June 28, 2016The myopia of the middle classes

I’m in my thirties.

By any normal standards I’m still pretty young. (Although, sadly, not young and pretty).

But in some of the places I’ve freelanced, I’m practically a dinosaur.

I felt my age recently when I was hit with a brief for 15 year olds. And I realised it was hard to remember what it was like back then.

But I was 15 once. I reckon the basics haven’t changed, even if these days it’s all happening on Snapchat, not AOL Instant Messenger.

Answer me this:

Could you write for a 15 year old if you had no idea …

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January 4, 2016Imagine a world where viewers could comment on every ad

It feels like an eternity ago I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on how blogging was going to change the face of journalism. It was eleven years ago. My supervisor – a dusty kind of university chap – asked me when I submitted my synopsis – “what’s a blog?”

What happened next – everybody knows. But as I reflect on the 10,000 word essay written by the young, naive, wannabe journalist a decade ago, I realise that it’s not the blog that’s changed the way we do journalism.

It’s the comments underneath.

The ability to interact with the article. The ability …

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December 23, 2015Banner ads aren’t entertaining, and that’s why they must die

With iOS9 offering ad blocking baked in, it seems like people are finally catching on to ad blocking.

I’ve been blocking ads on my desktop for five years now, so I notice it most strongly when switching between my iPad and my Android phone.

The iPad is a joyous experience – while hideous, misleading banner ads on every web page have made Chrome in Android almost unusable (and frequently unstable).

I don’t care about your ‘moral’ argument about how banner ads pay for the content I read. Because I have never, ever, ever willingly clicked on a banner ad. I …

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July 30, 2015The slick marketing campaign of Jeremy Corbyn

I admire Jeremy Corbyn as a man of principle. His principles aren’t mine – but I admire him nonetheless.

It turns out so do a lot of other people. Because incredibly, Jeremy Corbyn, the far-left candidate who befriended Sinn Fein at a time when the IRA were still targeting civilians with terror attacks on British Soil and now wants us to leave NATO – is poised to take leadership of the Labour party.

And although it’s a long, long, long shot, his grassroots activist base could propel him into 10 Downing Street in 2020.

He only even made it onto …

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July 21, 2015Stop listening

The ‘B’ in DDB, Bill Bernbach, once said:

“We are so busy measuring public opinion that we forget we can mold it.”

As I sat and watched five days of focus groups tear into the scripts I’d spent the last six months crafting, I wondered how much this was true.

In the golden age of above the line advertising, it was easy to ‘change the conversation’, as Don Draper put it, in the stroke of an ad.

The Smash Robots made potatoes seem old fashioned all of a sudden. Benson and Hedges got people talking about tobacco with a series …

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April 19, 2015Don’t become a freelance copywriter

“Give up. You’ll never make it.”

That was the advice offered to me a decade ago, on the first day of my creative writing MA. Actually, it was the advice offered to the entire class.

And while a couple of my classmates did, eventually, have books published, they didn’t make any money out of them, let alone become household names.

These days, I sometimes check my inbox to find an email from a well meaning student or first year copywriter asking me to tell them how to crack the business.

Well, I don’t want to put you off, but ‘give …

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March 31, 2015Can you learn creativity from a book? …and should you?

I stopped over to the suits’ corner of the office I was freelancing in last week. I’m used to seeing creative ‘bibles’ ranging from The Copy Book to Ogilvy on Advertising on the desks of fellow creatives — the sort of book you can open at any page and be inspired, giving you an idea that will jolt you back into action.

But I was surprised to see one of the best reference libraries I’ve ever seen in an office sitting on the desk of a planner. I immediately picked up a copy of Hey Whipple and flipped it to …

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January 4, 2015A few thoughts on why the “American Psycho” luxury flat ad sucks

A friend of mine tweeted a link to this ad for a luxury block of flats. “This looks like an outtake from American Psycho,” I said on watching it. Which was pretty much everyone else’s response, judging from this Independent article today (you can watch the ad, too).

Ad creatives around the country are probably groaning, and this is such a particularly bad example that it’s unlikely it’s made by any of the bigger London shops. In fact, it may well have been put together by an in-house marketing team.

Yet the ad industry needs to face up to …

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December 10, 2014How do you work with a client who keeps you guessing?

I think it’s happened to every copywriter at some point. The client who knows exactly what they want. But they can’t put it in words. Or rather, they probably can put it in words, they just won’t. Instead, they make you play a guessing game. Because you’re the copywriter. You should know.

It’s the exact opposite of the pixel-pushing backseat designer (or “hovering art director“) who watches over you constantly “suggesting” adjustments. What do you do when you get a client who knows exactly what they want but won’t tell you, insisting ‘you’re the copywriter, you should know’?…

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November 24, 2014The secret ingredient that makes a writer good…

What makes a good writer? You could say it’s experience. You might say it’s how they were taught. Or how much they’ve read.

But while these are the ingredients of what makes a good writer, they’re not what makes a writer good.

That’s something that can’t be learned from a book. Or from a blog like this.

(But don’t stop reading just yet).

The thing that makes a writer good is the same thing that makes an actor good, a singer good, a sportsman good, a professional poker player good.

It’s confidence.

That’s what makes the difference between ordinary and …

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