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Friday, 20 August 2010

Are you one in 10,000? I was not a good enough copywriter for Money Week. Maybe you are

I don't know about you, but I find it hard to remember my successes - whilst my failures haunt me for ages.

One such occurred about 3 years ago when I was trying to beat Money Week's control. I just couldn't crack it. Got the tone wrong - and to be fair to myself, I used an idea suggested by one of my colleagues which I thought excellent- but it wasn't.

Now Money Week are looking for trainee copywriters. If you secure the job, you'll be getting paid to learn expertise in probably the highest-paid category in the business. Go and have look http://www.moneyweek.com/about-us/moneyweek-careers.aspx.

The ad alone will teach you a few lessons about copy - and as they rightly point out only one person in 10,000 makes it as a successful copywriter.

If, on the other hand you are not only interested in copy - but would like to learn from some of the world's ablest marketers - why not trot along to

Monday, 16 August 2010

And so it came to pass: why Aviva is in the toilet - a saga of marketing ignorance and hubris

I often wonder what goes on in the heads of the people who run big financial institutions besides rapacious calculations.

At the time I commented on the stupidity of taking three famous and respected old brands, sticking them together in a series of mergers and giving the result a silly name that sounds like a mineral water or health supplement.

That is what some overpaid wanker did with Norwich Union, Commercial Union and General Accident to create a major disaster called Aviva.

Set aside the fact that statistically mergers and acquisitions do not work - the total generally ending up less than the sum of the parts. Then try to ignore the human cost of these misbegotten affairs - and that they are done for reasons of sheer vanity "my limp dick is bigger than yours".

Then, consider this.

A brand has value. If you were to send out two identical mailings, one with an unknown name, and another with a venerable name like Norwich Union on the envelope, response would be twice as great for the latter. I have heard of it being three times greater.

If they knew a little about the realities of marketing and didn't fall for the blandishments of the re-branding bullshitters, some of these top bananas would do a damn sight better than they do. As it is, Aviva's share price has halved in recent months and the whole lot is up for grabs.

But no doubt the people in charge will find new, even better-paid jobs or sail off with big fat pensions - part of magic circle of those whose chief talent is, like shit, to rise to the top.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

A lunatic invitation - plus an interview you might enjoy

I don't wish to mock the afflicted, and I am sure it was well-meant, but I was just invited to join a group - I'm quoting here - "where you disconnect from all stress, strain and struggle and connect to your greater self with processes, support and mental tools that will mafiest desires!"

"Mafiest"? Setting aside whether it will teach you to spell, almost every word of this invitation is meaningless new age bollocks, and anyhow, my beloved and I will disconnect from whatever ails us at 2.30 this afternoon by meeting two friends and having a spot to eat and some beers at the Pig's Ear in Old Church Street round the corner.

However, if you'd like to connect with my fatuous self you might like an interview Michael Senoff just released: http://www.hardtofindseminars.com/Drayton_Bird_Interview.htm

It must be quite good because already over 3,500 people have tuned in - with some nice comments.

I must apologise: it won't tell you how to get rich, but let's face it, any number of bullshitters will tell you what a doddle that is.

What it will tell you is any number of ways to avoid going broke, because the first half is mostly about the schoolboy business mistakes that stopped me getting rich when I was young. That should help you avoid some ghastly errors. The second is mostly about David Ogilvy during the period when I worked with him. You may find that illuminating, too.

Friday, 13 August 2010

"I'm putting you on hold ... ... I'm putting you on hold again... you're through to the wrong department...'

Being old, I read The Oldie - as I have said before here, and one of its best features is the cartoons - this being an example.

But enough levity. Did you know I'm doing a free webinar next Friday on the 10 best ads of the last 10 years?

Go to www.draytonbird.net/bestads and you can arrange to join in the fun and frolics.

The best part of course, as always, will be when I reveal my selections, you disagree and scream abuse at me - and our previously amicable relationship dissolves forever.

Don't blame me if it all ends like that - I won't be able to hear you anyhow. The idea was Marta Caricato's and I have been pretty astonished by how quickly people reacted when we stuck three posts up about it.

Oh, by the way, for those of you who having counted to ten just keep going - and there seem to be quite a few - the last ten years means the last ten years, not the last forty.

Bearing that in mind, please send me your suggested contenders.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

"So, tell me dear, how did you find being raped? Just explain calmly without getting too excited."

I'll get to the bit about rape later, so please be patient - a word which you could say is my theme today.

One of my heroes is Dr. Vernon Coleman, who writes his own books - and magnificent advertisements to sell them.

He is a better copywriter than I am and hugely cynical about many things, a sample being this on that rapacious shit Tony Blair:

  1. We'll negotiate a withdrawal from the EEC which has drained our natural resources and destroyed jobs.' - Tony Blair, 1983
  2. `On the day we remember the legend that St George slayed a dragon to protect England, some would argue that there is another dragon to be slayed: Europe.' - Tony Blair, 1997
  3. I am a passionate pro-European. I always have been.' - Tony Blair, 2005

Dr. Coleman's approach seems to work pretty well: so far he has sold around two million copies of over 90 books - all of which he published himself. The key to selling a book is a good title, and one of his best is How to Stop Your Doctor from Killing You.

From that you may gather that Dr. Coleman - well-qualified to have an opinion - is utterly cynical about doctors; and please don't knock cynicism: Jesus Christ uttered one of the most cynical lines ever: "Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone" when a woman taken in adultery was about to be stoned to death.

Anyhow, all this came to mind when in my morning free paper the front page reported that a Dr. Claire Wilson, combining arrogance, insensitivity and stupidity in equal proportion, told a rape victim she can’t have therapy because the poor woman found “talking about it was very difficult and anxiety-provoking”.

What a surprise! If a large violent man raped Doctor Wilson would her medical training enable her to discuss the matter with ease in a calm, reasonable manner unsullied by any frissons of anxiety? Would she feel the need for therapy – or pass the whole thing off as part of life’s rich tapestry?

What do you think?

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Locked up in Voice-Mail Jail: Denny Hatch rides again

For years I have suggested to people who run businesses that they try calling themselves some time and see what happens.

And for about the same number of years I have passed on something I read to the effect that the single thing in modern life that pisses people off most is automated telephone answering machines.

To this I now add people in call centres whose accents I simply cannot understand.

All this I recalled when I read this today from Denny Hatch:

"Nothing drives me crazier than the voice-mail jail that certain organizations have instituted. They start with the following recorded message:

“Your call is important to us …”

Whereupon I am given a world-class runaround of confusing choices―all recorded―that takes me further and further into the corporate labyrinth. One wrong choice and I am sent back to “GO.” Finally I get:

“All our representatives are currently busy … However, your call is important to us …”

What that message is really saying: “We’re having happy hour here in India and you are a big fat pain in the ass.”

Denny is a National American Treasure when it comes to marketing. He knows what works - and what doesn't - and why.

A month or so ago I did a piece on his new report
The Secrets of Emotional Hot-Button Copywriting, which
features the best mailings of the last 20 years and the emotional triggers that made them so powerful..

Only Denny could have put it together, because Denny has this astonishing archive of material going back way to 1984 - thousands upon thousands of mailings - and the appeals that work in the mail tend to work in other media.

The big problem we all face as writers is "How the hell do I begin?" - and that's where Denny's report is such a help, and why
I call it the Copy Thieves’ Almanac. I actually adapted one of the examples for some work I was doing for a client.

Anyhow that piece I wrote a month ago got a lot of reaction from people - so if you're interested, you can get the report at:

What amazes me is just how many people nowadays want to write better copy. When I started at this game hardly anybody knew what a copywriter was.

In fact my friend the late Bill Jayme had a good one-liner about it: "Have you ever been able to explain satisfactorily to your mother what you do for a living?"

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Could this £40,000 disaster change YOUR life? If you think so, I'll pay your travel costs - maybe more

Every year a few people from all over the world spend a little time with me and a few of my friends.

Then they spend the next twelve months picking my brains

Some say the experience literally changes their lives.

One said it was the most valuable thing to happen to him since he learned to read and count. At the time he was the marketing head of a national telecoms firm, but he went away and started a successful marketing agency.

But it all started with a disastrous venture that cost me £40,000 – and probably just as much in wasted work. It was called EADIM. But rather than bore you sick about about it, why don’t you check out a video I made a while ago?

Then if you like the sound of it you can visit a little landing page that tells you more, with lots of comments from people who’ve done the course.

So if you’d you like to know what I know – and learn from the people I most respect, why not look at the video now?

There’s a very good deal for you if you book now. And quite frankly compared to what some people charge for “I’ll make you rich through this magical new formula” events, it’s pretty cheap.

Numbers are, as they always say, limited. In this case it’s true as it takes place in a boutique hotel on Jermyn Street.

Why not look at the video here now?

Then let me know if you’re interested - or if you’re not, for that matter.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Carlos Acosta - and is there a virulent plague of design phoneys?

I've seen two of the world’s finest performers in the last three weeks.

First was Placido Domingo in Simon Boccanegra - his final performance at the Royal Opera House. Moving for me, as I first saw him in La Boheme, in 1974 when we were both much younger.

The second was Carlos Acosta at the English National Opera last night. They say he is currently the best dancer in the world today, and he really is extraordinary, partly because he incorporates street influences like break dancing in his work, partly because he seems to do almost everything except compose the music.

But trying to find out what was going on during his show was impossible because the programme was set in reversed out type which was impossible to read.

I often wonder why so many designers seem to want NOT to communicate. But not nearly as much as I marvel at how gullible the idiots who commission design are.

You don't have to be a languid aesthete to see that something is hideous, do you? Or that somebody's taking the piss on price? The Olympic games logo and mascot are good examples, which reminded me of something I just stumbled upon in my files. It’s so ludicrous as to be beyond parody, and explains why most sane people have nothing but contempt for a lot of marketing:

“The National Trust is set to roll out a new identity, created by Wolff Olins, from the beginning of next year."

(What do they mean, "roll out"? It's not a bloody carpet.)

"Wolff Olins has been working on the branding project for more than a year (you are kidding aren't you?) having been appointed following a tender process, according to a National Trust spokesman."

(What is the tender process? Seeing who can trot out the greatest volume of pretentious jargon? Buy the best dinners? Bestow smacking kisses on the most arses? All three?)

"The consultancy also worked on the National Trust’s last major branding project, in the 1990s."

(Did they get it wrong? Has the country undergone a mysterious change in 15 years?)

The spokesman says, ‘Following research about the perception of the National Trust, we’ve decided to refresh the identity.’

(Refresh? Was it wilting in the heat of global warming?)

He adds, ‘The main change is that the oak leaf symbol will be bigger, bolder and brighter. They’re fairly subtle changes, but we hope they will make the identity fresher'. The new branding will go into use for the first time in January 2010, blah blah, crap, drivel, horseshit, etc."

How much did this year’s work cost, one wonders? How could it have taken more than ten minutes on the back of a beer mat? To give a starting point for estimates, the thieves at Wolff Olins charged £400,000 for their massive Olympics piss-take.

But those who pay to be National Trust members can be sure the new logo will pay off. You can imagine the scene, can’t you?

“I see the National Trust’s oak leaf is a millimeter longer, Hermione. Fuck your idea of going down the pub this afternoon – let’s go and see Stonehenge.”

One of my heroes is James Lees-Milne who did so much to make the National Trust successful and wrote some of the finest diaries ever written. He lamented how the bureaucrats were taking over. He must be spinning in his grave.

Don't give the bastards a penny until they stop this corporate onanism.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Masochists! Rally to me ... This could either keep you awake or put you to sleep - it depends

The third How to Write and Persuade is tomorrow at 2 p. m. assuming the webinar people don't screw up again. It comes with two free check-lists - and I'm going to redo the first one, which was out of sync and could be improved anyhow.

In the meantime, how would you like a free basinful of Bird?

Michael Senoff - the very clever man behind Hard-to-Find Seminars - interviewed me ten days ago. How he did it was an object lesson in one of the secrets of success: his research was absolutely impeccable. (Interestingly, someone who was interviewed by Larry King told me he was also superb at research).

You might find the interview entertaining - or then again, a total bore. I actually listened to 15 minutes, and was astounded that in the recording I spent most of the time laughing. Maybe because I could hardly believe how aggressive I was.

It tells you all about how I succeeded very young in the advertising business - and failed repeatedly in direct marketing before finally getting it right.

If you think it's entertaining, it's perfect for listening to in the car. If you find it boring, it's an ideal aid to insomniacs. Just make sure you don't mix up the two. You could fall asleep in the car or stay awake all night.

Have you worked out which result you prefer? Then here's the dreaded link again - and it really is free. http://www.hardtofindseminars.com/Drayton_Bird_Interview.htm. And you won't find me selling you one of those foolproof formulae for making yourself rich on the internet without being able to read or write.

Michael extracts 15 revelations that came to me in the early '60's - what advertising was really like, how I landed my first big job, what a pain in the arse I was - and a whole list of dumb things you should NEVER do if you want to get ahead, straight from the idiot's mouth.

To be honest, you will learn more from what you shouldn't do than what you should. I don''t know if I cover my seven years in the wilderness living under an assumed name but if not you'll have to wait for the second episode.

Have a listen: http://www.hardtofindseminars.com/Drayton_Bird_Interview.htm. Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

How to spot the corporate swamp: look out for lots of initials

Business is divided into two utterly different worlds: the corporate one, where the aim is to climb the ladder high enough to escape the consequences of your folly - and the real one where you are the one who pays the bills - including those others have run up.

In the corporate world (the summit being government and the BBC) shameless wretches who ruin banks, destroy savings and leave thousands on the streets get obscene salaries, knighthoods and fat pensions. In the corporate world, some are feted for engineering pointless acquisitions that feed egos but create no value; others are rewarded for acts that are clearly criminal but cannot be prosecuted successfully. In the corporate world, people trot from one pointless meeting to another achieving little more than extended employment.

We in the real world are squeezed to fund the costs of corporate folly. We cannot get loans from banks - though they force us to cough up for their past ineptitude. Pension funds we have worked a lifetime to build are stolen by megalomaniac politicians. We pay too many taxes because we don't have the funds to shelter our ownership in the Cayman Islands. And this happens because no matter how much governments talk they love the corporates, not us. After all, that's where they get cushy jobs after they've done their worst for the country. The Bliar is a good example. Try and work out where his money has gone.

Besides the endless meetings, one sure way of spotting the reptiles in the corporate swamp is simple: watch out for initials. I spotted a good example at 6 a. m. today in Malaysia's Advertising and Marketing Daily: "TBWA's new EVP, Microsoft's new APAC CMO, LB's digital investments plus more".

I greatly fear that Asia's lively entrepreneurial spirit will be stifled by this sort of thing, because too often they ape the worst of the West, status is so important there - and what confers more status than a string of initials?

Just to ensure I do O.K. whichever camp I'm in I now sign myself Drayton Bird, FIDM (Hon), FRSA.

Bet you didn't know that, did you?

By the way, the very model example of corporate success is Mr. Adam Crozier who has just left a very lucrative little stint at the Royal Mail. He created the illusion of profit by what I call the toilet roll strategy – charge the same price but give fewer sheets, or in this case slash the service to ribbons. The problem with this is that the customers notice eventually and start to wipe their arses with something else.

Just before Crozier left he banned bikes for postmen in favour of "electric carts" on Health and Safety grounds. How can a bike be less healthy than an electric cart?

Lastly, my old friend Christian Digby-Firth has dispelled my ignorance about the ghastly Olympic puppet as follows:

I fear you have failed to consult the begetters of Wenlock and Mandeville, Iris Worldwide ("world class skills across a range of disciplines"). Had you done so, you would have learned that:

To capture people's imagination you have to create something iconic - something unique - something as individual as you and me. We have created a flexible design that allows you to make the mascot your own, while celebrating what is great about Britain - our heritage, our culture and our creativity. They are inclusive, because they invite everyone to take part and get involved. They aren't 'the' mascots - they are your mascots.

"The result is a world first - a multi dimensional, adaptable design for the digital age, which will allow you to customise the mascots online later in the year. And who knows what else, after all we're just at the start of the journey and the possibilities are endless."

Your mascots, d'you see? Which you can customise endlessly. I hope that sets your mind at rest.

Thanks, Christian. You're a real pal.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Yes! The London Olympics Mascot is a worthy competitor to the hideous logo

After the mugs in charge paid gazillions to some "designers" for the ugliest logo ever I wondered in the odd idle moment if they had anything worse in store.

How cruelly I underestimated their capacity for the third rate! In what one suspects must have been a creative frenzy fuelled by cheap brown ale someone came up with the Olympics mascot.

The copy that describes it is almost beyond the cruellest parody.

"Get into the spirit of the Olympic Games with Wenlock, the official London 2012 Olympic Games Mascot.

Named after Much Wenlock in Shropshire, a town at the heart of the Olympic Movement's history, Wenlock’s most distinctive features are the light on his head that’s inspired by the lights on London’s black taxis and his camera lens eye that captures everything he sees.

Each of the funky bracelets on his wrists matches the colours of the rings on the Olympic Flag and they're friendship bracelets too. This cute mascot will be the perfect way to mark the historical event!"

Not really.