Archive for September, 2008

Wife is on a photography job at the moment, so the not inconsiderable task of delivering the three children to school fell to me.

My ambition was to get them there on time, and without having sworn (which may seem like a lowly ambition, but believe me, herding cats looks like a doddle compared to getting three children to school on time), and I managed it.

Daughter was always going to be the toughest customer: she has an approach to personal style, grooming and dress that make Beau Brummel look like a slap-dash compromise merchant. The right knickers took a while to locate, and it was a feat of UN-style negotiation to coerce her into tights away from socks – but this was as nothing compared to Hairstylegate. Wife has recently taken to putting Daughter’s hair in bunches – a feat of dexterity that defeats me, so I went for what I thought was a sensible alternative (ie: one that drew her long hair back and out of her eyes, securing it in a ponytail at the back of her head). This did not meet with her approval – by which I mean that upon examination of the finished result in the mirror, she exclaimed “Dada!” in a horrified tone (as if I had coiled a couple of turds around her head) and added “That won’t do at all!” (something that I presume she has picked up from Wife). A mere four attempts later, we had something that she deemed acceptable. The boys couldn’t have been easier (once I had persuaded Youngest Son to put his jumper on OVER his shirt, rather than vice versa; and had broken the news to Eldest Son that Ben 10 pants were a thing of fantasy and would not be materialising in his wardrobe any time soon…) and off we went.

When I got into the Agency, I talked to World’s Greatest PA about the strange experience of going back to school (and specifically the impenetrable curriculum meeting that Wife and I attended last night, that threatened “Science” for four year-olds). Science is a particularly personal fear of mine, based on the lowering experience of having scored so low in the Physics Mock O’ Level that my mark was featured as an “N.B.” rather than as a proper score, lest I bring the average score for the whole class down too substantially. No such problems for World’s Greatest P.A., it seems – just the affectionate memories of how one of her adolescent team-mates attempted to disguise the evidence of someone’s perm having been introduced to a Bunsen burner (“it went up like tinder”), which gave rise to one of my favourite quotes of the year to date: “Aaah, the smell of burning hair and Lentheric!”

Read Full Post »

In a letter to Jeremy Bullmore, published in Campaign Magazine of September 12th 2008 , a 16 year-old boy asked Mr. Bullmore for his advice on getting into an advertising agency. This is Mr. Bullmore’s answer, as published.

Dear Francis, thank you for your letter.

What I suggest is this. First you should write to me at Campaign stressing your enthusiasm for advertising as a career and your determination to gain more experience at some well-known creative agencies. I will then publish your letter, which, with any luck, will be read by people of influence at a few such agencies. Unless the entire agency business has talked itself into terminal torpor because of the non-recession, there’ll be one or two agencies intelligent enough still to be on the look-out for bright and enterprising young people. If I’m right, they’ll want to get in touch with you directly; so I thought it might help them if I included your e-mail address:fmac23@googlemail.com. I hope that’s OK by you.

Please let me know what response, if any, you attract: it will be a useful measure of the health and survival chances of the agency sector as a whole. I look forward, with your agreement, to publishing the results.

From the thanks for his letter, through to encouraging everyone in his readership to define themselves as the few who are smart enough, forward-thinking enough and good enough to see this opportunity, to the final reward of publication, this is a work of kindness, grace, charm and – above all – a brilliant piece of advertising creativity.

What a man.

Read Full Post »

A previous incumbent in my professional role had this to say: “You can either do the meetings, or you can do the work – not both.”

The cult of the meeting is one of the most deceptive, destructive and irritating to have pushed its way into modern business practice. Second only to “the workshop” with its pernicious and provenly incorrect contention that “the more people one gets in the room, the greater degree of creativity and consensus”, “the meeting” prioritises sharing coffee and flipcharts over productivity, thinking and action. The number of times I have finished one meeting to be met with a response which is broadly “Great, OK. When should we meet again?” is bewildering and staggering.

It’s not therapy: it doesn’t have to be regular to work – and the meetings should be the consequence of the thinking and the creativity, not entirely removed from them in order to fit in with some bizarre matrix of holidays, acronym-denominated meetings and travel plans. I realise that there are such things as real deadlines that have to be met if products are to get to market and to realise their potential, but artificial deadlines do not concentrate the mind, nor help to make things better – they dispirit, dissipate and disenchant.

Read Full Post »

Up to Oxford yesterday for Father in Law’s exhibition at Oriel. I wish we could have stayed there longer, and gone round the Ashmolean (wondering around the colleges wouldn’t really have been on, as it was University Open Day, so the whole city was full of 17 year-olds (often with their parents) trying to decide between Corpus, Merton, Jesus, All Souls… and so it continues), but this was not to be, with not only my parents, the three children and Wife’s Aunt in tow.

The exhibition was terrific: Father in Law was exhibiting his watercolours (over thirty of them) alongside an Oxford contemporary with whom he is still in touch, fifty years later (I find this amazing: the only one of my University contemporaries that I am still in touch with – other than the virtual world of Facebook – is Me As A Protestant: and that’s only fifteen years ago). Maybe it’s family pride, but I thought Father-in-Law’s work was infinitely better than his co-exhibitor’s: and fortunately there were enough little red dots on his work to suggest that a good number of people at the opening felt similarly enthusiastic.

Australian Brother in Law was there, his opening gambit being: “It’s rather like that scene in “Brideshead Revisited” isn’t it?”

I think he must have meant the scene about half way through the novel, where Charles is exhibiting his work in London, when Anthony Blanche reappears in the narrative. Given that the point of that scene is for Blanche to expose Ryder’s paintings as unfelt “ghastly daubs”, I thought that the comparison was a slightly unfortunate one – but it soon became obvious why the novel had raised its head: Australian Brother in Law had a name to drop.

“Have you seen the new film?”

“I haven’t: I don ‘t want to, actually.” (Andrew Davies’ idiotic and grossly offensive remark about wanting to give the film an “anti-Catholic ending” still plays in my mind as reason enough not to see it.)

“Oh but you should: it’s wrong to see it as an adaptation of the novel…” [so why give it the same name, credit Evelyn Waugh, and mention him all the film’s publicity, I wondered, silently]”…I call it “Brideshead Revised”, not “Brideshead Revisited”.”

It will come as no surprise that Australian Brother in Law is a journalist, given that turn of phrase: and he made an interesting point about the film’s story being Charles Ryder’s attempt to take possession of Brideshead by any means necessary (Sebastian or Julia), rather than about what Waugh himself said it was about: “the operation of divine grace on a group of people”. I may see it: I am a huge fan of Ben Whishawe, and of Emma Thompson – but the horror of doing anything that might be seen to endorse the repulsive Mr. Davies’ world view gives me considerable pause.

Read Full Post »

I am pretty good on global etiquette. I’m strong on the whole”two-handed business card”, the “Mein Herr and the Herr Doktor” thing and all that that entails – but there is one thing that stills confounds me: saying goodbye to Latin American men. We’re way past handshakes, but that doesn’t mean that one goes straight for the “friendly manipulation of the scrotal sack” – which is (I am sure) what you’re thinking as you read this. NO! There are many stages in between, viz:

  1. The Marcus Aurelius meets 50 Cent wristgrip and twirl. I can describe it no better than that…
  2. The grab and one-handed back slap (the same manoeuvre that one uses in the UK to be fair: but the waters are so much less muddied there).
  3. The kiss.

I am not at ease with 1 or 3. It has got to be said that I am not particularly ease with 2 – so what I have just treated Ludicrously Chic Creative Director to is a strange version of number 1, lurching into a number 2: the over all impression was probably of a man gripping a double duvet cover by one of its corners, and then hastily patting it down to put out a small, but potentially threatening fire.

I have made what Old Friend at Work would call “A Titifalaka” of myself.

Read Full Post »

I remember an occasion from my University-besmirched past, talking to Me As A Protestant about Alan Bennett’s recently televised “102 Boulevard Haussmann”, his television play about Proust, he said: “Oh God, what a combination: Alan Bennett and Proust.”

Now I am a fan of both those people, subscribing to the (not exactly revolutionary) idea that “A La Recherche de Temps Perdu” is the greatest novel in existence; and that Alan Bennett (whose star appears to be on the ever-ascendant – certainly more so than it was during my University days, which prefigured the excellent “The Madness of King George III” and the incomparable “The History Boys”) was a magnificently talented dramatist.

So, I found myself in an odd situation when presented with a copy of Bill Bryson’s “Shakespeare” – a best-selling entry in the “Brief Lives” series.

While I absolutely recognise, and enjoy Bryson’s (ironically, illogically, factually incorrect) “British” sense of the ludicrous, his relish for the minor detail, his enthusiasm for idiosyncrasy, I was very far from convinced that he was the man to tackle the man who is (for my money) not only the greatest writer in the history of the world, without exception – but is the greatest mind in the history of the world, without exception.

And I was wrong. The book is brilliant: I read in straight through in four hours, finding it smart, concise, unsentimental and illuminating: an absolute triumph for a book of its brevity (it’s under 200 pages long), and a magnificent complement to the (equally fabulous) more exhaustive ambitions of such relatively recent publications as “1599: A Year In The Life of William Shakespeare”.

It’s fun, but not trivial; informative, but not stuffy; Bryson, but not not-Shakespeare. Quite a feat.

Read Full Post »

I believe that the above is what Shakespeare wrote that the man who had no music in him was fit for. So my only excuse for a number of people with whom I have been dealing this week is that they are tone fucking deaf.

Office politics are wearisome, but I wonder if Agency Politics deserve not only capital letters of their own, but a whole new definition of “wearisome”: perhaps it’s because the usual issues of status, survival, preference and allegiance are mixed in with the lifeblood of an Agency’s currency: ideas and creativity – so the final mix is so horrifyingly heady, it’s almost inevitable that the tensions will be heightened. It could also be that advertising has more than its fair share of Prima Donnas, sadists, egomaniacs and Grade A cunts…

As ever, the only way to get round the politics is to confront issues head on: not play by the unspoken rules of “you can’t confront someone who is bad-mouthing you, they’ll just deny it”: I think “America’s Next Top Model” has proven beyond doubt that confrontation and clarification is the best way to handle Machiavellian machinations, and cut through the brambles and briars of bitchery with the bright, clean sword of shouting nose to nose.

So, the issue is resolved for the moment, but I daresay that I shall be typing similar sentiments e’er long…

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »