Rough notes on 2014

Ferguson

This isn’t exactly a comprehensive review of the year, more a trawl back through things I’ve tweeted or favourited over the past 12 months – Twitter can be a useful mental archive that way (when it’s not being used for retrieving lost property, as in my most shared tweet of the year). 

One of the common themes is mortality (please keep reading). This was the year we lost great advertising writers including David Abbott (The Economist, JR Hartley and countless others) and Julian Koenig (Volkswagen ‘Think small’), and stars of design including Wally Olins, Massimo Vignelli and more recently Rodney Fitch. I wrote about David Abbott here and reviewed Wally Olins' last book for Creative Review (subs only). Also recommend New York Times on Julian Koenig and Michael Johnson on Wally Olins.

One writer happily bucking the trend is Clive James, who recently admitted to being “in the slightly embarrassing position where I say I’m going to die and then don’t.” His ‘Japanese Maple’ won widespread praise this year and he continues to write lucidly and arguably better than ever as he approaches the end.

Japanese_maple
Death has a way of leading to great writing. In the bleak aftermath of the MH17 flight, these notices in Schiphol Airport (via @jessbrammar) were a civilised, secular piece of corporate writing.

Schiphol1

Schiphol2

More recently, the sudden death of cricketer Phillip Hughes saw collective grief expressed through a powerful symbol. Hard not to be moved by #putoutyourbats 

Putoutyourbats

Such genuine expressions of grief put into severe perspective the trend for ‘sadvertising’ that has been noted by a few commentators this year – referencing ads that aim to make us cry rather than laugh.

For example, there’s Dove challenging mothers and their daughters to confront their inherited ideas of body image (quite moving to watch, but always in the uncomfortable knowledge that you’re being sold a brand positioning).

Then there’s the camera rising from the trenches of the First World War and that big Sainsbury’s logo appearing in the sky (in the Christmas ad that at least moved the conversation on from John Lewis). Whatever you think of it, it’s hard for brands to associate themselves with issues so real and emotionally charged without at least a whiff of self-interest surrounding the whole thing. (At the other end of the life cycle, this was also the year that a detergent brand live-tweeted the birth of a new baby.) 

Costa-Karen-Lloyd-is-carr-011

Then again, for all that we feel uncomfortable with brands intruding on the serious issues of life and death, sometimes life and death intrude on brands. This Costa coffin (in which a woman who was a great fan of the coffee chain requested to be buried) has a jarring and, let’s face it, blackly humorous effect. But there’s something moving about the way people form such an affection for brands – albeit not the kind of connection Costa can place at the centre of its next ad campaign.

XBox

Even more affectingly, there was this story of a son keeping his dead father’s memory alive by racing against his digital ‘ghost’ on Xbox (worth reading the whole thing here). Again, not something Xbox can easily turn into an advert (although it’s not out of the question).

Benbench

Before leaving the subject of life and death, I was pleased this year to come up with a line for this bench plaque, dedicated to the very-much-alive Ben Terrett – backstory here

So, on to lighter things. Packaging copy continues to entertain and amuse, usually not intentionally.

Tomato

This was the year of tomatoes with the unmistakable aroma of, erm, tomatoes. (via @whatsamadder). 

Leadingedge

Leading edge chocolates for chocolate eaters who mean business.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 19.07.14

And the most middle-class copy ever for Waitrose (via @will_jkm)

Cups_frontback_0

There was also some good stuff, like this Cultivating Thought project for Chipotle, which uses packaging as a platform for interesting writing – would love to see more brands doing this, rather than chatting away about a product you’ve already bought.

Now the quickfire round:

Best speech

Bob Hoffmann hailing the Golden Age of Bullshit at Advertising Week Europe. Uncomfortable applause all round.

Best TV ad

Not strictly TV, but a 6-hour pre-roll on YouTube for Virgin America (created by Eleven in San Francisco), imagining a deathly boring competitor called BLAH Airlines. A well-worn strawman strategy, but brilliantly done: advertising as high commercial art. 

Best press ad

Unlaunch

This Unlaunch ad for the VW Bus (actually 2013 I think).

Nothinghappened_0

Nothinghappened2_0

And this Nothing happened ad for Ecotricity.

Worst print ad

Cobra

This Cobra campaign, which is apparently based on the fact that Cobra is an anagram of BraCo, so let’s imagine a company that makes bras and... and... sorry, I resign. (How that brainstorm should have ended.)

Best exhibition graphics

Okrm1

Okrm2

Enjoyed these simple, writing-led graphics that completely make sense of the Design of the Year exhibition (by Ok-RM). 

Most heroic filler copy of the year

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 16.05.16

This description of curtains is one of the most stoically professional pieces of writing ever crafted, taken from the IKEA website

Best non-commercial writing project

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 17.05.17Pop Sonnets: reimagining pop songs as traditional sonnets. Lovely idea, skilfully written.

Best national slogan

Elephants

Only one contender: this wonderfully evocative Ivory Coast team slogan for the World Cup. I wrote an analysis of all 32 slogans for Creative Review, including Brazil’s ‘Brace Yourselves, the 6th is coming’, which proved painfully prescient when they got hammered 7-0.

Weirdest strapline

Beyourway

Burger King’s new strapline was another milestone on the continuing journey into pure abstract thought that is currently being undertaken by all global brands. By 2019, all brands will have replaced their straplines with a steady, mantra-like hum. 

Brand extension of the year

Elegance

This story about trademarks registered by Donald Trump is gold from start to finish (via @design_week)

Protest branding of the year

Rios-fake-urreal-009

The $urreal: a mock banknote and social media campaign protesting against rising inflation in Brazil and the increasingly ‘surreal’ prices of everyday goods. 

Protest song of the year

Bit obscure, but in a year of continued austerity while the rich get richer, I liked this 64-year-old singing a 17-year-old’s song.

Plagiarism of the year

Np1

Will award this to The Sun for nicking our Nation’s Prayer and filming themselves reading it in Brazil. Happily, they eventually made a donation to Street League.

Image of the year

Has to be the one at the top of this post, from Ferguson. Sadly, ‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ and ‘I can’t breathe’ are also the most memorable slogans of the year. 

There ends this incomplete and impressionistic review of 2014, which nevertheless took ages to write.

If only there was an efficient way of keeping track of an entire year in diary form

Get Christmas all wrapped up

Giftwrap

(That headline is just to annoy the people behind this.)

A couple of weeks ago, we launched Perpetual Disappointments Diary: the appointments diary and journal with a series of disappointing twists. The London Metro has since described it as the ‘Best. Diary. Ever.’ which is our best review ever. Thanks to anyone who has ordered it or shared it in any way – greatly appreciated.

This post is to alert you to the fact that we’re now doing a gift-wrap service, so you can send the diary directly to your friends and avoid having to see them in person.

Gifttag

Visit the store here and choose from the gift-wrapped (£15) or non-gift-wrapped (£13) versions.

Here is the video we used to promote the diary – haven’t posted it here yet. 

 

And on a related note, I found myself writing a weird thing mixing the lyrics of Every day is like Sunday and Blue Monday. It's called Every day is like Blue Monday.

Perpetual Disappointments Diary

Cover_0002

Today we release a new version of Disappointments Diary, which we first published in 2012. The new version (available here) comes in a larger, more cumbersome format, suitable for use as a journal and week-to-view appointments diary. It’s not specific to one year and can be used any time, hence the name Perpetual Disappointments Diary.*

Proverb_0020

Proverb_0021

As before, the diary contains a weekly demotivational proverb, combining new ones with the most depressing of the old ones.

UsefulPhrases_0017

Targeting the international loser, we have included a section of Useful Phrases translated into French, German, Spanish and Mandarin.

BankInsecurityQ_0016

Other additions include Bank Insecurity Questions (first published on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency), Personal SWOT Analysis, double the amount of Notable Deaths, and templates for Apology Notes and Passive-Aggressive Notes.

Stickers_0032

The diary comes with months and dates marked as normal, and a sheet of Monday stickers to mark the start of each working week. Dimensions are 210mm x 130mm.

Creative Review have written about it here.

Our strategic rationale is that it’s hard to do a new diary every year and there’s only a short window in which to sell each one, so by doing a Perpetual version, we free ourselves from having to do it again, while allowing us to flog this one grimly for years to come. 

Perpetual Disappointments Diary is available from disappointmentsdiary.com for £13+p&p

This version is written and designed by Asbury & Asbury, based on an original design by Jim Sutherland, Hat-trick Design and Sue Asbury. You can read more about the original version in these previous posts

Please buy the diary now.

 

* The name was Sue’s idea, which is pretty good for a designer.