy. He may be long dead but his twee and genial ghost still haunts the industry like a mischievous fart. No one, save for SEO, has done more to limit the scope and remit of what copy can do and how it should be used. This isn’t to say Ogilvy was wrong. It’s simply that over time his (blandly aphoristic) wisdom has been co-opted by clients, to the extent his thinking is now regarded as stricture. Likewise, Dave Trott, the legendary art director-turned writer-turned-predatory raconteur. Unless your idea of writing is having a shot of scotch between every line-break, you’ll learn nothing from Dave other than how to make a very obvious point sound like a cold Boxing Day walk back from the pub with your granddad. But ironic character assassinations aside, you really need to make your own rules. Conventional wisdom is just that. Conventional. Learn these rules, break them and make your own. Be mad, bad and reckless. The only way to surprise an audience is to surprise your self. Think the unthinkable and say the unsayable. Remember, you are a writer and you can go wherever your imagination takes you, so enjoy the ride.

Giddy up!   

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Sipping With the Big Boys

Yesterday, I found myself in the rare position of chatting to an industry colleague.

Suffice to say this was very shocking.

No one ever talks to me about anything these days.

Not even my sister.

So you can imagine how shocked I was when I learned that this person actually shared the same opinion as me.

I couldn’t believe it.

And to make matters worse, this person had reached that opinion entirely by them selves.

It was astonishing.

Seriously. There I was, sipping my coffee, and not two feet away from me was another human being, in broad daylight, and with no obvious mental impairment, brazenly agreeing with me.

Who in the hell did they think they were? Independently validating my deeply unpopular opinions like that. Some kind of amiable freak?

For a moment I felt ill. Sick to my rotten core.

But then something began to dawn on me.

Slowly –ever so slowly - at first, like a stifled yawn. 

And as the penny dropped, so did my jaw.

(Along with the quality of my metaphors).

Here in this ordinary café, on an ordinary morning, we had found a universal truth. A truth so apparent to us, yet so hidden from the wider industry.

“Why?” we asked each other. “Why is it so hard to find decent mid-weight copywriters at the moment?” There simply seemed to be none.

The waitress brought more coffee and we began to talk.

We’d agreed on our problem and now looked to each other for answers.

Opinions became theories, and theories became arguments.

Do junior writers just get bored and want to play elsewhere? 

Has freelance culture killed them off?

Or has the fluidity of disciplines in studios simply rendered them obsolete?

The answer it seemed was not to be found in this blogpost.

By turning a tedious anecdote about coffee into a mock existential noir, I had learned just one thing about copywriting.

It takes a senior to write this kind of shit.

Advice to Young Creatives

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Can't think of a title. It's been a while.

Welcome back.

And what better way to mark my return to blogging than by pouring tepid bile over that big, fat, sexless something-or-other of an industry we call Advertising, eh.

So let's go! For those of you of a literary bent (i.e. those who spend less time gawping at shapes and colours than the rest of us) "big and fat" is the theme of today's post. So write that down in your £15.99 Moleskine before your get distracted by a Twitter feed or a beautiful account manager. It's an important part of this module.


Whilst many of us creative types (ponces) will have had the displeasure of working in vast, constipated network agencies, on sprawling global accounts managed by inexperienced young women who diet a lot, it's always heartening to see lithe young agencies picking up high profile jobs from lithe young clients. I'm fantasising about that now, in fact. Watching their delicate, young bodies dancing and frotting together in some blissful creative harmony. In a meadow perhaps... With lots of sunshine... And strawberries for eyes...

See, I told you it was a fantasy. Not least because that doesn't ever happen like that. At all. But as a bitter old shit, I like to imagine it does, right. Because it gives me hope that we're not all doomed to be whores and parasites, clinging to the ankles of our flabby clients, like abused orphans. So when I saw The (very, very good) Neighbourhood had picked up the (arguably very, very good) food pornographer Heston Blumenthal as a client, my tiny mind reeled once again with the thought of happy creative people skipping in fields, as naked and free as the day they were born.

And here's the result of their frolics.

Looks beautiful don't it. Fedoras off to everyone involved, I have to say.

But ask yourself this: when half the world is starving, could you skip naked through a (metaphorical) field with a man who makes iced-cream using liquid nitrogen?

Or to put it another way, would you be satisfied servicing the profligate whims of the world's most self-indulgent man?

'Course you could you fat ducks.