Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Japan's 2020 Olympics Kimonos

Ever since reading Memoirs of a Geisha when I was 16, I have always loved Kimonos. They are a beautiful art pieces as well as unique elements of Japan's culture and history. So what better way to celebrate and welcome all the countries taking part in the 2020 Olympics in Japan than to design each country a Kimono. The Japanese international outreach association Imagine Oneworld started Project Kimono in 2017 and the result is a stunning online exhibition. 

One of the things I really like about this project is that the makers looked for the beauty in each country. No matter if that country was going through war or international dispute each is represented in its best light in these Kimonos - with their beautiful flowers and landscapes, seas and peaceful dunes, impressive buildings and so on. These Kimonos are a real celebration of the variety and difference of cultures. This is at heart in harmony with what the Olympic games is all about - understanding, tolerance, acceptance, inclusiveness. 

There is also great democracy here. No country appears more important to the designer than another - small and poorer nations have equally beautiful kimonos. 

Here are a few of my favourites below:

The United Kingdom

I was pleased to see our iconic flag represented but also as a nation of flowers and style.


This one is gorgeous with green and clovers and orange but also famous names and faces. 


One of the most stunning in my mind. Who knew Poland was a country with such natural beauty.


I love the overlapping fronds of this Kimono suggesting peaceful sunny scenes and rippling water. 


The country of the Vikings, snow, water and Christmas jumpers. Are these bubbles pouring down from a waterfall or baubles on a Christmas scene?

New Zealand. 

The country of the All Blacks, with green green mountains and unspoilt nature. 


This is a beautiful Kimono that reminds us what Afghanistan should be. Where Islam is a gentle peaceful religion where women and men have equal roles. I do hope in my life time this will be the Afghanistan we will find again. 


I love this one. To me it looks like a landscape of passion - tumultuous seas, volcanic mountains and dramatic weather systems. Am I right? I know very little about Chile. 

To see the complete project with all the Kimonos visit Kimono Project

Friday, 28 February 2020

Coronavirus: a cynical advertising approach

My advertising agency have just sent around a note to all staff saying they should prepare for the possibility that the office may at some point have to close due to Coronavirus. Weirdly I find emergencies exciting. I know there is the possibility of death but I can't help it. I'm like "oooh how will we survive! What weird things could I try eating from my garden if food runs out?" I could eat nettles! And sage! I've got a lot of sage". Here I run out of ideas since my garden doesn't have much that's edible in it.

The other things that I've been thinking of are, "I bet Corona larger are PISSED OFF!" Turns out I'm right. Apparently sales in China have plummeted costing the company £132 million in losses. 

How to solve this problem? Well Corona could put capitalise on the publicity? They could do "Wasn't us gov" campaign although the difficulty is the some will think making light of the situation is heartless. It's a PR nightmare. 

The other thing I'm thinking is why are we running out of masks? Everyone should be getting in on the act. Etsy should be full of hand-made eco alternatives, Goop should be making very overpriced crystal ones and Boots should be owning this. 

There are plenty of ways companies could be capitalising on Coronavirus. 

Grocery delivery companies could capitalise with special "Isolation packs" - full of healthy food to get you better quicker with special biohazard suit delivery men. 

Then there's hand sanitiser brands. NOW IS YOUR TIME! Sell Coronavirus hand gel outside Tube stations. Set up booths at public events. Theme the hand gel for the occasion. We all need more hand gel!

Fashion could get in on the act with Fashionable masks. Imagine black leather ones with studs - Oooh la la so chic! 

Then there's packs of tissues especially coated to stop the spread and strong enough to trap the germs. It doesn't matter if they are just normal tissues - this is a branding exercise. You do know that the shampoo for fine hair is the same as the one for thick hair right?

The pet market shouldn't feel left out. Special Coronavirus mats to place under your cat flap could trap germs so Tiddles doesn't trail in a nasty bug. 

Then there's the luxury market. Private coronavirus escapes fly you to a remote island to wait out the virus's end.

Guys, Coronavirus will hit the economy hard. But there's always cynical advertising silver linings. 

Friday, 19 July 2019

Eric Cantona goes to Space to prove Kronenbourg is the Universe's Taste Supreme.

I don't ever talk about my work on this blog but I have just finished a campaign I am really proud of. So sod it...I'm gonna write about it. 

Kronenbourg's spokesperson is footballing legend Eric Cantona. 

For my American readers benefit - Eric played for France and Manchester United and became famous not just for his astounding feats on the pitch, but also for his fiery personality and humour. 

Back in 2015 Eric Cantona promised to Swim the English Channel if the public said that Kronenbourg was Le Taste Supreme. Now Kronenbourg wanted the next big campaign push. 

What would Cantona do this time?

We decided to send him to Space! Everyone knows that Kronenbourg is the world's Taste Supreme. Now we wanted to prove it was the best tasting beer in the Universe! We shot 5 films as Eric made his press announcement and started his training. Then it was time for the big reveal! 

Take a watch and see what happened. 

Links here:

This campaign was made possible with the efforts of so many people. 

We had the amazing director Neil Harris on board with the brilliant production house Smuggler. 
Smoke and Mirrors and Big Buoy gave us their time to polish it all up and make it look fab. 
Marshall Street did a great job getting countless edits done. 
Wave did an amazing job on sound which was so important especially in our last film.
Our photographer Todd was amazing for getting stuck in and making sets out of discarded bits and pieces. 

We also had to get agreement from Space night club in Ibiza - props to our hard working Producer Ruth Darsow for that one. 

We had some amazing clients who were as excited about the job as we were - Caitlin and Richard were a real pleasure. 

Thank you to my CD Gerry Human who spotted a good idea and worked very closely with me on this from start to finish. 

And thank you to my original collaborator and art director Andy Amadeo for helping me develop the idea and get it all sold in with his brilliant impressions of Eric Cantona. 

Thank you to our amazing planner Charlotte Walters and to our amazing Account Director Jo Heywood and Account manager Charlotte Black to working so hard to get this made and to keep everything on track.

I love you all. 

Friday, 28 June 2019

Like owner like dog

They say that you pick a pet who is like you in some way. That must mean I am an overweight hairy person who likes to sleep a lot and hits people who annoy me. But certainly it does seem that there is a slight correlation between owners and pets. Maybe it's like people picking romantic partners who look a bit like them. 

Pets looking like their owners is the topic photographer Krister Soerboe picked for her series of photographs "Like Owner, Like Dog" to enter into the Sony World Photography Awards. The likenesses are certainly striking and make a really funny set. Enjoy.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Taylor Swift goes all political and I love it.

I've watched a lot of Ru Paul recently. It's got all of what you want from a reality show - bitchiness, falls from grace, funny tasks but it's got something more meaningful too. It's real mission is to make Drag Queens and the wider gay community more accepted by celebrating their creativity and bravery. 

So I was primed to love Taylor Swift's new video "You need to calm down". The song is a statement of support for the LGBT community and the people who need to calm down are the right wing redneck bigots. 

In Swifts video the bigots are the unbeautiful ones failing to see that if they just calmed down they too could be having fun and friendship. 

And Swift makes this clear by inviting her once rival Katy Perry, who's first hit was I Kissed a Girl, to join her dressed as a Big Mac. We go together like a burger and fries she shows us and it's kinda heartwarming. 

Many of Swifts other friends make cameos. On her YouTube page they are listed in alphabetical order - a nice equalitarian touch to match the message of her song. They are: 

A'keria Davenport
Adam Lambert
Adam Rippon
Adore Delano
Antoni Porowski
Billy Porter
Bobby Berk
Chester Lockhart
Delta Work
Dexter Mayfield
Ellen Degeneres
Hannah Hart
Hayley Kiyoko
Jade Jolie
Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Jonathan Van Ness
Justin Mikita
Karamo Brown
Katy Perry
Laverne Cox
Riley Knoxx
Ryan Reynolds
Tan France
Todrick Hall
Trinity K Bonet
Trinity Taylor

Watch the full video here:

I actually really like the song too.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Good artists copy; great artists steal.

Steve Jobs once said "good artists copy, great artists steal", a phrase he stole from Picasso, or perhaps TS Eliot who said: 

"Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different".

Apparently TS Eliot may have stolen this idea from another writer. The point is that even the greatest artists steal. 

In order to be creative you must collect influences from everywhere. If you try to work in a vacuum - try to create something that's never been done before in every single way then you are bound to spend a lot of time with writer's block, or staring at a white canvas. 

This is the message of Austin Kleon's TED talk which you can watch here:

I learnt this lesson on my first placement in an advertising agency. The Creative Director handed me a bunch of DVDs (this was 13 years ago after all) with the words "steal something from these". They were director reels from production houses. What he meant was not that we would copy them. Stealing is far more sophisticated a process (as any successful cat burglar will tell you). Instead you use the material as a jumping block to create something different.

This is what this blog is actually made for. Its a way for me to remember all the great ideas I find. By writing about them I add them to my brain's catalogue. When I need them they pop up in my head and I know where to find them. 

Of course there is no honour in literally ripping someone off and it could land you in legal problems. So when you discover someone else's idea/ visual style/ phrase that can perfectly sum up you brand's message, you've only won half the battle. Now you must make sure that what you do adds value and new meaning. 

Copying is actually not really my problem in this business. It's actually the fact that I often come up with what I think is a completely new thought only to discover that it has already been done brilliantly by another brand. The other day I was working on a sports brand when I said to my boss, "what if we had grown adults running around playing children's games, like catch or kiss chase?" My boss replied, "That was done by Nike but well done you just came up with a Cannes winning idea". Damn it. 

Like remakes of films, some of the of the best ads are stolen from the work of designers, musicians and artists.

But if you want to see some examples of blatant "copying" here's a whole blog about it:  

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

The Best music videos of 2018...I think.

I miss MTV.
Not MTV of today - filled with reality shows. No. I miss the pure MTV music video channel of my youth.
I miss having the time to just sit and watch it too.

You can learn a lot from music videos - cultural trends, fashion, new art directional styles, editing techniques, scene transitions and pure wacky ways of seeing the world. They also have their fingers on the pulse far more than any TV show or newspaper. 

So, with Christmas providing a much needed lull I decided to see what was happening out there in 2018. 

And here are my picks. 

1. Janelle Monae - Make Me feel. 

This is so Prince isn't it? And the style is very iPod. I just love he fashion as well. I would wear those see through embroidered trousers if I had the guts. Apparently this video is about Janelle's bi-sexuality - running from man to woman unable to choose. 

2. John Mayer - New Light

This is so shit it's kinda genius. Apparently John Mayer asked some guy in LA who specialises in making bat mitzvah videos.

It also reminds me of my favourite show "Glow" - there is a great episode where they spent the whole episode showing the recorded TV show complete with tacky scene transitions and bad acting. That's what this is like. 

3. Travis Scott: “SICKO MODE” [ft. Drake]

Directed by Dave Meyers and Travis Scott.

There is so much going on in this video. Really interesting camera techniques and trickery, some neon paint, coloured smoke, singing murals, very jiggly butts (like how does that butt actually move like that?) and Drake sounding super cool. 

4. Drake - Nice for What.

Sorry for another Drake but this guy is on it with his video game. For "Nice for what" Drake gave the camera to 22-year-old director Karena Evans. She shot scenes of powerful women celebrating their worth and doing their thing. The result is a video that's joyful and strong - nice one Drake, nice one Evans. 

5. The Carters: “APESHIT”

Probably the most talked about video of the year. Beyonce and Jay Z in the Louvre and some amazing modern dance. New, pop and cool meets classic high brow art. The meeting is mesmerising and you need not delve into anything deeper than that. But if you do then the message is about blackness, its relationship to Western colonialism and about black capitalism as act of radical subversion. Deep man.

Oh and if you are not viewing this on a public screen you may wanna check out the video for Duck Duck Goose by Cupcakke. She is not shy.