When the Americans started going into space, they realised their astronauts needed a way of recording data while inside the space capsule.

When the Americans started going into space, they realised their

astronauts needed a way of recording data while inside the space


The problem was that conventional pens needed gravity to make the ink

flow to the tip.

The answer was obvious. If you pressurised the ink tube with the correct

gas it would force the ink to the tip. So the Americans spent millions

of dollars experimenting with different gasses. After several years they

managed to perfect the zero gravity ball-point. The Russians used a


Now you could say that the reason the Americans made it so complicated

was that there was more money to be made that way. In which case, lots

of ad people must be making tons of money.

Take the Johnnie Walker campaign, for instance. This was well shot but

if I hadn’t read the article about it in Campaign, I wouldn’t have known

what it was about. A tight-rope walker walks across a tight-rope, a

Hollywood actor walks into the lion’s den, a fireman walks to a fire.

The campaign line is ’keep walking’. A simple pun on the name, you’d

think. You’d be wrong.

The agency spokesperson told Campaign: ’(The consumers) found the

imagery associated with scotch ... had become empty cliches.’ Fair

enough, let’s have some new empty cliches. A fine example of the zero

gravity pen in use.

Another is the new Impulse campaign. It has old-fashioned animation

pretending to be a bad public service announcement. Call it ’retro’,

call it ’irony’ - I know what I’d call it.

Then the line: ’Impulse freshuality can cause calamity.’ I thought this

was the usual ’let’s tell girls that men will go crazy when they get the

merest whiff of them wearing this perfume’. I was wrong. Campaign’s

article on it says: ’Informs consumers that the main reason to use

Impulse is to keep feeling fresh all day.’ And that the advertising

should: ’Highlight the refreshing spray experience you can only get from

all-over application.’ That was definitely written with a zero gravity

ball-point pen.

As was the Amazon campaign. Beautifully shot, but what’s it about?

Campaign’s article on this reads: ’The idea behind the slogan is that

the benefits of Amazon are so simple that you can relate them to any

three everyday objects.’ Couldn’t be simpler, could it? In one ad,

Amazon is as simple as a bath tap, a razor, and a starfish.

Er, sorry? In another ad, Amazon is as simple as a dictionary, an alarm

clock, and a wall-mounted mirror. I think Amazon ads are as simple as

something, but they haven’t got it in the photo.

The problem with the next three campaigns is that I haven’t got a

Campaign article to tell me what they’re about. I’ll have to make it


The first-e campaign is for an internet bank. I think it tells you that

they don’t have any of the problems of a conventional bank, and they say

it in a simple and understandable way. But I’m probably wrong, it was

probably: ’An exciting new execution based on a fundamental consumer

insight into the relationship between something or other.’

I didn’t read Campaign’s article on Gordon’s Gin press ads either, but

they look to me like someone is actually trying to make something


The idea of the original and a not quite look-alike is good. The USP

about getting the best ingredients before your competitors is also a

good idea.

They just haven’t quite been invisibly welded together. But at least

they are a lot closer to a pencil than a zero gravity ball-point


Finally, the Southern Comfort commercial. I had no Campaign article to

tell me what was actually going on. Something was red, something else

was green and Southern Comfort was amber. Presumably there’s a clue in

the traffic lights. I’m sure it’s all very simple. As simple as Amazon

books or Johnnie Walker, or Impulse.

But what do I know about simplicity? I’m still stuck in the days when

creatives wanted a pencil - not a zero gravity ball-point pen.


Project: Gordon’s Gin

Client: Simon Soothill, brand manager

Brief: n/a

Agency: Leo Burnett

Writer: Nick Bell

Art director: Mark Tutssel

Photographer: Simon Norfolk

Typographer: Trevor Slabber

Exposure: National press


Project: Southern Comfort

Client: Maureen Brekka, vice-president global marketing director

Brief: Dramatise the warming Southern Comfort effect

Agency: D’Arcy

Writer and art director: Dimitri

Director: Darryl Goodrich

Production company: Experience

Exposure: National TV and cinema


Project: Johnnie Walker

Client: Alice Avis, global brand director

Brief: Reinstate Johnnie Walker as a global icon by inspiring personal


Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty

Writer: James Sinclair

Art director: Ed Morris

Director: Laurence Dunmore

Production company: RSA Films

Exposure: Global TV


Project: Impulse

Client: Gabrielle Bell, brand manager

Brief: Spray Impulse all over and you will feel irresistibly fresh

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Writer: John McLaughlin

Art director: Mark Orbine

Director: Mic Graves

Production company: aka Pizazz

Exposure: Cinema


Project: first-e

Client: Richard Thackray, general manger

Brief: Create a brand and personality for first-e, the internet bank,

which will work across all media

Agency: J. Walter Thompson

Writer: John Donnelly

Art director: Ken Grimshaw

Director: Richard Kenworthy

Production company: aka Pizazz

Exposure: National TV and press


Project: Amazon

Client: David Osborne, head of marketing communications

Brief: Differentiate Amazon from other internet brands by establishing

it as a warm, human and service-centric company

Agency: HHCL & Partners

Project team: Chas Bayfield, Jim Bolton, Crispin Jamieson, Richard

Spalding, Natalie Hogan, Sid McGrath

Director: Suse Uhlenbrock

Production company: Partizan UK

Exposure: National TV and press

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