This blog is moving. This is my last post here. Gonna miss this place! SNIFF!!!

photo-6in line with our seemingly eternal website redesign, this blog’s address has to change.

the new web address is See you there.

RSS reader users should use this link to continue their intake of blog magic, or blogic if I may.
And just in case, here it is another way:

i know it’s a lot to take in all of sudden. have a drink. take it easy.

Same insightful thoughts and immaculate prose, great new location!

Escape Pod creates its first skateboard

My son, god bless him, asked for a skateboard for his birthday. No problem there.

The only thing was he specified that it have a Scottish terrier graphic. Big problem. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, there is a distinct lack of Scottish terrier emblazoned skateboards out there.

So I asked Escape Pod designer/artist Dana Krystofiak to mock one up. And what I imagined would be quick photoshoppery and bingo, we’re done.

Instead, she drew and painted this epic masterpiece.

Never mind my son, I want one!

Thanks Dana.


Sir Hegarty nails it again

Ever since he’s retired, John Hegarty has really been letting adland have it with both barrels and calling bullshit on an industry that is even more awash with bullshit than it ever has been. And that’s saying something.

Adland’s decade-long desire to appear like it “gets digital” has led to the most spectacular wastes of time and money. Desperate to appear cool and techy, advertising has wallowed in widgets and digital doodads for far too long now.

It’s been mostly a mirage. People care even less about advertising online. It just doesn’t belong there. Simple as that.

When will advertising people wake up and realize that we are in the business of moving people closer to purchasing the brands we advertise? It can’t come too soon. They should listen to Sir Hegarty. Got this from a Canadian marketing mag btw. They promise more Hegaliciousness soon.

What’s wrong with advertising today?

My theory about it is—and this is not just my opinion—there is empirical evidence from the audience we talked to that they feel the quality of what we are producing has declined. You can look back in history and you can see the same thing, when you have a significant piece of technology, a particular development like digital, what happens is there’s a sort of creative deficit as we deal with it. We’ve certainly had that for the last 10 or 12 years. I think we’re sort of getting out of that now.

Because nobody knows quite what to do with it, we become obsessed with the technology, so technologists rule the airwaves. And it isn’t until creative people begin to work it out and say ‘What you actually can do with it is this.’

Look at the Lumière brothers who invented cinema but didn’t know they had invented cinema; they invented a moving camera. It took another 15 or 20 years before somebody worked out you could write stories and film them. They, in fact, gave up on it. And Les Paul, the creator of the electric guitar, he didn’t make rock and roll. He was a technologist.

So the deficit in quality isn’t about a lack of talent?
Nobody is to blame; it’s just a reality, it’s what happens. I think we lose confidence in things, we lose confidence in other media because all of a sudden people go, ‘Well, television is dead and it’s all over’ and ‘Print is dead and posters don’t matter anymore’ and all that sort of rubbish. And the focus, the concentration goes into this new medium until we work out what it’s delivering.

Has the industry started to eliminate this deficit?
I do think there’s the beginning of the reality [where we are recognizing] what digital technology can and can’t deliver. But people rush into these technologies without really understanding what they’re delivering, how they’re delivering, because they think it’s the new cool thing to do and if you’re not doing it, you’re kind of dead and old fashioned. Rather than saying, ‘What is it delivering? Can we measure what it delivers? Do we have any understanding of what it delivers? Do we understand how it’s going to work for us?’ none of that comes into force. So you have this focus away from things that we know have value, to things that we don’t know how to value.

And one of the other problems I have today is people have retreated to the edges of advertising. You know, they’re happy to do some small little campaign somewhere or they’re doing something on the net that hardly anybody sees and they’re getting awards for it and everybody’s cheering. But they’re not changing the way people feel or think.

My first shoot

I recently came across this lovely idea. It’s a forum for directors (and creatives, i think) to talk about their very first shoot.

My old partner turned Hollywood director Justin Reardon was profiled in it recently.

I love ideas like this. I love stealing from the hard-won wisdom of others. And I really don’t care what the topic is.

One of my all time favorite things to listen to is a podcast with songwriter Stephen Sondheim talking about crafting Broadway musicals. He is just such a natural at it, yet he struggles so much. Being a protege of Oscar Hammerstein really paid off. And meeting Hal Prince was a real meeting of equals, wasn’t it? Their collaborations, coupled with Hal’s directorial vision and gift for epic musical theater, are surely his finest hours.

Sounds like I know a lot about Broadway musicals, doesn’t it? I don’t. I’ve just completely ingested and absorbed everything he said. I find the experiences of others so fascinating.

So, without being invited to contribute, I thought I would give an account of my first shoot.

My first shoot was about as big as a first shoot could be.

It was a two-spot package for Bud Light in the mid 90s. This was back when the Bud Light brand was galloping away from its competitors and the advertising was clearly fueling this growth. Consequently the brewery was pumping lots of money into the production of TV ads. This was the Seinfeld era. The truly golden age of TV advertising. Internet? Never heard of it. If a spot came in under half a million bucks, it was considered a frugal shoot.

I was aiming for a big hit spot with this one and I got it. I had come the USA in 1990 and I knew from TV that Americans love slapstick. So I came up with an epic slapstick spot. A guy chasing after his departing girlfriend runs onto a steam train platform and tries to woo her back. He communicates with her via hastily scribbled notes that he holds up to the train window as the train pulls out of the station and then smacks into a pole. The spot was rather imaginatively titled “POLE!”.

It was directed by a Canadian director named Steve Chase who was then in favor at the brewery for his comedic flair. I told Steve that my vision for this was the Road Runner meets Dr. Zhivago.

Steve had a great idea. Film it at night. When steam trains look their most dramatic.

No expense was spared. We rented out the Sacramento rail museum for two nights. We even had these amazing movie lights that bathed the whole scene in moonlight from miles away. They were huge.

I learned on this shoot that you have to stick to your guns. A couple of times Steve tried to strong arm me into things I didn’t feel were right. And I wouldn’t budge. Looking back, that was pretty ballsy. But I instinctively understood story and nuance. And, hey, it was my f**king idea and I was willing to go down in flames for it. That was a good instinct too.

The spot was voted best beer spot of the year by Ad Age magazine. But more importantly it debuted to thunderous applause at the Anheuser-Busch distributor convention before it went on TV. Everybody loved this aggressively stupid spot.

I remember being in a sports bar full of NCAA basketball fans and seeing everyone in the bar actually applaud the spot. They spontaneously clapped for a commercial! My commercial. If it could have gone viral, it would have.

This was like smoking crack for me. I wanted this feeling again!

The great thing about social media is that is let’s you meet your brand’s fans. The bad thing about social media is that it can you end up talking only to your fans.

One of the great things about social media is that it let’s you meet your brand’s fans.

The ones who think your brand is just awesome!

So much so that it may occupy a disproportionate amount of their brainspace.

We all have brands that we simply looove. I, for example, am a superfan of Kerrygold butter. I haven’t yet liked them on Facebook but I would. It’s just amazing that butter. No, really. I mean, just look at it.


And it’s very tempting to spend all your time talking people who you KNOW love you. Of course it is. We’re only human.

The danger is that we will fixate on this geyser of adoration and affirmation and forget that our real task is to convert the non-avid lovers. The ones who currently don’t really give a fig.

And I fear this is one of the attractions of social media to marketers.

Not to blow our horns (cue: blowing of own horns!) but looking back on it, I think this idea we did for Wheat Thins a few years back was a good demonstration of how you can amplify your existing fanbase’s love to reach the non-avid user and so create new love.

(Blowing of horns, geysers of adoration, creating new love. Dr. Freud to reception!)

You can see the video here.


Ship happens!

Congratulations to former Escape Pod client Mark Andeer for approving this piece of ship.

What I love about this ad is that you can’t argue with it. And if you do, you’re a fool.

But what I really love is that it’s closing in on 15 million hits on youtube. Niiice!

I just spent the afternoon watching commercial television in the US and A

Something I hadn’t done in a while. Not because I’m so cool or tech savvy, just because I was in a hotel room with my son and we had nothing better to do.

This is what struck me:

1. If i owned a seafood restaurant chain, I too would show lots of freshly cooked seafood in slo-mo in my commercials. That stuff looked good! And i’m allergic to shellfish.
2. Insurance companies need to stop flooding the airwaves and figure something new out. You’re just not that interesting.
3. Being entertaining on the teevee is something a lot of advertisers need to be reminded of. I understand why you might choke and decide to be annoying, I really do, it’s just that you’re not thinking about me and my needs. You never have! Bastards.

Direct communication, Irish style. Part 2.

As we’ve mentioned before, nobody beats the Irish when it comes to pooh-poohing illicit canine pooing.

Well this proud tradition continues. I found this gem on an Irish website today. I love it.


The continued adventures of television advertising

The US cable TV industry is the last frontier for good interface design and generally acting cool. It’s laughably bad. And for an industry in as much peril as it clearly is, it doesn’t do much to help itself.

(But enough of me. Here is a far more entertaining and incisive dissection of the industry from that bastion of forward business thinking website WhatWouldTylerDurdenDo dot com)

Nielsen Realizes That People Are Telling TV To Go Fuck Itself
By Jack

The good news is that people are still pretty much fat and lazy visual-intake vegetables. The bad news for cable and network TV execs is that everyone is getting their fix on Hulu, Netflix, downloaded torrents, and their parent’s HBOgo account. The Associated Press is reporting on a study by fossilized TV measurement service Nielsen about “Zero TV”. Nielsen is scrambling to figure out how to minutely record people’s watching habits in order for companies to better sell us their Fruity Pebbles. This trend has been coming for years and the television industry has kinda sorta not really done jack shit about it, short of getting Louie Anderson to swan dive off a 3-meter board. A lot of broadcast and cable networks content can still only be seen with expensive monthly cable and satellite plans. So, the execs are trying to appeal to the consumer demand for on-demand viewing by allowing them to watch on their own schedule, provided they still pay a boatload each month to their service provider. Solid plan. Goodbye TV.


I started my career in advertising on the media side of things. I sold airtime on ITV (Independent Television) network in the UK . The commercial counterpoint to the BBC TV network.

And it gave me valuable insight into how the advertising business actually works in real life. If nobody sees your content it may as well not exist. Hollywood knows this all too well.

I quickly realized that two things seemed to matter in media placement: money and money.

If you had tons of cash you could literally buy the attention of the nation like magic. And to a large degree you still can.

What made TV such a great advertising medium is that people were sitting comfortably and looking to be entertained in the broadest sense. They are looking for escape and their minds have been slightly switched off. They are open to suggestion. Their guard is down.

And the best TV advertising went with this flow. The worst was a jarring reminder that what you were watching was ad supported. This hasn’t changed.

One of the biggest flaws with advertising on the internet is that advertising just doesn’t belong there.

The internet isn’t a media property owned by Rupert Murdoch. It’s not an advertising medium. It does not enjoy a symbiotic relationship with brands in the same way that other media did.

That was the genius of Google. They basically co-opted the whole of the internet and leaned into what the internet does best: wish fulfillment. Not demand creation.

Demand creation can only be achieved through what amounts to seduction and your brand acting like it’s a real person establishing a relationship. Let’s face it, most people don’t actually NEED most brands. Most brands aren’t the object of anyone’s desire and have to fight to get actively considered by purchasers.

The Internet didn’t change this reality. And the fact that it doesn’t lend itself to demand creation isn’t a flaw with the Internet itself. It’s the flaw of marketers who choose to squint at the Internet and only see the eyeballs of an audience to be exploited.

It’s telling that online media vendors frequently talked in terms of “eyeballs” they could deliver.

Yes, that’s what you offer. We also need hearts and minds unfortunately.