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  • Maasai_071
    The most amazing day - the most amazing people...
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Another idyllic family holiday in Pembrokeshire:

Here is a brief synopsis in pictures - coz they are better than words...


View from the balcony


Picnic in the sun


Jamie on horseback


Riding at Nolton Stables on the beach (did lots of this)


Lizzie gets ready to ride


Front garden


We used these a lot


Obligatory wetsuit


Surfin' chick


Picnic on balcony


Sunset from our garden

I also met a fantastic guy called Tim Williams - a carpenter by trade - who was building an unusual timber framed edifice in the garden - he is a singer songwriter and we got chatting about music and he gave me a copy of his latest album which set the tone for the entire holiday. Check this out from the album - bit like REM in places:

Download Track03.cda

Check out his stuff here - its unique:

Anyway it struck me that music is such an amazing common language - you can find yourself instantly liking someone and becoming friends talking about it, sharing it and exploring it together. I envy his lifestyle and easy going nature. I am indebted to him for reminding me about the important things in life too - like taking time out to chat and listen. Thank you Tim.



Boy do I have a hangover - thanks to everyone who showed last night - I am now on hols until 13th August. Will post pics and thoughts from the evening when Im back.

Thanks all.


The Internet Crashes

This made me laugh. Great production values:

Free Beer this Thursday for the Plannersphere...


Will you Vox for beer?

Yes folks thats right - FREE BEER if you have a read of the outline to a project I am doing here at Prox and are happy to be interviewed and perhaps filmed for the project. Its a great way to catch up with friends and have a free drink and chat about something interesting too. Hopefully we will get some of these: Mark Earls, John Griffiths, Faris, Richard, John G, Rachel Lawes, Chris Forrest, Rory, Justin Bovington (check out the earlier post about him and ask him about William Gibson and Neal Stephenson - fascinating) Alex Gordon to name a few. We are hoping to get a few of the faces from the plannersphere too - everyone is invited so come on down and drink free beer :-)

Facebook site is here:

This Thursday 6.30pm
Crown & Two Chairman
31 Dean Steet,
London W1

Awesome planning resource...

Check this guy's site out plannersphere - awesome reference material - a real treasure trove:


Builders Vs Architects


Frank Lloyd-Wright - as we used to be seen

It is a pity the Chris Ingram debacle went relatively unnoticed (last weeks Campaign front cover) because it highlights how we are currently perceived as an industry in my opinion. The long slow painful realisation that we are no longer trusted to offer advice to clients that they are prepared to pay for – unlike management consultancies and increasingly some smart design companies – is a particularly uncomfortable truth.

We have allowed this to happen mainly because there were too few good agencies prepared to do anything other than use the industry to make money without putting anything back – either culturally or educationally in the recent past. There were so few great agencies in the 80s/90s or even any good ones (OK Richard except HHCL) that stood for anything worthwhile – creatively or otherwise – and what a terrible legacy we have now to countenance.

I recently spoke to Paul Feldwick about this and we concurred that we appear to have deliberately refused to take responsibility for training people, for risk taking or any sense of self-regulation. It is a tragedy for example that it takes an outside force to dictate that advertising to children to stuff their faces with food that is potentially harmful to their health is wrong.


Is this how clients see us now?

The upshot now is that we are now perceived merely like the local builder – not trusted with the detail of what is required for the creation of an edifice – but in future merely the construction of some of the individual parts - an extension if we are lucky. The job of architect (as it was in Sir Franks day) has definately passed to the management consultancies and a rare few agency oligarchs. It’s time to start rescuing our legacy and quickly! The Chris Ingram issue should have been a call to arms rather than a damp squib on the pages of Campaign.

Futurology and thought provocation

I always enjoy these little pieces of futurology - they could be the archeaology of the future. The first one was released some time ago and people went wow - but the second one is rather neat. Welcome to the Velocity Age. Sit back and enjoy:

then this:

Future success? Small, Fast and culturally iconic


Another article in Campaign this week highlights how client companies are going directly to commercials production companies (page 20) and frankly this is no surprise. I think we all agree that ideas can come from anywhere and more often than not great ideas come from pre-prod meetings with a prod house director – something I have blogged about previously in my predictions for 2007. OK not always but – by and large they have done and will continue to do so.

And if you look back over many years of Cannes winners you will see lots of executional or ‘Big Idea’ based (God knows what that really means) advertising with little or no insight at the heart of them. (I shall post some of those I am talking about – going back to ’96 and beyond incidently). So where was the bit the agency really added as value to the client that he/she couldn't buy for themselves?

The more successful agencies have always relied heavily on a great external director to make that iconic piece of film - unless of course we look back at CDP in their heyday - they all went to Hollywood. Is the skill of the creative director merely to latch onto what is culturally hot these days I wonder? Most teams do that exactly – pick the latest piece of music or music video and shove it into any old brand film – usually telecoms these days!


John Webster - the 'Maestro'

It didn’t use to be this way – certainly not in John Webster’s day – he was the one who created culturally iconic characters that still have enormous gravity today. We don’t have people like this anymore in my opinion and we are poorer for it. Ask Paul Feldwick - he'll tell you!

It's all gone formulaic:

Most clients could make perfectly good TV ads these days by picking one of 3 well worn strategies:
1) Show what it feels like to experience the product or service using stereotypical characters with a hint of comedy or visual gag

2) Demonstrate that the brand ‘understands’ its consumers through metaphor (very rare these) or create a character to suggest it.

3) Show us how it is made (every recent memorable car commercial for example).

Now I am not suggesting this is exactly how advertising works (actually I am to an extent) but it means that it is easier to see why agencies could easily become marginalised by smarter clients – or indeed clients that employ planners directly removing the need for the agency to tell it how to sell more stuff. Where is the value that an agency adds exactly if it isn’t in helping a client to sell stuff? It certainly isn’t in the pursuit of making the next telly ad.

The Future?

I predict agency survival will depend on becoming smaller and faster (no account people other than planners and creatives) with direct access to some of the best self-employed artisans in the film and entertainment industry – writers, film makers, editors, journalists, designers, musicians etc with the agency acting as the creative generalist and owner of the brand’s conscience with the sole remit to sell more stuff. If it does this and makes culturally iconic advertising a la Webster – we’ll all be in rude health for the next 10 years.

My Passion


My Gibson 355

It seems weird but I have never written about my guitars - which is highly unusual as I spend such a lot of time with them - I have rather too many perhaps - an old Strat, a Tele, another Gibson Standard Les P and a Martin HD28 to name a few. I recently bought this - a Custom Shop Gibson 355 in cherry with gold hardware and she plays like no other guitar I have ever played.


She's a beaut huh?

Now here's the really strange bit about this - my playing has improved and the type of music I listen to has changed enormously since I got her a couple of months ago. I have noticed that nearly every band with a record out today is playing either one of these or a 335 - its cheaper but no less excellent cousin made popular by Weller and Oasis.

I was attracted entirely by the aesthetics of this guitar initially but then the sheer build quality and sound is inspiring - it lietrally takes control of your playing like it has some sort of inner spirit willing you on to greater things - I don't understand it but I love it :-)

As a result of its ability to make me sound good and for soem reason enable me to retain complex passages of play - I am listening to Wilco endlessly at the moment - a band frankly I was disinterested in before I bought it. I find the complex arrangements and superb musicianship inspiring - especially the guitar of Nels Cline - cool website and incredible playing.

Anyway I shall post more about music and guitars in the future I think - it has sort of been missing as part of what I do I think.

. Gibson_355_003

One of the most iconic logos in the world possibly?

Anyway - have a listen to this by Wilco - its great:

Download 05_wilco_jesus_etc..mp3

Chris Ingram on Speed


Chris Ingram

Chris Ingram makes an interesting point in his front cover piece in this week’s Campaign. For me it is the killer point – ‘Being smart and pricey is less attractive to clients than fast and economic’.

But on closer examination surely there is something a tad wrong with this?

Surely they are not binary opposites – Smart and Fast? Why can’t we be Fast, Smart and Pricey? Fast doesn’t have to mean simple or ill-thought out.

The problem with the Velocity Age is that it requires us to constantly re-skill yet work more productively. I agree that thinking does take time if you are not plugged into your sources of reference 24/7 and able to synthesise complexity in a nanosecond (I work with one of these people so they do exist) – but then the trick is get paid for the quality not the time it takes to do it.

In my experience clients always pay for quality – always, but it is the ability to CONVINCE them of that quality that makes all the difference – something we have all been very poor at doing but something the management consultancies have done rather well. It is a shame it didn’t work - I wish Chris all the best - we all could have done with this succeeding.

Strange Syncronicity


Justin Bovington - founding partner, Rivers Run Red

I had the pleasure of Justin's thoughts at a recent agency do at Prox Towers where we regaled us with tales of Second Life and how companies make money, do real-time ethnographic research and how brands can deliver meaningful brand communications in various meta-verses. Fascinating.

His company is Rivers Run Red - and in my opinion they are probably the only company really working in this space at a senior enough level to be able to fully understand the implications for the future. With sufficient case studies and real life examples of success and failure plus an base of amazing facts about what is really happening he is able to give you a complete snapshot of what's hot and what's not. I won't post his stuff here - you should make contact with him if you want the latest stuff for your own presentations - or get him to come into your agency and present - its worth it.

In the meantime check out this podcast where you can hear him talking about second life and virtual worlds - its great:

Download 01trendsandnumbers.mp3

Anyway - that isn't the purpose of this post. It was actually a small slip of conversation that lead to a startling discovery for me. I was quoting William Gibson - one of my literary heroes - where he made the rather apocryphal statement along the lines of the fact that the future is already here - its just unevenly distributed - which I think is rather neat and we started talking about Neal Stephenson and Snow Crash (a book the author hates apparently) and the fact that it heavily influenced the designers at Linden Labs. I then mentioned this book:


Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

and we mused about how sci-fi is a really the archeaology of the future and I posed the question about where these sorts of authors got their inspiration from. Justin then rather coyly mentioned that he used to live with a guy called Chris Cunningham in Camden in the dim and distant past who is now quite a famous video director (he did a lot of stuff for Bjork and won loads of awards - amazing stuff - check it out).

He then went on to tell me that he knew William Gibson - in fact he used to stay at their flat in Camden. Now get this - he told me that the main protagonist in Pattern Recognition Cayce Pollard the uber cool hunter was actually based on his life as a cool hunting designer. Also that Gibson was fascinated by the Apple Cube he had conned his dad into buying for him then - which tips up into the book - which is set in Camden. So there you go - beat that - the key character in one of my favourite books is based on the life of Justin Bovington. How many people can say that?

Die Hard Bloggers


It was for this:


And the answer to the strange things in the sky post was Die Hard 4 - thanks Adah Parris (lovely person) for the answer. To be able to get the answer from Facebook highlights to me that it is becoming a place to get answers to issues rather than blogs?

I wonder if a lot of the plannersphere is now using Facebook stuff but not the blogosphere anymore. And I wonder what will happen to the online community of planning bloggers - will there still be a few Die Hard's writing and sharing knowledge on their blogs or will we all move onto something else? Will Richard still post the most interesting polemics on Adliterate in 6 months time for example? And where has Rory dissappeared to? I have been too busy to post recently - have lots of interesting stuff stored up but little time to share. Must fix that and become one of the Die Hards perhaps... 

Strange Things in the sky

I now sit with Caitlin on the 7th floor here at Prox Towers and have a delightful view over London. About 2 minutes ago a helicopter with a large banner attached to its bottom appeared but I cant read it - does anyone know what it is exactly? Looks precarious dangling in the wind though...



I'll see if i get a quick response on Facebook...

Strip Club Sandwich...


There is something just 'not quite right' about this sandwich shop in Bruton Street. It is clearly a sandwich shop but has all the visual clues of a night club - or strip club - the typeface, the use of black and gold denoting dark desires and luxury, the fact it had the shutters down during the day  - or is it just me? Somehow I would expect to find a pube or two in my smoked salmon sandwich - or be intensely dissatisfied if there wasn't one if I ever ordered a suitably bread related consumable here. Perhaps I should stop...

Cannes 2007

Just got back from Cannes where the weather was fine and so was the wine. Feeling a tad tired but happy to have been exposed to some of the worlds truly great creative people. I am flicking through my notes but there is a lot to digest - and some wicked charts that I will put up here. I am painfully aware that I havent posted my stuff about MRS - I WILL do it - just been so busy recently.

Anyway short visual summary:


The Small Bar here was very amusing after everywhere else started to close (except the Gutter Bar obviously). I came to the conclusion that American women have the capacity to drink more and make more noise and chew more gum than any other nation.

I say this after witnessing them in action after the Crispin Porter boys had their agency party up the road and invited all their friends who obviously got bored very quickly and steamed into any bar they could find. - truly awesome!


Flags next to the Palais.


Great Food


The infamous 'Gutter Bar'


The scene of much hilarity


One of many presentations


Doesn't get better than this!