28 February, 2012

Ain't no Birthday like a Facebook Birthday

At the end of last week I turned 35

When I was seven I had a Star Wars party. I was Luke Skywalker when he was a Jedi (I was all in black, a single black glove, I even had a cape). Someone came as Buck Rogers but I let it slide.

At my 'Welcome to Adulthood' 13th, it was with a group of gay men singing 'Happy Birthday in a TGI Fridays in Key West, Florida.

My 15th was a more sophisticated affair - A dinner party (I now shudder having seen that Inbetweeners episode) followed by a showing of Robocop - a 18 certificate I hasten to add.

My 18th was spent in the Public Bar of my parents pub with a Granny-gram with a huge pair of droopy knockers bending me over a chair and whipping me while my 'mates' all looked on in awe/disgust.

My 21st was a blast - My folks came up to University - we went to the Student Union and then proceeded to take photos all of all my friends (head-in-hands). Another great family moment that day was when I unwrapped my gift from all my chums - Oh lovely, a Zippo lighter.

'Why would a non-smoker want a Zippo?' My mother would ask...click, click, click BOOM!

We then went to...I'm going to say 'TGI Fridays' again before heading back to my Halls of Residence only to be greeted on the way in by a flatmate quietly telling me that  had just OD'd on pills in her room. So after casually thanking my parents for a lovely day and ushering them out to the car park and waving them goodbye, I then had to jump in my own car and deliver her into the arms of the paramedics at High Wycombe A&E. (She was fine after a charcoal happy meal)

I've had many birthdays over the years - 35 to be exact. Some have been excellent - The Cannonball Run themed 30th was great. However, this year's was by far the dullest.

It started well. I had the day off and a mild hangover. However it quickly transpired that there were no surprise parties or long lunches going to happen as we (Mrs Cheese-on-Toast and I) had to come into town to clean and decorate our flat for new tenants. It then slowly got worse. I had do two runs to Homebase because I bought the wrong paint. I went to the dump and I sat in traffic for 2 hours to get home. I then had a takeaway with my in-laws. Not a classic by any stretch.

But on Facebook it was OFF THE HOOK!

I was getting messages from around the world. There were more 'likes' than a Fonz appreciation meeting and I even got sent a cake (Virtually, but how nice of them to know I'm watching my weight). It didn't matter that reality was ignoring my birthday - In the digital world it was Cool & the Gang and Celebration. But as they say 'reality bites' and it bit in the form of a card from my nearest and dearest work colleagues.

Roll on next year, where i'll be celebrating exclusively on social media outputs.

21 February, 2012

Welcome to (D)adland

10 years ago if I used the phrase 'I've been up all night' it was usually accompanied with a half-eaten kebab and an early morning smokers cough. Now if I use the phrase, the kebab's still there, but in the other hand is a baby monitor and the cough is no longer mine but a teething 16-month old who's addicted to Calpol.

Forget about how the industry quietly removes any female creatives who are caught within a 100 yards of a mothercare - there are better politically minded and more female orientated people who are much better at debating that topic - but this is for all the Man-boy creatives who have taken or decided to take on the fatherhood brief.

Being a creative (irrespective of gender) is a 24hr job. If you're not banging out ideas, you're trying to get them made and then you go to the pub to come up with more ideas and work out how to get them made as well. It's one big loop and the longer you manage to stay in Adland, the more of a way of life it becomes. Who hasn't phoned their other half on a friday afternoon and had to utter that sentence, 'I'm going to have to work this weekend'?

It's part of the magic of being a Doctor of Creativity - you're on call pretty much all of the time but you love it and you wouldn't want to do anything else anyway.

So after you've taken the brief and worked closely with a difficult client (mood swings, grumpiness, morning sickness, etc.) for a period of 9 months the execution is ready to go live.

Then. It. Arrives.

Up until now, the closet thing to fatherhood was the acronym D&AD and now this helpless, squidgy thing covered in (what looks like) concrete dust, feta cheese and blackberry jam is being given to you as they say 'Here you go DAD!' As a creative/boy/man/, this life-changing moment you always heard others talking about is now actually changing your life right before your eyes. Now the fatherhood brief has changed and its got two propositions:

1: Be a top notch creative, become rich and famous, go to Cannes for the right reasons
2: Work out how to be a dad.

In the beginning, number 2 is all you work from - you get a week of paternity (2 weeks and you're creatively dead to an agency) so all your attention is focused at home with nothing more than working out whether 'It' is hungry, wet or both - a simple brief and one that after a while is fairly easy to execute.

After that though trying to get an execution to work for both becomes a little more difficult but not a great deal at first. They say the first 3 months are the hardest and yes, to a point that's true. But as a creative, at work, life carries on much the same - you're a little more tired and you go to the pub less (you're certainly not the last to leave anymore) but ideas still happen, Facebook statuses get written and coffee still gets drunk.

At home, 'It' does very little - it cries, it sh*ts, it eats. The two worlds live apart from each other. You don't see your friends as much and when you do they have to be arranged within the vicinity of baby -changing facilities but that's a different blog - try mumsnet for a deeper insight into friends and having a family.

But after a while something happens. After months of nothing, 'It' starts to do things. it starts to smile, it starts to crawl, it begins to walk and it slowly learns to talk and you realise that you love this thing as well. And that's the problem of the fatherhood brief - you now love two things -  (Three, if you count Mrs Buttery Toast, but this isn't about her.) Your job and your 'It'.

You want to do the best work possible, you want to reach creative nirvana and give birth to that black pencil idea. But also, you want to see 'It' grow and develop. You want to see how many wooden blocks 'It' can stack and you want to be there to clap every time 'It' manages to put a spoonful of yoghurt in its mouth.

And because you want to answer both propositions of the brief well, you have to compromise especially with the timings issues.

With Adland, it's about getting in and leaving*. You get in on the dot, but because it's not at the crack of dawn, you feel like you're being judged for being late in. Occasionally, you want to leave on time. Whichever it is, you're can't help but feel worried that people think you can't be doing good work if you're leaving in normal working hours or you're obviously not doing this for the love of the game anymore. So you try to cram in more ideas over a shorter period of time but all the while, you just want to send an email to the chiefs making it abundantly clear:

'I love this job and just because I'm not the first in or last out that doesn't mean I'm not committed. I only get to see 'It' for 20 minutes in the morning. I'm here and I want to do great things but I don't want to miss out on the other things.'  

From "Its' point of view, you want to make sure you're there whenever you can be. The morning change and feed and the occasional bath time-bottle-bed evening fixture. It's not a complicated thing to want but it's a complicated thing to do when you love both.

The fatherhood brief was always going to be tricky, the proposition was never going to be single-minded and timings would always go out the window.

Perhaps it's my own insecurities, perhaps it's the way the ad industry makes everyone feel like it's an honour and a privilege to work in it (it hasn't escaped my attention that there aren't too many creche's in ad agencies either).

I do love being a creative but i'm learning to love being a dad too. I know the industry doesn't make it easy, however, at the end of the day, any creative worth his/her salt will ignore the brief anyway.

That concludes my one (and probably) only profound blog post about anything ad related.

Next week, a dog in a tank dancing to Yazoo.

*This bears no relation to my current employment, it's a generalisation of all the places I and many of my friends have worked at within the Advertising Industry.

15 February, 2012

Don't have creative nightmares...

Don't Hug Me I'm Scared from This Is It on Vimeo.

I'm scared to close my eyes or come up with funny Facebook stats and Tweets for FMCG companies now.

14 February, 2012

10 days to go...

In just over a week I will be right in the middle of my 30s. Slap bang, dead centre. As I'm about to hit my peak and begin the downward slope, I've been wondering what I should treat myself to on this momentous occasion. Do I get a tattoo? Perhaps a grown-up watch? A gym membership to try and tackle the issue i've carried around for the past 20 years? All of these have been valid and real possibilities that I've thought long and hard about. Today however, the internets made the decision for me.

09 February, 2012

Ear Candy 12 for 12 - Feb Ed

Quite the Nu-Disco vibe for Feb.

Best F*r*i*e*n*d*s forever

Like chain-smoking, F*r*i*e*n*d*s is one addiction that many of us just can't shift. As soon as one episode ends, we light up another one. Irrespective of how many times we see this modern (90s) version of the Famous Five +1 sat round the same dated apartment or coffee shop, we watch with the same delight as we did nearly 20 years ago. 

Yes we've all seen it so many times that we can date it to within one or two episodes in a specific season, but that's now part of the fun. Whether it's by seeing how big Joey's waistline has got, how unfunny Chandler is or how much Monica has turned into Skeletor, we still laugh at the same jokes and we're still all mesmerised by the nipples of Rachel - no matter which era, which haircut or what relationship they are always pointing and perky. I challenge you to find an episode without them making a guest appearance.

There was a point when I was up to 4-a-day and occasionally even revisited them on the +1 circuit too. I thought that when our Friends got up and left to go to Sky and Comedy Central it would curtail my want. And to a degree it has; that is until you flick through the 600 channels and you realise you'd rather watch the episode where Ross and Rachel almost get (back) together for the umpteenth time than see another sensationalist piece of work by Channel 4. But Why? Why not, is the answer. It's easy, it's funny and why wouldn't you? Plus, we're all holding out that it could be the 'one episode that I've never seen'! We all still have that belief, even now.

Anyway, with almost a fifth of a century under its belt, Friends seems like it'll always be with us. Yes, it'll slowly slip down the channel charts and eventually come to rest around the 500 mark. But 'I'll be there for you' as will many others because I, for one, am not entirely ready to go cold turkey or put on a '30 Rock' patch. 

I'll cut down but sometimes you just want one every once in a while. You never really quit. 

01 February, 2012

A Phantom Menace, not an Empire Strikes Back

The ad industry collectively held its breath with excitement when news filtered through from twitter and the vastly expanding ‘See all the cool stuff first’ blogs, that VW’s Superbowl ad was going to have another Star Wars theme.
Hooray! Who would be in it – would Star Wars kid feature again? Could it be Jabba the Hutt squeezing into a Golf? Perhaps Han & Chewy would be taking a VW camper to Florida.

I didn’t know. In truth, I didn’t care. I was excited because whatever it was, it was going to be a-m-a-z-i-n-g.
A few days later, a teaser circulates with all sorts of dogs sat on white plinths of various shapes and sizes (both pooches and plinths). After a few seconds I recognised the inane barking as the opening score to Darth Vaders entrance music. Da da da da ddda da da dddadda da. 

The Bark Side
‘This is going to be good’ I thought and it conjured up even more ideas. Ewoks on a road trip in a Polo? Are these dogs Chewy’s kids and he needs more boot space so he’s buying a Passat Estate? 

As the lunch bell silently rang at CMW towers today, one of the cool blogs announced ‘it was here!’ A preview of the ad that will be aired this Sunday during the Superbowl – an extended version in fact. Double-click!

What I saw was one minute of a fat dog exercising so he can chase the new Beetle before cutting to the infamous Cantina Bar (now taken over by the Sports CafĂ© with TV screens dripping from everywhere) where space pirates debated which of the ads was better. Star Wars Kid from last year or this year’s Fat Dog? The debate was quickly settled though by a returning Lord Vader, fresh from the sales at PC World - pink Dell notebook just £399 -  with a good old-fashioned death pinch.
Is it possible to be angry about an ad? I shouldn’t be but I am. I feel let down and hurt. I wanted Ewoks and Death Stars and AT-AT’s, and all I got was an even older clichĂ© about dogs chasing cars. If you’ve paid all that money for the Star Wars franchise, you don’t bolt it on to the end of another ad. 

You essentially just wasted $15 million ($1million a second) on a gag that wasn’t funny to start with. All you’ve done is drag Star Wars into it. Just because everyone loved it last year doesn’t mean they’ll love it this time around. I think part of the charm of last year was that it was new. 
Now we’ve got Yoda selling mobiles, R2-D2 shaped washing machines and the Sith Lord telling us to turn right at the next set of traffic lights. I think the tide of Star Wars endorsements is well and truly out for the time being. It does make you think though -

I wonder what Bill Bernbach would think of the ad?

Personally, ‘Lemon’ is a pretty fair description.

Saying all this, it could be a fake, a rouse, only for them to reveal a full Jedi epic at half time on Sunday.

As a 34-year old who grew up wanting to be Han Solo and now looking more like his sidekick, I hope it is.

And now for something from BBC Radio 3

A charming Elizabethan ditty.
Join in when we get to the chorus...