Monthly Archives: November 2012

I can’t believe I agree with a Tory!

It almost pains me to say this, but I’ve found a Tory I can agree with.

He’s Ramesh Patel, who writes for the Huffington Post. Check him out at

On November 24 2012, Patel posted an item headlined: Finally! Exposed! The Deficit Myth! So, David Cameron When Are You Going to Apologise?

Aside from the proliferation of screamers and the somewhat eccentric punctuation, Patel’s argument – that Britain’s Conservative-led coalition government has been pedalling three erroneous claims about the origins of the country’s deficit – makes compelling reading.

He points out that David Cameron and George Osborne are consistently lying to the British people about the debt they say they inherited from the previous administration.

Citing statistic after statistic, Patel says they are wrong on the deficit.

Moreover, as you may guess from his livid headline, he wants Cameron to apologise.


Because he believes that Cameron is playing the blame game to depress confidence and justify austerity, which he and Osborne use as an excuse for a smaller state and thus lower taxes.

And because, by painting Labour as a party that cannot be trusted with the economy, Cameron is playing on people’s fear in a way that will get them to vote Tory at the next election.

Which where, as I expected, Patel and I part company.

For I could not vote Tory, even if the Labour party were a bunch of thieves, knaves, vagabonds and liars – which they are not.

As Patel so clearly states, it’s the Prime Minister who’s the liar. And he should apologise.

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How do you write to show you can write?

For people in my line of business, this can be a problem.

In an age when anybody who tweets probably believes they can write, and everybody with a keyboard thinks they’re an author, it’s sometimes very hard to know how to show people you have a skill that can seem like a gift but, more often than not, requires hard graft.

It seems especially hard when you’re trying to convince them that your skills can help them communicate better.

In my case I could, for example, talk about the amount of time I spend researching a new subject so that I can write about it with some authority. And I can hope that, by expressing this simple thought and its related benefits in a clear and engaging way, I can persuade someone to commission me.

On the other hand, I could point them in the direction of pieces I’ve recently written, or work I completed years ago. That might prove I can do it.

I could even brag about the awards I’ve won. But the trouble with that is, it’s so long ago it’s hard to remember who presented them, when and what for. And would anyone think they’re still relevant?

I could, of course, simply write something for someone – anyone – to read. But the question is what?

Suitable subject

Some months ago, when my Creative Ampersand colleagues and I were casting around for a suitable subject that might showcase our skills as writers and designers, Hester lit on the idea that all the world’s typefaces must have stories to tell, if only they could be liberated from telling other people’s tales.

As she said, they are the pack-horses of the written word, constantly conveying ideas and information from one mind to another – or even many others – so they must have something to say.

We both thought this was rather a good idea.

Between us, we drew up a random selection of twenty-six typefaces – one for each letter of the alphabet – and set about unearthing their origins and the ways in which each one has been used, before writing up what’s become our Tales of a Type.

We then asked our designer colleague, Robert Barkshire, to come up with an interesting way of displaying the individual stories.

The result – which you can see at & PROJECTS on our website at – not only shows that we can write, but also that we can do so in what we hope is an engaging, entertaining and informative way.

It solved a problem for us, in that it allowed us to demonstrate our skills, and it was a lot of fun to do.

Whether or not playing a game like ours will help you figure out how to write about how you write is, of course, another matter.

All I can say is: “I hope you have fun.”

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Has research killed romance?

I could be wrong, but I’m beginning to think that research is killing the romance in advertising.

It dates me to say this but, when I was starting out in the business, imaginative invention and clear communication were supposed to go hand-in-hand.

The arts of engaging story-telling and persuasive argument were the tools I was expected to use to write the kind of copy that would change minds and shift goods and services.

Above all, asking the audience to aspire to a finer life or to fall in love with the unattainable – the very essence of romance – was almost a given.

The heart of the matter

It’s now almost 20 years since British Design & Art Direction published The Copy Book, a fascinating study of how copywriters worked in the 1990s.

For the 32 top writers featured, the important thing that many of them brought to their work was heart.

As David Abbott, a much-respected writer of the day, said: “Put yourself into your work. Use your life to animate your copy.”

Abbot was the author of a Chivas Regal ad – published to coincide with Father’s Day – which was, in effect, a paean to his own father. An act of love, if ever there was one.

Other writers, who produced brilliant ads for clients as varied as the British Army, Albany Life, Sony, BMW and Vespa, had similar advice.

Think about your audience, put something of yourself into your ads, write with passion and conviction and your work will connect with others who think and feel as you do.

Austerity’s victim?

Today, it seems, such persuasive, even personal work has all but disappeared.

Which is why I ask: is romance dead? And, if so, why?

Has passion become the victim of austerity?

Have we lost the generosity of spirit that allowed people to write and publish ads with heart and soul?

Is everything just about money and results?

Or have researchers and focus groups conspired to eradicate all feeling from today’s ads?

Maybe the computer’s to blame, with its mechanisation of communication. Or social networking, with its engineering of human connections.

Perhaps it’s the fault of globalisation, which seems to have turned so much of today’s advertising into bland messages designed to be understood by everyone everywhere.

Whatever it is, it’s a shame.

I’d love to read an ad that moved me – and moved me to buy whatever’s on offer.

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