Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Real Mad Men – Cracknell 2011

Interesting book about the creative revolution and the greatest insight is saved up for the last page: Bernabch succeeded with the creative revolution by making advertising less aspirational: Bill Benbach stopped selling dreams and started selling the truth – wrapped in wit.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.68).

“You didn’t drive a VW or a Volvo, smoke B&H 100s, holiday in Jamaica, eat Horn and Hardart or rent a car from Avis because you aspired to it or because it got you the girl or made you the envy of your neighbours. You did it because it was the clever thing to do. (…) where it (Advertising) used to flatter your status or your apparent wealth, now it flattered your intelligence. (…) DDB and PKL and Calr Ally and the many that followed removed banality and aspiration from advertising.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.219).

And a great line by Sir John Hegarty’s foreword on why history in such a short lived business like advertising is important: “’history isn’t about the past, it’s about the future’. Understanding where we came from, why we did what we did and how it could influence tomorrow was at the heart of his teaching.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.7).

Moreover, and most importantly, a reason, why we are advertising:
“’All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarise that society. We can brutalise it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.’” (Cracknell, 2011, p.13).

Thus the greatest DDB advertising followed a similar attitude towards the consumer: “Hey, we’re all in this together; you know we’re going to try and sell you something – let’s both enjoy the process.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.13).It was about “having fun with the whole notion of buying and selling and advertising, a conspirational wink between seller and buyer.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.64).

Also the definitive answer to the client’s question to make the logo bigger: Helmuth Krone had a “belief in the indivisibility of ‘look’ and ‘message’ he would create for any client on whose account he worked a page layout that was instantly recognisable from 20 paces as uniquely theirs – even without their logo.” (Cracknell, 2011, p.88).

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Crime and punishment – Dostoevsky, 1866

What is it to be criminal and and how to deal with the guilt?

Marmeladov, a drunken guy, the main character Raskalnikov meets in a bar: “’Why am I to be pitied, you say? Yes! There’s nothing to pity me for! I ought to be crucified, crucified on a cross, not pitied! Crucify me, oh judge, crucify me but pity me! (…) Do you suppose, you that sell, that this pint of yours has been sweet to me? It was tribulation I sought at the bottom of it, tears and tribulation, and have found it, and I have tasted it; but He will pity us Who has had pity on all men.’” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.40).

When dead the Lord will also receive the drunken ones, says Marmeladov: “’And He will say: “This is why I receive them, oh ye wise, this is why I receive them, oh ye of understanding, that not one of them believed himself to be worthy of this.”’” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.41).

Raskonikov constantly opposes utalitarians: capitalists and socialists.
“’Hitherto, for instance, if I were told, “love thy neighbour”, what came of it?’ Pyotr Petrovitch went on, perhaps with excessive hast, ‘It came to my tearing my coat in half to share with my neighbour and we both were left half naked. As a Russian proverb has it, “Catch several hares and you won’t catch one”. Science now tells us, love yourself before all men, for everything in the world rests on self-interest.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.208).

“It began with the socialist doctrine. You know their doctrine; crime is a protest against the abnormality of the social organisation and nothing more, and nothing more; no other causes admitted!” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.345). “From which it follows that, if society is normally organised, all crime will cease at once, since there will be nothing to protest against and all men will become righteous in one instant. Human nature is not taken into account, it is excluded, it’s not supposed to exist!” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.345). “That’s why they so dislike the living process of life; they don’t want a living soul! The living soul demands life, the soul won’t obeythe rules of mechanics, the soul is an object of suspicion, the soul is retrograde.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.346). “The phalanstery is ready, indeed, but your human nature is not ready for the phlanstery – it wants life, it hasn’t completed its vital process, it’s too soon for the graveyard.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.346).

But why does he opposes utilitarians so wholeheartedly?
Raskolnikov says: “Oh, you particular gentleman! Principles! You are worked by principles, as it were by springs: you won’t venture to turn round on your own account.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.188).

He wants to commit the crime on his own term:
Porfiry about Raskolnikov’s article: “’In his article all men are divided into “ordinary” and “extraordinary”. Ordinary men have to live in submission, have no right to transgress the law, because, don’t you see, they are ordinary. But extraordinary men have a right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way, just because they are extraordinary.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.349).

Raskolnikov: “I don’t contend that extraordinary people are always bound to commit breaches of morals, as you call it. In fact, I doubt whether such an argument could be published. I simply hinted that an “extraordinary” man has the right … that is not an official right to decide his own conscience to overstep … certain obstacles, and only in case it is essential for the practical fulfilment of his idea (sometimes, perhaps, of benefit to the whole of humanity.)” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.350).

“well … legislators and leader of men, such as Lycurgus, Solon, Mahoment, Napoleon, and so on, were all without exception criminals, from the very fact that, making a new law, they transgressed the ancient one.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.350).

“I’ve come to you, we are both accursed, let us go our way together.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.440).”You, too, have transgressed … had had the strength to transgress. You have laid hands on yourself, you have destroyed a life … your own (it’s all the same!). You might have lived in spirit and understanding, but you’ll end in the Hay Market … But you won’t be able to stand it, and if you remain alone you’ll go out of your mind like me.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.440).

But he fails to live up to his theory:
“He will suffer if he is sorry for his victim. Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have a great sadness on earth.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.356).

“I asked myself one day this question – what if Napoleon, for instance, had happened to be in my place, and if he had not had Toulon nor Egypt nor the passage of Mont Blanc to begin his career with, but instead of all those picturesque and monumental things, there had simply been some ridiculous old hag, a pawnbroker, who had to be murdered too to get money from her trunk (for his career youo understand) (…) I was fully ashamed when I guessed at last (all of a sudden somehow) that it would not have given him the least pang, that it would not even have struck him that it was not monumental.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.548).

“If I worried myself all rhose days, wondering whether Napoleon would have done it or not, I felft clearly of course that I wasn’t Napoleon. (…) I longed to throw it off: I wanted to murder without casuistry, to murder for my own sake, for myself alone.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.553).

“Did I murder the old woman? I murdered myself, not her! I crushed myself once for all, for ever … But it was the devil that killed the old woman, not I.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.554).

But towards the end of the book, Raskonikov finds salvation in suffering:
“’It was not because of your dishonour and your sin I said that of you, but because of your great suffering. But you are a great sinner, that’s true’, he added almost solemnly, ‘and your worst sin is that you have destroyed and betrayed yourself for nothing. Isn’t that fearful that you are living in this filth, which you loath so, and at th same time you know yourself (you’ve only to open your eyes) that you are not helping anyone by it, not saving anyone from anything” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.431).

“How it happened he did not know. But all at once something seemed to seize him and fling him at her feet. He wept and threw his arms round her knees.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.719).

Afterword quoting Dostoevsky: “There is no happiness in comfort; happiness is bought with suffering” (Dostoevsky, 1866, p.737).

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Adventures in the Screen Trade - Goldman

There are three interesting streams in this book: to plan or not to plan, account planners and screenwriter, and how to behave in an industry that is built on people having opposing interests. It might have made more sense to make three posts out of it, but I like to keep it at one post, one book.

First of all there is a great short story in the book, that stroke a chord or two with me and my job: especially the increasing demand to deliver on time and don’t spend too much hours on a job. I hate and refuse to do so. And it sometimes feels like the people asking you to keep within the schedule hours do so, out of a certain jealousy that you are so passionate about a job (something they, being the timekeepers) might not be privileged to feel.

The short story is about a barber who hires a new barber, who turns out to be an excellent barber – but sooner or later more people want to go to the new barber rather than to the owner of the shop – he gets jealous:
“”What do you mean by that, Morris?” my mother repeated, a trifle mechanically.
“I mean that Mr. Bimbaum takes too goddam long cutting hair, that’s what I mean.”
“Oh, surely that is not so,” my mother said.
“Oh, but it is so,” my father replied. “Just today he took a hundred and three minutes to cut the hair of old Mr. Hathaway, who is practically bald to begin with.”
“well, well,” my mother said. “Just imagine that.”
“A hundred and three minutes!” my father exploded, talking directly to Mr.Bimbaum now. “I timed it myself. Who can make money in a hundred and three minutes, I ask? Answer: not me. I can cut three heads in that time. Maybe four.”
“That’s because you’re a butcher,” Mr. Bimbaum said. “What does a butcher need with time?”” (Goldman, 1984, p.308).

“”Shut up,” he repeated. He took a snip of haur. “The butchers. The butchers are taking over. You mark my words. By the time you grow up, the goddam butchers will own the world. You’ll see.” (Goldman, 1984, p.310).

Second, screenwriters seem like the account-planners of the film industry: heavily involved upfront and then later in the process being seen as standing in the way. So here are just a couple of examples where we can learn from screenwriters:

“If you want to be a screenwriter and you live in Des Moines, that’s a terrible curse to bear. It’s a terrible curse in Los Abgeles, too – but at least you’re not alone.” (Goldman, 1984, p.84).

“If you need the job. If you do, if you actually need it, that fact must go with you to your grave, because they sense things Out There and they will never hire you if you are desparate. Because they then know you don’t care about their project.” (Goldman, 1984, p.94).

“In a sense, a screenplay, whether a romance or a detective story, is a series of surprises. We detonate these as we go along. But for a surprise to be valid, we must first set the ground rules, indicate expectations.” (Goldman, 1984, p.116).

“Once you start writing, go like hell - - but don’t fire till you’re ready.” (Goldman, 1984, p.124).

“There is a wonderful phrase of William Faulkner’s that goes something like this: “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”” (Goldman, 1984, p.195).

“As a screenwriter, I test very high on paranoia. I’m always convinced of any number of things: that my work is incompetent, that I’m about to get fired, that I’ve been fired but don’t know yet that half a dozen closet writers are typing away in their offices, that I should be fired because I’ve failed, on and on.” (Goldman, 1984, p.239).

“When I write, I must convince myself that it’s going to e wonderful. (There is a character in a great play by Tennessee Williams, Camino Real. She’s the Gypsy’s daughter and she’s a whore, but in here heart, each moonrise makes her a virgin.) I’m like that – each moonrise makes me a virgin, too – I’m going to write it and this time, this time, it won’t be crap. When I don’t have the confidence, I’m in big trouble.” (Goldman, 1984, p.273).

But in a movie you don’t tell people things, you show people things.” (Goldman, 1984, p.316).

“of course I’m pleased that something exists, and of course I’m frightened that it stinks. But running along with those emotions is the knowledge of my knowledge – I know so much. I’ve made so many decisions about what to save and what to pitch – I could have written a five-hundred-page screenplay if I’d wanted. I am, as I stand there, the movie. And then comes the moment of mourning. Because the relay race must go on and my lap is ending; I must oass the baton to the other technicians. And when you give it away, the loss, of course, is the end of your imagination. The movie in my head is going to leave me. Other people’s fantasies are going to take over.” (Goldman, 1984, p.401).

“Once we pass the baton, we become, and I don’t know why, this weird thing, some vestigial lump, like a baby born with a tail. Get rid of it.” (Goldman, 1984, p.402).

“And in movies, the screenwriter is the odd man out. But there is a trade off. That beginning lap we run, regardless of what happens later – that lap is ours. We have the privilege, if you will, of the initial vision. We’re the ones who first get to make the movie …” (Goldman, 1984, p.403).

Moreover, there is plenty of practical advice in how to act in meeting when multiple parties with different interest are involved (like all meeting in advertising, especially job interviews):

“the single most important fact, perhaps, of the entire movies industry: NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING. (…) Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work” (Goldman, 1984, p.39).

“The proper note to strike in the audition meeting is a mixture of shy, self-deprecating intelligence and wild, barely controllable enthusiasm.” (Goldman, 1984, p.93).

“Never speak first.” (Goldman, 1984, p.95). When they have to talk first and you give the impression prepared to write every word they say down: “I was going to take down everything. All his wisdom. Record it then and there. And, like most producers and executives, he had nothing specific to say.” (Goldman, 1984, p.96).

Friday, 4 November 2011

Shakespeare - The Winter's Tale

It is not worth to condemn anyone – it just makes you even unhappier than the condemned.
Do not listen to your jealousy, as it serves and fuels only your pride, not your happiness.