An appreciation of the 45-day tweet

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A tweet by cheese brand Président has caused a stir on Twitter following a report that it took 45 days to prepare, including the involvement of a copywriter, designer, between 10-20 strategists, at least two social media managers, more senior writers and designers in the approval process, and then presumably various layers of management within the client company. Unsurprisingly, the result hasn’t been taken entirely seriously, but it's worth noting that it is actually quite a strong tweet.

Here’s my word-by-word appreciation.

Implants a subliminal message into the first word of the tweet, enticing readers into an RT- and fave-friendly social state of mind.

Note the modestly generic ‘a’ not ‘our’ – a brave move that theoretically means this tweet promotes competitor Camembert brands. But the right decision. ‘a’ is less controlling and more confident – and there is a massive picture of PRESIDENT CAMEMBERT below.

Important to get this into the first three words of the tweet.

with friends
More social triggering. Interesting exclusion of ‘family’ here – was this a sticking point in discussions?

Good to open with a question, immediately creating a sense of involvement and dialogue.

(How generous!)
At this point, the tweet is only seven words, but has impressively set up a dynamic tension between the opening question and the cheerful and socially flattering aside. The use of parentheses is key here – worth the deployment of two extra characters.

Note the graceful move from interrogative (opening sentence) to exclamatory (parentheses) and now into the imperative, gutturally Anglo-Saxon ‘get’. This switch of mood is a sign we are getting to the ‘meat’ of the tweet (or the cheese).

the best flavor
That mildly winded sensation you’re experiencing is the Benefit hitting home. Despite its deceptive opening, this tweet isn’t just here to make conversation – it has a clear product-related message. (Was there a discussion about the Americanised ‘flavor’ as opposed to the the UK-friendly ‘flavour’? Of course there was.)

by serving at room temperature.
The tweet is working hard now, delivering pure information at high speed. The slip into more formal language isn’t accidental, but creates a reassuring sense of quasi-scientific authority.

This is where the tweet steps up several levels from incidental disruption into pure Idea. The reader is being invited to consider all that has gone before not merely as good advice in its own right, but as one part of a bigger vision to appreciate and champion the ‘art’ of cheese. Think of the possibilities deftly captured in that 12-character device. The perfect cheddar-bread ratio for cheese on toast. The best cheese to pair with a Ritz cracker. How cottage cheese got its name. And is the subtle echo of 1980s synthpop experimentalists ‘Art of Noise’ coincidental? Nothing is coincidental in this tweet – it’s a smart trigger for the mum/dad demographic.

This appreciation is primarily concerned with the wording of the tweet, rather than the styling of the accompanying picture (which deserves an appreciation of its own), but note the enormity of the brand name – a no-nonsense contrast to the subtlety of the preceding tweet.

One final note: the entire tweet leaves three characters of its 140 to spare. At first sight, this is troubling – that’s three characters of valuable social media real estate unused. Were there discussions about this? Could there have been more exclamation marks after ‘generous’? Could ‘flavor’ have been depicted as ‘flavo(u)r’ to embrace the UK English market? Perhaps it’s nice that we’re being left to wonder what else might have been. This tweet has worked hard, but there is always the possibility of better to come.

Take your time, Président Cheese, we’re prepared to wait. 

It should be noted that the agency involved has challenged the ‘45-day’ version of events, although the journalist has stood by the reporting. I think the agency might be better off embracing the humour and mounting a forensic defence of the tweet – they are welcome to use any or all of the above.

Show off


I recently contributed to a book called Design: Portfolio, a collection of designers’ self-promotional work edited by Craig Welsh of US design firm Go Welsh and published by Rockport.

It’s primarily a visual reference with images of over 300 self-initiated projects, but it also includes a series of five short essays around the subject. Craig has kindly allowed me to reproduce mine here.

Show off
By Nick Asbury

Woody Allen said that 90% of success is showing up. Looking at the design industry, you could say the other 10% is showing off. Self-initiated and self-promotional work has always played a big part, both for rising stars making their names and global firms keen to maintain a creative reputation.

There’s nothing wrong with this. Indeed, there’s a lot right with it. Simply moving from one client brief to another is a passive existence for any creative person. A self-initiated project is a chance to explore ideas and elements of your craft that would otherwise never see the light of day.

There’s a subtle distinction between self-promotional work and self-initiated work. The former is explicitly produced for the purpose of promoting yourself – that’s the only reason it exists. It might be a book detailing your best projects, or a mailer talking about your company approach.

Self-initiated projects are different. They’re ideas you pursue yourself, without the involvement of a client, but which have a purpose beyond self-promotion. For me, this is an interesting seam to explore. It might be a book of poetry rearranging the words on corporate websites, or inventing the language equivalent of the Pantone color-matching system. If you pursue an idea you find interesting, there’s a good chance other people will too.

Of course, self-promotion is a useful side-effect when these projects go well. But the same is true of client work. Do a great job for a client and it won’t just be good for them. Your firm’s reputation grows by association, among your peer group and other potential clients. In that sense, all work is self-promotional. You just have to make sure the world knows about it – which brings us back to showing off.

However you do it, showing off has to be done. Many of the best things that happen in any creative career come about through serendipity: striking up a friendship with a like-minded collaborator, or bumping into the right client at the right time. Showing off helps serendipity happen. The more visible you are to your peers and the world at large, the more likely it is you’ll get that magical, career-changing email out of the blue. That’s partly why I said yes to writing this article – it’s a form of showing off. And you never know who might be reading. 

The book is nicely produced, with a varied range of contributors including Hat-trick, Bruce Mau and KesselsKramer. You can order it here. Photo from Wier Stewart.

Spam flypaper (Instagram Facebook Design Copywriting Logo)

Picture 3
If you are a human being, please don't comment on this post.

Like anyone with a blog, I regularly have to delete stupid spammy comments on other posts, particularly the one I wrote about Instagram for some reason.

So I thought it would be at least mildly amusing to have one post where I don't delete the spam comments, but do point out that anyone you see below is an AUTOMATED SPAMMY IDIOT TIRESOME WASTER OF HUMAN TIME AND ENERGY. AND A TOOL.

If they're linking to a site selling trainers, please note the trainers are rubbish and this person wets themselves every night and has no friends.

I should probably mention Instagram, Facebook, design, copywriting and logo again to draw them in. It may take a while, but they will come.

Thanks for bearing with this, which is purely for my own cathartic purposes.

Arguably Dylan or Crisp

Picture 4

Walkers Crisps have reportedly relaunched their core crisp flavours with new packaging featuring noticeably wordy product descriptions. Each begins with an adverb, followed by the flavour descriptor, then s0me extra detail giving a sense of 'provenance'.

The device is no doubt intended to add a little verbal garnish, in the style of self-consciously aspirational restaurant menus. However, for me, it's immediately redolent of mid-sixties Bob Dylan song titles.

Hence, in a follow-up to our not-that-popular Dodge or Fall game, we are pleased to introduce... Arguably Dylan or Crisp.

See if you can tell the difference.

Arguably Dylan or Crisp

1. Classically Ready Salted with Salt from Cheshire
2. Distinctively Salt & Vinegar with Real British Vinegar
3. Positively 4th Street
4. Unmistakably Cheese and Onion with Cheddar from Somerset
5. Absolutely Sweet Marie
6. Simply Roast Chicken with Free Range Chicken from Devon
7. Queen Jane Approximately
8. Tantalisingly Tomato Ketchup with Vale of Evesham Tomatoes
9. Obviously Five Believers
10. Only a Prawn in Their Cocktail

To view the answers, either stand on your head or turn your screen upside-down.


Problem: how to win a book


A post to point you towards the Johnson Banks Review of the Year 2012, which has become something of an industry institution. I sent in some contributions that made their way into the mix and won me a copy of the new edition of Problem Solved in return. A good way to start the year.

If you haven’t already moved on from 2012 retrospectives, the full list of contributions I emailed went like this:

Best blog
Mike Dempsey’s six-part story of CDT. Lovely balance of personal and professional insight. 

Over-hyped thing you’d like to see the back of (and that Creative Review should probably stop covering)
Pantone colour of the year. A tired but frustratingly effective PR ruse.

Best ad of the year
Channel 4 ‘Meet the Superhumans’ Paralympics promo. Still electrifying to watch.

Worst ad of the year
Colgate ‘focus group’ – possibly the most excruciating thing ever committed to film.

Second worst ad of the year
Facebook is a bit like a chair, sort of, if you think about it.

Writing project of the year
Ma’amite. Single word, but pretty good.

Best creative project of year
Olympic opening ceremony, obviously.

Worst creative project of the year
Olympic closing ceremony. Conceived by "a hugely powerful establishment creative director who is not actually creative." 

Best creative of year
Danny Boyle

Design of the year
The Heatherwick cauldron is the obvious and deserving choice, but the gold postboxes were a lovely touch. 

Influential design project of the year by Government Digital Service. Still an epic work in progress but on course to be a major design and writing achievement.

Design story of year
The Comedy Carpet not getting in-book at D&AD. An indictment of the design judging culture that ought to be a tipping point, but probably won’t be.

Unfortunate book of the year
The Snowman’s Journey – the book of the John Lewis ad.

Brand refresh of the year
Ecce Homo restoration.

Worst brand use of Twitter
This ‘topical’ tweet from @YahooNews:
Last week a Moscow judge sentenced a band to two years in prison. What musical act would you send to lockup and why? 

Website of year

Quote of the year
“Hard work and grafting.” Mo Farah after winning second gold.

Worst brand campaign
Mini Cooper sponsoring what turned out to be a deadly weather front.

Those we have lost
The Waterstones apostrophe, which inevitably got its own Twitter account.

Much more comprehensive Johnson Banks review here.

Remembering John Hanna


If you were reading this blog in 2009, you may remember a post appealing for information about illustrator John Hanna, who created a series of beautiful covers for Country Fair magazine in the early 1950s. Remarkably little information existed about him online, but thanks to a few plucky commenters we managed to track down more information about his life and work.

Now designer-maker Jenny Duff has been in touch to say she’s been given permission to create a series of table mats reviving those original illustrations. The illustrations were offered to her by the family of journalist and publisher Macdonald Hastings, who edited Country Fair. According to Jenny’s website, the family remember using copies of the magazines as table mats when they were children, so it’s fitting that they should be reincarnated in this way.

They make for a lovely collection. Maybe it’s proof that good work will always be rediscovered eventually, however long it takes.

Late Victorian crowdsourcing


Today’s Guardian carries a story about Kraft Foods, who have set up a new company to handle their snack food products. As is often the case these days, rather than getting the professionals in to come up with a name, they launched a crowdsourcing-style competition. The result is Mondelez, where the ‘monde’ suggests ‘world’ and ‘delez’ supposedly suggests 'delicious'.

It doesn’t immediately strike you as a great name. The pronunciation is ambiguous and it sounds slightly like a French xxx-rated site.

The tone of the Guardian article is certainly wry and the comments so far suggest the name will draw mockery, not just on its intrinsic merit or lack of it, but also for the fact that it was crowdsourced – the winning suggestion came from two employees.

But it’s worth noting that, when it comes to naming, crowdsourcing is nothing new.

As long ago as 1890, a Macclesfield breadmaker called Richard ‘Stoney’ Smith launched a national competition to find a name for his new flour and breadmaking business. The winning entry came from a student called Herbert Grimes. And it was Hovis.

Like Mondelez, it comes from a contraction of two foreign-language words. In this case, it’s the Latin hominis vis, meaning ‘strength of man’.

It’s a great name, for which Herbert Grimes won £25. Not bad money in those days, although he may have negotiated more had he known it would still be around in 120 years.

The story is proof that crowdsourcing is far from the newfangled practice it’s made out to be. In many cases, it's really a fancy name for a competition.

There’s another interesting footnote on Hovis. The runner-up in the naming competition was ‘Yum yum’, which would have set a very different tone for the brand. It suggests that a tendency for slightly grating, infantilising brand language was also alive and well in 1890.

The picture at the top of this post (sourced here) shows the gravestone of Richard 'Stoney' Smith in Highgate Cemetery. It's a fascinating irregular shape and there is something satisfying about a Stoney stone, especially as it commemorates a man whose stock in trade was ground flour.

UPDATE: This article has subsequently appeared in a revised form on the Creative Review blog. Commenter Ben Millar notes that £25 would equate to £2,400 in today's money. Not to be sniffed at.

The youngest ever D&AD winner?


If you’re vaguely connected to the world of social media, you’ve probably heard about 3½-year-old Lily Robinson and her letter to the manager of her local Sainsbury’s store.

Lily had quite reasonably spotted that Sainsbury’s Tiger Bread looks more like a giraffe and suggested a name change. Customer manager Chris King wrote a cute reply, agreeing that the name was ‘a bit silly’. As these things do, it subsequently ‘went viral’ on Facebook and elsewhere. In a clever move to keep the family-friendly PR story going, Sainsbury’s has now officially renamed the bread.

It’s only a change to a single word, but it’s well observed, rooted in the visual appearance of the product, and may well lead to a surge in sales. All of which leads me to wonder whether Lily Robinson could become the youngest ever winner in the D&AD Writing for Design category.

The deadline is tomorrow Lily, so it’s time to get your pocket money out.

11 from 11

In the predictable rush to cover natural disasters, political upheaval and the fall of empires, many reviews of 2011 will no doubt fail to note our blogging exploits – so we've been forced to write our own.

Here are eleven posts from 2011:


1. The year began on a sad note with Mr Blog’s Valedictory Awards Show.


2. The valedictory mood continued with reflections on Rob McElwee’s disappearance from our daily lives.


3 & 4. February was poetry month – one about Asda launching a dating service, and one about the birth of a new Asbury (the defining moment of our year in a big and increasingly noisy way).


5. April saw ill-informed copywriters defacing a blind man’s sign.

6. May was all about the Creative Amnesty, a joint venture with Creative Review, which saw the great and good of the creative world sharing their worst ideas.


7. June was the month of 1,000 words.


8. July was The One With The Really Good Friends Advert.


9. September saw a rare venture into long-form blogging, with some reflections on wackaging and the trouble with copywriting.


10. October saw the unwrapping of WrapperRhymes.


11. And finally there was a salute to the greatest brand name of all time: Rotavator.


If you have been, thank you – and happy Christmas.

Blogging for Britain


For the past three weeks, Alistair Hall of We Made This has been cycling his way from one end of Britain to the other. Before he left, he invited 20 guest bloggers to man the blog in his absence. The results have been seriously interesting – all very different, all very good.

Nick Hornby on cover design
Catherine Dixon on José Luiz Benicio da Fonseca
Mike Reed on Milward & Sons
Joe Dunthorne on Le Gun
Clare Skeats on Foundation
David Pearson on phillumeny
Mike Dempsey on visual culture
Andrew Diprose on the best bike in the world
Michael Johnson on the future of the Design Council
Angharad Lewis on reading
Joe McLaren on Whizzer and Chips
Paul Finn on George Perec
Ace Jet 170 on pigeons, planes, and asterisks in the sky
Phil Baines on remembering, the French way
Caroline Roberts on the Elephant and Castle
Max Fraser on freedom
Eleanor Crow on variations on a theme
... and a poem from Laura Dockrill


My contribution was about the designer behind Tunnock's.

The point of the whole exercise is to raise money towards a very good cause, so click on a few of the links above and then donate a few quid in exchange for some high-quality blogging.

Ernest Hemingway Copy Clinic


NB: Ernest Hemingway's "FOR SALE: BABY SHOES. NEVER WORN." is widely heralded as the greatest six-word story ever written. However, it's always struck me that it's a poor piece of sales copy – those shoes are never going to sell. Here's how I would have helped given the chance.


Hi Ernest

I took a look at the ad you wrote: FOR SALE: BABY SHOES. NEVER WORN.
I have a few issues with it.
1. Concise is good, but we’re writing an ad not a telegram. You have to make the audience want the shoes. Don’t be afraid to add some colour.
2. Speaking of which, what colour are they? Blue? Pink? That’s an important detail.
3. As are size and material. Are we talking newborn, 0-3 months, 3-6 months? Plastic, leather, felt? Don't make your audience work for it.
OK, that gets us to something like this:
Can you see that’s already working better?
4. So you’ve got me interested, but what’s going to swing it is the price. $6.99? Sounds competitive.
5. I know you like concise, so I’m going to suggest a cut. Do you really need that ‘For sale’ at the beginning? Is it not obvious from the context? Especially when you add the price. Let’s see:
6. We’re pretty close here, but every ad needs a call to action:
7. OK, there’s one last big problem to overcome. NEVER WORN is a great product benefit, but you’re underplaying it. Can we flesh it out somehow?

 8. See how this has more personality now? Is there any way we can push it further? Get a bit of the real Ernest in there? Remember, people buy from people.

OK, we have an ad. 
Now can you send in John Steinbeck – I have a few problems with his Hannah Montana Used Wardrobe Accessories treatment.



A brief post to let you know I’ll be guest editing the Creative Review Twitter account next Wednesday (25 May).

In terms of relative follower numbers, this is like stepping out of a rubber dinghy and taking the controls of the Queen Mary 2.

It's part of a week (well, four days) of guest editors, with Anna and Britt of Visual Editions editing on Monday, designer and blogger Daniel Gray editing on Tuesday, then a mystery editor on Thursday, chosen via a competition taking place on Twitter right now.

Please tune in if you're that way inclined.

Ken Clarke TOV Guidelines (leaked excerpt)


NB: This extract from Ken Clarke's revised Tone of Voice Guidelines found its way into my inbox. I pass it on without comment.


Until now, the Kenneth Clarke verbal brand (‘Ken’) has been defined under the strategic banner of Blokeish CharmTM.

This positioning has proved very effective over the years. However, it has recently been noted that this Tone of Voice does not sufficiently ‘flex’ to cover all circumstances, particularly when discussing issues such as serious crimes and prison sentencing.

As a result, we have developed a new positioning that more fully reflects Ken as he is today and aspires to be in future.

Please note this is an evolution rather than a revolution and should be thought of as a subtle shift in the continuing journey of the Ken brand.

We define the new positioning as:

Apologetic Tactful HumilityTM

The new Ken, henceforth referred to more formally as Kenneth Clarke, is characterised by hyper-sensitivity and tact, to an extent that could be construed as 'embarrassing' and 'laughable'.

We have mapped out the new positioning using this illustrative Language LandscapeTM:

Please note this new brand positioning is to be brought forward immediately – and certainly in time for Question Time tonight.

My Blue Peter Diamond Jubilee Logo Contest Submission


Thank you for your logo contest for six to 14-year-olds to make a logo for your Diamond Jubilee I am very excited!

At this stage I am submitting a credentials proposal outlining my suitability for the project. I would be happy to present some of my first creative ideas upon successful appointment and having discussed the brief with you in more detail!

My credentials are that in the holidays I did do a drawing of a sheep that looked like a dog but it wasn't it was a sheep and the teacher said it was a good picture of a sheep and now it is on my fridge my mum put it there. When I was 6 (I am 6½ now) I did a painting of my house but it wasn't as good and it got paint everywhere!

I am good at drawing and painting and things and I like the Queen she's nice but I don't like the Prince of Wales.

Please can I do the logo you want. I usually charge on a project basis rather than a daily rate and will discuss the fee with you in advance depending on your budget but I hope it's a lot because you're the Queen. I will retain the copyright on the work until the Queen has paid for it.

Please let me know when you want to meet to discuss this and I will pretend to be sick so I can get off school.



PS: While I am working on the logo for you, can the Queen come and do my homework. Also I would like a Blue Peter badge so I can sell it on eBay.

A word of thanks

We've just taken delivery of this Lego set from Andrew Arnold, fellow 26 member and Communications Manager at Lego.

It's part of a swap deal involving a set of Pentone mugs, which are now making their way over to Andrew in Denmark. We suspect we got the better side of the deal.

The swap came about through the Creative Review Tweetup last week, at which Lego was the main sponsor. The event gets a good write-up over here.


Photographed in our local library car park.

Cat bin woman strikes again?

Other books released today


With the release of Tony Blair's autobiography dominating the media today, it struck me that it must be a very bad time for someone else to release a book.

I went here to check who the unfortunate people were. Here are some of the titles I found – I couldn't spot any particular theme:

Act of Murder
Misty Gordon and the Mystery of the Ghost Pirates 
Mastering the World of Selling
All About Me
Life of Jesus 
Politics – According to the Bible
Invented Religions
Why Does God Let It Happen?
Blind Fury
In The Spin Of Things
Liability for Psychiatric Damage
Diarrhea (Clinical Gastroenterology)
Inventing Iraq
Best Fairy Stories Of The World
Growing Old Disgracefully Calendar 2011


Search stories

I think this has been around for a while, but I only discovered it recently. It's a promotion by Google that allows you to script your own 'search stories', by entering a series of search terms and choosing some accompanying mood music.

Like all such things, it's full of potential for playfulness and subversion. My first thought was to do something quite melancholy and existential:

Then I tried something trivial and silly (you need the sound turned up for these):

The next obvious step was to retell a literary classic. (Warning: don't watch this one if you haven't already read The Grapes of Wrath. It's one of the great endings to a novel and I don't want to be responsible for spoiling it.)

Someone somewhere is no doubt going through the full literary canon.

You can make your own here.

The power of prayer

Hope Jim Davies has better luck.

The Nation's Prayer


Here's a prayer in anticipation of Sunday's match. Background and inspiration here

You can download and print your own version if you like (landscape format).

Godspeed, England.

The Nation's Prayer – Background


Yesterday morning, The Partners produced this beautifully simple England poster.

Yesterday afternoon, their prayers were answered: England beat Slovenia and will now play Germany on the 27 June – a Sunday.

That got me wondering about writing a prayer for England, which in turn brought to mind the Bus Driver's Prayer, of unknown origin, but immortalised by Ian Dury. Frith Kerr made this lovely poster out of it for the 2009 London Design Festival:


All of which eventually led me to write a similar thing involving the current England squad. Sue has turned it into a poster, which I'm about to stick up in the next post.

National mascots



  1. Slick
  2. Glossy
  3. Highly polished
  4. Near-identical
  5. Automatons
  6. One blue, one yellow
  7. Morph to resemble whoever is closest to them
  8. Slightly paunchy
  9. Headlights suggest both are taxis for hire
  10. Jointly claim to represent the nation
More here.

Breathtaking confession


What? He read T.S. Eliot?

Full story here. (Love the way reading T.S. Eliot is put on equal footing to inadvertently wearing two shirts and two ties to a meeting with Rupert Murdoch.)

Rip-wolf and the E-Puzzler

Most people will be familiar with that feeling you get in real-life situations where you find yourself looking for the 'undo' button, only to realise there isn't one. A bit like missing a key moment in a live football match and waiting for the players to reassemble and do it again in slow motion. In each case, you get that slightly wobbly, disconcerting moment when you realise the ruthless nature of 'real time'. Life has already moved on without you.

According to a story in The Times, the real world is now developing an 'undo' function. Dr. Bertram Nickolay, a scientist in Berlin, has been working on a computer programme capable of piecing together millions of fragments of torn-up documents, based solely on pattern recognition. His aim is to reconfigure classified documents destroyed in haste by the Stasi as the East German state crumbled in 1989, mostly using shredders known as 'rip-wolves', but also tearing some up by hand when the machines broke under the strain.

Known as the 'E-Puzzler', the software logs the unique characteristics of each piece — shape, colour, font, texture, handwriting, paper-type, edges and thickness — then uses an algorithm to group together similar fragments, before matching them up individually.

Of course, this is a job that human beings are capable of tackling, but it takes a long time, especially when faced with material on this scale:


The same technology is already being applied elsewhere to piece together ancient papyrus documents and earthenware. Seeing it in action must be quite something – all those little fragments dancing around the screen, until they resolve into a real object that hasn't existed for decades or millennia. Like watching Apple's Time Machine operating in the real world.


Someone will surely make a film about Dr Bertram Nickolay one day, probably starring Russell Crowe. Rip-wolf and the E-Puzzler would be a good title for it. I may write a script, shred it, then send it to Marty Scorsese with a humorous covering note.

Ironic footnote: After further research, it turns out the story in The Times is itself a remarkable reconstitution of a story that appeared in The Guardian three years ago. Hmm.