George's Favourite Commercial

I've been reading George Parker's Madscam on and off for a while now [since he very kindly gave me a copy following an impromptu beersphere with Charles, Hugh and Ruby.]

[Btw - the next Beersphere is scheduled for 8th Nov - keep the date and that. I'm just trying to decide on a venue. Any suggestions, please drop me a line.]

It's excellent stuff - as vitriolic about the Big Dumb Agencies [BDAs] as George always is on his blog AdScam - but also full of useful, practical stuff gleaned from many decades as a creative and consultant, delivered in a way that doesn't patronise the entrepreneurs it's aimed at.

And it's hella funny.

Anyway, in it George mentions in passing that the best commercial ever is this spot for VW from DDB:

Think about it. Why would you want to say anything more? You have captured the viewer's attention with the drama of the opening....The announcer's resolution of the mystery is perfect.

So George - this one's for you.

Cooking With Booze


The internet's brilliant.

In this morning's exciting dollop of TIGS we were talking about giving content away for free being a viable business model / promotional mechanic for selling books. Then I had a nice chat in the comments with a chap called James and it turns out he's doing just that.

James has written a dipsomaniac cook book under the nom de plume George Harvey Bone. Since he's a geek, he's also released it online under a creative commons license and done a bunch of other neat geek things like a mobile site - so you can check recipes in the shops on your interphone.

Legendary. The book was launched only 4 days ago so pop over to the site and buy a copy, making you the envy of your less well informed friends and proving us creative commons types right at the same time.

Book Sampling


Picked this up this morning whilst waiting for coffee - it's a book sample: the opening chapter of The Battle for Big School, distributed via postcard racks.

Now it hasn't made me want to buy the book [I don't think I'm the target audience - according to the blurb it's a "fab, girlie read"] but it's still a good idea.

If I was a publisher, I'd have the first chapter of every book I sold available for download.

In fact, I think I'm with Cory Doctorow on this - I'd probably have the entire book available for download, for free, like he does here.

Books are currently in an extremely fortuitous position with reference to the internet, which is disrupting other information based businesses like music and that, because although it's the content that we want, it's the combination of content and form that makes books what they are.

So giving the content away for free makes sense - as Cory points out e-books are "social objects":

It wants to be copied from friend to friend, beamed from a Palm device, pasted into a mailing list. It begs to be converted to witty signatures at the bottom of e-mails.

Which gives you massive reach for no cost. And when it hits the right people, the audience that it's right for, they will go and buy it because reading a book doesn't work on screen.

At least not until we get e-paper sorted out.

Then we'll see, Cory, then we'll see.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose


The title of this post is really the overall title for our exciting serialisation of "The Shocking History of Advertising!", which continues today:

[On Guerilla Projections]

The year after 1894 produced some ingenious examples of desecration. After dark on Traflagar Day in London, advertisements for pills, blacking, and watches were projected on to to the side of Nelson's Column by a magic lantern device, and also, for the sake of variety, on to the pillars of the National Gallery.

S.C.A.P.A [Society for Checking of the Abuses in Public Advertising] took counsel's advice and were informed that 'the owners of the building's affected by the advertisement can proceed for trespass or nuisance.'

But, asked the Society, 'Cannot the County Council or the First Commissioner of Works do something for us at once?' A resourceful reader of The Times suggested 'jamming' the advertisements by a more powerful beam. Eventually the offenders desisted, after being informed that if they did not the necessary legislation would be sought.

For a modern version of the magic lantern, check out this film from the Graffiti Research Labs.
[Sent to me by Robin.]

The Man Who Sold His Face


Our exciting 'recontextualised serialisation' of  "The Shocking History of Advertising!" continues:

[On Likeness Rights]

At this period there was a noticeable tendency to associate girls with cigarettes, without going so far as to put the cigarette between their lips. If people choosew to assume that these girls were smoking, well and good.

[Not really part of the main point but too good to leave out.]

Player's famous bearded sailor had a predecessor, also framed in a lifebuoy. He was a very young sailor and the new face, adopted in 1898, was undoubtedly an improvement. It came as a surprise to many, in the summer of 1951, to learn that this was the portrait of a real sailor, Thomas Huntley Wood, who died in that year.

Wood's likeness first appeared in the Army and Navy Illustrated in 1898, whence it was borrowed for advertising purposes. A friend of Wood's wrote to the firm suggesting payment of a fee of £15; Wood reduced this to a sum of two guineas 'and a bit of baccy for myself and the boys on board.' The firm paid, in case and kind.

Some time later, tiring of people pulling out a packet of Player's and asking 'Is that really you?' Wood shaved off his beard.

An O. Henry or a Damon Runyon could have built an enchanting whimsy round the story of Thomas Wood - the man who sold his face for a song, only to be haunted by it ever afterwards.

Selling Soap

[A clip from The Hucksters that Russell posted ages ago.]

Our exciting new 'recontextualised serialisation' of The Shocking History of Advertising!  begins today with Thomas J. Barratt, who was almost certainly the inspiration for the larger-than-life client in the clip above:

As long ago as 1789 Andrew Pears had devised his transparent soap, but until the middle of the nineteenth century it had been very modestly advertised. In 1865, when the firm's annual bill for advertising was £80, a young man of twenty-four, Thomas J. Barratt, became a partner in the firm, and ushered in a vigorous new regime.

[On Economies of Scale]

One of the many 'fathers of modern advertising', Barratt is on record as saying "Any fool can make soap. It takes a clever man to sell it." When he finally took over control of Pears he raised his expenditure on advertising to between £100,000 and £130,000. In justification he never tired of pointing out that he was enabled to sell soap 30 per cent more cheaply than if he had not advertised it.

[On One Word Equity]

Baratt's policy was summed up with perfect simplicity in one of his own advertisments: 'How do you spell soap?' - 'Why P-E-A-R-S, of course.' 'Pears' and 'soap' had to be linked so deeply and ineluctably in the public mind that it would be impossible to think of one without the other. Ultimately, the public would be so conditioned to the association that they would go into a shop and instead of asking for soap would ask for 'Pear's Soap' or even for 'Pears'.

That was, and is, the advertising man's dream.

[On Low Attention Processing]

It accounts for the tens of thousands of tedious and apparently futile signs bearing the names of household products - notably the indestructible enamel signs which stud the approaches to railway stations. It is wrong to say that no one reads them; they are not there to be read, but to be absorbed, just as a capsule is not meant to be tasted, but to be swallowed.

[On Behavioural Engineering the Herd and Idea Linking and Embedding]

The visual attack did not satisfy Barratt, however. He decided he must have a catch-phrase which would make the whole country say 'Pear's Soap'. His staff were invited to nominate the commonest phrases in daily use. Inevitably, somebody suggested 'Good Morning.'

The result was the notorious 'Good Morning! Have you used Pear's Soap?' which scourged two continents. There were many who never forgave Thomas Barratt for debasing this traditional, friendly greeting. The sensitive shrank from saying 'Good Morning', knowing that it would only spark off the exasperating counter-phrase in the mind of the person addressed.

Disturbingly prescient stuff, covering so many of the hot topics of today, in just a couple of pages written over half a century ago. And it's all like this!

More soonest.

The Shocking History of Advertising!


My lovely brother Laith [not that my other brother isn't lovely, just to clarify] got me The Shocking History of Advertising! by E. S. Turner as a gift and I'm currently immersed in it.

It's hilarious - informative and, having been written in the 60s looking backwards to the very genesis of our trade, it incessantly reminds me how little has changed.

Although it does remain silent about the impact of digital communication technologies and the resultant cultural behaviours on the context of commercial idea transmission.

But then to quote Wittgenstein:

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.

OK, some things have changed - you don't get many ads like the one above anymore.

Oh wait.

In the spirit of stealing [the book's out of print now, so it's good stealing - like Robin Hood, only with words. Robin Words. No wait, Robin didn't steal hoods did he. Did he wear a hood? Nevermind] I'm going to have TIGS host a few recontextualised excerpts of the book as I go, to allow the light of the past to illuminate the present.

And because they are funny.

Pimping the Age of Conversation


The Age of Conversation, the collaborative marketing book written by over 100 bloggers, which is being sold for Variety, the Children's Charity, has already brought in more than $5000.

In order to help sell more copies, Sean briefed a brand new ideas company for a big idea. Marcus, the brains behind new venture the ides of march, came back with the very simple idea:

Put naked girls in it

Every little helps, hence the image above, which will hopefully lubricate your purchase decision [see the previous post].

On a more serious note, The Huffington Post has picked it up, kindly mentioning my chapter.

If you've not had a look yet, please do and then buy a copy

It will give you access to some lovely thoughts from 100 different brains and make you more attractive to the opposite sex.

Let's Talk


[Image by marketingfacts]

Ever since Cluetrain we've known that markets were conversations, even if we weren't entirely sure exactly what that meant.

As brands caught up with Doc Searls and co. the shift from monologue to dialogue became a staple of planning decks and the shift was welcomed with open arms. This isn't entirely surprising - according to John Peters in his excellent Speaking into the Air [thanks BigShinyThing for the tip on that one], we have culturally fetishised communication as the ultimate therapeutic tool, the only way to heal relationships. 

Accessing each other's unknowable interiority without recourse to clumsy tools like language was always seen as the ultimate end goal - whereas Peters argues the beauty of being human is that we are individual and communicate.

Psychoanalysis became the talking cure, using the therapist and your dreams to better communicate, and heal your relationship, with yourself.

Later we discover that interpersonal intercourse, relationship building, is possibly what drove our cognitive evolution and made us sentient and conversation achieved its apotheosis.

The cultural position of conversation is hard to overstate - but it's not all or nothing [is it ever?], as Richard eloquently points out, brand monologue still has a role. Brands need a point of view and a statement of intent.

That said, I'm still very excited to have contributed some small part to the upcoming book The Age of Conversation.

100+ bloggers have contributed a chapter to the book, which is being sold for Variety, the Children's Charity.

It goes on sale next Monday, so I'll point you in the right direction then. I hope you all buy a copy. I certainly will.

I've written a chapter entitled:

"Don't give me songs. Give me something to sing about."

which the geeky among you will recognise as a quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

But don't let that put you off - just check out the other authors and think of the children.

Gavin Heaton
Drew McLellan
Valeria Maltoni
Emily Reed
Katie Chatfield
Greg Verdino
Mack Collier
Lewis Green
Ann Handley
Mike Sansone
Paul McEnany
Roger von Oech
Anna Farmery
David Armano
Bob Glaza
Mark Goren
Matt Dickman
Scott Monty
Richard Huntington
Cam Beck
David Reich
Luc Debaisieux
Sean Howard
Tim Jackson
Patrick Schaber
Roberta Rosenberg
Uwe Hook
Tony D. Clark
Todd Andrlik
Toby Bloomberg
Steve Woodruff
Steve Bannister
Steve Roesler
Stanley Johnson
Spike Jones
Nathan Snell
Simon Payn
Ryan Rasmussen
Ron Shevlin
Roger Anderson
Robert Hruzek
Rishi Desai
Phil Gerbyshak
Peter Corbett
Pete Deutschman
Nick Rice
Nick Wright
Michael Morton
Mark Earls
Mark Blair
Mario Vellandi
Lori Magno
Kristin Gorski
Kris Hoet
G.Kofi Annan
Kimberly Dawn Wells
Karl Long
Julie Fleischer
Jordan Behan
John La Grou
Joe Raasch
Jim Kukral
Jessica Hagy
Janet Green
Jamey Shiels
Dr. Graham Hill
Gia Facchini
Geert Desager
Gaurav Mishra
Gary Schoeniger
Gareth Kay
Faris Yakob
Emily Clasper
Ed Cotton
Dustin Jacobsen
Tom Clifford
David Polinchock
David Koopmans
David Brazeal
David Berkowitz
Carolyn Manning
Craig Wilson
Cord Silverstein
Connie Reece
Colin McKay
Chris Newlan
Chris Corrigan
Cedric Giorgi
Brian Reich
Becky Carroll
Arun Rajagopal
Andy Nulman
Amy Jussel
AJ James
Kim Klaver
Sandy Renshaw
Susan Bird
Ryan Barrett
Troy Worman
S. Neil Vineberg